Monday, February 06, 2006

Sideswipe

From a 1958 barbecue cookbook: french fried wieners (on a cabbage) - an early take on a 70s favourite - the cheese and pineapple toothpicks, displayed in an orange half. (Source: copies of vintage ads can be bought by visiting Plan 59)

By Ana Samways

Moana Salmon of Devonport writes: "Travelling back home from a lovely weekend in Tauranga, my partner,7-year-old son and I decided to pull over for some fish and chips. As we entered the shop we were warmly greeted by an elderly couple who were the only other patrons. No sooner had our lunch been put in front of us when there was a nasty car accident just across the road from the shop. We immediately raced out, secured the scene, called for help, consoled the victims (thankfully no one was seriously hurt) and waited for police/ambulance. This would have taken us 10 minutes tops. When we went back to the cafe the lovely old couple had gone and you guessed it ... they had taken our untouched lunch with them!"

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Child-free planes have been mooted ... what about child-free cafes? A reader was at a cafe on busy Parnell Rd last Thursday sitting next to a mother and her baby, and a friend. "During their coffee at the end of their meal, the baby started to get grizzly, as babies who are hungry do. The manager came over and asked them to leave, as the baby was too loud. Remember this is outside, with the traffic right next to us. We were horrified, as the closest group to them, we were not disturbed at all! ... I am ashamed and upset that this mother left in tears."

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Most embarrassing moment #1: A reader writes: "This happened to me in the mid-eighties, but I still blush at the memory. I was in a supermarket in Devonport, having just returned from holiday, feeling tanned, toned, and I thought pretty sexy!! I noticed a few men smiling "at" me, which confirmed my opinion of myself. As I was going to the checkout, I saw two men at the door looking my way and laughing. I looked down and to my absolute horror one breast was totally out of my elastic top dress. I was so totally mortified I just left everything and scarpered. These days I'd probably pop it back in and get on with it."

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Oh the horror of rejection! Seen trying to gatecrash the opening of Birkenhead's newest and hottest restaurant The Engine Room were Mayor of Waitakere and the Mayor of North Shore City (along with their wives, Barbara and Myra, respectively). The two mayoral mates were out on the town and figured they would be able to get into the restaurant because of their political celebrity. Sadly it wasn't to be - they were sent across the road to "Sausalito", where they ate pizza and chips on the footpath while they watched the goings-on across the way. Apparently they do this a lot and rumour has it they travelled to Waitangi on the weekend to gate- crash all the parties there.

Editorial: Questions of right and power

The votes were barely counted in the recent Palestine election when Israel and the United States began demanding that the elected Hamas Party recognise "Israel's right to exist". Hamas responded that it recognised Israel's power to exist, but that is not the same thing. Many states have "the might to exist". The right to exist begs deeper questions of the extent to which it satisfies the social and national needs of all those over whom it holds sway. Putting aside Israel's problems, the question is one that all states should ask themselves, especially on their national day.

Not many question their right to exist but we do. It is the question underlying all the debate about the Treaty of Waitangi and all the disturbances over the years on Waitangi Day. New Zealand's right to exist rests on a solemn agreement signed 166 years ago today and the state's efforts to satisfy the descendants of both sides that the deal is working. New Zealand also has the internal might to exist, of course, but we don't celebrate that today. In fact it has been the tactic of seasoned Maori demonstrators at Waitangi to draw police into the kind of confrontation that is designed to suggest the state's legitimacy rests only on might.

It does not, of course. Governments and the Judiciary for a generation now have taken giant steps to honour the terms of the 1840 agreement and recognise the special needs of Maori, not only in social services but, just as important, in the symbols and cultural expression of the state. Much of this progress has been made with too little reference to the wider electorate and it was always vulnerable to a mainstream political leader prepared to tap the well of popular resentment as National's Don Brash did two years ago.

Now, though, it seems possible to conclude the well was wide but shallow. Resentment he tapped had more to do with political correctness than a deep-seated desire to wind back Maori advancement. People were frustrated at the lack of debate and found it refreshing that a leading politician would challenge the excesses of official deference to taniwha and the like. But National's proposal to abolish the Maori seats in Parliament never gained much traction.

Helen Clark's Government quickly adjusted to the mood and Maori realised they were unlikely to make more progress with a mainstream party for the time being. They elected an independent party in four of their seats at the election last year. The Maori Party has used the annual forum at Waitangi this time to begin a discussion that has the potential to give Maori a united voice and a potentially pivotal one in a Parliament of proportional representation. The very process of reaching a consensus through regular assemblies would give Maori a distinct political life that could satisfy their national aspirations better than any deference or recognition from the Government.

One day the Waitangi anniversary will invite a discussion about many more topics of national moment. That will be the day when it is also a national day to mark, as others do, with brass bands and fireworks. Until then we are likely to spend the day in trepidation for what may happen, yet again, at the Treaty grounds. History is alive today as on no other day. We do not talk grandly about it, we have proxy debates about the precise meaning of the Treaty in its two languages and whether Waitangi Day is too divisive and dare national leaders go there this year? The underlying question is always the same: how do we live up to that deal? By striving to do so we find the right to exist as a nation together.

Brian Rudman: Fringe theatre as Nibblegate comes to a head

One of Governor William Hobson's first acts after signing the Treaty of Waitangi was to travel to his new capital of Auckland and in June 1840 join Ngati Whatua chief Apihai Te Kawau to proclaim a large "Government Domain" east of Grafton Gully.

