Thursday, 6 December 2018

Morning roundup

The morning worthies:

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Cannabis reform

Russell Brown's take on cannabis law reform over at RNZ:
Yet, the CRC may still learn lessons from what's happened abroad. Alison Holcomb, the criminal justice director of American Civil Liberties Union in Washington state, who helped design the successful initiative there seven years ago, says that "voters responded strongly to messages that reassured them about tight control of this novel policy experiment. Messages about freedom and individual rights fell flat. I continue to believe that acknowledging basic human nervousness about change is always important."

Tamar Todd, legal director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who jointly authored California's Proposition 64, says voters in her state wanted reassurance in detail. That's what they got: the full text of Proposition 64 ran to more than 100,000 words of legal and technical definitions and proposed amendments to laws and regulations, together making up the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
This is one reason I think we should be modelling cannabis legalisation on our existing framework for supply and sale of spirits. There is no time before the referendum to write up the kind of detail provided in Prop 64. But we could adapt our existing framework.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Stadium logic

Sporting events would create around 20 big occasions with any of the options. The covered stadium options enable many smaller events: music, conferences, other community events. These are forecast to produce small 'profits', as opposed to the uncovered option that would generate small 'losses'. A massive caveat is that when the 25-year life cycle of ALL of the options is considered, (big venues need substantial reviews every 25 years or so), all of them lose about $7-8m a year.

Hence the report favours the bigger spend, arguing it would create more activity, and lose about the same amount of money over the long term. It is worth stressing this again; even with the most optimistic predictions for stadium use in the report, the best-case scenario still forecasts it costing us $7-8m year; on top of the $474m construction cost.
They also hit all the points that should be hit around the difference between creating new events and shifting events from one place to another.

Every time a NIMBY cries...

The Court of Appeal has quashed resource consents granted for a $500 million development in Wellington at Shelly Bay.

The Court found the Wellington City Council made an error of law when determining whether or not to grant resource consent.

"As a result of the error, matters such as the environmental effects of the proposed development were not given appropriate consideration and weight by the Council," the judgement said.

The Wellington Company Limited applied for consent in September 2016.

The original proposal at Shelly Bay would have involved the construction of 12 apartment buildings hosting 280 apartments, 58 townhouses and 14 individual homes.

A 50-room boutique hotel, an aged care facility and buildings for commercial and community activities were also planned.
The original consent application was over two years ago. Everything since then has been consent process and litigation. 

Dom Post covers it here:
The Court found that the council had misinterpreted the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act. The act had more permissive rules for housing consents, and was intended to be used to increase the supply of houses, and housing affordability, in areas with a housing shortage.

The city council did not notify the application for public consultation and did not hold a hearing.

The court said the council had used the housing accord law to effectively "neutralise" all other considerations. Had the correct approach been adopted there might have been a different outcome, the court said.

Usual planning considerations were still relevant and the Court of Appeal found the council failed to properly consider matters such as the preservation of the natural character of that part of the coast and the protection of historic heritage from inappropriate use and development.

The council had also used the need to increase housing supply to make a finding that the environment effects of the development were "no more than minor".

The aim of increasing housing was not logically relevant to deciding whether an environmental effect was more than minor, the court said.
 The SHAs were supposed to get around this kind of red tape.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Disgraceful

This is absolutely not how a member of a government that is trying to defend the World Trading Organisation's rules-based framework should be behaving. 

From Question Period late yesterday:
David Seymour: Has the Minister had advice in any form that some of his provincial growth fund expenditure may have to be reported to the World Trade Organization as it qualifies as agricultural subsidies—the first time New Zealand would have reported such subsidies in 25 years?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes. Naturally, advice has been sought from the foreign affairs department. However, given that the adjudication and the appeals of so-said international trade body are in a state of disarray, I'm not bothered by that at all.
The WTO is under substantial threat. New Zealand desperately needs the continuation of a strong rules-based trading system.

It is bad enough that Shane Jones's provincial growth fund threatens New Zealand's subsidy-free agricultural system. But saying, effectively, that he doesn't care what the WTO thinks because it's useless - that completely undermines everything Minister Parker has been working for in our international trade positioning.

Update: I'd caught this on Morning Report this morning, but couldn't remember at what point in the broadcast. They've helpfully pointed me to it. Radio NZ also reports that Shane Jones's outfit had to change a press release about a loan to Taranaki Pine; a reference to the loan helping to make the factory competitive was removed.

But if that was part of the reason for providing the loan, whether or not it's mentioned in the press release should be irrelevant to whether it's something that gets us in trouble with WTO.

Labour needs to keep a closer eye on what its coalition partner is up to here. They are putting too much at risk.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Just use the darned ETS

If the government had just used the freaking ETS to reduce emissions rather than banning the natural gas industry in Taranaki, or subsidising hydrogen production, we wouldn't be seeing this kind of stupidity.

The linked RNZ story suggests the government's provincial growth fund was used to subsidise development of hydrogen options for heavy vehicles, and that that led to the proposal to subsidise a much bigger hydrogen plant in Taranaki - but that the Taranaki gas ban means too uncertain a supply of the raw material for hydrogen production. So that presumably means higher equilibrium subsidies are needed to attract the thing, to compensate for the stupid gas ban.

I have no clue whether it would have made sense to build hydrogen plants in Taranaki in the absence of the gas ban. I worry about Shane Jones engaging in the kind of winner-picking that might have even made Joyce blush. I expect the best folks to assess whether it makes sense to build hydrogen plants in Taranaki are the investors whose money would be on the line.

But if it did make sense, the gas ban makes it pretty unlikely anybody would decide to make a pile of costly infrastructure investments that depend on a reliable source of gas.

Under my preferred "Just use the freaking ETS and otherwise get out of the way" alternative, there wouldn't be a subsidy for hydrogen plants but hydrogen plants would have a lower effective cost of using natural gas because they wouldn't have to be purchasing ETS credits for GHG emissions, presuming that the stories of carbon dioxide capture are accurate.

And if the hydrogen plant stacked up without subsidy, then we've just found another way that the gas ban can wind up increasing emissions relative to the counterfactual.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

GE Time

Parts of the farming community say they should have choice over whether to use GMOs or not.

But others, including the Minister for the Environment David Parker, argue there is no need to jump the gun on introducing GMOs into the environment.

In his last report as Chief Science Advisor for the prime minister, Sir Peter Gluckman has laid out the ways genetic modification or gene editing can benefit the agricultural sector with pasture management and emissions.

"New Zealand scientists have developed promising forages using genetic technologies that could be used to make major progress through higher energy, lipid rich rye grasses which are now in field trials in the United States.
We still don't have an answer to this question:
I suggest that, as part of any agricultural accession into the ETS, the Crown be liable for any additional costs falling on farmers because of the ban on using GE pastoral systems.