Welcome back to Sunday reading. This week, we’re starting with an article for the bird-lovers. The NZ Herald’s science reporter Jamie Morton reports that city tuis are changing their song:

Tui are renowned for their wide repertoire of songs – it’s been estimated at more than 300 – yet we’re only just beginning to find out how urban environments are influencing their singing behaviour.

As with all songbirds, the melodies of tui are used to select a mate and an impressive song can make a male more attractive to a female during breeding season.

Suspecting that tui tailor their singing patterns to fit with the constant racket of city life, Massey University researcher Dr Weihong Ji and colleagues set out to investigate song differences between tui at spots around Auckland…

They found that tui songs at locations closer to the motorway were less complex than those of the other two groups.

“Basically, the noisier the area, the more simple the song became,” said Dr Ji, who will outline her findings at the New Zealand Ecological Society’s conference in Christchurch today.

The songs typically had fewer syllables and trill components, but a higher proportion of harsher elements which enabled their calls to cut through the noise.

One more reminder that life in cities is rife with unintended consequences and unplanned outcomes. On that note, Alex Cummings (Tropics of Meta) reports on some interesting-sounding new research on “The Politics (and Non-Politics) of the Unplanned City in the US, UK, and Germany”:

As the GDR commenced a flurry of construction of new housing estates, often on the fringe of traditional urban centers, older neighborhoods were often left abandoned. Meanwhile, by the late 1970s, similar policies in capitalist West Berlin left many empty buildings and people with low incomes, especially students, started a squatter movement. Illegal or semi-legal occupation flourished on both sides of “the wall,” but as Pugh points out, there were key differences: groups of squatters often took whole buildings and announced that they were doing so in West Berlin, creating a visual culture of defiance that politicized housing actions and became a big part of their appeal. In the East, “black dwelling” was covert: squatters took pains to be discreet, and “To take over a whole building was unthinkable.” East Germans looked for buildings with no curtains to occupy and put up their own to make the dwelling seem normal; they even paid rent to the authorities, unlike many squatters in West Berlin. They just wanted housing, Pugh argues; they wanted “a rich and fulfilling private life” and to become independent, difficult tasks in the bureaucratic and personally invasive society of the GDR. “West Berliners sought to collective private space,” she argued, “while East Berliners sought to privatize collective space.”

Cities are in many respects intrinsically unplanned spaces. If they work, they work due to the fact that they contain multitudes of people, each doing their own thing, in their own particular way. Sort of like this animated gif of rush hour in Copenhagen:

View post on imgur.com

Cities work best when urban transport makes efficient use of space and other scarce resources – again, as shown in the gif of Copenhagen. Which leads onto this interesting bit of fact-checking from Politifact’s Ian Kullgren: “Portland mayor Sam Adams says Portland spent on its bike infrastructure what it would normally spend on a single mile of highway”. Summary: the mayor’s basically right:

Portland’s biking infrastructure is the stuff of legends. For the people who support it, we’re Biketown U.S.A. — the city that boasts (at least among medium and large cities) the highest bike commuter rate. For those who are less into that title, our investments in cycling paths and signs are monetary drains on the city budget.

You’d think, then, given the strong feelings, that Portland has made significant investments to get a significant infrastructure.

But something Mayor Sam Adams said recently caught our attention. In a video on Streetfilms.org, Adams touts our biking culture while adding that we built our bike network for about the same amount of cash that a mile of highway would set us back.

“You know in 1993 we weren’t the bicycling capital of America,” he says. “Seventeen years later, for the equivalent cost of a single mile of freeway, we have a bike infrastructure.”

Further to the north, Calgary has been racing ahead with its own cycle network. Chris and Melissa Bruntlett look at the pace of change in the Canadian city. As in Auckland, change has come through a fortuitous combination of independent activists and a city government that’s picked up the vision:

Led by visionary Mayors, predictable players like New York, Chicago and Vancouver – alongside less likely ones such as Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Memphis – have assembled ‘minimum grids’ of protected bike lanes – piece by piece – over the past 10 years.

