The Opportunities Party's Geoff Simmons on population, productivity, planting trees, parking & micro-mobility and prohibition

The Opportunities Party's Geoff Simmons on population, productivity, planting trees, parking & micro-mobility and prohibition

This week’s Top 5 comes from Geoff Simmons, leader of The Opportunities Party.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to david.chaston@interest.co.nz.

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 5 yourself, contact gareth.vaughan@interest.co.nz.

1) Population.

The New Zealand census results that came out this week showed the largest population growth ever recorded. This came as a surprise to many (including Winston Peters), yet it is the result of deliberate policy.

I’m a big fan of American podcaster Sam Harris. I particularly like how he carefully critiques both the political left and right on their weaknesses and blindspots. While his focus is on the United States, I see a lot of resemblance with what is happening here in New Zealand. We are usually just a few years behind trends in the US.

In two particular podcasts, Harris has wide-ranging conversations with Jared Diamond, and Michael Weiss and Yascha Mounk. In both, he touches on the left’s weakness on the subject of immigration, and I think New Zealand is headed in the same direction.

Harris’ theory is that “middle America” is concerned about immigration, often for legitimate (i.e. non-racist) reasons. Yet the Democratic Party is unable to have any sensible conversation about immigration without sparking internal cries of “racism”. That makes the debate on immigration the preserve of the Republicans, where some actual racists hang out. Harris’ theory is that the Democrats’ refusal to engage on immigration is pushing those middle voters into the arms of the Republicans.

We have seen similar issues here, with the Greens adopting a fairly moderate immigration policy and then dropping it like a hot potato given the kickback from their members. The Labour Party has gone very quiet on its pre-election rhetoric, especially since the tragedy in Christchurch. Even Winston has swapped his anti-immigration rhetoric in favour of supplying labour to the regions. We can’t expect the National Opposition to talk about it either, since National presided over the highest levels of immigration in New Zealand history. The result is a total vacuum of debate on an important issue.

New Zealanders generally have a very positive view of immigration. However, growing numbers of people are becoming concerned about the sheer volume of migrants and their impact on wages, infrastructure, housing, and the environment. Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the promised benefits of the record migration levels we have seen since 2000 have materialised. Without an open conversation about what kind of population level we want as a society, my concern is that resentment about this could fester.

2) Productivity.

My pet theory on why neither major party wants to talk about immigration is because our productivity has been so moribund for so long. Productivity essentially means working smarter rather than harder. Kiwis do work hard, clocking more hours than the OECD average and certainly more than the Aussies do. 

The issue of New Zealand’s poor productivity has been around for a long time. The reforms of the 80s and 90s gave us a much-needed boost, but then it was back to business as usual. Helen Clark talked about getting back to the top half of the OECD. John Key talked about catching up with Australia where wages are a third higher. Yet over that time, despite the efforts and rhetoric of successive governments, our productivity has stayed low.

In recent years, our productivity has been awful. We’ve generally achieved economic growth by using more resources, rather than working smarter. That means more immigrants, more tourists, more cows… it’s not a smart or sustainable growth story.

Some economists argue that the high rates of immigration in recent years may have even hampered productivity growth. All of our investment has gone into providing more capital and infrastructure to cope with migrants, so we haven’t been able to invest in deepening the capital base for our existing population. Having more or better machines is one way to make people more productive.

With environmental issues looming ever larger, productivity is becoming even more important. The only way we can improve our wellbeing in a world of limited resources is by working smarter.

As usual, where politicians fail, progressive businesses are stepping up to the mark. The conversation about the four-day working week (or six-hour working day) is gaining momentum. This is backed up by the increasing evidence of how effectively rest lifts productivity.

Surely this is the direction of travel when it comes to improving wellbeing? Especially in a world of finite resources?

3) Planting trees.

It has been six months since the groundbreaking Farms, Forests and Fossil Fuels report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. This report comprehensively reframed how we look at different sources of human-caused global warming. Most climate change experts have now got their head around Commissioner Simon Upton’s ideas, but our politicians are surprisingly silent.

The basics of the argument won’t be new to some, but the implications for policy are huge – particularly when it comes to forestry. Unfortunately, that’s bad news for our current coalition Government, because planting trees is about all the parties can agree on.

The science is clear that not all greenhouse gases are created equal. Carbon dioxide lasts in the atmosphere for a very long time – millenia – while nitrous oxide lasts a few centuries, and methane decades. Carbon dioxide is largely produced by burning fossil fuels, while nitrous oxide and methane mostly result from agriculture.

While trees can soak up carbon dioxide, they are much better at off-setting the shorter-lived agricultural gases. Plantation forestry is a particularly good offset for methane and native forests for nitrous oxide, as illustrated in the graph below.

