3 Reasons to invest in Punakaiki Fund Limited (Closing Tomorrow)

We generally hold one retail offer per year for people to invest in Punakaiki Fund Limited. As is normal this year’s offer has a Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), and investors can apply online using our simple system.


Click here to apply online

Three Reasons to Invest in Punakaiki Fund Limited

1: Our investor net asset value per share is above the Offer price

The new September quarter-end valuation, as assessed by the Punakaiki Fund Board last week, increased total assets to $42.4 million, up from $40.6 million in the PDS.

The Investor Net Asset Value (iNAV) per share increased  from $21.22 in the PDS to $21.93.

Obviously the iNAV per Share at the end of September of $21.93 per share represents a good premium over the Offer price of $21.50 per share, and it is good to see the iNAV per share moving upwards. 

2: Your investment will help address the funding gap (and opportunity)

In New Zealand we have increasingly well functioning and highly active pre-seed and seed investment communities, and hundreds (really!) of companies are coming through looking for their next round of funding.

Many, including companies we have already invested into, are superb investment opportunities, and the next series of companies that will deliver results like Xero, Diligent, Pushpay and A2 Milk are almost certainly on our lists of potential investments.

However there is a very large opportunity gap for companies looking for VC investments, as the chart using data from a ministerial briefing earlier this year illustrates. Note as well that our average VC investment size of about $2 million is tiny versus US equivalents of $10 million.

Companies graduating from the Angel and Seed stage often struggle to continue their growth as their funding prospects diminish. Many companies go into a “lean” mode, retaining higher shareholding percentages for founders and early investors at the cost of building their businesses more slowly than they otherwise might. This can lead to some positive behaviours and excellent results, but we’ve also seen too many companies miss out on global opportunities as others move more quickly to take the space.

Punakaiki Fund is addressing some of that gap. The chart below shows that almost 3/4 of our funds invested to date are placed with companies where we have cumulatively invested over $1.5 million (generally over multiple investment rounds). It also shows that 97% of our investments are where we have placed a cumulative total of over $500,000 per company.

About half of those funds were invested since January 2017 – when we raise funds we tend to invest them very quickly.

The charts combine to show that we are primarily operating in VC space. There are very few players able to serve the needs of companies seeking funding at this level, and we are constantly seeking more funds ourselves to continue to address the overwhelming opportunity for New Zealand.

Obviously as investors facing very high demand and low supply we are able to pick the best opportunities.

3: Anyone can invest
This year we set a low minimum of just $215 (10 shares), mainly to ensure that most people can participate and to take away a reason not to invest.

As a pleasing result we have seen investors (including our own family) take advantage of the low minimum to purchase shares for their children. However given that the Offer closes tomorrow to avoid disappointment (the application paperwork for children is a lot more demanding) please consider investing under your own name first, and then transferring the shares after the Offer closes. We also ask that investors consider trusts and companies only for larger investments – again shares can be transferred after the Offer closes.

The offer closes tomorrow, Wednesday at 5pm
Invest online at punakaikifund.co.nz/invest

Alternatively, download the Product Disclosure Statement and apply using the application form at the back, scanning and emailing.

Posted in NZ Business

New Melon Health Investment

Punakaiki Fund has a public offer that closes on Wednesday, 14 November at 5pm. Read the PDS and invest online at punakaikifund.co.nz/investnow

After some gestation it’s great to be able to share the news about our latest investment in Melon Health. We are leading a $3.3 million investment round, with investments also from K1W1 and Impact Enterprise Fund. After the deal concludes (and part of the investment is conditional upon funding from the October 2018 Retail Offer), we will own over 30% of Melon.

The press release is below.


Melon Health Press Release
WELLINGTON, 7 November 2018

Melon Health, New Zealand’s leading digital health platform for the prevention and management of chronic conditions, announced today a Series B investment of $3.3 million led by technology growth investor Punakaiki Fund Limited (PFL). PFL has committed $2.0 million, with additional funds coming from existing investor K1W1 and new fund Impact Enterprise Fund (IEF).The financing will be used to fuel Melon’s continued US expansion and for further investment in its proprietary technology platform.
Punakaiki Fund will hold a 32% share of Melon Health after the round is completed, including commitments made subject to the progress of PFL’s current public offer.
As cornerstone investors, we see enormous potential for Melon Health to extend their platform’s demonstrated capability to change lives and save costs to even more providers and hundreds of thousands of patients.” Said Lance Wiggs, founder of Punakaiki Fund. “This funding round is vital in helping Melon deliver on their commitments to their clients in the USA.

