• Voter turnout a bad sign

    Voter turnout a bad sign

    There's been a lot of soul searching about the historically low voter turnout at this year's local body elections, which followed the lowest voter turnout in 100 years at the 2011 general election. Discussion has focused on ways to make it easier for people to vote, such as online voting. But few have questioned the wider implications of the low voter turnout –and what it might mean for the health of our democracy.

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  • Govt meddling in council affairs troubling to all

    Govt meddling in council affairs troubling to all

    As councils head to the polls this year, local government finds itself under attack, with its powers shrunk and its autonomy undermined. Over the past four years, the Government has been quietly eroding the autonomy of local government and expanding its own powers to intervene in the affairs of councils, and direct what they can do. In the process, local government has been left in a weakened state, very much under the thumb of central government.

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  • Leaders need to look at gender equality

    Leaders need to look at gender equality

    This week our Prime Minister will join the leaders of 15 Pacific Island countries at the 44th meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum. The 16 all-male leaders will meet for three days in the Marshall Islands, and discuss important issues such as climate change and Fiji's progress towards democratic elections next year. But let's hope they will also find time to discuss gender equality in the Pacific, and why it is that women in the Pacific are worse off, in many respects, than most other women in the world.

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  • Let's talk birds and bees seriously

    Let's talk birds and bees seriously

    Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson warned that if we continued to spray vast quantities of pesticides indiscriminately over our farms, forests, and wildlife, we would end up with a poisoned world in which birds would no longer sing. Few people listened to her warnings, in her book Silent Spring, and today 2.268 billion kilograms of pesticide are poured on to the planet every year. It's now almost impossible to find any place on earth where pesticide residues are not detectable. And almost every human being on earth is exposed to chemicals from conception until death.

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  • When 'free' means 'well ... nearly'

    When 'free' means 'well ... nearly'

    A decade ago it was hard to find gluten-free products in supermarkets. Today, buying gluten-free foods is one of the fastest-growing food trends, and most supermarkets have a large range of gluten-free products. According to a recent study, nearly four times as many people have coeliac disease, a chronic digestion disorder, as did in the 1950s. And as more people are diagnosed with coeliac disease, or have trouble digesting gluten, as many as a third of consumers are trying to cut back on gluten in their diet.

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  • The court battle to save our pork

    The court battle to save our pork

    Pig industry's fight to stop another disease hitting NZ shows the dangers of relaxing controls for free trade. Most consumers are probably unaware that container loads of pork are flooding into New Zealand, and almost half of the pork we consume here is imported. Unfortunately, this imported pork comes from countries that harbour a nasty pig disease called Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, or PRRS. This disease is known as pig aids, because it suppresses their immune system and causes acute respiratory disease and high pig mortalities.

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  • Let's prevent our own lobbying scandal

    Let's prevent our own lobbying scandal

    Britain's cash-for-access episode is proof that NZ must tighten parliamentary rules and introduce a code of ethics. A political scandal in Britain, where five politicians have been caught selling their services to fake lobbyists, begs the question - could a cash-for-access scandal ever happen here? It seems unimaginable that one of our MPs would ask questions in the House, obtain access to ministers or host events in Parliament, in return for cash or other backhanders from lobbyists.

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