Where this gets interesting is the policy implications. Lumping all these different gases into one scheme – like the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – seems like an odd approach. And allowing all emissions to be offset by planting trees is not great idea – especially when it comes to fossil fuels.

It might seem like an esoteric, scientific approach until you think through the implications. We need to get our fossil fuel use to zero – as soon as possible, but definitely by the second half of this century. Short-lived agricultural emissions also need to be reduced, but not to zero. So the heat needs to go on fossil fuels in particular.

The risk with the current ETS is that New Zealand has a lot of marginal land we could happily plant trees on for decades, while doing nothing to reduce our fossil fuel emissions. Until we run out of land. Then we would really have to act. So, do we want to lock up land in forests forever just to stave off having to take action on fossil fuels for a few decades?

Commissioner Upton suggested that trees should be used to offset agricultural emissions only. This would see the carbon price for fossil fuel emissions rise, and focus everyone’s attention on getting them to zero as soon as possible. After all, the sooner we start investing in the transition, the easier it will be.

4) Parking and micro-mobility.

So far, the transport debate has been politically polarised along left vs right lines and framed as investing in public transport vs roads. Obviously, we will need a bit of both. And ideally, we should have an impartial way of calculating which investment gives the best return in a given circumstance. This would enable long-term planning and stop transport from being used as a political football (and often a source of pork-barrelling).

But what neither the left or right is talking about is the rapid rise of micro-mobility. In cities, this provides an alternative transport solution, especially if combined with some careful increases in density.

E-bikes and e-scooter sales are increasing 100% year on year. Cycling infrastructure has a massive return on investment compared to either roads or public transport. This is because decent cycling infrastructure can be put in place for little cost and a large chunk of the population will use it. And that means fewer cars on the road and far less congestion.

So what is stopping us from making the change? One of the usual culprits is readily available on-street car parking. Evidence from the United States suggests there are on average three parking spots for every car. That’s a whole lot of space!

On-street car parking is incredibly highly subsidised in most areas of the country. In fact, parking is often the cheapest way to rent land in a city – cheaper than retail and residential space by some margin. While living in cars is not a matter of choice for many, for others it is a simple arbitrage opportunity. In most cities, it is far cheaper to live in a parked bus or campervan than to rent a room or apartment.

It gets worse further down the rabbit hole. Public transport passes are subject to Fringe Benefit Tax, while car parking is exempt. Car travel can be written off as a tax expense, but e-bike travel can’t. Many city councils still set minimum parking requirements for residential or business developments – although the proposed National Policy Statement on Urban Development may change that. Meanwhile, the Government is tilting the playing field towards electric cars, but seems to be overlooking electric bikes.

Car owners opposing high quality infrastructure for this new wave of micromobility on the grounds of parking needs are shooting themselves in the foot. But ultimately, as our cities grow and space becomes more precious, they won’t be able to justify such a low-value land use as storing a tonne of metal that only gets used for a small fraction of the day.

5) Prohibition.

It’s early days, but the scare tactics regarding the the cannabis referendum employed by Family First and enabled by National deliberately muddying the waters seem to be working. Support for legalisation seems to be falling, although the Helen Clark Foundation and Drug Foundation have recently waded into the debate trying to turn the tide. If we stuff this up, it could be a massive missed opportunity.

Prohibition has roundly failed. Anyone who wants cannabis can get it, as illustrated by the fact that 80% of Kiwis have tried it by the age of 25. Cannabis use is also essentially decriminalised. Recent law changes mean that no one should get arrested for possessing or using small amounts.

In this context, I can only see upsides to legalising it. Cannabis has been legalised in many places overseas and the sky has not fallen in. Under-age usage has even fallen as young people have been better educated about the risks.

As far as I can see, by keeping cannabis illegal, we’re sacrificing huge business and job opportunities, and giving up hundreds of millions in tax revenue. And we have no ability to regulate or manage the strength of the drug and its retail market.

We are inching our way closer to a regime that allows regulated use of medicinal cannabis. Hemp is also an incredibly versatile plant that could offer many potential uses from nutrition to fibre to biofuel.

Incidentally, when it comes to hydrogen as a future fuel, I think many people have drunk the Kool-Aid. Just because the Japanese are in there boots and all doesn’t mean we should be. While there seems to be merit in some of the “blue hydrogen” proposals, which require natural gas as an input despite having no emissions, the economics on “green hydrogen” don’t seem to stack up in the least. Nonetheless, the Government seems to be keen beans. Although for New Zealand, I think biofuel deserves a lot more attention as a way forward – particularly for long-haul aircraft travel.

