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Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

3 August 2011 43 comments

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STATE HOUSE RESIDENTS MOVED

Meanwhile, almost 400 tenants have been kicked out of state houses in the last three years.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley said 241 tenancies were ended in the last year.

Tenancies were ended because people had failed to inform Housing New Zealand about income from employment, business interests, assets, that they lived with a partner of sublet the house.

Since July 2010, 119 tenants were successfully prosecuted for fraud.

Housing New Zealand has also identified $6.6 million from the last 12 months that is owed to the Crown, largely for overpaid rent subsidies.

“The state housing system is designed to help people in their time of need. It’s unfair and unacceptable for people to abuse the system and commit fraud to get benefits they are not entitled to. People who deliberately rip-off the system deprive families in real need,” Heatley said.

The houses were now freed up for those with genuine need, he said.

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On most levels, the mis-use of State assets (ie; owned by us, the People)  is a rort that cannot and should not be tolerated.  Housing Minister, Phil Heatley is correct when he reminds us that,

“The state housing system is designed to help people in their time of need. It’s unfair and unacceptable for people to abuse the system and commit fraud to get benefits they are not entitled to. People who deliberately rip-off the system deprive families in real need.”

Although I note that Mr Heatley’s admonitions did not stop certain Ministers of the Crown from ripping of the tax-payer, when it suited them…

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And similar cases where Members of Parliament used their accomodation allowance in ways in was not intended…

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Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said his previous apartment had been very small and was not suitable for him and his wife, now he was spending more time in Wellington as a minister.

He confirmed the apartment was owned by his superannuation trust and was rented to National MP Bakshi Singh, for $400 a week.

As an MP Mr Singh can claim up to $24,000 year in accommodation costs from Parliamentary Service.

Dr Mapp also collected around $700 a week for his new larger apartment and said he could see why his rental income should be used to offset his expense claims.

“I can see why people have concerns and the review will deal with that,’ Dr Mapp said.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley also said he was renting out his old apartment and claiming a $1000 a week in accommodation expenses in a larger home to accommodate his wife and young children.

Mr Heatley would not say whether this was rented to an MP.  – Source

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It seems that rules are different for some folk.

The shortage of state housing is a serious matter, though. This critical problem of decent, affordable housing is not helped by the fact that the Fourth National government (1996-1999) sold around 13,000 State Houses in the 1990s.  These properties were supposedly made available to tenants – but actually went mostly to property speculators (who later sold them for tax-free capital gains).

When Labour was elected to power in November 1999, they immediatly placed a moratorium on the sale of state housing. According to HNZ, they currently ” own or manage more than 66,000 properties throughout the country, including about 1,500 homes used by community groups”

This government has re-instated the sale of state houses.  It does not take rocket science to work out that selling of state housing reduces the availability of housing stock.   Housing Minister Phil Heatley said that,

“… about 40,000 of the 69,000 state house stock will be available for sale,”  but then added,  “that the vast majority of tenants do not earn enough to be required to pay market rent means relatively few will be in a position to buy“. (Source.)

There seems to be nothing stopping tenants from buying their state house and immediatly on-selling it to a Third Party.

Is it any wonder that the shortage of state housing is not being addressed in any meaningful way? It certainly does help those on the current waiting list (as of 30 June);

  • 402 were Priority Eligible — A
  • 3,352 were Priority Eligible — B

Plus a further 5,132 in categories “C” and “D”.

Problem:  there are currently 8,886 people on the HNZ waiting-list.

Solution: build more houses.

This may seem like a ‘flippant’ answer to a desperate problem – but it is not.

The building of 10,000 new state houses may seem an outrageously expensive idea.  But it would address at least three pressing problems in our economy and society;

1. Persistantly high unemployment.

2. Low growth.

3. Inadequate housing for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

At an average housing cost of $257,085 (calculated at DBH website @ $1,773/m for a 145 square metre, small house), the cost (excluding land) is $2.57 billion dollars,  including GST (approximate estimate).

By contrast, the October 2010 tax cuts gave $2.5 billion to the top 10% of income earners.

For roughly the cost of last year’s tax cuts, we could have embarked on a crash building-programme to construct ten thousand new dwellings in this country. The immediate effects would have been profound for the building industry and would have created work for;

  • architects
  • builders
  • glaziers
  • roofers
  • electricians
  • plumbers
  • drain layers
  • painters
  • plasterers
  • tilers
  • landscapers
  • bricklayers
  • concreting contractors
  • insulation installers
  • home-heating installers
  • carpet layers
  • etc, etc.

