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28th May, 2011

Concern about the sustainability of National Superannuation has settled on the solution of raising the qualifying age of 65. This has happened seemingly without public debate about the problems of this approach or the alternatives (Editorial, May 21).

Any increase in the qualifying age is not a zero sum game for the Government. Although it’s true some people are well and can work beyond 65, many cannot. In fact, the rates of unemployment, sickness and invalidity, not to mention the number who need to care for spouses and grandchildren, mean much of the load on the Government would simply shift from National Superannuation to other benefits, and at a greater rate, as these conditions increase sharply over 65.

If anyone doubts the impact of age discrimination in the workforce, they should try finding and keeping employment once over the age of 65. A lot of work is needed to shift the attitudes of the workplace to accommodate older workers without discrimination – and that would inevitably be a further cost to the Government.

Further, raising the age is grossly unfair to those such as most Maori, who have lower life expectancy than your model white professional baby boomer. Pasifika people and those on low incomes would become increasingly unlikely ever to reach the qualifying age for Super. It’s also unfair to the current generation of workers who have paid tax to support the current generation from the age of 65 (and in some cases 60).

The alternatives? What about income testing? Asset testing? These may be harder to sell and harder to design, but I would love to see some investigation into the alternatives. If people over 65 are fit and well and want to keep working, fine, but they don’t need National Superannuation as well. Nor do those with substantial other income or realisable assets (other than their home).

Let’s not as a community accept a policy solution that has inherent problems without considering the ­alternatives.
Carolyn Adams
(Whitby, Porirua City)


The article “Blessed are the cheesemakers” (May 21) and the sidebar “Raw deal” (on our producers’ inability to use raw milk for quality cheese production) brought back memories.

Thirty years ago, I was living in Lyon, France. At first I had thought their milk watery and inferior to ours – the stereotype I had so often heard from Kiwi tourists. Then I discovered the best supermarket milk I have ever tasted: raw, unpasteurised whole milk in a carton.

Expensive, but available. The French took certain good herds, tested each batch of the milk from them while it was being put into cartons, transported, etc, and just before those cartons went onto the supermarket shelf the test results were used to withdraw any unsafe ones. Safe milk of better quality than anything in the supermarkets here – and more nutritious.

If the French could do this for supermarket milk 30 years ago, why has it been so hard for New Zealand to allow cheese producers to use raw milk? There is even more time for testing the milk here.

Is there something I’ve missed over the years, or is it unsurprising I drew parallels between our dairy industry (fixation on huge production of mediocrity) and the All Blacks, as they failed to think outside their narrow square and lost a game they should have won in the last World Cup?
John Elliott


Don Brash is a money-man with no sense of history. On television he argued his case for equality with Hone Harawira on the basis of the English version of the Treaty. Brash was unaware Maori signed “Te Tiriti” and not the Treaty that he was quoting. They are two different instruments because neither is a translation of the other.

Brash’s ideology of “one law for all” in his epistle to John Key exemplifies a false sense of consciousness. He offers a solution in the mind to the contradictions from our colonial history that bemuse some Pakeha. He does not know, for instance, the four Maori seats in Parliament were not asked for by Maori. They wanted a Maori council to advise Parliament on what was good for Maori.

Instead, the Maori Electoral Act 1867 established four Maori seats for Pakeha purposes. A nasty colonial war had just ended in the Waikato with the confiscation of three million acres of land. The Colonial Office had warned against confiscation and there was a danger it would take control of Native Affairs out of the Government’s hands. Giving Maori representation averted the danger of losing control and access to Maori land.

Historically, the four seats have kept Maori politically impotent in a house of 80 members. But the advent of MMP in our time, coupled with the Maori Electoral Option, increased the seats to seven, bringing more Maori into Parliament. Brash now wants to turn back the clock by getting rid of Maori representation and thereby eliminating the Maori Party as a potential coalition partner to any would-be government.

Brash’s authoritarian persona is unwilling to take his cue from how Maori exercise their electoral option. If Maori trust Pakeha to represent them fairly, then they might opt to go on the General Roll. That trust has to be earned. If, on the other hand, the Maori Electoral Option is preferred as a manifestation of “tino rangatiratanga” guaranteed under article two of Te Tiriti, then Brash tampers with that moral compact to the detriment of the gains made so far under the Treaty settlement and reconciliation process. A myopic ideologue in a position of power is the last thing we need in this postmodern era of learning to live with multiple discourses.
Ranginui Walker
(Epsom, Auckland)

Chris Slane’s portrayal of Don Brash as a scary monster in need of fresh brains (Politics, May 7) was given a more chilling sequel when on national TV Brash displayed a shallow understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. He claimed the Treaty is not about partnership.

However, our courts have judged that “the Treaty established a partnership, and imposes on the partners the duty to act reasonably and in good faith” (New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney-General [1987]), thus declaring “partnership” to be one of the key ­principles enshrined in the Treaty.

Our courts recognised the Treaty set out to create a balance between two types of sovereignty.

In article one, “kawanatanga”, or sovereignty over the nation as a whole, was transferred from the Confederation of Chiefs to the British Crown.

In article two, “tino rangatiratanga”, or the local sovereignty of chiefs and tribes over their local territory, forests, fisheries and other resources (called chieftainship in the English version), was guaranteed.

