Monday 10 June 2024

Numbers Game.

Respect Existence, Or Expect Resistance? There may well have been 50,000 pairs of feet “Marching For Nature” down Auckland’s Queen Street on Saturday afternoon, but the figure that impresses the Coalition Government is the 1,450,000 pairs of Auckland feet that were somewhere else.

IN THE ERA OF DRONES and Artificial Intelligence, how hard can it be to provide an accurate count of protesters? Knowing how many Aucklanders were willing to make the effort and join the Greenpeace-organised “March For Nature” on Saturday afternoon (8/6/24) would make the calculation of its significance so much easier. If the figure of 20,000 offered by some participants is correct, then the turnout was good, but not spectacular. But, if the old rule-of-thumb which reckons that if Queen Street is tightly-packed with protesters, from Aotea Square to Britomart, then you’re looking at turnout well in excess of 30,000 citizens – then that would be an excellent result.

In earlier times, reports of Britomart filling-up as Aotea Square was still emptying-out would have sparked estimates of 50,000 protesters – a monster march. Certainly, some of the photos taken on Saturday have that look about them. Either way, Greenpeace deserves a solid pat on the back for its ability to mobilise its supporters.

But, does any of it matter? Because even a march of 50,000 protesters, out of an Auckland population of 1.5 million, would struggle to satisfy the definition of a “revolutionary crowd”. To get some idea of what that looks like, check out the huge demonstrations overwhelming the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in the run-up to the EU parliamentary elections. (6-9/6/24) It’s been a while since New Zealanders turned out in those sort of numbers for a political cause – although the School Strike 4 Climate demonstrations of 2019 came close.

The answer to the question “Does any of it matter?” delivered by Resources Minister, Shane Jones, less than 24 hours after 20,000-50,000 protesters marched down Queen Street, was brutal: “Government to reverse oil-exploration ban.”

The decision to cease oil and gas prospecting, announced by Jacinda Ardern and Megan Woods in 2018, ranks as one of Greenpeace New Zealand’s proudest achievements. By reversing that decision, almost before the paint on the “March For Nature” placards was dry, Jones and his Coalition colleagues were telling Norman, Greenpeace, the Greens, and all the putative defenders of “Freddie the Frog”, that they could stick their placards where the sun don’t shine. The only slogan registering with “Matua Shane”, for the foreseeable future, will be Sarah Palin’s fossil-fuel classic: “Drill, baby, drill!”

“Natural gas is critical to keeping our lights on and our economy running, especially during peak electricity demand and when generation dips because of more intermittent sources like wind, solar and hydro,” said the Minister. “I want a considered discussion about how we use our natural resources to improve the security and affordability of energy and resources supplies, stimulate regional economic development opportunities, and increase New Zealand’s self-sufficiency to protect against volatile international markets.”

But, “considered discussion” isn’t really on anybody’s agenda at the moment. Jones has a long-standing and deep-seated contempt for the people he dismisses as “greenies”. In 2014 he told the NZ Herald’s Claire Trevett that “he once told Labour’s leadership he would not be a minister if he was ‘second fiddle’ to [then] Green co-leader Russel Norman as deputy prime minister or in a senior economic role.”

That contempt continues to be passionately reciprocated by virtually the entire environmental movement. Unsurprisingly, the response from Greenpeace to Jones’s media release was blunt:

“Shane Jones is dreaming. The oil exploration industry won’t risk coming back to Aotearoa because they know that it’s not worth coming all this way to fail again”, sneered its spokesperson (and seasoned exploration disrupter) Niamh O’Flynn. “For nearly a decade under the Key Government, together with iwi and hapū the length of Aotearoa, we fought tirelessly to push oil company after oil company out of the country and we succeeded. Oil and gas won’t win in Aotearoa.”

The political parties responsible for the original ban, Labour and the Greens were no less direct:

“Minister Jones is hell-bent on ignoring options of energy that are future-proofed and up to global standards,” said the co-imposer of the 2018 ban, Labour’s Megan Woods.

