Home' Greymouth Star : September 24th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
The Coast has been buffeted by more
than the usual Tasman fronts this year.
The combination of mine closures,
Solid Energy layoffs and the dairy price
collapse, have called on all the reserves of
West Coast toughness.
Sadly the memories of the Pike River
tragedy and the failed extraction bid, and
the weak health and safety legislation that
followed will have done nothing to lift the
The Coast needs central government
to be a deep and active partner, getting
alongside the region to listen to your ideas
and priorities about where to go from
here. From timber processing, to tourism,
to niche manufacturing and improving
energy, communications and transport
infrastructure, we need to work together
to open up good jobs on the Coast.
There is no one size fits all approach
to regional growth. Rather regions grow
in very and varied ways and the simple
concentration of resources and effort in a
couple of places is not sufficient for long-
But a one-size fits all approach is exactly
what the Government has applied — and
it will not work on the Coast. Ever since
it came to power it has relied on the dairy
boom, overheated Auckland property
market and the now-peaked Canterbury
earthquake rebuild to keep our economy
ticking over. It is short term management,
not long term vision.
Too late for most regions, the
Government is only just realising it is not
working. Pity, because if you actually go
to the regions it has been pretty obvious
it was not working for a The numbers do
not lie: unemployment in Northland is
8.6%, in the Bay of Plenty its 6.7%, in
Manawatu-Whanganui its 7.0% and in
Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay its 7.7%.
But this is not just about numbers. It is
about people and their future.
Now the Government has its
Wellington officials running around
some regions doing, what it has termed,
Regional Growth Studies. Basically it
is a public relations exercise. They are
just hoovering up projects that local
communities have already been working
on and often have received no support for.
My prediction is that this Government
will start throwing some money at those
regional projects over the coming months
and claim them as their own.
It is clever politics but not particularly
Yes they should support those projects
but it is not creating a pathway for more
projects like them to get the support they
need to succeed.
Would not it be good to actively identify
and support the seedlings of development
projects and support the communities
and leaders working hard to make them
Would not it be better to stop relying
on officials to tell regions what is right
and what is wrong and find ways for
communities to have a bigger voice in
policy making in Wellington?
And would not it be better to be
making some meaningful investment in
our regions, so the many young people
who still live in those areas have the
opportunities to meaningfully participate
in a smart economy at something more
than a minimum wage?
None of us benefit from neglecting the
regions. Let us hope the Government
realises that before it is too late.
4 - Thursday, September 24, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1852 - French inventor Henri Giffard makes
the first flight in a powered airship, cruising with
steam power over Paris.
1869 - Thousands of businesses are ruined in a
Wall Street panic that becomes known as Black
Friday, after financiers Jay Gould and
James Fisk attempt to corner the
1971 - Britain expels 90 Soviets for
1975 - Britons Dougal Haston and
Doug Scott become the first to climb
Mount Everest by the south-west
1976 - American newspaper heiress Patricia
Hearst is sentenced to seven years in prison for
her part in a 1974 bank robbery.
1990 - East Germany formally withdraws
from Warsaw Pact.
1993 - Nelson Mandela asks the world
community to lift economic and diplomatic
sanctions against South Africa; Former
Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos is convicted
1996 - Death of Pavel Sudoplatov, a Russian
spy who stole US plans for the atom bomb and
arranged for Leon Trotsky to be killed.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Horace Walpole, British writer (1717-1797);
William Lisle Bowles, English poet
(1762-1850); F Scott Fitzgerald,
US writer (1896-1940); Anthony
Newley, English actor-singer (1931-
1999); Linda McCartney, US-born
wife of Beatle Sir Paul (1941-1998);
Gerry Marsden, British singer
(1942-); Phil Hartman, US actor
(1948-1998); Kevin Sorbo, US actor (1958-
); Liam Finn, New Zealand musician and
“ Fear cannot be without hope nor hope
without fear.” — Baruch Spinoza, D utch
“But You have upheld me because of my
integrity, and set me in Your presence forever.
— (Psalm 41:12).
The 35ft fishing
trawler Moana went
within an ace of
sinking this morning
when it became fouled at the Greymouth
wharf. O wned by Mr B Piner, the boat took
on a 30-degree list when the starboard side got
caught under the wharf.
