Friday, March 17, 2006

Sideswipe

So that's why they call them lockers


By Ana Samways

Beth Houlbrooke of Warkworth snapped the above picture last Saturday on the Fullers ferry to Rangitoto. She thought it odd considering safety announcements that were made on board including where to find lifejackets in an emergency. Chief executive officer for Fullers Douglas Hudson says lifejackets are stored under every seat in the main cabin and "a supply of extra life jackets (as shown) are stored on the outside deck". The locker is secured at night so they don't get nicked and the crew are required to unlock them each morning. Hudson says this story has given them the chance to "reiterate with staff the required procedure".

* * *

A reader has a staggering statistic of the correlation between crime and hooded sweatshirts. It makes sobering reading. He writes: "What on earth is wrong with all these people who believe they are singled out for wearing hoodies? HELLO! Of course you are ... 80 per cent of the crime committed today is by those who choose to wear a hoodie ..."

* * *

Malcolm Walker says hoodies are what leather jackets were in his day. He writes: "Nothing much changes. Twenty years ago myself and a friend were stopped and surrounded by a police patrol in Herne Bay as we were walking to a fancy dress party dressed as bikies. Pointing out that the two chapters written on our jackets were 'Anglican' and 'Remuera' made no difference and we were cautioned and reluctantly set loose again".

* * *

This year the traditional Irish feast of corned beef and cabbage may be off the menu. Catholics generally abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent and yes, today is St Patrick's Day and a Friday. What to do? Risk sinful consumption of stringy salty meat, or pour the vats of Guinness into an unlined stomach? Never fear, Catholic Church leaders across America are bending the rules by granting a meat dispensation to their parishioners. At least 67 of the country's nearly 200 dioceses provide such dispensations. However, there is always a catch. Some are insisting those who take up the dispensation give up something else in exchange, "like beer", said one.

* * *

Yesterday a reader regaled me with how accurate her stars were in the last NZ Woman's Weekly and heaped praise on the compiler of the astrology pages. I suggested this may have been a coincidence, and asked if the Herald predictions were similar, but she was having none of it and suggested I was too cynical. I then offered the idea that since she had read her stars at the start of the week, maybe they made her suggestible to them and subconsciously made those things happen. Unconvinced, she asked me if I was a Taurus. No, I explained, I just didn't buy into something that believes your entire personality is defined by which month your parents had the most productive sex, and I haven't heard from her since.

Editorial: Your last chance to have a say

Today is the last chance to send views by email to the Auckland City Council before it starts finalising plans for the spectacular Tank Farm site. With a clear expression of popular feeling, the council might amend its tentative ideas for the area before it issues a formal land-use plan. At that point there will be a further opportunity for public submissions but it is better to put the council on the desired path at the outset.

Herald readers who have expressed their view to us over the past two weeks seem agreed that the site deserves a truly iconic structure at its point, though none of several suggested constructions has caught the popular imagination. They include a swept-up sound shell, a sports stadium, a 20-storey statue of Maui fishing, a power station fuelled by sun, wind and waves.

It would be good to hear a compelling proposal at this stage, but not vital. It is enough in the meantime to ensure the council reserves enough of the point in public ownership and erases from its plan the apartments and office buildings it would allow on the northwestern end of the reclamation.

There is plenty of room for more Viaduct-style apartments and office buildings in the area between Fanshawe St and the wharves. The entire Tank Farm protrusion demands much more subtle planning than has been proposed so far either by the council or the advocates of open space.

To designate most of the area public open space would kill it as certainly as cutting it off for exclusively private use. The aim instead should be to copy the character of the Viaduct as far as possible, allowing certain business and marine industrial uses to co-exist with public use of the entire western waterfront.

The fish markets should be able to continue using Jellicoe St alongside the cafes and bars that the council envisages there. Wynyard Wharf, which stands apart from the western side of the Tank Farm reclamation, invites interesting ideas as either a second wharf for passenger ships or an entertainment strip of some kind. The marine industries which are flourishing on the western side of the reclamation could be encouraged to use the present tank farm areas and vantage points could be established for strollers to stop and watch their activity.

Everyone wants the waterfront to be a "people place" but some who use that phrase mean no more than that it should be a public place. Plenty of public places are not at all "people places". They are practically deserted most of the time, which their defenders do not mind at all. They value open space above people's pleasure.