Over the ensuing 146 years there has been some nibbling at the edges of the city's great park. Just how much has disappeared, no one is quite sure.

But two or three years back, with apartments springing up on former railways land on its eastern boundary, and adjacent Carlaw Park, the one-time home of rugby league, being readied for intensive development, it seemed a good time to take stock.

Last September, after two years of pressure from Parnell activists, including one who became a city councillor, Richard Simpson, Auckland City voted to probe its land records and produce a definitive report on the parks boundaries.

It was tabled just before Christmas - and Councillor Simpson is less than happy with the results.

His own research, based on maps and papers going back to 1840, concluded that 4.3ha, including parts or all of Carlaw Park, had gone missing. The council's property department, in a $5000 investigation, has concluded that between 1893 and 1987, 3.6ha has been clipped from the domain, but only 48sq m of that cannot be accounted for.

The report also notes Carlaw Park "was not part of the domain as defined in the Public Domains Act 1860".

It does, however, concede that "the Carlaw Park land may have been in the Auckland Domain as it was known in the 1840s but that land was set apart for hospital endowment in 1856".

And that seems to be the nub of the problem in getting to the bottom of the missing land. Just where do you start.

Mr Simpson wants to start at 1840, but the property department, while checking out 1860 and 1893 plans, has concentrated, in its report, on differences between "the original domain as defined in the Auckland Domain Vesting Act 1893 and the current domain as defined in the Auckland Domain Act 1987".

Before your eyes start glazing over, this hunt for the original boundary is not just a geeky probe into the past for the sake of it.

It does seem relevant to pin down whether the railways did snaffle more over the years and whether some of that was sold in recent years for housing development. And, for that matter, whether any of it can now be recovered.

It would also be interesting to know how Carlaw Park grandstand, according to the 1987 boundary as defined in the report, clearly sits inside the Domain boundaries, and whether Auckland ratepayers are entitled to reclaim the land, especially now that it is up for redevelopment.

To answer such questions, the city's finance committee has asked property officials for further investigation, and to report back in March.

The 1860 act defining the Domain put it at 79.32ha, "more or less".

In 1865, 2.05ha on the eastern boundary was taken for the new railway from Onehunga to the city.

Some time before 1890, a small area of Domain was set aside for a morgue, which later became part of Auckland Hospital grounds.

Over the years there has been a certain give and take between the council, which assumed ownership of the Domain in 1893, and the hospital.

The largest transaction was in 1922, when the hospital swapped 1.78ha of Domain in return for 2.4ha of land in Pt Chevalier which is now Coyle Park.

In 1947, the hospital nibbled up another 1.7ha. What the city received in payment is not noted.

Thirty years ago, 1011sq m of parkland suddenly went missing, thanks not to the doctors but to the poor clerks having to convert all the land documents from the old imperial measurements. They made a conversion error.

And for those of you wondering about the Auckland Bowling Club greens and the Auckland Tennis Association stadium, both are located within the Domain. But their occupation is strictly legal, as both have leases authorised under the Auckland Domain Act 1987

Claire Harvey: Professionalism of sport has infected its rhetoric

The Western Force rugby team's bus pulled up outside Eden Park the other night, proudly emblazoned with the words "Let the Journey Begin".

Truly. And it wasn't even a joke at John Mitchell's expense; it just happens to be the slogan of Johnston's bus company, which had leased a coach to the visiting Perth team.

Mitchell, the former All Black coach now running the Western Force as they enter the Super 14 competition, is rightly infamous in this country for his habit of talking about very simple things in very complicated language.

"We're on a journey," he used to say, when talking about the All Blacks' desire to win the 2003 World Cup. "All the building blocks are in place ... as I've already shared with you ... our key performance indicators are very pleasing."

Mitchell seems a decent, polite man and is undoubtedly a talented, accomplished coach. He should be popular with the media and the fans - but unfortunately, like so many people involved with professional sport in the modern era, he comes across as confusing and obfuscatory by insisting upon speaking only Managementese, a language which sounds extremely posh and means virtually nothing.

After his new team was flogged by the Blues in Auckland on Thursday night, Mitchell arrived at his post-game press conference to tell the assembled journalists (who were cranky anyway, because he had kept them waiting an hour without explanation or apology) why his team had only managed to score five points against the Blues' 43.

"I was very happy with our scrum platform, we got good, clean ball from lineout, we also got on the gain line pretty well, but against the Blues side, and any New Zealand side for that matter, if you cough up turnover ball they will shift it to the other end. I guess the area that disappointed me most was individual tackle accuracy," Mitchell said.

Translation: "We lost. The scrums and lineouts were good and I was pleased because my players kept running fast, but the Blues kept getting the ball and scoring tries. They were also slippery buggers."

Managementese is the product of a dark and disturbing trend in our society to tizzy up plain language with weasel words and euphemisms, to make ordinary concepts sound more impressive than they are.

It is bad enough to hear businesspeople talking about "outcomes" and "upskilling" and "rightsizing", but it's sad that professionalism has brought the same curse to top-level sport.

When games like rugby were just hobbies, nobody expected players and coaches to say much more than "We done good in the first half and full credit to the ref."

Now that rolling around on the grass with your mates is a proper job, and the athletes and administrators are rightfully able to earn a living from their skills, sport has become infected with the same linguistic curse which makes banking and insurance seem so obscure.

