Friday, March 10, 2006

Sideswipe


By Ana Samways

A Coke promotion in Newmarket's Two Double Seven uber-mall offers punters the chance to win a $10,000 Coke Credit Card and the billboard includes a mock credit card (above). Closer inspection reveals the sample name used is one D. Henderson. As in David Henderson, the high-profile developer of Princes Wharf who was convicted last year of soliciting for cocaine? Some clever-dick ad man will be hoping the joke doesn't offend their sugary client.

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Trade Me deal sparks wit: On the Trade Me message boards some wag joked that new owner Fairfax was going to change the online auctions site's name to Stuff Me. And online wine trader Advintage released a statement in its newsletter suggesting it may change the name of its successful wine site to Wine Me. "The idea struck us on Monday morning after smoko, but we were really convinced we were on to a winner about 7 on Monday night just after watching One News," an Advintage representative explained. "We're hoping that the catchy Wine Me name will grow our current database to have approximately 1 million new members by the end of the month ... Obviously at that stage we're expecting to be targeted by a corporate takeover and we're planning for that now."

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Eden Park should be in the airline security game. Martin Lawrence of Mairangi Bay writes: "When friends of mine tried to enter they showed the security staff a small plastic bottle of water, and a bottle of chardonnay. The water was special detoxified and treated water for the woman who gets a bad reaction to other water, but she was made to tip it out on the ground, because 'the bottle could be used as a missile'. The staff claimed that they could confiscate the man's bottle of chardonnay. Only after a prolonged altercation did the staff allow him to take it back and return it to his car ... Perhaps this sort of thing partially explains why the ground was only one-third full."

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Angie Lavin of Swanson noticed when she completed her Census form on Tuesday that there was no question about whether she intended to commit a crime. "I wondered, how on earth will the Corrections Dept be able to plan and make accurate predictions for the future," she says.

Editorial: Migration rules must be followed

At a first glance, it is easy to view the case of Gavin Penfold and his family as one of bureaucracy gone mad. Why would the Department of Labour send back to South Africa a man who has worked in his chosen occupation since arriving here in December 2004, and who has one of his two young children at school in Auckland? A closer examination suggests, however, that the department's approach is valid, given the need to protect the integrity and intent of this country's immigration regime.

Mr Penfold's work permit has been revoked and a residency application rejected, giving him and his family the status of overstayers, because he failed to notify the Department of Labour of a job change. Six weeks after arriving in Whangarei to take up a job at a motor vehicle dealership, he left to work for an Auckland dealership. The department was only told of the change about 10 months after the Penfolds moved to Auckland. That, it said, was too late for its liking.

The Penfolds have now been advised that it would be better for them to return to South Africa and then reapply to enter New Zealand. They fear every knock at their door will signal an enforced end to their stay here. Theirs is an unfortunate situation. But it is one that would have been avoided had they taken the terms of entry to this country with appropriate seriousness.

Mr Penfold's work permit had two important stipulations. One, completely standard, was that any variation, such as a change of job, had to be notified to the department immediately. The other, more specific, was that he was allowed to work only as a sales consultant at the Whangarei dealership. For someone keen to forge a new life here, these conditions should have been imprinted on the mind. They are too important to ignore or to be subject to a bout of forgetfulness. As is the department's clear warning that employees from overseas who break any entry conditions may be required to leave the country immediately.

The stipulations are quite reasonable. It was a considerable point in Mr Penfold's favour that he was to live in Whangarei, first because of a shortage of workers qualified to do his job there. Additionally, immigration officials are keen for migrants to settle in provincial areas, thereby taking some of the infrastructure burden off Auckland, in particular. It is unrealistic to expect most of them to stay in the provinces in the long term; they will shift to the bigger cities both for work opportunities and to be close to others from their country of birth. But Mr Penfold's six weeks in Whangarei made a mockery of the permit. If unaddressed, it would hardly encourage other provincial employers to offer work to prospective migrants.

There is also good reason for the department's demand to be advised of any change of job. Immigration officials need to keep tabs on people on work permits. If they cannot, overstaying becomes a much easier proposition. That, obviously, is not a prospect to be encouraged.

Understandably, the Penfold family's plight has attracted sympathy. But so, too, and to a greater extent, should the predicament of immigrants with a far higher level of skill who have failed to find a job commensurate with their talent and educational qualifications. The tales of doctors from the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere driving taxis are still not the stuff of fiction. If immigration policy is failing, it is there.

