An Introduction: Matthew Whitehead

Written By: - Date published: 2:23 pm, October 25th, 2017 - 39 comments
Categories: notices, The Standard - Tags:

While others step back, new faces will step forward.

I’m Matthew Whitehead, and have been contributing guest posts for a while courtesy of our friend Weka, and was recently extended an invitation to contribute more directly here at the Standard, and I thought it would be appropriate to introduce myself briefly before blasting anything else in front of your eyeballs. I normally talk as little about myself as possible when writing, because between an almost pathologically humble father and inherently introverted nature, too many I-or-me-statements feel like either bragging or self-obsessed, but I’ll try to push through that discomfort so I can give you a sense of who I am.

Like everyone who’s politically active, I have my pet issues, ranging from the direly important like climate change, to the relatively non-urgent but still impactful, like electoral reform. I’m a current member of the Green Party, a blogger twice-over, (I started out doing explanations of how feminism is necessary for and impacts men) writer of several unreleased fictional stories, and former insurance industry drone. In terms of my personal life, I’m also a millenial (I got told during the campaign it was great to see “young people” volunteering for politics while door-knocking, even though I’m over 30) and invisible. Sorry, I mean bisexual. It can be easy to confuse the two. As someone who’s had mental health issues, I also talk about that from time to time, although like a lot of people who have issues with their health, I struggle with feeling like my problems are “not so bad,” even when I’m completely unable to leave the house due to them.

I’ve been a long time on-and-off part of the Comments section here at the Standard, since before the beginning of the last National government, initially under my political pseudonym Ari, and later under my real name. For those familiar with another Whitehead formerly in public service, yes, that’s my family.

I’m also trained as a programmer, am an enthusiast on the subject of voting systems, no seriously ask me anything, a modeler of elections, (my twitter feed has a fair amount of graphs of election probabilities on it from 2017, which correctly called NZ First deciding the government even after wrongly assuming the Māori Party would stay in due to those favourable electorate polls) science fiction enthusiast, (aren’t we all nowadays?) a liberal whose social opinions have been grounded in intersectional feminism, and on the economic end of the political spectrum, a not-entirely-ironic supporter of luxury gay space communism, no seriously, ask me about how we could make a dyson swarm to provide ridiculous quantities of energy in the long term. I constantly read books on my phone, and am descriptivist linguist and German-speaker. And yes, understanding German culture and history does inform my opinion on what’s going on in the USA right now. I don’t mind being contrary, (I may have claimed the new 2017 bird of the year was the “National Party of the bird world” on Twitter, for example) but think the label “contrarian” is for old white men trapped in the body of younger white men who never listen to anyone.

Feel free to say hi, or ask me further questions, especially on things I haven’t covered, and expect my first serious posts soon.

39 comments on “An Introduction: Matthew Whitehead”

  1. r0b 1

    Go Matthew! Welcome!

  2. roy cartland 2

    Great news, Matt. Have enjoyed your comments and occasional posts over the last few years. Looking forward to more of your scrupulous analysis.

  3. Karen 3

    I have always enjoyed your posts and comments so you becoming a regular contributor is great news. I always thought you were wrong about your reading of Māori Party poll results though!

    • Matthew Whitehead 3.1

      What, that the polls showed a favourable chance of the Māori Party winning two electorates?

      I wanted to incorporate electorate polls into my models, but I always thought they were super-risky propositions as they tended to be 400-person surveys over a ridiculously long time period. It simply may not be feasible to poll electorates in the future, I guess. Generally you can trust polls within their limitations, but I will admit that the confidence on those was so bad they weren’t worth their distance in throwing. Hindsight! Next time I’ll simply make assumptions about electorate winners seeing it’s simpler than researching poll numbers and about as accurate.

  4. Ad 4

    Good.

    I like what you write.

    What are your professional qualifications and experience?
    Trying to get a sense of where to avoid arguing with you.

