Monday, March 20, 2006

Sideswipe



By Ana Samways

A mysterious insignia which gives people supernatural powers has gone missing in a case of life imitating art. The triangular insignia, as big as a man's hand, is the hero prop in a children's TV2 drama series Amazing Extraordinary Friends being filmed in Auckland. It's the story of a teenager who finds the insignia and is endowed with amazing powers and thereafter fights the forces of evil. A few days ago thieves stole a truck containing various props including the insignia (the only one in the universe!). The truck, a Henderson Rentals two-tonner, was pinched from Western Springs and has since been seen doing burn-outs in a Mangere East street and driving near Middlemore Hospital. In the wrong hands the insignia has terrible powers, warn the producers at Greenstone Pictures. Anyone with information should call the police or Greenstone on (09) 630-7333.

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A group of concerned ad-industry creatives are getting behind the Botany Community Board's appeal to rename the new town of Flat Bush being built on the outskirts of Auckland. "The best name they've thought of is Ormiston, which sounds like my contraceptive pill!" says one creative. Another quite likes the "old skool Kiwi style of Flat Bush. Almost as good as that other droll tell-it-like-it-is name - Dairy Flat." Someone else suggests other suburbs are in more urgent need: "Dannemora - it's like some kind of horrible depressing disease ... 'sorry darling, not tonight, I've got a touch of Dannemora'." The most persuasive argument for changing the suburb's name came from whoever said it sounded like a severe bikini waxing. (Source: nzcreativecircle.blogspot.com)

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Auckland has been lampooned on Uncyclopedia, a parody of online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. Here's how the writer describes Auckland's traffic woes: "One of Auckland's most famous features is its endless traffic jams, which stretch from the Bombay Hills in the South to the Hibiscus Coast in the North. The average speed of vehicles in Auckland is approximately 1 micron per century, meaning that many Aucklanders are born, grow through childhood saying "Are we there yet?", meet life partners in neighbouring vehicles, procreate, raise families, and die in the same traffic jam".

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Cafes in Hong Kong will now lend their dining guests dogs and cats to pet during their visits. This temporary affection, according to Der Spiegel, is popular because Hong Kong residents find it so inconvenient to own pets in such a densely populated city. Also, the owner of Augsburg restaurant La Boheme in Germany confirmed that although customers are welcome to bring their dogs when they dine, "small children" are not allowed in the evenings. "After a hard day's work, [diners] want some peace," he said. (Source: News of the Weird)

Editorial: Our man on the sidelines

Winston Peters has proven one thing. New Zealand does not, at this point, require a Minister of Foreign Affairs. Not while we have an activist diplomat as Prime Minister and a trade minister with interests as broad and deep as Phil Goff's. Try as he might to involve himself in international affairs of relevance, Mr Peters seems destined to be left on the sidelines while the Government's tag team, fully fledged Cabinet ministers, attend to the issues that matter.

The highest-profile diplomatic challenge this year was the conflagration over the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad. When New Zealand was drawn into the flames, it was Helen Clark and Phil Goff who led the fight to save the country's image in the Muslim world. By and large, they succeeded. Where was Mr Peters? Not needed, really. He might think that the priority was to preserve our export trade and that is Mr Goff's responsibility. He might, after just a few months in the job, have bowed to the Prime Minister's greater wisdom in these things. And he might, having stirred up feelings about Muslims in this country with an ill-considered speech last year about the many-headed Islamic hydra threatening our way of life, have realised he was not the man for that job.

Mr Peters has given one keynote speech to diplomats and academics in Wellington. It was a cautious run through the Clark-Goff principles of the past six years with some subtle Peters emphases and an odd little diversion to chide the US for not acknowledging this country's work in the Pacific. Odd, because the Pacific, the SAS in Afghanistan and the Antarctic joint venture are just about the only things that American officials do repeat about New Zealand in their attempts to look on the upside of a dysfunctional relationship. Odd, because Mr Peters had come into this (diminished) office fancying his chances of improving the tone, if not the substance, of the bilateral relationship. Odd because it wasn't an original line of thought: his boss, Helen Clark, has made the same plaintive noises privately in the past.

