In the article on social media and the election (MM October 2), at the end of the article on page 2 is the statement that there should be a debate on the targeted rate. Let there be one, and I ask the present incumbent chairperson to name the date and place via your publication. I’ll organise the opposers and the Rodney First promoters of the rate can provide the team of justification. I await with bated breath.
Lance Taylor, Te Hana
Another thing that’s “a little bit country” (MM Oct 2) is animal abuse, unfortunately. In the photo you glamorised it in the Off the Record section of Mahurangi Matters. The dog is quite clearly trapped below a wooden board, which is strapped down tightly with barely enough room to breathe, while being taunted by the smell of food he can’t eat. How long was he left like that, while his thoughtless owner was at the boozer? That would have been a more logical and fitting angle. I see this sort of neglect pretty often in our community.
Rallying for rail
Your correspondent Maurie Hooper (MM October 2) has overlooked several ‘pros and pluses’ in his condemnation of the North Auckland Railway – an investment of $93 million, not $1 billion. Roads in New Zealand have never been designed for the proposed 60, or even 44-tonne axle loads, but the belief trucks and roads were the future ensured useful railways were destroyed with unseemly haste. Trucks are heavily subsidised by motorists both through road and fuel taxes, and the ever-beleaguered ratepayer. The social cost of 44-tonne trucks hammering the roads is considerable. The infrastructure wear and tear they impose is disproportionate, and traffic volumes mean more accidents are inevitable. Compare a pot-holed, crash-prone stretch of SH1, with its continuous stream of trucks all day, every day, to the smooth passage of a couple of trains using roughly a fifth of the fuel per tonne. The railways are under used here, and although you can’t take a railway to every forest, you can certainly plan industry linearly to take immediate advantage of the transport. Coupled with our other obvious choice as a long, thin country surrounded by water, it is simply the political will that is lacking. Steel wheels on steel rails has always been the most fuel-efficient way of moving bulk quantities over land. From that aspect alone, we should be considering how best to utilise our railway network, whether or not the “bulk” is available, rather than denigrating it and handing over subsidised profits to the trucking industry. As for the Northern Motorway, I chuckle every time I pass the sign promising “More Travel Choices” by 20XX. Extending the motorway is not another choice – it is simply adding additional traffic from a greater catchment area. If New Zealand is going to go down the roads-only route, then the logical conclusion is to duplicate the motorways and major highways. Perish the thought.
Crispin Caldicott, Warkworth
Real road costs
Your correspondent Maurie Hooper hasn’t done his homework when claiming rail is not cost effective in comparison with road transport. There is ample evidence that road transport is hugely subsidised by owners of cars and light commercial vehicles through their petrol taxes. Trucks cause road damage equivalent to thousands of light vehicles. A heavily laden logging truck causes damage equivalent to more than 10,000 cars. Truck owners do not pay a fraction of this real cost. If consumers were required to pay the real upfront costs of goods delivered by roads, they would be screaming out for rail freight (and possibly sea freight as well). Petrol prices would also drop if this freight subsidy was removed.
Elizabeth Foster, Whangateau
I read the opinion piece opposing the reforms of vocational education by the Northland MP Matt King (MM Sept 4) and was disturbed to see that he was misrepresenting the views of the Polytechs and training providers. I was even more disturbed when I received the following statement from the Whitireia and WelTec polytechnics endorsing the decision to reform the vocational training sector. Judging from this response, Mr King has been very economical with the facts.
“Whitireia and WelTec welcome the Minister of Education’s recent decisions for reforming New Zealand’s vocational education system. The decision to bring together off-job and on-job training into an integrated system is particularly welcome and provides the best basis for ensuring our vocational training system can respond to our changing economy and evolving world of work. The Minister appears to have responded to earlier concerns about the level of industry and community input by strengthening the role of the new Workforce Development Councils and setting out the functions of local Regional Skills Leadership Groups.
“The implementation plan and timeline set out by the Minister has responded to concerns about the impact of sudden changes to the system. The changes are proposed to be implemented over a number of years to minimise disruption to current delivery and learners – both in institutions and in the workplace. From April 2020, existing institutes (like Whitireia and WelTec) will operate as subsidiaries of the new national institute, with operating changes and integration of on-job training responsibilities being implemented over time. We look forward to working closely with the central agencies, industry training organisations, other institutes of technology and our communities to ensure that the principles and objectives of the plan are achieved.”
I leave it to your readers to decide on whose reality is the truth.
Alan Papprill, Millwater