These networks had another thing in common: they were completed one street at a time, pulling off the proverbial Band Aid slowly (and rather painfully). But on the morning of June 17, 2015, Calgary announced its own arrival on the international scene, cutting the ribbon on an entire network of downtown cycle tracks – the first of its kind in North America.

Unlike their counterparts, Calgary’s network wasn’t the product of a ‘top down’ approach from a single political entity. Rather, they were the result of a non-partisan, grassroots campaign (paired with a strategic measure of brokering and championing by Mayor Nenshi) that captured an entire city’s imagination, and demonstrated the undeniable demand for safer cycling facilities.

Image: City of Calgary

Cycling infrastructure can be cheap and fast to roll out. But, as Alex Zimmerman at Atlas Obscura discusses, infrastucture in general has gotten harder to build, at least in the US:

The image of a single engineer wielding a piece of technology no more sophisticated than a hammer isn’t what most people have in mind when they think of modern infrastructure projects. But it may be the fastest technology available to New Yorkers, even now—especially now, as the Second Avenue subway, a project that began planning in the 1910s, has been under construction since 2007, is not yet open. By contrast, workers laid over 9 miles of track across Manhattan in only four years after initial groundbreaking. “The fact that we still don’t have a subway under Second Avenue is kind of amazing,” says Polly Desjarlais, a senior educator at the New York Transit Museum.

So if we could build a new subway line in four years back in the early 1900s, why is the Second Avenue line taking so long? Why are we still using so much infrastructure that’s more than 100 years old? What has changed in the last hundred or so years for the subway?

On a different note, migration has been in the news here and abroad, due to the hundreds of New Zealanders locked up in Australia’s Christmas Island detention centre and the Syrian refugee crisis. So it is probably worth a reminder that migration is a very good thing in general. In the New Yorker, John Cassidy writes about “the economics of Syrian refugees”:

Since 2012 the European Union has received about 1.9 million requests for asylum, and even that number is dwarfed by the number of people who have sought refuge in countries adjacent to Syria. According to the United Nations, Turkey has taken in an estimated 2.2 million, Lebanon 1.1 million, and Jordan six hundred and thirty thousand.

Based purely upon these figures, you might think that the economies of these countries would be sagging under the burden, but they aren’t. According to a new report from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the Turkish economy will expand by three per cent this year and by four per cent next year. Lebanon’s economy is also growing, at a rate of about two per cent this year, which will expand to more than three per cent next year, the World Bank reckons. Despite an influx of refugees that now amounts to more than ten per cent of its population, Jordan, too, is bearing up. Its gross domestic product will rise by about three per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund says.

These figures make the point that, even in countries facing huge influxes of refugees, the impact on the economy as a whole is usually not very large. The biggest challenges in accommodating refugees are social and political, rather than economic. To be sure, there is a cost to screening, housing, and feeding the entrants, but even in Turkey, which has received more Syrian refugees than any other country, this cost has proved manageable. In a blog post in September, Massimiliano Calì and Samia Sekkarie, two economists at the World Bank, noted, “The Turkish government has spent nearly 5.37 billion euros since the refugees first began arriving, entirely funded through its own fiscal resources. While this is undoubtedly a lot of money, there is no indication that this spending has jeopardized the country’s fiscal sustainability.” If you think about it, that’s not surprising. Turkey’s annual G.D.P. is about eight hundred billion dollars. At about one and a half billion dollars a year, the cost of resettling the Syrian refugees has been less than 0.2 per cent of the G.D.P.

In Lebanon, which is much smaller than Turkey, the cost of dealing with the refugee crisis has been greater relative to the G.D.P., but much of it has been met using money provided by international donors. Indeed, a recent study carried out under the auspices of the U.N. concluded that the refugee-aid packages actually boosted Lebanon’s G.D.P. by more than one per cent. (At the same time, though, the spillover from the carnage in Syria has hit tourism, one of Lebanon’s biggest industries, hard. Overall, the U.N. study estimated, the crisis in Syria has lowered Lebanon’s G.D.P. by about 0.3 per cent.)

Another concern that has been voiced frequently about refugees, especially in Europe over the past few months, in response to the influx of refugees there, has been that refugees take jobs from native workers and reduce wages. The evidence from the Syrian experience suggests that this can happen, but that the effects aren’t very large. In many cases, refugees take jobs that natives don’t want. They also set up businesses of their own and provide more customers for domestic enterprises.

