Queenstown 2040: Where will the Snow Be?

June 23, 2014

Nearly 200 locals arrived on a warm night in the midst of the Queenstown Winter Festival to hear the Catalyst-organised panel discussion on effects of climate change on Queenstown’s snow industry well into the future.

Local snow expert Hamish McCrostie explained the technological advances and benefits of snow making to the industry, citing the robustness of man-made snow crystals the winner on warmer days, and assuring us that NZSki had done their research and were confident on the integrity of climate data assuring us of an industry and lifestyle – albeit dependent on man-made snow – well into the next century.

winterfest-photoClimatologist Ian Owens, however, warned that by 2040 even snow making might be in doubt given the uncertainty of “inversion layers” and warming winters, and gave us a global view of the snow industry and difficulties already being experienced by lack of long term snow in the US and Europe. Professor James Renwick, lead author of the Climate Change NZ Centre, similarly widened the discussion to a global view emphasising long term trends (of warmer winters and increased precipitation) would certainly start to be felt here by 2040.

Finally, Professor of Engineering Susan Krumdieck was a little more confrontational, suggesting it was high time a community as dependent on tourism as Queenstown started to look at the realities of both Climate Change and Peak Oil on our winter and summer seasons, given our dependence on international tourists getting here, and then similarly, getting around.

High School Debating Workshop

June 21, 2014
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Twenty nine Wakatipu High School and Mt Aspiring College students from 13 to 18 years old enjoyed a Catalyst Trust organised Saturday afternoon workshop with members of the Otago University Debating Society – named among the top 11 University debating teams in the world just two days earlier.

Following an entertaining and instructive show debate about whether the environmental movement should resort to violence to get its message across, groups of six students were paired with 45an OUDS mentor to learn debating techniques then prepare and present a debate on banning either smoking or drinking. They finished keen for more…

In fact, they immediately organised an impromptu debate on Mac versus Windows.

Nuggets from the UN and NZ in Global Affairs

June 10, 2014

photo 5Simon Draper – head of MFAT’s United Nations, Human Rights and Commonwealth division, responsible for managing NZ’s engagement at the UN and the Commonwealth, and for directing our UN Security Council seat campaign – spoke to 30 senior Wakatipu High School students at a Catalyst Trust workshop. Until his visit was mistakenly leaked by a staffer the day before, no one else knew he was taking 11 UN Permanent Representatives around New Zealand. Nuggets from his presentation…

  • Why is New Zealand a member of the UN? Because we’re small, we need rules, and the UN is a democracy, so size doesn’t matter.
  • Through the UN, we are injecting New Zealand’s value systems, especially human rights, disarmament, decolonisation and peacekeeping.
  • Why do countries want to deal with us? We can and do act as an honest broker between bigger countries.
  • Draper worries about the UN’s reputation being not as strong as it once was. “But the UN is nothing more than its member states. So when we are critical of the UN, we’re critical of ourselves.” When everyone is ‘equally unhappy’ with the UN, “we will probably have it about right”.
  • In the New Zealand lexicon, ‘compromise’ is a pejorative but it is the essence of being a UN member state. “What’s the alternative? That we enforce our will? We have no gunboats to send…and even if we did, would we?”
  • Why try for the Security Council seat? “There is a Mexican saying, if you’re not at the top table, you might be on the menu.” It is both an opportunity and responsibility.
  • NZ is known for its independence. “And being brave means standing up to your friends as much as standing up to those you don’t like.” And sometimes in the UNSC, “you have to deal with countries that make you uncomfortable and sometimes you act to ensure that even these countries get a hearing”. He also asked why should NZ not be on the UNSC – do we simply abrogate the big decisions to just the big countries? Our voice is as valid as anyone’s.
  • His job is to help convince 192 other countries that it is in their national interest to vote for New Zealand rather than Spain or Turkey for the Security Council seat in October. For a few countries UNSC votes are “a tradable commodity”, but NZ wouldn’t buy votes even if we could. For NZ, it is about exercising soft power. In terms of the UNSC the one thing NZ can guarantee is that, if an issue of importance comes up to your country X, “then we undertake to give you a fair hearing”.
    New Zealand’s Security Council campaign strapline is “fair-minded, practical, constructive”.
  • Showing UN Permanent Representatives “who we are as New Zealanders” is important as it demonstrates NZ’s value system, as it is our values that best indicate likely future action.
  • Visiting Queenstown with 11 UN Permanent Representatives, one of their take-home points was that five or six people were running Mt Nicholas Station – a farm the size of Singapore or Manhattan. “A number of African PRs remarked that “they (Africans) are told they are poor because all they have is agriculture. They come here, 65% of the economy is agriculture, and we are rich. So it is also changing the perspective of their own countries.”
  • Asked about issues that personally cause him most concern, he remarked that the situation in North Korea is one “future generations will not look favourably on this generation’s inability to improve the tragic situation there”. Syria is an absolute tragedy, where the UN can likely help around the edges but in Draper’s view the answer, if there is one, is most likely in the hands of the Syrians themselves.
  • Much real diplomacy is played out in the corridors, not on the speaker’s stage. It’s not dirty dealing, it is simply negotiation. When you buy a house do you go in and offer the maximum you can afford? No, you find out what you can bear and the seller can bear and find a compromise.
  • New Zealand’s annual foreign affairs spend is very small compared to the Government spends on education, health and superannuation. As it should be.
    As a 4th generation New Zealander, proud to represent NZ, a frustration about NZ is “our short time horizon. We think we can fix whatever problem comes along.” In his view we don’t give adequate attention to future thinking. Many governments and corporates do this, in fact it is something we can learn from Māori, who have a much more inter-generational time frame.