Work would flow through to associated contractors;

  • truck drivers
  • building waste disposal

Turnover would increase for timber and framing suppliers as well as other building supplies outlets.

In turn, those in the building and associated industries would enjoy massive increase in demand for their products.

And equally important, those on the unemployment queue would suddenly be in high demand, as we needed to train more tradespeople. Which would mean a flow-on effect to polytechnics as they suddenly needed to train hundreds more tradespeople.

A further flow-on effect would impact positively on service industries, as money flowed into the economy, into supermarkets; entertainment; clothing; and elsewhere into the retail sector. As Bill Kaye-Blake of  NZIER, said in April of this year;

The economy is sluggish because people are not spending.

It would be a boom-time, as two and a half billion dollars was spent on products and services.

Would it actually end up costing taxpayers $2.57 billion dollars? The answer is ‘no’.  Government would actually re-coup much of that initial outlay through;

  • gst
  • paye
  • other taxes
  • reduced spending on welfare for unemployed
  • and investment re-couped by rent paid for new rentals

Would it work?

Yes, it would.  An NZIER survey expects a strong pick-up in 2013 when the rebuilding phase hits full-flight, with 3.9% annual growth predicted from a previous forecast of 2.6%.

The government has a strong role to play in tough economic times. A “hands off” approach will achieve nothing except unnecessarily drawing out an already painful recession, and prompting more frustrated  New Zealanders to “cross the Ditch” to Australia, where their government has announced a  programme aimed at 500,000 new jobs.

There is no reason why a determined government cannot adopt a bold programme for economic growth.

Instead of borrowing to pay for tax cuts we can ill afford, we should be investing in jobs.  The rest will almost invariably take care of itself.

We have the resources. We have the money. We have the demand for new housing. What else is missing?

The will to do it.

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Updates

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Fletcher shares at 2-year low after warning

Wellington rental market tough for tenants

Major housing shortage looms

Business NZ sees no economic plan

Downturn in building sector ideal timing for state house build

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It’s a Man’s World, I guess…

3 August 2011 5 comments

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Full Story

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$20 million spent on advertising the military…

Meanwhile, back in the Real World,

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$20 million to advertise the Army – “Must Have” *tick*

$800,000 cut from Women’s Refuges to save lives – “Nice to Have” (But cannot afford.) *cross*

If this isn’t making your stomach turn and a sense of outrage rising up in you, then you have all the emotional capacity of a Dalek.

There is only one word for this, and that word is obscene.

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Is this what we mean by Decent Society?


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Critics of street-beggars seem to show a lack of understanding regarding rough-living homeless.

Many of these homeless have no accomodation because of problems relating to psychiatric and/or substance abuse. They are unable to hold down accomodation and many landlords are unwilling to risk their properties with these people.

This is a direct consequence of “de-institutionalisation” that occurred in the 1990s. At the time, we were assured by the then National goverment that de-institutionalisation was not a “cost-cutting” measure and that funds would follow ex-psych patients and substance addicts as they entered the community.

Not only has that not happened, but now some in the community finger-point at these vulnerable people for their situation. (Of course, it’s a sheer “coincidence” that the threatened ‘clean-up’ of homeless people is taking place prior to the WRC. Yeah, right. Of course.)

It is not the “lifestyle choice” or “profession” that some folk naively believe. Far from it.

We need constructive, compassionate solutions for this problem, not playing a juvenile “blame-game”.

What happens after the WRC has moved on?

I know full well what will happen: the street beggars will be allowed to return, and it will be “life as usual” for everyone.

This is not the Decent Society that I believed New Zealand to be.
– Monday, 1 August 2011

 

 

Categories: Social Issues

Mean-spirited and short-sighted…

3 August 2011 2 comments


In terms of mean spirited, short-sightedness, it is hard to get past this story. Cutting $800,000 from a community organisation that is daily facing at risk, vulnerable, women and children – many of whom are escaping from demented, deranged, violent men who are ;little better than animals – beggars belief.

Let’s put $800,000 into context.

– This government intends to spend $36 billion on roads over the next ten years.

– This government spent untold millions on 34 new ministerial limousines.

– This government allocated $34 million in subsidies to Warner Bros, to produce ‘The Hobbit‘.

