Hard News by Russell Brown


Local journeys on the cusp of Waterview

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a post called Two roads lead to the city about transport infrastructure near where I live in Point Chevalier. It was principally about the upgrade to the St Lukes interchange in support of the Waterview Connection, but also about the "other" road into town from here: Meola. We're now approaching significant junctures for both.

The interchange was officially completed last year – except it wasn't. It now looks like this (actually, it looks a bit crappier now).

What you're seeing in the photographs is the interchange's dead lane. Auckland Transport's engineers fought for two right-turn lanes from the St Lukes bridge on to the motorway west, reasoning that the interchange would become a crucial entry-point for the northwestern motorway leading to Waterview and its promise of really quick trips to the airport.

But the engineers made the fatal assumption that they could make their plan work by converting the free left turn at the top of the St Lukes off-ramp to a Give Way and getting rid of the slip-lane that was there. They couldn't. Without the slip-lane, the intersection was a disaster and traffic backed up onto the motorway every evening.

So the slip-lane was restored – and the left-hand lane, the would-be through lane, had nowhere to go. One one level, I love it: it's a brilliantly large target to head for as a right-turning cyclist joining the northwestern cyleway to the city. But I'm genuinely puzzled that this multi-million dollar fuckup has not been the subject of headlines. Apparently only modest increases in the cost of public transport initiatives meet this benchmark.

The $85 million interchange project has created an additional motorway lane from the city to Waterview, and there are now shared paths on either side of the bridge, a a rather folorn painted cycle lane across it and a handy left-turn slip lane towards Point Chev. But as things stand, the principal goal of widening the bridge, to increase onramp capacity to Waterview, hasn't been – and probably can't be – achieved. It'll get nasty.

But the really chilling thought is that the the lane they can't work out what the hell to do with is the lane Auckland Transport's engineers wanted to cut down six old pohutukawa for. Imagine that.

The pohutukawa were, fortunately, saved by a group of Aucklanders who cared – the foremost among them being Jolisa Gracewood. Jolisa recently wrote Part 1 of a fascinating backgrounder on Point Chevalier, to provide some context for public submissions on the proposed walking and cycling upgrade from Point Chev to Westmere, which close this weekend.

In the backgrounder Jolisa makes a very interesting point about Meola Road, the "other" road to the city in my 2014 post:

The other thing there wasn’t, until the 1940s, is a car-friendly connection to Westmere. Meola Rd used to be two dead-ends connected by a rubbish dump and a footbridge. Now, it sees about 13-14,000 vehicle movements a day, as a major alternative route to Great North Road and the motorway.

She even provides a picture, from the Auckland Star in 1931.

The road through the old dump is a strange beast; an example of the way we just kept loading duties on some streets. There's a hell of a lot goes on on the relatively short stretch from Meola Creek to the Westmere roundabout. It's not only a major motor vehicle route, it's a staple route for weekend road cyclists – and it's a great big parking lot on Saturday and Sunday mornings, for sportspeople and their families and people who exercise their dogs on Meola Reef. It's further complicated by land constraints, two narrow creek crossings and even the fact that it touches a boundary between local board areas.

(This last appears to have been the reason that the incline at the east end, up to Westmere, went unrepaired for years. I may be able to take some credit for the fact that it s now properly sealed, having raised it with Eden Albert local board member Graeme Easte when I wrote the 2014 post.)

There have been – and will be more – complaints about the loss of parking. But here's the thing: Meola Road really needs to lose some parking. It's not just the danger for cyclists, although I'd almost forgotten how hairy it is having to pull out in front of following traffic to get around parked cars during the week until someone else pointed it out. It's that every weekend it's a freaking parked-up nightmare for everyone. Buses (and in some parts even cars) don't have room to pass in opposite directions. Doors are always opening, it's easy to clip someone's wing mirror driving by and small children dart out between vehicles. And if course, there's always the clown who won't slow down.

