Hard News by Russell Brown



The Princeton WordNet search defines transmogrification as "the act of changing into a different form or appearance (especially a fantastic or grotesque one) 'the transmogrification of the prince into a porcupine." Such a process, if we are to believe the man himself, has been visited upon John Banks as part of rendering him newly fit to contest the Auckland mayoralty.

Banks' transformation involves not only a conversion to the virtues of public transport, but a disavowal of Auckland's stormwater upgrades being funded through water charges (thus putting himself on the same side of the argument as the very-left Water Pressure Group). He allows that debt should be raised "strategically" to cover such investment, at the same time as he accuses the current council of allowing debt to blow out.

The alleged financial wizardry of Banks' last term was achieved almost solely by selling half the council's Auckland Airport shares -- 38 million at $4.90 -- in 2002. The share price had appreciated by nearly 50% a year later. The shares topped $8 in 2005 before the airport company made a four-for-one stock split. They closed yesterday at $3.28. You do the math.

So Banks won't have that one to play with again, but he does have an opening via the indifferent performance - and, in some cases, obsession with pet issues - of the current council. I actually think Dick Hubbard himself has performed relatively well, especially when we consider the ludicrous behaviour that was a feature of Banks' term.

Meanwhile, he was on the radio this morning accusing Hone Harawira of belonging to a "racist" organisation: ie, the Maori Party. Sigh …

Speaking of which, the Australian federal government has thought the better of its poorly conceived announcement that it would be conducting forced medical checks on all aboriginal children in targeted communities. Now there will only be examinations when there is some reason to believe abuse has occurred. This is apparently not a backdown. No, it's a bloody shambles.

TVNZ's general manager of digital services, Eric Kearley, is writing a blog as part of a policy of looking to engage the public in the broadcaster's move into the Freeview platform. The most recent post is an invitation to public briefings in Auckland and Wellington next Monday, on the TVNZ 6 launch schedule. He has previously introduced himself to readers and offered some interesting resources on the future of television.

As is the case with similar efforts at Fairfax and APN, the retrofitting of blog functionality to TVNZ's existing publishing platform is a work in progress -- the same set of comments is still appearing beneath every post -- but I think this is a laudable initiative. And they do have a feed.

Also, the Public Address Radio interview with TVNZ's Jason Paris about the YouTube deal, and what comes next, is up on the podcast this morning.

PS: We've brought together our friends in SJD and our friends at Karajoz for a promotion for the new SJD album, Songs from a Dictaphone. If you click here, or on the ads on the site, you can order the album from Real Groovy and get delivered a bag of Karajoz' No.1 blend coffee. Get in there.

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