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City Voice Newspaper - Letters To The Editor

Rates Relief - Lambton Harbour - Waitangi Day - Blameless Cities - Muslim Wives - Museum Of Wellington - Post Office - Indonesia's Future - Money Supply - Student Loans

Rates relief

I READ with horror (13 Jan) of Mayor Blumsky's suggestion that Council consider rates "relief" for new commercial developments as a means of "actively" promoting economic growth. Apparently, this idea was offered up to Blumsky as part of his brief working tour to North America in September.

Clearly, Blumsky attended only the previews for the US rates relief movie. Had he stayed for the full feature, he would have learned that many US cities the size of Wellington have been struggling to cope with the unintended negative results of decades of rates relief giveaways to businesses.

What started out as a simple tool for local governments to facilitate, or "jump-start" specific targeted development projects in the late 70s and 80s became within a matter of years the norm, as developers insisted on tax "breaks" in order to proceed with any substantial project. Either they were granted rates relief or they threatened to take their development capital and plans to another city which would offer the handout. Without rates relief, they claimed, the given projects "didn't make economic sense".

As the story progressed, cities have found themselves blackmailed by other businesses which demand their own "fair share" of rates relief. Businesses have sought and received rates relief in order to expand existing, or create new, local facilities and employment, which in most cases they would have proceeded with in any event. Incredibly, rates relief has been forced on unwilling local governments under the threat that businesses will otherwise relocate out of the city.

The end results have been a shifting of the overall tax burden away from big business and consequent upward pressure on residential and small business rates. Worst of all, there is no easy way for local governments to quit the game.

Blumsky's idea is simply a form of government subsidy granted at the expense of, and paid for by, individual home owners and small businesses. Had Blumsky read anything about the intense debate in the US on this issue or spoken to anyone familiar with the adverse consequences and substantial opposition to such schemes, he would not be suggesting that Wellington start down this slippery slope. Any suggestion that this has been a successful experiment in the US, to be emulated by Wellington, is merely a reflection of shallow research.

Geoffrey Robinson, Port Charles, USA

Lambton Harbour

C'MON Wellingtonians! Our greatest asset is our harbour and waterfront. We are being told that Variation 17 - the Wellington City Council's proposal to construct some 20 new buildings varying in height from three to 10 storeys along the waterfront - is not a wall and will not in any way damage the present frontage, but rather "enhance" it!

Council isn't joking. It has in fact abrogated its proper responsibility to the people of Wellington and succumbed to the false market ideology of greed and profit.

If this proposal is allowed to proceed it will destroy these splendid and irreplaceable waterfront spaces. We've got until 7 Feb to tell the council that its Variation 17 is bÉ ridiculous.

Derek Wilson, Khandallah

Waitangi Day

IS it not true that Waitangi Day is an event for the whole nation? I cannot for the life of me see how failing to invite the country's Prime Minister to speak on the marae at Waitangi on this occasion does anything to raise the status of the Mˆori people, or to build the unity our nation will need to face the challenges of the new millennium. The previous PM, also a woman, was invited. What has changed since the hat passed from Shipley to Clark?

Since it seems, from the electoral roll, anyone can claim to be Mˆori, why all this coyness over Waitangi Day? At the time of the Treaty of Waitangi, it seems there were about 200,000 Mˆori in NZ and about 800 Pˆkehˆ. How times have changed, but the tail is still trying to wag the dog. One very healthy dog might be to everyone's advantage in preparation for the republic that seems inevitably to be coming.

Coralie Leyland, Nairn St

Blameless cities

CORALIE LEYLAND (13 Jan) is mistaken in thinking that the cities of ancient Mesopotamia were the cause of strain on their food producing environment. The difficulties of growing crops in that area are climatic.

Through that area, including Egypt, the prevailing winds have to travel so far overland that they have dropped all their moisture long before they arrive; therefore there is little chance of any rain. The soil, however, is very rich, and if irrigation is carried out using the rivers, whose headwaters arise in an area where the climate is quite different, crops can be grown.