The incoming tide heaved the trawler
upwards on its port side and part of the
starboard deck became submerged. It was not
until the alarm was given by a whitebaiter
that the boat was freed and put on an even
keel. Had the alarm been given five minutes
later, the trawler would have sunk, said a local
whitebaiter. Fortunately however, no serious
Always cautious and sometimes openly
doubtful about the success of Japanese efforts
to buy West Coast coal, the Minister of Mines
and Electricity, Mr Shand has hinted strongly
that the latest Japanese proposal would be
turned down. This occurred when he repeated
yesterday the Government ’s intention of
planning a power station using Buller coal.
It has long been known that the Government
has been considering tapping the vast reser ves
of Buller coal to help ease the ever-increasing
demand for electricity.
An application for Maurice Brereton to play
rugby league for the Marist club was received
and granted by last night ’s meeting of the West
Coast Rugby League Board of Control.
Brereton, an 18-year-old, has scored nine
tries for the Marist Rugby Union senior side
this season and has represented Greymouth,
West Coast colts, and was chosen for the Coast
uFood for thought
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The rolling of Australian Prime Minister
Tony Abbott offers some interesting lessons
in the conduct of right-wing politics.
The multi-millionaire businessman and
lawyer Malcolm Turnbull who instigated
the “spill”, is generally identified as the
candidate of Australia’s boardrooms —
someone to finally make good on his
predecessor’s promise that “Australia is
open for business.” Abbott, on the other
Governing for the boardroom — from the bar room
hand, might best be described as the
candidate of the Australian bar room. A
politician the “ little Aussie battler”, and his
mates, were more than happy to have a beer
Turnbull caught many New Zealanders
off-guard by holding up their own prime
minister, John Key, as the very model of a
modern conservative leader. Was Turnbull’s
fullsome accolade inspired by the fact that
Key (also a multi-millionaire) seemed to
be as comfortable in the bar rooms of New
Zealand as he was in its boardrooms —
maybe even more so? Acutely aware that in
the party room he had just left, boardroom
and bar room were at daggers drawn, and
that he faced a Herculean task in drawing
the patrician and plebeian Liberals back
together, Turnbull can be forgiven for
envying Key ’s ability to keep a foot in both
The prime minister Key defeated, Helen
Clark, had tried to do the same, but with
only limited success. No matter how many
times she sped to an All Black test match,
or waved at the Warriors’ rugby league fans,
very few (if any) New Zealanders were
fooled. Everyone knew that Clark was more
comfortable at the opera than the footy.
The blokes who drank beer never really
saw themselves sipping chardonnay with
On the face of it, this should not have
mattered. Clark was, after all, a Labour Party
leader. The loyalty of the blokes in the bar
room was, supposedly, a political given. For
a little while, it held. Clark’s gender, which,
normally, would have counted against her in
many bar rooms, was neutralised by the fact
that the Nats had also chosen a woman to
lead them — and a pretty scary one at that.
It did not take long, however, for the bar
room’s welcome to wear out.
No matter how hard she tried to signal
her endorsement of the plebs’ pleasures,
the conviction grew that it was all a little
disingenuous. To the blokes in the bar
room, Clark came across as someone
who inhabited a different world. Not the
boardroom, exactly, although she was doing
everything she could to be accepted there,
but another sort of room. They might have
struggled to recall its proper name, but
they knew exactly what sort of room Clark
would feel most comfortable sitting in — a
Key observed the steady alienation
of Clark’s bar room allies and drew the
appropriate lesson. Whatever else he did
as New Zealand’s prime minister, he must
never allow the blokes in the bar room to
form even the faintest outline of a notion
that he thought he was better than they
were, or that he considered their views to be
bigoted and ill-informed. If the bar room
listened to Newstalk ZB, or Radio Sport,
or The Edge — then he would talk to them
from there. The listeners to Radio New
Zealand’s Morning Report would just have
to suck it up. The ones who voted National
would forgive his non-appearances. The
others did not matter.
The boardroom might have sniffed at
this sort of pandering to the hoi-polloi,
but Key knew better than to worry too
much about the prejudices of the “1%”.
They may control an obscene percentage of
the nation’s wealth, but their share of the
nation’s votes would always and only be —
1%. Not that as a one-per center, himself,
Key was in any way unsympathetic to the
boardroom’s needs — far from it. What he
had learned from Clark, however, is that, in
a democracy, it pays to make haste slowly
— always allowing time for the doubters to
As an opposition leader, Abbott made
the bar room his own, championing its
prejudices and magnifying its fears. Upon
becoming prime minister, however, he
attempted to ram the boardroom’s agenda
down the bar room’s throat. As a strategy it
proved fatal. The bar room turned decisively
against him, driving his government under
water in the polls. It is hard to help the
boardroom when you’re drowning.
