Moon Over the Alps

October 18, 2009

Mills and Boons books were in the rental part of the public library.

I didn’t know this when I picked up Moon Over the Alps by Essie Summers and was discombobulated when told I had to pay 10 cents to take it out. That was a whole week’s pocket money.

My mother came to my rescue. I took the book home, fell in love with it and proceeded to read anything else by the author I could get my hands on. The romance, the passion – in a very seemly stop-at-the-bedroom-door fashion – the food . . 

As a bonus almost all the books were set in New Zealand, some in North Otago and one even had a heroine called Elspeth. It was the first time I’d ever come acorss a character in a book who bore my name.

These books had everything a 14 year old could ask for. Then I grew up and it was about 20 years before I read another book by Essie Summers.

I was coming to terms with life with a severely disabled child and some days were very black. A friend gave me a pile of books to read, among them was Moon Over the Alps. It was just what I needed – escapism which didn’t require thought with a guaranteed happy ending. It was a bit like eating chocolate without the kilojoules.

 Some people sneer at the romance genre and I haven’t taken to any by other authors. But Essie Summers’ books helped me feel better and her own real life story provided some  inspiration. She wrote dozens of books without the aid of a computer while bringing up her family and being the wife of a minister in the days when that was a job in itself.

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Post 18 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

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Over at In A Strange Land Deborah  gives us The Kuia and the Spider by Patricia Grace, illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa.


Better at science than politics

October 18, 2009

Adam Smith at Inquiring Mind has been testing his political and scientific knowledge with Pew quizes.

I got only 7/12 in the political quiz but thanks to a couple of lucky guesses managed 12/12 in the scientific one.

Would it be unscientific to conclude this means I have a better knowledge of science than US politics?


Govt wastes $1b on social services

October 18, 2009

Guyon Espiner interviewing Tariana Turia on Q & A this morning:

TARIANA . . . What I’m saying is already we have a whole range of services that are contracted out, they’re extremely prescribed, and over the years we’ve seen a huge waste of public money on these services, because none of those things have in fact empowered families to take that responsibility for themselves, to not remain in that mode of thinking that people need to do things for them.  We want to change that and that came out strongly in our conference yesterday that our people want that.

GUYON What is the magnitude of this, because I looked at a consultation document which has been released on the Ministry of Social Development website, about the Whanauora policy and it talks about a Whanauora fund being set up.  Now in the past you’d talked about possibly a billion dollars going into that.  Are we looking at that sort of magnitude?

TARIANA Well to be frank with you there’s probably a billion dollars already being wasted now, so a billion dollars that’s put into Whanauora that going to transform families’ lives so that they’re not so dependent on the state to do for them, but more importantly that their families become sites of safety.  That’s a critical part of Whanauora.

Like Stephen Franks, who was a guest on the panelwhich discussed this interview, I’m not sure how spending a billion dollars from the state helps people become independent from it.

But I agree that too much is spent now on measures which increase dependence rather than assisting people to become independent.


What really matters?

October 18, 2009

In a week when we’ve been told the nation’s accounts have at $10.5 billion deficit and ACC is sinking under its own weight, people are wasting time and energy arguing about who should screen rugby matches.

And in all the reports on all the arguments has anyone given satisfactory answers to these questions:

* Why is access to free-to-air sports on television a right?

* Why is it acceptable to pay to attend a game but not to watch it on television?

* How many people who want to watch the Rugby World Cup on television don’t have reasonable access to pay TV?

* Would it be cheaper to pay for these people to get pay TV for the duration of the RWC or pay for a taxi to take them to a pub where they could watch the match for free than it is to provide free-to-air coverage?

If that sounds like a silly question answer this:

* Is watching free-to-air sport a higher priority than health care?

That might sound like a silly question too. But when we’re borrowing enough to build a new hospital each week to maintain what the government provides now, it’s a very sensible question which leads on to another:

Why are taxpayers supporting anything that could be considered a luxury when we’re borrowing to fund necessities?

What really matters – the things a few people want or what most people need?


