Feedback: June 11, 2016by The Listener
Raising awareness about cold homes, knocking housing into shape, and ire at Israel.
KNOCKING HOUSING INTO SHAPE
As an economist, I’d suggest the issue of Auckland housing affordability springs from our and the world’s highly skewed income distribution (Editorial, June 4). A shortage of land isn’t remotely relevant.
What can be done? First, what not to do: don’t give the rumoured tax cuts. Doing so will make the problem, which is mainly income-driven, worse. The rich will get richer and more creditworthy and further bid up housing prices; the less fortunate will not get enough of an income bump to enter the housing market. In relative terms, they’ll be poorer.
Even worse would be to cut taxes and allow free-market expansion of urban boundaries. The tax cut will then finance urban sprawl with its attendant degradation of inner urban areas and the environment.
But taxes and subsidies are the way to go. We should introduce a capital gains tax applicable when the capital gains are actually taken. There should be a homestead exemption for those who re-invest in another homestead. We should also enact a per-square-metre tax on urban land, which will engender more efficient and environmentally friendly land use.
What should we do with the extra revenue? Forget national debt repayment: New Zealand’s debt/GDP ratio is low by world standards. Worrying about our debt is like worrying about dying at 100 years old when you’re only 18. We should subsidise the building of bare-bones housing and the associated public infrastructure. It wouldn’t hurt for the Commerce Commission to rattle its sabre to engender more competition in the building and banking sectors. But if government debt guarantees and building subsidies are needed, so be it.
The subdivisions surrounding cities such as Auckland and Christchurch generally consist of four-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-storey dwellings occupying most of the small sections. Buyers are told that they need this size for resale value.
This is not the answer to growing homelessness. Earlier times and other parts of the world show that one-, two- and three-bedroom houses are successful and flats in two- and three-storey well-designed buildings in the right surroundings can make a good home.
We do not need houses with no local services and the need for a car to get anywhere. Developers and multi-house investors are holding our country to ransom.
I was in the building industry in Auckland in the 1970s and 80s when people could easily capitalise Family Benefit for the deposit on a new home in a low-cost area away from the city centre. No consideration was given to road planning, which now dogs Auckland.
I just hope that the planners take the serious matter of infrastructure into account when opening new land for housing development. To not do this will create more congestion in the future.
(Lake Tarawera, Rotorua)
CURTAINS FOR COLD
I was delighted to read the column (Health, May 30) raising awareness about cold homes. It was affirmation of work in Rotorua, where nine of us volunteers run charitable trust Curtainbank.
Our mission is “to receive, repair where necessary and gift curtains to families in need within the Rotorua district”.
We have been generously supported by local citizens and we liaise with health professionals, which is mutually beneficial.
It amazes us that it is not mandatory for either private or Housing New Zealand rental accommodation to have fitted curtain tracks. We are not legally permitted to “damage” such homes by fitting tracks and would like this anomaly to be addressed – surely not too big an ask?
Letter of the week
THE GOOD DOCTOR
It’s reassuring to know that Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman has an MBA and has been a general practitioner (“Doctor in the House”, June 4). It’s also great that he is a family man, has political aspirations and cares about budgets and outcomes.
However, other than his focus on obesity, the profile of Coleman is disturbingly bland. It fails to elicit from him his thinking and vision on caring for the increasing numbers of elderly and people with chronic disease; how we will deal with rising health costs; and what measures are needed to tackle the increasing prevalence of mental and psychological illness that is filling our prisons and cemeteries.
Just chasing district health board productivity won’t do it.
HEALTHCARE FOR HUMANS
Robin Youngson is to be praised for setting up the Hearts in Healthcare organisation aimed at “rehumanising” healthcare (Health, May 28). Based on my own experience as a patient, medical professionals who are compassionate and show empathy can facilitate a patient’s recovery.
Twenty-five years ago, I underwent major bowel surgery in a private hospital. The following day, alone in my room and immobilised by tubes and drips, I was feeling weak and helpless. My bed faced the door and nurses walked briskly past without so much as a glance in.
Eventually, my surgeon appeared, and instead of walking on, he paused and entered the room. Without saying a word, he came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder, then left. His compassionate gesture lifted my spirits and gave me confidence.
It should not be deemed unprofessional for medical professionals to show compassion and empathy. Rather, as Youngson states, it is callous for them not to.
