Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Does New Zealand support a "terrorist" country?


             Thakur Ranjit

People of NZ need to be aware that since 2013, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has partnered with the New Zealand Electoral Commission to provide support and capacity development to the Fiji Electoral Commission (FEC) and Fijian Elections Office (FEO). Very commendable and appreciated.

Reportedly New Zealand support included provision of $NZ950, 000 ($F1.4 million) to design and implement the Election Management System (EMS), including the purchase of associated hardware and other services. So far so good.

The problem is with the originating country to whom a supposedly transparent tendering process awarded the tender to – Pakistan.

Pakistan has never been a shining and glorifying example of fair elections or democracy. But even that is not the issue. The real issue is that NZ funded tender was given to Pakistan's National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), which appears to have questionable credentials, like the country it comes from. NADRA had come under fire from political parties in Fiji because of reports their officials allegedly accepted bribes in return for producing fake IDs, some of which were made for suspected terrorists.

According to Fiji Times of 24 June, 2017, the following response from an unnamed New Zealand High Commission spokesperson was provided:


"The ministry (MFAT) is aware of the claims relating to the company selected by Fijian Elections Office to supply the system. However, we are confident that the EMS (Election Management System) has been delivered in line with the contract process and that New Zealand funding has been used appropriately and for the intended purpose. 

Under the contract between MFAT and the Fiji Elections Office, the procurement of the system was undertaken by the Fiji Elections Office under Fiji Government procurement rules.
This included a requirement that the Fijian Elections Office undertake appropriate due diligence of the supplier and the system as part of its procurement process." (Good, Kiwis know how to cover their butts).

According to reports from Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, NADRA beat five other companies for the tender, which was awarded based on the assessment by the tender board and an evaluation committee. Saneem assured that a terrorism financing search was also carried out and it was all clear. But he failed to say who the other five tenderers were, and who cleared the so-called terrorism financing search. Neither do we know which other countries the tender came from - NZ? Australia? Britain? India? Does Pakistan have a High Commission in Fiji?

It would appear New Zealand Government which financed this project gave approval, cleared and sanctioned, that all was clear. They owe a duty of care to people of Fiji that since the financing came from them, the selection followed the rules, transparency and accountability of a First World New Zealand rather than a Third World Fiji. 

On assurance of a Fiji Government audit, Fiji’s Labour Party Leader (FLP) Mahendra Chaudhry said a government audit would not address the issue and the NADRA contract should be terminated. He reportedly said the FLP was worried about fake IDs being used to vote in Fijian elections and of the possible manipulation of the system to rig the election.

The reason why I brought this subject in New Zealand is that our taxpayers funded this project and supposedly New Zealand Government sanctioned the selection and choice of this Pakistani company. And I, as a citizen of both Fiji and New Zealand, would hold NZ Government accountable, should the doubts hold true about this Pakistani choice.

This was my comment in Facebook discussion on this subject:


“What surprises me is that a country which is more of a military dictatorship and lesser of a successful democracy is the one where this election system was found and awarded. I wonder whether they have ever participated in any credible elections in our living memory. I wonder whether this system will be as defective as Pakistan's democracy. In Hindi, they say, bandar ka jaane adrak ke swaad, A near English translation is: “Casting pearls before swine.” Since when did Pakistanis become experts in free, clean elections and democracy? 

Before I am accused of any phobia, let me clarify two issues: 1) India has more Muslims than Pakistan and 2) When Indians were brought as Indentured labourers to Fiji between 1879 and 1916, Pakistan did not exist.”

This decision by Fiji and New Zealand would also confuse rational thinkers in light of what is taking place in Gulf in the Muslim world. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in turmoil because some member states have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. 


Despite intense American efforts in the Middle East, bin Laden was not found or captured until 2011, when American intelligence learned he was living in Abbottabad, Pakistan. On 2 May 2011 a team of Navy SEALS, acting on orders from President Barack Obama, attacked bin Laden’s compound and killed him. Osama bin Laden’s body was taken by the U.S. forces and buried at sea later that day. PAKISTAN HAD BEEN SHELTERING HIM.
Pakistan has also come under radar of international community of doing this. Does the master-mind of 9/11 terrorist attack, Osama bin Laden’s name ring a bell? Bin Laden was not found or captured until 2011, when American intelligence learned he was sheltered in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where USA directed a surgical attack to kill him on 2 May 2011. 

Narendra Modi, Indian PM has openly accused Pakistan of promoting and harbouring criminals, especially in relation to Taj Hotel terrorist attack and other acts of terrorism in India directly linked to Pakistan. Even USA is aware of this.

What surprises me is that despite all these, New Zealand and Fiji Governments are supporting and sanctioning a supposedly terrorist nation when Gulf Council Cooperation (GCC) is under threat of breaking because of opposition to countries supporting terrorism and terrorists. 

My duty was to inform New Zealand people of the dealings by MFAT in the Pacific, and should anything go wrong in Fiji, do not say you were not warned. It is upon Opposition parties in New Zealand to seek proper answers from MFAT and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee and seek clarification, transparency and truth, unlike the Tape Gate 2 in Clutha!

