Letters 1 December 2012

by Listener Archive / 27 November, 2012
Family Trusts; New Zealand's constitution; and the Duchess of Cornwall.


The Ministry of Social Development is to be congratulated for taking a hard line on family trusts (“Loss of trust”, November 24). The couple quoted as having $2.6 million in assets and applying for a rest home subsidy must surely have brought a shudder of derision and disbelief from middle- and low-income New Zealanders for whom $2.6 million is an unattainable dream. The truly deserving elderly should be entitled to have Government support when entering a nursing home. Those who try to have their cake (assets) and eat it too (a subsidy) should quite rightly be hotly pursued by the ministry.
Fiona Bullivant


In the first part of his article on constitutional reform (“Queen & country”, November 24), Karl du Fresne outlines the concerns of a wide range of people that the constitutional review process, and the review panel itself, is weighted in favour of embedding the Treaty of Waitangi as the corner stone of any future written constitution. However, in the second part he tries to soothe anxiety and allay any concerns of this nature. As someone troubled by attempts over recent years to exalt the Treaty to a virtually unassailable pre-eminence, I believe any further official status given to the Treaty, its fictive “principles” and the cataloguing of these imagined principles, including “partnership” by mandarins of our courts, will have a toxic effect on our future as a modern, progressive, evolving democratic nation state. It will also patronisingly condemn people of Maori descent (me included) to existence as a group who can only prosper with special status and special privileges instead of as equal and able members of society. Boosters of the Treaty often say critics are forgetting our history, but they seem to believe history “froze” in 1840 and that we should ignore all the developments since then. Democracy is the best system of governance for our future, not the mix of democracy and neo-feudal tribal oligarchies that confound both national and local government entities. A small example of this is that 12 years after the tree was taken down on Auckland’s One Tree Hill, we are still no closer to getting another tree planted than we were in 2000. I do not want a constitution that creates two classes of citizenship based on the order in which some of one’s ancestors migrated to this land. At the end of the article, Peter Dunne says “the genie is coming out of the bottle”. I hope the big genie making an appearance will actually be public resistance to the encroachments of Treatifarianism.
Brian McDonnell

Those who are seeking a republican New Zealand with an elected head of state may care to reflect on the recent US presidential elections, where $2.5 billion was spent on promoting the two candidates. It would not be unreasonable to assume those who paid out so much would be looking for some sort of return for their investment (not necessarily fiscal, but actions by their successful candidate). How democratic might it be if candidates were effectively “bought” this way? Surely, a head of state who, although hereditarily chosen, cannot be bought and who is above politics must be a better option?
Bernard Redshaw

Once past Muriel Newman’s tiresome attempt to frighten the non-natives, I found the article very encouraging. Allowing Maori to be who they are in their own land would not inevitably relegate the rest of us to second-class status. But maybe we can aim higher than mere “pragmatic evolution”. In my book New Zealand by Design, I wrote: “The Treaty of Waitangi can be seen as an act of purposeful design which was well-intentioned and created positive expectations for all who signed it … In the binary world of win/lose legal interpretation, this ‘contract document’ can be endlessly contested. In the conciliatory world of win/win design process, the mutually beneficial intention of this artefact can be refreshed and its fulfilment continuously improved.”
Michael Smythe
(Northcote, Auckland)

When considering the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in any proposal for a constitution, there is only one clause that needs to be taken forward. It’s the one that sums up the purpose and essence of the Treaty: “We are now one people.”
Bruce Robertson
(Westmere, Auckland)

Would you like any of our current politicians to be president? The last proper statesman we had was quite a few years ago. As for the Treaty being enshrined in the constitution – only if it has clear boundaries and stops the perpetual gravy train.
Maureen Wempe
(Carterton, Wairarapa)


Rebecca Macfie’s article “What really happened” (November 17) omits one party plainly bearing a share of culpability for the Pike River disaster: the National Government in the 1990s, which changed the law in 1992 to favour voluntary compliance with safety regulations, and the National-led Government of 2008-10, which was aggressively promoting increased mining. Let’s remember that up to November 2010, the Pike River coal mine was a prize exhibit for the compatibility of commercial exploitation and conservation values. If one of the Labour Department’s two remaining mining inspectors had tried serving a prohibition notice to halt the operation of the mine until “a proper emergency exit” was built, what chance was there that this would have been responded to with anything other than furious hostility by senior Government ministers? Sure, in a contest situation, he would have lost. Considering all the circumstances, I find the efforts being made in some quarters to throw legal blame on Department of Labour officials highly hypocritical. In retrospect, the Labour-led Government of 2000-08 should have reversed the law change, and rebuilt the mining inspectorate, but it is far easier, cheaper and quicker to wreck something than to fi x it.
John C Ross
(Palmerston North)