PITY THE POOR BANKS
My heart bled for those poor Australian-owned banks when I read that fixed-rate mortgages were squeezing their margins (“In a fix”, May 28). I’d like to squeeze more than their margins. Perhaps the Kiwi public could have a whip around when they are down to their last $10 billion.
DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH
Well done to both Mandy Day for her letter urging the shifting of kids “into homes with love and caring despite a different culture” and the Listener for making it the letter of the week (Letters, May 28).
Be warned, though, that what you are recommending has been called relocation. The Australians did it decades ago to try to counter the horrendous conditions and prospects Aboriginal kids were facing and would face in the future without intervention.
It is now regarded as a European-centric intrusion into that culture – despite the dreadful lives a lot of those poor kids now live since relocation was stopped – and the Australian Government was compelled to apologise for what the media called the Lost Generation.
So good on you, Mandy, but don’t hold your breath. I can’t imagine our politicians having the fortitude to step up and do what you suggest.
DISMAY AT DECCA AITKENHEAD
Setting aside Decca Aitkenhead’s grief at the death of someone close (“Paradise lost”, May 28), the man she lost was a thug and bully and fully capable of ruining the lives of others for self gain. I’m sure many of Tony Wilkinson’s associates are glad to be rid of him and I don’t believe it wise to try to elevate such people to social acceptability by linking them with celebrities.
In this regard, Aitkenhead’s attack on Christopher Hitchens is ironic. Hitchens was recognised as a brilliant essayist; nobody would ever have cast him as the Russell Crowe type that she suggests he isn’t. Her description of his appearance wasn’t cutting but stated the obvious.
Her attempt at excusing her begging letters was pathetic and demonstrated her moral slippage. In the end, it is clear that although she has been trying to write about them for a while, she still does not understand “real people”.
(Maungaraki, Lower Hutt)
LAND OF HOPE
I recently had a two-week stay in North Shore Hospital and was disturbed to see that most of the lower-paid work was being done by migrants, some with limited English. I was attended to by lovely people from South Korea, China, Afghanistan, Turkey, India, the Philippines and Serbia. I then became aware that some medical staff including nurse aides, nurses, one of my doctors and the consulting specialist were also from overseas.
Then the penny dropped: these migrants saw New Zealand as the land of opportunity to improve their lives and those of their families and descendants no matter how long it would take. That’s the same reason I brought my family here 40 years ago and what brought all the 19th- and 20th-century migrants to these shores. The original Polynesian migrants would also have had this sense of opportunity.
If I could offer a word of advice: retain your religions and culture and blend them into your New Zealandness to everyone’s advantage and pleasure.
I am no stranger to low pay. I joined the Royal Navy at 15 on one shilling and sixpence a day – 15c. I use my title of Lieutenant commander RNZN (retd) only to show that I also have made it. Although I will not live to see it, I have every confidence that my – our – adopted country will be a beacon of tolerance and an example to other nations.
(Fairview Heights, Auckland)
IRE AT ISRAEL
Robert Lawrence (Letters, June 4) hit the nail on the head with his analysis of the campaign of bullying and name-calling that Israel supporters such as correspondent Lev Ovshtein use to try to shut down debate on the complex subject of the country’s actions in the Middle East. That is why Israel gets away with so much.
I raise my voice against injustice and oppression wherever it occurs, including Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza, which have been in place for nearly 50 years but have worsened under the current regime.
I also challenge Hamas, Islamic Jihad and like-minded rejectionist Palestinian groups over their violent and morally bankrupt policies.
Along with millions of people worldwide, I campaigned against South Africa’s vile apartheid system and saw the end of that abomination in 1994. Where are Israel’s FW de Klerk and Palestine’s Nelson Mandela?
Meaning of success
The Listener, North & South and NEXT magazines are embarking on a research project in partnership with Xero, the New Zealand-based software company that provides cloud-based accounting software for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).
We’d like to thank members of Bauer Media NZ’s online reader panels – All Women Talk and His-Call – for participating in a survey asking SME owners about their ambitions for their businesses and how those expectations fit into their personal lives. The importance of SMEs in New Zealand can’t be overstated: one in three Kiwi workers is employed in a small business, and combined, they contribute a third of the country’s gross domestic product. Together, SMEs make up about 97% of businesses in New Zealand.
Seven out of 10 SME business owners who responded to our survey said that growth was not their No 1 priority – so what does success look like for these companies and their owners? Is it still the boat, the bach and the BMW? Or is it building a legacy, achieving financial freedom and making a contribution to society? These questions will be answered in the survey results to be released in the Listener over the coming weeks.
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