But I'm not the "Let them eat shared paths" guy, and I get that cycling and public transport aren't always practical options for getting groups of kids to and from 8am games of football in midwinter. So as a matter of urgency, I'd recommend Auckland Transport talks with the management of MOTAT about developing the stretch of wasteland on the far side, by Western Springs College, as a substitute parking space.

It's been earmarked as a potential car park for ages, so let it be a carpark. And let it not be free to use, at least at peak times. If you can afford that luxury SUV, you can afford five bucks for a couple of hours' unsubsidised parking.

 But as Jolisa points out:

You know, there’s an alternative universe out there in which Pt Chev Rd up to Meola Rd is about to be widened to four lanes with no parking, matching the motorways that have expensively widened in all directions to accommodate the expected Waterview tunnel traffic ($50m for the stretch between Waterview and St Lukes alone). It would have been a perfectly logical response. (Don’t believe me? Drive the back way to Te Atatu via four-lane Great North Rd some time, and keep your eyes peeled for a place to pull over… yellow dashed lines everywhere.)

Instead, this plan sees parking lost to, well, people.

I can't really improve on the detailed (and very largely positive) critique of Auckland Transport's proposal published by Bike Auckland, save to note that I'd like a little more information on the right turn from Moa Road to get to the citybound path on Meola. I don't like making hail-Mary turns and the problem is usually exacerbated by someone's SUV being parked up so as to block any view of approaching westbound traffic. If parking is to be preserved around that area, please don't let it be by that corner.

But, in truth, it's not just parked cars, it's the trees. I love the trees and it's nice that most of them will be retained, but this is what you see trying to turn right from Moa:

And that's not traffic there, it's a parked car. The traffic comes from behind the parked car.

It's particularly tricky around 3pm, with the schools nearby, and it will get worse when the big new kindergarten just off Moa on Walmer Road opens. Moa is already the principal through-road from Great North to Meola and that intersection is is going to get a lot more busy. Any way to make turning safer and improve sightlines would be very welcome indeed.

Anyway ... I was part-way through writing this post yesterday when I had to pop over to Mt Eden to do some work. I used that wonderful piece of infrastructure, the northwestern cycleway. As ever, getting there meant doing battle along the ugly stretch of Great North Road that passes Western Springs Park.

It's okay – I'm used to it. Yes, there's a constant danger of being doored along the park side, but I stay heads-up and I know when to make my break for the right-turn lane across the St Lukes bridge. I can manage the risks.

It was on the return jouney when that I encountered a risk I had no way of managing. I came off the northwestern and rolled down the left-hand turn onto Great North Road, pretty relaxed because it was after 4pm, so the westbound bus lane was live and there were no car doors to watch. And then, suddenly, there was a roaring, speeding car a metre from my elbow. If I'd wobbled right a metre at that moment you probably wouldn't have been reading this blog post.

The driver had swerved suddenly into the bus lane, at around 70km/h, to try and pass a line of cars on the inside, cutting sharply across in front of me in the process. Then he and another driver did the same thing twice more over the next few hundred metres, swerving back into the car lane each time. I presume they were racing each other. I hope it's only themselves these fuckers kill or injure.

This is a risk I can't mitigate in any way.

Auckland Transport's cycling and walking team has some great plans for a cycle network in the inner western suburbs, but they stop short of the most dangerous and difficult stretch of Great North Road, from the bottom of the Bullock Track to Motions Road. There were murmurings about some kind of cycle lanes as part of the St Lukes upgrade (hell, they lifted the whole road two metres) but that's gone quiet. And remember, this is the local access to the city's most important piece of cycle infrastructure. It's also a school route and it passes a big public park.

As noted above, I think the St Lukes interchange is going to be a bit of a disaster area when the Waterview tunnel opens. I've watched the Waterview Connection grow at one corner of my suburb and I like both the walk-and-cycle developments around it and the sweep and scale of the thing itself. But I'm not yet clear on how it'll affect the rest of my hood – I don't think anyone is, to be honest.

