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Blog by Dave McArthur 14 July 2007

KiwiSaver = KiwiKiller and Carbon Polluter? As I deconstruct the hype this scary equation emerges complete with inflation and the end of universal superannuation. What’s a bloke to do? 

If you are not familiar with the New Zealand Parliament’s latest investment strategy then the NZ Consumers Institute provides a guide of sorts. 

Welcome to the Consumer guide to KiwiSaver. Our guide will explain all you need to know about the KiwiSaver scheme. 


KiwiSaver - New Zealand's voluntary work-based savings scheme - will take to the skies on the 1st of July. This regularly-updated guide will cover the ins and outs of KiwiSaver - how the scheme works, what happens to your money, and whether or not KiwiSaver may be right for you.


When I say it is a guide of sorts, please understand it is a mindless reiteration of the Government and media propaganda about KiwiSaver. It will give you an idea of the KiwiSaver mechanisms but it provides no critical analysis of the schemes impact on society or the environment. It certainly does not place the scheme within the context of an oil-addicted country in a carbon constrained global economy. 

In fact the guide is so mindless I just rang the NZ Consumers’ Institute and asked if the Government was paying it to advertise the scheme. You see, when you visit our Consumers Institute website you will read these grand claims:

Did you know?

We are funded solely by subscriptions – not by the government or advertisers.
That means we are completely independent and free from advice. Support our work!
No advertising, no bias, no hidden agenda. Just expert advise from NZ’s trusted source

Well did you know that these claims are patently false? I explain to the public relations person I am referred to that I am wondering about the integrity and funding of its KiwiSaver site because I know the Government pays it to maintain other such propaganda. She initially fluffs around kind of denying the Institute receives any payments until I point out that PowerSwitch is simply Government propaganda propping up the 1998 Electricity Reforms, the previous CEO of the Institute had confirmed to me Consumers Institute is paid “very, very good money” to promote PowerSwitch and I have tracked down Government media releases confirming the payments. The conversation kind of fizzles out at this point with the public relations person saying she is not an expert on electricity.

Which is unfortunate for us all really because I fail to see how KiwiSaver can be evaluated and promoted in a vacuum, as the Consumers Institute’s guide is. Our Parliament’s national investment scheme has to be evaluated for its potential to provide the new infrastructure that is essential if New Zealand is to survive in a world of increased atmospheric turbulence and oil/Gas use turmoil. And, yes, I have seen the headlines: “Great South Basin oil and gas quest set to begin”. (11 July 2007 11.18am press release: New Zealand Government)

The trouble is I remain mindful how the multinational companies who rule us flared off a 200 year reserve of NZ Natural Gas in just two decades, the Iraqi people are living a nightmare, the people of Iran are experiencing petrol rationing and how most areas where oil is discovered suddenly become “terrorist hotspots”.

To explore whether KiwiSaver might save or destroy us it has to be seen in the context of overall national investment and our contemporary markets. For the sake of clarity here is the definition of  “market” I use: “ A gathering of people for selling and buying, especially of a particular commodity.” 

Now for me it’s a no-brainer that smart shipping and rail plus intelligent uses of electricity, water and carbon are the future for humanity. Of course they need be enabled by a healthy democracy. Without these ingredients the outlook for people is eminently grim. So how do our markets serve us?

Well, for a start we have in New Zealand the “share market”, otherwise known as “The Market” by our media. The commodity here is stocks and shares in a few dozen publicly listed companies of any significant size. One company, the ex-state owned Telecom, dominates this market. In reality “The Market” in New Zealand is basically the Mark Weldon Beneficiary Institute, which is sustained by our Parliament periodically gifting his institute a high value national asset such as another part of our rail/electrical infrastructure. Shares in the assets are traded providing Mark with a substantial income until the asset is basically gutted of value or is transferred out of “The Market” into private ownership – often overseas private ownership.

While “The Market” is only a small element of the total trades of all individuals participating in the NZ economy it is very influential as it is a key mechanism for transferring control of vital infrastructure. This transfer has a massive impact on NZ’s sustainability potential. Mark and a few of his merchant banker friends stand to be the prime beneficiaries of KiwiSaver.

