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North & South - - Con­ver­sa­tion -

sev­eral eye con­di­tions in the de­vel­op­men­tal years. SIMA LAL, OP­TOMETRIST AUCK­LAND


Margo White’s “So­cial Stud­ies” col­umn ( All Ears, August), about peo­ple’s phones (or the apps on their phones and other de­vices) lis­ten­ing to them in or­der to sell them things, was spooky. A re­cent mishap in the US will dis­turb her even more.

In May, an Amer­i­can woman dis­cov­ered her Alexa speaker had recorded and sent a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion with her hus­band to one of his em­ploy­ees. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany Ama­zon, which made the de­vice, the speaker man­aged to in­ter­pret a dis­cus­sion about hard­wood floors as a se­ries of four com­mands to send the con­ver­sa­tion to a phone num­ber in Seat­tle. The star­tled re­cip­i­ent gal­lantly phoned the boss, and told him to un­plug his Alexa de­vices, “Right now... You’re be­ing hacked!”

But the cou­ple wasn’t be­ing hacked – just mis­un­der­stood by a robot with the power, not only to record a con­ver­sa­tion, but also to send it to a vir­tual stranger. What a mag­nif­i­cent soap­opera plot de­vice! GOR­DON WIL­SON WELLING­TON


I felt com­pelled to write in af­ter read­ing Han­nah Brown’s lat­est Sense of an End­ing col­umn (August). It seems strange to look for­ward to read­ing about some­one’s ex­pected demise, but these pieces re­ally are gems.

I feel sad read­ing them (es­pe­cially when I read that the per­son has since died) but they al­ways make me de­ter­mined to live my life to the fullest and take away some­thing pos­i­tive, too. There are al­ways snip­pets of wis­dom from the peo­ple in­ter­viewed. These won­der­fully crafted, per­sonal sto­ries re­ally do jus­tice to the peo­ple and their jour­neys. Keep up the great work with these fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into our com­mu­nity. C. CON­NELL AUCK­LAND


Joanna Wane’s Diary of a Di­vided Land (August) re­minded me of a trip I made to Is­rael in 1970. It was a mix­ture of re­li­gious pil­grim­age, busi­ness trip and an­nual hol­i­day. Then, one could walk along the road from Beth­le­hem to Jerusalem with­out any prob­lem; take a boat across the Sea of Galilee to Ein Gev and De­ga­nia, both fa­mous kib­butz, then head back to Tiberias. You could wan­der around Old and New Jerusalem and over the Mount of Olives.

When I went to Is­rael, I knew from his­tory what the Jews had suf­fered and had sym­pa­thy for the fu­ture they wanted. I’d seen the film Exodus and been swayed by the strug­gle to es­tab­lish the state of Is­rael. (I re­mem­ber my fa­ther say­ing the worst me­mory he had of his 10 years with the Royal Navy over the war pe­riod was en­forc­ing the em­bargo against Jewish refugees try­ing to get to Is­rael.) How­ever, by the time I left the coun­try, my sym­pa­thies had swayed to­wards the Pales­tini­ans. I have not seen much to change my mind since.

Part of the prob­lem, it seems to me, is that crit­i­cis­ing Is­rael gets mixed up with anti- Semitic at­tacks against the Jews and po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. From what I’ve read from rep­utable sources, I un­der­stand only about half of Is­raelis ac­tively prac­tise their Jewish faith. The rest are sec­u­lar Jews who don’t at­tend syn­a­gogue, just as most West­ern Chris­tians don’t go to church. How­ever, that is not to deny them the right to a safe “home­land”.

Un­for­tu­nately, when David Ben- Gu­rion set up the state of Is­rael, he did not set a min­i­mum vot­ing per­cent­age for seats in the Knes­set, dis­miss­ing the idea of ul­tra- Or­tho­dox Jews vot­ing. Now, they and their other rightwing friends, be­liev­ing the coun­try is given to them by God, are one of the big­gest stum­bling blocks to a set­tle­ment [with the Pales­tini­ans].

“I am sure there are many Pales­tini­ans who would be will­ing to live in a mixed Is­raeli/ Pales­tinian fed­eral state if they had homes, jobs, ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties and safety.” DAVID H. B. SPEARY

I know most Ki­wis don’t have much knowl­edge of the Bi­ble and Old Tes­ta­ment but, if they looked it up, they would see that the Jews con­quered Pales­tine in a most bloody way (Num­bers 31 and the Book of Joshua). It seems “eth­nic cleans­ing” is not a re­cent phe­nom­e­non.

