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Culture of secrecy

Written By: - Date published: 6:31 pm, July 18th, 2008 - 59 comments
Categories: national - Tags: , ,

It’s 4.45 on a Friday afternoon and National has just released its Outdoor Recreation policy. It’s another one page wonder, only this time they haven’t even managed to fill the page. But that’s not what interests me. What interests me is the manner in which National has chosen to release it.

See, if you’re trying to kill media coverage of a policy and avoid any awkward questions then just before 5pm on a Friday is the perfect time to do it. In fact, the only time anyone does do it is when they’re trying to bury a story.

This isn’t the first time National’s tried to put out policy under the radar and with a minimum of detail, and others have started to notice this pattern too.

You have to ask yourself, what is it that National is trying to hide?

59 comments on “Culture of secrecy ”

  1. Monty 1

    Culture of Secrecy? you bunch of Clowns – it is not secret or hidden – this is a relatively minor policy – I have read through it – and as a keen Fisherman (fresh and salt water) as well as an occassional hunter (mmmmmm bambi for dinner) it contains pretty much all the useful information I need. If I want the detail then I can always ring Eric Roy or send him an email asking additional questions – but this tells me what I ned to know – so great – another National Policy I agree with.

    I, like 99% of the population, do not want pages of detail – the executive summary is fine for me.

  2. Tane 2

    Monty. The general theory is that when you release a policy you’re doing so because you think it’s going to benefit the country and make people want to vote for you. You’ll certainly want to get some positive media coverage so you can explain your plan to the voters. Y’know, organise a press conference, take some questions, make sure you leave plenty of time for the telly to get you smiling and repeating your key messages for the six o’clock news.

    I’m just interested in why National would decide to release its policy via press release just as journalists are knocking off on a Friday afternoon, and well after the deadline for the 6pm bulletin. Media are interested too. Aren’t you?

  3. Tane 3

    I also think you may be guilty, Monty, of taking my question as applying only to this policy release.It’s not. This isn’t the first National policy to be released under the radar and with the minimum of publicity – pretty much all of them have been. For a party that invests so much in PR this has to be a conscious decision. Again, why?

  4. sweeetd 4

    Tane, interesting bit in the back pages of the business herald today. Clark has been holding the monday press gallery later and later, so much so its after the 6pm news. Pot kettle black et tu Tane?

  5. frog 5

    Hey Tane, good post. I reckon the answer is these two bits:

    Change the focus of Conservation Boards and rename them Conservation & Recreation Boards. Membership of these boards will reflect the diversity of recreation pursuits.

    What does this mean for the current conservation focus? Should a conservation board really be filled with fishermen and hunters rather than conservationists?

    Ensure that public access is achieved through negotiated agreements between landowners and local Conservation & Recreation Boards.

    Public access across private land is always a tricky issue. Putting the issue in the hands of the wrong type of negotiation process could lock up a lot of land from public access?

    I’ll be interested to see what debate you raise.

  6. sweeetd 6

    Frog

    “What does this mean for the current conservation focus? Should a conservation board really be filled with fishermen and hunters rather than conservationists?”

    Yes, why not?

  7. frog 7

    Currently DOC says of a conservation board’s membership:

    Members may have knowledge of nature conservation, natural earth and marine sciences, cultural heritage, recreation, tourism, the local community and Maori perspectives.

    and

    An interest in conservation is the first requirement[expected of a board member].

    National’s proposed changes could mean, and it’s hard to tell I admit, ignoring “nature conservation, natural earth and marine sciences, cultural heritage… tourism, the local community and Maori perspectives” in favour solely of recreation. It seems like there might still be a lot of babies in that dirty bath water you’re about to throw out there Sweeetd.

  8. Monty 8

    So Tane – You bitch and moan when National release policy and then you bitch and moan when they don’t – If National don’t release a positive policy such as this (Plenty of recreational fishers and hunters will like it) then that is their loss.

    I like the idea that the Greenies are not going to be the only people making decisions on conservation boards – thanks frog for pointing that out = maybe we will see a more balanced approach in the future.

    By the way – when is Labour going to start releasing their policy – you demand policy from the Nats, why not demand policy from your mates on the 9th floor? Or has it not yet been written by Labour’s (and Winston’s) wealthy covert backers?