This clearly created a partnership between national (Crown) and local (Maori, chiefly) sovereignty and governance.
Chris Malcolm
(Taradale, Napier)


It is gratifying to see a major national publication has attempted to put facts and figures before fallacy and the obvious misinformation propounded by spin doctors on behalf of fossil-fuel-producing cartels (“The land of the rising sea”, May 14).

At least it defines climate change believers, sceptics and deniers. Scientific research can only deal with the facts, and this is a continuing project. This is nothing to do with whether one believes in the findings, or questions or denies climate change. Much can be based on common sense and long-term solutions. Globalised businesses are only concerned with the annual balance sheet, not what happens in 25-50 years. The biggest factor is population growth and “growth” in general. We are fast running out of resources.

As a forester (semi-retired), I have an issue with the Sustainability Council of New Zealand’s statement on the Emissions Trading Scheme and forestry’s future. Most forest owners, whether overseas or here, are committed to rotational regimes. Some are into the third rotation of pinus species. Now, in the first commitment period, there are hefty carbon-credit payments for clear-felling, but this is mitigated through replanting. There is no penalty involved. Some forests had been clear-felled before this for change of use, principally into dairying. Therefore from 2012 onwards as forests reach maturity they will be replanted and will continue to be a net sink rather than a net source of emissions.

It is ironic that wilding pines and conifers, particularly in areas like the Mackenzie Country, are being destroyed under conservation policy instead of managed as a carbon sink with potential income as a source of energy. They cost nothing to establish, and with new technology could prove a renewable fuel resource.
Jim Childerstone
(Hampden, Otago)

The article made many claims about rising sea levels. However, a study by the University of Otago found the measured rise around New Zealand is only 0.8mm a year, with no significant acceleration. This gives a rate of 0.08m a century.

This is at complete variance with the estimates given in the article.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been consistently wrong with its predictions so far, so why are its guesses given so much credibility?

The article had photos of coastal erosion, but failed to point out none were the result of rising sea levels. Coasts have always eroded and always will.
David Eccleston
(Marybank, Nelson)


Why am I reminded, in the debate about retaining TVNZ 7, of the past when one of the truly iconic TV series of all time, The Ascent of Man, was scheduled against Charlie’s Angels (1975)? National media and polls showed an overwhelming majority looked forward to the heavily promoted documentary; ratings in the first weeks showed over 80% watched Charlie’s Angels.

Christopher Bourn
Head of presentation, promotion, publicity, TV1, 1975-87


Per head of population, New Zealand is the world’s second most resource-rich nation after Saudi Arabia, and if the advantage of seabed resources is taken into account, we are No 1 (Letters, May 7). Our poverty is entirely politically self-inflicted. Ian Hood was right to connect this with “green” politics.

Terry Marsh is wrong about the potential of tourism as a wealth creator. Sir Paul Callaghan’s excellent book, From Wool to Weta: Transforming New Zealand’s Culture and Economy, and his many interviews and presentations should have laid this illusion to rest. Tourism is something that pays the bills of quaint, backward people whom wealthy people come to gawk at and pay to make their beds, drive their tour coaches and serve their meals.

It speaks volumes that Germany’s rivers, surrounded by the best wealth-generating jobs in the world – high-tech ones – are among the world’s cleanest, whereas New Zealand’s “clean, green” image is worse than a myth, it’s propaganda.
Philip G Hayward
(Naenae, Lower Hutt)


Canberra and Brasilia, even the Sydney Opera House, were all designed through an international competition. Why can’t a schematic layout for the new Christchurch be open to international competition? And not given to a series of local committees who will only create a giraffe. Let the world’s best brains be harnessed. The winner’s reward – a significant new suburb named after them.
Don Goodall

Hindsight is a great thing when judging events, and especially so from a safe distance. River Howe (Letters, May 14) is upset about the fact Christchurch’s motorhome village was not needed. But it was good to know a caring Government had organised somewhere for people to go if there had been another quake or a run of bad weather. With so many displaced people, consultation was a luxury not available to those making the decisions.
Trevor Sennitt

Christchurch people are becoming excited about rebuilding the city’s central area. Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the old heritage buildings did not stand the shaking and should not be rebuilt. Some architects are talking of a modern city with modern architecture. Others talk of having a green city, whatever that may be.

Some things can be considered settled. The city’s various centres will be rebuilt more or less, in their previous situations. All rebuilt buildings and all new ones will be built to conform with new structural requirements and probably limited to six stories or preferably four.

Clearly, all heritage buildings that can be need to be preserved, to maintain the history of the city and give it depth. These heritage buildings were generally in the Gothic style, with courtyards, and it seems sensible to accept this style of architecture as a guide for new buildings.

Even though this style would allow considerable scope for innovation and result in beautiful, harmonious buildings, limiting it to one style would probably be too restrictive. Another style guide is required and Georgian comes to mind. It’s simple and offers great possibilities for modern design and architectural flair. Both these styles have stood the test of time.

Imagine if 50 architects were each given carte blanche on a new building. The result would almost certainly be buildings ranging from good to visually “oh dear”, together resulting in a city lacking in harmony, order and visual delight. Think of Napier and New Zealand House in London.
Brian Rowe
(St Heliers, Auckland)


Art critic Sally Blundell may or may not have insights into Michael Parekowhai’s work (“Art’s bright star”, May 14), but she ought to have known Keats could not have been “eulogising Homer’s account of a Spanish explorer …”, as the Greek poet lived well over 2000 years before the Spanish exploration of the New World in the 16th century.
Nigel Chadwick

28th May, 2011

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