Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy on Auckland Property Crisis

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy throws in her ten cents worth concerning overseas investors forcing up the price of Auckland property. No doubt conscious of past criticism where she has been perceived to be less than willing to enter the arena she now chooses to blunder into the fray Ill-informed and with no better strategy than to regurgitate the drivel spouted by vested interests such as Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church.

Devoy claims that "complex economic problems" are being blamed on "ethnic communities". The problem is certainly not complex -it is a simple matter of overseas demand vastly exceeding supply creating an affordability crisis -neither is it being blamed on any ethnic community. The blame rests fairly and squarely on a government obsessed with neo-liberal ideology -everything is for sale to anyone and the devil take the hindmost. It is the government and real-estate interests that have cynically turned this into a race issue in an attempt to discredit their critics.

"Economists have voiced real concerns with the legitimacy of the half baked data that’s been released this weekend" says Devoy. Which economists I ask? I have seen no such authoritative commentary. However, given the failure of the government to collect proper data is it not reasonable for concerned parties to estimate the number of overseas purchasers by any means possible? The use of Chinese names to estimate that part of the demographic is merely a tool -one that does not exist for many other parts of the demographic, e.g. British and American overseas buyers whose names are already common within the NZ populace. It is perfectly reasonable to estimate that the overseas Chinese part of the overall buyer demographic is around 39.5% minus 9% i.e. more-or-less 30%. Of course the overseas buyers of other ethnicity exascerbate this even further and are no less a problem.

Sadly, Devoy fails to understand the true nature of the issue she attempts to address -this is the problem with appointing a sports personality to do a diplomats job. It is likely that this was a deliberate ploy when choosing her for the post as politicians rarely choose to place those of high intellectual rigour into positions where they might find themselves criticised by that person.  She specifically blames Labour's Phil Twyford in her press release and accuses him of singling out certain New Zealanders "because they have a Chinese sounding surname". This is not only false it is an abuse of her Office. She should apologise or resign.

It is no good asking people to stop talking about it and "be nice". If Devoy seriously wants to defuse any potential conflict between resident Chinese and other New Zealanders, she should call for an outright ban on sale of property to all non-resident buyers.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Auckland House Prices and Playing the "Racism" Card

First, lets take a look at this press release written by Property Institute of New Zealand Chief Executive Ashley Church entitled "Property Institute slams Labour Chinese investment claims" It is such drivel it pains me to even bring it to the attention of the reader, but needs must...
Following the opening gambit of an ad-hominem attack on Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford for alleged "racism". Mr Church then describes the data used by Mr Twyford as ‘shonky’ and says ‘it has so many holes in it that it would be marked with an ‘f’ if it was submitted as a High School Economics project’. Amazingly, Church then goes on to elucidate the following:
“Mr Twyford uses ‘asian sounding’ surnames as his means to identify which buyers are ‘Asian Investors’ - without any way of knowing whether the buyer is a New Zealand immigrant who lives here, or an investor based in China”.“On that basis Mr Twyford should be blowing the whistle on Scottish foreign investment in this country - because a large number of kiwi homes are owned by people who have names starting with ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’”.
 This has to be about the most specious, infantile attempt at constructing an argument one could possibly imagine -there are so many non-sequetors to it. Firstly he is comparing apples with oranges -existing owners with new purchasers. Then he is claiming all individuals with Scottish names are Scottish investors - clearly not true since these individuals are descendants of migrants going back as far as 1848. they are therefore New Zealand investors, Just as are the descendants of previous generations of asian extraction.
Clearly it is Mr Church, not Mr Twyford who should be standing in the corner wearing the Dunces Cap!

Fair play to Scoop for publishing this Press Release without comment, which is about all the attention it deserves. Not so the Herald on Sunday. As Senior Journalist, Russell Blackstock has to carry the can for this particular piece of drivel.
No-one should place a shred of credence in the weasel words of "local commentator" Ron Hoy-Fong. Of course as a property investor he has an interest in price escalation and knows very well that the mechanism is simply one of increased demand acting upon a limited supply determining a rising price. It is amazing how easy it is for his kind to feign ignorance of this most fundamental tenet of their otherwise beloved “neo-classical” economics and suggest that somehow the problem is one of greed on the part of Kiwi homeowners who wish to sell their property – it is mere fogging of the real problem of speculation and in fact it is racist of Hoy-Fong to make the claim he does. 

Despite describing himself as a third generation New Zealander it is clear that Hoy-Fong places himself in a different category to the "regular Kiwis" he is so keen to blame. How a person who has thirty houses can call his neighbours greedy is beyond belief!

 As for the authors of this so-called “report”, Russell Blackstock & Simon Plumb –they are obviously either extremely politically and economically na├»ve, or have a vested interest in brown-nosing to the speculator or wealthy migrant cohort, or they are mouthpieces for the ideologues who wish to keep New Zealand in a permanent neo-colonial state rather than see a maturing democracy.

No Property Sales to Non-Residents!

Progressive Capital Gains Tax on second and subsequent property ownership!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Saxon Villages of Transylvania: A Mediaeval Model for the Future Eco-Village?

I was prompted by an article in the most recent Ecologist magazine to find out more about these remnant mediaeval villages as a potential model for future farming as I see it.  All the links from the article had the inevitable "coffee-table magazine' look about them- pretty flowers, wild animals you know the sort of thing- triumph of style over substance.
Eventually I came across this report commissioned by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and published way back in 2001
Part one:
Part two:
It still has lovely pictures but more importantly it has diagrams, aerial views and descriptive text. The producers of the report have included the inevitable nod to "sensitive tourism" and  "appropriate integration of agricultural technology",  but then this was ten years ago before peak oil awareness and agricultural commodities were at very low prices. The need for "cash earners" was predicated upon the notion that cash is needed to provide the "mod-cons" that must be provided to discourage all the young people from deserting their communities.  I believe that ten years later with agricultural prices rising, peak oil a historical fact a billion hungry people in the world and apparently a change of heart in the E.U. that has until recently sought to destroy the remnants of "peasant farming", this mode of living could suddenly become very attractive to those who formerly might have wished (and been encouraged by politicians) to abandon it for a "better life" in the cities.
I am particularly impressed by the combination of family autonomy in the gardens and arable lands and community co-operation in the use of the common pastures and woodlands. As you will see from the village layout the houses, yards and barns are all very similiar in size indicating a self-imposed egalitarianism in these communities (remember these people were free peasants- not vassals of some feudal lord). I am sure that hundreds of years fighting off Mongol and Saracen hordes built a great sense of community solidarity.

I have been a long time looking for a model of what I see as a realistic and practical solution to post peak secure and sustainable living. Here I find inspiration- but sadly I have little confidence in our ability to act in a suitably urgent fashion. Perhaps I need to take a crash-course in Romanian language!