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Kiwi-Fijian journalist who runs blog FIJI PUNDIT, and is based in Auckland.]

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Does John Key really deserve a Knighthood?


                                               Thakur Ranjit Singh

When I was an auditor with Coopers and Lybrand Accountants in Fiji in 1980s (as they were then known), an audit training session still rings fresh in mind after some four decades: THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A FREE LUNCH!.

We were warned never to take favours from clients we audit, as we get obligated and it clouds and bring into question our neutral and impartial judgement. Hence all those tasked with responsibility of exercising neutrality and impartiality need to maintain that arms-length dealings. In addition, they should not only be neutral and impartial, but also seen as such. 


Sir John Key: Yes, I got it, no, not the pony tail, but a Knighthood!

A living example comes to mind when this was NOT done. John Key, in his premature and surprise resignation, handed the leadership on a platter to his deputy, Bill English. This was despite Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Former lawyer Judith Collins, minister for corrections and police, who has long been touted for the top job, throwing in their hats for tussle of leadership in the National Party. Under the name of party unity, any opposition to Key’s choice was crushed, democracy was stifled and hence Bill English got the job - thanks to John Key.

Therefore, English was expected to reciprocate (return) the favour. And he did that so soon, that the ink on Key’s resignation letter had hardly dried, and than he got the Knighthood. The message here is that the Knighthood was the price Bill English had to pay for that lunch of National Leadership, which after all, was not free.

You will not read this anywhere in the mainstream or side stream media, because the publishers will sack the journalist who says what I have said, as media is to promote business and make money - to hell with bitter truth, as it will affect advertising dollars from rich people and rich businesses National Party represents. 

I am also slightly expedient, as I may annoy so many. Therefore, instead of saying anything more directly, I present to you views of normal everyday Kiwis as they have expressed in NZ Herald letters section, under their name. Here they are:

Arthur Moore from Pakuranga writes: “I see our ex-Prime Minister who spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to erase our connection with Great Britain from our flag is happy to accept a knighthood from the Queen.”(NZH, 06.06.17)

Stan Jones of Hamilton writes:”….John Key gets a foreign title for eight years of an “aw, shucks”, do-nothing Government interested in making a buck. As a consequence, we still have to deal with homeless people in a housing crisis, waterways so polluted any contact risks infection and increasing inequality of wealth and opportunity in life…”(NZH 07.06.17)

Peter Jamieson of Titirangi writes:”….Being very well paid for doing just an average job, while running up a massive debt. Well done, Sir. I do not know who to cheer for the most, Sir John Key or Sir Russell Coutts?” (NZH 07.06.17)

And finally, David Little from Whangarei takes the cake with a well-summed up analysis:

“Arise “Sir “John. Our past PM is a charismatic man. He has been a good ambassador for New Zealand. I look back on his eight years in charge and ask what his achievements are? Yes, he has been a steady hand at the helm, mostly hands off. He has presided over an economy performed better than most, no thanks to him but more to inheriting a low-debt situation. The economy was also boosted by China buying up commodities on a massive scale, raising prices paid. Nature also played its hand through earthquake destruction resulting in re-insurers’ insurance money flowing in from offshore. His Government’s open immigration policy played its positive and negative part. Yes, the economy is booming, mostly fuelled by the construction industry. However, most of his achievements, as with most politicians, are self-serving. 1)His tax cut for the wealthy; 2) His reverting top honours to Sir, Dame; 3) His dropping of inheritance tax, allowing wealth to be passed on tax-free; 4) A failed attempt to change our flag. His real legacy is a deeply divided have/have not society with the main beneficiaries being the wealthy and home-owning baby boomer generation. For this he receives a knighthood?” (NZH 11.06.17)

I have a close friend, a die-hard National supporter, and we have had quite a few left and right political arguments over a grog (kava) basin. He would be annoyed with this article, as he believes National under Key provided us economic development. But development for whom? Rich became richer, house speculators had a field day and became millionaires overnight and the gap in haves and have-nots increased. On the other hand, poverty and homelessness escalated and we have acute crime, housing, health and social problems. The damning UNICEF report has been buried by the mainstream (read right wing) media.

Both of us are drivers and both of us have bought houses in West Auckland over a decade ago. Now this friend, the National supporter, can he ever imagine his son being able to buy a house on his own? His son was once a youth MP for now Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett. Now, how many of these National youth MPs can afford to buy houses? Thanks to a National Government which has been propping up economy through unbridled migration, and under them, we have uncontrolled house-speculation, enriching the rich and denying poorer first-home buyers a house. Why should the son blindly support the same party his father supports - the party, which was sleeping on the job while a full generation have been displaced from opportunity to buy a house? And who bears the strain on housing and infrastructure from uncontrolled migration?

