22 May 2008

My in-laws make the news

Auckland's morning daily, The New Zealand Herald, on 20 May 2008 carried an article on new immigrants to New Zealand that featured my wife's sister and her family. You can just see their new puppy in the photo.

We joined them in their house hunting in Auckland at the end of last year. Many real estate agents and vendors at that stage were not yet accepting that the house price boom was over. Added to that the UK pound was dropping in value against the NZ dollar. It was quite a stressful experience but fortunately it all turned out okay just in time for the start of the 2008 school year.

18 May 2008

US proposes multilateral agreement on foreign investment in international airlines

In a speech to the European Aviation Club on 13 May 2008 looking to the second stage of air transport negotiations between the United States and the European Union, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Transportation Affairs, John Byerly, raised the idea of "an ancillary multilateral agreement that will be open to accession by other countries that are prepared to enter into reciprocal obligations to lift the barriers to cross-border investment by pledging to forgo recourse to the nationality clause."

The European Commission's chief negotiator, Daniel Calleja, was reported by Reuters to be surprised by the proposal. On 16 May 2008 Reuters also reported on the outcome of the first round of talks held between the EU and US in Slovenia.

The problem with allowing majority foreign investment in an international airline is that under traditional air services agreements (ASAs) another country may refuse to grant operating authorisation if the airline is not "substantially owned and effectively controlled" (SO&EC) by nationals of the country designating it. If an airline is operating a network of international services to a number of countries if the ASA with any one of those countries contains the traditional SO&EC criteria then the airline's network is put at risk.

The United States first moved to relax its approach on this point in the MALIAT (see Article 3).

For New Zealand this issue came up in the context of Singapore Airlines and then Qantas looking to take a stake in Air New Zealand (see the NZ Ministry of Transport report dated 16 July 2001). New Zealand has made great progress in removing the "substantial ownership" criterion from its ASAs but many still have it. Long standing New Zealand Government policy is that is will not designate as a New Zealand international airline any company that is not substantially owned and effectively controlled by New Zealand nationals.

An ICAO template ASA proposes that the criteria could now be "principal place of business and effective regulatory control" (see Fifth Worldwide Air Transport Conference papers from March 2003).

Graphic of inflation components in the USA

On 3 May 2008 the New York Times carried a graphic showing the components of consumer price inflation in the United States in the year to March 2008.

In a story similar to New Zealand, as might be expected oil and dairy price rises feature. What is not catching the headlines are the areas that are seeing price falls.

Contributing to the graphic was Michael Balzer at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Fiji and Tonga agree to air capacity increase

The Fiji Times, in an article dated 7 May 2008, reports that Fiji and Tonga have agreed to a new Memorandum of Understanding increasing the capacity available to the airlines of each side to 1,000 seats per week. The previous limit had been 350. A report from Fijilive dated 7 May 2008 adds that the new arrangements are to include an exchange of fifth freedom rights.

A report from Fijilive on 9 May 2008 covers the possibility that Air Pacific is looking to start international services to Vava'u.

I have been fortunate enough to visit Vava'u twice. The island group really is a gem with good potential for tourism if reliable air transport links can be maintained. The current small airport, which lies in a shallow basin on the main island, has the most displaced landing thresholds I have ever seen on a runway.

Interactive graphic of UK constituencies

The UK Daily Telegraph has a great interactive graphic mapping all the constituencies in the United Kingdom based on the new electoral boundaries approved by Parliament on 27 June 2007. Each constituency is represented by a hexagon. The graphic interfaces with political opinion poll results and a "swingometer" to show scenarios for the outcome of the next British General Election. Currently the polls point to a wave of blue washing to the north.

UK Election Maps showing constituency boundaries are available from the Ordinance Survey.

11 May 2008

Old New Zealand newspapers now available online

I have recently come across Papers Past from the National Library of New Zealand. It gives on-line access to scans of many provincial newspapers in the period up to 1915. Many are searchable.

Back in 1979 while at Otago University I did some historical research using old newspapers. It would have been so much easier, and less hit and miss, with this free resource.

Papers Past should be of great interest to history students and those researching their New Zealand ancestors.

I have already found the name of my great uncle, James Douglas, who in July 1903 as a young child fell through ice and drowned in the river at Waihao Downs (Otago Witness, 22 July 1903), as well as interviews with two of my great great grandfathers, John Douglas (Otago Witness, 22 February 1879) and William Mosley (Otago Witness, 4 May 1878), about their farming in Otago in the pioneering period of settlement.

Do-it-yourself Gapminder graphs

On 15 April 2008 Gapminder announced that Google had released Motion Chart which, when used with Google spreadsheet, enables the production of four-dimensional like bubble graphs - "a dynamic flash based chart to explore several indicators over time" (see previous post).