CHRIS RYAN EATS KITTENS!

Some desperate Canterbury homeowners are setting fire to their homes to claim insurance, the Insurance Council boss says.

Arsonists were responsible for 100 fires across Christchurch in March, including 19 in houses or other structures, Fire Service figures show.

Since September 2010 there have been 1264 deliberately lit fires.

Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan said fraud committed by desperate homeowners was behind the increase in deliberately lit fires.

"We have seen it, but not to a great extent ... They have not got enough insurance to cover earthquake damage, so they pick up more insurance when a fire happens soon after that."

Ryan said he was not aware of police charging anyone over an insurance fraud case relating to quake-damaged homes.

"It's really only anecdotal, but insurers are very much aware there is a degree of fraud, not just in Canterbury. It happens everywhere." The Press, 24 April

Credit: Porcupine Farm

ROGUES GALLERY

Bridgecorp's Rod Petricevic isn't the only villain...

So Rod Petricevic got six and years half in the pokey for his role in the collapse  of Bridgecorp and the 'disappearance' of some $450 million worth of investor  funds. Thanks to Petricevic, many of Bridgecorp's 14,000 investors have lost their houses, their life savings, their health, their sanity. Unlike Petricevic, they have been given a permanent prison sentence.

Despite Bridgecorp's collapse  Petricevic  still continued to do his imitation of Richie Rich. Despite the fact that all the investors money had gone down the toilet,  he claimed a $550,000 ' performance bonus' for the year leading up to Bridgecorp's collapse. He also sought another   $200,000 in redundancy , $99,000 in expenses and half a year's salary worth some $280,000. Just to rub it in, he claimed holiday pay of  $53,000.

It is little wonder that he is one of the most reviled former 'financial whiz kids' who were supposedly leading New Zealand into a exciting new 'free market'  future.

But it is not just Petricevic who has got blood on his hands.

The fact is that he = and others like him - were able to get away with it because they were allowed to do by people who, in many cases, retain positions of authority and influence within New Zealand business and political circles. None of them will be going to prison.

Despite the fact that he had spectacularly failed once before  ( EuroNational  collapsed in 1987) , Petricevic still managed to get the  Securities Commission  to approve the Bridgecorp prospectuses

Jane Diplock, who was  Securities Commission chairperson at the time , allowed dodgy prospectuses  like Bridgecorp's to sail through the Securities Commission, completely unquestioned. The best that Diplock could come up with was to advise investors to examine the risks and rewards of finance houses like Bridgecorp.

Covenant Trustee Services  managing director Graham Miller was the trustee for Bridgecorp. On the Covenant website its claimed that Miller is recognised ' for his expertise in financial matters.' In 2007  he claimed that what turned out to be  a  desperate situation for Bridgecorp was 'not particularly obvious at the time'.

And over in Parliament Lianne Dalziell  Labour Commerce  Minister, snoozed through the unfolding finance sector collapse .People like   business columnist Brian Gaynor warned her frequently that a disaster was unfolding but she still refused to act.  Labour's ideological 'distaste' for 'interfering ' in the market would ultimately destroy the lives of thousands of New Zealanders.

Yet just last year Lianne Dalziell was, without a hint of embrassment,  declaring on the Labour website Red Alert that 'the financial elite have gambled away our future.'

'Ma and pa investors'  were skinned alive and the likes of Diplock, Miller and Dalziell stood on the sideline and let it all happen.

WORRYING TIMES

Christchurch councillor Yani Johanson says the Government negotiated the formation of the Christchurch Central Development Unit with Mayor Parker -  but kept the rest of the council in the dark.

I need to say I do think the government genuinely wants to help the City of Christchurch and I appreciate that. Business and investor confidence is critical and should be encouraged. So too should community input and public participation.

However people should be concerned about the formation of the Christchurch Central Development Unit for several reasons.

First it removes another layer of local democracy.

It undermines the Council’s draft annual plan which is due to go out for consultation tomorrow and was signed off by Council last week. This is because Council’s only task now is to ask how much of residents money we should put into major facilities without having any say into what those facilities will be and where they will go. Government has taken over the function.

Secondly there is a complete lack of details about what in the plan has been agreed to. There is no document or agreement that has been formally signed by the elected Council.

There is no details about what parts of the plan have been included or not. What is happening with height limits? Who is responsible for traffic planning?

The minister is quoted in Parliament as saying “we have taken a bottom-up, consultative, and community-driven approach to recovery.” I don’t believe this to be true.

He also says “we have been having a lot of discussions with the Christchurch City Council” Maybe with one or two people within the organisation but not the democratically elected council.

We were verbally told at 4pm on Tuesday for a 10.30am announcement the next day. What government have done is negotiate an announcement in confidence with the Mayor, a process that Councillors have been entirely excluded from.

That to me is not collaboration with the Council.

There has been no working together over this announcement, and no openness and transparency.

This is despite the principles of the draft recovery strategy highlighting that those are core values for which the recovery will follow. Worrying times indeed.

