Friday, 29 June 2012


Yo blog. I know I don't post much on you at the moment, but here's something I thought was worth posting.

VUWSA is reviewing its Governance structure after the Government forced it to go voluntary starting this year, with practically no warning. So VUWSA needs to seriously rethink how it'll operate with basically $0 (though they have a bit of savings, and own VicBooks).

The White Paper, currently out for consultation for another two and a bit hours (yikes!) can be found here.

Final changes are to be approved at the AGM on 22 August, which I will not be voting for if they include removing Sustainability from the Constitution, and an environmental voice from the executive.

Here's what I had to say - I encourage you to submit to if you're free at some point before 5pm...


I realise the process has been going for some time, but I was a bit shocked to be told about this White Paper and its submission deadline from a friend just after my final exam. The fact that the submission process for this has been open during exams is poor planning. Although I realise deadlines are tight with the AGM etc, I think submissions should stay open for at least a week after exams finish.
(Btw I would be at work at the moment, rather than submitting, if I wasn't sick in bed...)

On removing Sustainability from the constitution:

Sustainability should not be removed. It is not a policy issue, but an important goal to ensure that VUWSA operates in a manner which does not jeopardise its future operation and the ability for others to achieve their potential. This is vital in our world where we are facing a number of limits, including environmental and financial.

On the new preamble:

I do not support the rewritten preamble because it specifically states that VUWSA should prioritise the needs of its members over other students, which I do not think is a helpful thing to state.

And my thoughts on the overall structure of the Executive:

I think the principal of greater representation and greater voluntary labour should be what moves VUWSA forward, rather than relatively minor adjustments to the current model.

I think there should be paid executive officers, of President, Vice-President Academic, Vice-President Wellbeing and potentially Engagement, along with Treasurer-Secretary. Given the tight financial environment, they should all be paid minimum wage. Failing this, the President should take some pay cut - current pay is far in excess of the vice president roles, which also have a high level of responsibility.

General executive roles should be voluntary and representative, with roles such as Environmental Officer etc not scrapped. I think more focus on greater representation and voluntary commitments from the many VUWSA members is a much better system than relying on token bonuses which are unlikely to create a higher performance from VUWSA general executive members.

Where possible a representative from a rep-group should be a part of the Executive, along with Ngai Tauira and the PGSA, to ensure all representatives have a strong input into the day to day running of VUWSA if they wish. This will help decision making in VUWSA be in touch with students, as well as allow the VUWSA executive to draw on the volunteer potential and expertise of these rep groups.

VUWSA Exec decisions should be made by consensus where possible among all attending Exec members. On contentious issues where the parties agree consensus is not possible, fair rules need to be developed on who gets to vote, based on representation and which exec members are elected by all students/VUWSA members, and which are representatives from rep groups.

This approach I think is much more along the lines of the changes VUWSA needs to undergo to both survive and prosper in a voluntary environment.

A bit rough I know, but I didn't have much time! Let me know if you have any thoughts - especially greenies and We Are The University people out there. It would be a shame if VUWSA wasted this opportunity, and was just a trimmed down version of the same old same old.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The campaign thus far

It's been an exciting campaign this election for the Greens, especially to see us climb up and up in the polls! Now we're well into the final two weeks, and we'll be pushing really hard to make sure that translates to many more new Green MPs on polling day.

Today I helped launch the Wellington transport policy, with a press conference on a trolley bus. Then I did some doorknocking in the afternoon.

As the Green Party's list candidate stationed at Victoria University, that was the main focus of my campaign - though with exams over, and everyone dispersing, the campaign has all but wrapped up there. Of course I want all students to remember to vote, and know that they can vote early too!

At Vic we handed out lots of fliers, and spoke to heaps of people; participated in We Are the University demonstrations to ensure education is made a priority at Vic; put on a successful gig; signed up lots of volunteers (I'd like to say it's the most successful year for Greens@Vic ever!); had a sausage sizzle.