– Politicians spent over $7.69 million of tax payer’s money on accommodation and travel in just six months.
The money is most certainly there. But it appears to be “tied up” in other “priorities”. Like MP’s travel perks and new limousines.

It also makes a mockery of National’s stated intention to launch a discussion “green”-paper on child abuse in this country, asking New Zealanders what more can be done to reduce our apalling rates of injured, maimed, and murdered children

Shame on this government. If a woman is killed because she cannot access an under-funded Women’s Refuge, then, there will be blood on this government’s hands.

Right-wing and centre-right governments hold several ideals as central to their ideology. Chief amongst these beliefs is the tenet of “taking personal responsibility”.

Who will take responsibility when a woman or child is killed because of lack of resourcing for Women’s Refuge.

Who indeed?

Donations to Women’s Refuge can be made here.

– Sunday, 31 July 2011

Categories: Social Issues Tags:

Community Needs vs Business Demands

3 August 2011 3 comments

“It is open from 9am to midnight seven days a week and is the only off-licence open in Porirua after 10pm.

Last night’s celebration coincided with the last day for submissions to be lodged on the licence renewal.

The District Licensing Agency had received 33 submissions all in opposition.

More submissions were anticipated before the cut off at midnight last night. The Liquor Licensing Authority determines opposed applications.

There are 28 off-licences in Porirua and liquor licences are renewed every three years.The Salvation Army is also opposing the licence renewal as the store is close to emergency housing for up to nine women and their children.

Principal Sose Annandale said if the bid to shut the store failed the opening hours should be restricted to 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 10pm, when there were less children around.

She was also calling for the “aggressive” alcohol advertising on the store to be taken down. Store owner Chiman Patel said he had already removed some signs and suggested the school pupils used the footpath on one side of the road, and his customers the other.

Mr Patel, who had owned the shop for 9 years, said he had extended the closing time from 9pm to midnight because of community requests.”

This is not about a businessman having an unlimited right to carry out his activities. This is about the demands of a business to make a profit balanced with the needs of a community to maintain safety and a measure of civilised behaviour.

From what we are being told, the late opening hours (up to midnight, 7 days a week) is attracting and encouraging an undesirable element who continue drinking into the early hours and making an unmitigated nuisance of themselves with the mess they leave behind.

As for store owner Chiman Patel suggesting that school pupils used the footpath on one side of the road, and his customers the other – this is so bizarre and ridiculous as to rightly invite ridicule.

There is simply no sound reason to have a liquor outlet open till midnight. The anti-social aspects of this is readily apparent.

Personally, even 8pm is late enough. Anyone who needs to consume alcohol late into the night has a problem.

And I don’t see why the community should have to pick up the pieces of that problem.

– Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Categories: Social Issues

New Zealand 2011AD: Drunken Mayhem and a nice Family Day Out.

3 August 2011 2 comments

The licence is subject to conditions that will be discussed on Monday.

Joseph and Kylie Stafford described arriving at the races last year with their two-year-old twins and friends to find crowds of drunk and aggressive young people like a rampage of carnage.

They told of seeing patrons passed out, vomiting, fighting, swearing and staggering. “I’m no prude … but this was drunken mayhem,” Mr Stafford said.

At one point two young drunk women started “pawing” the twins in their pushchair and spilling alcohol on them. When Mr Stafford moved the women away with his forearm, he was confronted by five aggressive men.

Mr Stafford, a tall man who once played rugby for Marlborough, said he was “bloody scared” of the men’s attitude. Helped by bystanders, he got the pushchair to safety. In the stands, the Staffords found groups of young men hurling cups of alcohol over others and small groups of older racegoers “with fear in their eyes”. Mrs Stafford saw a group of three young men in the stand sniffing something off a compact mirror using a rolled bank note.

The couple said they had attended many race meetings and wine and food festivals, but had never seen such a level of drunkenness before. “There were girls falling over, their dresses up around their ears,” Mrs Stafford said.

She said she had felt uneasy about speaking at the hearing “but we’ve spent the last couple of years reading about teenage deaths and over-consumption of alcohol and I thought, `If something happens to a teenager at the next event and I hadn’t said anything, then I’m as bad as anyone else.”‘

David Smith, who drove past the racecourse that day, saw a young drunk woman vomiting in a gutter, a young man lying unconscious on a verge and a group of males hurling abuse at passersby and police. “It was absolutely disgusting.” 

A policeman who attended the 2009 and 2010 race meetings witnessed many extremely intoxicated patrons, some of whom were still being served alcohol.