When the open space is a large urban park it may be a good thing that not many citizens actually use it. Its emptiness allows the city to breath.

But Auckland does not need a park such as that on its waterfront. The Tank Farm site is surrounded on three sides by Auckland's biggest and best urban lung, the Waitemata Harbour. The city needs a waterfront where people will want to be.

That means a place where people will work, relax, meet and play, much as they do now at the Viaduct. That exceptional development faces its own threat from the council's initial scheme. A moveable bridge is proposed to connect Te Wero Island in the Viaduct with Jellicoe St, enabling pedestrians, and possibly buses, to go in a direct directly from Quay St to the western edge of the port. The moveable bridge would give Auckland a long and lively public waterfront at a stroke, but it would severely restrict the movement of boats into or out of the inner Viaduct Harbour.

There is much detail to resolve in any plan for a public waterfront. But the guiding principle should be to permit the maximum human activity. Let the council know today.

Te Radar: Revolting students a case for the Army

The fact that Otago University is being forced to consider policing the off-campus conduct of its students, and has to meet the cost of this law enforcement, is an indictment of the moral cowardice of this Government's unwillingness to mobilise troops to quell the unrest.

Most self-respecting nations, faced with student unrest of any kind, are only too keen to call out their defence forces, both to suppress the uprising and to demonstrate to the public the skill of their troops at simultaneously marching and clubbing people.

A report commissioned by Otago University on student behaviour found an ongoing concern with inebriated students.

These latter-day Edu-goths are marauding through the streets of North Dunedin, smashing bottles, vomiting, and expressing their contempt for the bloated comfort of the bourgeois society from which most of them have descended by burning lounge suites.

While the report conceded that there was no "magic cure" for the students' antisocial antics, it did present several recommendations on how to deal with unruly students. These, however, remain a secret.

I suspect none of them mooted the use of water-cannon. Not only would these clear the streets of rowdy undergraduates, they would also wash away the regurgitated carbohydrates that mark the sites of their revels.

Naturally some students will claim that this is an excessive overreaction by a tyrannical state which breaches their basic human right to deconstruct social norms though alcoholic excess.

This will only prove that if there is one thing students excel at more than over-exuberance, it's whining about perceived wrongs. Society will have none of it.

After all, merely because one embarks upon a course of higher learning does not automatically mean that one is free from the normal constraints of civilised society.

If the behaviour of these supposed pillars of the populace was replicated by an ethnic under-class, or those studying at our other great state-funded education institution, the prison system, it would be roundly condemned by all and sundry.

Given that the majority of the disorderly students are of the masculine orientation, it is little surprise that another report appeared this week which concluded that an increasing number of New Zealand women are marrying "beneath themselves".

Some are blaming a man-drought for a shortage of decent, well-educated blokes, but another study states that increasing numbers of women are emerging with higher education qualifications than our menfolk.

Alternatively, both the studies and the news reports about them may simply indicate a clear feminist bias. It may be that women are not dumbing down, but that men are simply upgrading.

Regardless, it seems that more discipline is needed to control the behaviour and study habits of male students.

Only last week Massey University threatened a student with trespass if he continued to erect his hammock on university grounds. The university was right to be upset. After all, it has spent vast amounts on more discreet sleeping locations; they are called lecture theatres.

Peter Griffin: Media industry should learn from BBC success

There are a few great things about being back in the United Kingdom: eating pork scratchings in 500-year-old pubs, riding the comprehensive Tube and train systems, and watching the BBC's excellent programmes.

The world's best public broadcaster seems to be in top form if current programmes, such as Planet Earth and Bleak House, are anything to go by.

But while the old Beeb has long been known for its quality radio and TV programming, it's rapidly become a major force on the internet, a development that is ruffling the feathers of its private-sector competitors.

It seems the BBC's policy of giving plenty of content away is a perfect fit with the internet. Google, after all, has thrived with this policy.

The BBC is now the biggest content creator in Britain and its web portal is the sixth most popular news site in the world.

It attracted 14.2 million unique visitors in January. Ahead of it was Yahoo News with 34.4 million unique visitors followed by MSNBC, CNN, AOL News and Google News.

