Welcome back to Sunday reading. I’m writing this on a quite nice Friday evening in Wellington, after spending two days talking to lots of people.

The best thing I’ve read this week is an article by Emma Espiner in Newsroom: “Embrace foreign students – we may need them one day“. It’s a generous antidote to the stingy, negative attitudes that seem to be hardening among some people:

I imagine some of our international students, like the Chinese girl from a politics class I once took, Christine, who was bemused by our angst about voter turnout, having come from a city where elections were held at the whim of the government and you didn’t know year to year whether you’d get one or not.

I imagine someone like her maybe becoming a politician herself or starting a business and how her experience in New Zealand could frame her response when a New Zealander came seeking a business or political opportunity. I imagine her future employers looking at her CV and feeling that thrill of recognition that this person studied in New Zealand. Wow, New Zealand? She must be good.

Because it’s not just about the money (I promise we’ll get to the money), it’s about seeding our culture among international students who will carry it with them and give us a foothold in other countries. It’s also about maintaining enough critical mass in the education sector to continually build upon and improve our offering. It’s a fine balance, and we need enough people going through the system to invest in attracting good staff, research and facilities. To have universities which are the Harvards of the Pacific, this is essential.

And it’s the Pacific bit which is key here. I have noticed among the growing interest in Māori language and culture more than a smattering of immigrants – South Africans, Indians, English and Chinese – showing up at wananga and Te Reo Māori courses.

I have a vision of international students who have an appreciation of our indigenous culture, having experienced our manaakitanga during their time here. They might learn a little reo, might have suffered awkwardly through their first powhiri and maybe grasped enough of our culture to know that indigenous people aren’t victims defined by statistics. A few might have gone further, been enveloped by the quest for understanding Te Ao Māori and have something eternal lodged inside them. Imagine how cool it would be for New Zealand to not only provide a world class education to our manuhiri (visitors) but also promote our culture too.

On a separate note, in the Wall Street Journal, urban economist Ed Glaeser reviews Richard Florida’s new book, The New Urban Crisis:

The strongest part of “The New Urban Crisis” is the author’s discussion of how to combat such segregation, particularly by building more middle-class housing. His excoriation of NIMBYs—the exponents of a “Not In My Back Yard” anticonstruction ideology—is delightful: He calls them “destructive” urban rentiers who “have more to gain from increasing the scarcity of usable land than from maximizing its productive and economically beneficial uses.” He coins a wonderful phrase, “The New Urban Luddism,” to describe the antigrowth advocates who oppose not only home-building but all infrastructure, including “the transit and subway lines required to move people around.”

These NIMBYs have transformed some of the world’s most successful cities, including New York and Paris, into zero-sum spaces, where each new elite pushes out a poorer household. Urban areas that enable growth, such as Houston today or New York in the 1920s, have historically remained affordable for middle-income residents by enabling abundant new construction. When San Francisco and Boston stymie development with an “enormous and complex thicket of zoning laws and other land use regulations,” these cities ensure that they are too exclusive and expensive, and their poorer residents inevitably view the rich with envy and anger.

The best policy tools we have against segregation are to permit more middle-class rental housing in urban cores and to replace existing, segregated housing units with portable housing vouchers. Mr. Florida argues that local regulations “need to be liberalized and modernized,” but he fears that such deregulation “is likely to mainly add more expensive luxury towers” and in any case will “do little to provide the kinds of affordable housing our cities really need.” I’m less sure: If we permitted enough new units, we’d run out of billionaire buyers. But, by all means, fast-tracking the approval of projects with middle-income units should be something we can all agree on.

Mr. Florida shares many other good ideas. To spur the creation of middle-class clusters, he argues, we should ditch the property tax, which creates “disincentives to add density” because payments scale up with the size of structure. Instead, let’s try a land-value tax, under which the owner of an empty parking lot would pay the same as the owner of a high-rise apartment building, and thus have an incentive to build something useful. (But those incentives will only induce more building if regulations allow more building.) Mr. Florida also favors reducing America’s subsidies for socially engineering homeownership, embodied in the home-mortgage interest deduction. This makes sense: High-rise buildings are overwhelmingly rented; single-family homes are overwhelmingly owner-occupied. When we use the tax system to favor owners over renters, we push people away from higher-density living.