Anyway, I digress. When you add up the opportunities created by a regulated cannabis market, medicinal cannabis and hemp, you have the potential for a new wine industry. And in an area like the East Coast, which is crying out for opportunity, I’m sure that would be most welcome. And what is the problem? Especially when a legal drug like alcohol causes three times the harm that cannabis does.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

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Oh look Gareth Morgan's muppet spouting off.
Where is the part where top wants to blanket bomb the country with 1080...

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"Ex-muppet". Morgan has disowned everyone involved in TOP, as well as the party itself. Do you have links to where TOP have a policy to "bomb" 1080?

Mmm... some of their policies resonate with me enough to want to vote for them, but then they have these creepy gene editing policies and such that just throw me right off.

What exactly are your objections to Gene editing, compared with eg, mutagenesis triggered by chemicals and/or radiation?

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The science shows the efficacy of 1080 in pest control and increased native species. Most that disagree are either hunters who have less things to kill for fun or people who don't like the idea of chemicals regardless of their use (cf anti-vaxxers).

If you have a proven way of reducing pests that is proven more effective then we should use that. Until then 1080 it is.

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1080 is the only answer to the pest problem in NZ at the moment.

Or gene editing

Wow that was a awesome and concise rebuttal.

Mate - you really need to get off this site - your a nasty troll Kezza

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I read up on TOPs immigration policy. I'm in, you'll get my vote next election.

You mean the same as NZF untill they got in and realised that reality has a hand to play.

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If by the same as NZF you mean fewer immigrants, then yes. The only reality is that this will be the last time NZF sits in government, they are dead in the water after backtracking on their main policy issue.

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Read their tax policy, a real shake up. Property debt speculators, land bankers, overseas property owners and farm owners will be the ones polluting the waterways with stress induced poop if this policy get headway. They have a youth focused set of policy's vs old retired property owner dominated. That and better controls on immigration would seriously get my attention.

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Agree, there's some good stuff in there.

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Good article. Population growth by sloppy immigration is a real threat to our future.

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True. Our businesses and successive elected governments are clueless on how to build a futuristic economy through skill development and modernising our infrastructure, so they instead resort to the open immigration policy as a short-term means to plug the gap.

If you have a stable population you don't really need much in the way of new infrastructure.

Another economic argument obsessed with the storage/value aspect of motor vehicles, but fails to allocate to any value to the economic opportunities cars open up for those who use them. How many jobs are there within reasonable cycling distance and commuting time of your current home? Because anything outside that is dead-weight loss for this kind of analysis. It's great if you can work from home or live near where you work (read: well-off, pro-dominantly white central city suburbs and professionals) but a bit of a shit card to deal everyone else.

Anywhere within Christchurch or Wellington suburbs is within e-bike distance. The argument is not to get everyone out of cars but that allow those that can to do so.

If those particular councils or regions want to play that game, then sure. But don't lump Aucklanders with yet another bill because central government won't fund the alternatives to driving and insist on some fantastical unrealistic option.

"cycling infrastructure can be put in place for little cost and a large chunk of the population will use it."
Sounds good...when you're 45 ( or however old Geoff is), but an aging population isn't going to be hopping on bikes to get to the supermarket or go and see the grandchildren.
Yes, there's a place for bicycles (and the footpath isn't it! It's actually against New Zealand Law to ride on the footpath unless you're delivering mail or the diameter of the wheels on the bike are less than 30cms - kids bikes in effect) but assuming that "a large chunk of the population will use it" isn't realistic.

bw - it's great you're advocating for more cycleways in order to get those treacherous kids and their bikes off the footpaths.

You may or may not use a bike but a lot more people would if there were separated paths.

Try an ebike out if the opportunity arises, I think you'd be amazed at how the hills flatten out. They're truly impressive and a great way to get around, you've basically got an extremely fit cyclist built into your bike plus whatever effort you put in on top.

Careful with your stereotypes. I see lots of older people on bikes. E-bike sales are spiking for retired people.

There will always be some unable to cycle, but given the availability of ebikes what do you think this number is? 30% maybe? In a city like Christchurch the other 70% could be happily zooming around in the cycle lanes, leaving the roads free for goods deliveries, builders trucks and those unable to cycle.

Net result, a happier, healthier population importing less oil. Good for the environment and the balance of trade.

Re Cannabis; Imagine the cost over a lifetime of a person having a breakdown and never recovering. The state ends up providing five decades of income, and or accommodation support. The family of the ill person also divert resources. If cannabis becomes universally available then you can expect youth consumption to increase. The consequence of that will be an increase the rates of serious mental illness, and the hidden costs to the country will be significant.