So how has “The Market” served us?  

NZ shipping potential? Pretty much sunk. In Wellington, the Capital City the council has even given away prime waterfront space to an oil company and luxury flats. From what I have seen Auckland is stuffing its future in the same way.

NZ Rail potential? Not a good look either. In 1992 our Parliament decided rail is not core to NZ’s future and paid a couple of merchant bankers an estimated $NZ270 million to get rid of the 2,400 route miles system with all its rolling stock (on their advice). In 1996 the new owners listed it on the stock exchange and soon it was $NZ9 a share. By 2002 the system was near collapse

and Kiwi “mum and dad” shareholders were left clutching practically valueless bits of paper. Our Parliament reaffirmed its belief that rail is non-core and refused to purchase back essential elements of the system that provide its intelligence. This was despite having $4NZ billion sitting in Government coffers and the stock market value of the company being well under $NZ200. 

If I heard right last week, all ownership of those elements is now to be transferred through “The Market” to an overseas group (Toll Holdings)) and so KiwiSaver cannot help the country provide this critical infrastructure.

In other words, it looks like us non-car owners are being left with a crap mass-transit system, subsidising Toll’s coal transport operations and being afflicted by ugly inflation caused by our nation’s increased dependency on burning oil.

Stop Press: Just received my annual insurance demand from that top rated investment company, AMP. In 1961 my parents started this insurance scheme for me for 2000 pounds ($NZ4000), which in those days bought your surviving family a reasonable house in many areas of New Zealand. Well after 46 years of premium payments some $NZ10,068.30 bonuses have accrued. The policy is now worth a total of $NZ18, 850. This would not buy my family a dog kennel and the land it is on today in New Zealand.

So what’s New Zealand’s electrical potential like? In two words: depressing, dismal. On Monday I checked out the state of the Electricity Market by attending a four-hour Electricity Commission seminar in Wellington.


Market Design Review: Confirmation of Public Briefings


The Commission has previously notified its intention to hold public briefings to present the information contained within the Market Design Issues Paper in advance of respondents finalising their written submissions to the Commission (closing date 20 July 2007).

The Commission can now confirm that these briefings will be held in Wellington and Auckland as follows:

Date: Monday, 9 July 2007

Venue: Hotel InterContinental, Grey Street, Wellington


Yes I know it sounds very boring and some of those being paid to attend seemed astonished when I replied, “ I am here representing the Houghton Valley School janitors”. A couple of bods even murmured “Good on you” with perhaps admiration. All but a few of the several dozen present were being paid to attend.  

I doubt many of them appreciate the vitality of this stuff as I do. I see epic dramas in the graphs and illustrations of Bulk-generated electricity usage – the holocausts, famines and plagues of World Wars I and 11 and maybe, please, please no, World War 111. Lord of the Rings is a yawn by comparison

I also see the desperate last breaths of Folole Maliaga in her simple New Zealand home. Those who read my last blog will understand that vision. 

These graphs show, for instance, why I am sitting in a poorly insulated room at 9ºC (interior window 7.2ºC) when a different national attitude to our electrical resources could have easily had me sitting in a self sustaining room at the WHO recommended 18ºC. (I have a bicuspid valve in my heart that murmurs away and so I feel the cold somewhat. And yes I am running a kilowatt heater on Bulk-gen electricity at over 20cents each hour under the rug draped over my lap.)

In that long blog I set Folole’s needlessly sad death in the context of our use and abuse of the energy and power symbols this last century. I explained how New Zealand is no longer a fully functioning democracy. I explained how NZ Electricity Reforms of the 1990s were designed to disenfranchise the population, suppress intelligent uses of our electrical resources just so a few greedy merchant bankers could make a killing out of Bulk-generated electricity.

You may not wish to wade through that blog and so I will reiterate just enough to provide context of the dilemma that KiwiSaver lands a bloke in.

As with rail, our Parliament decided in the 1990s our electrical resources are not core to NZ’s future and enforced the sales of large portions of our broadband and AC/DC systems. Despite a series of deepening crises in these systems and growing evidence they are unsustainable our Parliament continually reaffirms its belief that these are non-core. Our broadband structure is a shambles with perverted routing, chronic service and little intelligent cable choice. 