The interesting thing about all the big media names listed here is that only the BBC is publicly funded. Each household in Britain with a TV pays a licence fee of £126.50 ($343) a year.

Everyone you talk to grumbles about paying it, but the fact is, the billions generated by licence fees allow the BBC to greenlight projects that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day.

The fees have allowed the BBC, backed by the educational and social aspects of its charter, to fund new media ventures.

Although the BBC's traditional business has had its bones picked clean in a major round of redundancies and cost-cuttings, the new media arm seems to be thriving.

It's just as well, because the broadcaster is facing dwindling audiences in its home market.

Last week, BBC 1 sank to its lowest peak time share of audience - 11.9 per cent. A survey by Google shows Britons spend 164 minutes online every day, compared with 148 minutes watching TV. The internet is taking over, changing the way people are informed and entertained.

It's no wonder then that so much effort is being put into the BBC's online operations.

In January alone, 8.2 million people listened to 17 million hours of live and on-demand programming on bbc.co.uk. A trial of podcasts in the same month attracted 1.9 million downloads.

Already supplying free feeds to all its radio stations online, news video clips and articles, the plan now is to have all of the BBC's content available online any time. A service dubbed MyBBCPlayer will debut this year and allow internet users in Britain to download all BBC content for viewing up to seven days after it aired on TV.

It's a major undertaking made possible only by the reasonable rate of broadband penetration in Britain.

In conjunction with ITV, the BBC is also trialling "multicasting", which involves programmes being made available for download via the internet at the same time as they are sent out over the broadcast network.

Content is king on the web and with 400,000 hours of video in its archive, the BBC is sitting on a goldmine. It's set to exploit it with some premium services as well.

BBC Worldwide wants to double profit to £74 million this year and that will involve selling a considerable amount of content overseas.

Any internet content provider trying to compete with the BBC could be forgiven for feeling hard done by when the large reserves from TV licence fees are used to pump up the public broadcaster's online presence.

Questions are now being asked about how far the BBC should be allowed to go in diversifying to the internet and other new technologies.

The way it's going, the BBC's online presence can only grow, but the political pressure will also increase if that progress comes at the expense of private internet companies.

What can our own public broadcaster, TVNZ, learn from the BBC? It should learn that you have to invest to create quality programming, and that includes online content. We ditched the TV licence fee here in favour of other forms of funding, but since the Nzoom website was wound down, TVNZ's online presence has been at a relatively subsistence level.

Meanwhile, a progressive BBC is also streets ahead in providing free-to-air digital television through the Freeview service. It knows that interactive services, on-demand and interactive services are its future.

The broadcaster has had its rough patches, but here's the thing: it has managed to create a profitable business generating quality programmes while writing the handbook on how to take public broadcasting into the internet age.

The media industry has a lot to learn from the BBC and those of us on the other side of the world can only hope some of its ideas and initiatives rub off.

Jim Hopkins: Dargaville is bound to beat the pants off Melbourne

From: Reg Mutton mutton@DaDCoG.org.nz

Subject: Opening Ceremony

Date: 16 March 2006 6:53:46 AM

To: euTroff@OpeningSuC.org.nz

Dear euphoria - Help! Total disaster here, I'm afraid. As explained previously the Marina Action Group were doing some hydrographic flow trials down at the Working Men's Club on Wednesday night so I couldn't watch Melbourne's Opening Ceremony. Trouble is, the new DVD recorder has bloomin' well let me down. Bruce says it's got a dodgy digital wavealiser or something.

Unfortunately, I've got to brief the committee tomorrow afternoon (are you coming?) so I need to know what we're up against, Opening Ceremony-wise. If Dargaville's bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games is going to succeed, then we've all got to be up with the play across the board in every facet. Could u as Chairperson of our Opening Ceremony Sub-Committee (OpeningSuC) please give me a detailed MelbOpCer briefing asap. I am at your convenience, Yrs - Reg Mutton (Chrmn, DaDCoG, Dargaville & Districts Commonwealth Games Cttee)

From: Reg Mutton
Subject: Re: Opening Ceremony

Date: 16 March 2006 10:15:31 AM

To: euTroff@OpeningSuC.org.nz

Dear Ms Troff - Look, I know you arty types are soft on drugs and that, but this is ridiculous. A whole lot of koalas rowing a great big Jandal through the sky? So they can rescue a boy doing aerobatics on a skateboard with a duckwoman until he crashes into a giant flannelette pylon?