And of course we ran the Wellington's Crappiest Flat competition. I recently did an energy audit on the winner's place, and found the unsealed, damp ground the flat was built on was making the floorboards rot, and everything in the house mouldy. As shown in their photos, their drawers needed to be cleaned of mould every month or two, and so their clothes constantly smelt of mould (one of the flatmates saying their friends at uni pointed this out to them one day).

With the subsidy of 60 percent for insulation for landlords with low income tenants (students!) that the Greens got National to fund through our Memorandum of Understanding (and the further 200 000 homes we'd like to see insulated in the next term of Government), I hope landlords like this one see the light and insulate! The mould issues were damaging the landlord's investment, as well as the students' health (with issues like eczema flaring up). Of course, if landlords don't insulate, the Green Party will be introducing minimum standards for rental housing if we get the chance, as no one should be able to rent out unsafe, substandard housing. At least many landlords are convinced by the subsidy, but not all are for some strange reason.

Last week end, before kicking off the final two weeks at a lovely BBQ at Wellington Central Candidate James Shaw's place, we had the Young Greens' online launch which saw us using a Google+ hangout, which was lots of fun. And we also got the many young candidates videoed, talking about why we are standing for such an awesome Party.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

My speech from a debate on the Emissions Trading Scheme

Here is my speech I gave last night in a debate at Vic University about the Emissions Trading Scheme. I like to think I won, so below are my convincing arguments so you can judge for yourself!

Tena koutou katoa.

My name is Zachary Dorner, and I'm proud to be standing before you as the Green@Vic candidate, campaigning for the Party Vote for the Green Party this election year. It's great to see Environment Week rolled out for another year – something I had the pleasure of doing last year when I was Environmental Officer. It’s great to see what an excellent job Haley's done this year. Thanks to VUWSA for organising this important debate about an issue close to my heart.

Emissions trading schemes are a bit like Weetbix. Many people find them bland, they have a complicated structure with many layers, and unless you sweeten them up (and add some milk) they are hard to swallow.
If you add too many sweeteners to Weetbix, and too much milk, you get a sickening mess, and you lose all nutritional value of the Weetbix. And that’s what John Key did as soon as he got into power. He added billions of dollars worth of subsidies (sweetners) to our biggest polluters, put too much milk on the New Zealand economy and environment, and left tax payers to foot most of the bill. No nutritional value, no environmental or economic benefit, just a big, sickening, soggy mess. John Key’s ETS was a failure from the start.

The Green Party has a plan for a smart green economy that works for everyone – the people, the environment and our future.
Although the evidence is all around us, and there’s a near consensus of climate scientist on climate change, that it is real and caused by humans, some people still need convincing. Last year was the warmest year on record – roughly equal to 2005 and 1998. And record temperatures continue. If that’s not enough for year, here’s what the NZ Herald said last Saturday (16 July):

It began with the China floods in May last year, coinciding, in June, with widespread fires and drought in Russia, coinciding with record breaking monsoon flooding in Pakistan that killed 1,500 people and left 20 million homeless. That was followed by a "once-in-a- century" drought in the Amazon - except that the last once-in-a-century event in the region happened just five years before.

In December a million hectares of Colombia was underwater. Sri Lanka had its heaviest rains for 100 years. The Philippines had four weeks of sustained rain in January, Brazil had catastrophic mudslides killing 600 people and then Queensland was inundated - the flood waters covering an area larger than Germany and France combined.

In April the mighty Mississippi and Missouri rivers swelled to record levels causing spillways to be opened and mass evacuations, followed by one of the largest tornado outbreaks in American history. Meanwhile a nine-month drought continues to parch Texas and Oklahoma and China evacuated some 500,000 people in June from floods along the Yangtze River following the worst drought in 50 years.
New Zealand meanwhile has experienced record temperatures, record flooding in Whakatane, and a host of unusual weather conditions, including two tornados – one deadly one in Auckland, and one on the Kapiti coast.

As predicted, climate change is bringing unstable weather, and a climate in which it is harder to grow our food - already raising global food prices - and harder to plan for the future. A future our generation is meant to inherit.