Since then Mr Peters has had much urgent public business at racetracks as Minister of Racing, and in the Pacific, as a roving envoy of indeterminate rank or purpose. There was a visit to Fiji, meeting the military commander among others, and last week he was around the isles again. As Helen Clark was meeting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the inauguration of Chile's new president in Santiago, and was then in Manila for an inter-faith dialogue, Mr Peters was inspecting New Zealand aid projects in Tonga and writing an article in defence of aid to Samoa.

All of which is worthy enough, but worthy perhaps of an overseas aid minister or an associate minister of foreign affairs or a parliamentary undersecretary. In mid-year, Mr Peters' big test arrives with a visit to Washington. He will have pretty tight riding instructions from Labour, so a broad smile will not be enough to engage the Americans in meaningful progress.

Should anyone be surprised at his redundancy? The same thing occurred when he was "Treasurer" to Bill Birch's Finance Minister under National in the 1990s. Mr Peters carried the senior title. Mr Birch steered the ship. Fast forward to this Government: the confidence and supply agreement that the New Zealand First party cobbled together with Labour was fundamentally flawed. No one apart from Helen Clark and Mr Peters really thought that the Foreign Minister could sit outside the Cabinet. It probably suited both of them for different reasons for him to be on the outer. It may well suit them both, still, for him to be a functioning supernumerary today.

Brian Rudman: Shame on councillors for their anti-brothel bylaw

Justice Paul Heath has quashed Auckland City's ridiculous anti-brothel bylaw and ordered the council to pay costs to Club 574, the Epsom bawdy house which challenged the bylaw's legality. What a pity the judge doesn't have the right to force the Ma Grundies of the John Banks era, who enacted this bylaw, to pay the compensation out of their own pockets.

If they had any shame they'd do it voluntarily. After all, I did warn these Christian Right councillors back in November 2003 that what they were trying to do with the bylaw appeared to be ultra vires - in plain talk, outside the law.

Not that you needed a law degree to appreciate that what they were attempting to do with their bylaw was to thwart Parliament's then recent decision to bring prostitutes in from the cold and make the oldest profession legal.

Auckland City Council's act of resistance was a bylaw banning not just brothels, which the law addressed, but any other manifestation of the sex industry as well, from anywhere within a 250m circle centred on any place of education, on any church (if in suburbia but not the central city) and on major traffic interchanges.

When first floated, the draft bylaw defined the latter as including "an airport, a railway station, a ferry terminal, or the Otahuhu Bus Interchange".

I'm not sure whether the chaps of Otahuhu got a last-minute reprieve in the eventual bylaw - it's irrelevant now that the whole thing has been judicially scrapped. But I did wonder at the time why the bus-riding sinners of Otahuhu were being singled out to have to walk a penitential 250m before partaking of their pleasure.

There was even a ban on brothels at street level, which, rather delightfully, raised the ire of something called the Older People's Network Forum, who claimed this would discriminate against the one-in-five disabled Aucklanders who would be excluded "from participation in activities which are legally available to others".

Justice Heath said he was applying well-established legal principles in concluding the bylaw invalid, pointing back to a 90-year-old judgment outlining that a local authority proposing to regulate in relation to a public right must take into account the general law on the same subject: "A bylaw must not destroy the public right nor conflict with existing legislation. Any bylaw which destroys, unnecessarily prejudices or interferes with a public right without producing a corresponding benefit to the inhabitants of the locality must necessarily be unreasonable."

Noting that one-third of Aucklanders live within Auckland City's boundaries, Justice Heath said the bylaw permitted a brothel in "only three (relatively small) pockets of land".

He said that "contrary to Parliament's clear intentions, all brothels (including small owner-operated brothels) are excluded from virtually all areas within the isthmus (including suburban residential areas where homes may be used as small owner-operated brothels) due to the way in which the location of brothels has been defined.