    • Matthew Whitehead 4.1

      Programming and linguistics formally, although I have a fair level of expertise in data analysis, electoral systems, political science, philosophy, (you best know what you’re saying if you say “begs the question” 😉 ) fiction writing, and intellectual property law. (that last one being a requirement for people looking to self-publish)

      Argue with me on anything you want, so long as your points are salient. XD

  5. Anne 5

    Look forward to your take on the issues of the day Matthew. We’ll have to be careful when commenting that readers don’t mix them up with a certain other Matthew.

    Btw, the Kea a “National Party” bird? Never! Far too intelligent. I’ll have you know I voted for the Kea. 😡

    • Matthew Whitehead 5.1

      My analogy was that it destroys and steals property for no good reason other than its own enjoyment, which I maintain is not entirely unfounded.

      I am a Ruru fan myself, but voted strategically for the Keruru given its excellent campaign. I am willing to concede given how ridiculous 2017 has been that the Kea is actually an appropriate Bird of the Year. 😉

      • Andre 5.1.1

        Keas destroying property can give enjoyment to others.

        A long while ago at Treble Cone, someone in a new BMW convertible parked next to me. I was about to warn him about keas, then he pulled a major dick move on some other people, so I didn’t bother. Then I hurt myself skiing and came down early. The keas had already gone in through the roof and had a go at everything soft inside. It was a fun hour watching them finish off the entire inside of that car.

        • Patricia Bremner 5.1.1.1

          Andre for shame!! He would have it insured ofcourse.

        • OnceWasTim 5.1.1.2

          There ya go! I think there’s a lesson in all of that eh possum?
          I’d have done the same – except possibly if they’d given me the opportunity of an open petrol tank.

        • Matthew Whitehead 5.1.1.3

          To be fair, the National Party also destroys people’s lives to give enjoyment to others such as beneficiary-bashers, so I think you’re still arguing my case. 😉

          It’s amusing how strong a correlation there is between certain brands of car and certain unacceptable behaviour, huh?

          • Patricia Bremner 5.1.1.3.1

            Hello Mathew, yes you are right about the car brand. The owner was probably getting dividends from his insurance shares as well. Welcome aboard.

          • ropata 5.1.1.3.2

            Nope, #TeamKea is the Labour Party

            What?! #TeamKererū has been robbed! #TeamKea is an illegitimate govt and held the country to ransom. 93% of NZers didn’t vote for them, it’s fake news, and there’s an $11b hole in their budget. Good luck governing with an opposition as fat as the kererū. #BirdOfTheYear— Luke Fitzmaurice (@FitzmauriceLuke) October 23, 2017

  6. ankerawshark 6

    Hi Matthew,

    Thanks for stepping up. I look forward to your contributions.

  7. seeker 7

    Am still feeling sad that r0b is retiring but am really glad that “new faces” are stepping
    forward Matthew, thankyou.

    • Matthew Whitehead 7.1

      Yeah, I will miss hearing from r0b as well, but he deserves a break after all his hard work.

  8. Nice. All the best Matthew – great to see you will be posting more.

  9. mickysavage 9

    Welcome Matthew. I have always enjoyed your writing. Great to have you on board.

  10. Sam aka clump 10

    Hi

  11. Jilly Bee 11

    Hello Matthew, looking forward to reading your posts, with interest. You mentioned that a member of your family was involved in public service. Just wondering out loud to my self whether it was Stan Whitehead a past Labour MP for Nelson. He was the local MP when my husband emigrated in 1962 (a Ten Pound Pom) and was sent to Nelson as a Cabinetmaker & Joiner and voted for Stan while he spent two years there (must have been the 1963 general election).

    • Matthew Whitehead 11.1

      It wasn’t Stan Whitehead, as I mentioned public service, not Parliament, although I can see why you’d slot that under public service, I meant it in terms of the public service. To my knowledge there’s no relation because on the Whitehead side I’m a second-generation New Zealander, ie. my dad immigrated from Manchester by way of Australia. (I think I’m like a sixth-generation New Zealander on my mother’s side? They both met in Christchurch, when they were still married)

      It’s actually my dad you’re looking for- John Whitehead.