So I'm grateful that Auckland Transport has proposed to make Point Chevalier a safer place to get around in. Once Point Chevalier Road has those sweet new lanes I might take that route to the northwestern to cut my risk – even though it means initially riding away from town to get to town.

But at some point, someone is going to have to address the really hard part. Not only for cyclists – in the past year I've been involved in two not-my-fault car accidents on the same stretch of Great North Road, once at the Motions Road end and once by the Bullock Track. I'm just really, really glad I was driving and not cycling at the time.


Mike Moore: A pretty ordinary rooster

RNZ's video and audio podcast series The 9th Floor, a series of in-depth interviews with five former Prime Ministers, is a good idea well executed. Guyon Espiner's interviewing skills transfer well from the immediacy of morning radio to the longer format. It's deeply researched and it certainly hasn't been rushed: the interviews were being done last year while I was making From Zero.

The first of them, with Geoffrey Palmer, was interesting, but the second, with Mike Moore – Prime Minister for 59 days in 1990 – really struck a chord with me.

I could see a connection between the older man Guyon talked to – he describes the experience here in a Spinoff piece – and the one I spent some time talking to in 1991.

Moore was the first politician I ever interviewed: up until that point in my life, I hadn't been that kind of journalist. The story ran in issue five of Planet magazine, the first one I edited after arriving back from London in 1991, and the audio was the basis of the first Hard News slot on 95bFM (I changed the format to straight-up commentary in week two).

I interviewed a couple of other MPs for Planet. One was Helen Clark, who was open, articulate and discursive (she'd become Leader of the Opposition, but hadn't yet put up the shutters). She was also kind, and readily invited me round to her place in Mt Eden for a do-over after my first recording failed. The other was Philip Taito Field, who I really wanted to like but found arrogant and surprisingly cold.

Moore wasn't like either of them. My intro to the Planet story captures the memory:

Planet's profile on the Karangahape Road Retailer Opinion Index has never been higher. You'd think the Prime Minister had popped in for a cup of tea. But Bolger has, wisely, been staying off the streets lately – and he'd never have impressed the neighbours half as much as Mike Moore. Even as leader, Moore was the great survivior of Labour's election debacle. The public vengeance visited on his party has been stayed in his case. Joe Bloggs knows he's clever – and going by the polls, thinks he should be Prime Minister.

The big surprise about the face is the discovery that that those dark, sunken circles are largely a fiction of the camera. Instead, you fix on a remarkably intense pair of blue eyes. They're there, those eyes, they're not darting away to hide, and when he hits peak flow, he really does strike a leader's profile. When he relaxes or swears, he's like some sort of hi-octane ordinary bloke.

He's in Auckland to do a radio talkback ("soft – very kind for a change"), deliver a speech to the Manufacturers' Federation – and speak to Planet. Like any good politician, he's done his homework and launches virtually unprompted into a sincere but slightly self-conscious statement about pop music, art and youth. He covers nuclear-free, the kids of today ("admirable"), music quotas, the environment, gender equity, and 'Aims and Values' without a question being asked.

The interview ran as a double-page spread with a superb series of photographs by a young Darryl Ward.

It records his remarkable popularity in the wake of Labour's election calamity, but also notes the tendency to ramble that manifested in his weird "long, dark night" speech on election night 1993 (itself an odd omission from the RNZ interview). He was both compelling and wayward on this visit.

I've excerpted some of the interview here.


On his previous statements about Treasury being full of zealous young ideologues.

Well, the person with the paper wins. We are responsible. I can't blame officials, but there is an ideological fashion that came out of Chicago and other places in the 80s. You just do not find economists or economic writers who challenge this basic theory. From the 40s through to the 60s and 70s, Keynesian economics was generally accepted, but it was perceived to have failed during the 70s.

I think it will change. I've just been to the States to pick up some of the new books. I regard myself as part of the lucky generation. We missed the war and and the Depression, you could leave school at 15 and get a couple of jobs before you were 16 – there was always a job somewhere. We had it really good, our parents had it ratshit and young people have it ratshit now. We were greedy and and consumed more of the world's resources between the ages of of 20 and 30 than all the other generations put together.

