After being on the back burner for decades, Transmission Gully is now on the fast track. It's been given the green light by a fast track consenting process, and work on the motorway is to begin in 2015. The Government is intending to fund the $1.3 billion motorway through a public private partnership. Under this arrangement, a private consortium will finance, build and operate the motorway for 25 years, and the Government will pay the consortium $130 million a year, or $356,164 every day, for the next 25 years.
Ever since the 1990s, when successive governments tossed out regulations with reckless abandon, regulation has been unfashionable in New Zealand. The word "regulation" has become almost a term of abuse, implying excessive government interference in people's lives. Government policy stipulates that regulation should be a last resort, and almost any attempt to regulate is ridiculed as "nanny state".
Imported supplements threat to tropical rainforests and a concern for consumers and export trade. News that New Zealand cows are being fed genetically modified soy and cottonseed meal has come as a shock to many consumers who imagined our dairy cows were happily chomping away on an exclusive diet of lush green grass.
The Lord Mayor of Wellington. It has a certain ring to it - of gold chains, status, sexism and ancient privilege. But why would we want to import an ancient English title that originates in medieval England, into Wellington? Does Sir Geoffrey Palmer imagine this title would make people think our Mayor was more important than Auckland's Mayor? There are other facets of Sir Geoffrey's report on the review of local government in Wellington that are questionable as well.
Under food industry pressure, the Government is dragging its feet over mandatory 'traffic light' labelling. All around the world a fierce debate is raging about whether food manufacturers should be required to display a symbol on a food label that would indicate to consumers, at a glance, whether food is healthy or not.
Women in Parliament have to endure a torrent of abuse. Australia is always being held up as an example for New Zealand to follow. But who could admire the toxic way they do politics in Australia, or the way politics is covered in the Australian media? Australian politicians have to put up with a level of abuse and vitriol in their media that is fortunately not yet common over here - such as radio personality Alan Jones saying on air that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard should be put in a chaff bag and taken out to sea.
I seldom watch Question Time in Parliament these days. I sometimes wonder who does, other than the press gallery, parliamentary staff, lobbyists and those with a masochistic streak. It's supposed to be the high point of the parliamentary day - a time when the opposition can grill the government and hold it to account. But more often than not it's a low point - an hour when MPs let off steam by shouting, jeering, point scoring, hurling abuse and bickering with each other.
The decision by supermarket giant Foodstuffs New Zealand to force its suppliers in the Wellington region to pay a 3 per cent "promotions rebate" on every product they sell in a supermarket highlights the need for some transparency and scrutiny over the way supermarkets do business in New Zealand.
Some of the leading figures in the global campaign to get genetically modified crops accepted around the world, have been in New Zealand this week. They were keynote speakers at the International Conference for Agricultural Biotechnology, which Dr William Rolleston, Vice President of Federated Farmers, claims is the 'biotechnology equivalent of the Rugby World Cup.' I am sure they all took the opportunity, while here in New Zealand, to lobby the government and key industry and farming figures, about GM technology, and why New Zealand should embrace it.
So the Government has capitulated to lobbying by the alcohol industry, and will no longer set limits on the amount of alcohol in alcopops or Ready to Drinks, as they are called in the trade. I feared this would happen when, 18 months ago, a smooth talking Australian lawyer representing Independent Liquor flew in from Sydney to speak to the select committee that was hearing submissions on the Alcohol Reform Bill.