So migration, even in very adverse circumstances, can be a positive-sum game rather than a negative-sum game. Migrants can enrich the countries they migrate to, especially if those countries are willing to welcome them. And as Chris Dillow observes, drawing upon new research from University of Waikato researchers, migration tends to be good for migrants, even if they’re not fleeing a civil war:

Immigration is a great way of reducing poverty. A new paper (pdf) by John Gibson at the University of Waikato and colleagues has established this in a neat way.

Each year, Tongans wanting to migrate to New Zealand are randomly given permits to do so. Comparing permit-winners who migrated to those who didn’t win the ballot allows us to see the impact upon incomes of migration: because the ballot-winners, being drawn at random, are otherwise similar to the losers we get a relatively clean measure of the effect of migration.

Gibson and colleagues estimate that a ballot winner who migrates earns an average of NZ$340 per week, compared to NZ$126 for losers who stay in Tonga. That’s almost a tripling of income. It amounts to a lifetime gain of well over £100,000. Controlling for the difference in cost of living between Tonga and New Zealand doesn’t much affect the results.

Accommodating growth has its challenges and downsides, although these are far better than the challenges of urban decline. Rising house prices are one. The Economist reports that even efficient Scandinavian countries are not immune to this phenomenon:

Swedish house prices have doubled in the past decade, their rapid ascent only briefly interrupted by the financial crisis (see chart). So far this year they have risen by about 14%. Apartment prices have been even giddier, rising by more than 150% in ten years.

In part, this is a simple function of supply and demand. Stockholm is among Europe’s fastest-growing cities, with the recent influx of Middle Eastern refugees only adding to the demand for housing. Last month the country’s migration agency said it expected as many as 190,000 new arrivals by the end of the year, double its previous estimate. Sluggish and restrictive planning procedures limit supply: the current shortage of around 150,000 homes is expected to triple by 2025. A counterproductive rent-control regime has crimped the supply of flats in particular, and led to long waiting lists. Earlier this year an apartment in central Stockholm went to someone who had been in the queue since 1989.

What could be done about house prices? A pair of University of Auckland lecturers suggests, in The Conversation, that a land tax could do the trick:

Over a century ago, American economist Henry George suggested instead of taxing workers and entrepreneurs, governments should raise their revenue from land via a land value tax (LVT).

Indeed, both Australia (land taxes at the state level) and New Zealand (property rates at the council level) already have some taxation of land in place. But over the last century these taxes have become significantly debased due to the influence of various interest groups that secured exemptions or low rates. It is time to reconsider shifting the fiscal balance back onto land.

Unlike the land taxes already in place or the often suggested capital gains tax, LVT does not punish anyone for constructing houses or factories in the way that our current taxes do. As the supply of land is fixed, LVT becomes a cost of owning it. Consequently, it can bring in a decrease in prices as the owners of inefficiently used sites might feel compelled to sell or lease them to those willing to use them productively. Increasing the cost of owning land would drastically reduce the incentives for speculation.

Imagine central Auckland or Melbourne without vacant sites or dilapidated buildings. What is more, encouraging more efficient use of land is not only beneficial to economic growth and housing affordability, but also has a potential to substantially lower the costs of public infrastructure and encourage more efficient use of space and natural resources.

Meanwhile, others argue that there’s gold in them thar golf courses. Bob Dey reports on two new studies that Auckland Council commissioned on alternative funding sources other than rates. Both reports shone the spotlight on the city’s publicly owned golf courses.

That’s all for the week. See you next time!

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50 comments

    1. not all golfers are created equal. Golfers that pay their way: OK. Golfers that rely on handouts from Council: not OK.

      P.s. In the case of Remuera the subsidies equate to just a touch under $20k per member per year. That’s like the annual rent for an average house.

      1. I see Bernard Hickey is chipping in as well: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11549347.

        Did you know that 1400 members of the Remuera Golf Club receive the exclusive benefit of a piece of Auckland Council-owned land valued at up to $517 million?