While the coun­try’s fu­ture is held to ran­som by a small group of fun­da­men­tal­ist Jewish Is­raelis who be­lieve God gave them the land 3000 years ago, peace for the whole re­gion is in jeop­ardy. As your ar­ti­cle shows, there are many Is­raelis who would pre­fer to live co- op­er­a­tively and in har­mony. I’m sure there are many Pales­tinian refugees who would be will­ing to live in a mixed Is­raeli/pales­tinian fed­eral state if they had homes, jobs, ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties and safety. Un­for­tu­nately, there are fa­nat­ics on both sides. DAVID H. B. SPEARY AUCK­LAND


I agree with your re­cent ar­ti­cle on re­tire­ment vil­lages; they are in­deed big busi­ness. How­ever, in the ab­sence of gov­ern­ment-led op­tions for al­ter­na­tives, these com­mer­cial ghet­tos have taken hold ( Happy Ever Af­ter?, July).

In New Zealand, most of the long-term care for the el­derly – be it in rest homes, con­tin­u­ing care hos­pi­tals or re­tire­ment vil­lages – are op­er­ated by for-profit com­pa­nies, fol­low­ing the demise of the ec­u­meni­cal and not-for-profit owner­op­er­a­tors who strug­gled to sup­ply the qual­ity of care, based on the money that gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies pro­vided. We now have com­mer­cialled big busi­ness dic­tat­ing and prof­it­ing from the older pop­u­la­tions of New Zealand, and many of these larger com­mer­cial com­pa­nies are based off-shore.

In the ab­sence, then, of gov­ern­ment pol­icy that pro­vides al­ter­na­tives to in­sti­tu­tion­alised care, we el­derly are faced with the prospect of hav­ing to up­root our lives, down-size our pos­ses­sions and take our­selves off to some sort of in­sti­tu­tion­alised care. If it’s a re­tire­ment vil­lage, we also have to ac­cept the ero­sion of our as­sets. That we tol­er­ate this sit­u­a­tion is in it­self a sad state of af­fairs and only goes to re­in­force the pas­sive­ness and depen­dency that in­hab­its our old age.

There are other op­tions avail­able that the Min­istry of Health should be ex­plor­ing, such as smaller group homes; ini­tia­tives that pro­vide sup­port and deal to iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness; in­creased re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion care for the el­derly in the com­mu­nity; en­abling ei­ther fam­i­lies to be­come more in­volved in their rel­a­tives’ care, and/ or pro­vid­ing in­creased com­mu­nity-based ser­vices that en­able an older per­son to stay longer in their own home.

While some peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with these re­tire­ment vil­lages may re­port their res­i­dents are happy and sat­is­fied, in the ab­sence of other op­tions and with the fear of dis­abil­ity, lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion, the ex­po­sure to in­sti­tu­tion­alised com­mer­cial­ism of our el­derly will con­tinue. ANTHEA PENNY AKAROA


Our com­pany spe­cialises in de­vel­op­ing and man­ag­ing re­tire­ment vil­lages and I found the ar­ti­cle Happy Ever Af­ter? very in­ter­est­ing. Our take on the main play­ers’ re­tire­ment vil­lage model is that it is not right, it’s not fair and we can change it.

You are quite right most res­i­dents in re­tire­ment vil­lages are happy with their choice. But that’s of­ten be­cause in their fam­ily home they felt anx­ious about look­ing af­ter the prop­erty, and they were lonely – of­ten hav­ing lost a part­ner. Some­times one part­ner is sick and they are plan­ning for the fu­ture or they’re start­ing to get wor­ried about safety and se­cu­rity. Of­ten the res­i­dents feel they have lit­tle choice. The so­cial ad­van­tages of a re­tire­ment vil­lage are huge.

De­spite those ad­van­tages, only around 12.4% of New Zealan­ders over 75 live in re­tire­ment vil­lages. This per­cent­age is slowly creep­ing up, but our opin­ion is that the cur­rent fi­nan­cial model – “milk­ing the el­derly for profit”, as you so suc­cinctly put it – is the rea­son this per­cent­age

is low. The fam­i­lies and the par­ents sim­ply don’t want to lose so much of their hard-won eq­uity. We, and some oth­ers in the mar­ket, do of­fer an al­ter­na­tive. Our model is that our fee is 12.5% of the sales price of the unit. This means the res­i­dent gets the ben­e­fit of the cap­i­tal gain, which gen­er­ally would cover the fee. Par­tic­u­larly in a pe­riod of ris­ing house prices, as we have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing for the last decade, un­der our model a res­i­dent could get twice the cap­i­tal re­turned than un­der the tra­di­tional re­tire­ment vil­lage model.