Somewhere in the transition from recreation to corporation, sportspeople have started sounding like human resources team leaders on a convention weekend.

CEOs might be able to get away with blathering acronyms and catchphrases, but it is completely absurd to hear a man with mud all over his face say: "I feel our completion rate is improving," or "My execution continues to be disappointing."

The reason we like sport, the reason it's fun and not work, is that it is simple; it is an arena where social advantages are modified by other, purer factors, like speed and guile and the right hook.

And the danger of Managementese is that rather than protecting its user from seeming silly, it makes him terribly easy to mock.

When the All Blacks were beaten in the World Cup semifinal, Mitchell's famous slogan came back to embarrass him in headlines like "Journey over", "Bad trip", "Journey to nowhere".

Perhaps that's why he moved to Perth - it's the only city in Australasia where smart-alec taxi drivers won't have a clue who he is, and thus won't feel any need to make travel-related cracks at his expense.

Listening to Mitchell is strangely compelling, even though he is so frustrating. I showed up at Thursday night's press conference purely to see whether the widespread teasing he incurred as All Blacks coach had modified his language at all, and was almost pleased to find him still talking like a robot.

If consistency is a key performance indicator, he's executing in a very pleasing fashion.

Geoffrey Palmer: Time for a pause to reflect on Treaty politics

The politics of the Treaty of Waitangi has become a battlefield upon which people have become increasingly reluctant to tread.

Political debates on the Treaty, and what the law ought to be, appear to have become unmanageable. Meanwhile, Treaty jurisprudence continues to grow larger and more complex.

We cannot pretend the Treaty does not exist, ignore it and remove all traces of it from the New Zealand statute book. Not even the most muscular solutions offered in recent times go so far. Neither can we rewrite our own history.

But what we should do now in policy terms is another issue. While we cannot go back, there is no widespread will to go forward either. We are stuck in a place from which neither advance nor retreat is readily available.

This may be no bad thing, looked at in the larger view. There has always been an ebb and flow in the attitudes towards the Treaty in New Zealand.

The great modern advances for the Treaty began in 1975 with the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal. A decade later, its jurisdiction was widened to deal with claims back to 1840.

References to the Treaty in legislation began to be made, followed by the state-owned enterprises case of 1987, where the Treaty began to be enforced in the courts.

Then came direct negotiations with the Crown concerning Treaty grievances and the Maori Fisheries settlements. Policies began devolving responsibility in the social areas to Maori organisations and introducing measures to protect Te Reo Maori.

These were huge advances in protecting the interests of Maori under the Treaty. All this happened under first-past-the-post parliaments. There was a significant measure of accord among the two main political parties of those days.

A lot was achieved from 1985 to 1996, most of it controversial. But in 2006 the level of controversy is so high that it seems further steps are at an end, at least for the time being.

The implicit bipartisan approach that once characterised these issues has been shattered. It was inevitable this would occur in a democracy, especially an MMP democracy with all main viewpoints represented in the political marketplace.

The legal doctrine of customary rights that so consumed New Zealand in the foreshore and seabed saga is not, strictly speaking, part of the Treaty debate at all. Those legal rights derive not from the Treaty but from New Zealand common law. But the debate did nothing to improve the atmosphere on these questions.

We are in a better space now than during the 1980s.

Maori are taking advantage of the opportunities that have become available to them. Policies have added to the capacity of Maori to take positive measures in health, education and commercial development.

So the issue becomes, given where we are, what is to be done?

Once the historical grievances are out of the way and there has been a period of consultation and reflection, New Zealand will be in a better position to decide upon the next steps we need to take on the Treaty.

After a pause, we will be able to assess how the resources in health and education, and from settlement assets and the policies of devolution have worked in practice.

Treaty issues do move in cycles. Further change will come but its time is not now. The immediate way forward lies in the development of ideas and policy options outside the political and government environment.

When a sufficient body of work has been done and some serious debate has been conducted about it, new approaches may arise.

* Sir Geoffrey Palmer is President of the Law Commission.

Sayeqa Islam: Muhammad cartoons should not have been published here

Imagine three items hitting a newspaper editor's desk one Monday morning. The first is a cartoon of Muhammad depicted as a suicide bomber. The second is an article by David Irving, renowned Holocaust denier, claiming the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis did not occur, and that Hitler had no deliberate policy to kill Jews. The third is a cartoon depicting the late Pope John Paul II sodomising a crying young boy while standing above St Peter's Square, declaring to all Catholics present and all those around the world listening, "If it's okay for me, it's okay for every God-fearing Catholic!".

Does anyone believe a mainstream Western newspaper would ever print items two and three in apparent defence of free speech, without any condemnation of those items' themes? Yet many Western newspapers, including one in New Zealand, printed the Muhammad cartoons, some of which are certainly as offensive to Muslims as a Pope-as-child-rapist cartoon would be to Catholics.

The Pope-as-child-rapist image is similar to Muhammad-as-suicide-bomber because both equate the most heinous acts of some religionists with their religion's figurehead and their religion as a whole. Muhammad isn't simply Islam's last prophet. He is considered the exemplar Muslim: the person all Muslims should aspire to live like. After the Koran, it is the hadith - the sayings and doings of Muhammad - that give Muslims the greatest guidance in how they should live their lives. To depict Muhammad as a suicide bomber is to suggest Islam condones suicide bombers and that all Muslims aspire to being suicide bombers. It is to say Islam is, per se, murderous, vengeful, callous and cold-blooded.