What have you been smoking, Euphoria? Need I remind you that the SuC in your committee's title does not refer to wacky baccy!!! Yrs - R Mutton.
PS This duck the boy dreamt about - was it called Donald???

PPS I did like the tram with wings. Perhaps we could continue that aeronautical theme by featuring a national airline with engineers?

From: Reg Mutton
Subject: Apology for Opening

Date: 16 March 2006 1:03:30 PM

To: euTroff@OpeningSuC.org.nz

Dear Ms Troff (Euphoria) Please accept in the most written terms a formal apology from myself on behalf of me. I've just seen the midday news and your description of the Melbourne Opening Ceremony was asbolutely correct, right down to the commentator saying "Australians are good at taking the mickey out of themselves". This will be a hard act to follow, especially since they had fish of all nations on the Yarra River. Could we use the water race in our Opening, do you think? Respectfully yours - Reg Mutton.

From: Reg Mutton
Subject: Re Re Opening

Date: 16 March 2006 3:45:19 PM

To: euTroff@OpeningSuC.org.nz

Euphoria - Yes, I think a group of yachties standing on a giant piece of paper would symbolise a Resource Consent that actually was granted and I'm sure Chris Carter would understand we were just "taking the mickey".

Trouble is, having lanterns "glowing in a spirit of consultative hope" inside the Consent form would raise some OSH issues, unfortunately.

Also, I wonder what significance it would have for a weightlifter from St Vincent and the Grenadines - which is a place, incidentally, not a rock band.

Mrs Mutton thought it might be nice to have a giant tennis ball flying across the Showgrounds and sticking in the mouth of a big angry paper mache politician to show how the Games silence negativity. Whaddaya reckon? Reg

PS Marlene at Dargaville Rubberware says they could do the ball no sweat and Barry at the garage will let us use his air hose.

PPS Love the idea of a V8 dancing with the stripper - sure beats a bike and a ballet dancer. Besides, anything with V8s is bound to get up Auckland's nose!!!!

From:Reg Mutton
Subject: Opening 2014

Date:17 March 2006 7:16:41 AM

To:euTroff@OpeningSuC.org.nz

Dear Euphie Pops ... As you say, it would be stunning if the giant tennis ball "smashed savagely through the silent wonder of a kauri forest, causing one of the mighty giants to fall on a txt bully's cellphone, thus offering a scathing but scintillating visual indictment of the evils of technology".

I particularly like the idea that "during this ecological holocaust, John Campbell could solemnly read a long list of past injustices to indigenous peoples, all translated into sign language by a human pyramid of disabled athletes".

That is absolutely brilliant!!! It's the kind of Opening that everyone in New Zealand would be proud to present. I'm sure your "anguished tableaux" would get plenty of gummint funding too. Anything gloomy seems very popular in Wellington. Keep up the good work - Mutts

PS Should we ask Brenda at the Camping Ground to hold a caravan for Kiri Te Kanawa? Having her sing a little tribute to each nation is a wonderful thought. I like your wee ditty:-

Every little breeze

Seems to whisper Belize

It'll be hard getting a rhyme for The Turks and Caicos Islands, won't it? Still, I bet you do. If you give me the music I'll get the Pipe Band practising. This'll really show Melbourne how to do an Opening!!! Never forget the DadCoG slogan, "We don't stand still - in Dargaville!"

Brian Rudman: Profligate councillors go for dearest road option

The dreamers who see road tolls as the answer to Auckland's congestion have been getting over-excited about today's release of the Ministry of Transport's Auckland Road Pricing Evaluation Study.

I'm not sure why. This time last year, state road builder Transit New Zealand reported to the Cabinet that it could find no rabbits in that particular hat. So I'll be surprised if the ministry has had better luck. Particularly when chief executive Dr Robin Dunlop's previous job was head of Transit.

At the time of that report, Transit had permission from the Government to toll Alpurt B2, the Orewa to Puhoi motorway, when it was completed. Transit then had to confess that a standalone electronic tolling system would need continuing subsidies to cover operating costs. Of the $1.80 toll, $1.35 would disappear into administering the system.

