Popping into Whangarei last week I was mystified to discover the 10km or so of road between our village and State Highway 1 had suddenly sprouted fresh tall posts distributed intermittently along its erstwhile virgin verges at a rate of about 10 to the kilometre.
A mobile work party affixing road signs then whitewashing the posts made matters clear.
Miraculously until now - since even back when, I hear, the trip took all day by horse and cart with bundles of tea tree tied with flax to lay under the wheels while traversing the boggy flat - most travellers have survived driving the road's sinuous charms without the assistance of reflective arrows, numbers and other advisory symbols plastered on every bend, simply by paying attention to the road.
Why transport designers think driver attention to road conditions will be improved by adding blaring phalanxes of visual pollution to the many existing roadside distractions beats me.
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In town, after a long walk in debilitating heat, I gratefully sat down on a public bench in the welcome shade of a pohutukawa. Another overheated woman joined me, but she was in tears. She said, having left her children with a neighbour, she'd walked miles to WINZ to apply for a food grant. After waiting four hours she was dismissed empty-handed and told to come back tomorrow. She was on her way home with no food for her children.
Thinking of the shining eyes of my wonderful granddaughter - healthy, clever and beautiful with two devoted capable imaginative parents - I just could not bear the thought of any little children going without dinner, so although chronically broke myself, I gave her $20. I'll miss it at the end of a tight week and I know it wasn't much but it could cover a family meal at a stretch; better than nothing to eat anyway.
I can hear smug, beneficiary-bashing National voters blaming people for bearing children they can't support, citing level playing fields, bootstraps and hard work, and probably calling me naive to boot, but I don't care.
Whatever its parentage, no child deserves hunger. It is not true that all are born with equal advantages, which is why we have the safety net of social welfare.
Yet at WINZ desperate people must wait hours while one receptionist fields the inquiries of a large, slow, increasingly annoyed queue - flanked by no fewer than five uniformed security guards - then wait more hours to see caseworkers (without access to a loo). This is no way to treat people.
If the Ministry of Social Development switched the ratio of receptionists to security guards, thereby enabling clients to be dealt with in a timelier manner, it might reduce the aggravation which leads to incidents requiring the services of security guards. Just a thought. Furthermore (and I can hear the accountants this time naysaying "don't be so simplistic") if the public purse is so flush it can afford to install a plethora of superfluous and quite possibly counterproductive safety signs on our roads, it can also afford to save lives by feeding hungry children who are the future of our community.