Isn't this what happens now? Much of the street people and homeless are all their as a result of drug (incl alcohol) dependency all effecting their mental state.

Exactly. Cannabis IS universally available in this country. From my understanding of the substance abuse issues of the homeless, it's alcohol (as you say), methamphetamine derivatives and synthetic "cannabis".

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More anecdotal nonsense. Cannabis causing a decades long breakdown is laughable (provide a source for this claim). The only people benefiting from cannabis not being legal are the gangs who have complete control of the market and the users. The lessons learned with banning alcohol are conveniently ignored by the hypocrites who like nothing better than sucking down their poison (literally) and bragging about how superior they are. Tyrants the lot of you..

I've said this before, from experience working in the health system, the number of people who were regular users of cannabis who developed long term mental health issues is concerning. I do agree with the perspective that we need to be able to explore the potential benefits of cannabis from a medicinal perspective. But when we are trying so hard to discourage people from smoking tobacco because of the long term consequences of that, why would we then encourage people to ingest another foreign substance through smoking? I struggle to accept those who say there is plenty of evidence that it is less or not as harmful as tobacco, and less so than alcohol. But frankly that evidence is limited, just because there is no period of sustained legal, controlled use to provide a base for any substantial research. Vaping is a good example as it starts to kill people - but then the vaping industry say it is pirate substances and not them......

More waffle. Smoking causes cancer. There is no need to smoke cannabis or nicotine. Vaping for nicotine and vaping and edibles for cannabis all remove this risk. That's why you fall back on the "as Vaping starts to kill people" anecdote.

If everyone who smoked cannabis had mental health problems over 75% of the country would be in hospital. Your personal experience adds no value to the conversation. It's like me saying I have smoked cannabis for 20 years and have never had mental health problems, therefore cannabis = mental health prevention...

Another reason to regulate. Black market products is the same as the synthetic drugs (really methalated spirits, fly spray and any other crap at hand) being sold in NZ.

If there are regulated, tested approved products for sale and someone chooses to consume a poisonous substance instead = natural selection.

The Dunedin study findings

The authors followed 1037 children born in Dunedin in 1972 and 1973.

Their report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that teens who started smoking marijuana before the age of 18 and were diagnosed as being addicted to cannabis by 38 experienced an IQ drop in early adulthood.

But users who began smoking after age 18 - even if they used heavily - did not show a significant decline.

In looking at the relationship between marijuana use and IQ, the researchers took into account controlled factors such as years of education, schizophrenia and use of alcohol or other drugs that might also have an effect on IQ.

And this happened while cannabis was illegal. All the more reason to legalise it and regulate its sale. Gangs are more than happy to sell to kids.

Turns out that legalising cannabis has simply provided a legal distribution network for synthetic cannabis.
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/16/investigation-finds-illegal-synthetic-ma...

let's ban milk, apparently it provided a network for distributing melamine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal

I would suggest many of the mental health issues attributed to cannabis use are induced by guilt and fear of using a banned substance triggering latent paranoia and schizophrenia. If it were legal the paranoia and schizophrenia would remain latent.

How were you able to tell which way the causal relationship went? Or whether it was correlation but not causation.

Am interested.

The association between cannabis abuse and subsequent schizophrenia: a Swedish national co-​relative control study
Psychological medicine 2015 45(2) pp407-14

Although cannabis abuse (CA) is known to be associated with schizophrenia, the causal nature of this association is unclear, with prodromal effects complicating its interpretation. METHOD: From Swedish national registry databases, we used a co-​relative case-​control design with full-​sibling, half-​sibling and first-​cousin comparisons, alongside a general Swedish population sample. Using ICD codes, 5456 individuals with an initial diagnosis of schizophrenia (2000-​2010) were matched with five schizophrenia-​free controls. We further identified first-​cousin, half-​sibling and full-​sibling pairs discordant for CA and statistically extrapolated results for discordant monozygotic (MZ) twins. RESULTS: Within the general Swedish population, CA was strongly associated with later schizophrenia [odds ratio (OR) 10.44, 95​% confidence interval (CI) 8.99-​12.11]​. This association was substantially attenuated both by increasing temporal delays between CA exposure and schizophrenia diagnosis and by controlling for increasing degrees of familial confounding. Extrapolated discordant MZ pairs suggested that fully controlling for confounding familial factors reduced the association between CA and later schizophrenia to more modest levels (ORs of approximately 3.3 and 1.6 with 3- and 7-​year temporal delays respectively)​. Opiate, sedative, cocaine​/stimulant and hallucinogen abuse were also strongly associated with subsequent schizophrenia in the general population. After controlling for familial confounding, only cocaine​/stimulant exposure remained associated. CONCLUSIONS: CA has an appreciable causal impact on future risk for schizophrenia. However, population-​based estimates of cannabis-​schizophrenia co-​morbidity substantially overestimate their causal association. Predictions of the cases of schizophrenia that might be prevented by reduced cannabis consumption based on population associations are therefore likely to be considerably overestimated.

