Decriminalisation of cannabis, Tauranga City Council selling assets to reduce debt, the quality and prices of food at Baypark Speedway, Phil Rudd's new restaurant and, of course, the grounding of the Rena and its aftermath, all are subjects that have sparked debate on bayofplentytimes.co.nz recently.
Last week we published a story that dealt with overstaying. When we posted the story written by John Cousins about the Kapilas online, we knew we could expect some controversial comments.
This is a story about an Indian family living in New Zealand illegally, and they have been here for 10 years. They now face deportation but their youngest child was born in this country which automatically makes him a New Zealand citizen.
If you haven't read the story, you can find it here.
Annemarie Quill wrote an editorial about it the next day. She expressed the feeling that even though the Kapilas are overstayers according to the law, after 10 years building a life here and trying to make it official, the family should be allowed to stay.
She concludes that immigration officials have failed over the years to progress this case properly.
"It is not as if the Kapilas have been hiding in the Papamoa Hills. They have been part of the community, openly trying to complete their paperwork," she wrote.
Just to be on the safe side, I set the 'Have your say' functionality on the website for both the story and the editorial to be pre-moderated. While dealing with a subject like this, it is better to watch the comments closely and moderate them carefully.
I'd just like to explain here that we are not the comment police. We might slightly edit or in some cases refuse comments when things get out of hand, but we do encourage people to have their say on issues like this. We love a feisty debate online and unless the comments contain obscenities or swear words, or if they are otherwise insulting, offensive or blatantly racist, we'll let them through.
Most comments that were submitted to the story about the Indian family in Te Puke were not derogatory.
I'm not saying that the majority was sympathetic, as this was certainly not the case, but it was no more than people expressing their opinions and that is fine with us.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />
This debate in particular was hard as nails, but people are just saying what they feel needed to be said, and they are backing it up with reasonable arguments. No matter if we agree with it or not, we can only encourage the freedom of speech.
There was one comment that really stood out for me. It was posted by Tim Fellows from Bethlehem and said: "The condemnation here is quite breath-taking. People like this are willing to work hard, often in low paid jobs that Kiwis don't want. All potential immigrants should know that the 'go to hell' attitude expressed above is prevalent. Here I suggest a link to this page be included in a prominent place on Immigration New Zealand's website."
This comment was soon followed by one from GreertonCynic who wrote: "Hey Tim, I think the condemnation here is quite understandable. I agree with the link on the Immigration New Zealand website though, let those that want to come here legally [know] that 'Queue jumpers get deported'."
That is just one example of what I think is part of a good debate about a touchy subject.
Writing a letter to the editor, posting a comment on our stories online or a "like" on Facebook is helpful for our team of reporters and editors. It means we get to know our readers and online audience better.
Some, but not all, letters and comments will be published in the paper. There is an extensive readers' forum on Monday's opinion page as well, which includes the letter of the week.
Facebook is another great place where you can tell us what you think. Or you can send us a text message if you prefer. Send it to 021 241 4568 and to make sure it ends up in the right place, start your message with BOP.
Here at the Bay of Plenty Times we truly appreciate and welcome your feedback, so please keep it coming.