"The bylaw is invalid because it prohibits sex workers from plying their lawful trade from small owner-operated brothels in most areas of the isthmus. Further, it is scarcely conceivable that Parliament intended virtually no brothels, whether small or large, to operate on the Auckland isthmus."

In other words, Parliament is boss and councillors have to accept that. Instead of drawing up a brothel bylaw on moral grounds, "the location of brothels must be guided by the need to address policy considerations such as public nuisances, offensive behaviour in public places, public health, public safety and compatibility with existing character and use of surrounding land".

A city spokesman says the council is now considering where to go next. Let's hope there are no thoughts of appeal. If any city politicians are still keen to drive brothels out of town, then they should be standing for Parliament and trying their luck in the appropriate forum.

Having a brothel in the neighbourhood can't be any worse than the bar around the corner from me, which, of a summer's night, usually has a preponderance of loud boozers standing around on the public footpath.

Jens Mueller and Sandy Maier: Searching for good governance

We hear a lot about good governance but usually only take notice of governance in companies with demonstrably poor governance and dramatic problems - think Enron.

Working backwards from examples where governance has failed and stakeholders incur horrendous losses, we presume that there is a better way to operate a firm. If governance is the glue that holds a company together and ensures all staff do the right things at the right times, it should be measurable.

Governance is the special air in a company, flowing around everyone and everything it does, and making an organisation the unique entity it is.

On that basis, a large group of leading corporate organisations in New Zealand have come together to support the "Directions Understanding Good Governance" survey.

In one of the largest reviews of corporate governance ever undertaken in this country, an MBA team at Waikato Management School is looking at governance standards worldwide and has created an online survey for company executives, corporate directors and investors.

Building on the most meaningful questions from more than 100 governance research papers worldwide, this New Zealand survey will add highly relevant and academically valid information. We plan to make this information available to directors, company executives and shareholders to give them tools to assess their own governance structures.

With this work, we hope to better understand how directors (hopefully the strategic leaders of organisations) are selected and how well they operate in firms to create and then maintain good governance standards.

These Waikato Management School students, all experienced managers from six different countries, are in the final months of their MBA studies.

As part of the action learning environment at the school, they will create a list of key recommendations to New Zealand shareholders, executives and directors. We hope that this work will contribute to the ongoing discussion of what good directors do to help create great organisations.

With about 2000 responses expected, we are especially interested in the governance activities at small and mid-sized firms.

It is pretty obvious that the large public corporations in New Zealand are well (possibly too well?) regulated, although we will be keen to see how directors of these firms report on the effectiveness and competence of their board leadership. Is the heavy focus on compliance interfering with the long-term strategic goal-setting at these large businesses?

In small and mid-sized firms, formal governance structures have historically been of secondary importance, taking a back seat to the day-to-day operation of the firm.

There is likely nothing wrong with competent people, possibly family members, leading their own firms. But what needs to happen at those firms that wish to create a more sustainable governance structure?

How would a $10 million Gisborne-based exporter of onions to Switzerland find directors suitable to help develop this business?

Similar to a rugby team, where the governance needs to extend beyond the playing field and into the management ranks, many of our smaller firms need help that goes further than the operational part of the business. Good governance reaches into the critical reflection of why we do things and is not limited by what we do. Good governance provides a dense fabric of values, unique to the firm and acceptable to the community in which we work.

As a wise friend of ours at KPMG Trustees once remarked: Once you lose your credibility, you've lost it all.

Our interest is not only to protect firms from future problems, but to help create standards by which we can measure the early onset of governance problems.

This topic is of great interest in New Zealand, where we focus extensively on exports and thus are likely to have successful firms measured by global governance values.

Firms such as KPMG, Simpson Grierson, Sheffield, Porter Novelli, Business New Zealand, Brook Asset Management, and Management Magazine work with globally active firms every day, explaining why their leaders came together to help executives better understand how to develop good governance strategies.

