Tools and guides that I find useful

Design Tool for Non-Designers

Canva makes it simple to create headers and visual elements for websites, social media pages, and a whole lot of other things.

Design Guide

I like this Pixel Perfect Guide to digital design principles by UsTwo. Useful reading + rules of thumb.

Image sizing

TinyPNG is a free web-based service that shrinks PNG files to a size suitable for posting online. They smoodge JPGs now too. Just brilliant.

Image Editing

Pic Monkey is a fantastic freemium web-based photo editing service. Super easy to use.

Guide to Local Government

A guide for journalists (or anyone, really) on how local government works in New Zealand. Published each year by the Local Government Association.

Down for Everyone?

Find out whether a website that won’t load is Down for Everyone or Just Me.

Inflation Calculator

Use the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s Inflation Calculator to see what $x now would have bought you in the past.

Embeddable Timelines

TimelineJS is an open source tool that lets you create “visually-rich interactive timelines in 40 languages.” Created by the Knight Lab.

Find out what’s happening in New Zealand’s Parliament

Here are a few ways to keep track of what’s happening in New Zealand’s Parliament.

When Parliament is Sitting publishes a Parliamentary Calendar (pdf and text) showing the days MPs will be ‘sitting’ in the Debating Chamber.

Generally Parliament will sit on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2pm to 6pm and 7.30pm to 10pm.

Parliament’s ‘agenda’ for when it’s sitting

An Order Paper outlining the day’s business is published (as a pdf) before each session in the House. You can subscribe to an email alert. The paper shows what order the day’s business will be done in; generally:

  • Petitions
  • Select committee reports
  • Introduction of bills
  • Oral questions
  • Government orders of the day

It also outlines the Bills before the House, what stage they are up to, and how many minutes of speeches are remaining of their allocation.

Stages of a Bill
Read more about how a Bill becomes law on

The Order Paper is only a guide, though: speeches are sometimes interrupted and generally the House will only get through a few items in a given session. The rest are rolled over to the next Order Paper.

Watch or listen to Parliament live

There are several ways to tune in to Parliament during Question Time and when MPs are debating Bills.

  • Watch live in your browser on
  • On television on Freeview 31, Sky 86 or Vodafone 86.
  • RadioNZ runs a live stream when the House is in session and you can hear Parliament on the radio on: Auckland – AM 882; Waikato – AM 1494; Bay of Plenty – AM 657; Napier – AM 909; Wellington – AM 657; Christchurch – AM 963; Dunedin – AM 900; Southland – AM 1314.
  • tweets updates from the Debating Chamber but also other aspects of what’s happening in the House.

Catch up on Parliament later

RadioNZ National broadcasts daily updates and runs a Twitter account about Parliament.

Who sits where

There’s a diagram on showing where each Member of Parliament sits in the Debating Chamber. It’s updated after each election. Essentially:

“Government parties sit on the Speaker’s right and opposition parties sit on the Speaker‘s left.

“Members of Parliament sit in the block that is allocated to the political party they represent. The parties decide where each member will sit within their block. The most senior members usually sit in the front (on the front benches) while junior members sit towards the back of the block (on the back benches).”

Select Committees

Select Committees are where members of Parliament take a more detailed look at issues. Committees meet regularly to consider Bills, petitions, the finances of government and public organisations, and inquiries. They often invite public submissions.

The committees, which are appointed after each election, are:

Economic Development, Science and Innovation
Education and Workforce
Finance and Expenditure
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Governance and Administration
Māori Affairs
Officers of Parliament
Primary Production
Regulations Review
Social Services and Community
Standing Orders
Transport and Infrastructure publishes a schedule of Select Committee meetings, generally a week in advance.

Select Committees report their findings and recommendations back to the House of Representatives. Those reports are published on You can subscribe to an email alert.

State Sector Organisations

The State Services Commission publishes a list of all State Sector organisations including public service departments, defence, police, crown entities and State-Owned Enterprises.

MPs’ Financial Interests

Members of New Zealand’s Parliament are required to declare their personal financial interests each year. You can see the latest Register on

Request Official Information makes it easy for anyone to request information under New Zealand’s Official Information Act. You can read about how the act works on the Ministry of Justice website.

Register of Political Parties

The Electoral Commission keeps a public Register of Political Parties.

Political Party Donations

Each registered political party must file an annual return of party donations with the Electoral Commission by 30 April.

How Parliament works

Parliament 101 is a short animation explaining the work of the New Zealand Parliament.

On which vs that and who vs whom

At one time I worked as a newspaper sub-editor. The job’s occupational hazards included getting involved in conversations about the correctness of certain kinds of punctuation, the usage of which vs that and who vs whom, and devilish subjects like the subjunctive mood and whether or not ‘internet’ should take a capital I.

Those conversations are mercifully rare in my life today but I still find myself drawn to old-school style books in second-hand stores and conversations about language playing out online. A few links are collected here.

The Oatmeal has a lovely poster on the subject of who vs whom.

The Oatmeal's Who and Whom

Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker talks about who vs whom in his book The Sense of Style: the Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

In most cases, even if correctly used, whom can indeed sound “formal verging on pompous.” Though they seem straightforward enough, “the rules for its proper use,” writes Pinker, “are obscure to many speakers, tempting them to drop ‘whom’ into their speech whenever they want to sound posh,” and to generally use the word incorrectly.

Despite “a century of nagging by prescriptive grammarians,” the distinction between “who” and “whom” seems anything but simple, and so one’s use of it—as with any tricky word or usage—should be carefully calibrated “to the complexity of the construction and the degree of formality” the writing calls for.

Put plainly, know how you’re using “whom” and why, or stick with the unobjectionable “who.”

Pinker spoke to Kim Hill on Radio NZ about writing and style.

Stephen Fry argues against grammar nazis and for enjoying language and rolling with its changes.

Most detailed map of our universe

Fascinating video from Nature of how scientists have mapped our universe and shown where Earth fits into it. (Link came via

I grabbed the video from YouTube: “Superclusters – regions of space that are densely packed with galaxies – are the biggest structures in the Universe. But scientists have struggled to define exactly where one supercluster ends and another begins. Now, a team based in Hawaii has come up with a new technique that maps the Universe according to the flow of galaxies across space. Redrawing the boundaries of the cosmic map, they redefine our home supercluster and name it Laniakea, which means ‘immeasurable heaven’ in Hawaiian.”

Read the research paper:
Read Nature’s news story:…

License: Standard YouTube License