  12. tracey 12

    Welcome aboard

  13. eco Maori/kiwi 13

    Many thanks Matthew for steping up to the challenge and fill in the gap that rob left. I’m sure we will enjoy your work Ka Pai

  14. lprent 14

    Have fun. Especially dealing with a certain grumpy cynical old sysop in the backend.

    My kindly public online personality facade is just a inventon of intensive focus groups. Wait until you read the backend…

    Welcome. 😈

  15. mosa 15

    Matthew your writings and contributions have always engendered my respect and i am delighted that you will be contributing to this site in a more ” prominent ” position.

    Kind regards

    Mat with one “T “

  16. Cinny 16

    Awesome news Matthew, good stuff.

  17. gsays 17

    Ditto from me, I find your missives engaging, informative and easily read.
    Thanks for stepping up.
    Good luck.

    • Matthew Whitehead 17.1

      Don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being EASY to read before, that’s a new one. Usually it’s “stop being so verbose, Matt.”

  18. cleangreen 19

    Matthew can you answer the question below please;
    “What is your policy on ‘regional HB/Gisborne rail’ please”?
    ( since you are a green party member) we assume you are rail friendly?
    Incidentally also my son was living in Germany for 11 yrs as a born Kiwi, and speaks fluent German.

    Sam also is a fan of regional rail freight/passenger services as I as a ‘past green party member was.

    Sam and my wife are now NZF members as NZF are strong on rail in their policy platforms for regional rail.

    Sam wanted our Gisborne rail service re-opened as truck gridlock is destroying the environment and the lives of many in Napier as te trucks (2400) each day bring truck freight to Napier Port now since rail closure by National has made our lives unbearable.

    Question for you;
    What is your policy on ‘regional HB/Gisborne rail’ please?

    We have proven our rail freight viabily before the rail was washed out at the one km section at the Gisborne end by a $12 00 dollar economic/environmental/social 2013 viability report that was prepared by BERL economics Lt’d expert Ganesh Nana.

    We found that national stold the maintainence funding to keep 16 track workers maintaining our rail and that caused the washout of a one km section that closed our gisborne/napier rail in 2012.

    We are the worst most “isolated” region in NZ without a rail service now.
    Gisborne is more than 212 kms from the nearest bg city and major port in our regions that produce over 36% export products today.

    • Matthew Whitehead 19.1

      I can’t answer on Gisborne specifically, but I know the GP is keen on a number of regional passenger rail projects to build demand for public transport between the regions, or between the regions and cities. If there’s a viable freight line in the area that’s certainly a good prerequisite to considering a passenger service, although it’s harder to make those economical. (easier if you start considering the opportunity costs if there’s congestion on road routes people are coming through instead, but I assume that’s not the case between Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne? Usually any road congestion happens near large cities or on holiday routes at certain times of the year)

      It might be a logical branch service or future extension of the GP’s proposed Ruahine Runner service between Manuwatu and Hawke’s Bay. Honestly, I’d flick Julie Anne a message on social media asking if they’re considering it, she’s generally really open with discussing this sort of thing. The Green Party is really accessible with policy questions like this because they value supporters more than anything else.

      The GP policy is generally to consider public transport projects on the same cost-benefit basis as roading projects, or vice-versa, essentially an evidence-based approach. Previously road users have been “compensated” in BCR formulas for their time lost driving, effectively subsidizing people wasting their time in cars, which is pretty ridiculous. This does mean, however, that there might be vital roading projects or other public transport priorities that would come first before rail to Gisborne if it’s less economical.

      Also, guten Morgen to Sam. 🙂

      • cleangreen 19.1.1

        Thanks Matthew,

        yes we were always close up with Julie Anne and she has been to gisborne over several years speaking in front of Local Councils about re-opening the rail, and last year her party pledged to re-open the Gisborne napier rail services again.

        We were very close also to NZF and Winston, as they were always fighting for all regional rail.

        We have for 17yrs (while a green Party member then) been fighting for improvements of the Gisborne service, as several private companies had removed a lot of sidings cutting off customers so we need these improvements and sent today a letter to our new “minister of rail” Phil Twyford for his input again.