Robert Muldoon would be known as a PM who ‘stole’ the superannuation and denied the older generation the comforts of a healthy retirement. John Key will be known as a PM, who brought back honours system, and gained a Knighthood personally for his efforts.

That is the reason why the new generation need to go blindly in the next election and vote for a change. The slogan for the next election should be: THE DEVIL WE DO NOT KNOW (THE NEW GOVERNMENT) IS BETTER THAN THE DEVIL WE KNOW  (NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.)

All those stuck in traffic jams, all those robbed and affected by escalating crime because of gaping inequality, all the homeless because of government’s cut on social housing, the generation denied home ownership in their lifetime, all those hunting houses to rent because the speculators have them empty as “house-banks’, and a country with economic development benefitting the rich only, with little trickling-down effect – PLEASE STAND UP, AND GET ANGRY. IT IS YOUR TIME TO EMULATE WHAT THEY DID IN USA, (TRUMP ELECTION), THE BREXIT, THE FRENCH ELECTION AND A BRUISING ELECTION RESULT AGAINST TERESA MAY’S CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT IN UK.

Show your anger in New Zealand, AND VOTE FOR A CHANGE

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a media commentator at his blog site FIJI PUNDIT. He is based in Auckland, New Zealand]

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Do you understand Hindi News: The Purpose of Language is communication

Thakur Ranjit Singh

In absence of any watchdog to put a scrutiny of those who are supposed to watch us, Indian Media Watch – New Zealand has been established and fulfilling that role, being watchdog on Indian media which hitherto assumed they were beyond reproach. They watch others but they are also being watched – we have already successfully taken one to Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), and would not hesitate to do that again where they are seen to breach any rules and regulations. But it is also to critically view their effectiveness of otherwise. This is one such action, which is being repeated, as I had previously pulled Radio Tarana for use of language that goes over our head. Here I go again.


I have much respect for Radio Tarana and its efforts in teaching us the knowledge of Hindi language and difficult vocabulary, but it appears to be ineffective and done improperly.

I also have much respect for Nitya Nand Sundar, its part-time newsreader, and I presume the one who translates Hindi news from English language. I also praise his efforts to make us aware of Tulsidas level of Hindi Language. However the purpose of any language is communication – ability to pass the message that is understood.


My issue as an average Radio Tarana listener is: How much of your 7pm news on Radio Tarana on Sunday 18 June, 2017 was understood by the normal common mortal listeners of the station?
As a test, I request the news item to be replayed to Robert Khan, Satend Sharma, Shalen Sharma, Shalend Shandil, Pawan Rekha, and other Indo-Fijians and also Indians at Radio Tarana, and ask them what they understood, translate it to English language and whether they understood all the words and Hindi vocabulary used in the Hindi news item.

Why I raise it now is that I had raised it previously, and had raised the same issues I am raising now- inability of Hindi listeners to understand their high level of Hindi. I had recommended that I have no issue with use on non-understandable difficult Hindi vocabs, as long as they also explain them in simple Hindi or give English equivalents, so we can understand what is spoken. And this becomes a good education process as well. Currently it goes to waste. “Samm Ling”- (as used in Hindi news) -what creature is that? I asked some Pundits, and they also could not tell, so how do you expect FIJI PUNDIT to understand it.

I hope this will be taken in the spirit it is given – to take it as a constructive criticism which is the objective on Indian Media Watch New Zealand. It is the duty of this site to help raise awareness on media-related issues with a view to bringing in improvements.

Some Hindi vocabulary, among others, used in Radio Tarana Hindi  news in the past, without any use of English equivalents are as follows: sthai sachiu (permanent secretary), prashasnic karyawahi (disciplinary action) sakratmak (optimism), vyahan chaalak (vehicle/car driver), loktantra (democracy), pramukhta (mainly), prathmikta (priority) and the master-piece earlier mentioned, samm ling (gay/lesbian). An average Indo-Fijian, and even many Kiwi Indians may find difficulty or inability to comprehend news items if such words are used.

Yes, teach us Hindi via Radio, but by telling English equivalent as well, please.

[About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also has Facebook site-Indian Media Watchdog-New Zealand (among others), which keeps scrutiny of media issues in Indian media in New Zealand. He is a post-graduate scholar in Communication (journalism) with honours from AUT, Auckland.]



Saturday, May 6, 2017

D.A.V REUNION 2017- AUCKLAND – A DREAM COME TRUE


High decile schools in Fiji like Suva Grammar and Xavier College have been known to have marked their reunion publicly and internationally. But for a relatively lower decile school like D.A.V. College, in Ba, this was a difficult call. (The decile rating is meant to represent the income of parents attending the school. Decile 1 represents lowest income. Decile 10 represents highest income.)