It’s interesting how much of this resonates in many places.

https://twitter.com/zaichishka/status/861329441095417856

Another topic that is relevant almost everywhere is parking. MarketUrbanism’s Anthony Ling has written up a good interview with parking expert Donald Shoup. Among other things, it’s a good explanation of the crucial importance of getting on-street parking prices right:

MPS: Why shouldn’t public/on-street parking be free and how should it be priced?

DS: Charging too much or too little for on-street parking can cause a lot of harm. If the price is too high and many curb spaces are vacant, adjacent businesses will lose customers, employees will lose jobs, and cities will lose tax revenue. If the price is too low and no curb spaces are vacant, drivers searching for a place to park will congest traffic, waste fuel, and pollute the air. Consequently, the right price for curb parking is the lowest price that can keep a few spaces open to allow convenient access. This is the Goldilocks principle of parking prices—not too high, not too low, but just right.

With conventional parking meters, the price stays the same throughout the day but the occupancy rate varies. With dynamic parking meters, the prices vary but the occupancy rate stays the same—one or two spaces are open. Goldilocks prices will give all drivers great parking karma, and will guarantee front-door access to all businesses.

MPS: Please tell us a little bit about SFpark and smart parking systems.

DS: In 2011, San Francisco adopted SFpark, a pricing program that aims to solve the problems created by charging too much or too little for curb parking. In seven pilot zones across the city, with a total of 7,000 curb spaces, San Francisco installed sensors that report the occupancy of curb space on every block and parking meters that charge variable prices according to location and time of day. The meters were also the first in San Francisco to accept payment by credit cards, and this convenience provided good publicity for SFpark.

SFpark adjusts parking prices every six weeks in response to the average parking occupancy during the previous six weeks. If the occupancy rate on a block is higher than 80 percent during a time period (such as from noon to 3 pm), the hourly price of parking increases by 25 cents. If the occupancy rate is below 60 percent, the hourly price of parking decreases by 25 cents. Consider the resulting prices of curb parking on a weekday at Fisherman’s Wharf, a popular tourist and retail destination, after almost two years of price adjustments.

Before SFpark began in August 2011, the price for a space was $3 an hour at all times. With SFpark, each block can have different prices during three periods of the day—before noon, from noon to 3 pm, and after 3 pm. By May 2012, most prices had decreased in the morning hours. Some prices increased between noon and 3 pm—the busiest time of day—and most prices declined after 3 pm. Prices changed every six weeks, never by more than 25 cents per hour.

SFpark based these price adjustments purely on observed occupancy. City planners cannot reliably predict the right price for parking on every block at every time of day, but they can use a simple trial-and-error process to adjust prices in response to past occupancy rates. The only way to tell whether the price is right is to look at the results. Here is the link to a short article that explains how Sfpark has worked.

I’ve been involved in a few parking management projects – generally, people want to know how much prices should be in a year’s time (or five year’s time). As Shoup points out, that’s the wrong question: the demand for parking with respect to price will vary between times and locations, so the only way to find the right price is to adjust until you get the right result.

My suspicion is that the same dynamic will hold true in transport pricing more generally. For instance, how much of an impact will congestion pricing have on demand? It’s hard to say in advance. A small price could have a big impact, or it might not. We need to start pricing to find out.

Economist Noah Smith raises a similar point in an excellent blog post: “How should theory and evidence relate to each other?” The relevance to the transport pricing issue is that it’s very difficult to extrapolate results between contexts unless you have a theory to explain how they travel. For instance, Shoup finds that a 10% increase in parking prices decreases parking demand by around 4% in San Francisco… but the effects could be larger or smaller elsewhere.

Without a structural model, empirical results are only locally valid. And you don’t really know how local “local” is. If you find that raising the minimum wage from $10 to $12 doesn’t reduce employment much in Seattle, what does that really tell you about what would happen if you raised it from $10 to $15 in Baltimore?

That’s a good reason to want a good structural model. With a good structural model, you can predict the effects of policies far away from the current state of the world.

In lots of sciences, it seems like that’s exactly how structural models get used. If you want to predict how the climate will respond to an increase in CO2, you use a structural, microfounded climate model based on physics, not a simple linear model based on some quasi-experiment like a volcanic eruption. If you want to predict how fish populations will respond to an increase in pollutants, you use a structural, microfounded model based on ecology, biology, and chemistry, not a simple linear model based on some quasi-experiment like a past pollution episode.

