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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 21. September 4 1975


page 12


Graphic heading with the word Books

Report of the Committee to Review

Power Requirements (D.6A)

Report of the Planning Committee on Electric Power Development in New Zealand (D.6B)

Two recently released government reports give an insight into the way in which electricity planning is done in New Zealand, and which consequently give an outlook on the process of government in this country They are the Report of the Committee to Review Power Requirements and the Report of the Planning Committee on Electric Power Development in New Zealand The general tone of these reports is support for what I would describe as a "planning by multiplication' technique, in which it is blindly assumed that electricity needs will increase at a fixed rate, and that it is therefore necessary to plan accordingly.

I will begin by looking at the Report of the Power and Finance Utilisation Committee, which is attached as an appendix to the Report of the Committee to Review Power Requirements. The estimates made by this committee are based on information supplied to it by each of the 65 electrical supply authorities in New Zealand, and 6 of its 7 members are from the ESAA (Electrical Supply Authorities Association). This Committee notes that the restrictions-imposed by the government in recent years have had a marked effect in reducing electricity demand, and that this factor, along with an artificially low electricity price with the certainty of a substantial price rise in the near future the increased cost of oil, and the depressed state of the economy, has made forecasting difficult Yet, in spite of this, the committee's results are the basis for the Committee to Review Power Requirements to estimate an increase in total electricity requirements for 1975-76 over 1974-75 of 17.7% (Such an increase would appear to be considerably larger than any previously recorded in New Zealand). And on the basis of this increase, the Planning Committee on Electric Power Development in New Zealand predicted that there might be difficulties in 1975-76. But we have seen that even with the Cook Strait cable out of action, there was sufficient power available, and so we can have reasonable doubts as to the quality of the estimates.

There are a couple of other interesting bits in the Report of the Power and Finance Utilisation Committee. One of these is the prediction by the King Country Electric Power Hoard of an increase in Electricity demand in the 1977-78 year for its area of 163%. And in another place we find a passage which is hardly written in the usual government report style:

'Electrical supply authorities have sometimes been accused of promoting sales of electricity merely for the sake of setting more electricity. This, of course is rubbish: the elected representatives of the consumers would be doing these consumers an injustice if they followed such a policy.' (P.14)

I find such a response interesting, and although it may be true on the surface, I suspect that, at a deeper level, it is not true at all. For, by the operation of the planning process which predicts long-term increases in electricity demand of 6.6% p.a., the Electricity Department will ensure that people will willingly consume more electricity - there will be conditions where electricity demand rises in an attempt to ultilise the electricity supply rather than the situation depicted in the report where the supply authorities behave responsibly to ensure that there is sufficient supply available to meet the increased demand. And, in the same vein, the Report of the Committee to Review Power Requirements insists on the provision of a margin in the generating capacity for major unforeseen industrial loads - in ten years time we may be hearing the argument that since we have the electricity generating capacity, why should we not have another aluminium smelter?

For all the talk by the Electricity Supply Authorities on the Power and Finance Utilisation Committer it is interesting that when their report reached the Committee to Review Power Requirements representatives of government departments on the latter committee found cause to disagree with the estimates presented to them Representatives from the Department of Statistics, the Ministry of Energy Resources, and Treasury agreed that the Power and Finance Utilisation Committee had overstated requirements.

But apart from a few hostile remarks directed against the government's housing programme, there is not a great deal of new material in the Report of the Committee to Review Power Requirements. The attack on housing is interesting, for the committee admits elsewhere in its report that most electricity use is industrial, yet there is still concern at increased domestic use because of there being more houses. One might suggest that all members of the committee were adequately housed, and that consequently they were not too concerned for those who were not Also .when it assumes a constant load factor the committee report is, in effect, saying that there is little prospect of more efficient use of our electricity generation resources.

But this last expression in respect of the load factor is made much more explicit as a general attitude in the Report of the Planning Committee on Electric Power Development in New Zealand:

The Planning Committee on Electric Power Development is charged with presenting to Parliament an annual review of a practical and economic programme of power station construction to meet the estimated load demands. If it did anything less it would be avoiding its responsibilities. It must leave the desirability of concepts such as 'zero growth' and the wide-ranging social and philosophical requirements which would have to be adopted by the community to achieve such a target, to be debated in other forums.' (P.3)

This points at the problems facing anyone who wants to change the policies already established in this country, for, as a general rule, such a narrow range of options is chosen that the outcome of the planning process is almost a foregone conclusion. One cannot help but wonder in this respect, if it was for this reason that electricity generation was found to be the most suitable use for Maui gas. The report also argues that nuclear power is a necessity because the volume of coal reserves is not proven.

Otherwise the main content of the Report of the Planning Committee on Electric Power Development is to review a wide range of plans for the construction of various new power stations, with the previously little publicised suggestions for hydro stations on the Mokihinui River on the West Coast of the South Island, and, for the North bland, the Motu River (which flows into the Bay of Plenty East of Opotiki), with the Mohaka and Wanganui Rivers being also considered. This last suggestion is one to be particularly wary of, because the Wanganui River is the last major river available in its natural state as a recreational resource, and even one dam would ruin this.