If Malcolm Turnbull is wise, he will
cultivate John Key ’s taste for beer.
Chris Trotter is a left-wing
Our regions do matter
n ample stomach, barely
contained by a faded
pink singlet. It is the
first human we have seen
on the second series of
Benefits Street, a United
Kingdom docu-reality series, and it is a
headless, footless belly.
This is television — everything is
deliberate — and the shot seems to be
daring you to judge the belly’s owner, Julie
Young, for living well enough to acquire it
while living on a benefit.
By the first episode’s end, no possessor
of a human heart could feel anything but
immense sympathy for Young. Near the
end, there is a long sequence featuring her
singing Roberta Flack’s The First Time
Ever I Saw Your Face into the ear of her
son. He’s perhaps 10-years-old, and has
what is clinically described as “severe and
complex needs” after experiencing cardiac
arrest at nine months old.
Young quit a good job as a community
worker to care for him full-time. “ It ’s not
fair. It shouldn’t have happened,” she says.
“ But he’s here.”
That same blunt summary might be
used to describe the situations of most of
the subjects of Benefits Street. It is to the
show ’s great credit that it puts lives which
are other wise ignored or caricatured on
our televisions in prime time. Challenging
you to be dismissive, once you are in
something approximating full possession
of the facts.
The first season of the show caused a
firestorm on its first broadcast in the UK.
The response broke along tribal lines.
The right said it proved the rectitude of
benefit cuts and sanctions, and showed
the fecklessness of those claiming State
support. The left that it should never have
been made, that in showing shoplifting it
was unrepresentative, in showing poverty
it was exploitative.
As is often the case, each side of the
debate was dumb.
No sane person would look at lives of
abject poverty and assume the solution
was less money. And no self-styled
advocate for those on low incomes should
try to pretend that each and every one of
them is perfect, or that they are incapable
of making informed choices.
As with most ratings sensations, Benefits
Street begat sequels. Immigration Street
aired this year, and more recently an
Australian version called Struggle Street
— a better, less diminishing and less
provocative name — ran here as well as
It was a revelation: harder, grimmer,
more despairing and simply better than
its English counterpart, which has a
jarringly comic tone at times. On Struggle
Street,the agonies of mental illness and
drug addiction have rarely been rendered
in such sharp relief.
The first episode of the second season of
Benefits Street was not so dark, and not
always to its credit. We staggered along
with Maxwell, who necked 10 Diazepam
then missed the bus to his court case. A
lengthy meta-narrative concerned the
MPs and London tabloids who cynically
descended on Kingston Road when word
got out that the series was filming.
The footage of tabloid journalists and
photographers asking not to be filmed,
while they long-lens into the lives of
the show ’s subjects, was profoundly
depressing, and I’m not sure what we
learned, other than the show ’s makers are
But once the MP had wrung his hands
and the paparazzi had got their shots,
the residents gathered to front steps
and kitchens, riding bikes, drinking
beer, swapping haircuts for dinners and
generally behaving with a community
spirit which it is easy to imagine only
exists in our grandparents’ memories.
The film-makers do tread an uneasy line
between betraying obvious sympathy for
their subjects, and leaving certain shots
and phrases in for laughs or gasps.
But it provides a clear window into
an issue that too often exists only as a
budget-line or statistic.
You know what would make the view
from that window even more arresting?
If it were into our own backyard. One of
the most admirable things about Benefits
Street, to my mind, is its lack of overt
Where most prior documentaries
covering poverty have attempted to find us
a villain, Benefits Street says simply: this
exists — are you okay with that?
Some might see that as dodging
responsibility. But poverty is not a recent
phenomenon — it did not appear with
this government, nor the one before it.
The situation has been with humankind
throughout its existence. Like climate
change, you are more likely to get a result
if it is prised from the grip of the political
realm and placed in the moral.
Because now, more than ever before,
we have the data and the money to do
something about the complex web that
creates and entrenches it.
A local Benefits Street could show us
poverty’s symptoms in HD, in prime time.
And in so doing implicitly challenge us to
try harder to find a cure.
Sadly, no such series appears on the
horizon. Instead the big local story at
TVNZ’s launch last week was another big
budget prestige drama. Its name? Filthy
Rich. — New Zealand Herald
It has been a rough few years for the West Coast. Labour Party regional development
spokesman DAVID CUNLIFEE outlines why the regions matter.
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