  9. sweeetd 9

    Frog

    Your assumption is that fisherman and hunters do not have a vested interest in conservation. If this is you attutude, than maybe its a good idea that ‘conservationists’ not in the board. BTW, WTF is a conservationist? What qualifications or skills do you need to be a ‘conservationist’? And why should only ‘conservationists’ have any say over the environment?

  10. frog 10

    No, you’re missing my point. The boards ARE already diverse. The proposed National policy appears to want to make them less diverse so that the focus is primarily on recreation. I’m not saying the boards should only contain conservationists, but it does seem a good starting point for a conservation board?

  11. sweeetd 11

    Frog

    You haven’t answered my question. What is a conservationist?

  12. Quoth the Raven 12

    I enjoy fishing Monty (though I don’t get enough time for it) and I could criticise National’s policy here but there just isn’t anything here. There is FA detail. A focus on conservation is important for fisheries unless you want to be fishing where the stocks are depleted. Recreational fishers have nothing to fear from conservationists. I beleive National policies will really only regress the progress that has been made in marine conservation in favour of commercial not recreational fishers (as big business is always National’s focus). The same commercial fishers who deplete fish stocks making it harder for recreational fishers such as myself to catch anything worthwhile. Though I do agree with their opposition to the introduction of recreational sea fishing licences.

  13. RedLogix 13

    Monty,

    This isn’t policy. It’s vague feel good apple pie stuff so lacking detail that it’s almost meaningless.

    The taxpayer has been paying quite a few National MP’s and staffers to function as the largest portion of HM Loyal Opposition for almost 9 years now. Do you think this the best they can hand in just months before an election? Really?

  14. sweeetd 14

    Tane

    On on a friday night Winston releases the fact the he did get $100,000 from Owen Glen. Pot kettle black et tu Tane?

    [Tane: Of course that’s what Peters was doing. But, um, I’m not Winston Peters, nor do I have anything to do with Winston Peters. So what’s your point?]

  15. Macro 15

    Red
    Actually for those who say they will be voting National – probably this is about all the policy they can handle!
    They don’t seem to be able to think beyond – “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME!” and a nice vague statement saying “Everything is gonna be fine!!” is about all they want to know!

  16. Ari 16

    BTW, WTF is a conservationist? What qualifications or skills do you need to be a ‘conservationist’? And why should only ‘conservationists’ have any say over the environment?

    A conservationist is someone who works or has worked to conserve our natural resources, such as unspoiled environments like our national parks, endangered animal species or plants, prevent the pollution or unnecessary development of such areas, etc…

    As to why it is important that conservationists have the ability to overturn use of those resources- simple. Much of our society is invested in using up these types of resources as fast as possible. Conservationists want to make sure there are enough left to create a stable ecosystem, and so in generations to come New Zealanders can still find the distinctive plants and animals that their parents enjoyed while walking in the bush.

    Giving environmentalists a right of refusal on some decisions means we have some checks and balances against not only corporate, but also recreational interests damaging or endangering important natural resources that we might want to save for future generations.

  17. Hey Ari Fairy – Do DOC conservationists put 1080 in their cuppa tea at smoko time ?
    Hypercritical tree hugging bastards.

  18. Tane – are you going to apply the same strict test to Winston Peters for his revelation tonight (well after 5pm) that Owen Glenn DID donate $100k to the NZ First leader?

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2008/07/peters-did-receive-100k.html

    [Tane: Yes. It’s the exact same principle at work.]

  19. sweeetd 19

    Ari,

    A ‘conservationist’ according to your explantion sounds just like a farmer.

    What right gives you ‘right of refusal’? What makes you a better protector of the environment than anyone else?

    What makes corporate, or recreational interests ‘bad’?

  20. Macro 20

    Sweeetd

    “A ‘conservationist’ according to your explantion sounds just like a farmer.”

    IF ONLY!!! Our lakes and rivers might not be so polluted, Our wetland areas would be returned to their original state and not run over by cattle for the little feed they do give. Our hillsides might be returned to natural forest and the erosion from marginal farm land might cease. – I could go on…

  21. sweeetd 21

    Marco

    Where do you think all our monies come from to fund this socialist paradise, if not from these farmers?