“This is a manufactured crisis. We know there are reliable and cost-effective energy sources available to New Zealand that can be used without destroying the country. New Zealand is being taken backwards. This government is being cruel to future generations, this will take decades to undo – if the damage can be undone at all.”

Green Party co-leader, Chloe Swarbrick, was equally uncompromising:

“The science is clear that fossil fuels must stay in the ground to limit global warming within 1.5 degrees of warming. This Government’s actions are anti-science and show a flagrant disregard for international climate commitments which could lead to huge costs down the line.”

Swarbrick also had words for the Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon:

“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time. If Christopher Luxon is unwilling to look in the mirror and deal with the gap between his rhetoric and the reality of his government’s actions, the least he could do is face up to the New Zealanders he’s selling down the river.”

What, then, is the explanation for the Coalition Government’s confidence that neither the environmentalists’ political rhetoric, nor their feet on the street, pose a serious threat to the Coalition’s electoral chances? The answer is bound-up with Jones’s conspicuous reference to “keeping the lights on”.

National, Act and NZ First have convinced themselves (or allowed pollsters and focus groups to do the job for them) that a very large number of voters have a great deal in common with those raised-in-the-faith Catholics who genuflect reflexively before the holy imagery of their religion without giving the gesture much, if any, thought. Like conservatives the world over, New Zealand’s Coalition Government is of the view that although, if asked, most ordinary voters will happily mouth environmental slogans, considerably fewer are willing to freeze in the dark for them.

Minister Jones’s wager is that if it’s a choice between watching Netflix, powering-up their cellphones, and snuggling-up in front of the heater, or, keeping the fossil fuels that power our extraordinary civilisation “in the ground”, so that Freddie the Frog’s habitat can remain pristine and unmolested, then their response will be the same as the Minister’s: “Bye, bye Freddie!” No matter what people may say; no matter how superficially sincere their genuflections to the “crisis” of Climate Change; when the lights go out, all they really want is for them to come back on again. Crises far away, and crises in the future, cannot compete with crises at home – right here, right now.

The Transport Minister, Simeon Brown, knows how this works. Everyone supports public transport and cycle-ways, right up until the moment their holiday journey slows to a snail’s pace among endless lines of road cones, or a huge pothole wrecks their new car’s suspension.

Idealism versus realism: that’s the way the parties of the Right frame this issue; and they are betting their electoral future on the assumption that the realists outnumber the idealists. There may well have been 50,000 pairs of feet “Marching For Nature” down Auckland’s Queen Street on Saturday afternoon, but the figure that impresses the Coalition Government is the 1,450,000 pairs of Auckland feet that were somewhere else.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 10 June 2024.


Wayne Mapp said...

I also find it quite irritating that the only estimate is from a participant. In the past both the media and the police would have provided seperate and somewhat more realistic estimates. Perhaps newsrooms are just too small and also don't have anyone with sufficient level of mathematical skills. I mention the latter, because so many journalists today seem unable to analyse statistics and data. Many years ago one of my tasks was to actually do estimates of crowds and of demonstrations. Part of military intelligence exercises, though it was really just a test of spatial analytical skills, we never actually did anything with the results and never passed them onto to anyone.

Anyway casual observation of the photos and TV coverage indicated to me that the numbers was nothing like 20,000. More like 5,000 to 10,000. Still significant but nothing like the scale of the Schedule 4 protests of 2009. That really was over 30,000 people. In that demonstration, much more of the street was covered by people and there was a much higher density.

If the demonstration was not much more than 5,000 then the government will be relatively unmoved. In contrast I thought Te Pati Maori did quite an impressive job in organising their protests on Budget day.

This leads to another example of poor statistical analysis. Matthew Hooton in the Herald last Friday was suggesting that Te Pati Maori only had 16% support among Maori. On the basis that they got 89,000 votes out of total Maori electors of 550,000. Hooton must know that this is faulty analysis. Maori voting participation is no more than 70%, so it was actually 89,000 votes out of 385,000 Maori votes cast. In short, Te Pati Maori has 25% support among Maori, not 16%. It would not be hard to imagine that support growing.