It is hard to imagine a mainstream Western newspaper printing an article or cartoon which suggested similar things about any other religious, racial, or national group. Would New Zealand papers have printed an article by a vile, neo-Nazi group suggesting that all Jews are vermin? Would they have printed a caricature suggesting Asians were behind the deaths on New Zealand roads and the loss of Kiwis' jobs?

It is heartening that the Herald decided not to print the cartoons because, it said, "Cartoons that set out to give offence for no redeeming purpose leave a nasty taste in the mouths of most people, and media with mass circulation publications generally avoid them". It is likewise disappointing that another newspaper, the Dominion Post, decided in favour of publication, without so much as a phone call to a religious scholar to understand why they had caused such offence among Muslims.

It's important for a Muslim, such as myself, to enunciate clearly why I do not believe the cartoons should be reprinted by New Zealand newspapers. New Zealand, like most Western countries, respects both the right to freedom of speech and the freedom to express one's religion. These are freedoms from which New Zealand's Muslims benefit and would in no way wish to curtail.

But the freedom of speech is one that should be exercised responsibly by a news outlet that considers itself to be mainstream.

Newspapers in free societies choose not to print all kinds of material because they believe that the public good in not printing outweighs the informational/educational benefit from doing so. Freedom of speech certainly does not mean, in practice, that newspapers print absolutely anything, with no regard to the consequences. Suicides aren't reported, because of a fear of copy-cats. The private lives of politicians and their families aren't generally reported, because they are considered matters that don't intersect with politicians' public roles. Extremely graphic footage from war zones isn't aired, because they are considered to breach standards of good taste.

In all these cases, the free press has the right to report these things, but chooses not to because it believes it acts within certain standards of good taste and basic decency. These standards tend to see regard given to the sensitivities of those who will be affected by a particular publication.

So, it is not enough for a newspaper to argue "We have the right to print these cartoons", because next to no one in New Zealand would disagree. The real question is: Was the Dominion Post acting responsibly in exercising that right?

Which brings us back to what the cartoons in question depicted: one of which is a crude, grossly offensive caricature of Islam, and all Muslims, as mindless, murderous thugs. In part, the Dominion Post's justification for doing so is to point out that the state media in some totalitarian regimes in Muslim countries have in the past broadcast grossly offensive items about other religious groups. Indeed so. A lot has been said and done by extremists in the name of Islam - including outrageous, xenophobic depictions of Judaism and Christianity - which have horrified the more than a billion tolerant, peace-loving Muslims worldwide. But why would the Dominion Post or any other Western newspaper try to fight the extremists' bigotry by perpetuating bigotry against Muslims? What sort of message does it send to the millions of Muslims yearning to be free when the press in the West publishes a cartoon portraying all Muslims as murderers?

In printing the cartoons, the Dominion Post took the easy road. Hiding behind simplistic arguments about the freedom of speech, it indulged itself in a cheap publicity stunt designed not to defend and celebrate hard-won freedoms but to sell a few more papers.

Attempting to get to the bottom of why the cartoons were considered so offensive by Muslims, thus entering into a genuine cross-cultural dialogue, would have been much more courageous and, dare I say it, journalistic.

* Sayeqa Islam studies law and criminology at Victoria University

Irfan Yusuf: Not all is well in the state of Islam

I don't know a lot about Denmark. Last year, I was seeing a lady who reminded me of a former Sydney real estate agent now married to the Crown Prince of Denmark. During a recent visit to Indonesia, I enjoyed Danish pastries. Though I must say that in Indonesia, they did taste a little different. Was it extra chilli or spice? I don't know.

But in their response to the publication of certain cartoons across European newspapers, some Muslim protesters have just added too much chilli and spice to their legitimate protest. In the past few weeks, Libya and Saudi Arabia have withdrawn ambassadors from Denmark. In many Muslim countries, Danish goods are being boycotted.

In my birthplace of Karachi, frenzied Pakistanis hit the streets with protests that did more damage to the Pakistani economy than to anyone in Denmark.

The same scenes were repeated in Gaza. Then again, some of these guys (Pakistani women have more important matters to attend to) will protest each time they think a Pakistani batsman is given out lbw unfairly.

Even the Lebanese President (himself a Maronite Christian) issued a statement condemning the publication. And across the Arab world, supermarkets have removed Danish goods from their shelves.

From the response, you'd think Denmark had invaded a Muslim country and was establishing Danish settlements all over the place. Or perhaps that the Danish Government had passed laws banning girls from wearing headscarves in schools.

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, a number of privately owned newspapers in Denmark published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. One cartoon apparently shows him standing at the pearly gates of heaven in much the same way as St Peter in the Catholic tradition.

The cartoons were first published in the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten. Most people living in Muslim countries would probably be unable to pronounce the paper's name, let alone have heard of it.

In January, the paper published an apology. It claimed the cartoons were first published as part of an ongoing debate on freedom of the press.

If the paper expects me to believe that, it will probably also claim the loud noises I heard at the Sukarno Airport in Jakarta were not Qantas planes landing but Danish pigs taking off.

But the reaction of so many Muslim civilians and Governments makes me wonder. The same people jumped up and down and screamed and shouted when Salman Rushdie published what was clearly his worst novel in decades.