The 60s and early 70s was a time when we said anything is possible, we've arrived on the moon, we can cure cancer. We had charistmatic leaders: Kennedy, Kirk here, Willy Brandt, even Wilson in his first term. It was a time of progress. But I think the press was that the State can't provide everything, resources are narrowing, the planet can't survive, government can't do everything.

We over-reacted and went into the 80s where the market could do everything – which it bloody well can't. I think we'll move to a democratic centre-left in the last half of the 90s. For social democratic and labour parties, it has to be as much free market as possible and as much social responsibility as is necessary to provide secrity and safety at home.

On the difference between Labour's "negotiated economy" and old-fashioned Keynesianism.

Well, Keynesianism is still valid. Not totally valid, we have a global market, but if it does work, it works for people on modest incomes. If you give them a break, put more money in their pockets, they're going to buy local, they're going to buy couches, not piss off and buy overseas wine or take foreign trips. That's why the Budget took out two months' retail spending this year.

Globally, you're talking about the post-Reaganomics era of economies trying to pump up together. The G7 and the economic ministers are getting together and trying to get some co-ordination and it's working. The great crash we had in '87 did not throw the world into depression. It should have, but we had the Federal Reserve in America, we had GATT, all these new instruments we've invented since the Depression. The Americans pumped out money and saved the world from depression.

On being in thrall to the markets.

There is a tyranny of the market and the market is nervous and listens to rumours. The idea that [Ruth] Richardson gives a speech in London and interest rates drop ... it's partly true, but they'll grow up and realise as other money markets do that politicians don't actualy matter as much as you think – fortunately.

You've got to keep your eye on the market, but there's also a social market. There'll be a change. I was talking to telecom people and who are seeking investment in New Zealand. They had listed reasons why people should invest in New Zealand and top of the list was Accident Compensation.

We've never had that debate in in New Zealand in the last 50 years – public health, public education, ACC and that kind of thing – a lot of the business community has forgotten why we set those things up in the first place. The US spends twice as much of its GDP on health as we do and it's not as efficient. In Massachusetts they have more health employees not directly associated with health care than in the whole of Canada, where there's a socialised health system, because you have to sell it. All the contestability stuff is expensive.

Over the next few years we'll try and show that our ACC is cheap. South Australia pays more and doesn't get the coverage. Bcause we are the status quo, the arguments have't been put up. And also there have been rip-offs – some ratbag in prison who blows their hand off, they shouldn't get ACC, that's rubbish. But it is a very cheap system and we should guard it jealously.

In the US, the papers are now starting to say this. If you're building a car in Detroit, the cost of private health is a bigger input cost than the steel. But our bsuiness people haven't really thought this through – yet. They keep thinking, oh yeah, let people buy, user pays, cut tax – but let's not say it's cheaper. I think there's an intellectual lag and we're guilty in the labour movement of not asserting these things strongly enough. But there are battles we didn't think we had to fight. I may have been guilty in the last campaign of not fighting enough on these issues – but nobody would have believed me anyway.

On whether things might have been different if it had been Mike Moore who took over from Lange and not Geoffrey Palmer.

I didn't actually want to take over when I did, when people came to me. But I did because I could see us going through a British labour Party syndrome if there wasn't strong leadership and strong direction. One of the reasons we're doing well as opposed to them is that our Tony Benn has left us. People will think that's a smartarse flick at Anderton ... which I suppose it is.

I would have gone into the growth agreement and negotiated strategy earlier, rebuilt my concept of a social wage. In a way, you do need to lose, you do need to be elected with a mandate from the people. Whenever people introduce me as 'the next Prime Minister' I feel slightly bloody embarrassed, because it's not true. You don't lead the country unless you have a mandate from the people. I had no mandate.

On being seen as a decent bloke.

