Feedback: June 25, 2016by The Listener
The first visitors to New Zealand; Minister of Education Hekia Parata on targeted school spending; and Dunedin's flooding trauma.
FOOTNOTE TO HISTORY
Although I agree with Matthew Wright (“Arrival rivals”, June 18) that “if records of a Portuguese or Spanish journey to our shores are found in dusty archives … this can only ever be a footnote”, the fact is that somewhere a credible record exists.
The proof is a chart produced by the British Admiralty, in circulation circa 1820, showing “New Zeeland … whose eastern coast was known to the Portuguese about the year 1550”, and displaying two names for both “Cape East 1769” (Cabo Ferrea 1550) and “Cooks Straights 1769” (Gulf of the Portuguese 1550).
The Admiralty was not given to fiction. That information could not simply be invented. For those notes to be inserted there had to be a reliable, believable, written or drawn reference at the time, a reference which is probably now resting in some dusty archives.
Matthew Wright quotes Professor Paul Moon to the effect that claims of pre-Polynesian arrivals are intended to deny Maori their indigenous status and historian Neil Atkinson writes in a similar vein. Both use the word “politically”. In fact, both statements are politically correct nonsense.
There are no political agendas here except those projected upon earnest alternative archaeologists trying to find the truth. They may be misguided, they may be inaccurate, but seeking the truth is the intention. Those who wish to deny them the right to research and publish their findings are cultural fascists.
When I launched my short novel, Paradise to Come, which fictionally explored the possibility of the San Lesmes arriving in 1526, the event at Narrow Neck beach was sabotaged by misguided Maori activists.
Matthew Wright has fallen into the age-old “black swan” mistake: just because something hasn’t been proven doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
My family has been intimately tied to the sea for more than seven generations so can understand trans-oceanic travel and grasp the plausibility, indeed likelihood, of ancient sea travel. Perhaps Wright should go to sea for a while before being so dismissive.
Visiting is not settling; popping in for a look is not establishing a civilisation. That was achieved by Maori of the great Polynesian migration.
Letter of the week
TARGETING SCHOOL SPENDING
There is an inherent contradiction in your June 11 editorial (“Don’t tell teacher”). On one hand, you argue that schools can be trusted with sensitive information about students’ personal circumstances; on the other, you argue that they cannot be trusted not to spend money intended to raise the achievement of their most disadvantaged students on new cricket nets.
The truth is I do trust principals and teachers, which is why the extra $43.2 million allocated in the Budget to schools teaching students from long-term benefit-dependent families has not been tied in bureaucratic string.
Schools know their students and they know their communities. They do not need me or the Ministry of Education to tell them which of their students are struggling academically or that come from families that are struggling in other ways. Nor do they need me or the ministry to tell them what teaching choices to make to help their students’ learning.
I know from talking to principals that many have already worked out how they will use the extra resources to make a difference for the kids who most need extra help. I expect to see that difference being reported in learning progress over time.
Minister of Education
We’re not arguing that schools cannot be trusted; indeed, the reverse. We support the minister’s stated aim in Parliament of getting “the right resource to the right kid at the right time in the right place”. However, there is a lack of rigorous targeting. – Ed
DUNEDIN'S FLOODING TRAUMA
Top marks to Rebecca Macfie for her article on Dunedin’s disastrous flood (“Flood fiasco”, June 11). She showed that disrupted lives weren’t just numbers on a council computer. None more so than the 60 elderly residents evacuated from the Radius Fulton Rest Home during the night of heavy rain.
A society is measured by its attitude to the vulnerable in its midst. Dunedin City Council failed the test.
There are South Dunedin residents living days of despair as they continue to struggle with ruined homes. The Listener article revealed failures that bureaucrats would prefer to stay hidden.
(St Kilda, Dunedin)
Analysis of the Dunedin flood omits the critical influence of low atmospheric pressure sucking up the sea level.
Weather records show that Dunedin’s atmospheric air pressure dropped to 994 hectopascals on June 3, 2015, about 15 hectopascals below normal.
This is a measure of the intensity of the storm system and is sufficient to suck the sea up by about 30cm.
This is additional to and much greater than the suggested 8cm rise attributed to climate-change sea-level increase.
WINDY WELLY'S PLASTIC PLAGUE
I’m sure most Wellingtonians want to play their part in reducing plastic entering the ocean (Science, June 4) by recycling.
However, if 10% of all plastic ends up there, then our city’s contribution is probably twice that. And the council is to blame.
Its five-year-old scheme to recycle plastic, paper and cans is seriously flawed because the council-supplied bins frequently topple in the wind. Lacking any lid-fastening, their contents fly everywhere. Many plastic items are washed down street gutters where they enter the storm-water system and thereby natural waterways and the seafood chain.
It’s 21 months since I raised this issue with the mayor, but despite assurances of impending action, nothing has been done – either by modifying the bins or by withdrawing them and requiring everyone to use bags (which seem trouble-free in even the worst of weather).
Green Party policy on storm-water filters is commendable, but sadly in Wellington they would be constantly, and unnecessarily, overloaded.
The problem is there are weak financial incentives on the city council to act on what it should treat as a core responsibility.
The regional council could play its part by enforcing its powers under the Resource Management Act over the maintenance of natural water quality and the control of contaminated discharges.
Magic Flute reviewer Elizabeth Kerr rightly asks why opera directors often detract from listeners’ opportunity to gain deeper satisfaction by emphasising comedy (“Playing Mozart for laughs”, June 11) .
Why do we ignore the teacher teaching? Perhaps some of the most effective words were spoken in the streets of Jerusalem, where parables were used.
Mozart brings out brilliantly librettist Emanuel Schikaneder’s Magic Flute plot as a parable representing Masonic teaching, which preserves a universal direction for man to evolve.
The final words of the opera, in a blaze of light, are sung by the whole chorus: Strength is the victor! In glory be crowned,/In wisdom and beauty for ever abound.
Society could do with hearing all the words in the libretto, emotionally deepened so magically by the master’s music – a magic flute indeed.
REALLY HONOURING ALI
Many of us were captivated by the golden Ali-Frazier-Foreman era, when the glamour and personality of one great man outshone the grim underside of boxing (Letters, June 18).
Perhaps the most honourable and lasting tribute the world could raise to Ali’s memory is the overdue abolition of the so-called sport that destroyed even its greatest exponent and will continue to maim many of its lesser victims.
Time for the final bell?
Petrus van der Schaaf
(Te Arai Point)
QUIZ PRO QUO
If you’re allowing place names as answers to the final question in the June 4 quiz (10 Quick Questions), then I claim a bonus point for giving one with four dotted letters – Ujiji, where Stanley met Livingstone in 1871.
Quizmaster Gabe Atkinson responds: Mr Clarke justly deserves a bonus point for his excellent answer.
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