Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

13th February 1998

Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown

The Web Version of The Hard News is made available
by NZ Now Net

HardNews Home

1998 Hard News


HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 9.30am on Fridays and replayed around 5.15pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to You will need an MP3 player. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

HARD NEWS is also available in MP3 form from and in text form at You can subscribe to the 95bFM Hard News mailing list at


well, I was right last week. Though we strove to make Waitangi Day something more than a statutory holiday, and plenty of people on and off site, did have a good day of it, we blew it again.

When I say "we", I include Titewhai Harawira, the mean-eyed old lady who stole the headlines by verbally abusing Helen Clark and refusing to allow her to speak on the lower marae at Waitangi.

Clark, famously, publicly cried after being needlessly humiliated for the second successive year. Last year, New Zealand First's Tuariki John Delamere objected to her, a woman, being allowed to sit in the front row - although you'll notice he shuts his mouth now that his coalition leader, for whom he'll depend for a job if NZ First turns to custard, is a woman.

This year, Helen Clark had been invited by Ngapuhi kaumatua to attend, and to speak. Those same old men sat rooted to the spot as Harawira prevented her from doing so. This isn't the first time Ngapuhi haven't had the nerve to take control of their own marae, and until they can get it together, I think Waitangi simply isn't a good place for a national event.

Harawira claimed she did what she did as a protest against the fact that pakeha woman had permission to speak on the marae yet Maori women could not. Bollocks. She herself has spoken on the same marae, and what she did last weekend had a lot more to do with her own power trip than any protest on behalf of her sisters.

The incident has, however, had a reasonable spin-off for Clark. It was useful for the public to see that she, like anybody else has a breaking point. It sets her apart from the ultra-controlled persona of the new Prime Minister. And the incident also gave National's Marie Hasler and NZ First's Tau Henare a chance to look oafish and cruel.

Hasler rashly told a reporter that Clark's tears were a "pathetic plea for sympathy". Henare a day or two later called them "crocodile tears", and made a number of boorish claims about what she could expect from him in future. He was, to be fair, reacting to an unbsubtantiated letter claiming the whole affair was a NZ First jack-up - but he ran the risk of protesting just a bit too much.

Anyway, most summers that story would've run on all week - but not this one. The country's going to hell in the holidays. Had the hot, humid weather not eased just in time, we'd have suffered cuts from a power system unable to cope with spikes in demand as people desperately tried to keep cool.

Huntly Power Station, whose output is vital at these times, is right on the verge of shutdown because the waters of the Waikato River, which it needs to cool its turbines, are just too damn warm.

Okay, so that's all El Nino at work - which is either an act of God or a symptom of global warming, depending on your view. Either way, there's not a lot can be done about it right now.

But what about the fact that for some odd reason, power supply to the Auckland CBD, the engine of the national economy, is threatened because both the 110Kv cables supplying its electricity out, leaving only a little backup cable? That looks like carelessless to me.

And it gets worse. A lot worse. As it became clear that loads were up, the realities of the government's ramshackle electricity reforms kicked in. The little-used Otara power station shaped up as a vital source of electricity. So, did everyone pull together to keep the economy juiced?

No. Instead, the most recent of the SOEs created by National, Contact Energy, turned robbber baron. Contact owns the Otara station and has raised its fee to run from $10,000 an hour to $200,000 to take advantage of the need for electricity. Welcome to the market. Remember, this is a publicly-owned company. Almost comically, all the other different bits of the electricity sector created by the government are now arguing over who should pay pay Contact its ransom.

And *still* it got worse, as James Gardiner in the Herald revealed that the government was working on plans to sell both Contact and Huntly, despite having promised in the coalition agreement not to do so. Lockwood Smith, who denied knowledge of a scoping study, was either lying or had been lied to. Neither proposition is very good.

Then there's the announcement this week about welfare cuts, which has it roots in another area of abject failure for National - Housing policy. Shipley said this week that money would come off the accomodation benefit.