In order to deal with this issue, a research levy on agriculture emissions was proposed in 2003, later ditched due to lobbying from farmers against what they called the “fart tax” (though everyone knows most emissions come from cow’s burps). Then a carbon tax was proposed, and ditched around 2006. This was followed by the release of Al Gore's movie about climate change, which promptly convinced the then Labour Government that something needed to be done – so they constructed a hideously complex ETS instead, which was passed in 2008, with the help of the Greens and NZ First.

We had strong reservations about it, but with just 6 MPs, we had limited sway and felt it was important to get a price on carbon – though not without improving the scheme as much as we could before supporting it, including a billion dollars into a home insulation scheme. It was a start.

Enter John Key's National Government. Ignoring old bowls of soggy Weetbix laying around the Ministry for the Environment, as soon as he got into power, he trashed the ETS. He halved the price on carbon, took the cap out of the “cap and trade” system, and added in billions of dollars of subsidies to our largest polluters, which are allocated via a non-transparent process. Polluters will not pay their full and fair share for their pollution until around 2084 under the scheme. Not very smart when you’re borrowing $300 million a week.

Any emissions reductions achieved in the short run will be negligible – possibly around only 0.7% below business as usual by the end of next year, by which time we should have done a lot more. What the science tells us, is that developing countries need to cut emissions by 25 to 40%, below 1990 levels, by 2020 - which we are already over 20% above in NZ. Arguing with the science of environmental limits is like arguing with an oncoming bus – the laws of physic will win every time.

Meanwhile, an ETS, especially one as weak as the current one we have in place, needs other measures to be in place to ensure emission reductions. John Key instead has decided to commit nearly $10 billion to build just seven new motorways over the next three years, increase our mining on conservation land (yes, he's still planning to do that, just not as bad as originally planned), drill for oil in our deep oceans with little or no regulation to prepare us for an oil spill, and allow some of our best farmland in Southland to be mined for lignite, the most dirty form of dirty coal.

So clearly John Key does not care about the environment, does not care about our generation, and he certainly does not care about our most valuable asset – our clean green brand in our beautiful country.
Luckily we have the Green Party in Parliament – the Party with the best understanding of the economic and environmental situation we find ourselves in. Whether we care or we don't, New Zealand's clean green brand is worth a lot of money. Further, the global economy is going green, with or without us.

The green economic wave is coming, could be worth $6 trillion annually globally already and we can either let it swamp us, or ride it from our prime position. As the new business group Pure Advantage points out, we risk loosing this prime position – slipping from number one in the international Environmental Performance Index, to number 15 last year in the space of just 5 years. The Green Party has a plan for a smart green economy that works for everyone, that will reverse this decline.

In terms of climate change, the Green Party’s current policy is to improve the ETS, though our first preference has always been a carbon charge, recycled into income tax reductions. This goes along with our plan for ecological tax reform – to tax bads, like carbon emissions, and reduce taxes on goods, like income.

We would improve the ETS by putting a cap on emissions, and make sure we cover taxpayer liabilities under international agreements like Kyoto as fast as possible. We will also put a cap on how many international credits can be purchased, so emissions reductions are at home, like Australia is planning. This is important to ensure we move towards a smart, green economy here in New Zealand, rather than paying others to do it for us in their countries.

And of course we need to look at the resilience of our entire economy, to make sure we are the full package – the real deal. So the Green Party will transfer money from motorways into better, faster and smarter public transport, to make sure New Zealanders have choice in how they get around, and that they don’t bear the brunt of rising petrol prices. We will protect our most treasured places, and ensure any mining done is not going to wreck our beautiful country, or our climate. We would clean up our waterways. And we would use our public assets (rather than selling them) to partner with private industry, to develop clean tech and green tech, such as Whispertech’s current partnership with publicly owned Meridian Energy.

By taking these important steps, and having an economic vision for New Zealand, we will transform our economy into a smart green economy. We will be playing to our Pure Advantage and we will be setting ourselves up for future prosperity with a quality of life that we can be proud of.