When the SOE, Meridian Energy, paid the Government a special $NZ800 dividend  a couple of years ago there was no thought of using it to insulate our homes or invest in intelligent uses of electricity. The Finance Minister, Michael Cullen instantly committed to building even more motorways to oblivion.

 Just before that in 2004 when our Parliament had $5 billion in Treasury coffers it refused to loan Vector the $NZ800 million or so to buy back NGC for us, thereby further destroying our intelligence potential. NGC effectively controlled about a million of our meter boards. The most recent example is our Parliament’s decision to reaffirm the 1998 Electricity Reforms and the ownership structures that this legislation enforces.

It will be fascinating to see how the Electricity Commission justifies its existence in this context. So here I am at 8.45am on Monday morning, warming up in the lovely ambient 20ºC temperature of the Hotel Intercontinental. I am early for the seminar and strike up a conversation with a knowledgeable electrical engineer with many decades working with our national grid system. He is now a “consultant” and is deeply pessimistic about the current structure. I suspect that he is yet another example of those fine people who are passionate about using our electrical resources sustainability and thus also got the axe in the Reforms.

Peter Harris opens the seminar. He is an economist I have greater respect for than most. Peter has been acting chairman since the Government axed the previous chairman, Roy Hemmingway. Roy, an American, perhaps did not understand our thuggish culture too well and the reality behind New Zealand’s 100% Clean Green facade. Anyway he did the job as legislated and asked the tough questions about using options to Bulk-generated electricity. This did not go down well with vested interests who can make our street gangs look like choirboys. Roy is gone..

I wonder how Peter feels about doing his job in these sick circumstances?  If the Sustainability Principle does hold, then analysis of Peter’s language in his recent ventures onto our National Radio indicates he has lost the plot with regards to our use of electrical resources, that is assuming he ever understood it. 

I wonder if he feels futile as he stands at the podium and informs us, “cabinet has looked at the broad structure of the electricity industry and is happy with market solutions”. He outlines the objectives of the Electricity Commission, which include ensuring electricity is produced in a sustainable way and to act  “on behalf of the wider public”. I think I detect a wry note in his voice as he says how it “hard to engage the ordinary consumer.”

Well, Peter, I am here, that engineer consultant guy is here and I note Molly Melhuish, a prominent voluntary community advocate, is present. That’s three of us on behalf of the wider public. I don’t know if any journalists are present but judging from the poor quality of their recent commentary on the circumstances leading to Folole’s sad death they would be no use anyway. Indeed faced with their general ignorance of the fundamental issues I did an unusual thing for me and sent copies of my blog on her death to media including Television NZ and a national newspaper. Not one journalist even acknowledged receipt of it, let alone made use of it. 

So as I sit here I can well imagine the teams of heavies from the big corporations that queue up outside the doors of our politicians and the Electricity Commission, complete with their high-flying lawyers, smart PAs, clever graphic displays, PR and other consultants. Every time Peter opens a New Zealand broadsheet or magazine, turns on TV or the radio or surfs the Net using the words energy or power or enters an airport they are there making sure their voice is heard in every graphic and sensory form possible. And as today’s seminar is to reveal in most graphic form, their voice is heard very loud and clear. It is no wonder he and other members of the Commission are reduced to talking Energy Gobbledygook and acting a Spin Merchants for the Bulk-gen bankers.

The first session is on wholesale market issues. Well, the thing that would most hit the average person over fifteen years old is the fact that the world barely existed before 1990 for the Commission. Indeed most of it only came into existence after 1998 judging from graph after graph after graph. It is as though Bulk-generated electricity suddenly popped into existence in New Zealand complete with a thing called an “Electricity Market”. I am left seriously wondering if these people know what a market is and, more worryingly, what electricity is.

For me a market can take many forms. It can directly involve the trade of one or more commodities. The market can be run for the benefit of a few people as in feudal societies where a couple of local barons or the mafia rule the roost. Or the market can be a democratic arrangement in which all citizens have rights to vote and participate. In the latter situation citizens are free to form groups and alliances to participate on their behalf in the market and to use local electrical and other resources in an intelligent way.