Does anybody recall when National was forcing Housing New Zealand to raise its rents to "market levels" and telling everyone it'd be "fairer" because accomodation benefits were going up for everyone?

Both the state house rents and the hiked accomodation supplements - which go straight into landlords' pockets anyway - helped sharply force up rents in Auckland, putting poor families into crisis and raising the levels of overcrowding diseases, such as meningitis. And now the government is going to slash the supplement it once claimed was a safety net.

Then there's the same government's bizarre plan to cash-up Auckland's infrastructure by selling off the $2 billion worth of assets controlled by the Auckland Regional Services Trusts. ARST is a victim of its own success, having traded its way through the ARC's debt mountain and put a couple of hundred million in the bank in recent years.

Now Maurice Williamson, Bill Birch and Jenny Shipley want to break up Ports of Auckland, the Yellow Bus Company, Watercare and the other assets and hand out between three and six thousand dollars in shares to either all the electors or all the ratepayers in the region.

These shares would, almost inevitably, be cashed in fairly quickly - sold to corporates who know an easy dollar when they see it. Then it'll all be gone. If you aren't 18 on the day it's done - or you don't own property - that's it, you missed out. There is no future and you have no stake. Welcome to Auckland, kids.

Christine Fletcher - whose meaningless resignation from Cabinet let Williamson get his hands on the controls - Doug Graham and Arthur Anae have joined Opposition MPs against the plan.

But it probably won't make any difference - after all, Williamson is fighting tooth and nail to suppress an Internal Affairs report on responses to the Pathways for Auckland discussion document. The 600 submissions overwhelmingly favour retention of the assets in public ownership. But we can't have the public making decisions, can we?

Frankly, the ARST is such a manifest success I'd be inclined to keep it on. And I'd use its profits to build some of the infrastructure we'll need to cope with the ongoing population boom. And a nice public space or two, and a little to help out the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which, even as Te Papa [] opens its wonderful doors in Wellington - a place where hardly anybody lives any more- is in danger of dying.

Call it the Millenium Fund or whatever - but please, now, will somebody look both to Auckland's spiritual health and to its practical future and use this windfall to provide for both?

Anyway, what with a widening split in caucus, the government's "Auckland Policy" may yet come to bite it on the bum. Indeed, count in the electricity shambles, the benefit cuts, the attack on public holidays, the Asian Contagion, the El Nino droughts and the plan to put satellite tracking devices in everyone's car and you have to conclude it could all got terribly wrong for them. And wouldn't that be a shame?

Anyway, time for quick glance at the media - and to the Woman's Weekly, where Wendyl Nissen departed, ostenesibly on maternity leave, only to resurface at the opposition. The Weekly has turned quite quickly to gibberish in her absence. Take for example the extraordinary article on Ian Wishart and his new lady love, Heidi, to whom he proposed.

"Shortly afterwards," we are told. "Heidi, who has a background in marketing, conceived their child." Wow! Do you realise that's only been done *once* before? It's amazing what you learn in marketing these days.

I have fears, I confess, of similar silliness infesting 3 National News next week, when it goes to the Richard-and-Judy-Simon-and-Ali dual presenter mode. I'm a fan of Carol Hirschfeld, who'll be joining the joyously vanilla John Hawkesby, but I really worry. And what the hell have they done with John Campbell? We'll have to see, won't we? Cross your fingers.

Finally, a word of congratulations for the Canadian snowboarder who will, get his gold medal after all, despite testing positive for marijuana at the Nagano winter Olympics. Apart from the legal arguments, there's a reality check to be had here. After all, if they didn't want people smoking pot, they shouldn't have let the snowboarders in, should they?


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

[ HardNews Home ] [ 1998 Hard News ] [ Subscribe ]

NZ Now Net Ltd NZ News Net
Search NZ News Net
Write to NZ News Net
Last update: 13 February 1998

Text Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown.
Formatting Copyright © 1998 NZ News Net