It is therefore no accident that the great city civilisations of the ancient world started in river valleys such as the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates and the Indus. These great civilisations were a tribute to the ability of the human race to surmount the difficulties of the natural environment. I suppose Coralie does not think that the Inuit people caused the frozen tundra of the Arctic areas where they have lived?

When the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia passed away, it was not due to starving to death but to waves of Barbarian invasions. Warfare in fact has always been the worst despoiler of the environment, in all areas. However, when the political environment settled down again, the area became part of several empires: the Ommayad, the Abbasid, the Ottoman. The present troubles of the region are due to warfare - yet again.

Kathleen Loncar, Wilton

Muslim wives

WITH regard to your otherwise excellent and informative article on the Benadir refugees (13 Jan), I must point out that Muslims cannot have "several wives" as stated. According to the Holy Qu'an, men are strongly advised to marry only one woman. However in view of the age-old problem of higher male mortality rates, Muslim men are permitted to marry up to four women on the strictest conditions of fair treatment and equal provision.

The provisos are in fact so stringent that most Muslim scholars and jurists have declared them to be impossible to fulfil, and that men are indeed only allowed to marry one wife. In many Muslim societies the Islamic concept of polygamy is both unheard of and often even poorly understood - perhaps reinforcing the popular myth of "several wives"?

Abdullah Drury, Newtown

Museum of Wgtn

IN response to Marion Henderson's letter (13 Jan), I am pleased to advise additional signage at the entrance to the Museum of Wellington City & Sea has been in place since Christmas, to positive effect.

I am also delighted to report the museum has attracted visitor numbers in line with our projected targets and has been well received by both international and domestic visitors since opening less than two months ago. We achieved a record day (to date) early in the New Year with almost 1000 visitors between 9.30am-6pm and on several days have reached full visitor capacity in the museum.

John Gilberthorpe, Executive Director, Wgtn Museums Trust

Vic's elitism

I WRITE to comment on Simon Collins' item on elitism at Victoria University (13 Jan). I have no gripe with the sense of elitism that means VUW produces lawyers, teachers, doctors of a superior standard but that is what it has always done and the country is grateful for the scholars it has produced in the past and their contribution to the cohesion of NZ society. Fortunately any New Zealander can attend.Therefore why has elitism suddenly become a buzzword or why has the standard dropped so it has become an imperative?

The reason is the machinations of the loony right who thought that the current ideological tide would enable them to buy the university and tailor it to its own needs. When reason prevailed and the share float never came off the loony right took out its spite by loading the university down with managers and supernumeraries whose only function seems to have been to suck off the payroll and sap the morale of the genuine teaching staff. It is a clear example of wrongheaded thinking being allowed to surface and attack institutions that have served civilisation usefully for centuries but are now subject to the antisocial whims of unintelligent people with too much money.

Steve Marriot, Wgtn Central

Post Office

YOU report (13 Jan) that the Plimmer Bequest has funds for beautifying bays, beaches and picnic and recreation paces "within 25 miles of the central post office."

Where, today, is Wellington's central post office?

Brian Easton, Kelburn

Indonesia's future

THE former US Ambassador Josiah Beeman left NZ with a bang. He reminded us about the F16 deal. The new US envoy Carol Moseley-Braun entered NZ with a similar bang. Between Beeman's departure and Moseley-Braun's arrival, Bill Clinton commented on the good relationship between this country and the US at the world trade conference. These remarks correspond with Don McKinnon's political stance maintained for many years: "Support the US, use the UN umbrella." Under it NZ got involved in Iraq, Bosnia and now East Timor.

The new government when in opposition supported the National government in sending troops to East Timor. The Labour Party acted out of idealism; concern for human distress dominated. The National government supported Australia, in turn supported by the US, to be the superpower in this part of the world. Concern for human distress in East Timor was pretentious. What counted for the National Party was the coming election. Politicians often think, when perceived as weak, a show of strength may lead to an election victory.

Now East Timor is stabilising, this new government needs to reconsider whether NZ troops should be further involved. Recalled, they could be used for example to assist the NZ police. This means that taxpayers' monies otherwise spent on the military, are spent to fight crime. The military are expensive people. John Kenneth Galbraith advocated controls over the military by way of cutting their budgets.

