Inequality crisis

Recent forums organised by the Green Party in Whanganui brought the reality of inequality in this country into stark relief. The presenters clearly showed that inequality in New Zealand is at crisis level, and its impact is evident in Whanganui.

An ever-increasing number of families are unable to afford basic needs, even with two income earners. Those working 60-plus hours per week in low-paid employment are unable to pay for rent, food and electricity. Those unable to cope are often blamed for their lack of budgeting skills when lack of income is the problem. Benefit levels are now inadequate with the high cost of rents and power.

Inequality affects us all. An OECD report in 2013 indicated that rising inequality was responsible for wiping a third off New Zealand's economic growth in the past 30 years.

Growing wealth disparity affects future generations. One in four children live in poverty in this country. Poverty is a major contributing factor to childhood illness, disability and deaths. According to the Child Poverty Monitor, 305,000 (29 per cent) of dependent 0-17 year olds were living in income poverty in 2014.

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Australia has reduced its child poverty by more than 6 per cent in eight years; in New Zealand it continues to grow.

Inequality divides society, alienates people and pits neighbour against neighbour. New Zealand once had a reputation as a fair, caring and equitable society. The present Government appears reluctant to acknowledge the unacceptable level of poverty and inequality.

Addressing the key issues will require a progressive Labour-Green government to urgently implement policies in health, education, employment, housing and social welfare.
CRAIG PAYNTER
Chairman, Whanganui branch
NZ Labour Party

Absentee councillors

Mayoral aspirant/councillor Helen Craig is absolutely right in wanting to debate the issue of payment for non-attending councillors (editorial, August 9).

One would hope that there exists a code of conduct for councillors, which would include attendance issues.

As in all fields of employment, there are occasions where an absence is unavoidable; in such circumstances, just as in private-sector employment, formal notice of reasons should be given. Habitual non-attendance should be formally addressed but certainly not paid.

One would hope that Helen gains a successful outcome in debating this issue, but she will need all the support she can get from less "wishy-washy" councillors. What a pity more councillors don't follow her lead and work in the best interests of ratepayers.
V. GREGORY-MEREDITH
Whanganui

Outfall enough

The Wanganui Chronicle article of July 18, quoting Horizons spokesman Dr Jon Roygard, proves Wanganui's sewage outfall is going swimmingly in the disposal of our waste. All our beaches are clean - good to go, if you want to swim.

He has provided the proof that we don't need poo ponds. Our huge ocean's ability to practise dilution nullifies pollution, so that it becomes non-existent, just a figment of people's imagination - but they will never admit it, because they are people who need a mission to make them feel good about themselves. They are happy to spend $42 million plus $5 million a year running costs plus interest to get it. (Abridged.)
G.R. SCOWN
Whanganui
Memorial plan

Some things are above local body politics.

The call for families of some of the victims of the collapse of the CTV building in the earthquake of February 22, 2011, to keep some of the rubble as part of a memorial (Chronicle, August 5) is one I endorse from the depths of my heart.

People were "lost" in the collapse and fire of that building. I taught practical electronic skills to a Peruvian man who lost his sister -- her body was apparently not identifiable or not found although she was known to be in the building -- in the CTV tragedy. She was Elsa Torres de Frood. Fine, upstanding brother and sister who came to this country from the Third World and were working hard for a better life.

The rubble of the CTV building, at least in part, comprises the sacred remains of those few who remain as part of the unidentifiable morass. It must be treated with the utmost respect, as surviving family members are asking.

The picture accompanying the Chronicle article is by Geoff Sloan. The unharmed baby in the foreground is 11-month-old Dita Mitchell. The distressed woman in the background being carried from the ruined building is her mother. She is being carried because her bare feet were bloodied, swollen and lacerated (NZ Herald, April 2011). (Abridged.)
STAN HOOD
Aramoho

Stan Hood is standing for the Whanganui District Council in October.


Different picture

H. Norton (Letters; August 1) describes several publications as fantasy, and "a virtuoso of the commonplace". Among those listed, I am the author of When Two Cultures Meet, and a co-author of One Treaty, One Nation and Twisting the Treaty. I have also written Two Great New Zealanders, Tamati Waka Nene and Apirana Ngata.

I have had a varied career as a scientist, and all I write is based on fact. The events that I consider are well known, but the picture that emerges differs markedly from today's dominant narrative, which is what seems to bother Norton.

Observations tell us that around 1840 there were few young people, and a shortage of girls, among Maori. This guaranteed a population decline for some years, followed by steady recovery, and population growth by the beginning of the next century. Yet claims are made today that colonisation led to a population collapse.

Surely the cause of the lack of young girls is to be found in what happened before colonisation, a time of extraordinary intertribal warfare and social disruption.

By the time Hongi Hika died in 1828, many northern chiefs had recognised the social destruction of those wars. Ngapuhi, under Tamati Waka Nene, asked Britain for help, supported and celebrated the Treaty, fought against Hone Heke's rebellion and offered assistance to the government when the kingite rebellion around 1863 threatened their own position as members of the New Zealand nation.

Apirana Ngata did much to develop and improve Maori society as an MP and Government minister. He supported the 1907 Suppression of Tohunga Act, which so many chiefs had called for. His 1922 discussion of the Treaty of Waitangi is of considerable relevance today.

I have followed the settlement with Ngati Toa, which gives them Taputeranga, the island of Island Bay, where I live. My efforts to make submissions have shown me how these significant decisions are made behind closed doors, shutting out the public and ignoring inconvenient facts.

There is much that is false in today's accepted history of our country. My effort is to understand and tell what did happen. Criticism, and correction of any errors, is welcome, so long as it makes reference to facts rather than offering only invective. (Abridged)
JOHN ROBINSON
Wellington