In terms of the Penfolds, the department's advice is sound. They should go back to South Africa and, if they still wish to build a new life here, reapply to return. And, this time, treat the conditions under which they are granted entry with far more gravity.

Brian Rudman: Vision useless without structure to make it work

Aucklanders love to dream.

When the city council asked for our ideas on the redevelopment of the downtown Britomart block six years ago, 153 lovingly crafted designs were submitted for public display.

There were canals, replica colonial lighthouses, a Daliesque water clock, an urban pa and even a gigantic skyscraper, a monstrosity revealed to be the secret fantasy of property developer Andrew Krukziener.

A year later there were more than 30 entries for something as boring as branding our transport network. That's where MAXX came from.

So it's no surprise the visionary juices are flowing over the waterfront Tank Farm. Though some ideas do seem to be the rejected Britomart ones dusted down. But why not. It's the role of the thwarted visionary to bounce back and back and ...

Still, I fear all this visioning is breaking out a little prematurely. At the risk of repeating myself, there's not much point in dreaming great dreams, if, when you wake up, there is no structure to ensure they come true.

Earlier in the week I referred to international consultant Mercer Delta's review of 27 waterfront redevelopments, stretching from Barcelona to New York to Liverpool to the Melbourne Dockyards. One of its most "compelling findings" was "a clear recognition that a co-ordinated, multi-jurisdictional effort is needed to realise the vision for large-scale waterfront revitalisation".

This mouthful was dejargonised in the next paragraph to be "the benefits of working together".

The consultants came up with 12 "critical success factors," all of which, "in most cases", are required to achieve success.

There are no "nice to have" factors (i.e. if any are missing, the initiative's risk of failure increases significantly). They added that the best results are achieved "when there are simultaneous and co-ordinated efforts to achieve all of the success factors".

Mercer Delta advocates the necessity of a single purpose development authority, but argues that that alone "is not a sufficient condition for success".

There will always be a significant chance of failure if there's a lack of political will and commitment, if different levels of Government and their agencies don't collaborate and co-operate, if funding is inadequate or unpredictable and if the stakeholders - the public included - are not "proactively engaged".

Getting back to that list of 12 key critical success factors and how many - or few - are currently in place on the Auckland waterfront.

1. Co-ordination among public sector stakeholders: Overcoming the "silo" mentality and turf wars and "come together to support a shared vision", aligning land-use regulator role to support the waterfront vision.

2. Viable funding model: There needs to be a predictable and pragmatic funding model.

3. Control over land: Typically land has been transferred from original owners to the empowered corporation. Single ownership assists form and timing of development, provides income through leasing and facilitates borrowing

4. Comprehensive development plan: More than just a land-use plan, setting out key projects, financial strategy, timetables.

5. Long-term planning horizon: Most successes are results of decades of effort, the "long view" succeeding over short-term policy shifts.

6. Visible champion and strong leadership: An articulate leader with strong personality and long-term vision.

7. Accountability mechanisms: Planning, auditing, risk assessment, community participation etc.

8. Authority to act: Provided via enabling legislation and regulations and through land ownership.

9. Alignment between city and independent corporation: Creating an arm's-length entity to facilitate project delivery and harmonisation of land-use regulations.

10. Mechanisms to harness, but also regulate, private ownership interest: Including the public sector, encouraging private investment.

11. Time-bounded intervention: A sunset clause so that once outcomes are achieved the organisational structures are dismantled.

12. Desire for change: A broadly held view that the status quo is unacceptable, sometimes driven by the push to address a serious issue, such as the Olympics or urban blight.

When you go through this checklist, it's chastening that the last one is about the only one of these 12 critical success factors that we Aucklanders can actually tick as far as the Tank Farm is concerned. And even in these days of NCEA, that is far from a pass mark. Particularly when the consultants emphasise that "if any one of these critical success factors are missing, the initiative can be derailed".

So dream all you like of opera houses and native bird sanctuaries, but until our politicians start passing the above test, 12-storey apartment blocks and massive traffic jams is what we're likely to get.