Melon Health is the first investment of the Impact Enterprise Fund.
Melon has developed a leadership position in the New Zealand market and is poised for significant growth in the USA by leveraging recently landed contracts with flagship customers such as New York-based Oscar Health” said IEF Investment Manager, Chris Simcock. “What the team have achieved in terms of patient outcomes and people’s ability to self-manage their health – all through a digital platform – is hugely impressive, and we’re excited to be working together to create a global market leader. Melon is a great example of the type of founder-led, purpose-driven business that we like to invest in.”
As an investor in New Zealand companies whose focus is making a positive social impact while generating a return, IEF is an ideal partner to assist us to continue to scale our business globally” said Siobhan Bulfin, CEO of Melon.

With IEF joining existing investors Punakaiki Fund and K1W1, Bulfin says “We’re excited to have partners on board that provide us not only capital, but also vast  experience in our market vertical and strategic input.

Melon’s platform enables patients to self-manage their health, resulting in reduced utilisation of the healthcare system, driving significant cost savings.  “In the USA, where the focus has shifted to value-based care, healthcare systems can share in the cost savings. Solutions that focus on keeping patients away from the hospital and well are in urgent need. With four years of evidence behind us, that is our target market” Bulfin says.

Over the last year Melon has signed Australia’s fourth largest health insurer, nib, along with Georgia Physicians Accountable Care (the largest physician owned accountable care organization in the US) and Oscar Health as customers. In New Zealand, they have signed additional contracts with primary health organisations and district health boards and have demonstrated that the platform can deliver healthcare cost savings of up to and over 75%, while also achieving superior health outcomes for patients.

“It’s difficult to get health economic data in NZ, but what we do know is Melon has successfully helped prevent over 60% of patients on it’s pre-diabetes program, going on to develop type-2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease – which saves the healthcare system around $7,500 per patient per year.” Says Lance Wiggs

Incorporated in the USA in 2013, Melon Health’s USA subsidiary was one of three companies selected by the Mayo Clinic in 2015  as an innovation partner. Later that year, Melon won the US National Award for Social Innovation using Mobile Technology.

About Melon
Melon’s digital health platform enables insurers, healthcare providers and employers to prescribe curated digital health solutions to their end consumers at relevant touch points in their health journey, and in turn, receive actionable data to deliver value-based care. Their cloud-based mobile platform integrates and aggregates devices, wearables, content and social engagement to deliver personalised health management programs for consumers.
Melon’s clinically-validated mobile interventions combine peer support (connecting members with others on a similar journey), health coaching via video, audio or live chat, remote monitoring and decision support, and behavior change modification, translating into a net healthcare cost savings of $3,500 per person (source. NZ Treasury Tool).

About Punakaiki Fund
Punakaiki Fund Limited makes long-term investments into high-growth, revenue-generating New Zealand companies. The fund holds $41 million of assets and has investments in 20 portfolio companies. Punakaiki Fund has an active Public Offer, and the product disclosure statement is available here: punakaikifund.co.nz/PDS

About K1W1
K One W One Limited is an investment company owned by Sir Stephen Tindall. It and its subsidiaries have invested over a total of $100M Seed and Venture Capital into a large number of start-up and early stage businesses from biotech, environmental technology, high tech, software and other high export potential businesses. The aim is, either directly or as a “fund of funds” to assist young entrepreneurs to grow New Zealand as a leader in the “knowledge economy” and to help create a culture of making New Zealand “cash flow positive” in international goods and services trade.

About Impact Enterprise Fund
Impact Enterprise Fund is New Zealand’s first domestic focused impact investment fund. The fund provides growth capital to businesses who deliver social and/or environmental impact, alongside attractive financial returns.
This fund has two primary objectives: delivering market-rate financial returns, and delivering tangible societal and environmental outcomes.

Posted in Punakaiki Fund

Melon Health’s Diabetes Prevention Program

Melon Health is a CDC approved provider of digital Diabetes Prevention Programs across the USA. Here is a video promoting that service.


You can help Punakaiki Fund Limited invest in Melon Health by subscribing to the latest retail offer. Read the PDS to find out more. You can invest online.