That doesn’t mean you don’t do the quasi-experimental studies, of course. You do them in order to check to make sure your structural models are good. If the structural climate model gets a volcanic eruption wrong, you know you have to go back and reexamine the model. If the structural ecological model gets a pollution episode wrong, you know you have to rethink the model’s assumptions. And so on.

If you want, you could call this approach “falsification”, though really it’s about finding good models as much as it’s about killing bad ones.

The final article of the week is a provocative one on disruptive technology. CNNTech’s Matt McFarland writes about “the case for bicycles’ inevitable triumph over cars“:

Bikes, long an underdog on streets, will rule the roads eventually.

That’s the conclusion of Horace Dediu, a prominent analyst of disruptive technologies, who has spent the past three and a half years researching the future of transportation. […]

Bikes’ flexible nature will aid their popularity. You can park a bicycle in your home or your office. A bike can be carried on a bus, car or train. A car doesn’t offer this versatility. A similar case of disruption played out with cameras, as the always-in-your-pocket nature of smartphones helped them leave traditional cameras in the dust.

Bikes have another edge on cars — speed. New York’s shared bicycles have already been shown to travel at a faster average speed than city taxis during peak hours. They’re also more affordable per mile.

While the speed edge seen in New York today doesn’t hold up in every city, it will likely change as electric bicycles emerge. Electric bikes — whose motors generally top out at 20 mph — will attract customers because they don’t have to worry about breaking a sweat, struggling to climb a hill or keeping up with traffic.

“When you get on an electric bike, what we witnessed is a lot of those anxieties are calmed,” said Elliott McFadden, executive director of the Austin B-Cycle, the city’s bikeshare program. It recently surveyed citizens’ interest in electric bikes.

“Normally if we introduce a group to bikeshare, maybe a third or half of people are interested. But almost everybody was really intensely interested in using this service,” he said.

I’m not sure I think it’s the most likely scenario, but it’s at least as likely as some other half-baked ideas about disruptive technology that are running around.

Anyway, that’s all the text for the week. If you want to watch something, try this delightful little consultation video from Manchester… narrated by David Attenborough!

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47 comments

  1. NZ is one of a handful of free, democratic, multicultural, happy, low corrupt, business friendly countries in the world. Wellington has just been voted number 1 city in the world.
    This is why we have an increasing number of tourists, students and immigrants.
    I’m sure many people would want to migrate here.
    We should always be against corruption and support a free media.

    1. Great sentiments there Jim, but not really all correct. We have increasing corruption throughout the civil service and business as the current governing party gives favors to its campaign donors and mates whilst a supine media simply looks the other way. If we want to keep our democracy, then we need to keep our eyes open and act and vote accordingly.

    2. Wellington wasn’t “voted number 1”, it was judged by an international recruitment agency to be the “least worst” place to send expat staff to, so that companies don’t have to pay a huge resettlement allowance as a bribe to go there…

      1. And it was full of ‘interesting’ assessments, such as Wellington rated higher than Sydney on climate….ha ha!

      2. “it was judged by an international recruitment agency to be the “least worst” place to send expat staff to” – actually it was a survey done by a German bank (Deutsche Bank, in fact), about much more than “least worst” expats – see http://www.finews.ch/images/download/Mapping.the.worlds.prices.2017.pdf for full details.

        What international recruitment agencies (or anyone else) care to use it for is entirely up to them!

        And people who spent the summer in 40 degree plus Sydney might well agree with the climate ranking…

        1. Sydney doesn’t get to 40 degrees much. Most of the year it’s beautiful, albeit a bit humid at times in summer. Wellington basically has no summer and generally the weather is very hit and miss.

        2. Considering that Deutsche Bank use largely the same data (Numbeo) as other quality of life surveys like HR firm Mercer, it’s not surprising that the results are pretty similar.

  2. “To use public transit is to know how to cooperate with other people, how to behave in public space.” How to behave, and how to have fun. What’s going on in Auckland is changing so fast. Some routes / times / days are so introverted, where the acceptable behaviour is flicking through photos on a blog on your cellphone; definitely not looking at anyone else’s, bright and compelling as they might be. Other routes/ times / days are so extroverted, where the rumbunctious socialising of a group draws everyone in, and the youngest ones are drinking it all up like it’s a tonic otherwise missing from their lives.