Jim Hopkins: Coming to their senses about growing and knowing

So there we were on Tuesday night, the whole family gathered round the long, scrubbed-pine kitchen table, warmed by the flickering glow of the big whale-tallow candle, Mum in her gingham pinny, Dad in his dungarees and us 10 kids all in our very best hand-me-downs - except for Epiphany, the eldest, who always makes her own clothes out of binder twine and old Marina reports - everyone waiting for Dad to say in his gruff, affectionate way: "Right, you miserable bunch of feeble-minded little weasels, grab your pencils, it's time to get started. And don't make any mistakes or I'll set the dogs on ya."

Yes, like countless others throughout Outer Roa, we had come to our Census. And our Census had come to us. Gosh, it was fun answering all the questions, even if the young ones did get a bit confused at times.

"Muuuuuum, is Gondwana my, umm, same-sex civil union partner or my de factory boyfriend?"

"No, darling, I think he's your older Other."

"Muuuuuum, which effnic group can I join?"

"Put down the one that gets most Benefits." (That was Dad)

"Muuuuuuum, are we Christiums? 'Cos Dad says 'Jesus Christ' a lot"

"Just mark them all, dear, or they might cancel my Christmas Club."

"Daaaaaaad, have I got any health problem or condition that stops me doing everyday activities that people of my age can usually do?"

"You will have if you don't finish that b@#$%y thing before Coronation Street starts."

Fortunately, the whole buerocrylic interrogation was done and dusted long before the sacred hour commenced, much to the chagrin of those in the whanau who can't wait to see the entire cast come down with Mad Cow Disease and The Street turned into an adventure playground for Keith Locke.

But, anyway, at least our diligence will make that nice girl pleased with us. You know, the one who's been on telly for weeks now telling us, in her best kindy teacher voice, that "We're going to grow so we need to know."

Not that she's telling the truth, of course, but she does work for the gummint, so that's all right.

In fact, we're not going to grow. Well, not much, anyway. All those people who keep saying, "New Zillun's got a aging popperlation," are actually saying, "We're not breeding enough." If we were, then it stands to flamin' reason (as Dad would say) that the flamin' popperlation wouldn't be ageing, would it?

Thus, if those in orfority had demanded honesty in advertising, the Census slogan would have been, "We're not going to grow much so we don't need to know much" or, eternatively, "We're only going to grow a bit so we only need to know a bit."

The problem is that both of these examples are rather dull and prozac, unlike the chosen option which was so snappy, catchy and poetic that it is bound to encourage inflammation, for example: We're going to loose so we're called The Blues. Or We've got a Plan which a Minister will ban. Or one for Doctor Bollard: We've hit the wall so there's no change at all. Or perhaps even: We're going to stop putting people in jail because it isn't nice. (Sorry about that, but little Aroha insisted it went in and Mum says we've had enough tantrums already.)

Finally, in confusion, at the end of my essay How The Census United My Iwi it is time to examine the questions themselves. To be prefectly frank, us kids were disappointed that they were the same boring ones we had four years ago. The Census should've had some new questions like:

How soon do you want your parents to get Broadband, even if Theresa Gattung does earn too much (which Dad says she does)?

Alternatively, if the statusticians wanted to find out how switched on we is, they should have asked:

How amused are you to discover that Mr Winston Peters has just signed a $500,000 cheque for the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Government?

A: Very amused
B: Rolling in the aisle
C: Even suggesting it's funny is a treasonous act.

Epiphany also thinks there should have been more art questions. She says people should've been asked their opinions about the extinguished poet laureate, Mr Jam Hipkins' new pome:

After ten flaming years
Of hearings and such
And Planning Reports
full of Weird double Dutch
When the Court finally grants
A Consent you can clutch
But Master Chris Carter
Says it's not a starter
And kicks your marina
To touch
At that point you say
In a fraught kind of way
"Well, Whangamataverymuch!"

Is the extinguished laureate

A: Happy
B: Unhappy
C: Thinking of moving to somewhere that isn't Tasmania on steroids

In samuri, while the Census could have been better (Dad reckons that since they can fine you for not doing it they should b@#$%y well pay if you do it was a very stimulating and rewarding experience overalls and one that my family will long remember for a little while anyway.

David Mention-Soap
Room 8,
Year 13 (whatever that means)

PS: Please excuse the smudges.

Te Radar: Let's drink a wee toast to the elixir of life

Perhaps it is about time we as a nation were schooled in the whens and hows of drinking our own urine, not as a new-age health strategy but as a means of surviving potential calamity.

After all, we have been inundated recently with tales of people defying death by engaging in just this survival strategy.