I applaud your firm advice to the Government to get on with implementing the Electoral Commission’s recommendations on MMP (Editorial, November 17), but I take issue with your extraordinarily charitable judgment that “National resisted all temptation to screw the scrum by promoting its own view about the system in the referendum run-up”. Before and during the 2011 election campaign, National candidates, from the Prime Minister down, expressed their preference, with varying degrees of vehemence, for the non-proportional Supplementary Member (SM) option. Nikki Kaye, for example, standing in the young, liberal and highly marginal Auckland Central seat, found herself “leaning towards voting for the Supplementary Member electoral system”. Across the Waitemata Harbour, in solid National territory, there was less need to equivocate. MMP “hasn’t delivered”, declared Maggie Barry, and should “be scrapped”, to be replaced, of course, by the coveted Supplementary Member system, with, incidentally, the 5% and one-seat thresholds intact. Having lost out on SM, the National-led Government seems to want to resist implementing the outcome of its own referendum and the exemplary review of MMP that followed. When screwing the scrum fails, I suppose you can always kick for touch.
Peter Aimer
(Campbells Bay, Auckland)


Jennifer Bowden (Nutrition, November 17) correctly pointed out that one of the barriers to successful breastfeeding of New Zealand babies is the loss of breastfeeding as a cultural norm. The signing of Fernbaby, a Chinese/ New Zealand infant formula manufacturer, as a sponsor of the Vodafone Warriors is an astounding example of how entrenched this loss is. The acceptance of this sponsorship deal flies in the face of all the good work of the Ministry of Health in promoting breastfeeding and also of the Infant Nutrition Council, whose infant-formula manufacturer members avoid promoting their products to anyone other than parents. Research clearly demonstrates that the support and encouragement of the baby’s father is one of the most important influences in successful breastfeeding. That a macho rugby team can promote infant formula is profoundly disappointing.
Jennifer Cox
International board certified lactation consultant
(Mount Cook, Wellington


John Wilson (Letters, November 10) is correct in that excise tax and ACC levies are not imposed on diesel (although there are a couple of minor levies for local authorities and such). But I thank him for the idea: why not offer an incentive to move away from such things as commuting in SUVs (the fastest-growing segment of motor vehicle sales) by removing road-user charges on small and efficient diesel vehicles? An example of this principle’s application is London’s congestion charge, where vehicles emitting less than 100g/km or less of CO2 don’t pay the £10 a day fee, giving a real incentive – you can see the most efficient vehicles on nextgreencar.com. New Zealand has typically regulated by penalties for undesirable behaviour: why not, for once, offer an incentive to do the smart thing and start to build a pool of efficient vehicles that will benefit both our balance of payments and our ecological profile?
David Cohen
(Dunedin North)


The November 24 Editorial doesn’t recognise that the Earth’s climate has always been changing for reasons that have nothing to do with human industrial activity. Even if we reduced the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere by one hundredth of 1% (which would require a massive, sustained global onslaught on industry), climate change would continue. All the benefits listed – sustainable agriculture, geothermal power, energy efficiency and new technology – can be advanced without demonising carbon dioxide. The need to adapt to a changing climate has always been with us. Moving away from the Kyoto constrictions may be the start of a more rational approach to this issue.
Richard Barker
Consulting geologist
(Bucklands Beach, Auckland)

Only one point made by respondents to my October 27 letter leads me to change what I said. I should have referred to sea ice (not just ice) in my reference to the Arctic and Antarctic; my apologies. Otherwise, I stand by what I said, and I can justify every scientific statement with peer-reviewed literature, without needing to cherry-pick data. Indeed, there is a significant challenge to the strength of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis appearing in the mainstream scientific literature in recent months, in favour of the role of the sun. Nowhere did I deny climate change – the climate is always changing. Nor have I said anything that justifies the profligate consumption of energy and resources, which I regard as antisocial. Crying wolf on global warming is not wise. Climate mitigation efforts in New Zealand are almost entirely self-serving and puny, considering that in each of the past 10 years, the increase in CO2 emissions from China alone is greater than the total UK emissions, which are themselves seven times those of New Zealand. It is clear where all the action should be focused to have any measurable impact. I want my share of mitigation money spent on aid to educate African women, which is where it will have a better impact for the world’s future.
Michael Kelly


Columnist Paul Thomas (Sport, November 17) needs to take more care with his use of words. I refer to his sentence about “players who barely have a finger laid on them writhing around like epileptics”. I understand he was drawing a word picture of a player putting on an act, but this term is unhelpful and derogatory to the about 40,000 New Zealanders, including sportspeople, who strive to live a normal life despite their unpredictable disability.
William Roxburgh
(Paraparaumu Beach)


In the avalanche of meretricious admiration and flattery of the Duchess of Cornwall, it was sad to read (“The good wife”, November 17) an unnecessary and fallacious slur to the Duchess of Windsor’s reputation. Jane Clifton does not appear to have read many of the recent independent accounts of the constitutional crisis caused by Edward Windsor’s irrational and foolish infatuation with the exciting and glamorous Wallis Simpson. Relentlessly pursued by the future king, she enjoyed the attention he brought her, and the opportunity to indulge her superficial interest in fashion, jewellery, style and money. She naively did not realise the web of British Establishment intrigue that was developing around her until it was too late to extricate herself. She did, unsuccessfully, try to escape. Although a sophisticated modern woman, she was no Nazi adventuress, and she wilfully deceived no one. The victors write the histories, and it was only after the Windsor PR machine, directed by the self-titled “Queen Mother”, got to work that she became a “hate object”.
John Balneaves
(Fendalton, Christchurch)


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