PAYING the "Living Wage" to Whanganui District Council staff who earn less than this amount has become a political football and a tool for election time grandstanding by some councillors.

Sadly, a recent proposal to pay the Living Wage was shot down yet again, although the vote was close.

For me the decision is simple; I would want to be a good employer who paid my staff a fair wage. Not just the least amount that I might be forced to pay — the minimum wage. Which basically says, "I would pay you less, but this is the minimum the Government says I must pay you".

Some argue that rates are too high and we cannot afford to do this. I believe we can keep rates down, or even reduce them, and still pay the living wage. This issue is all about priorities. We can make cuts in other places and we should make those cuts because we should be putting people first — not facilities that really aren't needed. Do we really need so many swimming pools, parks and gardens? Yes, that may mean selling off some of the silverware that takes time and money to keep polishing.

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A Living Wage also goes some way towards reducing income inequality, which has huge social implications that affect everyone, even those well off. It also increases disposable income, which in turn stimulates the local economy. In my opinion, our council should be setting a standard and leading the way for other employers.

While our council has to plan for the future, it must also consider the current effects on ratepayers. There is no doubt the current rating system is broken and unfair to those on low incomes, but I do not see that changing any time soon, so our council needs to make some very tough decisions to reduce debt, and rates, over the next few years. But that does not have to mean dropping the Living Wage.

STEVE BARON
Whanganui


Port endowment fund

According to many knowledgeable people, there exists in Whanganui an urban myth of an "endowment fund", supposedly established many years ago to maintain and develop the port.

If this is a reality, then, over time a substantial sum must have accrued, as little has been done, maintenance-wise.

Where is it? Has it been siphoned off to other questionable areas? When queries are made to the powers that be, ranks are closed and silence prevails.

Perhaps someone in authority could put us (ratepayers) in the picture and clear this up for once and for all.

ERIC PARKER
Whanganui

Council response: Various lands were endowed to the council in the mid to late 1800s. An endowment at that time was understood to be the gift of an income stream, rather than the gift of a property. For the Harbour Endowment, any money earned from such letting of lands was to be paid into the "Harbour Fund" and used for purposes related to the construction and operations of the harbour and river works. Council manage the Harbour Endowment portfolio and its projected profits are transferred to cover the port operating costs.
There are no built-up reserves in the Endowment fund; that is, they have been used for the purposes they have been intended for.
MIKE FERMOR
WDC General Manager — Finance

Freedom to explore

Unlike Rob Rattenbury (Letters, June 5) and Hans Vaatstra (Letters, June 6), many of us have become dissatisfied with the religious teachings we were subjected to as children.

However, we still value much from the past and wish to keep drawing from it, but in ways more relevant to the age in which we live. For this we need an environment free from rigid dogmatism — to something to be valued in today´s cultural climate. We must use this freedom to explore together the most urgent current issues facing us as humans: simply, the future. Not just our own personal future, but that of human society and this planet.
This brings us remarkably close to the situation and mood of early Christians, before the Christian movement's synthesis with the Graeco-Roman culture.

There is a certain irony in this, because going forward will distance us from much of traditional religion — and this is what Jesus of Nazareth did.

He too was disengaging himself from the trappings of the traditional religion of his day. Jesus was wholly focused on the future and to follow him, so must you be.

H NORTON
Kaitoke