There is also the issue of independence for different parts of Indonesia. We have witnessed the break up of Yugoslavia - with the help of the UN -into a series of small autonomous and small independent territories; such territories may attract undesirable weapons and conduct foreign policies disadvantageous to the larger region. When looking at Aceh's movement towards independence, this could happen to Indonesia, a future archipelago of small competing republics with different political policies. This is not to the advantage of the larger region which includes NZ.

This new government then may wish to encourage autonomy of Aceh and other territories within a federation of Indonesia. A starting point for such a federation could be the 1946 Agreement of Linggardjati in 1946. With modification, thus excluding the Netherlands, it could form a constitutional basis for modern Indonesia, our immediate neighbour. We are dependent on alliances and friendly neighbours. In support of that, a NZ pro-active initiative is needed which guarantees Indonesia's integrity, without splitting it up into a number of independent states. That way we will avoid another East Timor and the subsequent expenditure on the military.

Eduard Schwarz, Miramar

Money supply

OUR once caring society is well down the road to self-destructive insanity, when it no longer regards the education of its youth as its greatest asset, but as a cost which, not content to charge to the future of the individual student, it now prepares to hand over the student loans to the privately owned banks, thus turning what should be a public cost for the common good into a profitmaking commodity for the wealthiest and most powerful section of society, the banking industry.

All this and NZ's other pressing financial problems could have been avoided. When the international trading community went off the gold standard in 1944, it was recommended that each country create their own currency, based on the value of the goods and services they produced. Instead they gave that function and the control of international exchange into the hands of the privately owned banks.

What a rod we have made for our backs, as profit hungry bankers have created virtually limitless credit ,on the basis of unrepayable debt,both internally and internationally.

If we were to take back the control of our monetary system, we could then get back to paying only once for what we want to do, whether it is educating our kids, building a house or installing a new waste water system, instead of the present system, where years of high interest charges mean that most people pay for these things three times just to give the bankers their profit.

A further question is why is there now a need to raise bank charges, because of Dr Brash's idea of controlling the money supply by manipulating the interest rate. All interest is usurious. Students, of course are not only paying higher interest rates, but also higher bank charges. The effect of this is to kill incentives to return to society what it has already paid to educate these young people for its future.

The benefit to society in terms of education, is that it teaches the results and benefits of past actions.

This increment of association is the true value of the country's worth and this alone is what education reflects.

Coralie Leyland, Nairn St

Student loans

OUR once caring society is well down the road to self-destructive insanity, when it no longer regards the education of its youth as its greatest asset, but as a cost which, not content to charge to the future of the individual student, it now prepares to hand over the student loans to the privately owned banks, thus turning what should be a public cost for the common good into a profit making commodity for the wealthiest and most powerful section of society, the banking industry.

All this and NZ's other pressing financial problems could have been avoided. When the international trading community went off the gold standard in 1944, it was recommended that each country create their own currency, based on the value of the goods and services they produced.

Instead they gave that function and the control of international exchange into the hands of the privately owned banks.

What a rod we have made for our backs, as profit hungry bankers have created virtually limitless credit, on the basis of unrepayable debt, both internally and internationally.

If we were to take back the control of our monetary system, we could then get back to paying only once for what we want to do, whether it is educating our kids, building a house or installing a new waste water system, instead of the present system where years of high interest charges mean that most people pay for these things three times just to give the bankers their profit.

A further question is why is there now a need to raise bank charges, because of Dr Brash's idea of controlling the money supply by manipulating the interest rate. All interest is usurious. Students, of course are not only paying higher interest rates, but also higher bank charges. The effect of this is to kill incentives to return to society what it has already paid to educate these young people for its future.

The benefit to society in terms of education, teaches the results and benefits of past mistakes. This increment of association is the true value of the country's worth and this alone is what education reflects.

Coralie Leyland, Nairn St

(c) City Voice Newspaper.

Note: City Voice is the thinking persons central Wellington community newspaper. It is free in a cafe - or on the street - near you. Free delivery in Wellington Central - phone 04 385 6711 to subscribe. See also www.cityvoice.co.nz.

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