I am of the view that the coalition has triggered a deep well of resentment among a large percentage of Maori, extending well beyond those who vote Te Pati Maori. National, at least, needs to be mindful of this. Over the last 30 years National has had a very good record on treaty settlements and on Maori initiatives. It would be shortsighted for National to give the impression that this now matters little. In the medium to long term these issues will become more prominent, not less. National can't afford to be excessively driven on these issues by ACT and New Zealand First.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Wayne Mapp.

Stuff and nonsense, Wayne.

I, too, have made a study of protest demonstrations, especially Auckland's, and Saturday's march was certainly in the upper range.

As I noted in the article, if Aotea Square is still emptying out while Britomart is filling up, and if the marchers fill the carriageway from pavement to pavement and are tightly packed - which the photographs clearly indicate - then you're looking at 30,000 people, at least.

Your 5,000 estimate is risible.

The Barron said...

Interesting comments as usual Wayne.

I always saw Bill English in his first tenure as leader to be a pragmatist. He looked at the demographic and social trends in NZ. With his own family experience he realized that the rural base that elected him was even going through changes. Indeed, any examination of the latest census shows that the number identifying as Maori in Southland is growing at a rate greater than birth or migration to Southland. The excess growth is, as it has been for decades, those with heritage (sometimes going back to the earliest sealers and settlers)that are now identifying with being Maori. His own knowledge of Pasifika meant he knew the trends, and that National would have to respond. The later Key - English government showed this awareness. They were also on to it enough to show environmental concern and engage with the concerns that the coming generations of voters were articulating.

Yet, now we have a lead party in the coalition frozen in the headlights on those issues while their coalition partners revel in isolating those demographic groups. This shows an absolute lack of understanding of the Luxon team in allowing this demographic aggression into the coalition agreement. As a result, the lead party finds itself in political quicksand. If 1960s American TV showed us anything, when you are in quicksand the more you panic, the more you sink. Luxon seems to be taken completely back by the level of protest by Maori, Pasifika and the environmentalist. All three of these groups are young, and forming a larger part of the electorate every election.

ACT and NZ First are carrying out theatre to their base. But they are parties on the fringe fighting for the votes outside of National's middle voters. National cannot afford to be drawn into this. For every young environmentalist, there are parents and grandparents that have to try to understand and explain the coalition actions. This is becoming more difficult. If one-in-five NZers identify as Maori, that is expanded to spouses, friends and other relatives. It is difficult to find any working or middle class New Zealanders that do not have close relations with Maori or Pasifika.

My memory of those '60s TV shows, is that when in quicksand you are saved by someone coming along and finding an always available long and sturdy branch. It is increasingly looking unlikely that anyone will be offering Luxon such a branch.

David George said...

Where did they park all the bicycles?
I don't know why it's proving so difficult to get a reliable head count, we've got drones taking crowd photos that can easily be extrapolated.
I happened to be in Nelson (November '21) for, what was essentially, the counter demo - Groundswell MOAP. It really was extraordinary; the Showgrounds were chocker and the streets were thronged with enthusiastic supporters. The media tried to downplay it but I know what I saw.

Overall the weekend's protest was decidedly unimpressive. Many of the placards had a cringy first year uni student vibe about them. Marama and the Mexican were along with a "5+ A Day - Eat The Rich" poster.

Chloe came on TV and gave a manic montage of Greeny cliches to add to the impression that these are denitely not reasonable people.

David George said...

There is a lesson for the government (though not one our protestors would like) in the recent European election; a clear rejection of the draconian Green agenda and it's inevitable consequences for the people: sky high basic energy prices, unreliable supply and closure of essential production. After a year of ignoring massive farmer and consumer discontent the floodgates opened; the people said no.

new view said...