Transit's plan B was to propose a $53.5 million "toll systems project" aimed at "developing the toll management system for state highways and other toll roads". The idea was to find one or more other roads to toll as well as try to spread the revenue net.

But the report did admit "it is unclear at this stage whether there will be other toll roads completed within 10 years".

From there it was an easy step to opening up the question of tolling existing roads to pay for building new ones. But I can't see the present Government contemplating that. Unless, of course, they called it a congestion regulator.

But to introduce such a system, you'd have to introduce an isthmus-wide ring of electronic tollgates, with a vast and expensive monitoring and billing system to extract the cash.

The best I can see for tolling is that it might reduce the numbers on the roads. That's if it's priced high enough to act as a deterrent. But, of course, that would hit Labour voters - the poorer among them anyway - hardest. My money is on it never happening.

The joke is that while Auckland politicians are screaming at central Government for more and more transport funds, they can't resist simultaneously adding unnecessary millions to the wish list every time they meet.

On Tuesday it was the turn of the transport policy committee of the regional council to confirm every nightmare the Wellington bureaucrats might have had about the profligacy of Aucklanders.

They voted in favour of the super-expensive $1.55 billion option for completing State Highway 20 through Avondale - this after both the affected territorial authorities, Auckland City and Waitakere City, and the Department of Conservation, had endorsed Transit's preferred, and much cheaper, $1.15 billion route.

The battle is over whether the western bypass joins State Highway 16 North at the existing Waterview interchange, or runs down the Rosebank Peninsula and meets at a new interchange.

Even the ARC transport advisers, in preparing their report to the committee, conceded that there was not much in it. Their recommendation to the committee was that it advise Transit that "the ARC does not consider there is a compelling case that the Waterview option ... is significantly better than the Rosebank option" and, it seems, leave it at that.

But the politicians didn't. They passed a resolution declaring "the ARC supports the AR [Rosebank] route as it has significant advantages in terms of enhancing the Auckland region's strategic roading network".

The cost of this final stretch of the ring road has blossomed as more and more efforts have gone to mitigate the impact of its route through a series of parks and the environs of Oakley Creek.

But as the ARC officials note, apart from the cost, there's not a lot between the two alternatives.

Environmentally, the Oakley Creek valley is affected whichever option is chosen: by the highway proper in the Waterview option, and by a feeder road from the city, providing an alternative route to the airport and south, if the Rosebank alternative is chosen.

Against the Rosebank option is the high cost, environmental and financial, of linking the existing highway to the peninsula.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. But none of the reports I've seen suggest $400 million worth. In these financially lean times, to go against the consensus and argue for Rosebank seems deliberately contrary.

Winston Peters: Why we must continue to be a good neighbour

The idea that New Zealand should abandon its assistance programme in the Pacific is a narrow and short-sighted one. We are a Pacific nation. This is our neighbourhood and for the good of the region we cannot ignore the struggles of our neighbours.

The Pacific is also of immense trade and economic importance to New Zealand. Trade is worth more than $1.1 billion annually and a significant trade surplus is in our favour.

Failure by New Zealand to act to assist the developing nations of the Pacific would not only adversely affect them, it would also have serious security, social and economic consequences for New Zealand and the region as a whole.

As one of the most prosperous Pacific nations, New Zealand has a responsibility to work with our neighbours to address the challenges they face, and to assist in achieving long-term solutions throughout the Pacific region.

This is in our own interests, and one of the ways we can do this is through a well-managed and flexible international aid programme.

There are commentators who write at length about their views on aid ineffectiveness in the Pacific, the corruption, the bloated bureaucracies and the ordinary people who never see the benefit of the millions of dollars poured into their economies.

Some even prescribe their own solutions and advocate the use of aid as a lever to achieve them. This is nothing more than a patronising, "we know better" approach that best practices in aid have long since abandoned.

Sound development requires an understanding and responsiveness to local contexts in the Pacific just as much as in New Zealand itself.

Anyone who doubts results can be achieved in the Pacific should pay close attention to Samoa.

Despite its absence of natural resources and other constraints, Samoa has over the last decade enjoyed unparalleled economic growth among Pacific developing countries. This growth has been assisted significantly by a programme of NZAID assistance tailored to improve delivery of social services and overall wellbeing.

