Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Different rules govern rich and poor

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The Dunn family from Whangarei were told they had to move on.
Photo / Northern Advocate
The Dunn family from Whangarei were told they had to move on. Photo / Northern Advocate

Denizens of the eastern regions of Len Brown's realm are unhappy about their new rates bills. Citizens who revel in paying over the odds for wine or handbags are grizzling that their rates - or, rather, the rates paid by their family trusts - have increased by as much as 30 per cent.

So now they know how a single parent living on the unemployment benefit of $293 a week (that's about the price of a good dinner for two at one of your better restaurants) feels when the price of milk or bread or vegetables goes up.

A 30 per cent increase has been widely quoted as not uncommon. But that increase could well mean $800 a year in dollar terms, or $16 a week, or about the price of a bottle of middling sauvignon blanc.

Brown promised a maximum 10 per cent increase when he was running for mayor.

Despite attempts to finesse the figures to support this, it seems clear that many people will pay more. He has not kept the promise.

He should 'fess up and try to sell the increase rather than trying to disguise it, a strategy that can give a chap a shifty appearance and ultimately lead to unemployment.

It may have occurred to the mayor that he could pre-empt a lot of criticism if he cut spending on brochures telling people what they already know, or six-figure payouts over employment matters and charges of bullying. Or he could just get department head John Dragicevich to ring up the complainants for a wee chat.

Those residents are aggrieved in part because they honestly believe they have the same ratepayer-funded services as people elsewhere in Auckland whose rates haven't gone up as much as theirs.

They need to get out more. I suggest a drive around the poorer parts of South Auckland to inspect its parks and other facilities to give them a bit of context.

Many of them include among their objections the fact they have worked hard to get into this reputedly desirable area, as though past effort should confer immunity from future obligations.

The real test of the rating policy and the Brown mayoralty will come in a few years when we can see whether what we have got for our money is a better place in which to live, or another conglomeration of half-arsed ideas compromised in their execution to the point of uselessness.

One law for all?

Whangarei's family are by all accounts no better than they should be, with the police alleging "links" to various crimes. This week they were evicted from the state house in which they had lived all their lives but which was held in the name of their late mother.

The Dunns could well be the worst people on Earth. This Government has done a good job of branding all beneficiaries as wastrels and bludgers.

A press photo of the family played to popular prejudice, showing hoodies, weight issues and a baby being fed with a bottle that almost certainly wasn't filled with milk expressed by Piri Weepu.

Removing the three adults and three children from the house required the attentions of 40 officers, some armed. What did the police think was happening in there? Illegal file-sharing?

Meanwhile, in Australia, Peter Steigrad, a man allegedly serving a custodial sentence imposed by a New Zealand court, was allowed to travel halfway across the world to attend the weddings of his daughters.

Where is Don Brash, and his insistence on one law for all, when you need him? If ever we were short of evidence that there are separate laws for rich and poor, this week has provided it in abundance.

- Herald on Sunday

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