Thursday, 12 February 2015

Morning roundup

Today's roundup of assorted worthies, from the Great Closing of the Browser Tabs. The past week's been rather busy, and rather a few things deserving of their own posts didn't quite get there.
  • Raf Manji is doing great stuff at Christchurch Council. He'd previously tweeted in support of per-unit water pricing in Christchurch using a refundable quota allocation system: you get x units for free, with additional units costing some amount, and Council buying back any unused quota allocation at that same price. It's a great way of framing things. I also appreciate his support for getting rid of the property tax exemption for religious land. The Press's online poll had 73% support for that churches pay Council rates. 

  • The Press misses the point in their story on pay rates for EQC loss adjusters. Much of this is buying an option to pull these guys in full time in case of emergency. 

  • The University of Canterbury is betting on sports partnerships as a way of getting students. I'm pretty pessimistic that that will work, but it could be part of a longer game. I used to think it a great advantage of Kiwi academia that there were no campus sports entanglements. And then, with the earthquakes, I also saw no real facility for ongoing engagement with alumni to get their support. If this then led to stronger campus sports franchises, and from there to greater alumni support - it seems worth a punt.

  • Should EQC only serve as reinsurer? I generally agree with Farrar here. But does anything stop the major insurers from contracting for that kind of arrangement with EQC currently? In that world, they could then advertise that it's their loss adjusters, and not EQC's, that would handle all claims. I'd be willing to pay a strong premium for any insurance plan that meant I never, ever, ever, EVER had to deal with EQC in the case of another earthquake. It seems... surprising... that Brownlee's office would find the EQC model to be generally sound. There are good reasons for having EQC. But I do hope that the review document they produce honestly lists the very substantial problems encountered in Christchurch and why they think only minor changes are necessary to avoid a repeat.

  • Franks and Beans. Franks and Beans.
  • Sky City. Again: if the basic deal isn't "You get gambling licences and in exchange the public gets no ongoing cost risk" but rather "You get gambling licences and pay most of the cost of a casino, but the public bears ongoing cost risk", then it's really important that the business case for a convention centre stacks up. Has one even been released? C'mon, National. You're making Labour and the Greens look fiscally competent here. One suggestion: Joyce can have his convention centre IF he finds the money in his own existing budget?

  • Australia allows 'granny flats' as a way of increasing housing supply. Shame they remained banned in Christchurch post-quake.

  • I'm late to the party on this one, but I disagreed mildly with Oliver Hartwich on Varoufakis's sartorial approach. Oliver found his attire entirely inappropriate. I think that was the point. Here was my reckon on it from last week Wednesday (on the NZ Initiative internal discussion forum):
    Varoufakis needed to convince the Europeans that he's happy to default and just crazy enough to do it, he needed to placate a domestic audience by pissing off the Germans, he needed to stay in the Euro to avoid monetary policy going absolutely nuts, and he needed to achieve massive structural reform.

    So the play is this: either default or come so close to it that nobody will lend to Greece any more. Do it in an obviously arrogant and "screw you Germans and Brits" way that gets all the Greeks really happy with him. Then when he cannot borrow (because of it) and cannot inflate (still in Euro), he has to go for structural reform but has an external constraint to blame it on. Since he'd already laid the groundwork by saying "Yeah, I've got no respect for those foreign jerks either", he's then allied with the populist crap there while saying "Hands are tied, have to reform."
    Maybe it was just wishful thinking. But the ECB's fairly rapid blocking of the use of Greek bonds as collateral is consistent with it.
So endeth the closing of the browser tabs.


  1. Sadly, Lianne Dalziel has already shot down the water charging proposal. Although given the need to first (i) get the meters and (ii) fix Chch's water pipes, it was possibly a bit premature.

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