BUSINESS BLUEPRINT

The newly-formed Christchurch Central Development Unit will provide a blueprint for local business but not necessarily for the local community.

The creation of the Christchurch Central Development Unit within the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority has not only added a new layer of bureaucracy but has effectively shut out the wider Christchurch community out of the decision-making process that will rebuild the central city.

Having enthusiastically supplied its ideas to the draft city plan, this as now morphed into a 100-day plan to create a 'blueprint' for the central city. That will decided by Christchurch Central Development Unit supposedly in conjunction with the Christchurch City Council. But there is formal process within which any such 'consultation' will take place. The fact that the Christchurch City Council learnt of the formation of the Christchurch Central Development Unit only a day before it was announced will convince no-one of Mayor Bob's assertion that the council's role is not being watered down

But Christchurch business has enthusiastically endorsed the formation of the new bureaucratic caste because it has an organisation that will give it what it wants.

Such is the Development Unit's 'amiability' toward the interest of business is that it suddenly looks the vision of a 'low rise' city skyline is now up for grabs. The unit's chief Warwick Issac's told Radio New Zealand that the principle of building height restrictions was now in 'the melting pot'.

Colliers International managing director Hamish Doig told The Press there would be "a huge amount of relief and satisfaction" following the announcement of the Development Unit.

The blueprint would give developers and investors clear expectations, and ease concerns about the original plan's regulations, including height restrictions. "The reality is that the market will determine what is appropriate anyway. Nobody is going to build a building that is not going to be tenantable. What this is doing is actually saying, let the market forces determine within reason but this is the type of look and feel we want for our city.

"Let's encourage investment, let's make it easier for investors and developers to make decisions."

Bumped out of this business-dominated 'vision' of the central city is the wishes and interests of the local community. How much of the draft central city plan will remain once Warwick Isaac and co have finished with it?

FASCIST NUTCASES

Watching some of the court trial of Norwegian neo-fascist killer Anders Breivik, I was reminded that New Zealand harbours its own motley collection of neo-fascist creeps.

This photo is from a recent neo fascist 'White Pride Street March' after-party.

The man in the centre is Kyle Chapman of Right Wing Resistance and the most prominent defender of neo-fascism in New Zealand. He is doing the fascist salute with leaders of various violent neo-Nazi groups: Blood and Honour, Kaos Skins, National Front and South Island Skinheads.

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?

Gerry Brownlee sticks his head in the sand...

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the dynamic Earthquake Recovery Minister arrogantly claims there is no housing crisis in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch.

Gerry Brownlee will go as far as admit that there is 'a problem' but doesn't think it is 'a crisis'. So if we don't call it 'a crisis' then it isn't!

And what about the huge increase in rents which are driving families into homelessness? Gerry effortlessly deals with this potentially embarrassing situation as well!

Gerry says he doesn't know anything about it because its 'not a problem that has been brought to my attention'. So if he doesn't know anything about it ain't a problem! Fantastic stuff!

Brownlee has once again repeated that the Government would not be intervening in the housing market and expects 'the market' to solve the problem around about the same time that pink elephants are seen flying across Christchurch...

WELCOME TO THE THIRD WORLD

The housing crisis deepens in the eastern suburbs. Meanwhile Sideshow Bob and his cronies on the Christchurch City Council think that red zone residents should still have to pay rates - for services that they are not being provided.


Despite the best efforts of 'the troika' - Brownlee, Sutton and Parker - to 'attenuate the positive' the crisis in the quake-hit eastern suburbs continues to deepen, threatening a winter of discontent for those who wish to portray Christchurch as entering a phase of 'renewal'. Plans are now afoot for another protest at the Christchurch City Council Civic Offices.

Little or no decent housing is now available with people forced to pay exploitative rents for inadequate and poorly maintained properties. How bad is the situation? How about having to pay $700 a week for a caravan? Well, you could just sleep in you're car - which is what some people have been doing.

There are numerous reports of landlords auctioning houses off to the highest bidder. Both the Government and the Christchurch City Council seem entirely unperturbed by landlords exploiting the desperation of people looking for somewhere to live.

Overall rents in Christchurch have risen by over 12 percent so far this year.

The response of the Government to the dire situation is to mindlessly chant that 'the market' will somehow sort on the situation. The victims of the Government's 'do nothing' approach are families living in overcrowded conditions and in garages and tents. The hardest hit by the government's neoliberal zealotry are the poor, beneficiaries, the disabled.

Cera chief Roger Sutton appears conscious that simply reciting platitudes about 'the market' coming to the rescue will do nothing to appease Eastside residents. Recently, in one of his regular newspaper columns, he has been boasting about the 'success' of the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accomodation Service.

This was set up in early 2011 but, as Sutton admits, is only presently helping out approximately 300 households needing temporary accommodation. This is simply putting a plaster on a situation when major surgery is required.

CETAS impact has been minimal especially when we consider Christchurch City Council lost 361 council homes after the major quakes and now has at least 250 people on its waiting list.