Protests do matter if the numbers involved are big. Really big. Smaller protests can be manipulated by the organisers who are able to maximise their event using social media as a rally call, and this can also be used to cause disruption to traffic etc if thats what the protesters want. The media of course can use the same tactics if they wish. Clever camera angles good media exposure and interview times, if thats the agenda. The general public are pretty media savvy these days and so are likely to have their own opinion of the worthiness of such gatherings. IMO most protest gatherings get plenty of attention when their percentage of the whole population of NZ is taken into account. If you are clever and arrogant and stand out from the crowd because of your attitude and appearance as does the Maori party you are assured of good media coverage and so thats why they use protest. As for environmental protests, well, we are all hypocrites to a degree. we know we won't give up our phones and cars that are largely made of plastic (oil) and toxic materials. Those who march are for the most part tarred with the same brush and we all know it. We would take the those protesting against reopening exploration in the Taranaki basin more seriously if they all walked to their protest, wore woollen clothing and communicated by land line not mobile phone. Their cause is good but their argument is weak IMO.

Little Keith said...

These protests are more of a protest de jour than anything. Its popular with the dispossessed woke left voting block at the moment, a day out at the races, a change from the river to the sea stuck record barely able to conceal their anti Semitic tendancies and admiration for Hamas. A routine to stuff businesses in the CBD, again.

I realise, knowing the odd peaceful protester, not known for the weekly get together, that green things matter, but this is coming from people from rather insulated, well funded backgrounds with the obligatory useless academic qualification who have never struggled at or for anything. So reality vs ideology and unicorns living in rainbow fields are the challenge for them.

This government has nothing to be too concerned about apart from the usual suspects from rent-a-crowd trying to throw spanners into investment works.

And bless evidence based Chloe who certainly picks and chooses what "evidence" she will use, and who thinks humanity can fine tune the climate by 1.5 degrees centigrade. Or is it Fahrenheit? I thought that inconvenient illusion was amended in the climate change bible long ago.

Max Ritchie said...

Even more risible is any need for National to take account of the sort of voters who favour the Maori Party. National needs to do what’s right and separatism is not.

The Barron said...

On the subject of crowd size, Donald Trump has been obsessively lying regarding crowd size since his inauguration. His recent New Jersey rally is one of the worst examples.

The Mayor was a Maga Republican under legal action. A council employee had notified that the venue has a capacity of 20,000 (and with the beach spill over 35,000), the same spokesperson and the Mayor released to AP an estimate of 80,000 at the rally, despite knowing the capacity and that it was not fill. Trump and his off-siders took the 80,000 and started this 80,000 – 100,000. Roger Stone took a 30 year old photo of a Rod Stewart concert in Copacabana an posted it as a photo of the event. Trump then announced the ‘official’ number of 107,000. No such thing existed. The Council spokesperson and mayor, then have stated their 80,000 was everyone in the city. The beach front actually had less than a normal weekend. Fox first put the crowd at 30,000 before falling in line with Trump.
Independent analysis of an aerial photo put the crowd at around 10,000.

Similarly, his claim for 25,000 at the Bronx has been independently calculated at 3,500. A recent photo is in circulation of a crowd in northern Florida. Purportedly of a Trump rally, it is music festival.

The lack of journalistic oversite fails in fact checking and in this age of misinformation not only is it social media that is to blame, but mainstream journalists that draw uncritically from social media.

David George said...

It's often quite illuminating reading the placards and banners. Obviously the "Eat The Rich" types may as well get straight to the conclusion and change it to "I'm a Moron" but there are some good ones - simple, memorable and hard to counter or condemn. "No Farmers- No Food" for example. Some carry a huge but understated power.

Folk (provided they're not completely ignorant) get the Jew's "Never Again" and it's implication: we will never again be herded like cattle and sent to our deaths in our millions. Eternal, existential and unequivocal.

Larry Mitchell said...

Power cuts are potent indications to voters that are sufficiently influential to sway their ballot box choices.

And taken with the large numbers of Kiwis who do not subscribe to Greens dogma the electoral risk exposure of the Jones bluster is minimal.

And the march ... numbers or not ... barely made an impression on the 6 O'clock news.

The rational voter legitimately points to the statistical certainly that NZ 's impact on climate coupled with the unmatched level of our non fossil fuel generation quite correctly consigns today's Grand March newspapers to serving as fish and chip wrapping.

Ho Hum

Chris Morris said...