  22. Draco TB 22

    I’ve got a new moto for National

    National – Government by Stealth

  23. Macro 23

    lol!
    Oh god!! NOT the “Farmers are the backbone of the country!” arguement again – I thought that was dead and buried long ago!
    Just ask yourself how much money does a cattle beast standing in mud earn? – how much is the sheep in the marginal hillside earning?
    Our biggest overseas earner at the moment is tourism. And I don’t think overseas visitors come to see land slides, boggy paddocks and mud filled rivers.
    Actually our economy moved on from an agriculture based economy years ago – but you probably haven’t noticed. Hey I’m not saying that agriculture isn’t important. I do own a farm as it happens. But I don’t see myself as any more important or better than anyone else.

  24. sweeetd

    Ari,

    A ‘conservationist’ according to your explantion sounds just like a farmer.

    What right gives you ‘right of refusal’? What makes you a better protector of the environment than anyone else?

    What makes corporate, or recreational interests ‘bad’?

    Except conservationists are dealing in a wider perspective than 1 properties boundy fence, and one financial year.

  25. Lew 25

    QTR: There’s no such thing as `enough time for fishing’ 🙂

    Yes, I like to fish and hunt, too – been doing so since I could walk, though access to hunting territory is hard for townie kids. To be honest this policy release is motherhood and apple pie. There’s nothing in here to vote against – nothing which is even remotely controversial.

    What this means is that people tend to revert to their preconceptions about National policy – Frog gets suspicious about their conservation credentials; Tane presumes they’re being sneaky devious bastards, sweeetd asks people to prove counterfactuals as to why everything won’t be just swell, and D4J rails against special interest groups for no particular reason. Nothing to see here.

    What I’d like to see in an outdoor rec policy isn’t too far beyond this – the main things I’d want to see different are in resource management and land access. is stricter enforcement of bag limits, more frequent local rahui or closed seasons in order to maintain stocks (like at Cockle Beach in south Auckland), and some sort of system to incentivise hunting `pest’ animals like rabbits, goats and possums. None of this is going to happen because TBPFH it’s small beer compared to real political issues, but wouldn’t it be nice if this policy made a point of difference?

    L

  26. Lew hear you can get pretty good prices for possum fur these days

  27. Razorlight 27

    Macro

    And how would we survive. Honestly, who do you think earns the bacon in New Zealand.

  28. sweeetd 28

    KITNO

    “Except conservationists are dealing in a wider perspective than 1 properties boundy fence, and one financial year”

    And farmers can’t think beyond their boundry fence?, beyond one financial year? They run a farm FFS, projecting returns beyond one year, and taking into acount issues happeing outside the boundry fence are what happens on a daily basis. Do you think they want to ruin their financial futures, for themselves and their children?, who, more than likely will inherit the farm? Farmers also have a montery investment in the land, how much money have conservationists invested?

    Marco

    show me the figures that tourism brings more than farming. Fontera has 23% of the worlds dairy trade.

  29. John 29

    They did the same thing yesterday at about the same time. They released two old policies and packaged between them a new one about trades in schools. Talk about under the radar. There is something very odd a foot. Why is John Key so ashamed of his policies?

  30. How many years till unsustainable diary farming on the canterbury planes pollutes Christchurch’s underground drinking water?

  31. sweeetd 31

    John

    How is it under the radar if you picked up on it?

  32. Razorlight 32

    John, why do you think Key is ashamed of his policies?

  33. sweeetd 33

    KITNO

    “How many years till unsustainable diary farming on the canterbury planes pollutes Christchurch’s underground drinking water?”

    I don’t know. How many?

  34. NX 34

    Honestly… Tane, one page is all you need to detail your policy.

    They can’t exactly describe the mechanisms for how to achieve their objectives because they don’t have access to government departments.

    Plus, it would make an otherwise boring document even more dry – something you don’t want when promoting your policies.

  35. sweeetd

    KITNO

    “How many years till unsustainable diary farming on the canterbury planes pollutes Christchurch’s underground drinking water?’

    I don’t know. How many?

    I think I know where the information is but will take me some time so I’ll do it in the morning, for now I’ll just say its X years, you can reply that its communist propaganda, ivory tower self interest or what ever way you plan on denying it and ill get back to you with the numbers.