How do you like that "anecdotal nonsense" HeavyG?

Correlation is not necessarily causation. There may be an attraction for cannabis abuse caused by schizophrenia. Also note the abuse part of the descriptor. We all know alcohol abuse has significant harm. Abuse of anything has harm. Moderation is a good thing.

Also note carefully the last couple sentences of the conclusion in your qouted paper.

Yes that’s correct correlation is not causation however the weight of the evidence is compelling. There are dozens of similar studies, meta analyses, and longitudinal studies (one famous one from New Zealand), all implicating cannabis. My own conclusion from studying at the literature is this. There are a cohort of people out there who have a predisposition to mental illness. Just like Pavlov’s dogs, some break easily. Those people can lead completely fulfilling, happy and productive lives so long as they never encounter severe chemically or psychologically induced stress. Cannabis, it seems to me, can push those people over the edge.

Did you read the last sentence of your extract?

"Predictions of the cases of schizophrenia that might be prevented by reduced cannabis consumption based on population associations are therefore likely to be considerably overestimated."

Basically if you have a family history of schizophrenia and do a shit load of drugs then you will likely get schizophrenia. No surprises there.

The control group needs to be no family history of schizophrenia and only consumes cannabis recreationally. Similar to someone who enjoys a beer or wine versus an alcoholic. Show me that study proving causation.

Any harm of legalisation needs to be compared with the harm caused by prohibition. Evidence of convictions of Maori for possession of cannabis and the harm caused to Maori through such convictions (pushed into gangs, loss of employment opportunities) is a cost that needs to be considered.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/107803204/making-marijuana-legal-woul...

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Geoff, I think you are talking good sense (especially 1,2 and 3).

Tone down that daft tax on assets policy and UBI for teenagers to sit around home gaming, and you have my vote.

I'd like it if they went with a tiered/progressive capital tax, with a tax free lower band and ditch the whole UBI thing completely - I was a fan of the UBI concept, but then saw the likely costing......I think we should abolish Working For Families, either phase out the DPB or limit future payments to 1 child (whilst honoring existing commitments, to be fair) then deliver the savings as income tax cuts to the lower tier tax band.

I'm against financial incentives for people to breed. It's a policy that will benefit our future ecology - but you'll never seen the Green Party put this in with their SJW platform.

One of the two Green party leaders has six (6!?!) tamariki. This has extreme cognitive dissonance to me... what part of sustainable is not being understood here?

She had probably already had them before she came to Green sustainable ideas. What can you do? Put them back where they came from?

What part of adulting did she misunderstand? It isn't as if one just instantly conjures up six children. This is worthy of public shaming in my opinion.

What she can do at this point is to acknowledge the error inherent in her immature and selfish actions. This would go very far in terms of future benefit as she may be able to influence others that want to have a large family to consider the selfish and resource intensive result of their actions. I'm not holding my breath...

Your drug damage chart does not give me any comfort. Sure alcohol is terrible stuff, but it hardly seems logical or sensible to legalize something that is pretty bad just because it is not as bad as something terrible which is legal. Cocaine and nicotine are 2.6 and 2.8 safer than alcohol, so should we be promoting their use also? Cannabis is only 25% and 26% safer than cocaine and nicotine respectively, so does this give us comfort that we should move from a position of prohibition to making it freely available.
Seems to me that a lot of the people making these arguments are not thinking very straight. Maybe there is a reason for that.

What about banning alcohol? Do you support that or are you just a hypocrite?

Didn't work too well in America. TOP does have an alcohol policy though https://www.top.org.nz/top10

Their policy to put the alcohol purchase age back up to 20 is an excellent idea. We also need more forceful education & ad campaigns against alcohol consumption - the liquor lobby be damned! I know that's very wowser to say this, but there would be three major benefits:
1) reduction in emergency services callouts - already proven when Wellington & Auckland set bar closures to 4am. Let's consider a 1am nationwide closing time, but special exemptions for certain events of national significance.
2) improvement in the health and wellbeing of the populace
3) increase our lacklustre productivity (think about this one in relation to your workplace a bit....)

Based on the chart we should have Es, Acid and Shrooms for everyone

What's your point?