John Key’s ETS was a failure from the start, and so is his lack of economic vision. Only a Party Vote for the Green Party will ensure a we create smart green economy that works for everyone, so we have a future worth looking forward to.

My campaign opening speech!

Here it is.

It was a few months ago now, but it feels like the campaign really is heating up now, so I thought it was still a good time to post it. Enjoy!

Kia ora koutou,

It’s great to see so many of you come in support of the Greens@Vic campaign launch party for election 2011! I’m Zachary Dorner, the Greens@Vic Candidate, and I’m excited to be sharing the stage with the awesome James Shaw, our Wellington Central Candidate, and one of our hard working Green MPs, Dave Clendon.

Thanks to the awesome Greens@Vic organising team for helping make this night a success. And thanks heaps to Sophie and the Realistic Expectations for coming to entertain us, and Martin Wilson for providing sound and lighting gear.

The theme of this campaign launch, and of the opening campaign around the country is “What are you looking forward to?” Today at Vic we’ve been asking many fellow students that question, and you can get your photo taken too tonight by our roaming photographer Simon.

We’re asking this question to help us all think about what the future might hold. JS/DC has already outlined what an important year this is for New Zealand, and the question is doubly important for young students like us to ask.

John Key seems like a nice guy and all, and I’d certainly want to have him at my place for a beer and a BBQ. I do, however, have a number of bones to pick with him at this hypothetical BBQ that will never happen.

First question for John – Why did you cut taxes for your rich mates, then cut Working for Families, Kiwisaver and Tertiary Education funding on the grounds of not having enough tax revenue? (You got free tertiary education John, the least you could do is invest in my generation’s education, and our future prosperity.)

Second question – Why do you hate young people? OK, that might be a little bit unfair, but someone looking in from the outside at your policies might conclude that you do. For students like us, if we are looking for a job, we face an uphill battle. (Youth unemployment is at 19%, and even well qualified people are struggling to find work, like you and I should be, come the end of our degrees. That’s a problem with your poor economic management John – not very good for a Party that prides itself on economic management.)

Third question – Why do you hate young people? This time the question is a little fairer. When you grew up, you could swim safely in our lakes and rivers, now you’re allowing this to become all but impossible for us. And when you were young you would have thought the weather came and went, but the overall climate would stay the same. But in the last nine months you subsidised big polluters by $800 million to ensure there will be more floods, more freak weather events, and no stability or certainty left in the climate for people in my generation.

Now, John – I would say – if that is your real name, there are really great ways you could change all this. You could join the Green Party or adopt our policies. The Green Party will create a future we can all look forward to.

By supporting the Green Party, you are supporting tertiary education.

By supporting the Green Party, you are supporting Green jobs for all, and a prosperous economy.

By supporting the Green Party you are supporting affordable, warm and healthy housing – and that includes the Wellington student flat.

And at this point John Key would be like “OMG, that lyk totes makes sense now. After today, which is Friday, I will get straight to work on that Green economic vision that is so much better than my current one, which is non-existant.”

Yes, my friends, that is the type of advocacy I am capable of. And that is why I am your candidate, for Victoria University, and the Green Party, this election year.

I come from a place of social and environmental advocacy that started while listening to Bomber on Channel Z – an awesome radio station, for those of you not old enough to remember. I built up a Green group at school, Onslow College out in J-ville. Now I am studying economics and environmental studies at Vic, I spent last year as VUWSA’s Environmental Officer, and this year I am campaigning for the Green Party through Greens@Vic.

Through my experiences I have worked out a magical formula, which I shall reveal to you tonight. Ready? You can change the world, learn heaps of cool shit in the process, and have an awesome time all at once.

And I can see that you all agree, which is why you are here tonight to have a good time, and start changing New Zealand for the better. So make sure you are signed up, to help the Greens@Vic out, and to help out the Wellington Greens this election year.