Organising Committee and supporters of DAV Ex Students Association of Auckland, who are venturing on creating history to organise the first international  DAV Reunion in Auckland where we expect former students from Fiji, Australia, Canada and USA and, of course those from New Zealand to attend. IN THE PHOTO: Sitting (L-R Thakur Ranjit Singh (President), Mahendra Singh (Secretary), Muni Ratnam Krishna ( Treasurer). Standing (L-R) Chandrika Prasad, Manju Prasad, Purshottam Krishna ( Secretariat /Manager),  Sneh Pratap, Tarun Bala, Ashok Kumar and Sanit Lal. [Missing- Bikal Tahal, Meena Khan]

The other schools apart from having children of relatively better-off parents also tended to have the cream of students, the brightest and smartest. Schools like D.A.V and others were there to provide services to mostly children of poorer cane-farmer parents, and yours truly, Thakur was also one of them.

That is more the reason why we need to salute so-called lower decile schools in Fiji for moulding the poorer and lower level of students. Anybody can take creamy milk and make butter out of it. But it takes big courage to take butter-milk (maatha) and re-make it into butter. School like DAV has been doing just that and this is an excuse to pay back that gratitude by remembering those fond days.

That is what schools like DAV (includes schools like Sangam, Khalsa, Muslim, Sanatan) needs to have special salute for serving the community of poorer people and poorer students. Despite that, the friendship taught in legends like Krishna-Sudama always live on. It has been a desire of students of 1970-1973 to have a reunion, and this ambition has been burning for over a decade. The idea of planning this was ignited by my visits to USA and Canada beginning in 1998, where I always went to meet my DAV mates like Bimal Chand Sharma, Deo Mani and Ajay Kumar in Sacramento and Stockton, USA and Sant Lal in Canada. This friendship ignited the smouldering wish of DAV Reunion. The advent of Facebook made this task easier. Sant Lal, with Kushwa Singh, Latchman Rao and others were able to hold the first Reunion in Burnaby, Vancouver, Canada. From there it was decided to move this further, with continuation of DAV reunion.


A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE-FORMER STUDENTS ARE URGED TO MAKE AN EFFORT TO ATTEND.

A historic meeting in Surrey, Vancouver, Canada took place on 5 April, 2015 when we decided to launch an international DAV Ex-students Association, and carry the dream of hosting DAV Reunions around the world. This inauguration meeting was attended by Thakur Ranjit Singh, Sant Lal Sharma, Raymond Raj, Jiten Singh and Bimal Charan, at whose house this meeting was held.

It was resolved in this meeting:

1) To hold the current D.A.V. Reunion in Auckland, New Zealand in May 2017

2) To appoint international co-ordinators: They were: Raymond Raj (Canada), Deo Mani (USA) -now with his passing away Sant Lal Sharma is responsible for USA), Sadasivan Naicker (Fiji), Sanat Pandey (Australia) and yours truly Thakur Ranjit Singh (New Zealand).


At inaugurating DAV. formalisation meeting with (from left) Raymond RajJiten SinghThakur Ranjit Singh and Sant Sharma at Surrey, BC , Canada on 5 April, 2015. This was at Bimal Charan's place, who is the photographer.
3) It was resolved to hold Biennial (every two years) events around the world. The second to be in Auckland in 2017, the third to be in Fiji in 2019 and the next one in Brisbane in 2021.

Fiji Co-ordinator, Sadasivan Naicker has expressed interest to hold next DAV Reunion in Fiji (of course in Ba) in and around June/July 2019. This will be further confirmed in the DAV BA Reunion in Auckland on 13 May, 2017. Former Ba Mayor, and now Minister Pravin Kumar (Bala) has promised to lend support to Ba reunion. People need to be reminded that Ba businessman, Vinod Patel is amongst the first lot of DAV students of 1953

ATTRACTIONS FOR 2017 AUCKLAND REUNION

We have allocated time for teachers and students to have their say, and present stories, items, jokes and walking down memory lane. At least confirmed attendance of teachers are Bal Ram, Sanat Pandey, Lata and Surya Deep Singh, who are former students as well as former teachers. We also expect Bookkeeping teacher Jai Ram (a lawyer now) of Sydney and Ramendra Mani (Bookkeeping teacher) of Auckland.

Students have four categories of presentations: 1980 to later years, 1975-1980, 1970-1974 and Class of 1953-1969. There is special recognition for some DAV Students for special achievements, and some former principals will be recognised posthumously. Some teachers and students will be acknowledged, recognised and appreciated for their contributions made towards enhancing the name of D.A.V. through their personal contributions and excelling in being an honour to our school.

The programme begins with address by the President and acknowledging Arya Samaj of Fiji in general, and that of Ba in particular for having the vision for providing such an educational institution that built our lives. A well-kept secret is a ten-minute tribute-“Sharadhajali ke doh phool” –a tribute video presentation in memory of teachers and students who have passed away.