We plan to replicate this work in several other countries, starting in Australia, Singapore, Germany, the US and China, to be able to tell our exporters what governance standards are expected and practised elsewhere.

With a large number of survey replies already in hand from executives and directors in firms with sales under $5 million, we are seeing some important trends emerge.

It appears that the majority of referrals for new board memberships come from existing directors. In a relatively small country with a finite pool of qualified directors, this raises the question of whether new directors were appointed for their skill or for reasons of being compatible.

There is nothing wrong with having people you know and trust on boards and we would assume that the business networks of successful people are quite diverse and rich in competence, but we wonder if such a new director recruitment process offers the shareholders the most appropriate mix of talent from which to select.

In a large number of firms, the CEO is also a lead director. That may be a good mechanism to further information flow among directors and management, but it burdens the CEO with the near-schizophrenic task to completely separate his/her own employment interests from the process of making board decisions.

There must be a better way to have a CEO fully involved in board discussions but separated from the duty to vote on corporate matters. How many people do you know who could look calmly into a mirror and fire themselves for cause?

Most directors report that little formal training is provided to them, while the main source of advice and training is informal and from within the firm.

That may well be suitable to communicate the firm's culture and the way we do things around here, but it leaves open the issue whether individuals - even competent executives - could reasonably be expected to quickly become effective directors.

These and many other issues will likely emerge from our work, and we sense that the way directors are brought together with organisations might change in the future, that a more transparent forum will emerge, and that the Trade Me for Directors may be just around the corner.

Company directors, investors and corporate executives are invited to complete the survey, at no cost, and they will receive a copy of the national results.

* The survey can be accessed using the link below.

* Jens Mueller is Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Waikato Management School and a longtime CEO/chair of global firms. Sandy Maier has been a professional director in New Zealand for many years and is a member of the Institute of Directors.

Christopher Niesche: Love affair with Warehouse off the boil

If there was ever a time when retailers should have made a killing it was over the past few years.

Kiwis have been spending like never before and the high dollar has made the goods that retailers import much cheaper.

Yet somehow, the country's largest retailer The Warehouse hasn't prospered. Put aside the troubles it's had with its Australian stores and look just at the performance of the New Zealand "Red Sheds" and the story is unchanged: The Warehouse has failed to take advantage of New Zealanders' spending binge.

In the three years to the middle of 2005 core retail sales in New Zealand - including inflation - rose 18 per cent. Over the same period, annual Red Shed sales rose about the same amount, to $1.48 billion in the year to the end of July last year.

On its own, that doesn't look so bad, but The Warehouse had to open seven new shops to take its total to 85 over the three years just to keep up with the nations's retail sales growth. During those three years the company's operating earnings actually declined, from $147 million in the year to July 2002 to $139 million in 2005.

The Warehouse - led by chief Scotsman Ian Morrice - argues that while the cost of goods they bought was lower, the price they sold them for also fell because of competition. This meant that it was making less money for each item it sold. Wages, power, property and other costs have been all been rising strongly as well.

And the company let huge and expensive problems develop in its supply chain - the way it gets goods from its warehouses to its shops - while it tried to turn around its loss-making Australian stores.

But those reasons are only a partial explanation. Perhaps Kiwis have fallen out of love with The Warehouse.

After many years of expensive imported goods and lack of choice due to the country's closed economy, Stephen Tindall's company in the 1990s gave Kiwis access to cheap, mass-produced factory goods.

But New Zealanders have got richer - or to be totally accurate, they feel richer. Near full employment, strong wage rises and rocketing house prices have given Kiwis more money in their back pocket, albeit most of it borrowed. It's possible that New Zealanders are looking to spend their extra money on better quality and branded goods, and The Warehouse is no longer so attractive.

Rod Duke's Briscoe Group is benefiting, with its change in strategy to sell more branded goods and hold fewer sales at its Briscoes Homeware and Rebel Sports stores. It delivered a 35 per cent rise in full-year net profit to $25 million on Friday.