This includes the Australian woman who survived five days lost at sea off Thailand after she somehow paddled her dinghy out into the ocean, and an English mountain climber who was trapped on a ledge for six days.

Both put their survival down to their self-generated elixir.

However, as a survival mechanism, it still has a certain stigma attached to it.

It also poses several wee questions that need addressing, such as how soon is too soon, is sharing wrong and what can we do to enhance the flavour?

Conversely, it is a desire not to relieve themselves that is apparently plaguing women in Britain.

To mark International Women's Day, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy warned women they face serious health problems if they only squat, rather than sit, on public toilets.

The organisation claims that up to 85 per cent of British women do not sit on public toilets and that they face bladder infections as a consequence. Oddly they made no mention of the possibility of injuries sustained through lack of balance.

The physiotherapists' survey went on to state that what people fail to realise is that their workstations often contain more germs than toilet seats. Surprisingly, there was no outcry about this inference that British women are horribly untidy.

This survey came as something of a surprise to me, as I had just finished reading about a study commissioned by the London Assembly entitled "An Urgent Need", which states that there is only one public toilet for every 18,000 people in London. The conveniences, it seems, are not so convenient.

It isn't just the British who are having toilet troubles. The hapless Aussies are also facing lavatory lunacy, with demands that toilet seats be made stronger as the obesity epidemic ravages the country.

Standards Australia is insisting that toilet seats need to accommodate an average weight of 150kg, up from the present loading of 45kg.

This may be of little comfort to visitors to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, where it seems that, like London, it isn't the strength but the lack of toilets that may inspire a new unofficial games event, the "Clutch and Dash".

The Melbourne City Council, however, has said it will rectify the situation by shipping in portaloos and has, in a masterly stoke of council efficiency, already installed four Exeloos, the supreme public toileting facility.

These models of modernity are self-cleaning, can talk (which must be more than a little disconcerting to users), and collect data on toilet use.

They are also designed to expel loiterers after 10 minutes by automatically opening the doors. The fear of this function must be of great benefit to the constipated.

Peter Griffin: Online Census shows e-government here to stay

Taking part in the inaugural online Census on Tuesday was surprisingly pleasant.

In the time some people spent arguing over what ethnicity box to tick or if they should burn their form in protest at the options, I'd completed my questionnaire and filed it online.

I wasn't expecting it to go so smoothly. The Government doesn't have a great track record in IT and I left it pretty late - 9 o'clock on Census night, when the site was probably under considerable load.

But it actually worked like a dream and the whole venture seems to have been a success for Statistics New Zealand. About 250,000 people filed online, saving officers from returning to a large number of households to collect handwritten forms.

It had me asking why more government interactions couldn't be handled this easily online. It turns out many of them already are, but you're unlikely to have noticed.

The stand-out government departments, in terms of their readiness to interact with the masses online, are Inland Revenue, Land Information and the fines collection arm of the Justice Department.

Inland Revenue was an early entrant into e-government with its ir-file system for collecting information from companies online, and the options are much wider these days. Through www.ird.govt.nz, users can file personal and company tax returns and pay child support and student loans. As the March 31 end of the financial year approaches, this is one website that will be getting plenty of attention, unenthusiastic as it may be.

If you're worried about your company's financial information disappearing over the internet, you can set up secure email transfer between your computer and Inland Revenue. A user ID and password is issued to the user, to be entered with any information sent, and the contents of the email are also encrypted.

At Land Information New Zealand (linz.govt.nz), users can access land titles for the entire country. The department's Skylight service also lets users order and pay for documents and receive digital certificates online. The site's databases are vast and searchable online.

On the Department of Conservation's website, users can book a trek on the Milford Track. At Fish and Game New Zealand, which has a statutory mandate to manage New Zealand's freshwater sports fisheries and gamebird hunting, hunting licences can be bought.

The Companies Office has annoyed me by starting to charge for access to documents that for years was completely free. But the site, an early example of what e-government can achieve, is a great source of information, easy to use, and the charges are not too hefty.

The Accident Compensation Corporation and the Earthquake Commission, not surprisingly, have less of a useful online presence. They want to look you in the eye to see if you're lying when you put in a claim.

The Auckland City Council is also a leader when it comes to e-Government. The site has a good balance of useful information and the payment options are extensive - users can re-register their dogs online or pay parking fines, for example.