Still not too late. Former students wishing to attend are to contact our people named herein, and make an effort to attend this memeorable event.Add caption

With a very sumptuous meal, free supply of juice, kava and drinks, with music of yester-years, it is billed as a memorable night to remember all the past memories. Long-time friends will meet and talk, laugh, and cry over their past life, missed opportunities and what they found and lost. Special mention will be made of those lovers who found their partners in the school and are still married. And race is on for the highest number of DAV siblings (brothers and sister who attended DAV). While I will have three of us present, Purshottam Krishna, head of our Secretariat has thrown in a challenge with at least four of his brothers attending. And you have to come to experience this

But what we hope to see is a memorable night of DAVians, not to be missed by former DAV Students. Those who wish to reserve their tickets still have a chance of contacting our Secretariat at pkrishna@xtra.co.nz  immediately, for limited tickets. Also, check Facebook timeline of: DAV COLLEGE, BA FIJI REUNION. Hoping to see you there.

[About the Author: Ranjit Singh, as Thakur was known in school, was at DAV from 1970-1973 inclusive. He is the president of DAV College, Ba Fiji Reunion 2017, and also runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT.  he is a journalist and is a media commentator.]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Auckland Council forces us to drink water from its toilets…water, water everywhere….


Thakur Ranjit Singh

THE KIWI CULTURE OF DRINKING WATER FROM PUBLIC TOILETS
Auckland Council appear to be promoting this culture, with their planning of Council facilities bereft of any human, health, hygienic or public-need considerations.
You do not have free drinking water at almost all its railway and bus stations, unless, of course, you DRINK FROM ITS PUBLIC TOILETS.
The bigger irony is that Western Springs Lakeside Park which is built on the site of former Auckland Reservoir, which provided water to early settlers, is as dry as Sahara Desert. None of its fountains have running water. If you are thirsty in the park – DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS.
Another irony is that the $28 million dollar Otahuhu bus and rail station which opened last year (October, 2016) and which has won an award, still has no free drinking facilities – YOU HAVE TO DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS.
We just hope Auckland Council gets planners who are more visionary. But who listens in a heartless UNCONTROLLED organisation. 
Hope they can learn something from Fiji….read on.

The recent deluge and flood in Auckland did not only sink parts of New Lynn, but also sank the credibility of advisers of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. He was made to apologise for Act of God, blaming the downpour on climate change.

We had a similar deluge and issues in Suva, Fiji some fourteen years ago, and I was at Suva City Council then. If I was an advisor to Phil Goff, I would have drafted the following release for him, similar to what I had done for Suva’s Mayor:

Any municipality makes facilities for normal functioning in normal situations.. Men-made facilities are rarely capable of handling catastrophe brought by extreme Act of God like floods, cyclones and Tsunami.

What happened on Sunday 12th March 2017, in Auckland was no exception. Metservice advised that parts of Auckland received over 60mm of rain in an hour that day. This is phenomenal, in fact unhistorical rainfall. A month’s average rain fell in a day, most of it in one hour when the soil was already heavily saturated from previous continuous rain. To make it worse, the timing was not in our favour. While I have been assured by my contractors that most drainage and waterways were periodically checked, the seasonal autumn foliage compounded the problem. Geographic make-up of Auckland also contributed, being on same level as sea and hence cannot drain away so much deluge in such a short time. In such a situation, the earth just topped up with water which could not be drained fast enough, as no systems are made for that amount of water in such a short time in such low topography. 

In a layman’s language, our infrastructure provides six inches of drainage, while the rain we got was double that. No system can answer that call of nature (excuse the pun) from open skies. Hence, our system just could not cope.” 

No beating around the bush, no apologies for which you were not responsible and no scape-goats. Just plain facts. House guttering could not cope, they were overflowing, same thing happened with the City’s drainage system. So, why the Mayor has to blame it on the controversial subject of climate change?

Now, still on WATER - what I really wanted to say, before this distraction.
If an Extra Terrestrial (like Steven Spielberg’s ET), which survives on clean water, with clean habits, accidently landed in Auckland, it would not survive. If it were to travel by Auckland’s public transport via train and bus, it would “thirst’ (starve) to death.

This is because Auckland Council intends bus and train-station users to drink from its dirty environment of toilets. People are forced to drink from toilets, as no separate hygienic free water is available at any of Auckland’s bus and train stations (except two).


Water ..water everywhere, not a single drop to drink. Western Springs Lakeside Park, which is built on former Auckland reservoir, has no free drinking water, unless you drink from its toilets. This drinking fountains has been dry now for some years now, and the other fountain has also gone dry. perhaps nobody cares, nobody knows, and nobody will do nyhting about it.
Jokes and sarcasm aside, let us face reality from an observant terrestrial. You travel on a train or a bus network from Waitakere Station in West Auckland to Pukekohe via Papakura (including Sylvia Park network) in South, with an empty water bottle, you will find no place to fill it or drink free water, except in Auckland toilets. Same thing applies if you travel on Northern Busway, from Albany Station to all stations to Britomart. In Britomart, you had to go a floor down, but two months ago, somebody saw light, and has one fountain on ground floor after recent renovations. New Lynn also has a low-pressured lone drinking fountain. That is the sum total in Auckland- JUST TWO. Not even the most recent multi-million dollar showpiece at Otahuhu Station (or Panmure) has a drinking fountain. Just recently, Auckland Transport (AT) spent hundreds of thousand dollars beautifying fascia of all its Busway Stations – but no relief for those looking for clean free water. 


