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Feedback: August 27, 2016

Earlier language learning a need; housing bubbles; skill shortages and unemployment.


Dear Madam,

The 'Taming Tabby' picture on the cover of the Listener appears to be of a tortoiseshell cat, not a tabby, "A cat having a striped or brindled coat". It seemed irrelevant, unless it was 'tabby' as in a female cat, as opposed to a tom cat, the other definition for tabby cat given in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The otherwise interesting article was similarly marred by appearing to refer to any type of domestic cat as 'tabby' - rather cat or 'puss'. I am sure the author didn't intend to exclude either male cats or female cats with other markings, such as black cats.

Is there a New Zealand dictionary with a different definition for tabby cat?

Daphne Dashfield


How refreshing to see an article on the value of multiple-language learning (“Speak easy”, August 20). I have long believed our children are introduced to a new language far too late. In the late 1950s when I was teaching infants, seven-year-old immigrants were introduced to my class to get help with their English. They quickly learnt to speak English and moved on to their appropriate age class.

While overseas in recent years, I have been amazed at how infants who are spoken to in two languages quickly learn both and are able to speak the correct language in the right setting. It is evident from watching their progress at school that they are quicker and brighter in many disciplines.

I agree that because of our geography we are remote from many languages, but the earlier these are introduced, the better for the student. This has become apparent in the teaching of te reo. Children in bilingual or full-immersion classes quickly become fluent in both languages and this in turn makes it easier to progress to another, such as Spanish or one of the Asian languages.

With New Zealand’s increasing number of immigrants, it behoves us to learn other languages as a necessity rather than on a whim, as it was in my school days. These new immigrants, with their variety of languages, provide us with a wonderful opportunity to offer different languages both to infants and adults.

Kate Gore


Pattrick Smellie’s assertion (“Media maelstrom”, August 6) that satellite technology is “outdated” and “faces obsolescence” will come as a shock to the residents of more than half of New Zealand homes reliant on it for their television viewing.

Tom Frewen


Rebecca Macfie’s article about the proposed Ruataniwha dam was thorough and informative (“Water war”, August 20). But remember several years ago: similar articles on climate change were still being written with equal space being given to proponents and sceptics and their various paid “scientists”. That doesn’t happen any more, as scientific consensus has prevailed over vested interests.

The same needs to happen for the future of our rivers. We need to call out people like Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor Peter Butler, councillor Debbie Hewitt and Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company CEO Andy Pearce. They may be sincere, but they are prisoners of belief and blind to any independent studies that don’t suit their lobby.

Instead, we have economic figures extrapolated from modelling with extreme base settings; chanting of a healthier river theme through the fiction of periodic flushing from the dam; predictions of massive pipfruit plantings in unsuitable areas; dairy return settings 40% inflated; and, crucially, questionable water data to even sustain the dam.

These matters look ridiculous when subjected to sober analysis, but there is a bigger issue behind this environmental train wreck that must be tackled. That is the economic growth model that sits itself outside rather than where it actually resides – inside the natural environment. This 20th-century industrial model, on which the National Government is still basing its policy settings, must change. Public money and policy can no longer be allowed to prop up environmentally unsustainable schemes. Without those funds, any semblance of integrity falls away from schemes such as the Ruataniwha dam, their folly revealed.

As was the case in the climate-change debate, media treatment is crucial to breaking down the status quo or we will watch our rivers further degrade. We can intensify and develop economically with planning in areas that flow with the environment. Rather than stumble on for another decade, we need transformative change now.

Wayne Parsonson

In March 2014, Oxford University researchers released a report (available online) on the economics of large dams. They found that planners and policymakers systematically underestimate the costs and time required to implement large dam projects and that, on average, actual costs are 96% higher than estimated and implementation takes 44% longer than scheduled.

In the most comprehensive economic analysis of large dams ever done, the researchers surveyed a representative sample of 245 large hydro power dams built in 65 different countries between 1934 and 2007. They concluded that cost and time overruns have not improved over time and that forecasts are still as wrong now as they were decades ago.