        The club pays rates of $130,000 a year. If up to 70 per cent of that land was broken up and sold for housing and the rest left in parks, it would produce revenues of $16.5 million a year.

        That’s an annual subsidy of $16.37 million, or $11,700 a member. That includes Prime Minister John Key, who is an honorary member.

        Even if each member played 50 rounds a year, that would be a subsidy of $233 per round or $13 a hole.

        That puts the cost of something like Skypath into perspective. It’s a travesty that it has been impossible to walk or cycle across the harbour bridge for over 50 years for want some political willpower and two years of rates subsidy for a single golf course.

    2. I wouldnt worry Ricardo

      Peter and the others in here can speculate much as they like. For if the Governing Body even tried to touch Chamberlain or Remuera those Councillors would be arsed carded out in the next set of Elections faster than selling off Port of Auckland.

      The Finance and Performance Committee, the Regional Strategy and Policy Committee, the Auckland Development Committee, and the Parks sub committee have made it extremely clear. No touching parks and no touching the Golf Courses – that is wont be open to consultation when we go for the finances review next year.

      So three Committees of the Whole and a sub committee all going NO. So why are we still mentioning Golf Courses?

        1. I am extremely well aware that it comes out of my pocket and those of my fellow citizens of the South.

          But have you considered the reason why Hulse, Webster and Wood wont touch it?

          It is because they would blow all the political capital they had in a fight they would lose (otherwise the courses would be on the consultation card next year with the UAGC and assets).

          Pick the fights you can win even with the housing situation. A fight those three Councillors can win with housing is with the Unitary Plan herself and Topic 081 which you would know about (and I know about) personally.

          Let’s get the Isthmus upscaled to Mixed Housing Urban and THAB zoning, and get the Centres in better preparation first (hence the latest Unitary Plan memos) before we touch the golf courses.

          One other thing I have not mentioned here but have in my blog.
          The whole reason this got —t canned was because the Council COO got snapped by Councillors over the Regional Parks situation forcing him to release an explanation very quickly.

          Kimpton should have know better but because of that the ratepayer is now very suspicious when it didnt need to be.

          1. “But have you considered the reason why Hulse, Webster and Wood wont touch it?

            It is because they would blow all the political capital they had in a fight they would lose (otherwise the courses would be on the consultation card next year with the UAGC and assets).”

            Outside advocacy can play an important role in changing the political calculations. At the moment, crony deals like the Remuera golf club lease are vigorously supported by the small number of people who directly benefit from them, and opposed tepidly (or not at all) by the much larger number of people who must pick up the tab. In this context, transparency and public attention is incredibly important – at best, they can create a constituency for change.

          2. Peter, are you really referring to a golf course that has been there since 1934 as a ‘crony deal’?

            Also there are plenty of other sports/activities that take up a huge amount of space in our city, and some of it, like our performing arts precinct in the Aotea Square, would be worth an absolute fortune.

            So why are we only ever reading about golf courses?

          3. I’d be interested to know about the crony deal associated with the white water rafting centre in Manukau that council is spending tens of millions on. Since when was the supply of artificial white water rafting facilities policy relevant?

          4. “Peter, are you really referring to a golf course that has been there since 1934 as a ‘crony deal’?”

            The golf course has been there for a while, but the rateable value of the land seems like it’s hardly been adjusted upwards in that time. How would _you_ describe a multi-million subsidy for a small group of wealthy, politically connected people?

            “So why are we only ever reading about golf courses?”

            Because I write Transportblog posts in my free time, which is limited. If you want to submit a guest post on another issue, please feel free to do so. If it’s well-argued and based in fact, we’d be happy to run it.

      1. Watercare is the biggie the reports mentioned but they seem to have shied away from that too unfortunately. Privatising Watercare on the basis it can charge a regulated fair rate of return on assets would be a huge step forward. It would reduce the need to charge new developments contributions and would lead to a more efficient use of resources.

        The reason these things get talked about is because they make sense. I didn’t realise Remuera was council owned. With Chamberlains and Takapuna you can at least make a public interest argument around improving access to sports facilities, but Remuera is a membership based club!