HB Racing general manager Jason Fleming and club chairman Mick Ormond acknowledged the failings of previous years and promised to do better.

An improved alcohol management plan was submitted, the number of security staff would be boosted from 90 to 130, more qualified bar staff would be employed and monitoring of patrons would be improved.

Racing contributed millions to the regional economy, Mr Fleming said. Without the special licence, the event “would be severely compromised and as a result the club compromised”.

Upper Hutt alcohol harm reduction officer Shane Benge, who works on the liquor application for the Wellington Cup, said police had never been put in a position where they had had to oppose the application.

Police and the Wellington Racing Club worked together each year to try to minimise problems around alcohol.

NZ Racing Board spokesman John Mitchell said the organisation was aware of what was happening in Hawke’s Bay but would not get involved. It was a club’s responsibility to make sure it worked with police and liquor-licensing authorities to ensure the appropriate standards were met.

This, in particular,  should ring in our ears;

“Racing contributed millions to the regional economy, Mr Fleming said. Without the special licence, the event “would be severely compromised and as a result the club compromised”.

It all boils down to the almighty bloody dollar, does it?

Well, my fellow New Zealanders, that certainly is something to reflect on next time you see a bunch of drunken hoons creating a nuisance of themselves; or some kid dying from alcohol poisoning; or a drunk driver annihilating innocents; or just plain obnoxious behaviour. Because somewhere, someone has to make a profit on selling cheap, easily available booze to the public.

Just in case anyone reading this is starting to feel even remotely angry at where we have arrived in 2011AD, you may wish to make your feelings known to these gentlemen;

Rt Hon. John Key, Prime Minister

Hon. Simon Power, Minister of Justice

Hon. Judith Collins, Minister of Police

Hon Phil Goff, Leader of the Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

I’m sure they’d love to hear from us.

– Saturday, 23 July 2011

Categories: Social Issues

Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse.

3 August 2011 2 comments

It has been said that, when it comes to alcohol, New Zealand is the ‘Russia’ of the South Pacific. Like Russia, since our economy was de-regulated by a neo-liberal controlled Labour Government in the late 1980s, our problem with alcohol abuse has gone from bad to worse.

Alcohol use in 2005/06 cost New Zealand an estimated $4.4 billion dollars, with another $661 million in drug/alcohol abuse (BERL figures). Nearly five billion dollars spent on hospital care; ACC payouts; injuries; deaths; lost productivity; welfare; and other related costs.

And that was six years ago.

Since then, this problem has become worse, with neither Labour nor National seemingly having the courage to address this crisis. In the meantime, local communities are being harmed by easy availability of cheap booze. (If you think I’m exaggerating, check out any episode of “Police Ten-7“, on TVNZ.) Even when communities attempt to fight back, their efforts are undermined and ignored by the judicial system and those elected to serve.

Case in point:

No more bottle stores say Porirua marchers

9 December 2008.  Protesters marched to Porirua District Court to oppose a bottle store opening opposite Cannons Creek School.

More than 100 people gathered at Porirua’s Cobham Court yesterday afternoon, chanting “no more bottle stores”, before a Liquor Licensing Authority hearing.

Porirua Alcohol and Drug Cluster spokeswoman and city councillor Taima Fagaloa spoke outside court of the saturation of liquor stores in Porirua East and the $2.5 billion cost of alcohol-related harm a year.

“We don’t oppose economic development. But we don’t support local economies [businesses] that are going to have negative social impacts on the community.”Inside court, youth leader Fofo Molia said it was already too easy for Porirua East youth to access alcohol, without the new store in Warspite Ave. “The cost of having a liquor outlet is huge and the price we are not willing to pay.”

She said a drunk 11-year-old who had smashed windows at Cannons Creek shopping mall was dropped off at her house by the police last month.Youth worker Fa’amatuainu Wayne Poutoa said alcohol was a “tool of engagement” into crime and violence for the city’s youth. “I am here because this has serious consequences for our young people.

“If you place a liquor store in Cannons Creek, then you might as well place a bigger police station there as well.”The applicant, Bhaveeni Dahya, did not attend the hearing and was represented by a liquor law specialist, who said said the number of outlets in an area was not grounds for rejecting an application. The authority could only turn it down if his client was not a fit or proper person.

Judge E W Unwin said: “My immediate reaction is to suggest it’s up to your client to prove his or her suitability . . .”That’s not going to be easy in the absence of your client.”

