Tuesday's Top 10 with NZ Mint: Southern Europe's commercial property collapse; The real reason for ChCh's 'Green Frame'; The problem with biofuels; Letterhead for pirates; Dilbert

Here's my Top 10 links from around the Internet at 1 pm today in association with NZ Mint.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email tobernard.hickey@interest.co.nz.

See all previous Top 10s here.

My must read today is #5 on the Somali pirates who send their ransom requests with a 'Kind regards' on their own letterhead. Brand building in action.

1. Southern European commercial property collapse - FT.com reports that just 3 commercial property transactions were registered in the whole of Spain in the June quarter, down from 58 the previous quarter.

It reports just two were sold in the whole of Italy in the quarter, down from 58 the previous quarter.

This shows the extent of the collapse in investor confidence and fear about a Euro-zone breakup.

Things may have calmed down in the last couple of weeks as the European politicians go on holiday and markets believe the latest jaw-jaw from the European Central Bank will actually happen.

But there is something ugly brewing in Southern Europe that no one has come even close to solving.

My pick is another crisis moment in the European financial system some time in September.

Here's FT.com.

The total value of transactions for offices, shops and industrial property in Spain was €67m for the second quarter, down 74 per cent from €260m in the first quarter. The inactivity meant Spanish property transactions were below those of neighbouring Portugal for the first time.

“Heightened risk aversion, particularly among cross-border institutional investors, has led to an almost complete collapse in southern European acquisitions,” said Joseph Kelly, director of market analysis at RCA.

2. Holding up land prices - Christchurch blogger Puddleglum at The PoliticalScientist.org writes a long and detailed piece on the Christchurch CBD plan and 'Green Frame' that suggests it's great for the big land lowners in the CBD and is partly aimed at reducing land supply to support land prices. HT @benkepes

The Blueprint (p. 35) – in keeping with the concerns of CERA’s economists – says this about the frame:

The Frame in tandem with zoning provisions, reduces the extent of the central city commercial area so that the oversupply of land is addressed. It will help to increase the value of properties generally across the central city[Lucky landowners in the remaining 7% of the previous land area of the central city, I guess] in a way that regulations to contain the central core, or new zoning decisions, could not. The Frame helps to deliver a more compact core while diversifying opportunities for investment and development. The Frame allows the Core to expand in the future if there is demand for housing or commercial development.

This is quite an interesting ‘green frame’. To begin with, it is being proposed in order to correct for the ‘oversupply of land’ in the central city. That is, it is proposed in order to correct for the projected, prolonged nose dive in central city land values.

3. 'We need new instruments' - Reuters reports Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Adam Posen has called on the central bank to find new instruments to fight inflation.

He seems to be suggesting the BoE should be buying private sector assets as well as government bonds...

Posen said the BoE could be more effective in fostering economic recovery with access to other instruments to keep inflation close to its 2 percent target. "I have no question in my mind that what we're doing with QE is preventing things from getting much worse, but that doesn't mean you couldn't have an additional or better instrument," he said. Posen, an outgoing member of the Bank's MPC, challenged the view of central bankers that only elected governments can buy private-sector assets.

"I personally view the teeth-gnashing and garment-rending about what's fiscal and monetary as too much drama for too little content," he said.

4. 'The poor will starve so the rich can drive' - George Monbiot at The Guardian makes some points about the droughts hitting Africa and America, along with the increasing use of corn to create biofuels.

By 2021, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that 14% of the world's maize and other coarse grains, 16% of its vegetable oil and 34% of its sugarcane will be used to make people in the gas-guzzling nations feel better about themselves. The demand for biofuel will be met, it reports, partly through an increase in production; partly through a "reduction in human consumption". The poor will starve so that the rich can drive.

The rich world's demand for biofuels is already causing a global land grab. ActionAid estimates that European companies have now seized 5m hectares of farmland – an area the size of Denmark – in developing countries for industrial biofuel production. Small farmers, growing food for themselves and local markets, have been thrown off their land and destituted. Tropical forests, savannahs and grasslands have been cleared to plant what the industry still calls "green fuels".

5. Pirates with their own stationary - Reuters reports on some very well organised pirates off the coast of Africa. They see themselves in the business of kidnapping for ransom. It's a service business.

In 2011 Somali piracy cost the world economy $7 billion and earned the pirates some $160 million in ransoms, according to a recent report by the International Maritime Bureau. Rogues though they may be, these pirates in many cases are surprisingly well-organized, down to having their own packets of paperwork -- on letterhead -- for their victims.

