Mahurangi Matters, 19 September 2018 – Readers Letters

Conversion clarity
I would like to provide clarity and context regarding feedback in letters to the editor discussing conversion therapy (MM September 5). Conversion therapy can cause irreparable damage to those who experience it. However, I want to clarify that putting an end to conversion therapy would not restrict the availability of counselling services as support to those who seek it. There is no scientific or medical evidence to support the use of conversion therapy and the practice is widely condemned by the medical profession. It has been outlawed in a number of countries and is criticised by numerous organisations, including the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, London. Closer to home, the NZ Association of Psychotherapists and the NZ Association of Counsellors believe that conversion therapy is in breach of every ethical requirement for practitioners. Trying to convert someone by making them believe that due to their sexuality or gender identity there is something wrong with them that requires changing is incredibly harmful. Good counselling helps people deal with the way they are and doesn’t seek to change them. Good counselling provides acceptance, support and understanding. Claiming to be able to ‘cure’ homosexuality as if it is a mental illness reinforces the false belief that being gay is a form of ‘brokenness’. Giving people false hope when they are struggling with who they are is damaging and can lead to serious mental illness, particularly among the LGBTQI community, who already suffer increased rates of mental illness and self-harm. An NZ-based counsellor said to me: “One of the cornerstones of any psychotherapy, is the idea that it is only through acceptance of ourselves, the bits we like, and even more challenging, the bits we don’t like, comes true health.”
Marja Lubeck, Labour MP, Tomarata

Aversion to conversion
When I was working as an occupational therapist at Kingseat Hospital in the early 1960s an experimental treatment was being trialled, it was called “aversion therapy”.  Alcoholics were placed in a room that was decked out as a bar, with dimmed lights, appropriate music, and with rows of bottles of all the different drinks that such a person could desire. They could drink whatever and as much as they liked. The catch was that they had previously been given an injection that caused them to vomit whenever they imbibed alcohol. This was presumed to develop a conditioned reflex, such as that experienced by Pavlov’s dogs, and cure their alcoholism.  At the same time, two homosexual (“queer” in the language of the day) young fellows were admitted with the same aim of conditioning their reflexes – the mind boggles when trying to figure out what form the treatment took!  They were wonderful young men, and when in the O.T. Department kept us all in stitches. I don’t know what happened to the alcoholics when they were discharged, I presume they went back to their old ways, and the boys, I’m pleased to say, left the hospital as flamboyantly gay as when they came in.
Maureen Young, Warkworth

Short changed
Now that we are paying a targeted rate for transport improvements and a regional fuel tax, the Mayor has announced $121 million for road sealing over the next decade. Great. It should mean $12 million per year and the start of some decent progress. Wrong! Look at the detail the in the Regional Land Transport Plan budget. Only $4.6 million for 2018/19 and $5 million 2019/20. Oops, looks like rural Rodney is continuing to miss out.
Glen Ashton, Ahuroa

Rodney Ward Cr Greg Sayers responds:
Mr Ashton, and other concerned rural ratepayers, have been in regular and helpful contact with myself ever since Auckland Transport’s intended road sealing plans became visible when their budgets were published. It’s only fair that Rodney’s rural ratepayers should have an expectation of $12 million a year being spent on road sealing in order to catch up on the years of under-investment and fixing the existing safety issues. We will keep pushing Auckland Transport to do better.