Letters 24 November 2012

by Listener Archive / 24 November, 2012
Fertility; education; and the US election.


I was concerned to read that chromosome screening can increase the chance of conception for 38-42-year-olds to 61% (“Fertile ground”, November 10). But nothing can make an egg younger, so a 42-year-old woman may have to have many, many rounds of IVF to find (if ever) a chromosomally normal embryo to give her the 61% chance of success. It seems this technology only lets you know if you’ve failed earlier. As someone who has undergone 10 failed rounds of IVF, this would at least have saved me a bit of time, but I would probably still not have got pregnant.
Jan Cameron
(Mt Eden, Auckland)


Readers of the article about medications and drug companies (“Bitter pills”, November 17) may be interested in taking part in a different kind of study than those discussed. Although randomised controlled trials comparing drugs against placebos are vitally important, they are not designed to capture the lived experience of people on the drug in question. We are running an online survey of people who have been prescribed antidepressants in the past five years, asking them about the pros and cons of being on the drugs, their understanding of the causes of depression, and what they think about the rapid increase in the use of antidepressants – which are prescribed to 10% of adults annually in this country. More than 2000 people have responded, but we want as many as possible to have their say. The survey is at www.viewsonantidepressants.co.nz.
Professor John Read
Psychology Department, University of Auckland


I would like to put the facts right concerning your November 10 Editorial. Regarding my comment that New Zealand could not claim to have a world-class public education system when we see the continuing underachievement of our Maori and Pasifika learners, among others, I most certainly have not laid blame “squarely in the laps of schools”. I have clearly stated that we have very committed teachers and real pockets of excellence within the system, but that overall the system is not working as it needs to. The Ministry of Education, school leaders and teachers must collectively work at better identifying best practice and making sure it is applied across all classrooms and learners. Communities, including parents, have an important role to play, as acknowledged in the editorial, as do other agencies working with children in particular localities. As to the reference about a long-jump pit being mistaken for liquefaction at a Christchurch school, this never happened. You have quoted what has unfortunately become an urban myth sourced from a television report. The professional geotechnical engineer’s report on the school in question did not make any reference to a long jump pit. What it did state was that there was surface evidence that liquefaction had occurred “at depth” and that buildings had sunk by up to 70mm. It also noted there were cracks of up to 25mm. There were a small number of errors in the information packs provided to affected schools and these have been corrected. None of them materially affect the rationale behind the proposals and we continue to provide and seek additional information in support of a genuine consultation on the proposals put forward.
Lesley Longstone
Secretary for Education, Ministry of Education

I was pleased to read that prominent MP and Labour Party caucus member David Cunliffe has such strong views on the importance of high-quality education (“Reinventing David”, November 3). His reflections on his family’s relocation to Pleasant Point, near Timaru, where he went to Pleasant Point High School, are reassuring – “I really appreciated the education I got there and I am very passionate that every kid gets a good state education and that has to be a priority for us.” Conveniently, he forgot to mention that in 2004 his Government forced the closure of 70 schools around the country, including many thriving and successful schools, and also including Pleasant Point High School.
Grant Wakefield
(Lilyfield, Sydney)


The story of Camilla and Charles (“The good wife”, November 17) would surely be the love story of our generation. Perhaps it is their lack of glamour that has seen their story remain off the covers of women’s magazines. From their meeting in 1970 to finally marrying in the mid-2000s, they are a picture of two people who have finally found happiness that should have been theirs all along. Their obvious compatibility and genuine friendship has led to an enduring and companionate relationship that has withstood any amount of opprobrium and public scorn. As the article says, Camilla has never hit out at those who criticised her or held her to blame for the failure of Charles’s marriage to Diana. She has remained dignified and allowed people their views without hitting back publicly. Perhaps, too, their example has led William to choose someone as his wife with whom he is genuinely compatible and who has the strength and maturity to withstand the public scrutiny that comes with the role. It is a shame the naive and immature Diana was sacrificed to royal protocol before Charles was allowed to follow his heart.
Mary Hackshaw
(Waiau Pa, Pukekohe)


Having spent much of my broadcasting career discovering (Shona Laing), launching (Roger Gascoigne), supporting (Nice One, Stu), and admiring talent (John Hawkesby/Judith Kirk), it never ceases to amaze me that viewers still misunderstand that “personalities” are the product of media fabrication, opportunism and personal prejudice. Give the guy next door, noisily mowing his lawn, a TV programme, an outrageous salary and exposure on the cover of the Woman’s Weekly with a “friend” with cleavage, and lo and behold … a “personality”. Professional broadcasters such as John Campbell (“The woo-hoo man”, November 10) doing a job they love don’t court celebrity status … you give it to them.
Christopher Bourn
Former TVNZ head of entertainment
(Richmond, Nelson)


New Zealand media gave saturation coverage to the US election for days even before voting began. Yes, the US is important to us, but not that much. What we needed here was considered coverage of the likely effect of the outcome on this country after the result, not endless speculation about who might win and why. The US is, after all, a foreign country, and we are not part of it, even if our media go on as if we’re a suburb of Los Angeles (albeit a poor one) and our TV presenters speak American with a New Zealand accent.
Oliver Manson
(Avonside, Christchurch)


At a time when Christchurch City effectively has increased its staff costs by 4% a year, (the effect of giving staff 10 additional leave days), ratepayers are entitled to ask, “What the HE-doubletoothpicks is going on?” A private-sector fi rm facing the present demanding economic circumstances, would more likely react by asking its workforce to increase productivity. In the worst case, redundancies unfortunately might have to be discussed. So, why does local government ignore these and other economic realities? What is the scale of the rates-affordability problem? A big part of the problem of unaffordable rates is the sector’s attitudes and culture. Prevailing council culture, by and large, shows little enthusiasm for performance improvement or for making efficiency gains. When did we last see a council exhorting its employees to achieve better productivity by working smarter and/or longer hours? And is it not significant that at the last informal survey (2010), only 16 of the over 80 councils were involved in any formal performance-improvement programme? The scale of the problem may not be as large as some would claim. For the real mischief arises when council costs rise at a greater rate than ratepayer incomes/costs. This is the much-debated issue of affordability. According to the New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers’ submission to the Local Government select committee, Berl has forecast that the LG Cost Index will increase on average by 4.4% a year. The ratepayers’ equivalent, effectively their affordability index as measured by the CPI, will increase by only 2.9% a year. In simple terms, closing this gap of 1.5% a year should as a minimum be the aim of every council in terms of its aimed-for reduction of costs. And where to find such savings? As council payrolls generally account for 20-22% of total variable operating expenditures, this is the first place to look for savings-affordability. To follow Christchurch City’s example would mean more ratepayer hardship arising from still more unaffordable rates and charges.
Larry Mitchell


Anthony Ritchie (Letters, October 13) sees the provision of an orchestra using taxpayer funds as a privilege of office, not a public good. The cultural and educational priorities on display at the University of Otago Music Department website tell a different story. Jonathan Lemalu graduated in law, not music. Robin Maconie


Congratulations to A Mitchell, North Shore; A Rush, Auckland; S Young, Wellington; B Gordon, Canterbury; J Wilson, Invercargill, who won iPads in a recent Listener competition.
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