Reuters obtained a copy of one such packet, presented to the owner of a hijacked oil tanker and the owner's insurer after the ship was taken. Due to the commercial sensitivities, the names of the insurer and ship owner were redacted from the document, as was the size of the ransom request.

But what remains is colorful enough, and somewhat surprising. The cover sheet, in memo format, is addressed "To Whom It May Concern" with the subject line "Congratulations to the Company/Owner."

"Having seen when my Pirate Action Group (P.A.G) had controlled over your valuable vessel we are saying to you Company/Owner welcome to Jamal's Pirate Action Group (J.P.A.G) and you have to follow by our law to return back your vessel and crew safely," the memo begins.

6. 'Another storm to break' - Reuters reports PIMCO's Thomas Kressin reckons capital flows flooding out of Europe (see #1 above) are about to create a new crisis.

“Now there are growing signs that the crisis of confidence in the euro zone has assumed a new dimension,” Kressin wrote. “Whereas initially investors fled to the safety of the euro zone’s core, now they are taking their capital out of the euro zone altogether.”

The Swiss central bank’s sales of the euro to rebalance its reserves are “reinforcing” pressure on the single currency, according to Kressin. Its purchases of top-rated Europeangovernment bonds, particularly bunds, are also forcing down yields on those securities, he said.

“When the storm clouds gathered over ‘little’ Greece at the end of 2009, it seemed unthinkable that the debt crisis and the flight of capital would shake European monetary union -- once proclaimed as ‘irreversible’ -- to its very foundations,” he wrote. “Now, though, another storm could be about to break.”

7. 'Follow the Icelandic model' - Bloomberg reports the IMF is saying the Icelandic model for dealing with a banking crisis seems to work best. Iceland forced the bondholders of its bankrupt banks to take the losses, rather than spread them across taxpayers, as the Irish did.

Iceland also imposed capital controls. Fair enough.

Here's the IMF, who weren't always so 'unorthodox' on these issues. Remember the screaming from the rooftops when Malaysia imposed capital controls?

“Iceland has made significant achievements since the crisis,” Daria V. Zakharova, IMF mission chief to the island, said in an interview. “We have a very positive outlook on growth, especially for this year and next year because it appears to us that the growth is broad based.”

Iceland refused to protect creditors in its banks, which failed in 2008 after their debts bloated to 10 times the size of the economy. The island’s subsequent decision to shield itself from a capital outflow by restricting currency movements allowed the government to ward off a speculative attack, cauterizing the economy’s hemorrhaging. That helped the authorities focus on supporting households and businesses.

“The fact that Iceland managed to preserve the social welfare system in the face of a very sizeable fiscal consolidation is one of the major achievements under the program and of the Icelandic government,” Zakharova said. The program benefited from “strong implementation, reflecting ownership on the part of the authorities,” she said.

8. Everywhere but here - A KPMG report on privatisations of state assets globally find they fell by half in 2011 from 2010 because of the global financial crisis.

New Zealand is about to be out of step with the rest of the world.

9. Switzerland trying to cool housing market - Bloomberg reports the Swiss National Bank (SNB) is considering forcing banks to hold more capital to cool down a housing market where prices are up more than 4% in the last year and up 40% in the last 10 years.

Yet our central bank is relaxed about price inflation running at nearly 6% nationally and between 15-25% in parts of Auckland...

Here's what the radical central bankers in Switzerland are thinking of doing.

Thomas Jordan’s fight to protect the Swiss economy is set to widen beyond currency marketsand too- big-to fail risks as the central bank chairman considers how to curb the biggest real-estate boom in two decades.

The Swiss National Bank may act to stem what it called risks from “excessive credit growth,” economists from Bank Sarasin to UniCredit Group said. An option available to the central bank would be to force lenders to hold additional capital of as much as 2.5 percent of their domestic risk- weighted assets to help buffer against losses.

10. Totally Stephen Colbert mentioning research on psychonomic research from Canada and New Zealand on 'truthiness'.

"What is New Zealand if not the Canada of Australia?"

"Evidently New Zealand's time zone is 7 years behind ours."


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 or click on the "Register" link below a 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.


On #7....I felt these four paragraphs more worthy of note...noting down...than the introductory.
  In Iceland, the krona’s 80 percent plunge against the euro offshore in 2008 helped turn a trade deficit into a surplus by the end of the same year. Unemployment, which jumped nine-fold between 2007 and 2010, eased to 4.8 percent in June from a peak of 9.3 percent two years ago.

