Opinion

Freedom Campers not invited

The recent announcement from newly appointed Tourism Minister Stuart Nash that he will ban freedom camping in vehicles that are not self-contained has come like a bucket of cold reality to many in the tourism industry. The minister is the first in a long time to heed the many calls from throughout the country for the industry to be reeled in and reset to be less harmful to the New Zealand environment and less costly to taxpayers and ratepayers.  The minister made it very clear that he was looking at innovative ways to ensure taxpayers and ratepayers will not continue to pay for tourism’s impact on infrastructure and the environment. He was also clear that he was not closing New Zealand to those tourists who were not wealthy but they will not be the target market and that every tourist that comes to New Zealand will pay for the New Zealand experience. For decades New Zealanders have complained about tourism overload, human waste on walking tracks roadsides and the spoiling of our special places by hordes of visitors. These people will welcome the minister’s determination to take advantage of the absence of overseas tourists to make the changes the industry has refused to even contemplate. Until now no one wanted to explain to ratepayers why they should fund essential infrastructure for the exploitative and damaging tourism industry over and above any other industry. Our district councils appear to lack the courage, common sense or ability to tell the tourist industry to fund their own promotions. When regional councils spend ratepayers’ money it is generally to mitigate and control the adverse impacts of agriculture and other industries. When the Government spends millions of taxpayers’ dollars monitoring and controlling the fishing industry it is to ensure fish stocks are protected from over harvest. Only the tourism industry it seems assumes the right to dip into ratepayers’ pockets for promotion and to meet the demand for essential infrastructure they create. There was even a recent suggestion that the Government should issue every New Zealander with a cash loaded credit card to spend on…

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Referenda is Democracy

The bleating, bitter recriminations and speculation about why people voted in the two referenda, run in association with the recent general election, have thankfully finally died. In a rare move New Zealanders were asked to decide if they wanted a legal end of life choice and recreational cannabis legalised.  For many people these two questions were more important than the general election and rival activists spent significant amounts of time and money trying to swing the vote their way. There have been suggestions that voters were improperly influenced by one group or another, from here and overseas, and that misinformation, by those for and against both questions, skewed the result. Those accusations fail to acknowledge the collective intelligence of the community to make decisions on complex social issues without persuasion or interference. It is highly unlikely that many people would have been influenced by what amounted to celebrity endorsements, outrageous claims by liberal activists or dire predictions of calamity by some church leaders. Campaigns for and against both questions sometimes equalled the most misleading of commercial TV advertising. There were also genuine and sincere arguments of logic and common sense for and against both issues. That is what the community was asked to decide and those decisions have been made.     The debate on both questions has been ongoing for decades and few people would not have developed a firm opinion on them. The reality is we don’t know why people vote as they do and we don’t need to know. It is not our business to know.  Speculation is that and nothing more but the majority of people decide these matters for themselves based on what they know and what they believe. For some that will be personal experience and for others it will be from observation and personal morality. And it was the significant degree of ethical and moral considerations in both questions which led the government to let the community decide them. Contrary to some of the more ridiculous accusations levelled at the government that decision was not cowardly or an abdication of duty. Nor was it a lack…

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NZ general election 2020 results

There will be attempts to define the collective will of voters by us commentators and we are fortunate that we are not selected and easily ignored. Which is precisely how should be. After more than half a century of observing people and politics this move to the political left however was dramatic enough to demand comment.

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Cannabis Law Change not worth it

We are being asked to approve something which is potentially harmful to at least some vulnerable people so that others can get high. Given that there are so many other ways for people to enjoy themselves, legalising cannabis is probably not a good idea.

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Tipping the scale with Māori seats is only patronising and divisive

Has the Tauranga City Council embarked on a new era of inclusiveness with the decision to establish a Māori Ward for the 2022 local government elections, or have they driven the wedge of division even deeper into an already seriously divided community? Wellington City Council has also recently discussed the same possibility and both councils were divided by ill-informed and acrimonious argument. It is too easy to label those who disagree, or agree, with the concept as racist but both sides to the debate have done that already. With a few notable exceptions in recent times, including the reaction to the return of wrongly taken land in Tauranga to Māori not long ago, that is an overly simplistic and unhelpful reaction to what is a much more complex issue than it may first appear. While there is racism in all communities there is also a significant number of people on both sides of the question with strongly held opinions based on equality and the high principles of true democracy and it is simply wrong to suggest they are all racist. They are not. During the Tauranga discussion it was claimed that there had not been an elected councillor of Māori descent in the past 28 years but there was no indication of how many unsuccessful Māori candidates there had been in that time either. There was an unsuccessful Māori candidate in the 2017 who only missed out by a few votes but that is the very nature of elections. There appears also an assumption that non-Māori voters will not vote for Māori candidates so having dedicated Maori seats is the only way to have Māori on councils. The number of Maori in general seats in Parliament suggests there is more to the matter than simple racism. A lack of Maori candidates and a voter turn-out of little more than forty percent are more important considerations. Much has been said of nebulous partnership between Māori and the Crown but local Government is not the Crown, neither are Pakeha nor the wider non-Māori community. The Crown is exclusively the executive wing of…

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Saving the Home in hard times.