Posted in NZ Business

eScooters and eBikes – let’s upgrade the rulebooks

I’ve been outed as someone who isn’t entirely positive about the new Lime electric scooters in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There are a few reasons for the, but first let’s agree on one thing – the electric scooters (and electric bikes) do bring a lot of joy.

It’s difficult not to grin when you ride the new scooters, and it’s clear that most riders are loving the experience. Lime has a very simple and polished on-boarding process, especially if you have Apple Pay enabled (download the app, scan and ride), and the scooters feel like magic.

They get people moving on the streets in a very human way, at the same level as people walking, but with the speed of running or even cars, but without the effort.

Some Background on Transport Safety

The simple rule for vehicle safety is to separate hard from soft, and slow from fast.

That means making sure that people walking are separated from fast moving cyclists and scooter riders, and they in turn are separated from cars and trucks. A well designed road has footpaths, bike paths and motorised traffic lanes, while really high speed travel happens well away from there on motorways and train tracks.

Where we can’t separate vehicle mode flows then we need road design that helps to ensure that the speeds are consistent. It’s good to see the increase in the amount of mixed use space down-town in Auckland, for example, which does exactly that. We are also going to see lowering of speed limits in suburbs, to 30km, as well as outside of schools and in more densely populated areas.

We are still getting it wrong too often – we should, for example, never have a reason for people on bikes and trucks traveling at high speed to be (often fatally) interacting. There is a lot more work to do before our physical environment is safe and we need to keep going.

Cyclists have known for years that many suburban streets are very dangerous for people on bikes (and motorcyclists have too), and that evolved in past years into a road warrior mentality to ensure survival. Being a road warrior means being constantly vigilant about your own safety, accepting that every rider is going to experience fatal risks on almost every ride and likely carrying a few scars and bruises from falling off after car drivers perform dangerous manoeuvres.

The advent of physically separated cycling lanes has changed the nature of cycling, and it’s no longer a requirement to be a road warrior to survive. We can now wear normal clothes, ride sit-up bikes slowly and increasingly enjoy completely separated – and faster – experiences to being in a car. The more “normal” people we see on bikes, the more everyone adjusts, and we are all safer.

The rapid adoption of electric bikes over the last two years (in particular) has transformed what was, for many, an arduous lengthy commute into a fun and sweat-free ride. These vehicles  dramatically increase average speeds (many electric bikes are clipped at 25 km/h) and make it much easier and safer to accelerate with the cars when the lights go green. They come with improved brakes, stronger and larger tires for more grip, and riding positions that provide better visibility and ability to brake and manoeuvre.

The new electric scooters are also speed-limited, to around 27km/h, although the Lime scooters only see this on flat or down hill, and lose a hilariously large amount of speed when travelling up hills. These can also make journeys fun and fast, and get people out of cars and into the outdoors.

The issues

The electric bikes and electric scooters introduce much faster speeds into a variety of places, and some of our infrastructure is unable to cope. The scooters are under-braked (those tiny wheels) versus bikes, and they are much harder for newbies to turn to evade trouble. On the upside they are easy enough to step off from, but that isn’t necessarily obvious to a beginner. So the risk here is that beginners jump on to a scooter and then get into a situation that they cannot easily avoid. Some of these could be fatal.

The scooters themselves fit into a strange gap in the law. They are allowed to be ridden on the road (off to the left), on the footpath but, according to NZHerald, not on cycleways. For some reason though some riders assume that this means they can travel at 25km/h on the  footpath or over a busy pedestrian crossing  – and that’s very dangerous. Wearing a helmet will make riders feel more secure, and encourage higher (and more dangerous to others) speeds.

On the road meanwhile it’s easy and normal for scooter riders to be zooming along at 25 km/h while cars nearby are doing double that speed, creating a 20-30km/h speed differential between the scooter rider and the road and the cars, each of which is potentially fatal.

What to do

We need more electric scooters, electric bikes and other power assisted and non power assisted human size vehicles. They transform the way we live and interact with our environment, and make living in a city a lot more fun.

However I’d like see a new set of regulations for all small power assisted and non-power assisted vehicles (cycles, scooters, skateboards etc). These should focus on the use case rather than the vehicle, where clearly we are going to see increasingly diverse options.

Safe at Slow speeds

We should allow all these devices to be ridden slowly amongst pedestrians, or more quickly on cycle lanes or and on low-speed urban streets. These riders should not be required to wear helmets, but they should be required to ride at an appropriate speed for their environment. Zooming at 25km/h amongst pedestrians is dangerous riding and should be treated seriously.