So you would think the basic commodities of an “Electricity Market would include a range of electrical resources including micro and dwelling generated electricity. Sorry to disillusion you. Electricity means one thing here today: Bulk-generated electricity. And as I showed in my last blog this is the result of a century long war to ensure it remains the only commodity available for trade.

As I detailed in that blog, for 90 years New Zealand citizens with the right to vote could participate in the trade of AC/DC electricity in an intelligent way. They formed some 60 co-operatives throughout the country varying in size from a few thousand people to over one hundred thousand people. Any individual could stand for their local board or council that administered the cooperative and all members could vote.

The intelligence with which the cooperatives bought and sold on the Electricity Market varied (as is normal of any market). However it is fair to say some operated with a high degree of intelligence using a wide range of strategies including effective ripple control systems, freehold systems, education programmes, investment in research in heating and cooling systems and products, astute investment in demand reduction measures such as dwelling insulation and they created member feedback systems that linked directly to local social structures.

Most important, even if some cooperatives displayed low levels of intelligence the local cooperative structure with its democratic base provided a very high intelligence potential so all our communities were well placed to gain the very significant benefits of the great new electronic technologies that are emerging.

The 1993 and 1998 “electricity” legislation transferred ownership and control of that intelligence potential to structures now largely controlled by a few overseas-based merchant bankers. These guys have a vested interest in suppressing the use of alterative electrical or other resources, in controlling access to knowledge and in stressing the utility grids to the maximum because that is how they generate the maximum profits.

Graphs like Fig 71 showing “Market participant” levels of satisfaction tell the story. They look mighty fine on the big screen until you read the small print and realise that now there are effectively little over a dozen real participants now. As mentioned, before the Electricity Reforms there were the 60 democratic cooperatives acting for the whole population plus half a dozen large corporations participated in the “Electricity Market” and the community trades involved considerable intelligence and a growing variety of technologies.

Since the Reforms the only participants allowed in the “Electricity Market” are a dozen or so very large corporations that are based on the centralised bulk use of commodities such as aluminium, coal, Gas, wood, huge turbines etc. Parliament nominally has control of three of them (Meridian, Genesis and Mighty River) but even the Finance Minister admits he has no control over their structure. Indeed as Peter underscores to us today, Michael Cullen and his Parliamentary colleagues are happy with the new ownership structure.  They are happy NZ citizens no longer have a democratic right to be involved in this market. They are content NZ citizens can no longer even own the knowledge of how their dwelling operates.

A fleeting mention is made of the value of the ripple control system and I realise how completely oblivious the Commission is of the lunacies of the current system. The ripple control system is the communication system used, among other things, to turn your hot water cylinder off at peak times if you are on what is called a “controlled hot-water tariff” because this relieves stress on the utility grid. 

There is not the slightest hint that the Commission sees anything daft about the fact that the Electricity Reform legislation gave the ripple receivers on your switchboard to the Bulk-gen retailers. I once asked an official why and he looked a bit puzzled and finally said “Well I guess we didn’t see much value in them and, well, they are on the board with the meter which the retailers were getting...they just sort of went with them.” 

So, if you are wondering why you spend your days fighting against having giant pylons or dams or huge wind turbines set up in your backyard or why Maui burnt out so fast or why our carbon emissions have rocketed, well now you know why. Demand control is now viewed as an irrelevancy, if not a liability.

Why is the ripple control structure so daft? Well, the transmitter sits in the substation of your local utility grid owner and they have a vested interest in minimising grid loads and preventing the system burning out. The transceivers are owned by Bulk-gen corporations with vested interests in stressing the grid to the maximum because they make their biggest profits then. Contact Energy is even reported as charging you extra for the privilege of having your hotwater-heating cut at peak times!

I am not alone in detecting the lunacy. Down the front of the room the “consultant” engineer puts his hand up and suggests it makes far more sense that the meter be the property of the local grid owner. At this point I realise how oblivious the Commission is to the vital role this technology has in deciding whether our civilisation survives or collapses. 