Ha Ha Ha. The new $28m Otahuhu bus and train station, whicc opened in October, 2016, also has no drinking fountains-UNLESS YOU DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS. Ironically this staion has just being given an award. The judges said the design team expertly wove together "multiple cultural and historic narratives." Perhaps one of them is the new Kiwi culture of drinking from public toilets!
Auckland, as a supposedly most liveable city needs to live up to that name. Health and well-being of its citizens is it prime priorities. Free water contributes a great deal to healthy bodies. Tens of thousands of school children use these facilities, and are encouraged to buy frizzy and sugary drinks instead of free water supply in a country overflowing with so much water. Ironically NZ does not blink an eye-lid to give free supply to overseas companies who profit on our natural resources. Yet our city is unable to give it for free to its ratepayers and people using its facilities. Some stations sell Coke products and supposedly healthy glutton and fat free products, but fail to provide healthiest essential product for life -WATER. Does Auckland Council have shares in Coke? Or water bottling companies which sell its products at twice the price of petrol?


Another laughing matter-while Auckland Council does not provide free water, it makes money by allowing Coca Cola to sell 'unhealthy " drinks, and also water , at almost double the price of petrol. I wonder is Auckland Council has shares in Coke Company, or one of the water bottling companies.

I suggest Phil Goff to do as legendary ‘Phantom” (from Phantom comics) used to walk the streets in a disguised form. Change your appearance, ride on your motorbike, thirsty and with an empty water bottle, see where you can have free fill or drink of water, from a water fountain, and not from a toilet. Travel to major stations like Swanson, Henderson, Sylvia Park, Otahuhu, Papakura, Manurewa, Pukekohe, Middlemore, Papatoetoe, and all Northern Busway stations. And then he will recall the deluge of 12 March 2017, and exclaim: “Water Water everywhere, not a single drop for the Mayor (unless he drinks from the toilet). Now where are our City planners…Hope they are not sunk in the sinkhole at New Lynn?”


Northern Busway has been hailed as pride for public transport inititive. Its stations: Albany, Costellation, Sunnynook and , Akoranga - none has any drinking fountains -UNLESS YOU DRINK FROM THEIR PUBLIC TOILETS.
I suggest Phil Goff also send some highly paid Auckland City planners on a junket to Fiji to see how we do it in a Third World Country. All our municipality markets and bus stations throughout Fiji have separate pipes and free water for its thirsty citizens (not in toilets). Fiji may be poor, but its decision-makers have a heart, and compassion for the people who pay their salaries. And yes, if that ET lands in Fiji, it will survive through our public transport network, as we do make our people to drink from toilets. And then Auckland Council can copy Fiji and provide separate free drinking water, and not make us to drink from Auckland toilets, as they do now!

[About the Author-Thakur Ranjit Singh manages blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also manages the Facebook Page- “Auckland Council WATCH”, where he raises pertinent issues relating to Auckland Council, hoping somebody, some day, will take notice.]

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When Auckland Council Fuels Traffic Jams - with Truck-loads of Rubbish


Thakur Ranjit Singh

How many times have you been held up in traffic on a busy time rush hour on a State Highway, on a suburban bus route, main or trunk road, or near a school during opening or closing times? And later you realised the “avoidable jam” was created, and made worse by Auckland Council rubbish trucks. They seem to have a habit of collecting rubbish on busy roads during rush-hour. This appears to be an everyday happening now.

As a bus driver who starts quite early with school runs, I almost encounter this on a regular basis. And this has been confirmed by fellow bus-drivers as well. But the last chain of incidents took me to the edges of my tolerance. It was just before 7 am on a Friday morning, when we all were rushing to work. Lo and behold!, on State Highway 16 between Soljans Cafe and Brigham Creek Road roundabout (near Kumeu) in West Auckland, a Council truck was collecting rubbish from the busy road, holding traffic.


Traffic is forced to dodge rubbish collection trucks at busy school times in or around school zones. Such collection near schools need to be done only between lull in traffic. This gives them six hours, so why they need to create undue congestion at and around 8 am? Auckland Council surely needs proper planning and co-ordination.
Then an hour later, just around 8am on a busy Albany Highway just past the junction of Upper Harbour Drive in North Shore, I met another similar truck holding traffic while collecting rubbish. Then I proceeded up Sunset Road, (Unsworth Heights) in North Shore, which is also a trunk route for morning commuters, feeding into many schools. The same scenario, another hold up.

And this is not confined to mornings. I have also seen them on busy Taharoto Road and Northcote Road in Takapuna, Auckland in afternoon as well. I also encountered them during peak school time around 8am on Belmont Drive and Nile Road, which is just a stones throw away from three large schools in the area in Takapuna – Westlake Boys, Westlake Girls and Carmel College. School buses and school traffic have to dodge and squeeze through these nuisance on narrow roads.