Yeah, I think people see me as a pretty ordinary rooster. I'm ordinary, I've got an ordinary background and my basic instinct is to be on their side. We share the same values, but I've yet to convince them that our direction will be better, different and credible. That has to be done, but you can't do it in in the year of an election. Respect and trust is something you've got to earn, you don't just get it for being there.

On honouring Labour's alliance with Ratana.

... Michael Joseph Savage goes up and negotiates with old man Ratana about the four corners of the Ratana movement. In one corner there's a feather for peace ... it's interesting, Te Whiti and his mates used a  feather for peace before any of it, right? I sent Richard Attenborough Dick Scott's book about it, telling him he did the wrong bloody movie! The whole lot was done here first. So there's the feather for peace, the potato for agriculture, the watch, technology ... it's a very sacred compact with Māoridom and I think we're going to have to start talking again about our compact.

On whether New Zealand is suffering a spiritual malaise.

I think New Zealanders have been told they're useless and they're not. Richardson had her press people saying that we're all a pack of idiots – you go around saying that they're hopeless and they will actualy become hopeless.

There's a whole lot of areas where you've got to reassert a New Zealand way without cheap nationalism. It doesn't mean you've got to put the flag up in every household – after all, one of the earliest, most symbolic acts in our history was someone cutting the flagpole down.

Two things haunt me. First, that Uruguay, Argentina and Chile had a higher living standard than New Zeakand in the 1920s – there is no God-given right. The other thing, and it sounds pretentious, is that about a year ago I was talking about the Kirk government and I realised that we have not had in this country a leader that the kids can look up to for a hell of a long time. Maybe you've got to die – that dream of dying in office at the right time, it's a great career move.

But it's a matter of them feeling that somebody's on their side, that you share their values. It's not poll-driven, they've just got to know that you cry at the right moments in the movie. You don't laugh hysterically when Bambi dies. That's a sort of spiritual thing. Have a look at the prophecies ... the prophecies will come true. The labour movement, we'll go back to Ratana and do it ....


And there, right there, ended the interview. I concluded the story thus:

Sensing the beginning of a long story, Moore's press officer, who has been gazing at a metaphorical wristwatch for the last 20 minutes, jumps in on the pause and they're off down the stairs within minutes. The man who should be King departs with the same words with which he entere:

"We've got to spend more time time in Auckland ... Christchurch is all very well, but hell, I don't even understand grafitti!"

I thought afterwards, and still do now, that Moore's press secretary was wary of the boss pitching into another round of enthusing about Ratana and fulfilling "the prophecies". But that's how he was that day: friendly, forthcoming, fizzy – and just a little wayward.

Quotes excerpted from 'A pretty ordinary rooster', by Russell Brown, issue 5 of Planet magazine, 1991.


(Good) Friday Music: In and out of the woods

Oro Festival went off at Woodhill Forest on Saturday, blessed with some lovely autumn weather. It was an ambitious show – although given the scale, more a big outdoor party than a festival as such – and not everything went right. The bar didn't work (although the Hallertau beer was delicious if you could get one) and I'd had considerably more than my fill of pop drum and bass by the time SoccerPractise took the stage at 5pm. And then after SoccerPractise, Jeru the Damaja just got it totally wrong and spent the next hour and a half loudly and painfully dying. If he'd just shut up and rapped a few tunes ...

But the site is fantastic and the ambitious project of getting nearly all the punters to the site and back to the city by bus worked very well. (My crew managed to be first aboard a double-decker bus back and enjoyed the upstairs front seats all the way. We totally felt like legends.) The portaloos were top-notch, if too few in number (just get in porta-urinals next time). And having been at a couple of events this summer that were overseen by the dreaded Red Badge security, it was also really nice to see security done well. (That was certainly aided by the truly blessed absence of drunk twentysomething douchebros.)

The concert production was absolutely top-drawer. Everything sounded great without being deafening and the lights and LED screens bordered on the hallucinogenic. SoocerPractise stepped up and used that opportunity really well and Dave Seaman's set demonstrated why he's a DJ legend.

