Saturday, March 17, 2007

Noisy cars

Generally I don't hear much traffic noise at home but on Thursday nights a roar carries across the valley from the weekly meeting of Lower Hutt car enthusiasts (otherwise known as boy racers).

Land Transport NZ is currently taking submissions on a proposal to lower the maximum decibel limits for vehicle exhaust noise. The new limit would target the noisiest of cars – those with purposely fitted modified exhausts that emit significantly more noise than an ordinary exhaust. Sounds like a great idea to me so I filled out the submission form.

You can make a submission online. Instructions on making a submission are here.

Questions and answers on the changes proposed are here.

Submissions close on 19 April 2007.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Landcorp clearing regenerating native bush

I find several aspects of this news disturbing, the primary one of these being the attitude held by Landcorp that it is reasonable to clear regenerating native bush at all. My view is that in New Zealand and throughout the world, we have cleared too much land already, leading to climate change, erosion, extinction and threatened extinction of many species of plants and animals, and the uglification of our environment, among other negative effects. We are now at the point where we need to make do with what we have, assisting land that is returning to its natural state rather than re-clearing it!

Monday, March 12, 2007

DVD: Kenny

This movie is fabulous! If anyone was left in any doubt after Strictly Ballroom, Muriel's Wedding, The Castle and The Dish as to who makes the best comedies, this movie must surely decide the issue in favour of the Australians.

The movie's hero Kenny is as endearing as a child but with some depth to his character too. His patience and compassion in the face of severe trials is inspiring. The movie's only flaw might be that he is a little too perfect. Except for one small act of vengeance towards the end of the film involving an expensive car and a quantity of raw sewerage, Kenny is the ultimate nice guy.

The movie's setting, a portable toilet company, provides opportunity for some truly funny puns and hilarious situations.

The story is told in the form of a mock documentary. For the first few minutes, I thought this was a mistake – it is a little more effort to watch than the usual unfolding of a series of events – but I soon got used to the format.

I look forward to watching this movie again in a year or so once the details aren't so fresh in my mind.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rickards, Shipton and Schollum

For the last few days, like many New Zealanders, I have been absorbed in and distressed by the revelations following the latest rape trial involving suspended Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former police officers Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum.

Regarding the first trial the three faced together, I am appalled that any New Zealander believes that there is such a thing as consensual sex between an eighteen year old and three older adults. That a police officer holding this belief travelled up through the ranks to Assistant Police Commissioner disgusts me. That our justice system allowed a not guilty verdict after a defence based on “consent” sinks me.

I believe we need a new tier in our age of consent laws. The current age of consent in New Zealand is 16 years. I would like to see a change so that 16 and 17 year olds are considered capable of consenting to sex only with someone no more than two years older than themselves, and 18 and 19 year olds capable of consenting to have sex with someone no more than three years older. Think back to when you were sixteen or seventeen. At that age, two years is a huge age gap. When I entered university age 18 ½, the 25 year old “mature” students I met there seemed more like my parents' peers than my own.

It seems that the understanding that consensual sex is not possible when there is a significant imbalance of power between the parties is filtering through our society only extremely slowly.

I was very pleased to read this morning that Prime Minister Helen Clark has come out strongly ridiculing the suggestion that consensual sex between a teenager and three adult police officers is possible (see Stuff article). I might have to write and thank her. Maybe there is hope that the law will change.

There is a further change I would like to see take place, to deal with the problem that some rape cases come down to one person's word against another's. In these situations, a court case is pointless in my opinion; no one should go to jail only because someone says they committed a crime. But neither should rape victims be denied the opportunity to formally accuse their attackers. What is needed is a different type of hearing, entirely private (because of the possibility that the accused is innocent), which has no power to sentence, since it is acknowledged that the evidence does not justify that, and which the accused is required by law to attend, where the victim can state what happened and request acknowledgement and reparation from the accused (regardless of how unlikely it is that an attacker would comply with that request).