Democracy and Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia: Implications for New Zealand

July 27th, 2015

Developing upon one of the themes of Monday night’s talk “History shapes, but geography defines” Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak – Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies (Faculty of Political Science) at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and also the Kippenberger Chair for 2015 at the Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University – suggested that New Zealand would be wise to place a few of its strategic eggs in SouthEast Asia’s basket.

Despite being a somewhat arbitrarily grouped collection of nations – considered together more as a matter of post-colonial convenience rather than deeply shared cultures or histories – the region nonetheless encompasses 620 million people with a combined GDP of 3.63 trillion dollars.

These people and their economies are in a high state of flux – while borders are relatively established (with the possible exception of some maritime disputes) internal nation building, rebuilding, and even re-imagining, is proceeding at a rapid pace throughout the region. The trends, outcomes, and consequences of these transitions cannot help but impact upon New Zealand, just as they cannot help but offer opportunities to New Zealand to engage constructively in the region to mutual benefit.

Professor Pongsudhirak offered the gathered audience some deep and often unexpected insight into the turbulent melting pot that is today’s SE Asia; the cultures and intercultural tensions within it; and mapped possible scenarios for the developing directions of the region.

More about:

  1. The Centre for Strategic Studies
  2. Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak
  3. Democracy and Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia: Implications for New Zealand (slides)

Affordable Housing – The Im/Possible Dream?

July 22, 2015

More than 200 Queenstowners turned out to learn about the different perspectives of affordable housing and discuss ways forward for Queenstown. You can see the presentations at

Or the very quick version:

  • Shamubeel Eaqub (former NZIER principal economist and author of Generation Rent):

The market will not self-correct, current policies (rental, tax and banking) favour the rich and do not work, and the government shows no signs of wanting to change them. Local solutions are needed – and housing solutions proposed/implemented in Auckland will not work here as the problems are different. We have a moral obligation and economic imperative to ensure housing solutions for workers. Retained affordable housing – i.e. housing that remains affordable to successive owners – is key. Millennials will be the agent of change – no longer requiring huge homes on big sections.

  • Scott Figenshow (CEO of Community Housing Aotearoa and former QLDC planner):

Long history of housing crises in Queenstown. 40% of Queenstown houses are second, third or fourth homes. Employers used to have to provide worker accommodation and plan change 24 had mandated developer contributions to community housing, but neither is still the case. Community housing sector has the capacity for housing 50,000 people NZ-wide by 2020, operating on a not-for-dividend, tax exempt basis. Needs to be driven by regional/local communities despite being policy driven by Central government. Retention mechanism vital.

  • Tommy Honey (architect and Radio New Zealand urbanism commentator):

Quarter acre property with stand-alone home no longer a realistic expectation for much of NZ. Embrace intensification and higher density, based close to infrastructure and jobs. Need better public transport and build small, warm homes that are net electricity generators. Encourage high-quality prefabricated architecture (portable, economic, efficient) owned by investors on leasehold land and rented to seasonal workers/visitors (the stationary VW Combi concept). Transient housing in the centre, to minimise transport load. People need to be trained to save early on if they want to buy a house.

  • Peter Southwick (Wanaka developer and Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust):

QLCHT housing 300 people at present, but with abandonment of plan change 24, they no longer have a mechanism to gain capital from developers’ value uplift so there are challenges ahead. He tried to develop small affordable housing in Wanaka but failed – expensive place to build. Costs: 6% Council, 6% GST, 53% construction and site works, 25% land and services and 10% profit. But housing is still affordable if you rent where you work and buy where you can afford. This is a western world problem with no simple solution but small steps, like QLCHT, matter. Requires the goodwill of the whole community and leadership from the wealthy.

And among suggestions and feedback from those attending:

  • Avoiding fuel poverty a big issue. Housing needs to be affordable for those occupying it.
  • Lakeview an ideal site for affordable housing – close to town, owned by Council.
  • Community should get proportion of GST it sends to Central government towards affordable housing
  • 3800 unoccupied homes in Queenstown at last census. Tax them? Bylaw so they have to be rented out?
  • Council should deliver planning/zoning/infrastructure more quickly.
  • Be radical in some places with intensive zoning and stop the urban sprawl.
  • Imitate Tamaki We Development Company.
  • Put duty on employers to provide worker housing.
  • Queenstown can’t bear the shift of foreign capital into our residential market forever.
  • Dense and intense housing requires good architecture and planning.
  • Change rating policy so that can facilitate worker accommodation in existing properties.

Nepal Talk and Fundraiser Review

July 1st, 2015
Fund raiser for victims of Nepal’s earthquakes. The World Bar, Queenstown.

Speakers Guy Cotter (Wanaka based Adventure Consultants) and Jason Laing (Queenstown helicopter pilot) had the crowd enthralled with their stories and images from their experience during and immediately post the April 25th earthquake.

MC Calum McLeod then had the packed crowd laughing and digging deep into their pockets for the charity auction. A great night had by all we raised nearly $10,000 for the Nepalese, to be shared between the Juniper Fund and Tsering’s Fund, both directly helping Nepalese displaced by the earthquake.