And Underworld? Underworld were amazing. I've seen them before, at the 2003 Big Day Out. This time their show was at once spectacular and intimate – and, I fancied, very British. I thought I heard echoes of The Fall in amongst the beats and and it felt more like a performance, the work of artists, than you might expect of a voice-and-machines duo. They seemed to be loving the setting too.

And yes, of course, they finished with that great English folk song, 'Born Slippy'.

I think Dave Roper and his team deserve great credit for pulling off something so innovative, and their partners, Ngati Whatua o Kaipara, are to be congratulated too. They're aiming to do it again next year and I hope they can.

If there is a show next year, I'd like to see more bar and toilet capacity, of course. And musically? I reckon there's scope for something more experimental in the afternoon. Something like Floating Points on that stage would be brilliant, or a wide-ranging Theo Parrish set, or some deep local electronica. This could be a showcase for electronic music of all kinds.

Anyway, here's a pic of the remarkable sky as the sun went down behind the hills.

And a snippet of Soccer Practise:

And someone else's video of 'Born Slippy', because I was not about fiddling with my damn phone at that point ...


Next Saturday, the 22nd, is Record Store Day.

In Auckland, Southbound Records say they'll have around 300 of this year's RSD releases available first-come-first-served from 9am. And they have live music from 2pm, with Stretch playing songs from his debut album Bury All Horses, then Jed Town's group Ghost Town perfrming and signing copies of their album, Sky Is Falling. Keep an eye on Southbound's Facebook page for updates.

Real Groovy also has quite a programme of events, with live performances including X-features (Jed Town's a busy boy that afternoon!).

In Wellington, Simon Sweetman has the lowdown on Slow Boat's RSD activities, which include performances by Teeth and French for rabbits.

Feel free to chip in in comments with anything I've missed.


The 22nd is also the day of JPSE's sold-out show at the Hollywood in Avondale. And ahead of that, 95bFM's Justin Redding talked to Dave Mulcay about his musical life in JPSE and elsewhere. The interview features some previously-unheard live-to-air material from the group's 1993 US tour.


Further to last week's post, the managers of The King's Arms have affirmed that it's "business as usual".


Ban Ban Ton Ton blog has an interesting interview with Ben Stevens, the founder of the new Wellington record label Strangelove Music – about, among other things, why he's chosen to debut his label by releasing a 34 year-old Portugese pop record.

Ben's release plans for the rest of the year do sound interesting:

Its a bit magpie-ish but I hope there will be some sense of musical cohesiveness coming through with future releases. There’s 7 or 8 things at the moment mapped out over the next 18 months all going to plan. Some beautiful timeless music from Cathy Vanishing Twin; a project by Simplex 2 – oddball Australian session music that was never properly released which my buddy, Jeremy Crown Ruler, discovered. Some very special Scandinavian material and another Portuguese artist to come.

I’m also headlong into developing a compilation of 1980s Leftfield / Avant material from New Zealand, which has been a huge amount of fun and very revealing. Connecting with local music mafia I didn’t already know and burrowing through Radio New Zealand’s station archives.

My sense is that there's a whole bunch of oddball 80s material waiting to be rediscovered here.


There are some jazz things happening.

Ijebu Pleasure Club celebrate a year in business with a show (with TV Disko) at Golden Dawn on the 28th.

New Kamasi Washington!

And old 70s "spiritual jazz", in the form of the Lloyd McNeill Quartet's Washington Suite, which has been re-released in all formats by Soul Jazz. I grabbed the MP3s of this earlier in the week and it's just a beautiful record. It's like this ...

And finally, Open Culture recalls one of the great Sun Ra stories.



The now-LA-based Chelsea Jade dropped a new pop tune this week, and it's pretty glorious:

Bob Moses get the Love Thy Brother treatment. Smooth and heavy ...

Kolsch turns the Flume/Little Dragon track 'Take a Chance' into a nine-minute euro monster:

Some loose-limbed afro-disco:

Which I found in Beam Me Up Disco's Spring Disco Chart ...