Maybe you have been hitting them too hard to follow the thread? The article comments that Cannabis is 3 times less harmful than alcohol based on the chart provided. Ecstasy, LSD and Mushrooms are 3 times less harmful than Cannabis - so we should definitely be legalising them.

Yes we should. Was that your point.. legalise all drugs?

No, just pointing out a fallacy in the argument around levels of harm

Well you failed miserably.

No you failed to understand his point.

Which was? That we should have psychedelics and MDMA legalized due to their low harm? If that's his point I completely agree, the fact is that are current drug laws aren't actually based on anything to do with actual drug risks or harms.They're a perfect example of both stupid and emotive legislation.

Which I sought to clarify and which he answered with a stupid sarcastic comment. He failed to make his point and came across as a douchebag.

Bring it on, I support evidence based policy rather than Puritanism. Legalisation will allow regulation of producers which will further increase safety, and take a valuable market away from organised crime.

Immigration.
Given the media's propensity to only air the politically correct side of any argument, I am very wary of so called open public discussions. The cannabis cause is such an example: where is journalism giving air to the counter argument, or coverage of countries where tough prohibition has been very effective. The only thing that I would have any faith in WRT immigration is a referendum.
With reference to so called labour shortages. These shortages only come about because our wages are so low and the impoverishment of our people. If we could say, halve our wages then a whole lot of enterprises would become viable and we would have an enormous labour shortage. If we could import near slave labour to build shanty towns and a whole lot more near slave labour then we could perhaps set up clothing sweat shops and compete with Bangladesh. The reality is that we are solidly heading in this direction now and our so called peoples government is aiding and abetting this. Take for example the tourist industry. Pretty much every job added is at the minimum wage so every job added lowers our average income. Frankly we would be a whole lot better off without industries that have this effect and are not viable paying top wages.
Stop the immigration. Let the companies compete for staff and let the companies that are dependent on near slave labour either fail or figure out how to be a lot more productive. We would all be on the highest possible wages and the whole country would be a whole lot better off.

Reddell's theory is that lowering immigration would lower the exchange rate and make exporters more profitable, so that they could afford to pay higher wages to locals to pick fruit or work in tourism.

He also wrote an interesting article on the recent IMF modelling for NZ - their modelling showed higher immigration resulted in lower per capita GDP growth and lower wages.
https://croakingcassandra.com/2019/09/26/some-imf-modelling-on-nz/

"(Hamilton) Councillor Siggi Henry said, "Being a councillor is like getting a job that you haven't been trained for..."

Fabulous! And probably half our politicians are in the same boat...

I thought methane takes 8 years to break down

It is "broken down" to CO2, and, under the influence of nitrogen oxides, to lovely things like formalin and nitric acid.
So it turns out it's children can be very long lived and nasty...

Estimated median time of 9.1 years. Some will hang about longer depending on local atmospheric conditions

But what neither the left or right is talking about is the rapid rise of micro-mobility. In cities, this provides an alternative transport solution, especially if combined with some careful increases in density.

In Auckland we are growing through a series of exurban sprawls, so therefore we need to eliminate some cycle lanes and put in more parking?

Last election TOP got more votes than ACT and David Seymour combined... I think it'd be good to include a policy to look at improving MMP to make it more accurate/proportional, ie; remove electorates and lower the threshold, because percentage of votes should equal percentage of bums on seats.

But the kicking and screaming from fools who don't get the maths behind election systems, or have radical anti-Labour/leftist views could be a problem for TOP. There is still partisan (right-wing) support for STV, FPP, and the other orders-of-magnitude-less-democratic systems National tried to replace MMP with (ref: Gallagher index). Even though with STV and multicameral systems disproportionality approaches 10% - ie; one in ten votes either uncounted, or gifted to the opposition.

Geoff makes some good points and presents arguments on a number of subjects that have been discussed on this site on a number of occasions in the past. And already a number of commenters are shooting the messenger rather than considering the weight of his arguments. Oh for grown up responses.......?

Exactly. Play the ball not the man.

#3 I've tried before now to find why everything global warming is brought back to a figure relating to CO2 over 100 years. There seems no logic, biological methane is part of a cycle with a half life of 13 years or so meaning it comes and goes. CO2 once released from fossil fuels will have increased the amount of carbon in the cycle PERMANENTLY. There is no comparison really.
Was actually quite impressed with Upton's conclusions, appearing to be thought out and scientific. Pity those in government don't wish to see the science.

Methane comes; but unfortunately "goes" as CO2 et al; see above comment

It goes back to CO2 in the atmosphere, which in the case of biological sources of methane is where it came from.

Methane released from fracking etc is a different story - it adds new CO2.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/14/fracking-causing-ris...

