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Feedback: September 10, 2016

Engaging young people in financial literacy; CYF reforms; rethinking the Ruataniwha dam; and end-of-life planning.


It was heartening to read about Banqer (“Best laid schemes”, September 3), and good on Kiwibank for funding this programme in 1000 classrooms. It’s a creative way to engage young people in financial literacy.

I worked in budgeting for many years, and constantly felt frustrated and overwhelmed by the need for, and the difficulty in delivering, personal financial education. Adults would ask me repeatedly, “Why isn’t personal financial management taught in schools?” It is taught in some, but it often depends on the teacher and their con­fidence with the subject.

To get better outcomes for taxpayer investment, the Government has redesigned its financial support for budgeting services, an area that definitely needed an overhaul. I sincerely hope that it is funding education, which was removed from budgeting contracts some years ago, and also investing in programmes such as Banqer.

Much of the budgeting work I oversaw was heartbreaking, bottom-of-the-cliff stuff, often working with varied success against the insidious effects of a lifetime of poor decisions and control of money.

Clare Mataira
(Hamilton East)


When I was farming on Banks Peninsula, many cats were abandoned on my long driveway, especially during school holidays (“Cat flap”, August 27). Many of the young kittens died during the cold nights.

As to the survivors, I shot them whenever I could. It was the humane and kind thing to do. I have seen many young cats starve while trying to survive the winter months. They apparently need explicit training from their mothers to become successful hunters.

So, all those city dwellers who think a farmer will welcome new cats to join those already in place at the farmhouse, think again.

As a consequence of this no-cat-quarter-given, the native and exotic birdlife around my farm exploded, so that the evening and morning song periods could be deafening.

Lorne Kuehn
(Sydenham, Christchurch)

It’s an urban myth that cats are responsible for the rarity of native birds. Native birds live high in the treetops, very rarely if ever visiting the ground. Cats hunt on the ground. Only common introduced species such as sparrows and blackbirds come down to the ground. When did you last see a tui hopping along looking for worms? For preference, cats hunt mice and rats. Rats climb trees and take eggs and fledglings from nests. I have a piece of Landcare film that graphically illustrates this. Cats control the rat population.

The lack of birds of any type in suburban Auckland has a lot to do with smaller or non-existent gardens and the loss of trees. Sad for the birds, and the cats get the blame for the result of human intervention in previously bird-friendly neighbourhoods.

Jan Mitchell
(Remuera, Auckland)

I agree cat-owners should take responsibility for where their pets go. I have eight genuinely free-range chickens – they roam everywhere in my garden (and into the kitchen if I leave the door open and they haven’t been fed soon enough for their liking). But often I am disturbed by their squawking in fear when a local cat visits to stalk them. I have to keep my dog confined to my property, and I wonder why cats can range free, especially in light of the damage they do to wild birds.

Margaret Bongard
(Grey Lynn, Auckland)


If indeed, as the Government claims, Child, Youth & Family (CYF) is a broken model, this is almost certainly due in large part to a combination of chronic underfunding and overworking of its social workers, and lack of provision for support for them in their often highly stressful roles.

More funding and support for best practice, which often involves change within the existing structure, would surely have been more appropriate than the route the Government is taking.

The Government must be aware that CYF had already tried contracting services to an outside agency. The service provider failed to meet CYF’s quality standards and consequently lost the contract.

Who will monitor and review the agencies the Government plans to contract services from? What provisions does the Government intend to make to support caregivers in their often highly demanding and stressful roles caring for some of the country’s most damaged and vulnerable children?

CYF caregivers (of which I am one) have their own social worker, separate from their foster children’s, who is but a phone call away for support whenever it is needed. Will caregivers retain this service under the new model? Will children and caregivers be subjected to yet more new faces and have to re-form relationships with new social workers, or will the Government retain existing CYF social workers?

On the face of it, this latest move seems to be a negative and expensive Government PR exercise that shows disregard for the morale of its employees in this sector.