The report explicitly states that large dams are not economical and that even before accounting for negative effects on human society and the environment, the actual construction costs of such dams are too high to yield a positive return. Two reasons cited for these immense cost and time overruns are that (a) both experts and laypersons are systematically too optimistic about the time, costs and benefits of a decision, and (b) project promoters deceive the decision-makers and the public with strategic misrepresentations.

Ross Forbes


Of course, one could take Hera Lindsay Bird’s poetry seriously and laugh at the reviewer (Books & culture, August 13).

Nigel Cook
(Auckland Central)


Why not move from Auckland to Gisborne? wrote Norman McLean (Letters, August 20).

We don’t all own million-dollar houses. We own a house with a market value of $570,000 and a mortgage of $200,000. After selling expenses and moving costs, that would barely give us a mortgage-free house, assuming we wanted much the same as we have here.

But we tried it. We moved down south in 2006. After four years of not getting work (Jafa was the main comment at interviews), we tried self-employment. We couldn’t make enough to live on. We moved back to Auckland in 2010. Hence the mortgage we now have.

Apart from housing, rates are cheap, and power and food are cheaper. Cheaper than the regions, in most cases. Here, everything is within 10km of our house: a choice of numerous supermarkets, vege shops and cheap butchers. Doctors abound, and the hospital is 3km away. Our friends mostly live here. In addition, we have family living here again, too. Where would they go? They have well-paid jobs.

My neighbour has a quarter-acre property, with a market value of about $1 million. He says the same: they have good jobs, several kids who have moved back in – he added a back unit to his property to help with that – and there are grandkids now as well.

Not all of us live in Remuera or are paying off huge mortgages. And Auckland has the jobs.

H Moore
(Ranui, Auckland)


Readers were treated to 12 pages of housing analysis dealing with the current situation (“The house of the rising sum”, August 13). Why no critique of the main causes of this housing bubble that no one wants to talk about? These causes are the utilisation by speculators of tax breaks afforded by negative gearing and the lack of a proper capital gains tax.

Eliminate these factors and prices will fall, more housing will come on the market, land banking will be less attractive, fewer homes will need to be built in a hurry, younger Kiwis will be able to buy their first home and banks will survive. But politicians will continue to pander to the greed of illusory home values, for the benefit of speculators and to the detriment of everyone else.

Mark Gilmour

I read with interest about the orderly way in which Singa­pore solved the excessive property prices of recent years (“Singapore sting”, August 13). I have great admiration for that country and the way they house people and finance construction.

Unfortunately, the talk here is directed to collapsing the housing market and this will be borne by bank depositors should any bank fail via Open Bank Resolution (OBR).

Although most OECD countries have a government guarantee on bank deposits, New Zealand, like Greece, does not. When a bank fails in New Zealand and its liability cannot be met by its capital and its shareholders under OBR, the depositors, as unsecured creditors, take a bath and not the speculators who have profited from the high property prices.

This once again proves that New Zealand does not value the industrious savers.

Stuart Froude


I often hear or read about skill shortages, the latest being in an editorial (“Destination Auckland”, July 30). I cannot buy this argument while people with my experience are not wanted by anyone. I have 40-plus years of experience in electronics, including design, repair, construction and programming, but here I sit unemployed, amusing myself by designing and building the odd project that takes my fancy while chewing through my meagre savings at an alarming rate.

The last time I formally applied for a job several years ago, I wasn’t even invited in for an interview after speaking on the phone with a young “human resources” contact.

I discovered then that age discrimination was alive and well. When I think of the myriad of botched IT projects that cost taxpayers millions, I think of the obvious inexperience of people who were supposed to have done some robust design.

I also think of money-hungry companies who thought that a few fancy buzz-phrases and a large dollop of wishful thinking would be enough to top up their coffers while naive politicians bought the cant lock, stock and barrel.

Malcolm Watts
(Titahi Bay, Porirua)


It is not surprising that Greg Dixon could hardly remember hockey rules (TV Review, August 20). He can’t even remember who New Zealand were playing. England does not have a team at the Olympics. Perhaps he was muddling up the Olympics with the Commonwealth Games.

Duncan Lorimer
(Marybank, Nelson)

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