Instead of the novel being a huge flop, the gross overreaction of some Muslims led to it becoming a best seller.

In the case of the Danish cartoons, the issue is a simple one. If you don't like what you see, write a letter to the editor. Or cancel your subscription. Or do what Danish Muslims did and meet the editor to secure an apology.

Millions of Muslims live in poverty across the world. Muslim women are murdered in their thousands for "dishonouring" their families. Apart from Indonesia and Turkey, I don't see a lot of democracy in Muslim countries, let alone press freedom.

Muslims in Gaza face a potentially desperate situation as Israel turns off the economic tap. Muslims in southern Thailand aren't exactly living it up.

The Muslim world faces problems of an order taller than a tsunami wave. Yet Muslims are squandering time and resources on 12 cartoons.

Yes, it is true that Islam forbids the pictorial depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. However, that ban doesn't extend to non-Muslim newspapers operating in countries where Islamic law does not apply.

And if the cartoons do portray the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light, should that affect what Muslims themselves think of him? Is his dignity dependent upon what appears in cartoons of newspapers that sound like exotic icecream brands?

Yes, the cartoons were insensitive and in bad taste. But they don't reflect on the entire state of Denmark.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. But if the response of Muslims to the Danish cartoons is anything to go by, things are even more rotten in the state of Islam.

* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer

Tariq A. Al-Maeena: It's not just about the Danes

I stopped in at the pharmacy last Thursday to get a prescription filled, and as the pharmacist brought over the medicine, he quietly pointed out that one of them was Danish. With hardly a second thought I asked him if there was a compatible substitute available, which he quickly produced. Thanking him, I took the medicine and was off.

As I drove, I wondered what prompted me so quickly to reject the Danish brand. I had been to Denmark and found that the people I encountered there were warm and friendly. And on a couple of occasions their hospitality matched our own. In my travels through the Nordic countries, there really was nothing that would have left a bitter aftertaste. So why this sudden and abrupt rejection of anything Danish?

I expect the malicious portrayal of our Prophet (peace be upon him) in one of their newspapers had everything to do with it. For while I strongly believe in freedom of the press, I also know that the press be it anywhere carries with it a weight of responsibility.

Portraying our Prophet with a bomb ready to go off says a lot about the intent of the author who drew up this atrocious caricature. It is blasphemous and disrespectful, and prone to provoke and inflame negative feelings. And for a newspaper to publish such an offensive piece perhaps says more.

And for them to take four months before understanding the fury they had caused in Muslims everywhere speaks volumes of the disregard the press has against the religion of Islam. Blame the Muslims for some misdeeds, but blasphemy would not be one of them. Neither Moses nor Jesus or any of the other prophets would ever be an object of a malicious drawing or cartoon. For we, like the Jews and the Christians believe in them and their messages as well.

For the Danish and Norwegian governments to assume a "hands-off" policy in the name of freedom of the press rings hypocritically hollow. How swiftly would they have reacted had the piece in that newspaper been one questioning the validity of the number of Jews killed in World War II? Was it really six million as some historians have wondered?

In Canada, the United States and in Great Britain those who had previously brought this matter up were mercilessly hounded into silence. Jobs were lost and professions terminated. Laws were quickly drafted to punish anyone daring to question such claims. Had the Danish government assumed a similar posture on the doubters, they would have undoubtedly been booted out of office.

But to satire an individual, who passed on the message of Islam over 1400 years ago, in such a disrespectful manner, no editorial restraint was exercised. Neither was there a swift retraction nor rebuke from the Danish or Norwegian authorities. Only when business and commerce appeared to be threatened was there some kind of action.

I hold no resentment against the Danish or Norwegian people. They have caused me no harm. The actions of a few do not paint a fair picture of their societies. Many have been just as revolted by their own newspaper. Nor do I condone any manner of violent reactions. But for the moment I am offended. Disappointed at the action and the hypocrisy of those running the machinery of the written word in the so-called "free press" countries who proudly claim to uphold the freedom of the press and yet do it very selectively.

My rejection today of anything Danish or Norwegian may subside over time, as reason takes hold of emotions. But for now, please grant me the right to express my anger privately and nonviolently.

* The writer is a freelance columnist whose works have appeared in a number of publications. He resides in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Sonny Tau: Rangatira's intentions plain

I personally subscribe to the Maori version of Te Tiriti O Waitangi rather than the English, as I am familiar with the discussions that immediately preceded its signing.

This claim is based on my certainty that the Maori rangatira (chiefs) who sat in congress at Toa Rangatira, the seating place of elders at Waitangi, on the days leading up to February 6, 1840, were certainly not silly and did not cede their tino rangatiratanga (leadership/governorship/sovereignty).

I cannot possibly imagine similarly established nations ceding absolute sovereignty, as tauiwi claim, to another nation they knew was of questionable honesty and integrity.

However, to invite them to control their own unruly lot and cater to their own needs is understandable.

Calls for the Crown to honour its part of Te Tiriti O Waitangi started even before the ink on the document was dry. These calls have continued over many years and taken many forms.

Protests have been absolutely necessary in raising national and international awareness of what Maori view as total disregard for their inherent indigenous rights encapsulated in a document that our rangatira referred to as a covenant.

By and large most people living in New Zealand, including a large number of Maori, do not understand Te Tiriti O Waitangi and its place in our society.

