Back in business

Hello internet!  If anyone is still following this site, which undoubtedly looks dead, I’d like to give you a shout that regular posts are on their way back.

First can I say, WTF has been happening in the world since I wandered away from the computer.  I stop keeping tabs on economic and political news for a couple of years and the world has completely changed … I just don’t even have the words.

I never meant to stop posting, hence why there was no farewell post.  However, my attempts at writing a PhD thesis got in the way of any other sort of reading or writing – and as a result I was both short of content and shorn of the capability to write even poor attempts at blog posts.  Similarly the other brave writers of TVHE found life getting in their way – our common group emails even became a rarity over this period something we all bemoaned!

However, now I’m back to adding some content on here – but I’ll have to give a few notes:

  1. The plan is to only post once per week until I find my feet a bit more – I still have a lot of balls in the air (the thesis isn’t submitted yet and I’m organising work) and don’t just want to provide single links with a one line comment when I do post.
  2. On that note I will be hoping that, if anyone is around, they will be comfortable adding comments.  I do this for the conversation about economics – not because I have any amazing insight.  If people are keen for us to bounce ideas off each other then this blog can get back rolling.
  3. I will be staying away from the TVHE twitter as I have for the last 3+ years (although these posts will be linked there automatically I hope – so keep following).  Twitter became toxic in 2014 and appears to have just become more of a cesspool since – I want to discuss economic ideas and arguments, not deal with traded insults.  If someone can convince me to come back then I may change my mind.
  4. I will NOT be blogging on my specialisation (analysis of income inequality) in detail until I’ve defended my thesis – that is months away still.  There will be outline posts, but I will steering away from to much detail at first.
  5. I have been lecturing entry level economics, and giving a few lectures on economic modelling, since I have been away.  Content related to this is likely to turn up.  Specifically, I would like to create content to share with my students – this semester is macroeconomics, so I may be going back to macro for a bit.
  6. After a few months I will be looking at running some ideas past anyone who turns up to read these posts – I would like some more interactive discussion of economic topics as related to New Zealand without the external pressure that exists to advocate.  Lets talk economic concepts and try to really understand the trade-offs that exist in New Zealand.
  7. If you have some excellent recommendations for books to review hit me up.

If you want to see some of the output from my thesis take a look here for working papers.  If this is an area you have done research and you want to critique my thesis that is cool, just give me a yell.  If you are reading this post that’s cool, leave a comment about a social issue you would like covered in New Zealand that fits within the 5 W and an H framework of economics.  I promise to do my best to describe as much as possible without reaching any conclusions.

#VoteAKL 2016 maps

I had a bit of a play around with mapping the voter return data from the 2016 Auckland local body elections (raw data available here).  I looked at it two ways:

  • What areas had the highest/lowest turnout? (i.e. where is participation high/low)
  • What areas had the highest raw number of votes? (“who elects the mayor”)

Maps addressing these two questions are below.  Note that they don’t include Waiheke, mainly because it’s not part of the “Coastlines” shapefile I used to crop the board boundaries and I decided the effort of separately mapping the board area to the “islands” geographic shapefile wasn’t worth the effort given I have a day job (i.e. I am lazy).  If you are wondering, turnout on Waiheke was very high (58.6%).

Percentage turnout


Number of votes final-votes

Visualising the Auckland Unitary Plan: IHP Recommended Version

Given there appears to be a lot of misinformation being spread about the Unitary Plan, I OIA’d the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) recommended version of the Unitary Plan (aka the “RUP“).  This follows on from Stephen Davis doing an OIA for the previous version the Council proposed back in 2013 (the “PAUP”).

The purpose of this post is really to collate a bunch of stuff I have been throwing up on twitter so there is a record of it.  Also check out Aaron Schiff’s very cool analysis of the overlays in the Unitary Plan (heritage, volcanic view shafts etc…) and the Herald Insights visualization of the residential zones, which overlaps a lot with I have here.  (Update: The Spinoff have a some amazing maps here).

All of the maps that appear below can be accessed directly here.

How the single house zone changed

The first thing I looked at was how the Single House Zone changed between the 2013 PAUP and the 2016 RUP.  I initially created separate static maps, but at Aaron Schiff’s suggestion I turned it into an animated GIFSHZ change 2000ms

This demonstrates how much of the Single House has been removed, it’s astonishing really!  Though note it still has a stranglehold around the CBD.  Those areas with the best amenity the CBD, and thus which would be most valuable if intensified, are being frozen in time.

I also made an interactive map combing the two sets of data, with RUP in solid red and the PAUP set to be transparent.

Direct link to map

High-rises everywhere?

The big fear around the unitary plan is that we are going to get high-rise apartments in the middle of leafy suburbs.  The sentiment is nicely capture by this tweet:

I’m not sure what the average person would consider “high-rise”.  The famous “Painted Ladies” in San Francisco look to be 3.5 storeys and I don’t think most people would consider them high-rise (see below).

With this in mind, I did a map of the areas allowing residential development greater than (>) 3 storeys.

Direct link to map

As you can see this is concentrated around public transport (PT) trunk lines and employment centres. The burbs are relatively unscathed, except the parts within walking distance of PT or jobs.

Where is Auckland Staying flat?

The flip side of the previous question is where will Auckland “stay flat”.  I’ve looked at this two ways:

  • “Flat” = up to three storeys (i.e. the reverse of the previous high-rise map) ;and
  • “Real flat” = up to two storeys

Flat (up to 3 Storeys)

Direct link to map

Real flat (up to 2 Storeys)

Direct link to map


Either way you define it,  residential Auckland is actually staying pretty flat, at least based upon a very unscientific eyeballing of the maps.

One map to rule them all

And the last map I did is probably the first map I should have done.  This map contains all the zones allowing residential development and allows you to turn certain zones on or off under “Visible Layers”, allowing replication of any of the maps above.  Note that because I am using a free version of Carto, I had to lump city/town/metro/local center into one layer.

Direct link to map

RIP Seamus Hogan

I just heard that Seamus Hogan died unexpectedly last week. Seamus is one of the people I admired most and a role model for any young economist. He always had time to talk through any problem and help out, even for the greenest of young graduates. His loss will be keenly felt by all those who knew him.

Why fiscal rules matter: growth

Last week I discussed the importance of good fiscal rules for sustainability, but the recent mess in the UK has demonstrated how poor rules can inhibit growth. When the Government took office in 2010 it faced a startlingly high deficit. It promised to eliminate that within five years, which happens to be the length of a Parliament in the UK. That’s probably not a coincidence. As Portes and Wren-Lewis point out in their paper, Governments like operational targets that they can achieve within their term of office. If you face a big hole in your budget then promising to fix it within the decade is no good if you might only be in power for half that time.

That has important consequences for the way surpluses and deficits are dealt with. It means that governments tend not to save surpluses beyond their term because they reap little benefit from it. They also attempt to close deficits within the term, which can be too rapid when the deficit is large. The recent recession in the UK is a textbook example of the latter problem. Read more

A new beginning

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that, with the exception of Patrick’s great post on productivity yesterday, it’s been a bit quiet around here lately. Matt’s busy working two jobs in addition to writing a PhD, agnitio has decided that a house and family are more important than blogging, and I have descended into the laziness of failing to test my ideas in public. One of those things is a really bad reason not to blog, so my Christmas present to myself is to get back in the saddle and spend at least one day a week being told off by Eric! But I want to write about some different things than I did previously.
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