        1. On the last paragraph:
          Yes we can make that public interest argument and would love to see the improvement of access to sports facilities and so on. Remuera gets interesting and I know the respective Local Board will go tooth and nail with the Governing Body if they even tried so I wouldnt simply go there.

          Controversial idea: Use the $80m OPEX surplus Council generated last financial cycle and purchase MORE Airport Shares until we hit 35% holding (from 22.5%).

          1. I think unless all of the councils capital expenditure is going to generate a commercial rate of return (it won’t) it is meaningless to talk about an opex surplus. Why would It be of benefit for the council to own more of the airport anyway?

          1. Disclaimer: This is an amateur opinion and I haven’t checked my numbers but I think they are about right.

            Watercare currently doesn’t charge enough for its services. I think it generates enough cash to cover open and maybe 0.5% return on capital. So part of the reason for such high development contributions is it has essentially no ability to recover the costs of capital investments through user charges.

            To give an example, if a new suburb is built, Foodstuffs don’t go around asking for $10k from each house to build a new supermarket. This is because they include capital costs in the prices of their goods.

            Currently water users don’t pay the true costs of water/wastewater supply in their user charges. So we are subsidising water and wastewater users. Of course everyone is a water/wastewater user but we aren’t all using the same amount. I imagine large industrial/ commercial users account for large amounts of use.

  1. Copenhagen is wonderful. Look at the capacity of the cycle lane compared to the car lane: That’s enough to make any engineer cry tears of happiness.

    1. There are hardly any cars compared to the cyclists. Looks like the division of road space isn’t very fair.. Should widen the cycle lane really and not have the separate right turn lane. Interesting that even in cycling nirvana, that road space is disproportionately given over to cars!

      1. Yeah, it did seem a little bit odd to me, particularly because I took a photo in 2010 looking at that site where it seemed that cyclists were mostly using the right-turn lane too (I see only a few doing that in the animated GIF). Note though that on the bridge itself in the back of the scene more space is given over to bikes than traffic (about 50% more); they did this simply by converting a traffic lane on each side. BTW that street gets >30,000 cyclists/day and ~15,000 cars.

    2. But why do the cyclists queue up in an overcrowded lane? Why dont they just spill into an empty traffic lane? Northern Europeans are such rules freaks!

    3. I’m in Copenhagen for work this week- catching the bus from the city to a suburb in rush hour both ways. It uses the motorways for some of the trip, and I have yet to see the motorway in either direction anything other than free flowing. All those bikes make it great for cars and buses too.
      Here’s another nice thing: 7 a.m. this morning out for a ride, and they’ve already cleared the snow off the cycleway. http://imgur.com/VJM3wAp

  2. You’ve got me, Ricardo. The truth is that I’ve been hiding my loathing of golf behind a guise of objective economic analysis. It all started when I was five. I had a pet tarantula named Blinky, who was my best friend. I took Blinky everywhere, housed in my shirt pocket or firmly entangled in my curly hair. I used to love the gentle feel of his furry legs crawling all over my face as I drifted off to sleep.

    One weekend my father had to go golfing with his boss and some clients… typical corporate ladder-climbing behaviour. He was not a keen golfer – he would have preferred a day spent birdwatching down at the wetlands. But he went, and he took me along because my mother had a date to go skeet shooting with several of her friends. As the golfers set off, I was left behind at the clubhouse and told to entertain myself until the round was over.

    After a while, I got bored of the clubhouse (and the staff seemed to be getting nervous about Blinky), so I went for a walk on the links. Blinky was getting restless in my shirt pocket, so I decided to let him roam on a flat piece of grass where nobody seemed to be golfing. He found a small hole in the ground – tarantulas love hiding in holes – and crawled into it. The sun was shining, and we were both relaxing.

    And then, suddenly, a golf ball came out of the air and fell directly into Blinky’s hole. Some golfer’s hole-in-one had just killed my best friend. There was nothing I could do to, except to vow that I would have my revenge against this brutal sport. Revenge!

    1. RIP Blinky.

      Have you considered replacing him with one of those bat eating centipedes from South America? If you invented a sport, say cave centipede racing, then you might be able to convince Council to build a cave under the golf course for you and the centipede to play in.

