Dominion Post, Gisborne District Council, Parenting

Should we fence all rivers to protect toddlers from slack parents?

The Dominion Post devotes half this morning’s front page to the bleatings of a drowned toddler’s uncle that the council should have fenced the river in which his 2 year old nephew drowned.

A family hit by a drowning tragedy had repeatedly pleaded with the council to build a fence where a toddler died.

Sukhraj Singh, 2, died and his cousin Archilles Kaui, 3, remains in hospital in a critical condition after the pair wandered into Gisborne’s Taruheru River on Thursday.

“I’ve been asking myself all night, would this have happened if the fence was put up in our neighbourhood? And the answer is no. Because those toddlers would not have been able to get past the fence”, Sukhraj’s uncle Hemi Jahnke said.

And why were the toddlers able to get anywhere near the river? The Dom finally reveals all in paragraph 10:

Before the tragedy, Archilles’ mother, Diana McIntyre, had been visiting Sukhraj’s mother, Jamie Taewa, at her home in Atkinson St. It was thought about 10 to 15 minutes passed before the women noticed the two toddlers had wandered off.

Well sorry, but any mother who lets a toddler out of her sight for 10 or 15 minutes near a river has no one to blame but herself if the child drowns.

That’s a hard thing to write at this sad time, especially as the poor mother may well have arrived at the same conclusion and does not necessarily share the uncle’s view.

But for the uncle to blame the council (ie the rest of us) is outrageously unfair.

Members of the family were part of community group Kia Kaha Mangapapa, a charitable trust started to try to make a positive difference in the area. The idea of a fence at the reserve was brought up at several hui called with Gisborne District Council last year. Archilles’ parents, Ms McLean and Frank Kaui, attended one of the meetings.

Mr Jahnke said the council had agreed to put up the fence.

“They did have a plan for the fence but because the fence was going to cost too much it started getting smaller and smaller. Eventually it turned into just a fence around the culvert.”

He was angry with the council.

“How many lives have been lost in river accidents because the council says they haven’t got enough money?

“And them listening now is not going to bring back Sukhraj. It’s not going to bring back a baby boy. But someone needs to be held accountable.”

Damn right. And I think most of us have a fair idea who.

Gisborne District Council acting chief executive Nedine Thatcher-Swann said it was “inconclusive” whether fencing the reserve would have made a difference at this stage.

Fencing every waterway into which a poorly supervised toddler could wander would certainly make a huge difference to the amount of public money available for other services. Or to Gisborne residents’ rates bills.

In my view the Council did exactly the right thing in refusing to assume the role of parents.

“Around the country and the world it is very unusual to find our natural environments – rivers, lakes or ponds – fenced.”

And so it should be. Do we really want to turn our country into an unsightly baby-prison, just so we can protect our toddlers from slack parents?

I grew up in a house near the Waiwhetu Stream in Fairfield, Lower Hutt. The Stream got a bad press for being badly polluted down the industrial end, but the suburban reaches were and are a delightfully meandering waterway that greatly enhances the ambience of the area.

It remains unfenced, despite being bounded by houses for miles, and is dotted with reserves, also unfenced.

Presumably, parents who choose to live there, like mine did, also take responsibility for watching their children.

I hope the Dominion Post will reflect on the message their story sends, and provide some balance in the coming days.

Advertising, Advertising Standards Authority, Dominion Post, Maorification

Ad that Dom banned cleared by ASA

My ACT ad that contained 40 statements of fact has been cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority.

MAORI RADICALS ADVERT NOT IN BREACH – ASA

The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a complaint about ACT’s controversial “Fed up with pandering to Maori radicals?” newspaper advertisement.

Twelve people argued the advert was “misleading, offensive, racist, in breach of the requirement for a due sense of social responsibility and likely to play on fear”.

The ASA said a political party advocating a robust view on matters of public interest allowed the public to see the party’s position. There was no breach of codes and no grounds for the complaints to proceed, it ruled.

Yet the Dominion Post refused to “allow the public to see the party’s position”. 

As a private company, they had the right to ban the ad. (Whether they had the right to charge ACT full price for the space is another matter.)

But the public also has the right to know that the capital’s daily newspaper is politically biased against ACT.