The EC speaker disagrees and says they are best with the ‘retailer” as this promotes more innovation of products to the market. In that one dismissive sentence he has kissed goodbye to our community intelligence, to democracy, to sanity, to our distributed generation potential and a huge raft of intelligent uses of broadband. Indeed he may well have set us up for a more fascist state, for warfare.

This ownership regime is not where the latest technology is heading and nor is it in the interests of the Bulk-gen electricity sector to promote customer powers that undermine their profits. Think about it. Why would any business with mega-millions of dollars invested in Bulk-generation plant and systems provide intelligent systems and technology to their market that enables their customers to go and shop else where and even become a retail or generator competitor? 

No, the only business that can make an assured profit with intelligent metering technology in a sustainable way is the local grid owner. Oh, and of course there is also the sustainable and radical option of liberating citizens and allowing them to own their own Maria compliant metering systems – just as we are now allowed to own our own phones. You see, phone and metering technologies are converging rapidly. And communities are full of individuals who are passionate about innovation whereas the current crop of corporations tends to employ emaciated souls who are mainly motivated by the thought of a quick buck and the quarterly statement.

The truth about innovation is staring the Commission in the face if it looks at its own graphs. These show, for instance, that the bulk of the people stick with the incumbent company in their region despite its much higher margins and even if other companies can supply them Bulk-gen electricity a couple of hundred dollars cheaper per anum. In fact the graphs show that the only times when there has been significant movements of people between companies is when there has been “load shedding” or “load dumping”. 

No, this “dumping” is not when companies shut down machinery to reduce loads at peak times. This is when a company decides to alter its customer/Bulk-gen ratios and dumps blocks of people en masse. Fig 37 shows the huge blips when Fresh Start, Empower, OnEnergy and TrustPower decided a bunch of citizens were now liabilities. In the latter case TrustPower decided its 6000 Christchurch and Wellington customers were liabilities in 2003 (Fig 34). So it told them go to Contact Energy. There was no hint of concern for our welfare. I rang Contact and they could not even tell me what contracting companies would be given the keys to our homes. The current legislation makes it very easy for criminal elements to infiltrate utility systems and puts us at far greater risk. 

This “dumping” or “churn” between corporations is something else NZ citizens have still to get their heads around: the Electricity Reform legislation says they are no longer citizens. They are simply tradeable commodities now -just as our electricity resources are no longer gifts to be used with intelligence and are now just commodities for some to make a quick buck out of. It will be most unwise for the rest of the world to take out path. Indeed use and learn from New Zealand as an exemplar of a basket case.

Combine these facts with Fig 34 (with the arcane/inane title NZ retail & exit –post lines/energy separation in 1998), which shows the number of companies involved in retailing/data mining is now down to 9 from 11 five years ago. This suggests that separating the distribution of our electrical resources from the local utility grid is profoundly anti-innovation. 

As an aside, this legislative barrier to innovation is also illustrated by reports that Bulk-gen company, Meridian Energy, decided against promoting dwelling-based wind turbines report because of insurmountable planning regulations. Instead it is a community owned utility grid company, Vector Ltd, that is investing in the dwelling based Swift Turbines

Probably the most revealing graph of the day is Fig 90 Electricity Intensity and real delivered electricity prices. This shows residential prices have more or less doubled in the last decade to 22cents while commercial prices have near halved down to about 12 cents. The biggie is the industrial price – it remains unchanged at about 6 cents.

The politics behind this drama are in part revealed in Fig 88 Electricity demand by sector. Residential 34%, Commercial 22%, Other Industry 21%, Other Large Industry 9%, Comalco 14%.

Yes I wonder how many people know the price we pay to have cheap foil to wrap our lunches, breakfast cereals, chippies, sugar drinks and beer in. 