        I add this letter for your advisement of what we need now done to get our rail back to “viability, using the old Labour/NZF/greens policy of including “environmental/economic and socially responsible planning.” and to purge all the national “sleeping cells” management from our Government agencies Joyce had installed for National’s future use against us all.

        TO; Hon’ Phil Twyford. Labour MP. Minister of Transport.
        • Phil Twyford: Minister of Housing and Urban Development; Transport
        https://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/other/new-government-ministers-revealed/ar-AAu0w2X

        25th October 2017.

        Dear Phil.

        Firstly our community sends our congratulations on your new position as our new Minister of Transport.

        Here below also is a copy of what we sent you 20/10/17 and to your colleges.

        We are so happy you were offered and accepted the position of Minister of Transport now in Government.

        We wish to begin the discussion with you about the recovery and resurrection of the Gisborne Napier rail freight and passenger services as we had asked of you when you attended the meeting with us back on 22nd march 2012 in Gisborne when we drive you around the area showing you the rail lay out there and locations where rail spurs were needed to be returned into eight customers then willing to use Kiwi rail freight services to Napier.

        In Napier we meet with Stuart Nash several times a year about transport matters, and he refers to me as ‘the rail man.’

        You may recall in Gisborne in March 2012 that the rain was falling very hard later before we saw you off at the airport that day.

        Two days of heavy rain after that day is what caused the washouts on the line and you went to bat for us and wrote your article in the Labour press later in 2013

        After March 2012 you was on the Kiwi rail financial reporting procedure as a member of the Transport Select Committee, and you witnessed Kiwirail admit the rail washouts were caused by the loss of funding to maintain the culverts and drains, that the washouts had resulted. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1302/S00183/kiwirail-admits-lack-of-maintenance-led-to-wash-out.htm

        See below your 2013 Labour press release for review,

        Very sincerely we are very positive that you are now our ‘Minister of Transport’, so we offer our local support for the ‘on the ground improvements’ that can now be made to restore the rail services to a high standard as we have a lot of local expertise here to make it a success.

        We would be keen to see a new position as “Minister of Rail”, as we now own the rail system so return of a rail minister is needed.

        You was great under the last time you was shadow transport spokesperson, and accepted our invitation to come to Gisborne in march 2012 then for discussion about rail.

        Please read our blog as below about certain Managers positions that we consider should be reviewed, as several bad managers are now inside some agencies dealing with transport should be given your serious consideration.

        We will ask you to accept an invitation again to come back to Gisborne & Napier again after the long five years since your last rail visit.

        Wouldn’t it be fitting if you returned to Gisborne to reopen the rail services that the first labour Prime minister Michael Joseph Savage began from Wairoa in 1937 and completed in 1942?

        We have much to catch up on.
        A very warm regards to you,

        —————————————————————————————————–

        http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1302/S00183/kiwirail-admits-lack-of-maintenance-led-to-wash-out.htm
        Thursday, 14 February 2013, 1:35 pm
        Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party
        Phil Twyford
        Transport Spokesperson
        14 February 2013
        KiwiRail admits lack of maintenance led to wash-out
        KiwiRail has admitted that its failure to maintain old and damaged culverts was behind the wash out that closed the Gisborne-Napier line, while cuts to its maintenance budget are putting the network at further risk, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says.
        “Across the country KiwiRail missed its target of replacing 71 old culverts last year, and only replaced 49. This is cause for alarm.
        “The Gisborne-Napier wash-out shows what happens when essential maintenance work is not carried out.
        “KiwiRail cut and deferred $200 million of network maintenance last year. At the very time it needs to be upgrading its network and improving efficiency, the Government’s unrealistic ‘Turn Around Plan’ is putting enormous stress on the organisation and forcing it to cut maintenance.
        “KiwiRail has told Parliament’s transport committee it has 12,197 rail line culverts around the country and has done a risk assessment identifying 53 high priority culverts but ‘…in spite of every effort to mitigate risk, some incidents of wash out may still occur…’
        “National’s plan for rail is not workable. KiwiRail has missed its financial targets for two of the last three years. It is being forced to make cuts that are a false economy.
        “At a time when the Government is wasting billions of dollars on its ‘motorways of madness’, it makes no sense to cripple the national rail line.”
        ENDS