Over 2000 people have approached various agencies for help in finding accommodation.

Tenants Protection Association manager Helen Gatonyi commented earlier this month: "We are in a crisis, crisis, crisis. It's just about as bad as it can get and, yet, it's getting worse,"

The solution to the housing crisis is a real and substantial government intervention - an anathema to both the Government and to elements within the Christchurch City Council and the wider business community.

To add insult to injury, the Christchurch City Council has rejected a option for full rates relief for people with houses in the red zone.

"By definition, those in the red zones are homeless,'' said councillor Glen Livingstone.

And as one red zone resident commented: "We don't have any services. There's no water, no electricity, no rubbish collection, but we still have to pay rates."

While Sideshow Bob boasts about $20 million temporary sports stadiums, people in the Eastside are living in Third World conditions - and getting screwed over by the Christchurch City Council as well.

BRADFORD BASHING

Ed Milband's Labour get battered in Bradford at the hands of George Galloway.

I wonder if Labour leader David Shearer took any notice of the election of British MP George Galloway a few days ago?

Having seemingly come to the conclusion that the way forward for New Zeaalnd Labour is to become even more right wing, the British Labour Party's defeat in the Bradford West by-election, should of sent a blunt message to Shearer that shifting the party ever more rightwards won't win him an election and the likes of blogger Martyn Bradbury will be forced to describe a 'Labour Party - Green Party- NZ First- Mana election bloc' as somehow progressive. Oh, that's right - he's already done that.

The Bradford election was won by former Labour MP George Galloway. It saw the collapse of the Labour vote. Incredibly, a majority of over 5,700 was turned into a defeat by more than 10,000. That vote did not go to the Conservative Party whose total vote plummeted by some 22 percent. The vote went solidly to Galloway and the Respect Party.

Labour got just over 8000 votes and the bookmakers have slashed the odds of Ed MilIband being sacked as Labour leader. Good riddance I say.

In a society wreaked by economic crisis Labour should have strolled to victory. But - remember - this the Labour Party of gormless Ed , a dismal Labour leader who has no plan and no strategy other than imitate the Tories. You just know he wanst to be another Tony Blair but history has passed him by.

In Bradford West, a largely working class electorate, Labour has rightly been rejected as failing to provide an alternative to the Tories. Galloway was able to deal blow after blow describing Labour as 'Austerity Lite'.

‘This is a rejection of the mainstream parties with their Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Tweedledee-and-a-half approach,’ Galloway told the media after his stunning victory.

As blogger Anna Chen has commented:

'Whatever you think of George Galloway, the main parties should take heed. This is the public putting a rocket up your bum. It's no use dismissing this arrogantly as the victory of "communalism", "oh it was just the Muslim vote", and all the other whining I've seen and heard since he won his astonishing 36 per cent swing in last night's Bradford West by-election for the Respect party. The voters have noted that the Tories are emboldened in their attacks on every aspect of life for anybody who isn't a top earner while the creepy Lib Dems facilitate their pillage and Labour flails pathetically. ..If Labour doesn't like Galloway then the solution is easy. Start doing your job so Galloway doesn't have to.'

BEING MIKE HOSKING

Mike Hosking stood to gain up to $48,000 this year in cash and perks from casino giant SkyCity, according to financial information obtained by the Herald on Sunday.

The information projects a $2000-per-month payment and up to 2000 "points", set aside for him to spend at the casino's hospitality facilities. Hosking is said to have carried out regular work there. Herald on Sunday

There are great benefits attached to being Mike Hosking.

Because you are Mike Hosking, whatever you say or do is very interesting. Even though you're just another dull conservative news host on just another talkback radio station, people still find you interesting. Whatever you do or say, the media are very interested in it and they describe you as a 'celebrity'. When you get married a women's magazine pays you lots of money for the right to publish the wedding photos. Its money for old rope.

Even when you are being odiously nasty and reactionary , people are still interested. So when you claim that Hanover Finance's Mark Hotchin's has done 'nothing wrong' people remain interested Likewise when you attack the Maritime Union as being a 'greedy, lazy union' you still appear in the social pages of the NZ Herald. When you take the big stick to beneficiaries ('sitting around home collecting state money forever.') TVNZ wants you to front Close Up once a fortnight.

But there are disadvantages to being Mike Hosking because people are interested in things that Mike Hosking would prefer they were not interested in. So Mike Hosking initially has nothing to say about his cosy commercial relationship with casino company SkyCity Entertainment.

His radio producer says that 'he does not tend to talk about things like that'.

However this week Mike Hosking has described Herald on Sunday staffers as 'pond scum'.

But Mike Hosking has been talking about how great SkyCity Entertainment on his Twitter account and on his radio shows.

On March 16 praised one of SkyCity's restaurants; "Just been for the pre-Close Up dinner at Depot, Al's got some awesome new stuff on the menu he's a genius."

It's cash for comment but such is the parlous state of the New Zealand media even this is not enough to get you sacked these days. Rather 'accommodations' are agreed upon and excuses delivered.

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