Iceland, which the IMF estimates was the world’s third- richest nation per capita in 2005 before slumping to rank 20th by 2010, ended its 33-month program in August last year. The $13 billion economy will expand 2.4 percent this year, the IMF said April 17. That compares with an estimated 0.3 percent contraction in the 17-member euro area.


Iceland, which started EU membership talks in 2010 with euro-area membership an ultimate goal, is starting to question whether accession to the trade and currency bloc is the right way forward as the region’s debt crisis deepens. Thirty-nine of the Reykjavik-based parliament’s 63 lawmakers oppose continuing EU membership talks and may push to have the process shelved before elections next year, newspaper Morgunbladid said today.


As the central bank prepares to ease capital controls, policy makers are also raising interest rates in part to protect the krona from any weakening that might ensue. The bank increased its benchmark rate a quarter or a percentage point on June 13, bringing it to 5.75 percent. It was the fifth interest- rate increase since August last year.


 Captured money....remains the intergral step.

#2 How ia that news ?? Auckland has been doing just that for the past decade (holding up land prices) with their metropolitian land limits.  We have a growing population of more than 1.3 million but evidently we are not allowed to extend our city limits....
#9 Further to the above mentioned.I have great disagreement that our Central Bank has any real interest in controlling inflation in our property markets unlike the Swiss. Please do not forget if value of properties fall, the biggest losers would be the Banks.....!!! 

Your wrong... the Banks will survive on Tax payers money in the case of a downturn. Remember they are always too BIG to fall!!!

As regards 4, the problem with biofuels is that we're doing them wrong. Corn, soy, sugar cane and oil palm are badly suited to mass buifuel production. But check out the sugar palm. It naturally grows in heteroculture, allowing food products to be harvested in the same land as the biofuels. It can produce sugar/bioethanol all year round and without having to harvest/regrow at all, and it usesthe most efficient type of photosynthesis process and conversion of energy into harvestable sugars. Despite living in heteroculture, it yields about four times as much energy as traditional crops while improving the fertility of the soil. 
Biofuels are gonna be big next decade.

You missed the last sentence, where you offer us a golden opportunity to get in on the ground floor.....

you mean, in on the front paddock....
We will do this - the rich (although I'm not sure how long debt can masquerade as wealth) will outbid the poor, the poor will do their best as they are bidding with their lives, but drop-out they will.
But biofuels don't go near addressing the energy issue facing the need for growth, nor can they displace fossil fuels. Even the claim above, ignores the soil-replenishment issue - currently done with oil, if it's done at all.

I am sure that every morning John Key wakes up, nudges his wife, and says I feel a convention centre coming on

The Blueprint's prescription of more demolition, more upheaval for already operating businesses, higher land prices, think big civic projects and neglect of the severely damaged areas outside the core but within the 4 aves (around Tuam east of Barbadoes and around Madras north of the river) combines to make the biggest piece of nonsense I have ever heard.
There are two options, ignore the bureaucrats and get on with it (and prove them wrong) or pack up and leave.
It's a tough choice.

Chris_J says  - "There are two options, ignore the bureaucrats and get on with it (and prove them wrong) or pack up and leave.  It's a tough choice.
When faced with this dilemena I opted for the latter and have never regretted my decision.  Yes it was a very hard decision but I always thought that the ChCh civic leaders could always be relied on to make stupid decisions.
I also thought that the article in #2 was excellent.  It'a a pity that there isn't this quality of journalism in the MSM.

#2 Is the best article I have seen in the media todate however it is not even half the story. If you are making business decisions in Christchurch and this article is a revelation, then I would strongly suggest you need to dig deeper before making an investment decison as it is highliy likely you are not informed.

Re Item 2
If you are interested in Christchurch this is a great read, If you are interested in the Plans the National party have for us all, it is an essential read. Once again National show that they are not interested in Free markets and competition. The National Party are interested in governing for insiders. Christchurch will be planned by National to meet the interests of insiders. Brilliant.

# 7.  Go Iceland.  I can't think of one reason why a government would 'bail out' banks.  Or indeed why  a German Govenrment would 'bail out' a Greek one.
Allowing a few to fail would bring some reality to the behaviours of Governments, banks and lenders.
I would think a lot of the 'bail outs' have been decided by somebody quietly handing somebody else a big brown paper bag of cash.

