Monday, February 25, 2013

Hotere spoke of us and for us

This was published as a letter  in the New Zealand Herald Tuesday, 26 February, 2013 

Fittingly, art commentators, writers, artists, friends  and media have paid tribute to Ralph Hotere. Ralph sits alongside poets Hone Tuwhare and James K Baxter, writer Maurice Shadbolt and fellow painter Colin McCahon who challenged us as people, stood with us and articulated our thoughts in our darkest peace time hours.
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s there were small number of people who inspired many of us. They spoke of home not nineteen thousand kilometers away, but of this land New Zealand as home. They all loved their country, the challenges in reaching our potential, the achievable dreams and the pain in dealing with our issues. All of them could have left New Zealand such was their talent, and become successful internationally.

Hotere is perhaps the last of this courageous outspoken generation.  His death provides an opportunity for a discussion the contribution they made shaping our nation

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Brief Submison on Charter Schools

Presented to the Parliamentary Sub Committee on Education, Friday 22nd February, 2013 at Auckland
As a citizen, I can go to any school website to find any information on that school; the latest Eduction Review Office reports, its board meetings. I also have the right to go up to any school, knock on the door and ask to see this and any other information.
In the 21st century is unthinkable to exempt Charter Schools from inspection and to deny these personal freedoms, including the right of entry and the right to free and fair enquiry. It implies that there may well be something to hide, that things are not as they should be and opens one's mind to many areas of suspicion. No school, pupil or teacher deserves this; therefore to exempt Charter Schools from the same compliance as other educational facilities is nonsensical.

Under the proposed rules, the lack of an inspection regime or the ability to monitor would mean that these schools could get any compliant lawyer or accountant to sign off anything. There must be inspection and public scrutiny. 

The lack of transparency about Charter Schools is a real concern. The safety of all, especially children and the quality of the education they receive, must be the first responsibility of the state. This can only happen within a transparent model. These schools will be publicly funded. Tax payers should be able to inquire where the taxes are spent and we expect the government to take all tax expenditure seriously.
We citizens enjoy long established and respected vehicles in New Zealand that we can use to make our own inquiries if we have a concern. Two of these public bodies are the ombudsman office and the official information act.

Taxpayer’s funds will be placed at an increased and unnecessary risk by allowing these school accounts and public funding to be outside of public inspection. I have served in Non Government Organizations and other bodies. In all my experience we reported to our funding agencies and had our accounts audited. We held an Annual General Meetings and had our pre-school and after-school activities and programmes inspected by the Education Review Office and also by other regulatory bodies such as local government and national government health and safety offices. This is not unusual. 
These practices provide confidence to the funding agencies and the public at large that their funds are being used properly and that these institutions have buildings that are safe and fit for purpose and that the accounts are proper.

To allow less defies logic and is well below the public expectation of what are known rules regarding public funding. These accepted standards should not be lowered and if anything is to be changed it would be better to lift the standard. If parliament decides that this is an acceptable practice it has failed the public interest.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Gay and Lesbian Choir (gals)

 Auckland is now half way through  the Pride Festival. It has been a fun festival  that   proudly celebrated the tolerance and diversity of Ponsonby and Auckland  with a huge parade on Ponsonby Rd last Saturday.  Another event worthy of mention is the Gals choir. Now in their 22nd year, they comprise some of Auckland  finest singers.They  perform internationally and regularly around New Zealand.
These photos are of their float in the Pride Parade and also of the performance in the Auckland Art Gallery last Sunday. Their concert is one of  a number of events to celebrate New Zealand's leading Art Gallery.  This concert may be the finest musical event in the art gallery's honour.


Photos by Ida Larsson

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Post Christchurch Insurance Costs Are Short Sighted

Brian Rudman is correct and the Auckland City Council in their submission to the Ministry of Business and Employment about the impost being placed on building owners is working in the best interests of our neighbourhoods and economy. He is right to point out that volcanoes are the major natural risk to Auckland - not earthquakes.  However, this is not enough.

A national policy needs to be formulated and the recommendation by the Royal Commission into The Christchurch Earthquake should be put on hold to this policy is discussed. Heritage buildings throughout New Zealand return to their communities where they are situated and also return real money to New Zealand through tourism.

Auckland wins all the way to the bank because of the heritage stock of our older neighbourhoods and what buildings remain in the city. To replace theses gems is not in our economic interest. Throughout the country people are reacting to the insurance imposts and costs that are being lumped on them to protect these buildings.

Some examples of buildings we can lose and their economic return include the Art Deco buildings of Napier. If they can’t afford to maintain them, Napier will lose $20,000,000 annually through tourism income. Whanganui is another provincial city whose heritage buildings are under threat. These buildings return much to that community through tourist spending.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Music in Parks Programme 2013

This year programme of events was unquestionably well-intentioned, but has not worked as intended. 
To provide events throughout the new Auckland city is challenging.  For decades every Sunday the Domain has attracted hundreds sometimes thousands of people who bring their picnics, their extended family and friends and listen to the music.
This summer there have only been two events in the domain. We have been to other venues that attracted far fewer people. To pull events from the domain is a very short sighted decision.
The Wynyard Quarter served the same purpose for Films in the Park. They were developing a real following and if the silos were home base the programme would only grow. The films had been moved from there too. 

Thankfully we have them back after good work by Waitemata local board member  Rob Thomas  and board chair,  Shale Chambers. All power and praise to these fine local  representatives .May they be as successful in getting Music In Parks back on track too. 

Fittingly with the Ponsonby Pride Festival, having Priscilla Queen Of The Desert on February 15  is a wonderful choice which thousands will enjoy.
This is not to say that the outer suburbs should not have events.  Of course they should but not at the expense of the central city.
City events were so popular because they are world class. Sprinkling them throughout the city has made it harder for people to get to them so attendances have dropped drastically.
They represented the best of and the aspirations of Auckland. Both venues are well served by public transport and are safe and stunningly attractive.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

In Praise of Street People

Ponsonby News - Robert Van Der Linden

Your story of Robert Van Der Linden in your December, 2012 issue was wonderful, generous and no less than he deserved

Robert was polite, gentlemanly and he had a great a pair of eyes

If Sally was out with Hemi and he saw me he would tell me that she just gone into Franklin Rd or another street.
From time to I would give him some cash but  more often I would not.

Ponsonby has had a long history of being New Zealand most tolerant neighbourhood.

Mike Riddell's book and movie The Insatiable Moon which was set in Herne Bay in the 1990s about a developer buying a half way house accurately identified the tension, the prejudice, ignorance and the humanity that surround people like Robert.

I think of long term Ponsonby resident and our greatest Prime Minster Michael Joseph Savage when speaking about mental health summed it for all when he said “I refuse to believe that all mental patients are the same and all we have to do is to keep them away from society. I do not think anyone has a better claim on the humanitarian than the individual who is mentally afflicted."

Ponsonby News' previous obituary of Margaret, another street person, and your acknowledgment of Robert is an important contribution to our community about the issues on mental health and we congratulate you for helping to keep ignorance away and tolerance alive.