    2. Sold golf courses for 1.2 Billion, spent the money on Light Rail, created green urban high density villages on golf courses with open green space, created pedestrian friendly CBD through LRT, contnued raking in da cash from the higher rates from my urban villages & the CBD boom. Save future pet spiders from genocidal grammar zone dads.

      10/10 would sell AC golf courses again.

        1. 0/10 more like. Distraction and a dangerous one. First the golf course next the cricket pitches and playing fields.

          Sort the overly restrictive zoning out first = 10/10. Slam dunk, orders of magnitude more impact.

          1. I still haven’t seen an argument for keeping publicly subsidised golf courses that doesn’t employ the slippery slope fallacy. “If we get rid of golf course next they’ll be coming for your baby’s cot”

  3. re LVT:
    “LVT becomes a cost of owning it. Consequently, it can bring in a decrease in prices as the owners of inefficiently used sites might feel compelled to sell or lease them to those willing to use them productively. Increasing the cost of owning land would drastically reduce the incentives for speculation.”

    Might is pretty powerful word, yes it might do those things, and it might not.

    But isn’t this LVT exactly what happens now for undeveloped CBD land, like the former Auckland Star building site, it sits there as an undeveloped site, paying minimal rates on the unimproved value of the land only bringing in peppercorn rent as an “at grade” carpark.

    And its still sitting there empty after 30+ years, so whats wrong with this picture? Isn’t this case supposedly an example of the proposed solution to the rates problem that LVT would deliver?

    Except this hasn’t lead to a “decrease in prices” nor have the site owners have no felt compelled to anything with it. All its done is just lead to land banking of this site for 30 years.
    And because the (generally untaxed) capital gain made each time its sold on to a new owner has more than offset the cost of holding it in the interim period. So the cycle continues.

    So tell me whats missing here? A higher rate of LVT? How high is enough?
    Some form of CGT on unimproved site sales like this? Or something else?

    1. I wonder how many golfing, car-driving Remueraites who eschew public transport are at the centre of that Venn diagram? Could be a special interest special interest group…

  4. “Based purely upon these figures, you might think that the economies of these countries would be sagging under the burden, but they aren’t. According to a new report from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the Turkish economy will expand by three per cent this year and by four per cent next year. Lebanon’s economy is also growing, at a rate of about two per cent this year, which will expand to more than three per cent next year, the World Bank reckons. Despite an influx of refugees that now amounts to more than ten per cent of its population, Jordan, too, is bearing up. Its gross domestic product will rise by about three per cent this year, the International Monetary Fund says.” So population rises by 10% but GDP rises by only 3%? That is an utter failure! In other words GDP per capita falls by 3%! Same result as we see here in NZ… We have immigration of over 1% and GDP growth of around 3% over the past couple of years. GDP growth without the immigration would therefore be 2%… Not amazing but not hard to achieve and is pretty normal for NZ. All mass scale immigration does is lower growth per capita. The only “good” immigration is select targeted skills, wealth, and cultural requirements (ie being able to speak English properly – like most of your Copenhagen cyclists can do…) and at levels that don’t place too much strain on the overall economy. Right now due to the mass influx into Auckland and higher percentage than normal of workers and resources is being allocated to construction. This is a drain on other productive sectors of the economy when not done at the right level.
    Further your example of Sweden is relevant in that it shows how mass immigration can push up house prices out of reach of locals (which is most definitely NOT a good thing!). I know people in Sweden and they are talking about how expensive housing is these days (everything is expensive there due to taxes but this is over the top).

    1. “All mass scale immigration does is lower growth per capita.”

      The history of New Zealand disagrees with you. We had mass scale immigration in the 1860s-1870s and again during the 1950s-1970s, which coincided with and fostered economic booms.

      The articles in the New Yorker and Economist correctly noted that increased demand from migrants can put pressure on housing markets. However, they also pointed out that the appropriate response is not to adopt a wellbeing-minimising policy – drastic cuts to migration – but to focus on sorting out housing supply. Which is something we’d want to do anyway for our childrens’ sake.