The Warehouse is following a similar strategy, but it hasn't yet yielded results. The company said on Monday that operating earnings at the Red Sheds were $92.1 million, up just 2.2 per cent on the year before.

Just as shoppers seem to have fallen in and out of love with The Warehouse, so have investors. Warehouse shares listed at the end of 1994 at $2.50 by mid-2002 had more than trebled to $7.90.

But as the company began to struggle with its Australian operations and hit trouble in New Zealand, the stock dropped as low as $3.06 in mid-2005. They closed at $3.85 on Friday.

Now that it's got rid of its troubled Australian stores, The Warehouse can focus on moving into food, liquor and pharmacy goods. It won't be easy, as the three are very competitive sectors, but it is treading cautiously. The company will also continue its strategy of offering better quality goods and relying less on discounting. But the problem is that it's doing this when the economy is slowing and New Zealanders' spending binge is finally coming to an end.

With higher mortgage rates biting, the housing market coming off the boil and consumer confidence softening, the retail environment looks tough for the next couple of years.

Kiwis might once again want to shop at a place where everyone gets a bargain.

Claire Harvey: A young swimmer can teach an old writer about losing

The gay cowboys and their fancy-pants art film buddies are sore, dang sore, and not because of what happened in that tent.

You may have heard the Brokeback Mountain crowd complaining, loudly, that their film failed to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It won three other gongs, including Best Director, but its creators and supporters aren't happy.

The most spectacular vitriol has come from Edna Annie Proulx, author of the short story on which the film was based, first published in the New Yorker in 1997.

This acclaimed author and professional grouch was revolted by the Oscars ("a good deal of standing around admiring dresses and sucking up champagne"), disgusted by Best Film winner Crash, and apoplectic that her movie did not win as many awards as the critics and bookmakers had predicted.

"We should have known that the conservative heffalump Academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture," she wrote in London's the Guardian.

The Academy's rich, cloistered West Coast voters were so out-of-touch they were sucked in by a marketing pitch from the distributors of "Trash - excuse me, Crash," alleged Proulx.

She went on to conduct a denigration of Best Actor winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, all the more nasty for its backhandedness.

The "brilliant" Hoffman had portrayed Truman Capote well, said Proulx, but there wasn't much skill in mimicking the mannerisms of a famous dead celeb.

Proulx said it was much harder to conjure up, as the Brokeback stars did, "characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page."

She accepted that her view will be dismissed as a "sour grapes rant - play it as it lays."

Okay Annie, your sour grapes rant is well written and honest amid the fakery of Hollywood. It will sully the happiness of many, diminish the joy of Brokeback's considerable success, and give you a little more of the fame you claim to loathe.

It's also a good reminder, as the Commonwealth Games bounce on, of why being a gracious loser is a bigger achievement than winning.

Being Australian, I might be slightly more sensitive to this than others.

At every major sporting event in which Australia is involved, some blowhard compatriot of mine will reliably predict that we are going to win all the medals, smash the South Africans, pulverise the pool.

It never happens. We never win all the medals we've been told are our entitlement, and just in case we might overlook any of the defeats, there are always a few Kiwis (most working on the sports desk of this newspaper), wide awake, hunching before the telly in the dark of night to note and record every Australian loss.

So there are three ways losers like us can cope.

We can be gracious, like vanquished Australian 400m freestyle swimmer Craig Stevens, who said after a disappointing performance that he was lucky to even be at the Games, rather than watching on television.

Stevens is good at grace. At the 2004 Olympics, he stood aside from the same event to allow national hero and jewellery designer Ian Thorpe to swim instead, after Thorpe was disqualified for a false start.

Or we can be mature and responsible, like most of the Australian media, who handle defeat by completely ignoring it.

With a little effort, the newspapers can always find someone who qualifies as a winner to put on page one, even if it has to be an obscure 52-year-old shot-putter who gets bronze on a fluke, or an Uzbek long-jumper who moved to Melbourne at the age of 27 and was shepherded to the front of the citizenship queue by the Immigration Department's Special Cases Unit.