I think of the thermal shacks we construct using aluminium window and door fittings that leak like infrared sieves. I recall my conversation with the man in Lower Hutt who attempted to import insulated metal frame doors and windows into New Zealand as part of his passion to raise our dwelling standards. He explained that these fittings barely meet the minimum insulating standards required in Europe but are top of the line here. He told me how the New Zealand aluminium industry closed ranks to shut him down. They told the engineering unions Kiwi workers would lose their jobs on scale. A three day “secret” conference of these parties was then held of these parties and resulted in a deputation to the Minister of Commerce at the time, the Hon Philip Burdon. He obliged them by slapping an 18% tariff on the imported energy efficient fittings. I checked a couple of years ago with Commerce officials and was told the penalty remains in place.

I recall the exciting days in the late 1970s as a whole bunch of us Kiwis got excited about all the new intelligent uses of electricity we were becoming aware of, of the passionate people working on solar generation, wind-turbines and computers. I recall our dismay when our Parliament’s Cabinet, using its pre-MMP powers, bulldozed through authority for the expenditure of $NZ800 million to build the massive Clyde dam to feed the pockets of the aluminium moguls. Some estimated this would have put a solar water-heating system on every house in New Zealand and created a nationwide industry in the process. Now Israel, another small country is the world leader in this field. The Clyde dam ended up costing well over $NZ2 billion and that blew our opportunity to be the world leader in wind-turbines too. Now we import them from the world leader, another small country Denmark. 

Just so Comalco could build more potlines to smelt more aluminium to fill our dumps with.

The seminar draws swiftly to a close, as must this blog. Molly Melhuish is given a couple of minutes to speak in which she puts up a graphs reminding those present of the impact of their activities on low income households or what she calls “energy poverty”. I sense most folk present display more a veneer of polite tolerance for Molly rather than any vital concern for this large and growing group of Kiwis. After all, they know The Market will provide for the poor.

After, as I am queuing for the lunch provided, I shake hands with a person from the Electricity Commission. I excuse my cold hands (its me ol’ ticker mate) and say as a person who lived on $156 dollars a week for years I well understood Molly’s figures. I know what it is like when a monthly Bulk-gen bill arrives for $NZ100 – and then my house is averaging 10ºC.

He seems interested as I talk of my experiences gained from decades of delivering Bulk-gen bills into thousands of households. I am less certain that he understands why the issue of ownership of knowledge is so critical in an era when a company will be able to control our lives using “smart metering”. I try to explain in two sentences that the person or group that owns the meter has huge control over home design and use. I point out all the technology has existed for years that would have automatically sent an electronic message from Folole’s home to her local council or welfare centre and thence to the hospital alerting all to her plight. Our Parliament has effectively forbidden such sane activities.

I try to explain why current corporation structures do not contain the ethos necessary to act responsibly for us all in such a vital field. He is young and clearly has no idea of the thuggish reality that determines how we use our electrical resources in New Zealand. I begin to elaborate a little. I become a bit incoherent and uncoordinated as the traumas of my own experiences sweep over me… My food slides off my plate onto the floor and the conversation ends as he gently disengages from this figure scrabbling around the floor picking up the pieces.

In his introduction Peter Harris had talked of how things are “dominated by current market participants” i.e. a few dozen people. He had talked of the “asymmetry of resources” between these people (Bulk-gen companies) and consumers. In his summing up at the end Peter Harris had said the Electricity Commission would like any information we have. 

Well my information is that until our Parliament repeals the Electricity Reform legislation we are doomed to increasing misery. Reflect on Fig 16, Peter: Share of household expenditure on domestic fuel and power compared fuel for vehicles. What mentality generates this comparison? So they have both averaged 3-4% of the average household expenditure 1998-2004. But we all know rocketing household debt levels and a dramatic divergence in wealth distribution skews such figures. The graph does not show that oil (and Gas) has been ridiculously cheap throughout the period. It’s been a mere $$20-30 a barrel and even as low as US9.86. Does this mean the electricity industry will be performing better when oil is $US200 a barrel and disposable household income in oil-addicted economies like ours is decimated by inflation? Does domestic fuel include burning your floorboards to keep warm? And is not solar radiation a form of power in households fortunate enough to access this resource? Is a wood burner not a source of power? Indeed what does the Commission believe power is.

Ah yes, I can tell Peter that I am left with more questions than answers. What does the “electricity” mean to each member of the Commission? He talked of the future “mix of generators” being the big issue. What does he mean by “generator”? Does it just mean very large turbines or does it include dwelling scale electrical generators, double glazed windows, hot water solar systems, intelligent modems and metering systems and other potential generators?