Most uninformed tauiwi think of Maori as greedy and wanting things for nothing. They fail to realise that the injustices of the past have not been adequately addressed and Maori, in turn, see tauiwi as continuing to benefit from those injustices.

The arena used over the past 20 years to bring these injustices to prominence has been the Waitangi Day commemorations. These protests have been very effective in influencing pieces of legislation.

The biggest achievement in this area has to be the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, which gave birth to the Waitangi Tribunal that helps with the facilitation of Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Although the Crown is not legislatively bound by the tribunal's recommendations, the tribunal is the only tool that gives Maori some form of equality in the elongated claims process.

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Settlement Act 1992 is also a classic example of political pressure being applied through Te Tiriti O Waitangi, achieving a just result for Maori.

The foreshore and seabed legislation was seen by Maori as modern-day land confiscation and was the catalyst in forming the Maori Party.

Despite a strong message from voters in the last election that a Maori-Labour Party partnership was the preferred option, Labour decided to seek partners elsewhere. This will be remembered by Maori Party supporters.

In my view, the Maori Party is absolutely necessary in Parliament as we saw Labour close ranks on Maori, even though the hikoi attracted the biggest protest seen in this country.

Contrast that to a few farmers driving tractors to Wellington and up the stairs of Parliament to stall the proposed fart tax, and you can see why Maori will continue to support the Maori Party.

In turn, the Maori Party must reciprocate and listen to the voice of Maori.

And, surprisingly, more and more tauiwi are joining the Maori Party.

As far as Maori are concerned, there is no goodwill on the part of the Crown to honour their part of Te Tiriti O Waitangi - therefore nothing eventuates without protest.

The introduction of the billion-dollar fiscal envelope caused huge unrest among Maori and they concluded that regardless of how just a grievance was proven to be, compensation levels were already determined.

Yet Maori witnessed millions of dollars being poured into propping up private businesses such as the BNZ, with less than one quarter of our average surplus over the past six to seven years being offered as a full and final settlement of historical land confiscations going back 160 years. These grievances include some 22 million hectares of land.

The past five years have seen a positive change of direction within our society as many New Zealanders have come to accept that there are genuine grievances that the Crown has to address.

However, the process of address has succeeded only in pitting Maori against Maori, hapu against hapu, and hapu against iwi.

In many cases, factions of iwi who do not wish to settle land claims with money as compensation but are adamant that "riro whenua atu, hoki whenua mai" - land taken, therefore land must be returned.

That is now the stance of many Maori throughout the country, especially Ngapuhi. Whether this desire is achievable is yet to be determined.

Relationships between Maori and tauiwi have never been better than they are at present. Waitangi Day has settled into a pattern where protest action has abated over recent years and Ngapuhi have taken back control of the commemorations.

Recent years have hardly attracted attention - except for election year, when every politician heads for Waitangi hoping to capture headlines.

. Waitangi Day has become a haven for political parties languishing in the polls as they play the race card after every little incident is magnified out of proportion by the media, which are careless when reporting Maori issues about Waitangi Day. They then wonder why they are banned from the marae proper.

David Lange once said: "We have had our troubles since but the Treaty was not the cause of them. It has been used and abused. Now it deserves to stand as our most powerful unifying symbol."

Mauri Ora to you, David.

* Sonny Tau is chairman of Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi.

Christopher Niesche: $1b for Independent Liquor would be Erceg's last coup

Among the 1200 mourners at Michael Erceg's funeral last November were dozens of bottle-shop owners with whom the Independent Liquor boss had done business over the years.

That so many mom-and-pop operators came to see him off shows how much Independent Liquor and Erceg were one and the same.

And it raises questions about what the business is worth without its founder and driving force.

It's not yet clear whether Independent Liquor is for sale after Erceg's death in a plane crash last November. The family - probably still adjusting - are said to have put off any sale while they were busy with the peak selling season of Christmas. With no apparent successor for Erceg, the business will probably come up for sale in the next few months.

But there are doubts about how well such a one-man business would fit with a major corporate liquor-maker and what it would be worth to one. It's hardly a bolt-on acquisition.

What made Independent Liquor so successful was Erceg's innovative genius, which saw him carve out niches in two segments of the liquor market that didn't exist before he came along.

The former university maths lecturer saw the potential of the ready-to-drink market, or RTDs, and quickly moved to fill that gap. Erceg's RTDs - cheap spirits and cheap mixers in a can - weren't popular with parents and alcohol safety bodies, but they were a huge hit with the under-25s.

Erceg also saw how premium beers - such as DB's Heineken and Lion Nathan's Stella Artois - were gaining sales in a shrinking beer market. DB and Lion had spent a fortune on advertising and marketing to create the premium beer segment and Erceg just rode in on their coat tales for free.

He secured the rights for Carlsberg, Tuborg and Grolsch which had all the prestige and cachet of established brands for none of the advertising costs - and differentiated his product by selling them for $3 or $4 less a case and giving good margins to retailers.

Within five years or so, Erceg had established the RTD segment and what has become known as the sub-premium beer segment of the liquor business.

But his minuscule advertising spend is now proving to be a weakness. While the European beer brands are established, Independent Liquor has them only under licence. The brands Erceg actually owns aren't at all established and so aren't worth much.