Or we can be bitter and depressing, like Edna Annie, and try to spoil everyone else's fun as well.

She might be 70, but Craig Stevens is wiser, and probably happier, at 25.

It fits, somehow, this reaction of Ms Proulx's. Of course this is how the Brokeback Mountain story should end, with its writer finding and embracing the one kernel of misery among all the rejoicing.

There's a scene in Brokeback Mountain where Heath Ledger, as the cowboy Ennis Del Mar, hunches in an alleyway, retching, abandoned by his lover and miserable at the injustice of homophobia on the range.

In the background, a tumbleweed rolls past - the ultimate Western cliche.

It was a surprise, in a movie of such beauty and darkness - a cinematic in-joke perhaps, director Ang Lee's little homage to all the bow-legged pistol-whippin' cowboy flicks of old.

In an otherwise sober tale, the tumbleweed seemed quiet acknowledgment that this was ultimately just another corny lament for lost love and dead sheep.

Is this humorous, self-deprecating touch in Ms Proulx's original story? Of course not.

Michael Williams: Forget blame, inspire trust

To eliminate bullying from our schools, we must take a radically different approach to the traditional regime of punishment and retribution.

Schools that "come down hard" on bullying and "punish the bullies" model the sort of behaviour that they are trying to discourage. They merely encourage bullies to find other ways to oppress those students who they think have "narked".

This can mean retribution outside school and can involve a much wider circle of young people than the original offenders.

Text bullying has become a powerful tool in the hands of some students because it is immediate and offers a degree of anonymity. Banning cellphones or managing their use will have a limited effect in stopping bullying if the original intent to hurt and dominate still remains.

Punishment does not address the root causes of bullying. Unless the causes are settled once and for all, the problems that prompted the aggression will not go away.

Bullies suffer as well and the experiences of those students accused of the harassment of Alex Teka are a case in point. A 1991 study in England showed that 60 per cent of the boys identified as bullies in Grades 6-9 had at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24.

It is critical that once identified, the bully is reintegrated back into the school community and the shame of the bullying is somehow discharged. If this is not done, the bully invariably looks for someone to blame and that is often turned back on to the victim. Many times the bully turns the shame back on to themselves and they can begin a steady slide into self-destruction. Sometimes the blame is turned on the school and the student distances themselves from the benefits of learning.

At our school, we maintain a total commitment to a school free from any kind of violence. But having a robust school policy is only one part of the equation; what is more important is the creation of an environment of openness and trust in teachers and adults. Bullying survives in a climate of fear and intimidation. When young people feel as if the adults in their lives are their advocates, they will have no trouble asking for help.

At Edgewater College (and many other Auckland schools), we have had a phenomenal success in dealing with bullying by using an approach that resists the desire to attribute blame.

This approach involves organising a support group for the students who have been bullied, including in the group, two of the "worst" bullies. Because the bullies are not identified in the group and are positioned as being part of a support team, they invariably fall in to line with the plan of support devised by the group to help the bullied student.

In every case where this approach has been used, the bullies have changed their reputation to be accepted by the supportive members of the support team we call an "undercover" team. The team also gives those students on the team the opportunity to show leadership in helping others.

Working from a restorative perspective is never a soft option and should not be seen as a last resort when punishment has failed.

Repairing harm, taking responsibility, and the restoration of the wrongdoer to the school community after restitution should be the guiding principle in all schools.

Clear boundaries for conduct and safety must be adhered to by staff and students at all times and this, together with the recognition of the importance to address the underlying issues, will create a peaceful, happy environment where bullying is not tolerated.

Where families have failed to provide a safe place for children, schools must be a place where things are different, where young people feel safe, are listened to, and can experience the joy and confidence that comes from doing a job well.

* Michael Williams is HOD Student Support at Edgewater College

Raewyn Apart: Strong hand needed to preserve paradise

The controversy over Conservation Minister Chris Carter's Whangamata marina decision provides much food for thought. It is unfortunate that the marina proposers allegedly spent over $1 million. However, they have been well aware that the minister had the final decision.

