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City Voice: This Weeks Letters

Elitist Varsity – Self Esteem – Byelection Politics – Stadium - Herd St Post Office - Waitangi Day – Bus Shelters

Elitist varsity

THE article “Vic reviews elitist policy after staff revolt” (13 Jan) does well in outlining the concerns of Victoria University (VUW) academic leaders over the performance of Prof Irving and his senior management team. However, the headline suggests that elitist goals were the problem, whereas these were just part of a much wider concern over governance and resourcing of university teaching and research at VUW. VUW, like other universities, must pay attention to excellence – perhaps perceived as elitism – like most organisations that aspire to be the best at what they are set up to do. However, it also has a tradition of service to the wider community. With declining resources imposed from outside, judgements must be made between support for funding to maintain, and where possible develop, excellence in a few fields, and support for breadth in the university’s degree programmes. Prof Irving’s vision was to raise the research profile at VUW, and his actions were plainly in that direction (more funding for post-graduate scholarships, more support for strategic research directions). Unfortunately, what was missing was a clear and convincing articulation of that vision in a way that was fair to all parts of the university community (as in the Strategic Plan). Furthermore, efforts to win the support of those that brought the university its present high reputation in many fields were compromised by the cutting of staff positions and facilities that many here saw as an essential part of a small university community. Some responsibility for the present situation should be borne by the VUW Council. Prof Irving was, of course, selected by Council after the opportunity to consider a wide range of applicants, and he reported to them on a monthly basis. In particular, Council might have been expected to recognise – even compensate for – Prof Irving’s limitations as well as his positive qualities, and the hazards of his strategic plan. In addition, responsibility for the problem also lies with Government in the progressive under-funding of NZ universities over the last decade (30% decline at VUW in this period, leading to a planned reduction of 20% in Science Faculty resources). This made Prof Irving’s vision an impossibility, even if he had been able to select and guide a management team with the good sense to draw on the collective wisdom and experience available from staff at VUW. Those of us for whom the university with its staff and students is a major life commitment will continue to work with the best of our abilities and the resources made available to us. We do have to say publicly, however, that both issues of VUW management and the decline in university funding need to be addressed as a matter of urgency to maintain the quality of our teaching and research.

P J Barrett, Professor of Geology, VUW


“BE natural, be simple, be yourself” for healthy and happy living. Reading the words of S Greenwood, Wadestown (13 Jan) reminded me how Americanised NZ has become. To feel good and have self-esteem one nowadays has to resort to the scalpel? What has happened to the once simple and natural society? In my view, self-esteem is a matter of feeling good within oneself and one’s heart. Not how one can be transformed by a surgeon’s knife, with all sorts of potential problems attached to it… So my answer to the problems of NZ’s greed, nowadays, and to your writer, is simple commonsense: stay yourself, stay down to earth, stay honest, and overall stay natural. Enjoy life to its fullest and don’t bother about “image” or how others view you or perceive you. Find a job where people look at you as a caring human being, nothing else. Discard the rest. You are your own very special self, no one else is like you or can ever be! I hope this helps and that the pain goes away soon. It’s all about acceptance, including the ability to change oneself in a holistic way through a combination of spirituality, meditation, relaxation, diet and exercise.

Dr Jocelyne Del Monaco, PhD

Byelection politics

THE point of the exercise when making comments about issues is to ensure that it is fact rather than innuendo, which Mr Kevin Burrows (20 Jan) should take on board. Though no longer living in Wellington, I have followed the progress of Wellington City Council enough to know that the $200 flat rate for water and sewerage actually advantages eastern suburb residents as the value of their properties have increased. Also a resolution passed late last year has Council lobbying Government to bulk fund rentals in order to bring rents back to 25%. As for his comments on Lambton Harbour this was never an issue to him in the last local body elections – perhaps there was a memory loss. Why would the man even consider nomination for the Labour candidacy in the Eastern Ward again if he has such contempt for fellow party associates who are now Councillors? What loyalty would be shown to most Eastern Ward residents whom he is planning on representing?