On ACC they said:

October 18, 2009

Not all editorials and columns agree with the government view on ACC’s problems and solutions.

But there is concensus that there is a big problem in need of an enduring solution.

Southland Times:

That belt-tightening exercise we’re enduring with ACC – there comes a point where what you’ve got is no longer a tightened belt. It’s a tourniquet. Confuse the two and something’s going to blacken and fall off, writes The Southland Times in an editorial.

Many eyes are bulging at the severity of the huge rises to ACC levies, and the toughening up of the qualifying criteria. These measures, including an extra $320 a year coming out of the average wage (which actually seven out of 10 workers are on or below), do need scrutiny for over-reaching.

ODT:

Of greater concern is the growth of future liabilities, from $9.4 billion to $23.8 billion in four years, and a good deal of the responsibility for widened and costly coverage can be laid at the door of the Clark government.

An example is the physiotherapy benefit . . . According to the Government, the subsidy introduced by Labour in 2004 and budgeted to cost $9 million a year had by this year risen to $139 million and was projected to rise to $225 million by 2011-12, with no equivalent rise in rehabilitation rates.

It has quoted other examples of how the scheme has developed far beyond its original concept to cover diseases like leptospirosis and brucellosis and medical conditions like asthma, when, it argues, these should instead be paid for out of Vote Health.

To these might be added trauma of various kinds suffered by victims and perpetrators resulting not from accidents but from criminal acts, mental injury arising from workplace trauma, and sports injuries.

When it began with the 1972 Accident Compensation Act, only those who were employed were entitled to claim for workplace accidents. That soon changed to cover all accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, regardless how injury occurred.

Timaru Herald:

The unworkable or unprofitable parts will have to be bundled back into a Government scheme. And somewhere in the middle the romantic notion of a Government-funded no-fault system will have to be modified in a politically-acceptable way.

It is a Herculean task and one that will provide a stern test for the National Government. Whatever happens in the long term, what is crystal clear today is that taxpayers will have to dig deep to get ACC out of the mire. Having a unique highly regarded system is great in theory. It is also extremely expensive.

The Press:

What would really undermine ACC and its no-fault comprehensive coverage principle would be a lack of firm action taken now to control its costs, with major levy rises not just a short-term source of financial pain for New Zealanders but something that continues well into future years.

The Nelson Mail:

Though there has been no shortage of spin around ACC’s balance sheet and performance during National’s 11 months in office, it is clear some significant changes were needed in order to bring the scheme back under control.

Some of the proposals will sail in – no more entitlements for injured methamphetamine “cooks” for example – but increased levies have already provoked wide-ranging protest.

Dominion Post:

There is no such thing as a free ACC system.

That must be central to the honest conversation the Government is asking New Zealanders to have about the scheme. Stripped to its essentials, the scheme is an insurance one, and that means any entitlement in the scheme costs money, and must be paid for by levies.

The debate must also recognise that the ACC was established to compensate people who are injured. It was not meant to be an extension of the social welfare system, cushioning people against all misfortune. The distinctions it makes are arbitrary, and can be seen as unfair . . .

. . .  The job facing Dr Smith and his colleagues is to convince the public that what is being done is fair, and within the spirit of the deal that saw New Zealanders trade away their right to sue for a no-fault right to compensation.

That deal remains a good one. It should be made to work and made affordable, not torn up.

Taranaki Daily News:

The massive increases aimed at the two-wheelers just highlights what a sorry mess ACC has become. The corporation was introduced in 1974 on April Fool’s Day which probably says much about what it has become – a $24 billion liability to the taxpayer.National promised to put the boot into bureaucrats and under-performing government departments when it came to power last year.

ACC was clearly in its sights and so it should have been.

Quite apart from the horrific imbalance between money taken in and that dished out, New Zealanders have become sick of the tales that have leaked from the corporation throughout its 35-year existence.

Remember the outrage of the prisoner being paid ACC for injuries suffered during the act of crime?