And as I leave I am still left asking the question: What is a bloke to do with regards to KiwiSaver? 

It is clear from today’s seminar that our Parliament thinks our use of our electrical resources is a non-core activity, best left to “market forces”. Or as the Hon Peter Hodgson put it, The Government believes in “market-derived solutions.” What happens when the market is not the people? 

No, the NZ Parliament is not going to invest my taxes in intelligent electrical and rail systems or intelligent self-sustaining buildings that prepare us for a carbon constrained future. Rather it is going to give my taxes via KiwiSaver to people to invest in the Bulk-gen companies, oil companies, car and jet travel companies, motorway construction companies, the “leaky (thermal and vapour) home” syndrome companies, the flawed carbon trading system and other major liabilities for our children.

It is bad enough to know that future Parliaments will use KiwiSaver as their excuse for scrapping Universal Superannuation, a system I believe plays a profound role in sustaining stability in our economy. 

What is of even greater concern to me is how KiwiSaver will impact on my ability to minimise my carbon emissions and conserve remaining fossil fuel resources. At present compared to many other Kiwis I place a relatively high value on carbon. I have stopped flying and owning cars, walk to mass transit systems, hang a rug over my lap and the oil filled radiator to keep warm etc. Already I am subject to direct local and national taxes that are poured into motorways, car parks, airline travel, fatally flawed carbon trading systems etc. This all penalises me for my high valuation of carbon.

Now KiwiSaver compounds my penalties. As a person on a moderate income (averaging under 20 grand a year) and nearly 60 years of age, the initial lump payment plus the tax breaks plus the employer (Government) contribution represent a very significant percentage of my take-home pay. As the media and politicians keep telling me, I would be stupid not to avail myself of this bribe/windfall/offer. 

However it is clear from current national and Parliament investment practices that the KiwiSaver will be invested in unsustainable uses of carbon. It cannot be invested, for instance, in rail now for, as mentioned, Toll has privatised its NZ holdings. KiwiSaver will also further promote the transfer of remaining NZ owned assets of our critical infrastructure to overseas owners through the Mark Weldon Beneficiary Institute. This same Government cash handout would enable me to insulate most of my dwelling now and for posterity but clearly this is not an approved investment vehicle. I guess it would reduce Mark Weldon’s cream-off too much.

So do I pretend that I do not need to put a value on carbon and let “the market” with its carbon trading, carbon neutrality, carbon offsetting and other mechanism put a value on it for me? I make a mental list. Such pretence thinking “frees” me to:

Own and use cars and fly again; 

Forget about the welfare of the next generation;

Give away this carbon education stuff that takes up 30-50 hours a week and get a job that pays me for that time instead; 

Get a few tens of thousand dollars in the KiwiSaver kitty courtesy of other taxpayers for if and when I get to 65;

The list goes on.

Or do I continue to put a value on carbon myself and refuse to join KiwiSaver, knowing even more of my taxes are now directly being used to further promote unsustainable uses of carbon and that I will be made very poor in the process?

What are you going to do, dear reader?

Joint Bonus Joules Award this blog. 
It goes to the Electricity Commission for making its material available in multiple electronic forms as well as hard copy. Click here to view the consultation document.
It also goes to NIWA for making millions of pieces of data freely available.

The lock up of this vital data under so-called User Pays regime has been obscene in a world where our children face extermination because we have destroyed the environmental balances that sustain us. We need every bit of data to be freely available to everyone who cares about the future of humanity and is able to reflect on the data creatively. 

Junk Joules Award goes Parliament for destroying the potential of the Electricity Commission to enable us to make intelligent uses of our wonderful electrical resources and survive in comfort and harmony. Peter Harris called for an “active process of engagement on the issue”. While 99.999% of us remain disenfranchised by the Electricity Reforms this process cannot happen.

Bonus Joules cartoon that accompanies this was first published about four years ago. Bonus Joules goes to the New Zealand Parliament and finds it lacking science and enthralled by Junk Joules.


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