Electric Scooter providers should be held accountable for the large volume of ACC claims, and provide better introduction (e.g. speed limited to start) and protection against harmful use by analysing use patterns.

Protected at High Speeds

However on higher speed roads, such as arterial or 50km/h routes without cycle lanes, I’d like to see the rules treat these devices more like mopeds and motorcycles, with expectations, say, that at least a skateboarder quality helmet is worn up to a certain power limit, and beyond that a proper motorcycle helmet.

Overall though we need to continue to work to get more separated lanes, mixed use areas and lower speed limited with speed limited furniture in place, as these are the only way to truly remove fatal risk.

Riding scooters and bikes, or even walking, is really enjoyable, and let’s have a society where we travel at this human level.


About me: I am a walker, cyclist, e-cyclist, e-tricyclist, motorcyclist (with a lot of international experience)  car driver, bus rider, plane passenger and occasional train rider. I live in downtown Auckland and walk or ecycle to work, and ecycle, motorcycle and fly to meetings. 

Posted in NZ Business | 1 Comment

Yale versus NZ Super Asset Allocation

Disclaimer: Punakaiki Fund Limited has lodged a Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for a Public Offer. Please read the PDS if you are considering an investment. 

Yale Investment Office have just announced their latest results (good, especially with the lower risk they carry) and their target asset allocation for 2019.

I always find it interesting comparing their portfolio construction to that of our Super Fund. Which portfolio would you prefer to be holding as the stock market wobbles?

The chart below shows how Yale’s portfolio has evolved. NZ Super has 82% in equites, bonds and cash – a situation that Yale has not seen since 1992 or so.

The philosophy differences are astonishing. Yale’s Dave Swensen wrote the book on Institutional Funds Management, and led Yale early into truly diversifying assets – away from US stocks and bonds and into, in particular, alternative assets such as Absolute Return, Venture Capital, Private Equity (Leveraged Buyouts). Their results have been superb, and also resilient to market downturns.

The returns from Venture Capital are particularly strong, as Yale is one of the worlds most desired investors for funds so gets the pick of the crop. Their 20-year weighted return from Venture Capital is 25.5% per year (as any June 2017), and their expected return from Venture Capital going forward is 16%, each of which are the highest across Yale’s asset classes.

It’s highly unlikely that any other investor can do as well as Yale (another peers) investing in Venture Capital, and only the top 10% of Venture Capital funds generate those outsized returns (and Yale has access to them.)

But it still amazes me that New Zealand’s Super Fund allocates essentially none of their portfolio to the class, and that they are so exposed to the stock markets.

Obviously our take is that we, at Punakaiki Fund, are playing in a space that is seriously short of investment funds, that New Zealand has a huge advantage in generating global companies (that need growth capital) and that we could use the funds, and competition, to help those companies.



Posted in NZ Business | 2 Comments

A Letter to Shane Ellison – CEO of Auckland Transport

Dear Shane

You’ve begun your role as the Chief Executive Officer of Auckland Transport at a moment of crisis, with hundreds of Auckland families coping with the death of their loved ones on the city’s roads every year. You have a mandate for change, a laundry list of initiatives, and a public and media ready to hear your actions.

No doubt you’ve heard – formally and informally – from your Board, from the Mayor and Auckland Council, the road lobby and cycling and walking groups. However, I am writing to you as an individual, and from the perspective of your end users – parents, sons, daughters, car drivers, motorbike riders, cyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, and train passengers. People.

I ask for your leadership – to guide Auckland to become the safest city in the world by instilling a world-leading safety culture at Auckland Transport.

You face an overwhelming number of tasks, varying in scope from the trivial to multi-year projects. to do. I am sure, for example, that you have read the Road Safety Improvement Review and its pages and pages of suggestions. But a long list of tasks means that nothing is prioritised; so while a to-do list will be helpful, the real solution is a change in culture, and this needs genuine safety leadership for Auckland Transport, and from you, as its leader.

Your leadership to save lives in Auckland can start by ensuring that your direct reports take a safety-first approach to everything they do. And you can set the expectation that they will set the same standard for their teams, cascading in turn these values to all Auckland Transport workers and contractors, and by extension, everyone living in and visiting our city.