This is Nile Road in Foresthill, Northshore. It is a stones throw away from four schools: Westlake Boys, Westlake Girls, Carmel College and Foresthill School. Yet on a Wedneday morning at 8.34 am, when buses and cars are busy in this area on this narrow road, Auckland Council Rubbish truck (right) was collecting rubbish. Note a school bus was forced to pass on the wrong side of the road at the traffic island, creating hazard.
The “golden mile” in Takapuna has following seven schools:  St Joseph Catholic School, Rosmini College, Takapuna Normal Intermediate, Carmel College, Westlake Girls, Westlake Boys and Foresthill School. Some 2km stretch of road linking Foresthill Road, Wairau Road, Taharoto Road and Fred Thomas Drive, among them have these seven schools, adding to thousands of vehicular traffic during school opening and closing times. The last thing we need is uncoordinated and poorly planned-rubbish collection during busy times in and around these schools. I as a regular bus driver around these schools have encountered these trucks causing unnecessary traffic jams in morning and afternoons on a regular basis. This is what has prompted me to raise this issue.

Similar is the story around other areas of Auckland. Many have encountered these, but have not bothered to raise it as they see raising any issue with Auckland Council like whipping a dead horse. My site Auckland Council WATCH will take all concerns to the Council, and will send these articles links to ALL Auckland Councillors. I hope, as Chairpersons of various committees, they can pull up non-performing Managers to coordinate and plan their activities in respective portfolios in such a way that pose little disruptions to the City.


Why do rubbish colection trucks have to crowd up busy areas and around schools in mornings and afternoons? Why are parents and buses forced to squeeze between these hazards and cause hazard to other road users? Do you need to be a rocket scientist to plan rubbish collection schedule?
Auckland City is huge, with large residential and commercial areas. Therefore, Auckland Council needs to get its act together and identify and create critical areas 500m to 1km near schools, on Highways, bus routes and busy school or city traffic routes. They need to create a no-go zone for rubbish collection or any other Council activities between 6 -9am and 3-6pm, which disrupts traffic. They have six hours in a day when they can attend to such busy traffic areas, between 9 am and 3 pm.

Recommendation:

Auckland Council need to review their rubbish collection as follows:
- Create red zones near schools, on bus routes, on highways, busy trunk routes and roads feeding to schools. Rubbish in these areas should ONLY BE COLLECTED BETWEEN 9-3pm.

- They should create Green Zone in secluded parts of the respective collection zones, not contributing to any traffic chaos. They can service these areas in rush hour of 6-9am and 3-6pm.

- They should create orange zones in areas bordering the two, and apply discretion to fill their schedules.

You do not need a rocket scientist to plan activities in such a way as to have a win-win situation, without disrupting traffic. And Auckland Council has many highly paid officials to do this.

I hope common sense will prevail, and Auckland Council staff would start earning their pay.

[About the Author; Thakur Ranjit Singh does what most qualified ethnic migrants do when they are not accepted in their qualified job market – drive. Thakur has Masters in Communication (MCS) with honours from AUT. He tried to join Auckland Council in its Media and Communications team. However, he was seen unsuitable to colour a White  media and communications departmentf from an ethnic journalist who studied on Pacific Island Media Association (PIMA) Scholarship to add colour to a relatively "White" NZ media scene. He is a part-time bus driver, and knows Auckland extensively. Seeing the barriers to a White Media, he runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT and is active on social media. Other observations of Auckland Council are to come later.]

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A case for heavy rapid rail to Auckland Airport - from Puhinui


Thakur Ranjit Singh

Some 3 and a half years ago, in July, 2013, we saw some hot air during Auckland mayoral election. Mayor Len Brown said a rail link to the airport would have been a focus over the next year if he won a second term. The same Brown had promised at the 2010 election to build rail to the airport by 2020. It is said that studies had confirmed that the best choice of rapid transit was rail. While arms and legs were promised, nothing eventuated. Blinkered leadership in Auckland resulted in literally ‘shitty’ waters with overflowing sewerage and an apparent dysfunctional Water Reticulation system. Lack of rail link to airport suffered same dereliction of duties by our previous city fathers and government. Hope we have some hope from the current ones. 


Rapid Heavy Rail Link to Auckland Airport was on the planning board of past mayor, Len Brown, but dereliction of duties by City fathers and respective governments have robbed travelling public the facility that most major airports have to their respective cities.
Reportedly, in 2013, planners had come up with two options for rail to the airport - a 6.5km link from Puhinui on the main trunk line costed at about $470 million, and $1.45 billion for a full circuit including Onehunga, which has had its branch line reopened for passenger trains and is 9km from the airport.

But Onehunga is out, and I am supporting a cheaper and better alternative that many other support: a shorter route of some 7km, mostly through green country via Puhinui station. The plethora of so-called experts in Auckland Council, Auckland Transport (AT) and Auckland International Airports Limited (AIA) need to urgently meet and make this happen, and pass a proposal to Government about the urgency and necessity of this issue over which the Auckland Mayor’s office has already been asleep for over 7 years. Hopefully Phil Goff can make this happen.


