National Party petitions for road projects miss point

Last year the New Zealand road toll went up by a bit more than 1 person on average every day. 379 people lost their lives over 365 days. Some were cases of speeding. Some were cases of drunk driving causing death. Some were cases of people being on the wrong side of the road.

Whatever the cause of their deaths, the toll on their families, on New Zealand as a nation and on the police, the fire and ambulance services that had to attend the crashes is dreadful. Someone has to scrap the remains of deceased humans off the road. Someone has to go to the next of kin of the deceased or contact them by phone to say their loved one has died in a road crash. An investigator has to go to wherever the damaged cars were taken to examine the damage to them.

It is playing questionable politics to think that this can be solved by building new roads. Yes it is true that some of our roads are in not that great condition. But it is rather deceiving to be claiming as the Young Nats (the youth wing of the National Party)are doing, that by not pursuing their roading projects, the new Government is missing an opportunity to address the surging road toll.

The simple fact of the matter is, you can spend billions on road projects as National proceeded to do, but great looking roads do not – and will not – fix crap driving decisions. Only the individual driving the car/s involved in a smash can fix poor judgement by learning from their mistakes. If you are driving, you leave a two second driving gap between you and the car in front. If you are driving in wet conditions or visibility is bad, you double the length of time you need to leave between you and the car in front.

None of that is rocket science. None of that is even science.

But it is in the Road Code.

To some extent this is deliberately deceitful in that, the New Zealand Young Nats are not silly. They know full well what their message is saying, but they also know just as well that their message is pulling blue wool down over people’s eyes.

Law changes may help address the road toll, such as a revision of the demerit point scheme which I have described in earlier posts. So will alcohol locks in the cars of convicted drunk drivers that prevent the vehicle from being driven should the locking device detect alcohol.

Law enforcement by Police will also help

Most people know better than to drive drunk. And some of you – including myself – have stopped drunks from driving.

But none of these involve building roads. None of these involve the expenditure of billions of dollars of tax payer money on pet projects that only serve a few, cause considerable environment damage and in the worst case scenario may wind up being a big white elephant.

So spare me the crap about how your roading projects will cut the death toll. Last I looked even the newest and straightest bits of road are capable of having crashes on them because the driver/s involved were not driving to the conditions and/or paying attention.

$22.5 million of well intended, misguided money

A few days ago, Parliament announced $22.5 million to be targeted at roadside kerbing, rumble strips and other measures to remind road users of where they are in relation to road safety. It followed earlier announcements by Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter of an intention to crack down on the New Zealand road toll – something I tend to refer to as the “Grim Reap”.

Tragically the money is misguided. Yes it will hopefully make those roads a little bit safer than they were and if we are really lucky save a few lives along the way.

But I think New Zealand needs a reality check. This is not even a band aid over a major wound material. It will not in any way stop

I work for a rental car firm on the corner of Orchard and Wairakei Road in northwest Christchurch near the airport. On Saturday 16 December there was a non fatal vehicle collision on that road involving a rental car The occupants all went to hospital and we are waiting to see what exactly happened. None of the measures would have stopped this.

I know Labour intend good and that is great. But there are some things money or compassion or training will never fix. There is no alternative to driving carefully. If someone hits you, that is sad and wrong, but it was NOT your fault.

Without being there yesterday, and based on the previous several crashes there in the space of just a few years – and having been assured of several more that I was not witness to, I want to raise the issue of someone having failed to give way. Giving way is a basic procedure in the New Zealand Road Code. Road Code 101 in other words. You can have the most sophisticated safety measures, but if people do not carry out due diligence and take appropriate care, I think herein probably lies the source of a large portion of the total road toll. Solve it and our road toll will be MUCH lower.

The question that the reader needs to ask is simple:

Are we willing to understand this? IF not WHY not?

A.C.T.’s End of Life Choice Bill before Parliament

Lecretia Seales, a Wellington lawyer who had an incurable brain disease, died nearly 2 1/2 years ago. She was 42. Through out the last stages of her life she fought to have the right to die a peaceful death by lethal injection on her own terms, instead of potentially losing her dignity. The case has raised the issue in New Zealand of whether or not one should have that right. Three separate attempts to resolve it through the legislative processes of Parliament have all met with failure.

Yesterday another attempt in the form of A.C.T. Party Leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill began. Mr Seymour who has actively championed a right for a patient in terminal pain or suffering a terminal illness, particularly if it is debilitating in nature, is confident New Zealanders will support the Bill.

It has the support of various National and Labour Members of Parliament including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour M.P.’s Iain Lees-Galloway and Kris Faafoi, as well as National M.P.’s such as Chris Bishop, Nathan Guy and Mr Seymour. New Zealand First will support it if an amendment to require a public referendum on the issue is added – which Mr Seymour said he will support if N.Z. First can find the votes.

There are moral and ethical issues that any court considering such an issue should deal with.  It needs to be sure that it is not going to set such a legal precedent that could be reasonably challenged in a court of law.