Samoa should be commended, not criticised, for the efforts it is taking to ensure a prosperous and exciting future for its people.

Last week, Martin Robinson, on this page, consigned Samoa to failure due to its immigration statistics. In reality, there are half as many Samoans registered to migrate to New Zealand as Robinson would have readers believe.

The fact that there is an interest in Samoa or any other developing country in taking up economic opportunities in better-off countries like New Zealand is hardly surprising.

This is no different from any other country in the world - developed as well as developing - where people will pursue available opportunities offshore to increase their economic well-being.

Samoan migrants are great supporters of their families back home, sending them millions of dollars in remittances, export-earnings in effect. So are Tongans, Fijians, and others.

In 2005/06, NZAID, the Government's international aid and development agency, will spend $176 million on efforts to break the poverty cycle in the Pacific. This is being carefully managed to mitigate and avoid the traditional pitfalls and failures of aid.

The OECD recently reviewed New Zealand's aid programme and acknowledged NZAID as a reliable and innovative donor. Taxpayers can have confidence that NZAID is doing all it can to ensure that our aid dollars make a practical and meaningful difference.

In the Pacific, donors such as New Zealand and Australia are harmonising their aid programmes. This means donors work together to produce common strategies, processes and practices, thereby lessening the need for large aid-administrating bureaucracies.

In the Cook Islands, Australia and New Zealand have agreed to join their aid programmes - effectively creating one donor and halving the transaction burden. This approach is supported by the Cook Islands Government and is already delivering more effective and more focused aid to the tiny nation.

New Zealand has helped to pioneer new and innovative aid-delivery mechanisms in the Pacific, which take into account weaknesses while capitalising on strengths. New Zealand's aid programme focuses on finding solutions that are appropriate, realistic and offer both parties value for money.

These new approaches to giving aid create an environment where developing countries are able to actively participate in the process and own the results. Aid is no longer donors giving small grants to hundreds of projects for little return; it's about substantial investments on a large scale to achieve significant results that have a real and immediate impact on the lives of many poor people.

NZAID supports the Solomon Islands Government to provide all children basic education. Funding of $30 million is committed, but is linked to the Solomon Islands Government meeting agreed funding targets throughout the programme.

In the Solomon Islands less than 75 per cent of children attend primary school and even fewer go on to secondary school. The education system has suffered years of Government neglect and was the subject of many failed aid experiments.

New Zealand's help will put a trained teacher in every classroom, revise and update the curriculum, put a library and clean toilet in every school and ensure the costs of educating children are spread fairly between the Government, communities and parents.

The tiny island of Niue faces all the challenges of a small nation but has a population of only 1300. New Zealand assistance is helping Niue to secure its future by contributing to a multi-donor trust fund which, when fully funded, will provide a stable income source for the Niuean people.

Security of finances will mean Niue can do more to attract investment, provide social services and eventually lessen its reliance on aid.

Programmes like this show that aid does work, but it needs to be done right. NZAID's work involves much more than writing cheques; it's about research, relationships and following through.

True, good governance is critically important, but to be successful we also need to demonstrate patience and empathy. Results will not always happen quickly and in the way we want or expect, but we should always be engaged in our own neighbourhood.

* Winston Peters is the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Stock takes: The bull is out of the paddock

By Liam Dann

What a difference a fortnight can make. Suddenly, after a rocky start to the year, we seem to be in the midst of a mini-bull run. Ok, so things have pulled back a little since Tuesday's NZSX-50 record high, but it still seems a stack of companies are benefiting from the renewed market vigour - presumably on the back of the falling dollar. Vector, The Warehouse, Telecom, Tenon, GPG, FPH and FPA, Waste Management, Skellerup, Infratil, Steel and Tube, Cavalier and Fletcher Building have all had plenty of buyers for the past week or so. The rise of of the export stocks is no surprise. As for the others, it seems that many investors are now prepared to look through the domestic doom to grab a bargain.

Change of tack

Anyway, enough of the positivity (there is only so much good cheer we can handle here in the media before we need a need a cup of tea and and a lie-down). Telecom shares may be enjoying a bit of a run for now but analysts still see serious clouds on the horizon - and not all are regulatory.