Kathy Moe, Titahi Bay (Labour Eastern Ward candidate 1998)

Stadium Shows

WELL, we have now got our shiny new ratepayer-funded stadium and although I didn’t get to the open day I was amazed to read of cars getting towed away from the stadium’s carpark for not paying the rather high parking fees on a free open day. While I understand that the stadium needs to recoup funds wherever possible, it also needs to maintain goodwill within the community, and most ratepayers feel that they should be entitled to the various entertainments at reasonable prices. The programme, as publicised to date, contains very standard fare (rugby and cricket). Where’s the rock concerts we’ve been promised? The only breaks in this dreary lineup are the Edinburgh Tattoo (thanks Carla van Zon) and the Aussie Rules football, which leads me to wonder why these top teams can be flown in from Melbourne for $15 an adult ticket and only $30 for a family (including the $2 stadium levy!). The stadium needs to beef up its programme both in the number and variety of events to pay its way, not by penalising the public with excessive prices for tickets, parking, food and drink.
Ian Fullarton, Newtown

Herd St Idea

IF the Herd St Post Office building is really worth keeping, wouldn’t it be better for the whole waterfront, especially Chaffers Park, to pay for it to be moved to Cable St across the road from New World? Keeping buildings for the sake of keeping them hardly seems sensible. Surely historic buildings we keep must have a really substantial heritage value, not just a little bit of it. Is a corner a building enough? And it is encouraging Lambton Harbour Management to put other similar-height buildings near it to keep it company, and damaging views even more. Why not be ready to let it go and ensure some of the new buildings re-express and reinterpret art deco for today and tomorrow – that is, art deco suitable for Chaffers Park?

Ron England, Newlands

Waitangi Day

DECENTRALISING the Waitangi celebrations away from Waitangi makes sense and Helen Clark has set a constructive precedent by going to a South Island marae. You need not physically go to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas, nor trek to Mecca for Ramadan. What matters in a holiday which emphasises a certain belief system is the periodical reminder that the ideal remains to be striven for – precisely because reality tends to fall short of it! Waitangi Day emphasises a basic value underlying this nation. It reminds us that we are heirs to a contract which permits us to get on with building a harmonious and inclusive society where we can treat each other as equals no matter what our race, religion or gender. As humans of equal worth we can, however, fulfil quite different functions, and they may be deemed to be of different value. When St Paul opted for celibacy he assumed that the end of the world was imminent, hence no point in raising a further generation. The women gave him a piece of their mind in one location, which he thenceforth avoided. His dictum that the women ought to shut up in the congregation has, however, served as gospel to every male chauvinist under the sun. Unfortunately the idea that women should not speak on the marae gets confused with the non-verbal role of women during the whaikòrerò. I compare this to the procedure you have to go through when you board a plane. Until proven innocent, you are deemed a potential hazard. So you have to prove who you are with your passport and ticket and undergo a luggage and body search. If I understand marae protocol correctly, it is the traditional role of the most experienced women of the hosting marae to do the screening for hostile “mental luggage” in the manuhiri [visitors]. Emotional states are reflected in the body language. Pupils widen or constrict involuntarily depending on the feeling state of the person observed. The whaikòrerò is deliberately provocative to elicit emotional reactions, hence the perpetual warming-up of past grievances. It is the women’s job to judge the body language of the manuhiri. In their scrutinising silence and their song lies their power. If and when they sing, you can go in. Titewhai would surely not sing for Helen Clark like an old woman with mana. Instead she has chosen to perform a whero for the media. Let Ngàpuhi deal with their out-of-order granny. For the rest of us, let’s enjoy Waitangi Day in each other’s peaceful company and build the nation by the neighbourhood BBQ. (Abridged)

Brigitte Hicks-Willer, Karori

Bus shelters

CORALIE LEYLAND (30 Dec) clearly has a problem with our bus shelters. We believe she is over-dramatising the problems – but we do have good news for her. Many of the city’s bus shelters will be revamped over the next couple of years and will soon meet some of Ms Leyland’s requests. The bus shelters with advertising will be upgraded and new shelters will be constructed to a special Wellington-friendly design. Ms Leyland expressed concern about the older bus shelters that have a gap between the bottom of the wall and the ground. The gap in the old shelters will be reduced as part of the upgrade, and the new shelters are being designed with a smaller gap. The new shelters will also have wooden seating as requested by Ms Leyland. Finally, Ms Leyland claims that the bus shelters are an “example of decisions being made by idiots sitting in air-conditioned buildings, deciding for services they never actually use”. We can reassure Ms Leyland, notwithstanding her cheap shot, that many city council staff use the city’s buses and shelters every day. We are, after all, not idiots but people too.

Hugh Nicholson, Urban Designer, Wgtn City Council

• Coralie Leyland replies: My apologies for the “cheap shot” at council staff over the design of the new bus shelters. Perhaps they are now lamenting their folly as much as the many people who have mentioned the matter to me and caused my original letter. As Hugh Nicholson pointed out, there was a gap between the bottom of the wall and the ground in the old shelters. It was a small gap and created a small problem. The new shelters have a huge gap and a similar sized problem. Maybe they will get it right the second time round; now that the weaknesses have been pointed out.

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