A pumping Petko Turner edit of Herbie Hancock's 'Just Around the Corner' (free download).

A Karim dub of Prince's 'Hot Thing'. (Free download – just click the "buy" button.)

A particularly good episode of Jazzie B's Back to Life radio show for your long weekend:

And finally, this from Hamilton's Terrorball, if only because my darling threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't stop it. There's something in water in H-town. Something strange. (Free download if you're brave enough.)


The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:


Representing New Zealand music


Media Take: the poor health of mental health services (updated)

Last September on this site, psychotherapist Kyle Macdonald wrote a post under the provocative title The stark reality: New Zealand no longer has a functional Mental Health Service. In the post he noted that the week prior Auckland had lost eight acute psychiatric beds. Staffing levels at the North Shore Unit, He Puna Waiora were so low that it was not possible to staff the unit safely.

Kyle also noted:

Since then we’ve heard that the same situation exists within the Auckland District Health Board who currently have 18 vacancies within their acute unit.   Counties Manakau DHB is also experiencing staff shortages with many staff working double shifts just to keep the unit open.

The Auckland DHB Community Acute Services, who manage acutely unwell people in their home to prevent them going into hospital, has now been closed altogether due to not having any staff available to run it.

The PSA believes that many other regions face the same issue, including Wellington and the West Coast.  They have called these cuts just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the reality of the problems we now face in the public mental health sector.

Last week, that happened: it was announced that up to four beds at Wellington Hospital are to close because of staffing issues.

Around the time of Kyle's original post, NZ Doctor published a news story headed Ryall’s removal of mental health from priority list persists under Coleman’s reign. The story noted that while mental health services were still officially (ie: according to the minister) "ring-fenced" as a result of the 1996 Mason Report, which led to sweeping reforms of the mental heathcare system, in practice that does not appear to be the case. It quotes then-Green party Health spokesperson Kevin Hague:

Hague cites the 1996 Mason Report and its “game-changing solutions” as evidence of what an inquiry can achieve, but says the gains have been eroded.

“Before Mason, mental health used to be called the Cinderella service,” Hague says.

“We’re absolutely back to those days, probably worse.”

He’s on the same page as Labour’s Annette King in arguing why. Both say it goes back to the decision by former health minister Tony Ryall to remove mental health from the list of priorities.

Hague's calls for a fresh inquiry into the system fell on deaf ears. But Kyle, Mike King and others embarked on a project with ActionStation called The People's Mental Health Review, the results of which are now being collated.

Kyle and Mike both appear in this week's episode of Media Take.

In researching the show I tracked down the 96 Mason Report – or to give it its full name, the Inquiry Under Section 47 of the Health and Disability Services Act In Respect of Certain Mental Health Services.

The report was commissioned after a series of tragedies associated with failures in the mental health system. Reading it, it's impossible not to be struck by the similarity between the conditions it described 20 years ago and the flaws critics are identifying now – most notably, the way that acute services are increasingly having to do the work of under-resourced community-based services. It feels as if the hugely important reforms after Mason are unravelling.

The show also features Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson, who doesn't use such strong language as Kyle and Mike – and that's the subject of some friction on the show – but is nonethless frank about his "disappointment" with the state of the system and the government's failure to address its problems.

There's also Māori clinical psychologist Pikihuia Pomare, who is fascinating, and the excellent Lucy McSweeney, a protege of the Foundation's mentoring programme who has launched a petition seeking to have mental health education made a compulsory part of the schools curriculum.

And it's not all bad news. We note in the show that on the same day last month not only did Jono Pryor deliver a stigma-shattering message on talking about mental health issues after the suicide of a friend, but The Rock radio host Bryce Casey talked about the same thing.

Given the problems in the system, it seems especially useful that guys like these  – blokes talking to blokes – are using their public profiles to talk about mental illness.

Anyway, it's a good show, along with the additional 15 minutes of discussion with all the panelists together. There are links below to watch both on-demand and we'll also bundle it in together with some other stuff for the hour-long Media Take that screens at 11.30am on Sunday.