While those criminal instances might be a fraction of the ACC’s overall costs it nevertheless highlights the stupidity of parts of its system.

Past abusers of ACC are partly responsible for the current tightening in all areas.

Deborah Hill Cone:

A benefit now has a cosier name – an entitlement – which is “a right granted by law or contract”. Big. Difference. . .

There has been a lot of talk of entitlements over the ACC-in-a-pickle problem. . .  And the punters who have “entitlements” are no longer called claimants; they are clients, lest it might sound as though they are putting their paw out. The ACC public relations dude told me the Labour Government had asked for the jargon change – Labour understood the power of Neuro-linguistic Programming. The theory was that people had actually paid their premiums and so shouldn’t feel they were getting summat for nothing. Dinky idea, but as we now know, the premiums do not cover the cost of the ACC scheme – so claimants are getting something for nothing. Actually. . .

. . . I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why it is that large corporates, such as Fonterra and Air New Zealand, can opt out of ACC and self-insure – but I can’t. Oh, I get the practical reason – that I don’t have a lazy mill to cover a claim – but where is the policy rationale? The opt-out clause (cosy name: the “partnership programme”) takes 15 per cent of the country’s workers out of ACC. So if these corporates can manage their health and safety liabilities more efficiently than ACC, what does that say about ACC?

Herald on Sunday:

. . .  in the 35 years since ACC was established, so many bits have been carved off and clipped on that it bears little resemblance to the original design.

Anomalies abound: people who work in dangerous jobs pay more in earner levies than people who work in offices, but rugby league forwards incur no more expense by way of premium payment than those whose leisure preference is macrame. . .

More profoundly, many of its conceptual assumptions have been corrupted by this piecemeal regulatory intervention. ACC has not been reviewed since the 1980s and, once it has dealt with the immediate crisis, the Government would do well to consider another reassessment of the entire system.

In 1974, we entered a social contract by which we surrendered the right to sue. As a society, we were keen to avoid the litigious and ludicrously expensive American model.

But it is not an absolute truth than our system is better. Anyone who spends time in the US will quickly notice the lengths to which people go to avoid posing a risk to others.

That carefulness flows from fear of being sued, of course, but it’s worth wondering whether we here have grown too accustomed to being reckless of others’ – and our own – welfare, in the knowledge that someone else will pay.

If nothing else, the crisis we face now reminds us that we are all that someone else.

Deborah Coddington

The Government can remain insurer of last resort for dangerous employers with bad track records, but why should safe, careful employers who look after their workers continue to pay high levies and cross-subsidise the former?


Maori seats not needed

October 18, 2009

The Maori Party is aiming for 18 seats in parliament by 2017.

I hope they succeed because that will prove there is no need for Maori seats.


The Lazy Dog

October 18, 2009

Sometimes you get a menu and are scratching to find something that appeals.

This was not the case when we stopped for lunch at The Lazy Dog a couple of weeks ago.

The menu full of tempting dishes,from light snacks to hearty meals. We both chose tomato soup, chunky with olives,  served with fresh bread and accompanied by a glass of pinot noir.

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The cafe at Queensberry on the Wanaka-Cromwell Road is owned by Dean – a former seal diver and chef in the South African navy – and Diana Harker. It’s also the cellar door for Lochaburn wines.

 The couple leased the cafe at Akarua Winery in Bannockburn before building the Lazy Dog.

The name is part of the story of changing land use. Grape vines now grow where merinos used to graze and the dogs which no longer have to work the sheep grow lazy in the vineyard.

As a poem on the cafe wall explained:

The Old ewe stamps, her sneering eyes

Say, “Now young dog I did advise

You step aside or get a shunt

You’re no tough hound, you are a runt.”

He whines uneasily in his sleep

She’s got him worried, that old sheep.

In dreams as in his waking days

That ewe eats dog as well as hay.

 

Now vines climb up hill faces steep

They’re farming grapes instead of sheep.

The sheep have gone  (the old ewe too)

There’s nothing for a dog to do.

He’ll go no more through wind and fog,

For now he is a lazy dog.


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