    I’m particularly interested in what makes two strangers enter a conversation. It can be noticing a bus driver treating someone particularly nicely, or alternatively, a driver not understanding a specific request – leading to someone’s injury paining them as the bus takes off too early. It can be something as simple and inevitable as the weather or the traffic, but people have a chance to use these cues to do what feels natural – to acknowledge and appreciate each other through eye contact and conversation.

    In a world where loneliness has more negative health effects than obesity, and is rated as a top concern for city dwellers, I’m very happy to see the direction public transport is taking social contact in Auckland today.

  3. Your first graphic, the Cycle-Map of Christchurch, made me think about the weird situation that is public transport in Christchurch – perhaps it deserves a post all on its own. Of all the NZ Cities, it is the flattest, and so deservedly should have a decent set of cycle routes – but what it does not have is trains. There’s a decent grid of bus routes criss-crossing across the city, but the biggest problem is of course: way too many cars. Not helped by having had massive quakes that rippled the ground almost everywhere, but 5 years later they have succeeded in flattening out a lot of them, and the boy-racers no longer have to go slowly for fear of ripping their exhausts out on the once corrugated tarmac.

    But it is the sheer lack of anything on steel wheels, apart from the delightfully silly heritage trams tootling round a very few central city streets, that really perplexes me. It would be so easy to put in a commuter train in on the existing tracks down from the north, where more people are living now. The lines of traffic are amazing – serious jams going for miles – as they have to get over a couple of rivers, there really is only one route in from the north – yet there seems to be no appetite for train travel (except for the one heroic dude trying to start up a service all on his own). Are there any readers from Canterbury who would care to comment?

    1. You got me thinking as a reader formerly from Christchurch.

      One of the problems with rail is that the origins and destinations of journeys in Christchurch are very dispersed, especially after the earthquakes. The NZTA page on the northern corridor project says as much: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/christchurch-motorways/northern-corridor-congestion/.

      Unfortunately I suspect the northern corridor road project will just move the congestion around and encourage more single occupant vehicle journeys. Sorting out the problems with the bus network (e.g. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/86785687/Christchurch-bus-use-still-declining) and improving patronage numbers needs more attention.

    2. It wouldn’t actually be “so easy” to put in a commuter train from the north (anything to do with railways is always much more complex than it appears, regrettably) because of a number of issues. The stations and crossing loops aren’t there; the junction at Addington faces the wrong way; no railway line goes into the CBD; conflict with freight trains (less of an issue at the moment, thanks to the Kaikoura quake); lack of rolling stock (Auckland seems happy to let its surplus stock sit at Taumarunui, and it’s getting even older), etc etc.

      None of this is insoluble, but it needs political will and quite a fair bit of money. The real tragedy is that the Christchurch masterplan has made no provision for any form of mass transit (bar on-road buses), and that once-in-a-lifetime (and hopefully not nearly as frequent as that) opportunity has been lost.

  4. > “…future employers looking at her CV and feeling that thrill of recognition that this person studied in New Zealand. Wow, New Zealand? She must be good.”

    This is false. It indicates that her parents were wealthy enough to send their child overseas, but her grades were too poor to attend a Chinese university ( which are intensely competitive) or a respectable British or American university.
    We get the Chinese equivalent of Newmarket girls.

  5. I do like the style of that Chch cycle route graphic, although it continues to perpetuate a few cartographic errors that are oddly still in the official map (e.g. there is no diagonal cycle route through the centre of the city, no streets go there). If you want a sense of how far along the cycleway construction is coming, here is a map I created in Jan 2017 (most of the “in construction” bits are now complete or nearing completion): http://cyclingchristchurch.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ChchCyclewayWorks-2016.jpg

  6. I don’t think people have a problem with actual proper students that are here doing proper courses rather than many of these rubbish sham courses that are run purely as a front for low wage, low skilled immigrant labour and as a backdoor entry method for permanent residency. This is literally about the worst type of immigrant to have and people are sick of the system being rorted and for the governments culpability in the matter when they turn a blind eye to it.

