Stick with the status quo

Councillor Vinsen is sensibly part of a majority-minus-one around the council table who support retaining the status quo of 12 councillors as Whanganui District embarks on a protracted six-yearly representation review. He was quoted in the July 2 Chronicle saying a larger council made for a fairer democratic process.

"Attempts have been made to lower the numbers before but, in my view, all that does is allow a dictatorial council to be in place. The number we have now better reflects the community opinion."

As a staunch opponent of Laws/Vision's dictatorial attacks on truth, decency and democracy, Vinsen is only too familiar with the dangers of reducing councillor numbers - as were all those who saw the Trumpian ease with which Laws recruited and promoted a bunch of easily flattered and gullible wannabes for his Vision ticket.


So it was amusing that the same Chronicle story starred councillor Baker-Hogan as a lone voice supporting a cut in councillor numbers. She's already doing nicely - thanks to ratepayers funding her council salary and taxpayers coughing up for her DHB stipend - but she knows that she'd be better off on a diminished council. That's because ratepayers would continue to foot the same total salaries bill and, as now, it would be divvied up among the fewer councillors lucky, smart or cunning enough to be elected.

And we must remember that councillor Baker-Hogan slithered on to council as a Laws-Vision Party member after a February 2006 byelection in which an "oversight" resulted in her failing to declare her Vision links on her nomination form. Party chairman Bob Walker and Laws were delighted to once again enjoy a majority after a nailbiting few months when Vision couldn't always count on getting its own way. Even back then Baker-Hogan's signature tune was the velodrome roof lost cause, though Laws could count on her vote on issues like his disastrous wastewater treatment plant.

We saw a Vision-style situation at the last election, in 2016, when a group under the Whanganui Beyond 2030 banner shared billboards and policies, notably a fixation with halting the plan for a replacement wastewater plant that was by then well under way. That they succeeded only in delaying progress was due to their lack of a majority on the 12-member council and their inability to recruit sufficient floating votes to their cause. That's why we celebrated commissioning of the new plant three months ago, and the evidence is now in that it has come in ahead of time and well under budget. We'll soon be flushing our last sewage out to sea.

So the lesson from both attempts this century to "stack" the council with what are essentially political party candidates is that Baker-Hogan is yet again dead wrong. Supporting the 12-member status quo in submissions and at a referendum next October, and being wary about who gets our votes, is our best chance of a representative and independent council making decisions in the interests of their community, not under orders from their leader.
Carol Webb
Animal testing
Statistics for 2016 from the Ministry for Primary Industries show that more than quarter of a million animals were subjected to testing - a 13 per cent jump from the year before. Yet it's estimated that this figure represents only around half of all animals suffering in NZ facilities. Many more spend their short lives in a small plastic container in a vivisector's breeding unit before being killed and disposed of as excess to requirements.

While the figures themselves are shocking, the absurd categorisation of animal suffering shows a complete lack of compassion by both the experimenters and the regulators. A rat classed as only experiencing "little impact" could have been fed via a tube forced down his throat every day for months or years, or a calf could have been deliberately infected with parasites. Causing chronic lameness in sheep, opening up the chest cavity of a dog, and exposing pigs to extreme degrees of hot or cold to the point of collapse are considered to only have a "moderate impact". The classification of animals suffering "very high impact" is incomprehensible.

Refinement and reduction are not enough. More and more countries are now recognising that exciting approaches such as organs-on-a-chip, three-dimensional human skin cultures, and computer models can predict far more accurately what will happen in humans than experiments on other animals do.

We must stop throwing taxpayer money at ineffective methods that promise only continued suffering and instead pioneer a future with animal-free science that holds genuine hope for curing human ailments.
Desmond Bellamypeta
Faux meat
I read with interest the editorial (Chronicle, July 9) "Air NZ the meat in the sandwich of dietary changes". The editorial carefully and accurately does not call the product in the burger "meat".

Unfortunately, I have read very similar editorials and articles in other publications that appear to be slanted in favour of laboratory-grown, so-called "meat".

I have a problem with hearing the product referred to as "meat", "beef" "lamb" or "chicken" even when qualified by the words "artificial or plant based". It is, of course, textured vegetable protein.

There is also the question of Air New Zealand serving a product containing an ingredient that has not been cleared by the Environmental Protection Agency. The writer is very quick to insinuate that the reason the EPA has not cleared the product is because of pressure by the American beef industry.

In another article I read that an ingredient made of stem cells taken from a foetus and cultured in the laboratory gave the burger its flavour and texture, and I am wondering if this is what is being investigated by the EPA.

If I was on the board of Air NZ, I would be making sure that all necessary checking of regulatory safety has been done. One can imagine the size of damages that could be awarded by an American court if the burgers were ever found to have caused any problems. If the burgers are listed and sold as vege-burgers, that is fine - vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are the choice of many people - but it is basically dishonest to list and sell TVP as "meat" just as it is also dishonest to list products derived directly from plants like soya bean as "milk".
Shaun Forlong