On-demand links:

Media Take Episode 4

Episode 4 extended "open floor" discussion

Media Take (the long version) screens at 11.30am Sunday on Māori Television.


Behind those Herald home-buying stories

The latest in an apparently endless series of you-too-could-buy-a-house-if-you-weren't-so-lazy-and-worthless stories appears on the New Zealand Herald website today. It is titled: From $30k deposit to $1m planned portfolio in a year: one couple's story:

Two 24-year-old Aucklanders, who collectively saved about $30,000 for their first place in their first year of work, could have a $1 million-plus portfolio by the end of this year.

It seems too good to be true – and, naturally, it is.

So how did a couple only in their first year of working life afford all this?

"We borrowed 60 per cent of the purchase price. The rest of it came from parents as an equity gift," he said.

So, yes, the couple didn't buy a $640,000 unit off the back of $30,000 in savings. Their deposit wasn't $30,000 as the headline and intro claim – it was $256,000. I think most twentysomethings with jobs could get a bank to lend on that basis. But of course, most twentysomethings don't have parents in a position to pitch in a quarter of a million dollars.

Herald property writer Anne Gibson's story also embodies another trend in these stories: that the way to buy a house in Auckland is to become a property investor. Yes, cities need landlords. But the idea that we should all turn home ownership into a speculative business is completely mad. Auckland has quite enough of that.

But one more thing: it's yet another Gibson story mentioning property investor Ron Hoy Fong and/or his "coaching family" Ronovationz, which runs property investment seminars. I count 14 of them since the beginning of last year. Last week, there was this interview with Ronovationz "Property Wealth Coach" Gary Lin, whose idiotic advice includes  such gems as:

"If I were 16 years old today, I would join the army and toughen the f*** up ...

"Then, when I'm in my early 20s I would get an education or trade and read hundreds of books on wealth creation, personal development, habits of successful people. Then I'd do an OE and build a successful profession overseas, chase the money, see the world, build up a saving at the same time or learn about business and start up businesses.

"Success will come when one has developed the rich mindset, rich habits, and has taken action. Complaining on Facebook during work hours will do f***-all to their lives."

This is not, of course, how Lin himself got on the ladder. As another Gibson story, from January last year, explains, Lin got into the housing market courtesy of a $200,000 wedding gift from his father. But perhaps Lin does have a few tricks: here, in this forum he encourages people to get around restrictions on lending to investors by lying to their banks.

In another story in November, Hoy Fong declares that the "secret" to buying a house in Auckand is to use your parents' equity in their house, which will "probably" be mortgage-free. In a Herald Focus video on the same date Hoy Fong explained more about how "easy" it was to buy a house this way and scorned New Zealanders who "stay just over broke" by working at conventional jobs. The same video is also on the site as Why you should buy property now.

 Two days before, another Gibson story reads like an advertisement for Hoy Fong's coaching business:

What is stopping New Zealanders from getting rich?

That's the question a $23 million 31-property owning Auckland landlord, Ron Hoy Fong is asking at a seminar in Auckland on Saturday.

In February last year, Gibson had Hoy Fong urging Aucklanders to buy as many properties as possible "and  get in before the Chinese". (To be clear, Hoy Fong is a third-generation Kiwi and his grandparents were market gardeners. He was a civil servant who made his initial wealth by building then franchising the Tofu Store chain.) A month later he was in another story, predicting that the Auckland market was going to" go bananas".  In September he was back crowing about the $500,000 capital gain he scored on a property he bought that March.

This kind of bullish sentiment is integral to both of Hoy Fong's businesses – his "coaching" and his actual property investment. But whether the Herald should be making itself available as a megaphone is another matter.

Its not only the Herald of course. Stuff has run a series of how-I-bought-a-house stories too. And presumably, these stories run so often because people read them, even if only to look for the inevitable gotcha.

But maybe, just maybe, repeatedly running stories sourced from one company urging people to get into property on the expectation of easy wealth gains isn't a very healthy thing to do.