      1. Can you give me an example these “rubbish sham courses ” where students are getting “backdoor entry” here.
        Over the years there have been institutions who have been cooking the books and adding unreal names to get funding. Not the fault of the students.
        It has been up to the government to check the rolls but those bogus students didn’t actually exist.

    1. I think that my sister would strongly disagree that someone in that position is the ‘worst type of immigrant’. I think she would much rather the Indian cafe manager she dates come to New Zealand than the white immigrants presumably from skilled migrants categories who racially abuse her boyfriend and her for dating him.

      1. Yip the racism is awful. If it was up to me, which it is not, I’d be saying we should only allow refugees in, then put work and money into helping them start a new life. I think this would build a caring society of people thankful for the opportunity to come.

    2. From a conversation I had with a man who had been teaching international students, some don’t have the English skills required to do the study they are enrolled for. He asked them why their English was so basic when they had apparently good English, based on the test they had undertaken to get their visa. The answer was that their parents had simply paid the bribe fee to the testing agency. He is an immigrant himself and is not opposed to immigration, but asked what sort of country we’re going to have in 15 years’ time if the immigrants who know how to pay bribes are the ones we’re letting in.

      His other gripe was with the education provider who kept trying to get him to pass the students when their work wasn’t up to it. Eventually they passed all the resubmissions to another teacher who would pass them; that’s why he quit.

      Now, I love meeting international students. I personally don’t care if their English is not good. I think there are far more important things to base eligibility on. I do care if immigrants and students are working a corrupt system to come here, though.

  7. As always interesting thoughts and discussion.

    I respectfully disagree that premise of optimising parking. The goal should be to ensure that parking is only provided if people are willing to pay the real cost of taking up that space. If they aren’t, then all we are doing is subsidising cars. Again.

    Car Parking is the # 1 enemy of cycling. Dooring ++. Making any changes to it is so hard that protected lanes barely exist even now. Critically, if I may be neoliberal for a minute it is the single bigest subsidy to travel even a few 100 m by car.

    If the cost of provide a park is say 30,000 per year. 52 weeks/y = 577/week. 5 days per week? 115/day. 8 h/day? 14.4$/h.

    Minimal overhead for collection costs? 15+ $/ hour minimum charge, everywhere. In downtown Auckland where there are many parking buildings, and we want to encourage pedestrianisation, then may we should suggest 25$/h, to actively shift towards other modes.

    The disabled should be actively supported. The ablebodied though should pay full freight.

    1. I agree. Separating cyclists from parking is one of the important considerations in the VIsion Zero video. For New Zealand roads, this means removing the parking and/or removing some lanes of traffic.

      Of course, some of the most expensive parking is in the widened intersections, designed not for flowing traffic, but to accommodate the many cars waiting there until they can get out… St Lukes overpass, for example… lovely spot to park in for a few minutes before you can get onto the motorway… 🙂 I imagine it’s lovely, anyway… must be why people do it instead of use the cycle way…

  8. Love the international student excerpt. When they come to New Zealand to study, they are bringing ambition, hope, idealism, open-ness, and their background with them. It is vital that New Zealand embraces these kids, treats them well and provides the education opportunities.

    In many cases, these students are among the best and brightest of their culture and they make for vastly more diverse and interactive schools and universities. At the end of their study, some students will return to their own country, some will go on to other countries, and will have the opportunity to stay and contribute to our growth in the years ahead. All will have memories of their New Zealand experience. If those memories are positive, the networking potential to grow New Zealand is unlimited.

    1. Which would be awesome if it were true. In reality NZ is normally down the list so we get the leftovers and often not the brightest/most potential etc.
      That is at University level.
      Below that you have the sham courses being run as a back door entry to permanent residency. These have little to do with networking etc and are all about cheap labour (since they can now work while here).
      The export education sector is important to the NZ economy. The cowboys need to be rounded up however and it needs to be not used as a backdoor to permanent residency except for the highly qualified ones we actually want and need (in which case they aren’t actually using it as a backdoor as they can get in mostly on their qualifications/skills and just use the time spent in NZ to boost their points).

      1. I’m not concerned about “leftovers”, if they’re coming from a place where I don’t like the competitive education system anyway. Indeed people who didn’t just “slot in” and blossom under a competitive education system might be more interesting, more lateral in their thinking, and more likely to take home good stories of our education system’s advantages. A critical comparison of two education systems would benefit both countries, and I don’t think it would be particularly robust if you’re only dealing with the people who had previously managed to fit into a linear-thinking ranking-based competitive system.