        ———————————————————————————————————
        25th October 2017.
        Public COMMUNITY letter

        UPDATED;
        TO all Executive MP’s/Ministers of the new labour Lead Government.
        Firstly we congratulate all your wise choices that has given us a ‘new dawn’ of change to a warm, caring, inclusive, considerate Government for our future.

        Our message blog (below) has been sent to you for real change for today to consider.

        Please seriously consider those points for our regional communities environmental & social wellbeing for our future please.

        We must have this new Labour lead Gov’t to swiftly purge all former National cling-on’s from all government positions and agencies and SOE’s such as Kiwi rail as these National cling-ons were placed inside kiwi rail and it’s own board to kill our rail system off and isolate the management from public contact, this we know as we have emails from kiwi rail management saying the public have been excluded from contacting all Kiwi rail management last year. Top Board of Kiwi rail appointees by National were Paula Rebstock must be fired now as she was so toxic to Kiwi rail’s survival. One senior Manager inside Kiwirail has given our community deep concerns is a man Mr David Gordon. – He is a man who will not meet any community groups when we have asked for meetings, we had had no response at all.

        David Gordon Kiwi rail Operations Manager is becoming unable to work with for our communities, as he prefers to work in a separate manner so we have no consultation with this man as we always had previously with all former managers & past CEO Jim Quinn, but now all Managers are denying us any contact. The same can be said of Kiwi rail CEO Peter Reidy. At no time has Peter Reidy accepted any meeting or consultations with our community groups.

        NZTA/Kiwi rail/Ministry of Transport all must loose their top National Party placed management and be replaced by labour Lead appointed administrative positions.

        A new Minister of rail must be announced by Labour lead government to protect our own Rail company again and setup to restore our regional freight and passenger rail services again.
        The Ministry of the Environment Management must loose all national party appointees also.

        The Parliamentary commissioner for the Environment must re-instate a labour chosen appointee as national have just chosen a former national MP as the new commissioner for the Environment so that is such a bad move and must be stopped.

        “Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment” (PCE) is one of the most important agencies Labour must return full funding to provide complete public services to and conduct regional studies on all environmental issues of concerns to all communities again as labour had set up this agency when last in Government.

        Also included must be similar changes in all Regional Government Management positions as those National appointed managers were becoming un-cooperative with the communities they are supposed to serve.

        We must re-instate the Ministry of Transport as “principal advisory” to Government again, as it was during the last labour Government.
        National had deliberately reduced Ministry of Transport to a door stop for government policies under National and have deliberately advanced NZTA as ‘king of transport’ which is wrong as NZTA is only simply an ‘RCA’ or a (road controlling agency)

        Next we need to return all Government documents to the Former labour government policy platforms & positions regarding the insertion of the “policies for agencies to have regard for “Environmental and Social policy planning” inside all documents supplied to public, Local, and central governments.

        This will ensure we move to save our society’s environment, health and regional wealth of our NZ Nation again after a painful nine year loss to us all.
        A very warm regards to you,

        • Matthew Whitehead 19.1.1.1

          Best of luck, despite being a Wellingtonian and determined city-dweller, I am 100% behind the concept of regional rail and bus services, and improved transport for the regions. We can’t forever rely on driving everywhere, even if we can make electric cars running on renewable energy a practical option for regional drivers.

          I also think with both Julie Anne and Shane Jones as transport associates, we’re going to see strong advocacy within that ministry for regional public transport. It’s too bad we didn’t have the numbers to ask for the primary role in Transport, or even to snag energy as well, but that’s something to work on in 2020.

          Kia ora.

  19. cleangreen 20

    Matthew correction
    BERL report was a $12 000 dollar report not 1200 dollars as said before. (It was not cheap)

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