Julie Cave
(Motueka, Nelson)

New Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft has a preference for the newly announced CYF replacement, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, to instead be given a Maori name.

The nation’s children need to be protected and cherished, but when will the Government and its highly paid representatives realise it is the parents, grandparents and whanau who are the problem? The children are the consequences of dysfunctional parenting.

Millions of dollars annually are being squandered by culturally PC health, welfare and educational facilities without any proof of positive outcomes for children and tamariki.

All children showing symptoms of deprivation, malnutrition or abuse who come to the attention of any agency, doctors included, should have the details recorded with the Ministry of Health and their families be investigated immediately, not six months later.

A name change is not the answer to deprivation. Tough love and consequences for the parents are.

Maureen J Anderson
(Pyes Pa, Tauranga)


None of the letter writers seem to be in support of the Ruataniwha Dam, but their arguments overlook that New Zealand has been much drier in the past, as evidenced by the evolution of such plants as matagouri, and with climate change will probably be so again.

To be able to continue farming on the East Coast, we are going to have to establish far more irrigation water storage than is at present envisaged, much of it on the western side of the mountains and fed through to storage lakes such as Ruataniwha. Storage lakes certainly take away beautiful wild rivers, but lakes can be beautiful, too, and also offer many recreational opportunities.

Chris Bowen
(Lower Hutt)


It is pleasing that end-of-life planning is starting to be discussed more openly (Letters, August 6).

Recently I had to call an ambulance for my elderly mother. She is at an age where she frequently says she would like to die, despite being reasonably healthy and happy, although now requiring live-in care from family members. I made it clear to the ambulance staff that Mum had a “Do not resuscitate” order posted in various places in the house. They looked at a copy of it, but made no comment. As it turned out, resuscitation was not required and Mum went on living.

When I next took her for a regular GP check-up, I related the episode and asked about the order, which he has a copy of. He said neither the hospital nor the ambulance service was given such information by the GP, as there was no formal route for it to be conveyed to them. He said the ambulance officers were “very good and often let things take their course”. I had to accept this at face value, but I wondered how two ambulance officers with differing opinions on life and death might manage such a situation. The GP also said that if Mum were to be hospitalised, the issue, if it arose, would be out of our hands.

It’s time for these issues to be dealt with openly and honestly. It is also time that better communication between the various parts of our healthcare system was set up.

Name and address supplied
Letter of the week


Paul Edmond (Letters, August 20) expects section sizes in new Auckland developments to be 300-400sq m. He may be in for a shock. New sub­division rules in places such as Tauranga are allowing sections from 200-300sq m.

When you build a house of 150ish sq m on that, you won’t have much room to play in your yard unless you are very skinny. The concept of a family home with a family-size section is over for all except the well-heeled.

Lou Girardin


I would not recommend anyone take part in research on self-harm (Psychology, August 20). Unless, of course, you want your story reduced to a series of tick boxes.

I took part in such research a few years ago. I would not do it again. It’s like getting all your teeth pulled out and being left bleeding.

If researchers want to understand people who self-harm, why not ask us resilient survivors what helped? The answer would not be “your research”.

Lizzi Yates


In my August 27 article “Cat flap”, when putting the Wellington tieke comeback in context, I referred to their population at one stage being as low as 23 birds. This was incorrect: the South Island tieke got down to 36 birds before the pioneering rescue efforts on Big South Cape Island in the 60s. The North Island saddle­back population was exiled on one island in the Hen and Chickens (off Whangarei) and there were about 500 birds in the 60s. Now, several thousand tieke live on a handful of pest-free offshore islands and in mainland sanctuaries. Their return to nest in a Wellington suburban reserve is a promising resurgence, and a spur towards managing our pets responsibly and eradicating pests.

Paul Ward

So, Paul Ward, who is Garth Morgan that you would be channelling him in a conversation about cats? Any relation to Gareth?

Gina Lamb
(Helensville, Auckland)

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