  36. Razorlight 36

    KITNO

    If that is the case then Christchurch has x years to find a new water source or way of keeping the pollution out.

    Fonterra and its farmers are responsible for money pouring into Christchurh. Fix the water, don’t kill the cow.

  37. Innocent bystander 37

    None of this is particularly controversial and National has been signalling it for a while. Conservation Boards already have a diverse membership that is beyond just tree huggers and recreation is already part of their mandaate. All they are proposing to do is add representation from hunting and fishing groups to the wide mix that is already there. Existing groups include tourism, local government, iwi, trampers, particular communties as well as conservation. This does not mean that hunting and fishing will be running the show they will have to sit around a table and vote or acheive consensus like everyone else.

    There are two areas where National may come unglued. The negotiation of access over private land needs to be with either DOC or local government because Conservation Boards currently do not have funding, expertise or even a mandate to maintain access ways. They are just an advisory body (with some actual powers also e.g. signing off management plans) that meets every couple of months so that DOC can front up to the community.

    Secondly, its all very well giving hunting groups management over conservation land but the law will need to be changed for them to be able to do much with it…and I’d be interested to know which areas they have in mind…do we want any significant public land controlled by one narrow interest group?

    It does sound a bit motherhood and apple pie at the moment and they may have other surprises in store that they aren’t talking about.

  38. Felix 38

    Razorlight

    You think money is more important than water?

    You’ve just shown why people like yourself should never be allowed near a conservation board.

    And for that matter why you have no business discussing this issue with adults. Just a waste of electricity responding to you really.

  39. Razorlight 39

    Felix that is not what I said at all. Typical leftist spin.

    Learn to read. I was suggesting fixing the problem, not cutting the water off. Thats right, first approach from left handbook is attack attack attack.

    Some clown has come up with an unsubstantiated claim that Christchurch water is at threat due to Dairy Farming. If there is such a threat we need to work out a solution so the water is not at threat. That solution is not and cannot possibly be taking away the Dairy Farming.

    Lets work together on this one. We should not cut off the source of economic prosperity because there is a potential environmental problem. We should work with the economic source to ensure there will not be the problem.

  40. RedLogix 40

    Razor,

    Public water supply is something I happen to know about. To give some perspective here, about half of all your current rates bill goes towards all aspects of water supply, treatment, distribution, waste and stormwater. The actual cost of producing bulk water supply is fairly low, usually around the 3-6 cents/m3 mark, but by the time you include fixed overheads and capital costs the total cost is in the range of to 30-80 cent/m3. (A lot depends on the age, nature and size of the system in question.)

    Bulk water supply is therefore a capital intensive business. The problem in Cantebury is that dairy farming puts huge amounts of nitrates and other undesirables into the water table. Some of that will eventually reach the unsealed aquifers that ChCh currently relies upon for it’s public bulk water supply. Once it reaches a certain level you either have to build new treatment plants in order to filter these new contaminants, or find a new raw water supply source. Both of these options would be expensive to build and operate.

    If we do nothing about dairy farming, and allow it unrestrained expansion on the Canterbury Plains, then no doubt a lot of farmers will make a lot of money; but the ChCh ratepayers will finish up picking up a big tab to pay for the resulting costs. And when that day arrives no doubt you would be here moaning about ‘out of control’ local govt spending and record rate rises.

  41. vto 41

    re the original post – releasing things just before the weekend to avoid media scrutiny is common. EVERY party does it.

    Just like Winston admitted late Friday afternoon that he had received $100,000 from Glenn.

    Its a bloody joke, a lot of political theatrics. Every politician is caling out every other politician at the moment for naughty things and then those politicians go and do the exact same things themselves some short time later. Bunch of fools – do they think the public don’t notice their CONSTANT hypocrisy and double standards? And they wonder why they are rated lower than second hand car dealers for integiry and credibility? (apologies to second hand car dealers).

    [Tane: Yes, that is what every political party does with issues they’re trying to bury. Winston proved my point. The question is, why is National trying to bury its policies?

  42. vto 42

    Oh, and I see a favouriute topic of mine – dairying in Canterbury.

    Clever aren’t they the old farmers – take some dry dirt and add water to get growth. Bloody smart. Deserve a prize for innovation.