The minister, on behalf of the public, represents the owner of the "land" in the marine area which the proponents sought to develop. It would be remarkable if a developer spent as much time and money seeking consent to develop privately owned land without first obtaining some measure of agreement from the landowner.

The minister's role is important. He provides a final check on major projects which will cause significant and irreversible impacts on the coastal marine area. This is critical because contrary to popular belief, the Environment Court does not always get it right. Issues can be finely balanced and contested between expert witnesses. And the Court can be inconsistent. But more importantly, the Whangamata marina controversy highlights the low-level ongoing war being fought over New Zealand's coast. The conflict is escalating as our population grows and more people are seeking their place in the surf and sun. The eventual outcome will determine in whose interests the coast is managed and developed.

Skirmishes are erupting around the country. Late last year local protesters at Cable Bay in the Far North occupied a development site and threatened to lie down in front of a digger to stop the construction of a footbridge leading from a luxury condominium complex to the beach. They had not had the opportunity to express their concerns through the formal processes, as consent to the proposal had been granted without public notification.

Further south at Blue Bay on the Mahia Peninsula, local protesters occupied the old camping ground which is proposed to be subdivided into 44 sections. They were lamenting the loss of family camping opportunities and were calling for the camping ground to be re-established.

Over the past few weeks the media has been reporting the battle over the proposed development of Ocean Beach in Hawkes Bay. This would see 540 homes being built in a beach settlement presently comprising 32 baches. Here the council has revealed that a "behind closed doors" deal had been reached with the developer, before any plan change required to open the area to development, had been publicly considered.

There are many David and Goliath examples where small groups of concerned locals are taking on the might of developers to preserve their piece of paradise.

Some argue that local protesters are just trying to pull up the drawbridge and keep others out of their piece of coastline. They contend that there is plenty of undeveloped coast left and no need for concern.

It is true that if you travel to remote areas you will still find areas of beautiful, undeveloped coastline. But how many undeveloped, high-quality beaches can you find within two hour's drive of Auckland, to provide much needed respite for 1.2 million people?

And how much coastal land has already been subdivided and not yet built on, so the impacts of inevitable development are not yet visible? Along the stunning Whangarei district coastline for instance, 1500 lots had yet to be built on in 1992. This land bank was thought to be sufficient to meet projected housing demands for the next 20 years. What will the coastline look like when all these houses are built, let alone those on any subsequent subdivisions?

A laissez-faire approach to coastal development means that few benefit - the developer and subsequent property owners - while the wider public pays the cost through the loss of treasured wild coastal places. If we are all to benefit from coastal development, we need wise and strong management of the coast in the public interest.

Reflecting on the past can provide important lessons to inform decisions on the future. In late 1960s and early 70s there was a groundswell of concern about coastal subdivision. Morton, Thom and Locker published their seminal work Seacoast in the Seventies. The Ministry of Works undertook in-depth studies of coastal subdivision and developed recommendations for action. Numerous conferences were held to debate the issues. Even the Auckland District Law Society issued a public statement expressing grave concern over the lack of control on coastal subdivision.

Proposals put forward at the time included a short-term moratorium on coastal development, the establishment of a Coastal Commission and the creation of a Coastal National Park of New Zealand.

But the Government failed to take decisive action and the initiative was overtaken in the institutional and policy reforms of the 1980s. The Resource Management Act resulted in controls on coastal subdivision being loosened rather than tightened. And as a result the problem has become worse.

What is required is a more strategic and less ad hoc approach to managing the coast. We need to identify areas where the natural values are such that development should be very limited. We should preserve our pristine areas. At the same time we should identify those areas where some careful and well-designed intensification is appropriate and direct development there.

At present, it is a free-for-all. Part of the reason why the Whangamata decision attracted so much attention was that saying no is contrary to the trend in which approvals are routine.

It's time the Government faced up to the challenge of managing coastal development.