This will be challenging – some people will resist putting safety first, and others will be slow to start to live the value. Everyone will complain about the extra burden. But it will also be inspiring – as we all see the visible evidence of change, and the change in culture that empowers, requires even, everyone to just make things happen.

The challenge also pales before the mandate – to save hundreds of Auckland’s families from coping with the loss of loved-ones who are fatally harmed on Auckland Transport’s network in each and every year.

This looks like a daunting assignment but it is an achievable goal. I know this from my own experiences observing and being part of safety turnarounds at two very large overseas industrial sites, each with thousands of workers and contractors. In both cases recordable injuries and fatal risks plunged, and production soared. I have looked back at my experience to give you some unsolicited advice about to tackle this sort of turnaround.

I hope you take up this challenge, and create a lasting legacy.


Suggestions for leading a safety culture.

1: Taking personal responsibility for safety of all people using Auckland’s footpaths, bike paths and streets. Live the safety value in your own actions, including:

Talking and meeting with the families of everyone who dies on your watch. Turning up to the funerals, hospitals and homes of the deceased, injured and traumatised. Taking your management team with you.

Starting every meeting, large or small, with safety. These can be a brief as a ‘safety contact’ – a short anecdote on safety (good or bad) that focusses the meeting on the greater aim.

Leading daily safety walks (and rides!) with your management team to observe activity, identify hazards, have structured conversations with staff and contractors, and assign responsibility to fixing hazards.

Demonstrating safety leadership by uncompromisingly putting safety first in planning, and showing visible leadership with dramatic actions like closing streets and lanes to address critical issues, changing work practices, and more.

Conducting layered audits with several levels of staff (and contractors) to deep dive into narrow topics to identify and fix larger gaps in processes.

Reviewing close-out reports for every injury-causing incident with your management team, giving fatal harm incidents even more attention. Ensuring that multiple root causes are properly identified, and Auckland Transport puts in temporary and then permanent fixes to prevent further injury. This is not about punishing individuals – but a quest to learn how individuals can be physically safe.

Requiring the same level of commitment from all of your management team and staff, all leaders of contractors, and all of their staff.

Bringing the board of directors along for the journey, including meetings with families, a safety focus in meetings, and on-site visits. To be fair, the board, and chair, should be with you arm in arm as you drive this journey forward.

2: Systematically identifying and removing hazards, both large and small, using a safety management system for all of Auckland:

Ensuring every employee and contractor is actively identifying hazards. The easiest way to do this is to mandate safety walks (for all supervisory staff), and safety meetings where hazards are identified.

Using the cascaded safety walks, management review of injury accidents, internal and external (public) reporting to identify and classify (severity and risk) hazards across the Auckland Transport ecosystem. Record these in a central system.

Creating and assigning (with permission) actions to Auckland Transport staff and/or contractors for all identified hazards. These is done during or just after the safety walks, in the formal reviews after injury-causing incidents, and by a self-selected or assigned internal team for publicly submitted reports.

Creating the bias and authority for immediate action for these hazards – actions that remove hazards within hours or days with quick fixes. You might need to buy a lot more road cones, but the trick with quick fixes is to give broad authority to all staff within a limited budget. Give everyone permission and authority to make things happen, even it it means going to Bunnings and buying planters.

Systematically reviewing the more serious hazards to upgrade the quick-fixes to permanent solutions that design the hazard out.

Having a bias for very low cost solutions – and keep a close watch on the incessant proposals for more expensive and slower processes to create permanent fixes. Is there a way to do it cheaper and faster? Would the funding be better spent on more implementations?

3: Report to us on your progress

Publish a list (and map) of all identified hazards and allow members of the public comment and vote.

Report, by hazard, progress to put in place temporary and permanent fixes to every hazard. Provide photos, stories and showcase safety heroes from within your staff and contractors.

Measure and report on the output statistics – not just fatality statistics, but hazards identified and closed out, the number of injuries and near misses, and the source of those reports. I will judge you not by the number of fatalities, but by the number of hazards you identify and the speed and methods by which they are closed out.

Work with NZTA and Auckland Council to address the risks that cross your domains. Report on and track the hazards in their domains.

In Summary

This list is not about finding people to blame and remove, but about cascading safety leadership throughout the organisation so that everyone can come home safely each day. If you adopt an inspirational approach then you have a great chance of taking us with you on your safety journey – and we’d all like to be inspired almost as much as we’d like to be able to walk, cycle and drive our streets in safety.