What was the protest about? There seems to have been three or more themes, even though they all involve the same people - anti-government, pro Hamas and pro Maori sovereignty. With regards the crowd numbers, it is almost as if there wasn't a recent election and policies people voted for were being enacted.
With regards bringing back gas exploration, Greenpeace and its political wing have no credibility with regards energy policy. They do not know what they are talking about. They are also hypocrites. Dashing around taking many plane flights while wanting draconian policies to stop cows (The only thing stopping us be a third world country) burping. There was the same problem with Megan Woods. Robert Bryce summed them up well "The most worrisome divide is the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. More specifically, it’s the enormous gap between the elites who dominate media, academia, NGOs, and politics, and the working class. Nowhere is that gap more evident than in the policies that promote alt-energy and net zero."
What people really care about is that the lights stay on. No-one will see you virtue signal in the dark. The current government might well be dodgy but they are a lot more competent and credible than the alternatives. At least there is genuine concern for the Waitakere man and his family now.

The Barron said...

The Green collapse in the European elections were almost exclusively in France and Germany. Other EU nations thus was not apparent. It is too early to analyze this, and whether internal politics in those two countries have resulted in this, nor can we say at this point where the Green vote went.

David George said...

The government have now removed agriculture from the ETS.

What the hell was it in there for in the first place? Agriculture is part of the short term carbon cycle - CO2 from the air turned into meat and grains and fruits, eaten by animals and eventually returned to the atmosphere. It's a beautiful thing.

The Barron said...

Just to explain the last point through a NZ hypothetic. If the Greens make A policy, but later Labour also makes A policy - a fall in the vote for the Greens does not automatically mean a rejection of A, if Labour has gone up in proportion to the Greens fall.
Further, if in government A has been wholly or particularly achieved, a drop in support for the proponents of A does not necessarily mean a rejection of A.
Certainly, nothing on the surface can lead to the conclusion that B is now supported.
I think there is a trend to isolated one piece of information and extrapolate wildly before enough information to fully analyze.

Wayne Mapp said...

Max Ritchie,

If National had taken your view in the 1990's, there would never have been the Tainui or Ngai Tahu settlements. It took senior leadership within the party to shift attitudes.

In any event you misunderstood my point about Maori. It is not just Te Pati Maori (who already have 25% support among Maori), it is a much broader spectrum of Maori who are concerned. I would suggest well above 50% of all Maori voters, whether on the Maori roll or not.

The number of people who identify Maori is increasing as a percentage of the total population. National will need to do more to reach out to Maori than they are at present, and I suspect they know that. It is not a question of separatism, rather it is recognition of identity.

LittleKeith said...

Reported on the 5th of May 2020...

"The Hon. David Parker stated that the fast track process will allow our economic recovery to accelerate and will focus on job-rich projects like core infrastructure, housing and environmental restoration that are seen as vital to the government’s plan to stimulate the economy. Both private and public projects will be considered and projects will be named through Orders in Council. Minister Parker will be in charge of determining which projects are eligible to use the fast track.".

Okay, why was that perfectly fine, nothing to see here, then?

Where were the Green Party on this outrage?
Where were the protests?
Was it acceptable because only a single minister could approve these projects? Like an undemocratic Antichrist?
What the actual fuck?

No question though, the highly manipulative woke progressive lefts protests on this subject are complete and utter horse shit. Empty weasel words lies.

What these protests were about was anti voter choice in electing the current government, end of story.

Just like the progressive lefts use of climate change, it's pure theatre. Trust none of it or them!

David George said...

This is, unfortunately, and effectively, really little more than a protest (the Euro parliament has very little power to do anything) but it would be foolish to disregard its significance. The whole outfit is resembling some sort of becoming a sort of totalitarian technocracy with actual contempt for the European people, their interests, their freedoms, their nations and their individual sovereignty.

Tim Black: "The reason why European voters have turned away from the green agenda over the past five years is not hard to fathom. It’s because during that time the impoverishing, immiserating reality of Net Zero has really started to hit home. The EU’s much trumpeted Green Deal, committing member states to various decarbonising rules and targets, has started to feel less like ‘a man on the moon moment’ and more like a boot on Europe’s neck."