    At some point in the future though in order to get growth, which is what this is about nothing else, they will have to think outside the square and achieve growth by some other means than adding water. So with that absolute truth there are then two options…

    1. Use every single drop of water available until it is all used and the rivers etc f&*##@ed, then think outside the square, or;

    2. Think outside the square now and leave the waterways as they are.

    Only one difference between the two unavoidable options – f%&*ed rivers. Good one.

    BTW, exact same argument and logic applies to hydro power.

    Also, remember the good old days – you know – plunder every resource until there is none left. Used to be whales, kauri, seals, forest cover everywhere. Our history is that of over-exploitation. It is happenning again right now, when we think we know more than they did in the good old days.

  43. Note to Tane, You might be interested in Barry Soper’s little piece to camera on Sky News yesterday where he points out that all of the policy releases have been distributed to the press gallery by email, the leader has not been on hand to answer questions, and in fact was boarding a plane as a recent one was released.

  44. Canterbury Rivers are dying but the cows and local tribe are thriving!!

    What a f##ked up country run by dumb bells !!Proud to be a kiwi – f##k off mate !!!

  45. lprent 45

    What I’d be interested in is the details about the composition of the Conservation boards.

    My immediate impression was that it was a handy way to stack the boards with tourism operators. They’d love to get access to more of the national parks for instance. Similarly the opening up more campsites (and presumably cabins etc) – perhaps in the national parks for the benefit of the tourism operators?

    In the absence of detail about who National are planning on putting on the boards, you’d have to take that as a possibility. There is a presumption from the comments above that they’d put in hunters and fishers, but they don’t say that.

    I make the presumption that if something is not explicitly stated as being disallowed, then it is possible. Which is why lawyers, engineers, policy makers, effective managers and programmers are not interested in executive summaries. Those are things that you give to the idiots to keep them happy (and out of the way), but should not be allowed to form a basis for decisions.

  46. Sorry I’m pretty sure there is and exact number out but cant seem to find it, redlogix explains it all very well. And tell you what, ECAN looks like a pretty good example of what happens when you put farmers in charge of conservation.

    Just like Winston admitted late Friday afternoon that he had received $100,000 from Glenn.

    Its a bloody joke, a lot of political theatrics. Every politician is caling out every other politician at the moment for naughty things and then those politicians go and do the exact same things themselves some short time later. Bunch of fools – do they think the public don’t notice their CONSTANT hypocrisy and double standards? And they wonder why they are rated lower than second hand car dealers for integiry and credibility? (apologies to second hand car dealers).

    I think its kind of telling over on kiwiblog that they have absolutley no conception of a blind anonymous donation. Not defending Peters, haven’t kept up with the sortry, just saying.

  47. vto 47

    Hey Standardites, how come no post on Winston Bjeikle-Peterson? All very quiet. There some BIG issues. Come on, crank it up!

    The hypocrisy (unless there is more bullshit to come out) is screaming at an ear-splitting pitch.

    [lprent: You know the standard response to that. But I’d also point you to the About. Exactly how does this concern the broad labour movement?]

  48. ak 48

    vto: The hypocrisy…. is screaming at an ear-splitting pitch.

    You’re right veets.

    For months, the FatNact party and its scungy rat-pack have been fighting tooth and claw to allow their wealthy mates to fund their propaganda barrages (as they have forever).

    Now they’re suddenly foaming with rage because another party has (allegedly, for a piffling amount) done exactly what they’ve been desperately screaming to do themselves!

    Hypocrisy indeed.
    But what they’re forgetting is, Winston is likeable – unlike their own effete insurance salesman with all the gravitas of a used tissue, Winnie has the charisma and credibility of experience.

    Enough people remember the Winebox – the disgusting tory payback to their rich mates after privatising our assets – and the way Winnie staunched-out the moguls: this episode will be seen as NatAct bashing a good man when his mother’s just passed away.

    The tories have once more reminded voters of the power of Big Money, Winnie will now rise again in the polls, and the possibility of a post-election deal with the Nactoids just got even slimmer.

    By all means veets, crank it up!

  49. ak, Too right! One right-wing blog today was banging on about how Owen Glenn would not have had any conversation with Peters without making sure the donation came up — as though they could prove this. But what about all those large donations going to the National Party through the Waitemata Trust? Are we supposed to believe that donors to the Nats are different?