Yesterday my wife had a meeting in the cafe in the Auckland Transport building, on a morning when a man in his fifties was fatally wounded after being struck by a car on a suburban Auckland road. Despite this the mood in the cafe was upbeat – shockingly so when so many of us hold Auckland Transport responsible for that death, and that of so many others, including a 15-year-old earlier this month.

Each and every fatality is preventable. The person in their 50s was in an area “notorious for accidents”. The 15-year-old was killed in an area that had been repeatedly identified as a fatal risk hazard to Auckland Transport.

Nothing meanwhile has been done to fix the issues I identified after I saw a man pass away on The Strand four years ago. There are still no signs for cyclists descending Parnell Rise, the gravel on The Strand remains and there is no sign of a separated cycle lane.

We wait for the next preventable deaths.

The honeymoon is over. I ask that you hold yourself responsible for all future injuries and fatalities under your purview, and do what you can to reduce harm to us all.

I will personally hold you to that standard, and already hold Auckland Transport’s Board, and Auckland Transport’s staff and contractors to that same standard, and I constantly ask myself whether I am doing enough as well.

Lead us to a safer place.

Posted in NZ Business | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Liars and Fools: Climate change deniers

I have, somewhat randomly, made it a ongoing task to reply to climate change denial comments and articles on NBR.co.nz.

Thankfully over the years we’ve seen the quality of the writing in NBR and the comments themselves improve, but there are still a few writers or commenters who seem to thrive on denying climate change. Denial a surefire way to incite a good volume of comments, but ultimately there are really only two explanations for this behaviour from writers and commentors. They are either liars or fools.


Over the years I have wondered whether some people were actually being paid not just to write articles but also to make comments supporting climate change denial across a wide range of media. The articles and comments often seemed to be so outrageous in their disregard for facts, spouting of pseudoscience nonsense and reference to other deniers that I could think of no other plausible explanation.

It turns out I was correct – it emerged that there were actually groups (e.g. in USA, but it seems also in Russia) being paid to deny climate change. These groups were and still are not just writing articles and haunting comment sections, but have proven ability to capture mainstream and cable network media time. They do make for much better television – simplistic pseudo science and strident denial, for example, plays a lot better on Fox News, CNN or in columns than complex science and deep considered discussions of the possibilities.

This systematic media attack, which follows in the footsteps of the anti-tobacco lobby and is often aligned with the extreme right wing partisan political groups, is arguably one of the biggest civil acts of irresponsibility of our time, and some media (Fox News is the obvious one) have been complicit in that.

It’s hard not to argue that these professional deniers deliberately lie to try to present their arguments (and get more air time), and the fact checking required to hold them to account is painful and time consuming.

But it’s over for them – too many people know that there is no basis to their rhetoric, and society is increasingly intolerant of them.

In the USA the tobacco lobby was finally stalled by losing substantial court cases, and the same approach is underway for climate change denial. Exxon Mobil, for example, just lost a case where they tried to prevent investigators from Massachusetts and New York from digging in to their decades long systematic climate change denial. Over the coming years we can expect a series of US lawsuits to result in some major behavioural changes, and material loses for the affected companies and people.

However lawsuits take time, and they are a peculiarly American approach to resolving these sorts of issues. Other countries, including New Zealand, traditionally use legislation to lower public harm from private activities like selling tobacco, toxins in food and toxic emissions. Arguably we should see laws against paying for or otherwise supporting deliberate and malicious climate change denial, just as we did against arguments (including via advertisements) that smoking cigarettes was healthy.

The worst of these deniers, I foresee, will not just be seen as pariahs, but may also be condemned and convicted by civil and criminal court systems. As the impacts from climate change become more and more obvious and abhorrent society’s perspectives on these liars will worsen. History will not be kind.


The purpose of the professional liar deniers is to prevent action against climate change and to preserve the status quo. They do this by using a wide range of media to create and support legions of people in the second category – fools.

I’ve often wondered whether some of the worst deniers in this category just didn’t ever study chemistry, physics and or advanced mathematics, and don’t know how what they don’t know. As the Dunning-Kruger effect explains, they are perhaps so uninformed about the science that they don’t realise how stupid they can sound. This is worse when they are smart and successful in other areas, as that can make them over-confident about their abilities in climate science. My favourite comment from this sub-group is the one where CO2 is breathable so clearly not harmful.

Dumb as that sounds, I would still back everyone’s ability to learn how climate change works, but they have to have time and motivation.