Commissioner Upton suggested that trees should be used to offset agricultural emissions only. This would see the carbon price for fossil fuel emissions rise, and focus everyone’s attention on getting them to zero as soon as possible.

Seems like a reasonable idea.

Population is a core problem. I advocate a stable population policy, which would not be hard to achieve once we decided to. Further I believe there are distinct environmental, economic and quality of life benefits if we reduced down to say a population of two million, over time.

Fully agree population is the huge elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. My rule of thumb is that pollution, resource use and all the associated problems is directly proportional to the number of people times their standard of living, divided by our efficiency relating to the particular use parameter. So we are trying to raise the worlds standard of living (very understandable and well meant) the population is exploding and according to some authorities well beyond what the earth can support. Finally we are just starting to scratch at the surface of our efficiency. The consequence is that we are still going backward at quite a rate of knots and we are nowhere near having a plan let alone hope to avert disaster. My gut feel is that we are too late and natural forces will take over and solve the problem by mass human loss of life by a wide variety of mechanisms.

It's good that we're increasingly having good, reasonable conversations about it on here. Needs to happen in more places before it will filter through to pressure on politicians to respect the stances of the population they purport to represent.

This is my great fear, that we will not be arsed doing what is needed in order to continue to prosper without growth. We will eventually end up blowing each other and our infrastructure to bits then once we have enough of that, we will set to putting it back together and breeding like flies so we can point and cheer "Look, growth". I am not kidding, here

Yes, population must be addressed, but we also need to make sure we read the back of the packet and the fine print, so we know what we need to do in order to prosper as we reduce our numbers. Every economic system relies on growth and that inevitably means population growth once we've wrung all the growth out of the number there is. Look at Japan, they are starting to get twitchy about their falling population and they have far, far more people than we do, so unless we are prepared to do life and economics differently then the only optimum population is more.
I'm a starter, how about you?

While I am sure there are various views about Japan, it seems to me the place is doing quite well. So perhaps the population reduction is the secret ingredient.
One thing that bugs me regularly is somebody describing Japan's population reduction as a problem, and assuming we all have the same view. They should re-think their assumption.
Lets target two million for New Zealand's ideal population.

See my answer to Chris

Sorry but that is complete and utter rubbish, You do not need population growth for a healthy economy. Yes the Japanese population is going backward, so is Germany and a surprising number of other prosperous economies. (if Japan has some economic problems they arise from the crazy management of their economy especially W.R.T. Govt. debt)
For most of the countries of the word, I plotted % annual growth rate of the GNP per capita (similar to GDP per capita) versus the percentage annual growth rate of the population for the years 2000 to 2009 inclusive. Looking at the scatter of results, there was very little correlation between the two. If you crunched the numbers there was a very slight negative correlation. I.e. opposite to what you are claiming. i.e. if you have a low or reducing population you have a slightly higher chance of having a higher growth rate in your GNP per capita.
Going on, I also plotted the % annual growth rate of the GNP per capita versus the total population. This time a complete scatter of results, not even the slightest mathematical correlation.

I take your point entirely Chris and I wish more people understand this. Not sure why you think I disagree. Yes as you say. " You do not need population growth for a healthy economy."
The point of my comment was to counter those who have the inherent viewpoint that Japan's reducing population is a problem. Indeed they site the reduction itself as proof there is a problem. I can't see that problem.
We do need to reduce population worldwide, merely to survive as a species.
In our particular New Zealand situation, (apart from your widespread correlations) I see we have huge unrecognised economic problems from the growth mantra. On that one we might disagree, but it's not a biggie.

Sorry KH. You misunderstand me. It is not you who I disagree with, it is PocketAces, to whom we both replied.
Following on from my comments above. I have just started some analysis based on my rule of thumb for the environmental impacts of human activity, That is the environmental impact on any natural parameter is proportional to the population X the standard of living divided by the utilisation efficiency of the resource under consideration. My concern is that the way that our problems are being discussed and addressed has a heavy overlay of political correctness and we are only addressing the utilisation factor (it is important, but only one of the three). We are totally refusing to acknowledge the other two equally important and very powerful factors. In my initial work I am using readily available data of GDP/capita as a measure of different countries standard of living and the CO2 emission per capita for each country. Dividing the two gives a simple measure of efficiency of each country at producing GDP from CO2 producing resources. These simple initial results are interesting in themselves and provide an interesting tool to benchmark different economies. While our concentration on efficiency is good, I fear that for countries like India, Indonesia etc we face significantly rising populations with very significantly rising standards of living. Both these factors are going to hugely increase the worlds CO2 emissions and we are blithely ignoring this. We need a plan that addresses population growth for the whole planet and direct aid and research into growth plans that help these countries grow into prosperous sustainable economies without going through the high CO2 path to prosperity.
I suspect that we are at such a point of crisis that that to some degree we need to adopt a triage approach. Shockingly inhuman I know, but how are we going to cope as the sh... starts hitting the fan. (arguably that is now but our rationalisation biases to the status quo is preventing us from recognising that)

As Japan's population growth slowed and went into reverse, they relied on investing in other countries that were still growing. I think you may have the wrong end of the stick where my comment went. I am absolutely an advocate of the human race reducing our numbers and therefore negative effect on this planet of ours, but we will have to make adjustments to the way we do economics, because as they are set up they rely on growth, even if it is someone else's.