This is the ad that the Herald ran, and the Dom banned:

What sort of democracy do we live in when a monopoly newspaper can be so cravenly politically correct as to ban a question that most of its readers would answer Yes to, backed by 40 true statements?

Architecture, Basin Reserve, Beehive, Dominion Post, Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre, Taj Mahal toilets, The Cake Tin

The Evans Bay Turtle

What is it about Wellington and its circular landmarks with eccentric nicknames?

The under-50s won’t remember when the twin-domed Welsh Dragon Bar in the middle of Kent and Cambridge Terraces used to be a public toilet block, known by all as the Taj Mahal.

At the far end of the same dual-dragstrip is the Basin Reserve, so named after the 1855 earthquake turned Basin Lake into a swamp, which the council then turned into a sports reserve.

Over in Thorndon there’s the parliamentary Beehive, which Sir Basil Spence designed on the back of a serviette. And the Cake Tin, named by yours truly in response to a call for a nickname by the Evening Post’s Angus Morrison.

(Note: popular rumour has it that the Cake Tin was named by an Auckland talk show host, which is why it wasn’t popular for a long time with Wellingtonians. Still others say it was Andrew Mehrtens. Being a rather obvious name, it was probably all three of us.)

And now we have a new stadium to name: the Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre in Evans Bay. It’s not quite circular, but near enough.

The Dom Post’s Hank Schouten is calling for nicknames, so I sent in this letter:

Like the Cake Tin, the new Kilbirnie Indoor Sports Centre is a good example of smooth, single-minded design.

Now, what to call it?

I worry that the architects’ favourite, The Limpet, while anatomically accurate, might be a bit, well, limp to catch on.

So what about the Saucer (as in flying), the Clam, the Oyster, the Stingray, the Flounder, the Slater or the Frisbee?

(Had they built it where Councillor Andy Foster wanted, it could have been the Downtown Indoor Sports Centre — DISC.)

A friend of mine argues noisily for The Trilobite, a creature I had not heard of, but which it clearly resembles.

But the nickname with the best combination of stickability and seaside relevance would have to be the Turtle.

What do you think? Feel free to suggest a name of your own. I may run a poll of the best of them.

But to me, if I squint as I drive round the bays I see a beached, bleached white turtle shell whose occupant is wisely staying indoors.

(As well he might. When I drove past on Monday, there was thick snow just around the corner in Shelly Bay.)

Al Gore, climate change, Dominion Post, Lord Monckton

Well done, DomPost

After hammering the Dominion Post on Close Up for banning my ACT ‘Maori radicals ad’ that contained 40 statements of truth, I’m pleased to be able to congratulate the paper for yesterday making these two letters their lead and second letters of the day:

Where does that ‘science’ definition leave Al Gore, then?

Lorna Sutherland’s comments (Letters, August 8) highlight an interesting attitude to democracy and proper science. 

(That’s meant to say August 8. Of all the eccentric habits of WordPress, automatically turning the number eight followed by a close bracket into a smile takes the cake!) 

Does she agree that her denial that Lord Monckton should be permitted a platform to discuss climate change extends to former United States vice- president Al Gore, who is similarly lacking expertise and experience in science?

Is she aware that Dr John Abraham’s comments on Lord Monckton are subject to critical comments about misrepresentation and falsehoods ?

By what measure would we ever give the Greens, Niwa’s Dr James Renwick or anybody else the right to decide what may be presented by any person on any subject in public?

Real science is proven by sceptical trial and debate. False science has hidden data, insufficient record of proof, and protection from open query and dissenting opinion.

Real science isn’t proven by so-called consensus, authority or taking someone’s word for it.

Is Ms Sutherland aware no peer- reviewed scientific proof appears to exist that climate change, warming or whatever is driven by human-induced carbon-dioxide emissions, and the theory is supported by conjecture only?

I suggest she take tuition on what it means to live in a democracy.

GRAHAM CLAYTON
Taupo 

What have these people to fear?

Our climate change scientists and, maybe, politicians, seem to be running scared. They have refused to debate climate change with Lord Monckton because the matter is now agreed upon and settled among scientists. Really?

It was also said that to debate with him would give Lord Monckton and his unscientific ideas credibility. If our scientists’ views, which cost a lot of money, are so right, what have they to fear?

IRENE FAGAN
Island Bay

Well said, Graham and Irene.