You will be able to join us in such projects as: votes and vino – heading out to the Wairarapa to get their votes, and to sample some of their delicious wine. The warm healthy rentals competition, where we try and find the crappest flat in Wellington, to make the point that we should set minimum standards on rental housing. We’ll be enrolling young people to vote, and we are planning on creating a student army in the two weeks after exams finish and before the election on November 26, to paint the town Green.

You can also help us with great election moments such as dressing up in costumes, secret late night missions, putting up and taking down billboards in the rain, and so many other fun fun times.

And at the end of it all, on election night when we get more Green MPs elected than ever before and have a great party, you can think “I was a part of making that happen”. So make sure you give your details to one of the people roaming around with clipboards so we can keep in touch.

We also need money, and lots of it if we are to cement ourselves firmly as New Zealand’s third political Party. We don’t have large corporate backers, so we need everything we can get. So even if you, the poor student, put the $2 you have in your pocket into one of our koha buckets tonight, you are still helping make a difference.

So what I am looking forward to? I’m looking forward to a great year. We will have good times, meet new people, and most importantly, increase the Green Party vote. Then we can get to work on creating a New Zealand we can all look forward to.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Shovelling s**t in Christchurch

Last Saturday, while visiting Christchurch, I decided to help out the Student Volunteer Army by pitching in on their final push to clear the silt. It's great that the volunteering spirit of helping others really comes to the fore in disasters - I just wish it was like that at all times.

I was assigned, with a group, a few properties along the river in New Brighton. Some of the places there have it really rough, with silt coming into their houses through their doors.

One of the places we helped out had a pile of small concrete blocks in their lounge, which used to make up their foundations. We helped them clear the blocks, leaving a big hole in the middle of the room. We then filled this hole with silt from the street, as it was similar to concrete, and would give them a smooth floor. No point in paying for concrete said the guy at the house, because all the houses in the area were in the red zone, so were due to be bulldozed in future anyway. The plan was to cover it in plastic, and put the carpet back on top.

Let's hope there's no more big ones for everyone's sake.

People in the worst affected areas are still very much doing it tough, still dealing with chemical toilets, a lot of dust, very bumpy roads, very little in the way of entertainment left, and of course fear of more quakes. There's a long road ahead.

The Canterbury quakes have underlined the importance of smart regulation, to ensure the land we build on, the buildings we build and the way we develop take into account more than just the short term gains of a developer. These quakes show how we've done some things right in the past, and other things we need to improve. Let us not forget these lessons.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Greens@Vic launch our campaign!

About a month ago, Greens@Vic had our campaign launch. Yes, the rumours are true, I am running for Parliament. A great time was had by all, and we raised over $200 on the night, and at the bake stall earlier in the day.

First Green MP Dave Clendon spoke about the importance of being enrolled to vote, and voting yes to MMP in the referendum (second pic).

Then we heard from James Shaw, the Wellington Central candidate (first pic), about how important Greens@Vic are to the campaign for at least 30 percent of the Wellington vote.

Then I spoke about the election, and our campaign at Vic (which you can now donate directly to online!). It will be a great year - an awesome time to be involved.

I will post my speech here next week when I can get access to it (am in Christchurch at the moment). There are more pics from the launch here. I'll also post any updates about the ridiculous ban on "political activity" at Vic - not sure what its meant to mean for clubs, but so far we plan on doing what we were always planning!

So stay tuned to zackarateisland for what will be an exciting campaign.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

My submission on why 50 by 2050 is not good enough for climate change

Make your submission by 28 February on this vital issue. And feel free to steal my points!

Submission on Gazetting New Zealand's 2050 Emissions Target: Minister's Position Paper

1. Summary

1.1 New Zealand should have a stronger target of 80 per cent reductions by 2050.

1.2 As a 21 year old, I am very concerned about the vast amounts of evidence of a worsening global climate change over my lifetime, and that of future generations. The evidence suggests the situation is urgent and developed countries such as New Zealand, with high per capita emissions, need to reduce emissions quickly. Therefore we need a stronger target than 50 by 50, interim targets to get there, and clear policies in place to meet those targets.