The Re­tire­ment Vil­lages As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor says there are some fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages to that model, “…62% of res­i­dents re­leased more than $100,000 of their cap­i­tal”. Given the sig­nif­i­cant loss of cap­i­tal un­der their model, that is hard to take se­ri­ously. They cer­tainly “re­lease” an aw­ful lot more of their cap­i­tal to the op­er­a­tors.

An­other of our con­cerns is this model es­sen­tially traps the el­derly in a vil­lage. For most res­i­dents, they sim­ply can’t af­ford to move even if they chose to.

Your ar­ti­cle is timely as we see the surge in re­tire­ment vil­lages of­fered by the main play­ers. Our busi­ness is small by com­par­i­son, but our aim is to ex­pand our vil­lage num­bers from the four we cur­rently have. We want to do this be­cause we be­lieve there should be better re­tire­ment op­tions for New Zealan­ders.

Maybe, long-term, we can grow to a point where we can force some change to that ex­ist­ing set-up. We cer­tainly be­lieve the cur­rent re­tire­ment vil­lage model is not fair. AN­DREW DAL­LAS DI­REC­TOR, KARAKA PINES VIL­LAGES


Here’s a great way to help your kids get into their first house: don’t loan them money!

Read­ing the sad story of “He­len Flem­ing” in Open for Busi­ness! The Bank of Mum and Dad (July) should be a good wake-up call to the baby boomers who are be­ing asked to help fund house pur­chases. My strong rec­om­men­da­tion is: “Peo­ple, put your wal­lets back in your pock­ets.”

In­stead, in­vest in rental prop­erty and pass it on to your kids through a trust. That way they aren’t sit­ting on a “dead money” as­set by liv­ing in the house your cash went into, and they learn the value of money and the ben­e­fit of in­vest­ment.

Watch­ing the com­pound­ing ef­fect of ris­ing cap­i­tal value and be­ing able to man­age an as­set in a struc­tured way, the kids will quickly work out that they are fools if they seek money from Bo­mad [the Bank of Mum and Dad] to own a house they will live in. By all means set up the trust so they can later bor­row against the ap­pre­ci­at­ing as­set – if they re­ally need to.

The side ben­e­fit: there will be a cer­tain per­cent­age of kids who ask for the money with no in­ten­tion of pay­ing it back. Those kids will never buy into this kind of re­la­tion­ship with money – and are best left to learn their own hard life lessons. MARK BAKER AUCK­LAND

Mag­gie Wilkin­son

I agree with writer Aaron Smale re­gard­ing a com­bined state­and church-based Royal Com­mis­sion of In­quiry ( Is the State a Psy­chopath?, July). I would not want to see any wa­ter­ing down of the in­quiry – but peo­ple abused in faith­based “care” will never get their own Royal Com­mis­sion. Moth­ers have had to en­dure the dis­missal [by for­mer Jus­tice Min­is­ter Amy Adams] of their re­quest for an in­quiry [into past adop­tion prac­tices] and it seems we have been for­got­ten. The in­jus­tice of hav­ing our babies ab­ducted and con­cealed, then lost to us, is ob­vi­ously not im­por­tant.

Jessie New­ton

I per­son­ally know five peo­ple who have been sucked into this cult [Prov­i­dence/ Jms/chris­tian Gospel Mis­sion] in Auck­land, and only three got out ( The Cult Next Door, June). I have no idea what hap­pened to the other two, or where they are now. Thanks, North & South, for rais­ing aware­ness about this.

San­dra Troy

So many chil­dren these days see their par­ents in com­fort­able po­si­tions with a few nice things and don’t ques­tion the sac­ri­fice and sav­ing that has gone into this ( The Bank of Mum and Dad, July). Be­fore you loan money to your chil­dren, do the maths. Say you have three chil­dren and they all ask for $5000. Can you re­ally af­ford it? And how hard will it be to ask for it back if you re­ally need it? Home own­er­ship is not a right.

“I per­son­ally know five peo­ple who have been sucked into this cult.”

Above: A pho­to­graph of a street craft fair in Jaffa, one of Is­rael’s mixed neigh­bour­hoods (from Joanna Wane’s Diaryof a Di­vided Land, August). The words on the boy’s T-shirt, writ­ten in both Ara­bic and He­brew, read “I speak Ara­bic”– part of an ini­tia­tive to cel­e­brate bilin­gual com­mu­ni­ties and give greater vis­i­bil­ity to the Arab lan­guage.

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