It is my belief therefore, that we should be wary of the workings of these committees which operate under the general supervision of the New Zealand Electricity Department. Their frame work and scope of operation is generally very [unclear: na]. limited, yet it is likely that their [unclear: reco dalions] will become New Zealand's [unclear: ele] development policy which implies [unclear: in] will have nuclear power by [unclear: 19 ber] ship of these committees is, however, in no way under the control of the democratic process and thus the New Zealand people have no control over whether or not they will get nuclear power, or any other type of electricity development Did anyone suggest we had a democracy?

How to be a Pom by Craig Harrison

There was this Auckland talk back show a while back. You could forget Mangere monotony and dishes drudgery for a while as you rang up and blamed it all on the Poms. Really you wanted to blame the blacks, but some toffey-nosed intellectuals reckoned that wasn't nice and passed a Bill or something. So someone must be causing it - obviously the whingeing Poms The thousands who rang up Radio I to Pom-bait might have had a point (you knew Salient and the Exec are dominated by foreigners? Mighta guessed!) but the causes of Mangere monotony and dishes drudgery are really a little deeper. The Pom counterattacks might have had a point too, but again digging a little deeper might have helped.

Craig Harrison's How to be a Pom' is very much in the traditional Pom-whinge-ing terms tho its got little on how to alienate your workmates etc, its more a satire on various parts of NZ life, and a good satire at that (eg the spread of Thinking in Godzone is often blamed upon immigrants who have caught it overseas). There are some brilliant pieces - for example the attack on the standards of what pass for newspapers (Pat Booth's investigative reporting on the Thomas case was News in itself, being so unusual) and the snide comment on politicians (Sir Keith Holyoake has been described as a man of towering intellect. 'a truly great statesman', 'a man of keen and far-sighted judgement, 'the greatest politician since Seddon,' You can judge the others from that.') Sure they're funny, but as good satire they also make a serious point. The longer pieces entitled 'Saturday Bloody Saturday and 'They Perished Not in Vain' rip hell out of the NZ stereotype and are guaranteed to please farmers no end.

Some of the satire is overdone, and a little just not funny, but there is more basic ground for concern. Other important things could well have been ripped into - like the no racism myth or the quarter acre monotony. But as it is, after a droll hour or so you're left wondering what's going on no answers are presented beyond suggesting that NZ is a bit in the 1950's still (what Craig Harrison would have thought of the 1950's NZ style would be interesting indeed) and could try catching the rest of the world up. That s not altogether a good idea. Perhaps its not the role of satire to present any suggestions - just pointing out the foibles of people is sufficient to get them to change I doubt it though. NZ society is not just stupid - its mis-demeanours go far beyond that. The devastation of the 'Permissive Society' idea helps point to these, but it is not enough. Why is NZ so dull? Why is everyone so frustrated? Craig Harrison's book, with skill and considerable humour, points out the dullness and the frustration, but it gets no further.

Edwin M Schur & Hugo Adam Bedau Victimless Crimes - Two Sides of a Controversy.

The question of victimless crimes has received renewed interest in this country over the last few months with the Amendment Bills before Parliament concerning abortion and homosexuality Such issues affect a wide range of people within the community but apart from those who are directly concerned, there is also the never ending stream of lawyers psychologists, criminologists, etc., who are only too ready to rush into print with their respective opinions and cash in on a market which seems to have an insatiable appetite for such literature. Victimless Crimes - Two Sides of a Controversy is another illustration of this unfortunate aspect of so called academic writing.

To say that the book is written conjointly by Schur and Bedau is perhaps misleading. It in fact contains an essay by each author, followed by a comment by each on the other's argument. Schur is a Professor of Socialogy and attempts to put forward an argument for the abolition of victimless crimes However the issues he discusses only cover old ground: Victimless crimes cost the state money to enforce; Victimless crimes create criminals; Victimless crimes encourage disrespect for the law; Victimless crimes only represent another example of political expediency. All of these have been bandied about at least since the Wolfenden Committee brought down its report recommending that homosexual practices in prive between consenting adults should not be a crime - that was in 1957.

Professor Bedau on the other hand, takes a philosophical approach and asks the question: Are there really crimes without victims?' It was somewhat irritating to find the second part of the book attempting to establish the existance of the very same thing which the first part was seeking to abolish. Bedau confronts the reader with a barrage of questions' Which crimes are victimless? What is a victimless crime? What is liberalism? Should victimless crimes be decriminalised on the basis of the moral principles of liberalism? What are the objections to decriminalisation? Seemingly cyclical questions to which the reader gets very little in the way of answers. In fact, Bedau says in his conclusion:

'My purpose in this essay .... has been to show that the concept of victimless crimes has theoretically unsatisfactory features which make it less than perfect analytical category in terms of which to assess a variety of political, scientific, and moral questions related to the issues of decriminalisation'

The individual replies fare little better. No clear winner emerges from the controversy and this is-to be expected since the two arguments are considered within the different terms of reference of their respective authors. There are no new issues presented and the reader is faced with the realisation that this book only reiterates what is generally acknowledged on the subject of victimless crimes. There is rather too much emphasis on the American situation and Schur and Bedau could have done better had they presented a more general overall view of the topic.

Victimless Crimes - Two Sides of a Controversy is published by Prentice-Hall and retails at $245 from Whitcoulls.