I expect most in this group don’t have the time, and even if they accept that they don’t really understand the science, they have put their trust in people who are not credible climate scientists. This rapidly becomes a faith-based argument – my expert is better than yours.

It is, of course, ludicrous to believe that a loud yet uninformed TV personality, a marginal website or extremist politician or columnist knows more than tens of thousands of professional scientists who constantly cross check each other. But the scientists don’t help themselves either – they are far less accessible, and the deepness of the topic makes for boring columns and TV. It’s also too easy for harried editors or biased platforms to broadcast the loudest voices, and to ignore the quiet boring ones with nuanced but serious messages..

Once the liar perspective has conned someone into believing in climate change denial, it’s very difficult for them to change their mind. That’s just human nature.

It’s especially difficult if they have a legacy of denial statements, private or public. After all it’s hard to admit that you’ve been conned – and that you have been acting like a fool.

But while avoiding embarrassment is be powerful motivation to pretend to believe that anthropogenic climate change is not real or a threat, it’s pales before the genuine existential threat we are facing.

So let’s encourage those who have found themselves on the wrong side of truth to please stop behaving like fools and either do their homework or to put their trust in the world’s top scientists. We can point them to the clear and present evidence of climate change, like disappearing glaciers, and to the most obvious fallacies that they are spouting, but ultimately we need to point to the liars who have duped so many.

Happily millions of people are changing their minds. One good example is Jerry Taylor, who was thoughtful enough, during his previous job as a professional climate change denier at right wing think tank ALEC, to dig in to the facts, and then strong enough to change his mind.

We should appreciate just how difficult this is, and reward those who do have the courage to learn and change, especially those who do so earlier.

Deniers with a Political Cause

Some deniers, from either of the above categories (liars or fools), are active deniers primarily because they are supporting a particular political agenda. They deliberately ignore the “other side’s” arguments and preponderance of evidence.

However we are seeing generational shift in political parties, and increasingly doing something about climate change is becoming table stakes to get elected. As a society, a world even, we need to help all politicians and their supporters understand that climate change is well beyond politics.

Hobson’s Choice: Liars or Fools?

All climate change deniers, whether they accept the label or not, are stuck between two poor choices – admitting that they are smart and educated enough to believe climate change is real but that they have been deliberately lying, or admitting that they are not smart or educated enough or that they have listened to the wrong people and have been taken for fools. Most are in the second category.

Old Fools

Sometimes the latter is tied up with age – where people are just too old to care about learning something new, and are content to be foolish. (On the other hand climate change from CO2 emissions was reported in NZ well before anyone alive today was born). We generally accept that older people can have outdated views, and tolerate the occasional slip-up, and most are smart enough to accept that times have changed and understand that a few of their perspectives are dated. (I hasten to add my own parents are well ahead of the times.)

But sometimes see well known people from another era suddenly emerge in the press as climate change deniers, perhaps with a dose of racism and/or sexism. While their rhetoric may be great for generating page views and controversy, it’s sad for all of us to watch.

Unfortunately the required speed of response to climate change is faster than the speed of generational change. So let’s make sure they are told, gently via their editors and friends, and firmly by society, that their statements are not just foolish, but dangerous to all of us and damaging to themselves. Let’s give nothing to denial.

What about the deliberate liars, or even those who just say they are trolls looking for a reaction? Let’s stop tolerating them, and start digging into their motivations and funding, while ensuring we capture the evidence for those future lawsuits.

Those who get it

There are two other categories of people, when considering attitudes towards climate change. The first is those who acknowledge the established facts and science, and understand that we need to lower emissions and mitigate the climate change that is upon its and emerging. They know it’s important, and relatively urgent, but there are competing priorities as well. This is the consensus view.

The second group also have some grasp of chaotic systems, positive response and exponential growth, and have read some of the work concerning the ocean currents, ocean acidification, trapped methane and the lubrication effect of the melting ice/water interface. Those people are terrified that our ecosystems may become uninhabitable, at the very least our lifestyles irrevocably destroyed, and many are increasingly (and not at all usefully) moved to the point of despair on whether we can do anything at all. They know we need to act immediately, and dramatically, in order to have a chance of a normal future. This is a more marginal view, but if we are going to create great TV and articles the those are voices we should be hearing more of. They are not just credible, but it’s increasingly concerning that they may well be right.

Posted in NZ Business