2. Stronger target

2.1 Based on the global commitment to no more than 2ºC of warming, which New Zealand supports, developed countries need to reduce their emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. As New Zealand supports this target, we should therefore commit to at least an 80 percent cut by 2050. This is in line with developed countries, such as within the European Union, which intend on doing their part to reach the global target of a 50 percent chance of warming being no more than 2ºC of warming.

2.2 Given that developing countries have an obligation, in terms of capacity, as well as in terms of equity with the majority, developing world, we should aim to reach our target in terms of gross emissions. Failing that, given our unique emissions profile, we should meet this with net emissions, only after trying to reduce our gross emissions as much as possible first.

3. Apples with apples

3.1 Our target needs to be transparent. A transparent target must be set in net emissions, or gross emissions. Gross 1990 emissions to net 2050 emissions is both non-transparent and confusing. Such an insincere target risks damaging our international reputation as clean, green and safe. A large part of our export economy is based on this brand, which is beginning to be undermined as people overseas begin to see us as insincere, given our environmental record. An 80 percent target, which compares apples with apples, will strengthen our reputation rather than erode it.

4. Interim targets

4.1 In order to meet a target 40 years from now, and to prevent runaway climate change, we need to set interim targets to meet our 2050 target. This should include 40 percent by 2020, as this is also consistent with no more than 2 degrees of warming. The Government should clear path to our 2050 target around the 2020 and 2050 targets.

5. Meeting the targets

5.1 New Zealand needs policies in place in order to meet our targets. The Minister's document identifies current Government initiatives. As identified, we need an economic instrument as well as complementary instruments in place to do so.

5.2 The current Emissions Trading Scheme needs to have a cap on emissions, which it does not, in order to meet emission reduction targets. Other complementary measures which should be considered are a moratorium on new coal mines, shifting spending on new motorways to public transport, and a focus on developing the green sector in New Zealand's economy. The large co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as identified in the Minister's paper, should be a strong motivator to reduce emissions and green our economy, beyond the obvious benefits of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Kindle me books

I got me a new Kindle in the mail yesterday from Amazon, one of the first of a slowly growing selection of ebook readers. They use E Ink screens, which don't use any battery power until the screen has to change, and are easier on the eyes as they are not backlit like the LCD screens we know and use all the time.

I got one because of the amount of screen time I have at the moment, especially with many of my readings for University being in PDF format to save paper (which is fair enough, especially given some of my courses). I'm also a bit of a techno geek.

So, what's the deal with the Kindle? Well, it's not ideal in many ways, and not necessarily A1 with the Green Party's Information Technology Policy (pictured on my Kindle). That's because Amazon has made every effort to sell their Kindle's to make money of selling ebooks off their website, where you can choose from over half a million digitised books, along with some magazine and newspaper subscriptions. They make it clear they own the software on your Kindle in the terms and conditions, and have programmed the Kindle not to accept the widely used, open source format ePub. This is the format of Google's free books, many of which are free because they are no longer under copyright. As far as I can tell, most of these types of books on Amazon, when available, cost US$0.99, though some are free.

The Green Party's IT policy is all about promoting open source software as a collaborative and sharing alternative to the relatively monopoly of Microsoft's software, which you have to buy a license to use. (For the record I use Ubuntu).

Then there is the infamous (in the US at least) time that Amazon ironically removed copies of 1984 from everyone's Kindle who bought one when it became clear that it shouldn't have been sold by Amazon in the first place. This made many question what owning a Kindle and an ebook really meant when it came to Amazon.

The good news is, that there are converters you can download online, to convert ePub and other formats to Kindle-friendly formats, and upload them to you device from your computer.

So why did I go with the Kindle, when all other main ebook readers available, including the ones for retail sale in NZ (from Whitcoulls), are open source friendly? Cause it's a good deal, one of the best, and has a browser (and I wanted to be able to read the news online for free. I'm a poor student, OK?). It cost me NZ$250, including shipping and an NZ adapter plug for the basic, Wifi model.

And there are always ways around their software trickery...