Playing politics with petrol, Leading law faculty in ‘crisis,’ say insiders, Secret deal on finance firm lawsuits

In NBR today:

Tim Hunter writes that new Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins’ market study of fuel retailing “to determine how fair petrol and diesel prices are at the pump” is a faultless political strategy. “It looks like action on an issue of public concern, namely rising fuel margins, while avoiding any dangerous commitment to do anything about it.”

Meanwhile, Rodney Hide argues the problems with the recently announced inquiry into petrol pricing are deep and devastating. “The government has no clue what the petrol price should be and no way of knowing the correct margin. And if the price is somehow wrong, is it seriously suggesting regulating it?” That would be even stupider than the inquiry, he writes

Jason Walls says the University of Auckland has denied staff claims that its law school is in “crisis mode.” Just weeks before the start of the university year, faculty members are fuming over an increase in student numbers and a string of recent resignations by key academics.

Morale is said to be at an all-time low, and further resignations are predicted, he writes.The controversial boost to the student roll has also copped criticism from senior members of the legal fraternity.

Nathan Smith writes that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – aka drones – in New Zealand’s primary industries is picked to grow rapidly in the next few years. “By giving farmers access to near-real-time imagery of crops and stock, the technology will help improve profitability by assisting them to fix basic, hitherto intractable problems.” Meanwhile, Sally Lindsay explains how robots and drones will revolutionise the construction industry.

Airline technology company Phitek was sold to US-based Amphenol for $60 million last month, Campbell Gibson writes. It was a good outcome for the company’s three main shareholders, who rescued it in 2011. Others are far from happy, however, with accusations of poor governance, an unfair share revaluation and “alternative facts” flying thick and fast.

Tim Hunter says a High Court claim against litigation funder LPF Group has drawn attention to the exit agreement for two of its former directors. When Paul Lindholm and Trevor Janes left LPF in 2012, their deal saw a restraint agreed to prevent the funder from becoming involved in litigation against failed lender Capital + Merchant Finance. The claim relates to a $7.8 million settlement in litigation against Capital + Merchant’s trustee and legal adviser, which LPF subsequently supported.

Fiona Rotherham writes that Brett O’Riley has been accused of recklessly spending millions of ratepayers’ money during his five years running Ateed, Auckland Council’s economic development agency. The Ateed CEO says he’s all for accountability and transparency. But, as he anticipates his September departure, he also insists Ateed needs to “get on and get things done” if the council’s serious about economic transformation and making Auckland one of the world’s leading cities.

All this and more in today's NBR Print edition. Out now

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Re the law school, it seems to me this "growth at all costs" approach to our universities is not entirely beneficial. Are the universities now being run TOO MUCH as businesses, rather than being as first priority about research and education?

I see this also playing out with folks I know at universities, where so much of the emphasis is now going on attracting more and more full fee foreign students, even by offering lower quality courses with a back door to residency, and in some cases coming under a lot of pressure from students who are not particularly interested in the courses but DO want the back door to residency. (E.g. "I've paid all this money. It doesn't matter if I haven't been attending, you need to mark me as passed!")

What more the pressure when funding is provided on the basis of the number of students completing the courses...

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The lowering of standards in order to attract more students was already evident in the early '90s when I was tutoring a Stage 2 B.A course at an NZ uni. The standard of essay writing, for eg, was abysmal then (to the point where many students shouldn't have been accepted into the university at all), so I dread to think what it's sunk to in the intervening two decades...


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Good article on the sad free fall of Auckland Law School. Just one minor correction - Georgos Mousorakis and Elsabe Schoeman have already left - as have at least 12 other people over the last two years, including me. It's all very well the Dean boasting he's appointed 20 new people, but that begs the question - why have about half of the Law School's academic staff left under his watch? That's not normal for any organisation and it can't be explained away with the usual platitudes about resistance to change. I've worked at five Universities over the course of my 30 year career as a legal academic. Auckland Law School under the current Dean was the most ghastly environment I've ever had the misfortune to find myself in. And that unfortunately won't change while the VC remains in denial about the mess that "his man" has created.

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The study of petrol prices won't achieve a thing. Now Caltex has bought Gull watch Gull go to the highest prices charged with nearby Z, BP & Mobil using the opportunity to charge the same high price everywhere. That should give Caltex a top R.O.I. on their purchase.

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