Sorry PA if I misunderstood you.
I don't know that we have to change our economics that much. The following countries had negative population growth over that period and all bar Micronesia managed positive growth. I think that the banking system is addicted to endless population growth

Czech Rep, Slovenia, Romania, Maldives, Monaco, Japan, Hungary, Lithuania, Micronesia, Georgia, Belarus, Russia, Serbia, Guyana, Latvia, Ukraine, Estonia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Germany, Poland, South Africa, Croatia, Moldova, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago

And the banking system pretty much runs the show

Why don't you tell us how you want to charge people on an ongoing basis for the privilege of owning their own house, as well as every other major asset that they possess? Very shrewd of you to keep quiet about it actually - most simple-minded TOP voters will be easily won over by your anti-immigration stance without realising how insane your tax proposal is.

The biggest hurdle facing NZ is stubbornly low productivity. We need more capital investment and entrepreneurship. And you want to address this problem with the mind-blowingly stupid idea of introducing an annual tax on all capital investment (not the income from the capital) to be paid in perpetuity. Insanity.

Sam Harris is my hero - He's a philosopher, not a "podcaster"

Wasted vote

Harris ignores Hume's is-ought problem in The Moral Landscape and just steps around it with his vague utilitarianism.
Even as a podcaster he has issues - his pet subjects get foisted on his guests.
He is a very good and knowledgeable "interviewer" however.

Wasted vote until it isn't

Tell us about how you think Maori own NZ's water, Geoff...

1) Immigration - manage down to a sustainable 12 month rolling rate to maximise gdp/capita growth not gdp. Give the immigration rate to the RBNZ as another lever to manage price stability whilst adding gdp/capita to inflation & full employment as kpis. The politicians have proven they cant could up with a sound population policy so its time to make it independent.

2) Productivity - Have to agree with Michael Reddell that an excessive immigration rate (NZ has one of the highest per capita in the world) simply soaks up capital to provide for the booming population (& may drive up real interest rates). The RMA needs the land use and density restrictions removed and a land tax implemented & the immigration rate bought down to maximise gdp/capita then we might make some progress.

Also all central and local government spending should be subject to benefit/cost analysis. The private sector has to be efficient, we should demand the same from the public sector.

3) Agricultural Emissions - ABSURD. Upton is much more intelligent and should know better. Limiting tree planting to agricultural emissions offsets is simply a subsidy to farmers. Methane also eventually converts to CO2 in the atmosphere so it is a double whammy. NZ dairy farming is going to get decimated in the long term by synthetic meats and milks. Subsidising it only extends the pain. Its not even paying its true costs now given the massive externalities of nitrogen leakage & water quality.

4) Parking - yes its massively subsidised. Councils should not require parking to be provided and should build their own vertical parking structures to cater for parking demand. This way they can maintain control of parking supply and pricing as a travel demand measure (where there are no congestion tolls). All existing private commuter parking can be levied.

Excellent comment on population Geoff, all though I'm not anti immigration there comes a time when the locals are compromised, NZ has past this point.

Teina Koe everyone. I am looking to locate precisely where in any legislation is the policy to undertake such a deregulated approach to immigration? Is there even one?

I totally agree with TOP's immigration policy here, it seems to me in the PC-ridden language around immigration that there is one important question that never gets asked; how big do we want to be? Many of the values and qualities of NZ are because we are small, there are downsides and a slightly bigger population to get more competition in supermarket and building supplies, for example, wouldn't go amiss but that doesn't mean we need 10 or 20 million people Those who want endless growth see immigration as one way to achieve this; in fact the National Party's economic policy seem driven by it as it was their supporters who gained most by increasing the "wealth" of the middle class property owners in Auckland after opening the immigration floodgates with no regard to the effect this would have on those already faced with expensive rents and low incomes. This is not real GDP growth otherwise we'd ask for an earthquake every few years just to boost things along! Lets have a real conversation about what we want from immigration and where NZ wants to be in 20 years time.