Approach from Puhinui Station to Airport, via 2km of built-up area can be widened to accomodate railway lines, if there is enough political will for a rapid rail link to Airport. I am no expert, but we need experts to tell WHY THIS CANNOT BE DONE
Our respective leaders, Andrew Little (Labour) and Metiria Turei (Greens) meet this weekend at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall to lay out our priorities for the election campaign and their vision for a stable, responsible alternative. I earnestly hope heavy rail to the Airport is seen as an election a priority. I have already reminded Andrew Little and Labour Party of this in my earlier article, but they have a habit of ignoring views they do not like.

Rapid link to Airport is no longer a choice, but a necessity. The fact that scheduled airlines are delayed in a First World Country because pilots and crews cannot reach the airport is a story for Somalia or other Third World Dysfunctional democracies or dictatorship-not New Zealand. As I had said to Andrew Little, Labour needs ‘political balls’ to bite the bullet NOW.


Auckland International Airports Limited (AIA) has a conflict of interest situation where it mines gold from car parks at Auckland Airport. Hence, they may not be very supportive to kill their cash cow through a railway link.
One problem may be from the Airport Company (AIA) which is making a killing with its car park revenue, as they mine gold in Mangere carparks at Airport, with one car space having a potential of returning more revenue than renting a million-dollar home. The other hindrance may be from other assorted road transport lobby groups. But we need to make a decision and start planning NOW. With its shares in Auckland Airport, Auckland Council need to DIRECT Airport Board to be effective, as well as being efficient.
Puhinui Station is the shortest railway link to the Airport, mostly through farms, and has easy approach to Domestic and International terminals. We need experts to do a serious project planning on this option.
A case for the link from Puhinui:

I have walked some 2km distance from Puhinui Station, past Motorway 20 to Manukau Gardens, through the built-up part of the proposed projects. As road widening is taking place in Te Atatu Road from Motorway 16 to Flanshaw Rd, similar work can be done without demolishing any houses to widen the road and accommodate two lines to the Airport.


Just past and under Motorway 20, Motorway 20b, via Puhinui Rd from near Manukau Memorial gardens is only 5 km through farm lands to  Auckland Airport. Why do I need to tell this to our so-called experts - they need to get out of their ivory towers to see chaos at Auckland Airport.
And from Manukau Gardens to the Airport for some 5 km, we have green country, and government can institute its right to possession for national development. It is basically open fields. It could cost-effectively link to the Domestic and International terminals respectively. We need input from the highly paid so -called experts, who need to wake up. I wonder why it needs a layman like me to advise them on how to do their job. What are over-rated and highly paid bureaucrats and politicians doing while almost all First World’s major airports have rapid, convenient and affordable rail links to their cities, linking to the national rail network?


Viewing site on Puhinui Road, as seen from runway of Auckland Airport. Rail Link from Puhinui Station via this green country will be less painful and less costly.
Those who have been to Sydney would have seen how, they can connect to the wider Sydney network, and go anywhere without worrying about gridlocks on approaches to our Airport. George Bolt Memorial Drive, Tom Pearce Drive and Puhinui Roads, and the obstacles of lights at Kirkbride and Montgomery junctions cannot continue serving Auckland’s growing population and hugely expanding air-traffic. To make this worse, light and heavy traffic taking a bypass to Airport through these roads create the gridlock we are talking about. And nobody seems to be doing anything about this.

As I am finishing, I just saw on Al Jazeera TV about 12,000 km Silk rail link from China to Great Britain. What a pity, the British migrants New Zealand got some two centuries ago did not have as much foresight about rail transport as their “convict” counterparts who went to Sydney had. In Sydney, they have emulated British rail system, while Auckland still resembles a Third World Country.

Auckland Council and Government can continue with this chaos, and Labour Party can ignore this at their peril, as people go through election booth later this year.

Coming up in AUCKLAND COUNCIL WATCH: 

  • How Auckland's poorly managed rubbish collection planning contributes to traffic congestion?
  • Why are Auckland Bus Stations, Train Station, Domestic Airport and some Parks so dry? Does Aucland Council have shares in fizzy-drink and water bottling companies?
  • Why bus link from Albany Station to Constellation Station, as part of Northern Busway gets bottle-necked , with poorly planned entry to bus lane at Graville On -ramp?


[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh does what most qualified ethnic migrants do when they are not accepted in their qualified job market – drive. Thakur has Masters in Communications with honours from AUT. He tried to join Auckland Council in its Media and Communications dept., but despite his plea, the Council refused to colour this department from an ethnic journalist. The irony is that Thakur studied on Pacific Island Media Association (PIMA) Scholarship to add colour to a very white NZ media scene. He is a part-time bus driver, and knows Auckland extensively. Seeing the barriers to media, he runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT and is active on social media, with Auckland Council Watch one of many sites he manages.  This is his first of other posts relating to Auckland Council]