We are a nation of inequalities and rip off merchants. The inequities are evident in the ever-widening gap between the have nots and the have lots.

Changing this requires that we make more effort to close that gap. If life is a race then some NZers are starting well back in the running.

If a child grows up in poor housing, where food is scarce, access to services is limited by low income or organisational barriers then they will struggle to catch up. An example of this is seen in research into the vocabulary of children framed within income levels.

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Various studies have found that children growing up in low income households may have a smaller collection of words than those with higher incomes and this goes up another step for the wealthy.

This tells us that environment makes a difference to the development of potential. It requires extra effort to erase this gap. This means greater investment in those families in order to bring all children to the same starting line of opportunity.

It is important that this is understood. Too often when extra resources are dedicated to services and programmes for those struggling on low incomes there is a muttering and even open hostility voiced at the notion that somehow others are getting something for nothing.

This is sometimes accompanied by cries of 'separatism' as if giving to one group has in some way taken something from you.

This can be described as Bunkum of the first order. We need to give all children an equal chance in education, health and social justice.

Inequities are defined as 'a lack of fairness and justice'. The related synonyms give more clues; unfairness, injustice, unjustness, one-sidedness, partisanship, partiality, favouritism, bias, prejudice, discrimination.

The other side to this story is the sad fact that NZ has become the nation of the Long Right Rip Off. Evidence of this rapacious approach can be seen in the methamphetamine house furore.

It seems that meth clean-up services have been charging huge prices to decontaminate houses despite there being no real risk to tenants accept where methamphetamine was being produced on the premises.


Scare tactics have brought in massive sums of money with what appears to be no ethical thought given to the honesty of this practice.

Now we have sharks circling the insulation requirements geared towards improve housing quality ready it seems to charge huge fees regardless of whether this is can be justified.

The reluctance for insurance companies and EQC to finalise payments on quake damaged and shoddy repair work in Christchurch does not shine a favourable light on how we do business.

This week we have seen the emerging problem created by logging practices on the East Coast as millions of logs dragged by flood waters have stacked up against bridges and ocean accesses.

The cost of removing them will be high and it is uncertain how the forestry industry will contribute to this clean up linked to logging practices driven by taking profits and leaving others to fix the problems they have created.

One of the companies has put up their hand to help. Good on them but this is but one more incidence of environmental consequences being left behind for taxpayers to deal with.

I could add the Americas Cup to this line up of rip offs but that is a racing ahead of teachers, nurses, doctors and social workers when it comes to requiring millions of dollars to float their boat.

Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician and social worker. Feedback: tgs@inspire.net.nz