Macquarie Equities - which last month had a rosy outlook - has had a rethink and dropped its target price significantly. In February, the Macquarie team went in to bat for Telecom, arguing that the media campaign about broadband performance was "either factually incorrect or misleading". At the time, it gave the shares a valuation of $6.80 and a 12-month target price of $6.40.

A month later, that valuation has been dropped to $5.95 and the 12-month target to $5.80. The rethink is largely down to an acceptance that the Government is hell-bent on unbundling the local loop (ULL). Macquarie analysts estimate the ULL cost to Telecom will be about 83c a share. Of that, 51c relates to the loss of access revenues paid by competitors for the right to use the lines. The rest relates to the "much harder to guess" second round impact on calling prices.

Despite evidence of some good domestic earnings growth in its last result, Goldman Sachs JBWere also remains pretty negative. It is picking that soft margins in the mobile business, a "seachange" in the regulatory environment, continued erosion of its fixed-line business and ongoing costs related to the exit from Australia give it a valuation of just $5.39 - below its present price of $5.52.

New research team

After several years of sourcing its research from UBS, ASB Securities has decided to go it alone. It has appointed David Boyce (formerly of ABN Amro) as its new head of research. ASB's Steve Jurkovich says the move is part of an evolutionary process to beef up client services. The company wants to offer research that is more specifically tailored for its retail clients and plans to use the sizeable resource of economic research it can draw from ASB and its parent company, Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Boyce takes up the role from the start of next month assisted by analyst Charlotte Preen.

Media mash-up

Anyone who still has their jaw hanging open after last week's $700 million Trade Me deal should consider that its buyer - John Fairfax Holdings - is being tipped as a takeover target in an imminent shakeup of the Australian media scene.

A new law which will relax media ownership rules across the ditch has Aussie pundits picking a consolidation of the sector. Without a majority controlling shareholder, Fairfax is considered vulnerable to takeover plays from the likes of James Packer's Publishing & Broadcasting, CanWest and other foreign media groups. Macquarie Bank's media fund is another possible contender ... and there's also an old bloke called Rupert who's just been born again as an internet guru. So who knows who might have their hands on Trade Me 12 months from now.

Stone the escrow

Word around the traps is that Graeme Hart's bankers at Credit Suisse (First NZ Capital, locally) might be running an escrow account for the Carter Holt Harvey offer.

An escrow is a fund which allows investors to effectively "pencil in" the sale of their shares without making the final commitment until the last minute. If true, it means that - on paper at least - Hart may already be past the 90 per cent threshold he needs to take control of the company. However, the Rank Group is likely to file a substantial shareholders' notice today showing it is within a whisker of 90 per cent.

Meanwhile, as other export stocks soar, forest industry watchers continue to bemoan (and/or celebrate) Hart's shrewdness at grabbing control of CHH at the absolute peak of its high kiwi dollar woes.

Liquor to split

With Independent Distillers refusing to talk, getting goss on the potential sale of the company has been like squeezing fizzy raspberry cocktails out of a stone. Thank goodness for a tenacious British trade magazine - The Publican - which has reported that Liverpool-based drinks company Halewood is in advanced talks to buy the UK and European division of the late Michael Erceg's company.

This would seem to indicate that splitting up the company is being seriously considered by the Erceg family. It's a logical move and one likely to make any future sale of the Australasian business (to the likes of Lion Nathan) even more likely.

Talk is cheap

How's this for a case of talking out of both sides of one's mouth? In announcing that Vodafone NZ would offer broadband internet services by the end of the year, chief executive Russell Stanners ironically came to Telecom's defence this week by coming down hard against the need for regulation of the industry. Vodafone brought competition in mobile phones to New Zealand, he said, and it would do the same in broadband.

The Commerce Commission must have a sense of humour because the next day, it announced it would investigate Vodafone's request for interconnection regulation on hybrid mobile-home phones. Seems like Stanners wants it both ways.

Monday is cookie time

Final bids are due in for biscuit company Griffin's this Monday and it is understood the number of interested parties has crumbled away to the usual suspects - namely Graeme Hart and Australian private equity group PEP.

Griffin's, which is owned by Danone, makes about $40 million a year and could sell on an earnings multiple of 7 or 8 times - giving it a price of around $300 million.