      1. Correlation does not imply causation. In the 1860’s example NZ was grossly underpopulated and under developed. Now we are neither (we are nicely underpopulated overall but not grossly). In the 50’s other things were happening that caused this growth (particularly a baby boom) and high prices for our produce. The New Yorker and Economist are not good examples as they are all about growth at all costs for the elite and don’t care about the average Joe.
        Sorting out housing supply is important and there are ways to do this but dumping 100,000’s of immigrants on Auckland is not going to solve this.

          1. “More countries should be underpopulated.”

            Please explain how you propose to accomplish this. Bonus points if you manage to find a solution that doesn’t involve genocide.

          2. Malthus alert!

            By incentivising and dis incentivising- same way everything is done.

            You have 2 kids you get family benefit, you have 3- family benefit is halved, 4- no benefit and maybe some sort of tax.

            After a generation or two most folks would be used to it and with the replacement rate beneath the death rate the 7,000,000,000 population would slowly fall until you hit a pre arranged target then back to normal.

          3. Wouldn’t work.

            Here’s the World Bank’s data on total fertility rates by country. The top of that list is composed of poor countries that (by and large) lack family benefits or social welfare systems. Your proposed system of incentives would have little or no impact on birth rates in these countries. (However, other measures, such as better education, productivity growth, and – crucially – economic and social empowerment of women, can be effective in bringing down birth rates.)

            Meanwhile, most developed countries have fertility rates below 2 children per woman. Iceland, France, Ireland, and New Zealand are at 2.0. Most of the rest are facing slow-moving demographic/economic crises – too few young people paying pensions for too many old people. Accepting more young migrants from poorer countries is probably the best strategy available to these countries if they want to avoid this.

          4. Of course it could work. I didn’t know about the empowering women bit, but that should be happening anyway just as general policy. Obviously the incentivising and disincentivising is not limited to Family Benefit payments, the rest of the ideas you list are fine too.

            Good on those countries who have already worked it out, as long as the numbers don’t decline in huge chunks there shouldn’t be the problem with too many oldies for the young to support.

            Besides, in some countries, like NZ we have been told our whole lives “you’re not getting the pension like your parents do- you gotta buy property, KiwiSaver etc.”

            My generation will be looking after ourselves.

          5. If the world (excluding Antarctica approx 50p/km2) had New Zealand’s population density (15p/km2) then the worlds population would be just over 2 billion. At 2 billion people everyone could live their lives to the fullest and not have to worry about things like global warming and food supply. More land could be protected for nature etc also.

      2. “All mass scale immigration does is lower growth per capita.” Peter it is one of the stylised facts of development economics. https://books.google.co.nz/books/about/Economic_development.html?id=UR-6AAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y
        Population growth can increase GDP per person when you have a labour shortage but it is a long time since we had that. The reason it depresses GDP per person is that you still have the same level of physical assets but the return on them is shared among more people in the ratio. The exception is if you require immigrants to bring in more capital.

        1. The OECD took a look at this last year. They concluded that immigration didn’t have any measurable negative effect on GDP per capita. The reason for that was that migrants’ contribution to human capital – skills and new ideas – compensated for the dilution of financial capital per capita.

          1. “Michael Reddell, a former special economics advisor to the Reserve Bank, said trying to use a growing population make Kiwis wealthier was “flawed”.

            “Nobody disputes that in the short term immigration boosts demand more than it boosts supply,” Reddell said.

            However Reddell argues strong immigration led to higher interest rates and a higher exchange rate than it would otherwise be, making it more difficult to build exports.

            “If you’ve got rapid population growth and you’re a country that doesn’t save very much…then you’re going to crowd out a whole bunch of other stuff that you could be doing just to build the houses, the roads, the shops, the hospitals. Private and public infrastructure that a growing population needs,” Reddell said.”

  5. Where do the tui’s go after the Kowhia leaves are set?
    The shared Bikes of Guangzhou was a great idea with the first 90 minutes after the bus trip being free must be good for everyone.

  6. The public courses can stay, but Remuera has to go.

    Not in a crude sense of course. Just charge them a fair rate on the land and watch membership shrivel even further as the fees skyrocket. Club gets wound up.

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