Friday, May 27, 2011

Carbon Tax or ETS

Why on earth did NZ follow the Europeans and choose a ETS rather than a simple Carbon Tax option. The logic escapes me.

In my former industry, forestry, the scheme is a continuing disaster. First, thousands of hectares were clear-cut to beat the legislation. Now the ETS distorts sensible market and land-use decisions and, worst of all, creates complex compliance issues - fodder for a growing army of carbon measurers, consultants, auditors and bureaucrats. Soon there will be auditors to audit the auditors!

Believe me whenever government intervenes in forestry the market reacts in quite the opposite way to what the government intends. They get it wrong every time. Think Helen Clark's campaign to stop logging private native forests. In three years she caused a logging bonanza as landowners raced to beat her draconian legislation. By the time the Governor-general signed her law there were few intact forests left.

What was wrong with a simple tax on all energy carbon emissions? For petrol and diesel, combine all the other fuel taxes (excluding GST) into one super "carbon" tax. The revenue can then be apportioned to roads, ACC, research, etc, and the surplus skimmed off to support better energy alternatives plus lower personal and/or company tax. The latter gives the government the means to change behaviours while compensating the cost to consumers.

Forget livestock burp and fart taxes - absolute political stupidity that no other nation will copy. Farmers have enough market forces already. And finally take away the idiotic carbon sequestration payments to foresters before we loose more land to manuka, gorse and planting designed to create derelict exotic forests.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Freedom Campers

New laws proposed to control freedom camping are welcome but how will they be enforced away from the big towns?

By my own estimate Okarito hosts over 30,000 visitors a year. Their welfare and enjoyment are important to us as they provide a living for several small businesses. The community itself operates a small DOC campground and all funds generated fund community work like providing toilets and potable water for visitors. They also fund projects like restoring Donovan's Store, the oldest wooden building on the West Coast.

Over 99% of visitors treat our environment with respect, use the toilets provided and we hope enjoy their stay. As always, it is the ferals that cause all the aggro. They are often SKIMS, "single kiwi males", in old vans who hide in the carparks late in the evening.

Asking someone to move on is not a pleasant experience neither for the local nor the offending visitor. Who wants an argument with strangers just before bed - a poor nights sleep is almost guaranteed. But how else will the new law be enforced? Our local policeman is 30km and Council is 120km north at Hokitika. Perhaps I'm missing some innovative proposal in the legislation that will solve our problems

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ducks aren't dumb.

Two pair of paradise ducks live in Okarito village. They are the originals or descendants of birds found as abandoned ducklings and lovingly reared by some of our "earth-mother" residents. All four are unnamed but still important sentries in the village.

Our ducks recognize faces, I'm sure, because they virtually ignore me as I potter about our garden on my daily chores. The old hen looks at me "oh him again" and carries on grazing. But strangers that pass are watched closely. If the strangers show interest then the "honk, honking" begins as the ducks show their suspicion and displeasure. Unsupervised young boys are especially a risk.

There are many other hazards. While the local canines are benign visiting mutts don't show the same respect but so far the ducks have survived. Then there are the cars, trucks, and camper vans that visit daily, some at speeds that threaten not only the ducks. One visiting boy racer in an act of defiance deliberately flattened five ducklings. A week later he flattened himself in a high-speed crash - UTU.

The four ducks tolerate each other except for the mating season when the peace is shattered by violent battles over territory. Eventually, after many fearsome feather pulling fights a truce is achieved along a boundary established around the main road intersection. Each pair nest high in rimu trees with the hen duck sitting, leaving the drake to wander aimlessly about waiting for the hen to make brief feeding visits.

Not all the ducklings survive despite our best efforts of care. Usually between two and six reach maturity. They are then shooed away by their parents and we never see them again.