Is this the best cash course?
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.
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