David George said...

Some more analysis on the European elections, this one regarding the big voting changes by young Germans.

Excerpt: "But there has also been a significant turn to the Right. The Christian-conservative Union gained 17% of the young vote, up by five points from 2019 although still a lot lower than its overall vote share of 30%. The AfD came second with 16%, a huge increase of 11 points from the last European election and the same as the overall vote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats only received 9%, while the Greens saw the sharpest fall from 34 to 11%.

One study that had predicted an increase in AfD voting among the young showed that their main worries were inflation, the wars in Europe and the Middle East, and expensive housing. Climate change featured on the list of concerns, but ranked around the middle between social division and old-age poverty. There was also a notable uptick in concerns around an increased number of refugees coming to Germany. In previous years, only a quarter of 14 to 29-year-olds said they worried about this. In 2024 the figure had risen to 41%."

David George said...

Never Again has become Not Again?

Jordan Peterson:

"I see all this with great sorrow. We're seeing the rise of the dread spirit of Kristallnacht.

How did this happen? Everyone asked, tearing out their hair, after WWII

Well folks it's happening again and one way or another you're involved just as all German citizens were in the 1930's. The only question is

What role will you play this time?"

David George said...

Elon Musk:

"You know, in the West, I think we have created regulatory gridlock where just almost everything is illegal.

This is why they can't build a high speed rail in California.

They spent $7 billion and there's 1600 ft section, it's all they have to show for it and it doesn't even have rails on it.

It's really too absurd for parity.

Large projects are essentially illegal in California and much of Europe and other countries.

So there has to be some garbage collection process for removing rules and regulations in order for society to function and not to get hardening of the arteries to the point where you can't do anything."

CXH said...

I think you will find a growing number indentify as Maori because of the perks that come with it.

As for reaching out even more to Maori, it would make far more sense to reach out to the Chinese and Indian. It is growing fast and is more motivated to vote and don't have such a large list of demands.

Chris Morris said...

I take issue with what you wrote"It is not just Te Pati Maori (who already have 25% support among Maori), " My understanding was they got about 80k votes, mainly in Maori electorates. If the Maori population is supposed to be 1M and 75% of them are eligible to be on the roll, then that is only 12%. And were those votes in support of Maori Party and its policies, or just anti-Labour. The fact that the only Maori Electorate not to change was up on the East Coast where the sitting MP switched to Maori Party then got trounced, indicates the support is not a very deep commitment. Like when all the Maori electorates went to NZ First, then switched back.
Outside Aukland/ Wellington, the protests were there but very small numbers. Look at Rotorua, Gisborne and the like. Provincial NZ is a different country to North Island big cities.

Wayne Mapp said...

Chris Morris,

You are mixing up your numbers, and therefore comparing apples with oranges. The 1 million Maori in the census is not the same as those who are enrolled to vote. Enrolment is a separate process to the census and in any event only includes those over 18. Not everyone eligible enrols, though it is a legal requirement to do so. Hence why the total of Maori enrolled is about 550,000. Voting is not compulsory, and among Maori, the percentage who vote is lower than the general average.

Hence why I say Te Pati Maori got nearly 25% of all the votes cast by Maori, whether on the Maori or general rolls.

Just from personal experience, it seems well over 50% of Maori are concerned about the coalition's measures. Obviously that includes everyone who does Te Pati Maori. I would also suggest it includes all those Maori who vote Labour or the Greens. And I know for a fact that it includes some Maori who party vote National. All up that is way over 50% of Maori who identify Maori for electoral purposes, whether they are on the Maori or General roll.

The Barron said...

I know of no person with Maori heritage that has self-identified as Maori for "perks", and I am very cynical that you have based your claim on any basis of fact.

The Barron said...

CXH, why do you think that support for indigenous and new migrant communities is mutually exclusive?
NZ can strive to be bicultural under the Treaty while being multicultural and inclusive to migrant groups. Indeed, movement from a monocultural approach empowers all.

Chris Morris said...

Of interest is the latest Listener out has what appears to be the photo of the Auckland protest as the head post. They put the protester numbers as about 15,000.