The German Govt are kind of bailing out stupid German Banks via Greece

#1  "My pick is another crisis moment in the European financial system some time in September"
Last year i picked the end of this year so i think you are still a little early. As far as my prediction goes i hope it proves to be wrong because i believe it would be a disaster. However an opinion is what you expect to happen and not what you hope will happen.
Do you now agree you were wrong to help JK and his PR media circus?
New Energy-Dense Battery Could Enable Long-Distance Electric Cars

Material changes enable a new battery to store more electricity--and could boost the driving range of electric vehicles
R.I.P. Time For PPPs

Until coal is replaced as the major global source of electricity, any talk of electric cars is in the category of 'middle-class consumerist denial that their way of life might be threatened'.

Your point makes sense in markets where the marginal production of electricity is coal produced- presumably most markets.
On the off chance that New Zealand is moving to the marginal production of electricity being wind, solar, or geothermal; with the bulk still being hydro, presumably in our case electric cars would be both environmentally sound, and have the benefit of not needing to import oil?
I realise that for electric cars to become economic to produce, they will need mass markets; including presumably a number where coal is the marginal supply base of electricity.

Stephen L - no, it's just a physics fact. Forget 'marginal' and 'markets'. Bugger economics - it messes up so many folk cranially.
It's energy.
Coal is burnt, releasing CO2. It heats water to steam, which spins a turbine, which makes coils pass magnets, or magnets pass coils. This induces an electron oscillation.......
See economics in there anywhere?
NZ uses ALL it's electricity on non-car activities, currently, and continually needs to add 'the next cheapest generator' as it is. What are you proposing to triage, of the current uses?
The mass-market - if coal based - would meet the post-peak supply coming down, about 2027.

I know from other posts that you are both passionate about this, and no doubt better informed than I am. Nevertheless I rightly or wrongly understood that most new NZ electricity production is geothermal or wind based. Most existing is hydro; while we only I thought have one significant coal based plant. (Meanwhile I also understood that developments in solar are rapid, such that many of us could have small plants on our roofs if we wished, although that may be wishful thinking) .
Regardless of whether it is physics or economics; as long as new generation is non coal (and even better, coal plants are gradually mothballed) would not electric cars be a good idea environmentally in those markets where those circumstances were true? And we seem to have very good conditions in NZ for those circumstances to be true?

Mike B
Many thanks. I'm no fan of the government's PR tactics. I just opposed the NBR unilaterally breaking the embargo. If the NBR wanted to make a stand against the 'infotainment stunt' then it should have stayed outside the lockup.
Instead it took the information on a plate and walked out early to publish and claim an advantage over those who kept their word. 

Thanx Bernard,
I believe, if the media go to a lock up and realise they have been conned into a publicity stunt then they have a right to do as the NBR did. In fact i would go as far as to say they have a duty to do this and let the public know LOUD & CLEAR that they will not tolerate being used in this manner. Otherwise you are just a puppet of the government.

September 12th the German Constitutional Court  hands down it's decision on an injunction.
 The court is hearing a case brought by plaintiffs who argue that by signing up to the €500 billion ($610 billion) European Stability Mechanism and the fiscal pact enforcing debt reductions, Germany will jettison too much sovereignty and undermine the power of its democratically elected parliament to determine what happens with taxpayers' money.
Meanwhile back at the ranch...Samaras gears up to sell another perspective to Jean Claude Junker the Luxembourg squid interface, and explain just how he intends to pull a rabbit out of his posterior. Junker holds more concern for the clean execution of the trick , than the trick itself.
Yes September could get very ugly indeed, if the court favours the June bills passed, there will be an awfull lot of unhappy Germans, picking up the tab for Ouzo swillers,  Pizza pigs and Paella sloshers.
The irony of it all , is that the Sauerkrauts don't want governance over their  money from a Brussels sprout...............

Hi Christov,
At least they have a constitution. Our constitution is what ever our sovereign government wants it to be. They say "Isn't our constituion wonderful, its a Living Constitution where we can change it whenever we like to suit us"
That then begs the question
If a constitution spels out the type of government, period of elections, voteing system, justice sytem and so on then how did we get a government and justice system in the first place without one. The poweres that be say it came from Britain but under international law one country cannot make laws that are binding on another country. Further Britain MUST hand over the country to the people of that country, not to a group of individuals, unless they are acting as an interim government until a constution is drawn up and ratified by the people.
We see overseas that what they do is have an interim government, then a constitution, then a government based upon that constitution. Therefore we must still be under an interim government or else they siezed power in a bloodless coup and nobody noticed.
The only countries not having a written constution are Britain, Israel which was formed by the UN and New Zealand.