"If the price has a two in front of it, it will probably be Graeme; if it's three hundred and something then it will be PEP," said one interested observer.

Griffin's has a fantastic stable of brands including Kiwi classics such as Mallowpuffs, Toffeepops, Gingernuts and Shrewsbury.

But Hart is the most disciplined buyer in this part of the world so, despite the strong brands, he is unlikely to be sweating over the possibility of missing out on Griffin's.

PEP, on the other hand, has been prepared to pay full prices to get hold of assets.

Meaty proposal

Talley's bid for full control of Affco this week is yet another example of a player with a long-term view taking advantage of short-term negativity.

To be fair to Talley's, its timing is probably more to do with ensuring that no one else gets any takeover ideas than with making a quick profit off the share price. And the stability of a majority shareholder isn't a bad thing for a listed meat-processing company. Industry watchers will still recall the bloody mess that was the PPCS takeover of Richmond. It dragged on for seven years.

Of course, none of that is to say that shareholders shouldn't look to extract a little more of a premium for handing over control. The 40c-a-share offer - although 11 per cent up on last week's trading price - is still pretty low when you consider the stock has traded as high as 47c in the past 12 months. Despite a drop in commodity prices this season, and some pain from the final effects of the high dollar, there is good news on the horizon.

Affco is primarily a beef exporter so is likely to continue to benefit from enhanced market access in Japan after another confirmed BSE case in the United States last week. It has a strong balance sheet and, after several years of restructuring, is well placed to benefit next year - if we are, indeed, in a low kiwi dollar phase.

Cathy Casey: Kicking homelessness for touch

The 2011 Rugby World Cup is a chance to show off everything that is great about Auckland city. There has been much talk about the need to upgrade key infrastructure, including Eden Park, rail transport and the city's motorway network. We also need to improve our social infrastructure.

The World Cup is not the reason for us to address homelessness but is an opportunity to set ourselves targets. A census of the city's homeless population found that up to 300 people can be sleeping on the streets of the CBD on any one night. That's an issue that cannot be ignored.

The reasons are numerous and complex. Auckland City Council commissioned Gravitas Research to look at the issue, and its report highlighted the need for a comprehensive co-ordination of services for homeless people.

It also pointed out that rough sleepers often have complex needs, especially in the areas of mental health and drug and alcohol addiction.

The often-touted approach of "clearing the streets" is naive and ineffective. This approach merely sweeps the problem under the carpet and does not provide a long-term solution. We need a compassionate response that meets the needs of the city's homeless.

The council has developed a Homelessness Action Plan, in which the council will work with partners in the not-for-profit sector to improve service delivery for homeless people. The council aims to ensure greater co-ordination between social service agencies providing for the homeless.

The council will also facilitate the development of better outreach services for homeless people.

This will ensure that rough sleepers get the help they need so that sleeping on the streets is not their only option.

The council will look at its own response to homeless people in public spaces. Council staff, such as city ambassadors and parks staff, will be trained at how best to help homeless people in public areas.

Rather than just moving them, council staff will know about the services available to provide help to homeless people.

The council has committed $135,000 over three years as part of this much-needed first step. However, the resources in Auckland pale in comparison with those set aside to tackle homelessness in other major cities.

The Queensland State Government and the Brisbane City Council have shown real dedication in working together to address homelessness by committing $236 million over four years to assist the state's 20,000 homeless people.

To comprehensively address the issue in Auckland and nationally will require a commitment from central Government as New Zealand has no legislation covering homelessness.

This is despite New Zealand signing up to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognises that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing.

The covenant also states that all appropriate means, including legislation, should be used to ensure that right.

It is high time the Government took this commitment seriously and enacted legislation on homelessness.

Local authorities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have been struggling with this issue and it is time our counterparts in the Beehive acted to give councils greater direction and power.

A clearly defined legislative and policy framework would ensure this vulnerable sector of our society is properly provided for and would enable local bodies to apply a consistent approach.

Having adequate provision for homeless people in the long term will ensure that Auckland and New Zealand are genuinely ready for the international spotlight in five years' time.

* Councillor Cathy Casey chairs Auckland City Council's Community Development and Equity Committee.