Paltry wages not good enough

I was pleased to see the courage of fruit-packing employees in Gisborne challenging the Prime Minister about their low ages and the minimum wage adjustments.

The Prime Minister keeps harping on about the strength of the NZ economy, yet thousands of Kiwi families are struggling to survive on abysmally low wages. It's all very well to have employment but if you can't support your family on what you earn something is broken in the system.

Here in NZ the minimum wage is a paltry $15.75 per hour, across the Tasman in Australia it is $18.29 per hour and they still have a robust award system with weekend penalties and overtime rates.

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So, who is to blame? Well, you don't have to go far to find the culprits. In 1991 the Bolger government introduced the contracts legislation and destroyed the collective bargaining award system wages have gone backwards since.

After nine years of the current lot being in power, little has improved for working families. We now have the working poor along with a huge rise in the number of homeless Kiwis, housing affordability crises and 100,000 children living in poverty.

STEPHEN HAMPSON, Springvale
Message is pants

The Chronicle delivered - albeit inadvertently - a clear message to Whanganui High School that women in our Western world wear trousers routinely ("Girls' trouser ban may be lifted"; September 15).

Curiosity made me check. Every Western world photo in that edition of the Chronicle which had women in it, without exception, showed women in trousers.

Including professional women in retail and real estate businesses - even the sporting girl wore running "shorts" (so-called because they are short trousers).

One did have to squint at Nadia Lim's photo on page 3, but that looked very much like a pair of blue jeans showing above the table she was standing behind. And look at her face - every inch a confident lady, proud of her femininity, not a hint that wearing trousers was diminishing her sense of womanliness.

So, what's the problem with letting our budding female adults wear exactly the same as the successful, confident woman in the workplace and in recreation?

Schools should be preparing the older girl to cope in a world she will soon live in.

I wish Karla Mills all the best as she goes for her right to wear trousers at Whanganui High School.

STAN HOOD, Aramoho
Key concerns

When asked by the Chronicle last week for my key election concerns, I replied "homelessness" - Yale University puts our rate as worst in the developed world and twice as bad as Australia (definitions differ, but we'd use one similar to our neighbour) - and "water quality" (dairy cows give us the human equivalent of 90-million population comparable to Japan, and of course the Japanese aren't going out into their paddocks to pee).

Our waning "clean, green" image will begin to affect other agricultural sectors along with tourism, all of which rely on it to sell "product" - we're killing the goose.

To these concerns I add:

*Prison numbers: We are the second worst, after the US. We seem to have much in common with America's Puritans in our desire to punish people.

*House-price inflation: Again, the worst in the world. Houses should be for living in, not speculating upon. With our politicians and Auckland homeowners having portfolios of 3-plus houses, I don't see any containment happening soon.

*Fairer not necessarily lower tax rates: Countries with higher tax rates often have lesser inequality (see Scandinavia, Netherlands). But what do we get? Pre-election tax-cut bribes and the promise of more.

*Child poverty: Unicef says 28 per cent of NZ children live in poverty.

*Regional development: The Christchurch rebuild is necessary, Auckland has its transport bottlenecks, but to soon have 40 per cernt of the population in one city is madness and inefficient.

*Climate change: NZ's carbon reduction goals at the Paris accords were universally ridiculed.

*Roading/freight networks: The Roads of National Significance network breaks down if Wellington port is further compromised. Whanganui and other ports need to be considered - at national level.

MARTIN VISSER, Whanganui
GST U-turn

Bill English promised no rise in GST, and then put it up to 15 per cent.
Time for change, I think.

SARA DICKON, St John's Hill
Cow catastrophe

The cow disease Mycoplasma Bovis - where is it endemic? Was it introduced via imported stock food, for example, palm kernels from Asia?

It is potentially catastrophic for our cattle industry, but there been little publicity about it. Why was the Ministry for Primary Industries so sluggish in its responses? Is this not on a par with foot-and-mouth disease where all veterinarians had emergency procedures to kick into gear?

NZ has been blessed with a temperate climate suitable for good pasture crops and a variety of livestock, and our geographical remoteness has protected us from unwanted diseases.

But now we are pushing the limits with intensive farming, often in inappropriate regions, and stock food now is largely imported.

Corporate farms with huge herds are an anathema. It's time these agro businesses and corporate farms were called to account and penalised.

ROSEMARY BARAGWANATH, Whanganui
River illness

Gareth Eyre interesting article in July's North and South about his three-year, serious illness after swimming in the Whanganui river, 12 kilometres from Taumarunui, truly surprised me. I worked for DoC in Pipiriki in the 1990s when our beloved river was clear as ice.

I didn't think I'd ever vote Green, but their policies on benefits, poverty and pollution are beginning to persuade this original Labour man.

REX HEAD, Papatoetoe
Consider others

When we vote, I wonder how many of us will be aware that we are expressing our values - the things that matter to us most.

Will they be dominated by 'What's in it for me?', or will we manage to think more broadly and consider wider questions about what's in it for others - child poverty perhaps, or homelessness, or even climate change and its likely effects on our children and grandchildren?

One reason I have supported the Green Party is that it doesn't invite me to think just of my personal comfort and security. It holds up a vision of how we can together make things better - not just for our society's citizens but for the other creatures we share this planet with.

So, before we cast our vote will we pause and think about what values we're about to express? Or will we simply react to same old prompt - what's in it for me?

PHILIP McCONKEY, Awapuni