  50. Rex Widerstrom 50

    You know the standard response to that.

    What a pity. And you’ve got the perfect title for it too, right above this post. It’s concerned the “broader labour movement” for days, when you thought you could “spinbust” it. Now suddently it doesn’t?

    If you’re too busy, or have suddenly lost interest, I’ll write one for you.

    And might I suggest that if the “broad labour movement” is at all concerned about its credibility, it had better get concerned. Because with Winston in mourning it’s your political leadership that’s about to get covered in buckets of odium on this.

  51. QoT 51

    National “values families” and wants to “build opportunity for all”? How amazingly original! This’ll definitely set them apart from all the “hate families and think opportunities suck” parties.

  52. higherstandard 52

    Ak

    In relation to the “winebox” enquiry I seem to remember that at the end of the day it didn’t disclose a single illegal act. What it did expose was a damn unethical rorting of the tax system, where basically the Cook Islands supplied false tax certificates for a fee, allowing tax to be avoided in NZ.

    Have you also forgotten that this occurred during the last Labour government in NZ and was not as you suggest some sort of ‘Tory’ payback.

    And as for Winston he is and he remains contemptible…. but he is a political survivor and I wouldn’t bet my house against him getting back in yet again. I’d love both Labour and National leadership come out and say that NZ First would be the last cab of the rank if they need a coalition partner – but neither will.

  53. randal 53

    I think Winnie is a top bloke. whatever his foibles and peccadilloes he has managed to keep the tight underpants brigade on the verge of apoplexy for many years. he needs a medal…go winnie!!!!

  54. Rex Widerstrom 54

    randal, I know a bloke who, years ago, had 50 high-gloss photos of Winnie printed at his own expense, hoping to sell them to his supporters and donate the money to the party.

    He still has 49 of them left (he took the first one for himself – I think it now graces a dartboard). According to the bloke Winnie agreed to refund him the cost if they didn’t sell. He’s still waiting for the money (hey, maybe that’s what Owen Glenn wanted for his $100k! 100,000 autographed photos! Get signing, Winnie!).

    I’m sure for $50 you can have the lot of them. Would you like me to put you in touch? Just think, you could have one in each room of the house, one in your wallet, one glued to one of those bobbleheads on the car dash, and still have enough left over to make laminated placemats and coasters.

    Unfortunately the weight of the paper and the glossy finish makes them unsuitable for stitching together in a strip to be made use of in the obvious manner 😀

  55. lprent 55

    Rex:
    I don’t read the posts a lot – too busy with other code and the comments. But what I have seen has essentially been the posters asking why National has been asking Labour to look at the finances of NZ First.

    It is a question (as a NZLP member) I’d like an answer to myself. While I’m at it, I’d also like a look at the finances of National on the same basis. Unfortunately a Act written by national, the Electoral Act 1993, forbids me from doing so. It is illegal to look at anonymous donations to either party.

    Now it turns out that they were looking in the wrong place anyway. Winston received a donation that he didn’t know about (on the same kind of basis) for his legal fees – it wasn’t to NZF. I still fail to see why I, or for that matter the posters, should be that interested. It was done under exactly the same kind of Chinese wall as the EA.

    The only reason I’m interested is because I am personally of the opinion that all donations around politics should be fully public. But that was the law, and parts of it were also carried through into the ERA, damnit. I hope that one of the posts will be about that because I still think that allowing anonymous donations of any size or type sucks. But that is my opinion and I still haven’t gotten a good idea about exactly why it wasn’t in the ERA.

    If you want to write a guest post – then have a talk to the other e-mail address on the Contacts page. I don’t do that type of decision.

  56. vto 56

    Try Peters’ excuse with the IRD and see how far you get.

    The guy is a joke

  57. amk 57

    I would have thought that ramming massively flawed EFB legislation through just prior to Christmas should take the timing cake.

    Well, it did until Winnie decided to make an embarrassing public admission about his ‘pick prick’ donation/lie/deceive/defection … within hours of his mothers’ passing. Disgraceful. And he props up this government. Speaks volumes.

  58. Quoth the Raven 58

    I think you’re the disgrace for saying that. I don’t like Winston but I wouldn’t say shit like that.

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