Is this the best cash course?

Central Leader - - NEWS -

As those weird Amer­ica’s Cup con­trap­tions sail past new, yet-to-be­filled grand­stands in San Fran­cisco in a far­ci­cal build-up of mean­ing­less races which are hardly yacht­ing, I re­mem­ber facts re­vealed in the Sun­day Star-Times months ago.

Like the Govern­ment’s $36 mil­lion grant to ac­tu­ally get that huge New Zealand wa­ter ski­ing de­vice there.

At that stage, the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment – the donors – had no idea how our taxes were be­ing spent on the ven­ture. And didn’t seem very in­ter­ested. Now ap­par­ently the crew of the Bee­hive are al­ready hav­ing talks with Team NZ on the size of the next hand­out – win or lose.

This is de­spite an ear­lier spendup of more than $1m on a ‘‘hos­pi­tal­ity bud­get’’ for the 2010 Louis Vuit­ton Cup. And un­known wages/salary de­tails of the 100-plus Team NZ staff.

All this as tight­en­ing belts closer to home see hun­dreds of re­dun­dan­cies each month. New fig­ures show that our ear­lier coup build­ing spe­cial­ity yachts for world tril­lion­aires seems to have lost its way and is be­calmed and/or sink­ing. Ma­jor im­prove­ment in those boat­yards on the back of a cup win is doubt­ful.

What could wel­fare agen­cies do with $36m which was ap­par­ently in­stantly avail­able in th­ese times of stress?

If you had au­thor­ity to spend like this, who would get your cheque?

On a dif­fer­ent tack (pun in­tended), there will be one ma­jor out- come if New Zealand wins – that it will take all the power from the hands of yet an­other dom­i­nat­ing bil­lion­aire.

As the win­ners and new cup hold­ers, New Zealand could then dic­tate what class of boat the next chal­lenge event would be or­gan­ised for, break­ing away from this $16m cur­rent Star Trek class and mov­ing the rac­ing back to tra­di­tional craft. Old fash­ioned? That’s true. But imag­ine what other trav­esty of marine de­sign might be forced on a great sport­ing tra­di­tion if grand mas­ter bil­lion­aire Larry El­li­son is again call­ing the shots.

You don’t have to be an or­a­cle to proph­esy that. In the mail­bag: ‘‘Af­ter all the tax­pay­ers’ mil­lions lav­ished on the Amer­ica’s Cup, Ki­wis in San Fran­cisco are ap­par­ently hardly even aware the event is on and the only peo­ple who seem to know that the Ki­wis are there are the sail­ing fra­ter­nity – a fairly small fra­ter­nity with­out much in­flu­ence on the world stage.

‘‘So we spent our money on a small group of peo­ple en­joy­ing their ex­pen­sive hobby of sail­ing.

‘‘If the same money had been spent on the arts what a dif­fer­ence it would have made to the qual­ity of life for many peo­ple, not just rich sail­ing afi­ciona­dos.

‘‘Why did we do it? And why can’t we get that sort of money spent on the arts – mu­sic, dance, lit­er­a­ture, theatre – ac­tiv­i­ties which add to the qual­ity of life in a so­ci­ety.

‘‘I have yet to learn that sail­ing an ex­pen­sive boat very fast makes any dif­fer­ence to many peo­ple.’’ – Name sup­plied

An in­ter­est­ing quote on ra­dio from ca­reer pro­tester and may­oralty con­tender John Minto at a com­bined meet­ing of elec­tion can­di­dates in How­ick: ‘‘One hun­dred and twenty-three Auck­land Coun­cil bu­reau­crats earn $200,000 a year or more.’’

He wants big salaries trimmed to al­low pay rises to those on the coun­cil staff who hardly earn that much in a life­time.

Be­fore we move on, look at some of the sort of de­ci­sions we get for that sort of money. Flash­back to the col­umn on coun­cil­lor San­dra Coney’s three-month bat­tle with Auck­land Coun­cil staff over ac­cess to back­ground le­gal pa­pers on the much-vaunted uni­tary plan.

This head­ing in the Her­ald: ‘‘Bu­reau­crats beaten at own game’’.

Yes San­dra fi­nally got ac­cess to the pa­pers she wanted – and was en­ti­tled to. The pub­lic’s right to know has been up­held.

And the bu­reau­crats have had a well-de­served slap on the wrist for their over­bear­ing re­fusal to let an elected mem­ber do the job the pub­lic voted them to do.

Democ­racy wins!

That

was

a

gen­uinely

gut- wrench­ing list that the Auck­land Coun­cil re­leased of what one head­line writer la­belled ‘‘ Auck­land’s dirt­i­est restau­rants re­vealed’’.

Thirty all across the re­gion given a D rat­ing (‘‘premises that have an un­sat­is­fac­tory level of com­pli­ance’’).

Worse still – if you can imag­ine that – six with an E black mark (‘‘must shut down un­til it’s im­proved to a rea­son­able level, pub­lic safety is para­mount … have re­peated faults from a pre­vi­ous in­spec­tion’’).

Among the re­ports: ‘‘Re­ally dirty … an im­me­di­ate threat to food safety and con­tam­i­na­tion … ver­min like rats, mice, pests … haven’t been cleaned for a long time ... when I moved the fridge I was just flooded with cock­roaches.’’

Of course there’s good news too. Auck­land city has 117 Gold A grad­ing ‘‘re­served for those who show ex­em­plary food safety and hy­giene’’. And can af­ford to eat there!

I re­mem­bered a fel­low coun­cil­lor telling me of one re­sponse.

Be­fore he had or­dered, he no­ticed an E cer­tifi­cate on the wall.

He pointed it out as he stood to leave. At first, the for­eign man­ager ap­peared to have prob­lems un­der­stand­ing him – as many of them do in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances – but fi­nally replied. ‘‘Oh, yes – E for ex­cel­lent.’’ Nice try! Also in the mail­bag: ‘‘Pat Booth ap­plauds this Govern­ment’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to do some things dif­fer­ently around our most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren. I think we all ap­prove that fo­cus and I commend the courage to ask hard ques­tions and drive through changes.

‘‘There is some sense to the con­cept that par­ents con­victed of child abuse have to prove any sub­se­quent chil­dren will be safe.

‘‘How­ever I won­der how one would prove that. Is a child a guinea pig in such sit­u­a­tions, or are they re­moved and the par­ent left to prove some­thing with­out a con­text?

‘‘With over 10,000 es­tab­lished cases of abuse each year, how bad would it have to be for this sce­nario to be im­ple­mented? Surely all sub­se­quent chil­dren of those cases couldn’t be re­moved? There are not enough places al­ready for the roughly 5000 chil­dren cur­rently in care, which is why so many get moved around fre­quently from place to place.

‘‘Some peo­ple are so bro­ken and dam­aged they may never be able to par­ent safely. But so many just need some in­ten­sive learn­ing around par­ent­ing skills – skills the ma­jor­ity of us may con­sider as com­mon sense but which they have never seen mod­elled.

‘‘They also need to learn and flour­ish within an en­vi­ron­ment that be­lieves in them, while be­ing kept hon­est and ac­count­able for safe be­hav­iour. If we fo­cus only on the worst cases and leg­is­late around the ex­tremes, I am not sure we will be get­ting the best out­comes for the ma­jor­ity of our vul­ner­a­ble tamariki.’’ – Ruby Dun­can, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Io­sis Fam­ily So­lu­tions

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