Category Archives: Environment & Resources

The Commercial Value Of Taniwha Springs

Report prepared for Te Maru o Ngati Rangiwewehi (June 2009) Keywords: Environment & Resources;  Maori; Introduction My name is Brian Henry Easton. I am an independent scholar with particular expertise in economics, social statistics and public policy analysis. I hold a D.Sc. from the University of Canterbury and am an adjunct professor at the Institute…
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Costal Occupancy Charges.

Statement of Evidence of Brian Henry Easton in an Appeal Under The Resource Management Act 1991 between Margaret and  Stephen Thompson Marlborough District Council (Env-2006-WLG-000038)   Keywords: Environment & Resources;  Regulation & Taxation;   Introduction   I.                    My name is Brian Henry Easton. I am an independent scholar with particular expertise in economics, social statistics…
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Does Material Affluence Boost Wellbeing?

Revised version of the paper to 7X7 seminar, Wellington, 22 July, 2008   Keywords: History of Ideas, Methodology & Philosophy;   What is the purpose of it all? For 200 years economists have assumed that the more material goods the better, and the purpose of the economy was to supply those goods. The notion that…
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Greater Good

Limit Your Carbon Emissions for Honourable Reasons, But Don’t Expect the World to Follow.   Listener: 11 August, 2007.   Keywords: Environment & Resources;  Globalisation & Trade;   It will not be easy for the world to solve the threat of global warming. It requires collective action, but there is no supranational political entity to…
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Principles Of Economic Targeting

Revised commentary on “Energy Policy, Climate Change and Targets”, by Jonathon Boston. To the Institute of Policy Studies Roundtable on Energy Policy and Climate Change: Tuesday 20 March 2007.   Keywords: Environment & Resources; Regulation & Taxation;  Targeting is a form of indicative planning. What have we learned from past exercises?  First we need a taxonomy,…
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Changing Expectations

MMP has reduced policy extremism, but more consensus politics are needed to solve our big economic questions   Listener: 21 October, 2006.   Keywords: Environment & Resources; Governance;  The rise in personality politics is an unexpected consequence of MMP. Certainly there are other factors, including a change in the US political debate (recall the attacks…
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Should We Trade Emissions Rather Than Tax Them?

Guest Column for 16 October, 2006.   Keywords: Environment & Resources;    There appears to be a tendency to pose carbon taxes as the only economic way to address carbon emissions. But tradeable emission permits (TEPs) are a serviceable alternative which have both strengths and weaknesses over carbon taxes. Their greatest strength may be…
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It Ain’t Easy Being Green: an Unfinished Conversation with Rod Donald

Listener 3 June 2006.

Keywords: Environment & Resources; Political Economy & History;

The last time I talked with Rod Donald was shortly after the 2005 election, walking along Lambton Quay. Rod was very disappointed with the election outcome, for his Green Party lost voter share, and hence seats. He thought that the scurrilous anti-Green election pamphlet did a lot of damage. I said that anyone who thought it valid was too ignorant to vote Green, although it damaged the Greens when the new government was being formed.

What Happens After Oil Production Peaks

“Peak Oil: Economic, Political & Environmental Impacts” Monday 26th September, organised by the VUW chaplaincy.

Keywords: Environment & Resources;

When we were young we assumed that our parents will live for ever. As adolescents, we realise they will die one day, but at a time so far in the future it hardly seems relevant. As mature adults we realise that day is closing in, and we wonder what it will be like when they go. And so they pass on, but you survive in the world without them – perhaps, like me, missing them.

Energy Plan: What Will Happen After Oil Production Peaks?

Listener: 26 March, 2005

Keywords: Environment & Resources;

One day the world’s total oil production will peak, and decline thereafter. Some experts think that it will be this year or next, others predict that the peak is decades off. In 1979, British Petroleum experts predicted that it would happen in 1985. Forecasting the date involves a complicated assessment of future oil demands, production possibilities and costs of depleting fields, the discovery of new fields, and the extent to which alternative fuels will substitute.

But one day – probably in our lifetime – the world’s total oil production is going to peak.

Reforming the Rma

The market will generate a good environmental outcome if all the property rights are allocated, providing transaction costs are zero.
Listener: 28 August, 2004.

Keywords: Environment & Resources;

As George Soros remarked, policy regimes are like marriage: whichever one you’re in, you wonder if another might be better. Thus it is with the Resource Management Act. We seem to have forgotten the shambolic arrangements that the Act swept away. But the RMA can be improved.

Nor Any Drop to Drink: Should We Be More Systematic with Water Property Rights?

Listener: 15 May, 2004.

Keywords: Environment & Resources;

Energy is ultimately the key to sustainability, but the first civilisations were based on water. In some cases, the quality water supplies ran out, perhaps from rising salt in irrigated soil, and the civilisation died. This threat is not peculiar to the past. There are great lakes in the middle of Asia dying from mismanagement, African countries dispute over water from the Nile, and even the US and Australia have major water systems that are disappearing or the soil is suffering from excess salt, with serious economic consequences.

The Public Domain: Who Will ”Own” the Foreshore?

Listener: 1 May 2004.

Keywords: Environment & Resources; Maori;

Property rights – the rights to use, transform and transfer (sell) a resource – is a better term than “ownership” because there are so many aspects to them and different groups can share the rights. An effective market needs a clear and comprehensive definition of those property rights. The economic reforms of the 1980s clarified many. Sometimes the outcomes were paradoxical. The largest ever nationalisation in dollar terms was by Rogernomes, for the government first had to own State Insurance before it could privatise it. But property rights continue to trouble us.

Three Short Book Reviews: for the 2003 listener Books Of the Year.

Listener: 20 December 2003.

Keywords: Environment & Resources; Governance; Macroeconomics & Money;

TREASURY: The New Zealand Treasury 1840-2000, by Malcolm McKinnon (AUP, $50).

THE GREAT UNRAVELLING: Losing our way in the new century, by Paul Krugman (Viking, $35).

THE LOST WORLD OF THE MOA: Prehistoric life of New Zealand, by Trevor Worthy and Richard Holdaway (Canterbury University Press, $169.50).

Road Signals: Who Should Pay for Traffic Decongestion?

Listener 12 July, 2003

Keywords: Environment & Resources;

In a typical year motorists drive 3.6 percent more kilometres (more than the growth of GDP), while the road network hardly increases. It might seem a good thing that we are using our roading capital more intensively. Unfortunately road-use does not follow standard market behaviour, so the ‘good thing’ is also the economic ‘bad’ of increasing congestion. Once that congestion occurred in a few hotspots, in the morning commuter rush hour, and most particularly in Auckland. Today Wellington and Christchurch seem to have congestion for long periods in the day, while many Auckland roads are congested from dawn to dusk (and after in winter).


Chapter of TRANSFORMING NEW ZEALAND. This is a draft. Comments welcome.

Keywords: Business & Finance; Environment & Resources; Globalisation & Trade;

One of the curiosity of standard economics as it is presented to the public and, indeed, often as it is taught, is the neglect of transaction (and information) costs. Ronald Coase, recipient of a Nobel Prize in economics in 1991, for some seminal insights (identified 30 years earlier) into the way that economic behaviour is modified by them. The section on the Resource Management Act below, sketches the insight. Subsequently, a handful of economists, most prominently Joe Stiglitz who received the Nobel Prize in 2001, have elaborated their role. In fact a considerable amount of government activity is focussed on reducing transaction costs, despite their role often being overlooked. All the more puzzling because those most involved in the economic debate – economists, accountants, bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians, even managers of businesses – are at the transacting end rather than the providing end, of the economy.