It is difficult to understand why so many people are taking the unnecessary risk of losing their homes through unmanaged mortgage default when a rescue package is available simply for the asking.

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No room for politics in pandemics

We won the first round against Covid-19 on points only. We took a bit of a hammering and collected a few bruises in the process but the fight is far from over. We also dodged a few low blows from some in the audience who wanted the government to drop its guard and relax border controls.

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Fanciful Tales of History

Have we become a little too sensitive about our history? Riding in on the coat tails of an ill-informed public stoush over monuments to New Zealand’s colonial past Sir William Gallagher has again pushed the fury buttons of a few people when he claimed there were humans in New Zealand at the time of the last Taupo eruption, estimated at about 2250 years ago, and that there had been several civilisations in New Zealand here before Maori. It is not the first time he has made such statements and probably won’t be the last.   Such fanciful tales about ancient peoples from China, Norway and Ireland have been circulating for almost a hundred years. The reality is that the further back into history we delve the more blurred the line between reality and myth becomes but most tribal histories, particularly those of the Waikato region, refer to people who were here before them, the people they called Tangata Whenua, the people of the land. Even more intriguing are the stories of the pale-skinned, fair-headed Patupaiarehe, the so-called fairy people of Maori mythology who were said to have lived high on heavily forested mountains and often captured Maori women. The language of the Patupaiarehe seems to have been a dialect of classical Maori and could be readily understood but their songs were very difficult for Maori people to remember. One melody however has survived and is recorded in Nga Moteatea by Aprirana Ngata and Pei Te Hurinui. It is a sad song of farewell and includes references to people and events now long forgotten. Adding to the mystery of early arrivals was the discovery, in 1877, of a ship wreck on the coast between Raglan and Aotea harbours. Mariners of the time, who were experts at vessel identification, described the wreck as not of British design, large but ancient. The heavy five layered decking was held together with wooden, copper and iron fastenings. The wreck was exposed again in 1893. There have also been recent claims of giants was even a book written in the past forty years about the very…

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More korero, less shouting on preserving our history

Monuments and memories of the past have been in the news in recent weeks and on almost all occasions for all the wrong reasons. It is appropriate from time to time to examine and question how we remember our past but that needs to be done in a reasoned and intelligent manner by reasonable and intelligent people if we are going to come to a sound and acceptable decision. Over the past few weeks however intelligence and reason have been roughly shouldered aside by ignorance of our history, ill-informed grandstanding and threats of vandalism against monuments to the colonial past in Waikato including a statue of Captain Hamilton. The most dramatic of those threats appears to have been led by a senior activist from Huntly who has expressed strong objections to his one-sided version of history. While he is free to hold this views, and express them loudly, that freedom does not extend to vandalism or even threats of vandalism. That brought an inevitable, predictable and equally ignorant response with threats of violence and other infantile reactions from some people who levelled abuse and a veiled threat of lynching against Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate​. The abuse came as a reaction to the removal of the Hamilton statue to protect it from threatened damage and in an apparent attempt to take the heat out of the debate. On one occasion, the mayor had to be escorted to her car following a late-night meeting after a group of angry people arrived at council offices demanding to see her. This is not the Wild West or some redneck enclave in a Louisiana back water. New Zealanders generally don’t take kindly to such threats against their elected representatives regardless of politics and both groups should know better. The standout exception in these discussions has been a group from Ngaruawahia who want to protect historic food pits and the site of ancient garden sites from destruction by a proposed sub-division. Ngati Tamainupo has protested against the destruction the old garden sites on private land destined for housing in Ngāruawāhia for about six weeks. A petition…

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Government support for Gambling hard to justify

As many New Zealanders and business owners burst their boilers and bubbles trying to return to some form of normality after Covid-19 we have the opportunity to decide at least some of the elements which will make up that new normal. There seems little doubt that we will have to become more self-reliant than we have been for the past century or more

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