Try naming one. Independent Liquor's Woodstock Bourbon and Cola is the best known, but Purple Goanna and Vodka Cruiser are hardly household names. Erceg's reliance on price rather than brands has made his businesses vulnerable to any rivals who want to enter the market.

Another strength of Independent Liquor's business that will be a weakness when it comes to be sold is its agility. As the owner of the business, Erceg was answerable to no one. If he saw an opportunity, he could quickly exploit it, and it is said that he could have a new product on the market within a couple of months.

Once the business is sold to a corporate competitor that advantage - and Erceg's eye for a chance - will be gone. Any product launches or innovations will take months to get to market after all the marketing and consumer research, the testing and formulation of the product, devising an ad campaign, and so on and so on.

In that sort of timeframe, Erceg could easily have launched a product then pulled it if it wasn't working.

Also lost in any sale will be all the strong relationships Erceg had personally formed with so many liquor retailers and the ensuing benefits - there's a big difference between dealing with a sales rep and the business owner.

Nonetheless, there's likely to be significant interest when Independent does come up for sale.

A possible buyer is Lion Nathan, which could quickly get a foothold in the spirits market in Australia with the purchase of Independent Liquor's business there and boost its own RTD business here. Also, Lion's brewery in Newmarket is stretched to capacity, so Independent Liquor's own site at Papakura would give it valuable new capacity.

Further afield is South Africa's SAB Miller, which manufactures and distributes beer around the world, but has no footprint in Australasia. Independent Liquor would give it a relatively inexpensive entry into this market.

So what's Independent Liquor worth?

Figures of $600 million to $1 billion have been bandied about, but it is an indication of how successful Erceg was in guarding his privacy that no one really knows.

A price tag of $1 billion seems a bit rich, however, given that Independent Liquor is still only a minor player in the $1 billion take-home liquor market in New Zealand and it's unlikely the Australian business would make up that shortfall.

True, the company has come from nowhere to having several hundred million in revenue (we think) in just five years or so. But growth like that can't be sustained and the next five years' gains won't be anywhere near as strong and will be much harder won.

Still, Erceg made a successful career out of surprising people. Perhaps his last surprise is that he built a billion-dollar business in so short a time.

Ulf Schoefisch: Bank should be keeping more in reserve

Changes to the inflation target and monetary policy operating rules over the past decade were intended to give the Reserve Bank of New Zealand extra flexibility in maintaining low inflation without putting undue pressure on the economy.

The extended growth period over the past few years has put the policy framework and the RBNZ's operating skills to the test. Regrettably, the results have been far from satisfactory. The productive sector of the economy is yet again being subjected to the adverse effects of excessively tight monetary conditions.

With global interest rates comparatively low, it is hardly surprising that the RBNZ's aggressive lifting of the cash rate over the past two years has caused the dollar to appreciate to levels that have eroded the profitability of many exporters and of those companies that compete with imports.

Low international yields meant that, even at 6 per cent, the domestic cash rate put significant upward pressure on the dollar. However, lifting the rate to 7.25 per cent late last year was evidence that the RBNZ had lost sight of the overall impact of its policy on the economy.

The RBNZ appears to underestimate not only the damage inflicted on the tradeables sector by the high dollar, but also the adverse effects of other "headwinds" for the economy:

* The lagged effects of past interest rate increases.

* The loss of spending power from high global oil prices.

* Falling construction activity on the back of weak net migration flows.

* Softening export commodity prices.

In early December, the RBNZ estimated cumulative GDP growth of 1.5 per cent during the third and fourth quarters of last year. Latest indicators suggest that the actual result will be close to zero. That means that the RBNZ continued to raise interest rates when the economy was already at a standstill and at risk of entering a recession.

Even though the RBNZ was well aware of the risks associated with further rate rises at the late stage of the economic cycle, this was overridden by concerns about the pace of household borrowing and the potential effect of continued strong domestic demand on inflation.

The RBNZ's repeated public statements about undesirably high household debt were designed to create a sense of inevitability of further rate rises.

However, while it is easy to agree that household debt has become a serious problem, the huge overvaluation of the dollar made it far from obvious that raising the cash rate to 7.25 per cent would be the right response.

It cannot seriously be argued that the RBNZ, facing the threat of rising inflation, simply had no choice.

Its mandate is effectively to keep underlying inflation in a 1 per cent to 3 per cent range, while headline CPI inflation is allowed to move outside that range under specific circumstances.

Despite the enormous rise in global oil prices, the headline CPI rose only 3.2 per cent in 2005. Subtracting the oil influence (reflected in petrol prices, air travel surcharges) and the rise in petrol taxes means that underlying inflation in 2005 was only around 2 per cent.

The recording of underlying inflation at the height of the economic cycle around the mid-point of the 1 per cent to 3 per cent target range rather than close to the top demonstrates that the RBNZ has not utilised the leeway provided by the policy framework. Policy has been too tight.

Of course, the RBNZ is supposed to operate policy in a forward-looking manner. Concerns about future wage inflation may partly explain the reluctance to utilise the full width of the inflation target range.

However, the labour market is already cooling and most companies have little pricing power as a result of slowing GDP growth.

The recent lift in wage inflation is largely being absorbed through lower profit margins. This process reflects the rebalancing of wage and profit shares within company income flows that typically occurs at the late stages of economic cycles. Trying to interfere with that adjustment through raising interest rates puts too much strain on the economy.