Medical Officer of Health Stephen Palmer, of Regional Public Health, told the court that Porirua East experienced “some of the poorest health outcomes” in the country and alcohol was a “key contributor”.Senior Sergeant Steve Sargent told the judge that the applicant’s father has been in trouble with the LLA and may become involved with the store, which could give police grounds to later challenge the licence.

Ms Dahya’s father, Billy Dahya, who owns a bottle store in Waitangirua, was handed a two-day suspension of his liquor licence yesterday, for selling alcohol to an underage girl twice. The store’s manager, Limoni Atatangi, was suspended for six weeks for the breaches.

A decision on Ms Dahya’s application is expected within six weeks.

Fast Forward to July 2011:

School wants bottle store closed

19 July 2011.   A primary school wants to force the closure of a neighbouring bottle store to make the streets around it safer. 

A community meeting, spearheaded by Russell School in Cannons Creek, Porirua, was held last week on the relicensing of the Fantame Liquor Store, which is about 50 metres from the school gates and is open from 9am to midnight seven days a week. It is the only off-licence open in Porirua after 10pm. 

Principal Sose Annandale said the community was fed up with broken glass, graffiti and drunks walking through the school. 

“This neighbourhood, this community, really doesn’t deserve that. They’re telling me stories about the swearing, the fighting the damage to their own property. They’re all sick of it, they’re all tired of it.”

Ideally, she wants the liquor store closed or, at the very least, its hours reduced to limit the impact on children walking to and from school. The school, with 142 pupils, also has a kohanga reo and a Tokelauan preschool on site. 

Fantame owner Chiman Patel said he would fight to keep his licence and the same opening hours.

“I think it’s nothing to do with them. There’s always some people that complain about something. We haven’t done anything wrong.” 

The closing time was extended from 9pm to midnight five years ago at the request of customers, he said.

Fantame was caught in a police sting two weeks ago when it sold alcohol to a minor. Mr Patel said his son sold liquor to a “tall boy” who turned out to be part of a controlled purchasing operation.

School board of trustees chairman Matt Crawshaw, who has two daughters at the school, said the focus was on reducing opening hours and the removal of advertising. 

Some of the pupils’ bedrooms were across the road from the store, which was “lit up like Las Vegas”, he said. 

“I sat here the other night at 11.55pm watching car after car after car parking up and picking up their boxes. What happens is that we experience the aftermath of that.”

Submissions on the liquor licence renewal close on Friday. Porirua City Council will decide whether to renew the licence for a further three years or pass the matter on to the Liquor Licensing Authority.

 

The Maori Party was moved enough to put this statement on their website;

 

 

It is abundantly clear that those living in communities badly affected by easy, cheap booze, have a huge fight on their hands. And judging by the plethora of new bottle stores opening thoughout our town and cities, they are not winning that fight.

Our elected leaders – especially those well-paid members of Parliament whom we elect every three years – seem unable and unwilling to address this problem.

More specifically, I charge National (and it’s predecessor) with gross irresponsibility. They have done nothing of any meaningful consequence to control the spread of liquor outlets; control the availability of cheap booze;  control opening hours of bars and off-licences; control advertising – basically, they have done  nothing of any material benefit to the community.

National, in particular seems powerless to act. Not just because liquor companies are powerful lobby groups – but because National has become trapped by the very “Nanny State” creature it helped create in 2008, with which to tar-and-feather Labour.

National now finds itself in the awkward position of being unable to reign in the alcohol industry without incurring the label of “Nanny State” against itself.

In the meantime, alcohol abuse in this country becomes worse with each passing day, week, month, year. (For which we are paying with our taxes.)

It’s election time this coming November. So why not do yourself and your community a favour – demand from your candidates a statement as to what practical steps they will do to control liquor availability in this country.

Don’t accept bullshit from National and Labour candidates. They will both speak eloquently as to how their respective governments did this, or that, or this during their terms in office. (Yet, very little actually has been achieved.)

Instead, ask them what they will do and how they will achieve it in the next three years.

If you can’t motivate the buggers during election time – then we’ll never be able to persuade them any other time.

John Key will be attending a public meeting in Upper Hutt on 2 August. I think I might ask him a question or three on this problem.

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Public Meeting

John Key

“Expressions” Art Gallery

836 Ferguson Dr, Upper Hutt (between Upper Hutt Library & H20 Pools)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011, @ 7.30pm

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– Saturday, 23 July 2011

 

 

Categories: Social Issues