        1. +1.

          I think it is important to critically assess the inputs of the overseas student community.

          As a whole, right from the first Colombo Plan students from the 1960s, international cultures have made a huge contribution to student life in NZ and to NZ’s reputation and engagement overseas. With international students, as with our own culture, the “leftovers” given the chance to blossom, are some of the greatest contributors to society.

          It is just as important to weed out the cowboys out there including certain high schools with flash names and ‘linear-thinking ranking-based competitive systems’ who act shamelessly in pursuit of international student dollars, and “tick the box” so called high achievers.

    2. But are they any good?
      Think of the NZ students who go to the UK – our best and brightest, capable of success in the quadrangles. That’s the sort of student we want coming here.
      A+

  9. Regarding property tax

    I totally agree we should ditch property ‘improvement’ (building) tax. Instead council should only tax land value. And then double or triple it.

    In that case it increase the holding cost of land banking, so discourage speculative land banking that never get built.

    It also encourage developers to max out the value of the land -either build one best home, or ten affordable homes.

    Regarding ebike

    NZ suppliers of e-bike are way too expensive and margin are so deep to discourage demand. Decent models cost $3000. In Japan, we can get very high quality e-bike around half the price. In china, we get one in one tenth of price – although a bit lower quality.

    1. “And then double or triple it.

      In that case it increase the holding cost of land banking, so discourage speculative land banking that never get built.”

      …and also discourage agriculture. Take a look at the area that falls within Auckland Council, Kelvin. Most of it is not urban and a significant amount of it is used for growing stuff. A land-only tax would invariably increase costs for those involved in food production and your “double or triple it” comment indicates that you want it to be high.

      1. Agricultural land needs a new set of protection measures anyway. What’s happening to those fantastic Pukekohe soils (and others) is shameful. Perhaps a higher land-based tax coupled with a ban on developing any more agricultural soil would work? I basically disagree with any greenfields development, not just from a transport / density perspective, but from the point of view of retaining quality agricultural soil and the last few vestiges of low-land bush. Amongst other reasons, quality soil is the best way to sequester and retain carbon.

        1. “Perhaps a higher land-based tax coupled with a ban on developing any more agricultural soil would work?”

          How is that going to help? The message to those using their land for agriculture in the Auckland Council region would be that they are going to have their rates substantially increased (in an attempt to make more productive use of land) but they may not indulge in the most productive use of that land (building housing on it). In the meantime their products are competing with those from other parts of NZ and the world in a price race to the bottom.

          As for the “fantastic” Pukekohe soil; who is willing to pay a premium for food grown on it? Everything that is grown on that soil can be (and is) grown elsewhere.

          1. I wasn’t clear, sorry, I meant for the agricultural soil to be tagged as agricultural, and not have the high rates. Thanks for pointing that out. Which probably deals with all your points.

      2. First since owner pay no rate on their farm house or any improvements infrastructure required to grow food, the final rate could be offset.

        Secondly since prime land will get new house built and fill up the supply, the other land (far from transport) value will drop or flat. So they will be affordable to maintain low density and grow food.

        Third there are a lot of agriculture land outside Auckland urban boundary, why farmer wish to grow food in Auckland?

        1. Typically, for a farm, the dwelling value constitutes a small or zero proportion of the total property value. The kiwifruit operation next to me has no house on it, only a shed. The potato-growing operation across the road is several hundred hectares and only has a simple shed on it. Given you “double or triple it” comment it is reasonable to expect that you want the charges on the land to be punitive. I don’t see how your first claim has merit.

          Agricultural land is typically not zoned for residential use (except for the owner’s dwelling) and as such the value of that land is not affected by the demand for residential land or the lack thereof so I don’t see how your second claim has merit.

          Your third point has me really perplexed. A farmer wants to grow food in Auckland to make a living. I would have thought that that was self-evident. If they are not permitted to build housing on the land what do you suppose they do with it? Plant trees on it and wait 30 years for some income? The current boundaries of Auckland were created by edict around 7 years ago. Some fool decided that a large amount of farm land/ horticultural land was to be incorporated within the boundaries of Auckland Council against the wishes of the majority of the rural inhabitants and now you question why they are farming this land.