Mike B ...the Constitution of N.Z is a fluid one, based on the Treaty.., in terms of  laws and sovereignty we carry the residue of Crown Colonial Law with amendments to avoid the Treaty.

Sorry, but totally disagree.
Who were these people who made such a decision and where did they get their authority from to make that decision?
By rights they can only get that authority from the people not from themselves or some other country.

You miss my point Mike B, or perhaps interpreted it incorrectly, there is no doubt there was never an intention to Honour the Treaty (constitution) as Maori understood it.
Whatever amendments are made, whatever reinterpretations are enacted, the inescapeable  truth lays in the intention of the Treaty, there is an extreme difference between shared partnership and assimilation of a culture to reduce the potency of the shareholder and takeover.

Hi Christov,
As i see it the Treaty was a constitrution between Maori and the then government of NZ ,ie Britain. However once NZ became free of British rule the people of NZ should have been asked, NOT TOLD, how they wished to be governed.
Only a dictator tels the people how they are going to be ruled a democracy asks
Once NZ became free of British rule Maori should have renewed their constitution either as part of a total NZ constitution or as a separate document. Maori was therefore robbed of a say just like the rest of the people.
To put things right we need a written constitution ratified by the people. Until such time we have either an interim government or a dictatorship which had a bloodless coup and nobody noticed.
The bottom line is. No matter what race you are if you are told rather than asked then you are in a dictatorship

Well Mike B, all I can help you there with is when your opportunity comes to vote for a Republic model of N.Z......vote yes..! and it really should require a New Constitution before the transition......., although whether or not that will address indigenous issues I cannot say.
 You see your point about hidden dictatorship has merit , but for me more on the side of  not having a Constitutionally recognised form of ligitimate Goverment....of course Pro Royalists would argue that was installed under the Protection  clauses within the treaty.

Mike, law came to New Zealand on 14 January 1840 from New South Wales, when Governor Gipps proclaimed Queen Victorias' 1839 Letters Patent. The "treaty" is a legal fiction (see Judgments: Wi Parata v Bishop of Wellington 1871 and Te Heu Heu Tukino v Aotea District Lands Board 1938 (Privy Council Law Lords 1941). That is why the JoKey gang are now holding a near secret constitutional review to appease their Maori "supporters".
Regards, Ergophobia  

I should have added.
If you tell the people HOW they are to be governed rather than ASK them how they wish to be governed then you are a dictator in any language.

Mike B....your selling coals to Newcastle here.......!! I have no argument to the intention of your comment.

Mike B ...perhaps I should have added, that my first response to you was about how it is....as opposed to how it should have been according to" the document."

Here's my take on No.9 at Macrobusinesshttp://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2012/08/swiss-bank-regulations-see-the-light/
Puts both NZ and Aust house prices under the light of the "surge" in Swiss house prices..

Bernard it is disappointed to see you join the majority of the media in supporting the view that the Somalian Pirates are the bad guys. I have been watching the poodle media play this game for years knowing that these pirates are victims of European countries sending their fishing fleets down and decimating their fishing stocks and livilihoods. Ships like these that are now struggling to find the catches in the over fished north, so they are heading downunder. That is right, these guys are fisherman who lost their jobs. I don't think they have the dole in that part of the world, so in desperation they do what they have to to survive.
Not that I condone the piracy, but it is the reporting of it that is the problem.

I agree Scarfie. Particularly when its also weighed againsts the deplorable activities like toxic waste dumping and arms smuggling which involve European business and intelligence agencies are implicated in.I think its characteristic of people to seize upon the simplist explanation epecially when it invoves a narrow, stark moral judgement of another person or groups' actions.

Anarkist you might enjoy "Gideons Spies" as Africa features in there a bit. Good links, almost enough to make you cry! 

#2 Central Christchurch as gated community - impressive!
The linked piece is outstanding writing and outstanding analysis. If I have got this right Gerry/CERA will make Central Christchurch so that only the right sort of business can locate there. In effect they are turning downtown into a gated community - admittedly without the actual brick wall. And getting the great unwashed to pay for it! (Sadly, the dilatory pace of recovering people's homes and lives means there are a few too many of those at the moment.)
We all know that this type of planning will be a signal failure but the Nats mates will get richer in the short-term. Then, as it all goes bust, they will flick the crud on to some sucker (for which read CCC) and ride off into the sunset with all the other Dooh Nibors.

When I think about it I used to call Cathedral Square Tienanmin Square after CCC had 'improved' the life out of it.  Now we can call all of downtown the Forbidden City. Great!
P.S. Now I am talking to myself - this cannot be good.