Moreover, the RBNZ's strong emphasis on the risks flowing from rising inflation expectations reinforces the retention of the systematic tight policy bias the present framework was meant to get rid of. Inflation expectations have proved a poor leading indicator of actual inflation and the RBNZ seems to be unduly worried about lasting flow-on effects from the rise in global oil prices.

TOO little weight is being given to the downward effect on inflation that arises from significantly reduced purchasing power in the domestic economy.

As a result of overly tight monetary conditions, the downturn will be deeper than necessary, inflation pressure will subside and the RBNZ will have to start cutting interest rates in a fairly aggressive way sooner than later. Since the tradeables sector has been weakened considerably, the economy will not have much to fall back on once domestic demand slows more markedly.

The present experience is similar to the mid-1990s when monetary policy was kept too tight for too long. The domestic economy was - unlike Australia - unable to cope with the fall-out from the Asian crisis and went into recession in 1998 after a sustained period of exchange rate overvaluation.

External competitiveness is critical for New Zealand as a trading nation. The RBNZ has to move away from operating policy in a way that, in regular intervals, causes significant harm to the most productive parts of industry.

For various reasons the New Zealand economy exhibits significant underlying volatility. In addition, the last few years have been influenced by a one-off structural shift to higher household debt levels and unusually low global interest rate levels.

While undoubtedly difficult to manage, the RBNZ should be able to deal with such challenges more efficiently than it has done. This can be achieved through allowing swings in underlying inflation that utilise the full width of the inflation target range during economic cycles. As a result, inflation would, at times, be slightly higher than desired but, given the competitive domestic economy, there is little reason to expect that inflation would remain "sticky" at the top end of the 1 per cent to 3 per cent range.

Allowing wider swings in inflation does not at all mean losing sight of the low inflation goal. However, it requires the operation of policy in a manner that recognises that the excessively rigid pursuit of the inflation goal has a lasting negative influence on key industries that have the potential to lift the economy to a higher underlying growth path.

The present monetary policy framework provides enough flexibility for a different approach but the RBNZ has yet to make the transition to a cool-headed central bank like the one operating across the Tasman.

* Ulf Schoefisch is an independent economic consultant.

Mark Peart: Fonterra backs into dirty water

A good old-fashioned donnybrook between dairy giant Fonterra and the Otago Regional Council over wastewater discharges from the former's Stirling cheese factory in South Otago has underlined that being clean and green is just as much about reality as it is about perception.

Fonterra was on the back foot throughout last week as the Otago council highlighted, in detailed fashion, that the dairy co-operative's environmental compliance record, or as the council sees it, non-compliance, was less than spectacular.

The council's director of resource management, Selva Selvarajah, reported Fonterra's discharge of faecal bacteria into the Matau branch of the Clutha River near Balclutha was equivalent to treated dairy farm effluent from 6228 dairy farms, each with 200 cattle.

He said when that was compared with a typical sewage treatment plant system, it was equivalent to an average treated sewage discharge from a city of nearly 500,000 people.

Inorganic nitrogen levels were also extremely high at four times greater than from a treated sewage discharge.

Although Fonterra has a resource consent until 2011 to discharge up to 3000cu m of wastewater a day, Selvarajah has highlighted a history of microbiological contamination in those discharges, and excessive daily waste water volumes, dating back to 2000.

This includes the emergence in April 2004 of significant sewage fungus at a monitoring site more than a kilometre downstream of a wastewater outfall, and further fungal growth 2km beyond that.

The issue, which is complex and drawn out, will come to a head at a meeting between Fonterra and the council, due to be held any day.

It has become political, as these things do.

Clutha Economic Development Board chairman Don Harvey, in a spirited defence of Fonterra, said the council had "grossly exaggerated" the effects of the Fonterra Stirling discharge.

Harvey claimed the council was motivated by a "desire for revenge" after the Environment Court said Fonterra could be a party to an appeal by meat processor PPCS relating to supposedly similar issues at the PPCS Stirling, several kilometres away.

The council, for its part, thought it had a good line of "no surprises" communication going with Fonterra and felt it was ambushed by the company's sudden hitching of its wagon to the PPCS horses.

Harvey claimed reports painting Fonterra and South Otago in a "bad light" were full of "inaccuracies and exaggeration".

He said contrary to media reports that the discharge was sewage, it was in fact treated wastewater from the milk-processing operation.

"There is no sewage whatsoever in the discharge, with all sewage from the site being piped to the Stirling township system," he said.

But Selvarajah, who is well-respected in resource management circles, is adamant the research he and his staff have done suggest the Fonterra discharges are right up there as far as the magnitude of non-compliance in such cases internationally is concerned.

The council has a memorandum of understanding with Fonterra covering Stirling, which Fonterra wants to preserve, but which Selvarajah and his staff do not consider to be worth the paper it's written on.

The irony of the Stirling contretemps hasn't been lost on some.

Fonterra, and regional councils and Government ministers, signed an agreement in 2003 called the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, under which Fonterra agreed to measure suppliers against a range of environmental and animal welfare standards, aimed particularly at cleaning up waterways adjacent to or on farms.

Local farmer-councillors are nervous about antagonising a major local employer and corporate giant, and probably wish the whole issue would just go away.

Unfortunately, it won't. Nor will many more like it up and down our supposedly clean, green land.

* Mark Peart is a Dunedin-based freelance writer.