While individual government departments and some local bodies are forging ahead in e-government, the site tying all the Government's online pages (egovt.nz) still seems like a bit of a dog's breakfast. It's had a makeover recently, which has helped, but it's still easier to find information by surfing to the individual government websites or even doing a Google search.

The most recent report on e-government, published last year, said the egovt.nz website was attracting 22,000 visitors a week. That doesn't appear to be unique users, and with thousands of bureaucrats in Wellington likely to be accessing the site regularly as part of their job, the general public's interaction looks to be very modest.

Government web guidelines, which guarantee minimum standards of website accessibility, became mandatory in January. The Government has said that by June 2007, "networks and internet technologies will be integral to the delivery of government information, services and processes".

It will probably hit that target. A lot fuzzier is the goal for June 2010, where the "operation of government will have been transformed through its use of the internet".

That's a pretty broad statement and one the Government is reconsidering as part of a $125,000 e-government review, expected to be completed by midyear.

When you start looking, you'll be surprised at just how much e-government there already is. But for the Government to achieve its lofty goals, people will have to know the services are there - and they'll have to be willing to use them.

Winning the hearts and minds of the public is just as important as building the actual systems.

Brian Fallow: Bollard is getting behind himself

Last year many commentators were saying that the trouble was monetary policy was not working, Alan Bollard said yesterday

"This year," he added, "they may be saying the trouble is it is working."

On the face of it, with the central bank projecting growth to slow to a crawl and inflation to return to its target band in the second half of this year, the extra half a percentage point twist of the monetary screws late last year was unnecessary. Bollard, unsurprisingly, disputes this.

That late-cycle tightening was in response to signs the housing market was getting a second wind. That's a problem when the bank is trying to slow the economy down and there is a close correlation between house price inflation and consumption growth.

The same bogey - fear of reigniting a housing market that is showing signs of cooling - underlies Bollard's remarkably explicit warning to the money markets yesterday not to get ahead of themselves in pricing in the now-inevitable rate cuts.

The bank says that if the more aggressive easing the markets are looking for is plugged into its present reading of the economy, the outcome is inflation starts climbing again next year, requiring tighter monetary policy in response.

The problem with this once-bitten, twice-shy approach is that it increases the chances that, having been too tentative in its tightening phase, the bank will be too slow to ease and then have to do so more aggressively.

That is just the kind of heavy-footed driving that Bollard's mandate, which speaks of avoiding unnecessary instability in interest rates, sought to avoid.

Stock takes: Delegat's not yet ripe

By Liam Dann

The Delegat's float, widely expected to go ahead in the first half of this year, is no longer a certainty. The wine company still plans to do an equity raising but it is understood to be having another look at private capital raising options. The rethink comes even though fund managers were treated to a Marlborough winery visit earlier this week and draft prospectuses are already in the hands of a chosen few.

The talk of a private placement seems to confirm rumours that the reaction to the IPO's pricing has so far been lukewarm. Stock Takes reported last week that NZX boss Mark Weldon had given some of the nation's most senior brokers a bit of a talking to about negativity they were exhibiting towards new listings. Sources close to the company said it would be presumptuous to assume that a poor broker response was the reason for the company taking its time to decide. It could equally be related to renewed positive interest from private investors. True - Pacific Equity certainly threw that kind of spanner in the works with the Goodman float. But surely if the sentiment around the IPO had been enthusiastic, it would have been well on the way to market right now.

Once were foresters

Shares in wood products company Tenon have shrugged off a pretty lousy half-year result to soar this week. The company reported an 81 per cent fall in first-half operating profit blaming the high dollar and difficult trading conditions in one of its North American operations.

It looks like a combination of the share buy-back effect (the company is buying back 5 per cent) and this week's dramatic fall in the dollar are behind the rise.

New Zealand forestry companies were already struggling with low commodity prices when the dollar began its long climb up in 2001. But the exchange rate really finished them off. Tenon - which is basically the old Fletcher Forests business minus the actual trees - is a still a big export company and looks certain to benefit. I guess the dollar's fall is great news for all those long-suffering Carter Holt shareholders too ... oh yeah, that's right, never mind.

Load of rubbish

One man's trash is another man's treasure - or something like that. The old saying couldn't be truer for Waste Management.

Common sense would dictate that the future looks pretty good for the garbage business - it's not like anyone is about to stop making the stuff.

Getting rid of it in an environmentally sound way is becoming more important - morally and legally.