  10. International students are wonderful things, but we need to treat them not as cash cows but as future graduates and researchers.
    No more low-value, mass imports of them – select them on the basis of academic excellence and charge them domestic fees

  11. RE: “Bikes, long an underdog on streets, will rule the roads eventually” – To be fair, I’ve not read the link, only the summary included here… The summary hand-waves a lot of detail and is prone to hyperbole. That’s not to say that he’s wrong about the end-point, only that what was reproduced here showed lazy thinking – At best.

    I really did LOL at “A similar case of disruption played out with cameras, as the always-in-your-pocket nature of smartphones helped them leave traditional cameras in the dust” – This is the kind of oversimplified lazy thinking that I was talking of. Left in the dust by what measure? Unless you’re famous, you can’t sell a multi-thousand dollar print produced by a smartphone camera. Advertising campaigns won’t accept the output as suitable for magazines, let alone bill boards, I could go on but the point has been made. The author was excited and enamored with the vision that they had, to the point of hurting their own argument.

    FWIW, I’d love it if we had more bike carriers on our buses. More advertising around taking bikes on trains would be nice too, though at the risk of making existing (bus) congestion even worse.

    And now for something completely different (channeling “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”) – In an example of poor observation skills, I noticed recently that the signage in the trains has changed to show that you’re allowed take away coffee and water on-board (I understand that’s been the case for well over a month). The number of times that I’ve changed my transit plans because of the no drink rules…

    This is a good and positive step towards making trains more inviting and convenient, however perhaps AT needs to aim towards recruiting new / converting occasional passengers with some “look how easy and convenient” advertising on TV, including showing the petrol + parking cost of taking a car instead (including environmental and insurance/WoF/Rego/Etc would just turn people off as hyperbolic and unrealistic). Just a thought.

    1. +1, a video where two men pop in to get coffee while one tops up $120 in fuel and the other tops up $40 on his hop card (both for the week), then one gets in a car straight into a stationary motorway while the other hops on the train, reads the paper, and gets to work, all while the driver is still driving.

      1. All good except being able to get a seat with enough space to open a paper is a fiction on our trains (victims of their own success…)

          1. I enjoy paper editions. If they don’t have coloured ink, they’re also good in the garden. Just a pity we don’t have anything left here worthy of the name newspaper.

  12. Responding to Kelvin’s point: “why farmer wish to grow food in Auckland?” That’s a really deep one – and worthy of a post, I think. Off the top of my head:

    1. People are increasingly disconnected from how their food is grown, which in itself leads to ill health and poor life choices. If you want to reduce this to monetary value, look at the health system. The Diabetes’ Project helps fund Richard Main’s “Gardens 4 Health” organisation, which assists community gardens, and the District Health Boards sometimes get into this sort of funding, too, but that’s all tiny and reactive instead of keeping the best agricultural land available for food production, in a way that the public can see and have a connection with.

    2. Our food industry is highly dependent on fossil fuel. The large machinery, the fertilisers, the fuel used to import materials to and from the farm (resulting from most farms now being either horticulture or agriculture, instead of both), and the fuel used to transport the produce from farm to packhouse, to warehouse, to supermarket, to house, plus the packaging (etc) all adds up to a very, very inefficient industry. Meanwhile, it is creating carbon emissions, pollution, and climate change.

    3. This highly fossil fuel-dependent industry will have to change once fossil carbon is no longer so cheaply available. Not only will the on-farm practices have to change, but the transport costs will need to be kept minimal. This is best achieved if there are fingers of agricultural land reaching into the city, so farmers can provide produce locally. This doesn’t mean not designing an efficient transport system now, it just means being careful with corridors of development.

    4. Much of the carbon dioxide up in the atmosphere is actually there as a result of ill-treatment of soil. Soil organisms hold onto soil in an intricate web. I think we have discovered more knew knowledge in the soil sciences in the last 15 years than any other area of science. Everything considered standard practice just 15 years ago is now being completely reevaluated. For example, did you know that a well-managed grassland can sequester more carbon dioxide per year than a forest at maximum growth can? (Although forests are pretty good, too.) We have lost much of the world’s soils in the last 70 years. They have been washed down into the sea and oxidised up into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, being able to feed the world relies on that soil.

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