Advertising, Dominion Post, PPTA, TeachersUnionExposed.com

Dom damns PPTA

I love the way those brash  Noo Yawk ad men go right to the heart of an issue in the bluntest of Anglo-Saxon.

(I try to do the same.)

Here’s their take on a common pestilence: unions that put bad teachers before good teachers and children.

I thought it would make a cute backdrop for a post in praise of this morning’s brilliant DomPost editorial about the PPTA’s latest extortion demand.

Teachers need to get real

There has long been a suspicion that reality stops at the door to the teachers’ staffroom.

Now is a time for restraint, not political game-playing. The PPTA is on the wrong side of public opinion. It should abandon its pay claim and focus on improving the quality of teaching.

There is no denying that good teachers are underpaid. But that will not change until teacher unions allow schools to remunerate their staff according to their abilities. No government could afford to bump up the salaries of good teachers by giving all teachers a pay rise.

In Switzerland, I’m told most teachers are paid around NZ$120,000 a year. And who hires them? The parents.

The Post Primary Teachers Association’s ludicrous claim for a 4 per cent pay rise for secondary school teachers lends credence to the theory.

The world is just emerging from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Government is effectively borrowing $200 million a week to maintain existing levels of services, tens of thousands of New Zealanders have lost their jobs, and hundreds of thousands have received little, if any, pay rise for the past two years.

The majority reluctantly accept that is the price they must pay for job security. At a time of crisis, everybody – employers and employees – has to tighten their belts.

For the PPTA to demand a big pay increase at such a time is to show gross insensitivity to those who pay teacher salaries through their taxes. For it to demand the increase after its members received 4 per cent pay increases in each of the past three years is to show secondary teachers, or their union at least, are completely out of touch with the real world.

Teachers perform a vital role. They shape the scientists, doctors, cleaners and electricians of the future. As every parent knows, some – those who inspire, engage and excite pupils – are worth their weight in gold. It would be almost impossible to overpay them. However, there are others who go through the motions for a weekly pay cheque and a third group who are simply not up to the job.

Yet the present pay structure does not allow schools to differentiate between the performance of good, indifferent and bad teachers. They are all paid on the basis of their years of service and the responsibilities they hold.

If teacher unions are as serious as they say they are about wanting to keep good teachers in schools, they should work with the Education Ministry to devise a formula that allows schools to pay great teachers what they are worth and send a message to poor teachers that they should review their career options.

Every child knows who their outstanding teachers are. Didn’t you?

Me too. I had about three. I still keep in touch with them 35-40 years later.

Certainly every principal knows who his star performers are. As does any parent who cares about their child’s progress.

I’ve always made a big fuss of great teachers. Anyone who can mesmerise over two dozen hormonal teenagers into mastering  quadratic equations or psychoanalysing Hamlet is one of society’s true heroes.

We had one a few years back who inspired our 12 year old to write a 150 page novel in three weeks.

Like any12 year old, the boy preferred zapping aliens online than pouring prose out of his keyboard.

But this magnificent teacher said “Jump!” And the kids said, “How high?”

As for the dullard teachers, they’re not hard to spot either.

They’re the ones with the long queues of parents snaking out the door and down the corridor on meet-the-teacher nights.

I had one of these for science at high school. More than one actually. Together, they’re the reason I know nothing about science except how to spell it. (Oh, and how to sing the Periodic Table – but that came decades later).

When this guy eventually retired, he apologised to all those he’d mistaught over the years. Which was a fat lot of use.

He should never have been allowed near a classroom. Instead, thanks to the PPTA, he ended up being paid more than his younger, smarter, more diligent colleagues.

For that union to suggest that teachers can’t be measured is exquisitely hypocritical. After all, their members have no trouble applying numerical grades to the children they teach!

But back to the editorial: 

Alternatively, the unions could work with the Government to identify other areas of saving in the education budget. The overstaffed ministry would be a good starting point.

Every 1 per cent increase in primary, secondary and early childhood education salaries costs $50m. Contrary to what the teacher unions and their members appear to believe, the Government is not sitting on a big pot of money. Every extra dollar paid to teachers or other public service employees has to be cut from other areas of government spending or borrowed from overseas.

Whoever wrote that, take a bow.

(Get in touch and I’ll buy you a beer.)