"Momentum Building" is the headline of a Goldman Sachs JBWere report - which gives Waste Management a long-term valuation of $7.20. The shares closed at $6.50 yesterday.

The report draws the conclusion that Waste Management is the cheapest waste company in Australasia.

Domestically, the business is experiencing solid growth from a dominant market position. The big question mark is Australia, where it has already invested $80 million on mostly small to medium-sized acquisitions in the past four years.

Waste Management is looking to expand further there with some sizeable acquisitions.

It has its eye on the sale of WSN Environmental Solutions by the New South Wales Government - valued at A$250 million ($283 million) - and Cleanaway Australia which is also up for sale.

There isn't really any good reason to assume management can't successfully pull off this kind of transtasman foray, other than good old-fashioned kiwi pessimism and superstition - which would dictate that any company venturing across the Ditch is doomed to return with its tail between its legs and several million dollars lighter a couple of years later.

Ship ahoy

Mooring Systems is one of New Zealand's most impressive manufacturing companies. For those who don't know much about it, it has developed a revolutionary new automated system for docking ships. It has managed to impress port companies all over the world but convincing them to bring ancient mooring techniques into the 21st century has been a pretty slow process.

This is a company with the technology to conquer the world but it won't be easy. So it was great to see it had signed a $3.1 million deal to sell four mooring units to Salalah Port Services, Oman.

The order is for four MoorMaster 600s, which can moor some of the largest container ships in the world and can cater to ships that are more than 300m long, weighing up to 100,000 tonnes.

Brits join NZX

The NZX's newest listing - Witan - slipped quietly on to the exchange on Wednesday.

Witan is a heavyweight investment trust which has its primary listing on the London exchange. It has assets worth more than £1.2 billion ($3.2 billion). According to Trustnet.com, its largest holdings as of January 31 were in: BP, HSBC, GlaxosSmithKline, Royal Dutch Shell and Vodafone. That's a pretty impressive portfolio by any standards. The obvious question is: Why is it doing a dual-listing here? Apparently the trust - which dates back to 1909 - has a long history with local investors and already has about 50 Kiwi shareholders on board through the London exchange. Witan shares traded on the NZX at $11.70 yesterday.

Laughing all the way to spa

An inquiring journalist trying to get hold of multi-millionaire economist Gareth Morgan at 9.30am on Wednesday foolishly tried to find him at work.

She eventually tracked him down in his spa-pool where he laughed his way through the interview. Frankly, who could blame him. If your son had just made you $47 million, where would you be?

Transtasman swap

Theresa Gattung has told the Australian newspaper that Telecom would "swap places with Telstra in a heart beat". No, not just because Telecom would then be bigger and make more money. She's talking about the relative regulatory environments, of course. It turns out Gattung would be happy to see "the local loop" unbundled here but only if there was no regulation of wholesale prices.

Oh, and as this is not an IT page, here's a reminder of what all that jargon means. The local loop is basically those wires that still hang from wooden poles along most streets in this country. And unbundling means sharing. So Gattung is saying she'd be more than happy to share the wires if she could charge what she wanted for the privilege.

Gee, if only we could all share things that way.

Mayoral decree wins big yawn

Dick Hubbard's suggestion that Auckland City should sell its airport shares didn't even rate a blip on the market this week.

One is forced to draw the stunning conclusion that the broking community has no faith in the ability of local government politicians to make good on anything they say within a time frame that doesn't require a degree in geology to comprehend.

In the past, when councils have sold shares in Auckland International Airport, the stock has always dropped briefly, recalls Macquarie Equities investment director Arthur Lim. Although they have generally recovered quickly after the sale.

But, he says, several issues surrounding Hubbard's proclamation have ensured a collective yawn from the market.

First, the Tank Farm issue has a long way to go before financing the redevelopment becomes a reality.

Second, almost every council that has sold its stake in the airport has missed out on huge profits.

Lim said if Waitakere and North Shore had held on to their stakes when the airport listed in 1998, they would have made enough money for some pretty amazing public developments.

Third, selling Auckland City's remaining 12.8 per cent shareholding (worth $300 million) would really open the airport up to a takeover by one of the big international infrastructure funds.

That threat would bring another level of political pressure to bear on any sale plans.

The airport put out some interesting monthly figures this week. They showed that international passenger growth was up by 1.6 per cent for the year to date - not bad considering that everyone has been talking about the collapse of the tourism sector.

Auckland Airport shares closed at $1. 87 yesterday.