The minister's announcement that a Board of Inquiry will be established to examine coastal development issues is a positive beginning. Let's hope it reaches a fruitful conclusion this time.
* Raewyn Apart is a senior policy analyst with the Environmental Defence Society.

Roger Pikia: Roadshow aims to boost productivity in Maori pastoral sector

AgResearch's aim to help double productivity on Maori farms from $800 million to $1.6 billion by the year 2020 is a bold but achievable aspiration.

Maori are the largest natural grouping of pastoral farmers in New Zealand, farming an effective area of 720,000ha and growing. Even small changes, including the development and implementation of existing and new technology and improving management and staff skills, would make a difference to the bottom line.

Freeing up equity in the land, worth an approximate $7.5 billion, would also be a key to seeing some real movement in increased productivity. That has become more realistic as lending institutions offer increasingly innovative packages, which is a great sign for growth and expansion hopes, because Maori already retain about 95 per cent of that equity.

I am a farmer and aware that at AgResearch we know what it takes to manage and operate a successful farm and make it a money machine using specialised technology without increasing labour and resource input.

We also know the Maori pastoral sector is a winner waiting to happen for the good of the New Zealand economy. On average, Maori sheep and beef farms, which have a classification of class four land - North Island medium hill - operate at about 70 per cent of the national average in terms of productivity.

That 70 per cent obviously unfairly hides well performing Maori farms, which lift the average of the poorer performing farms.

If the productivity of this land is increased to the national median for national Economic Farm Surplus (EFS) of $124 per hectare, it would return to Maori and New Zealand an extra $32 million per annum just like that. Top Maori farms return an average EFS of $350 per hectare.

To put things in perspective, even with the productivity average of 70 per cent, the Maori pastoral sector is already almost twice the size of New Zealand's entire wine industry, which is exciting when you relate that to the potential to be gained.

So the "roadshow" that I will embark on around the North Island, starting this week with public meetings in Opotiki and Tauranga, and moving through every key Maori farming area in New Zealand by the middle of this year, is the beginning of our bid to reach Maori farmers and stakeholders to raise awareness of AgResearch's intent to deliver sustainable economic and social benefit to Maori through its science research capability.

It is also about listening to stakeholders' issues and incorporating those into our strategy.

I am confident that this strategy, which is driven by AgResearch's "2020 Science Strategy", which has five big ideas to lead the pastoral sector through the next 14 years and beyond, will provide the backbone of a surge in productivity gain for the Maori pastoral sector through the implementation of focused initiatives leading to scientific and commercial research outcomes from projects with Maori to achieve the set targets.

Simply put, a key to this is producing products inside the farm gate and retaining some control of the added value further along the value chain instead of waiving goodbye to it all at the gate only for others to reap the rewards.

That means Maori positioning themselves strategically to ensure they are not just producers of product inside the farm gate but that they also benefit from the product after it leaves and makes its way on to our dinner plates. When that happens the better off the Maori pastoral sector, and New Zealand's economy, will be.

At the moment about $54 million of the $800 million in current productivity comes from inside the farm gate.

The remainder, almost a massive $750 million, comes from what happens to the product once it has left the farm.

I know that Maori farmers are interested in using AgResearch's scientific expertise to help them develop new products and achieve better practices and this roadshow will help form some processes to allow it become a reality.

It is not going to be easy but Maori are going to be long-term players in the sector with intergenerational handling of land so the sooner positive steps are made to improve the financial status of the sector in general, the sooner we will start to see positive shifts in productivity gain.

Everything AgResearch is doing has relevance to all farms in New Zealand and is not exclusively for the Maori pastoral sector.

But for the purpose of this strategy, AgResearch is giving particular focus to the Maori sector because of the obvious significant gains to be made in terms of productivity which relate to the well-being of our country.

I am excited by it and it is enormously exciting for AgResearch, the Maori pastoral sector and New Zealand as a whole.

* Roger Pikia is AgResearch's Maori strategist