I personally support a process to allow people with terminal illness or pain to die with dignity. To watch someone a person loves and cares about suffer pain they do not need to suffer, knowing it will never go away and over time will only get worse is devastating. To watch their dignity disappear and the life, the personality of the person drain from their being before ones eyes is not something I would wish on anyone.

The process will need checks and balances. I propose the following checks and balances:

  • Is fully aware of the decision that they are making and able to comprehend it
  • Has signed something that has a prominent place on their medical file, expressly permitting them to be put to sleep
  • Has a doctor whose ethical suitability for administering the lethal injection has been certified, and that a process overseen by an appropriate medical organization such as the Royal College of General Practitioners for ensuring only such doctors are able to carry out such procedures is in place

I understand that this will provoke a substantial and at times tense and controversial reaction. That is quite okay. This was always going to be a contentious Bill of Parliament no matter which way it goes, or how far through the legislative process it gets. I understand that those adhering to a particular faith will be potentially alarmed at what they will see as an attack on morality. Again, it is quite okay to express strong opinion.

What is not okay is to openly advocate violence against institutions or people that support/do not support this. That will just – aside from being criminal due to the violence promoted – be hugely and unnecessarily inflammatory. What is not okay is to be deliberately obstructionist.

I hope I never have to make this decision on behalf of a loved one, but I would be guided by what they want first and foremost. Then I would worry about how to carry their wishes out legally. And the moralizing people will just have to live with it.

Reducing domestic violence in New Zealand

Today is White Ribbon Day in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States and United Kingdom. It is the day when people come together to denounce violence against women across the globe. It is also the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The original White Ribbon movement came about as a result of the massacre of women by Marc Lepine of women at a polytechnic in Canada.

Domestic violence is an ongoing issue in New Zealand. Despite being one of the more advanced societies in the world, police investigated over 118,000 domestic violence incidents in 2016 or one every five minutes. Between 2009 and 2012 13 women, 10 men and nine children on average died each year from domestic violence.

One problem is offenders in high profile positions who have abused their spouses having trouble accepting responsibility for their actions and being backed by their employer. This is evidenced by the case of Tony Veitch, a former broadcaster who was convicted of injuring his wife Kristin Dunne Powell sometimes the remorse is not credible. Mr Veitchs apology referred to how he would suffer from loss of public face, how his social life would suffer. There was little acknowledgement of the significant injuries including a broken back that Ms Dunne Powell suffered, or the effects on her life, family and friends.

I have wondered what real progress the Ministry of Social Development can say it has made in supporting victims of domestic violence, as this can affect their jobs, their livelihoods. I wonder how much work has been done on improving communications with the Police, with medical staff who examine the physical harm. Have they learnt to have more empathy across the desk when dealing with damaged clients?

Perhaps it is because of how we raise our children. Children in their developmental years are heavily influenced by the environment around them. For example do parents drink excessively when around their children or do they have a glass of wine/beer at dinner and save for more social occasions? Do they see Mum and Dad arguing, especially if it turns violent? How does this affect them further down the road? When we take them to sport do we encourage them to applaud fair and good play or do we yell and scream abuse? Do we teach boys that it is not only okay to have empathy, but a good thing?

Much has been made of the serious level of violence against children, including serious cases resulting in murder or manslaughter charges, such as that of Lillybing.

Over the years the Police have much improved their response. Sometime ago in a newspaper Op Ed, I saw someone say that the police response in the 1960’s to complaints about domestic violence was “get a divorce Ma’am”. When the Louise Nicholas case about a lady who claimed to have been raped by three police officers was defeated in court, it was found that the claims had been covered up by another officer who was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Following this the Police instigated a raft of changes to their processes.

In 2017 it is clear that dealing with domestic violence is still a work in progress. The police might have made good progress changing how they deal with it, but the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Courts still have some distance to go.

Sadly so does New Zealand society.

Gloriavale needs to be accountable about Prayer Ready’s death

Gloriavale is a Christian community on the West Coast of the South Island near Lake Haupiri. It was established by a Christian man named Hopeful Christian (Neville Cooper), who runs the sect. Since its inception it has been in the news numerous times regarding concerns about its management, the conduct of Mr Cooper and the well being of the children there.

The community has about 600 people living there and is set on several acres of land. It has been certified as of an acceptable standard in terms of its facilities. All food there is grown or made. It has several business ventures including dairying and sphagnum moss exports. The school teaches its own curriculum, which has been certified as acceptable by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Prayer Ready had down syndrome. Because of her medical condition she had trouble chewing and swallowing. The day she died the meat portion of her dinner meal had not been cut down to sufficiently small bits that she could manage. Thus she began to choke on a piece. Someone went to get help but the door handle had been removed so no one could get and no one could get out – a common practice until then at Gloriavale’s “isolation” units (a room in each hostel), where those who were ill were sent to keep the illness isolated from the rest of the people in the community.

I respect Gloriavale Christian Community do not want a misleading impression created. Except that the impression being created is far from misleading. The one that the public of New Zealand increasingly have is that there are some serious child well being issues not consistent with the expectations of New Zealand society and contrary to New Zealand law.

However Lilia Tarawa left Gloriavale with her family. Her Mother was the Mother Superior of the community and the leader of all of the women. Her father was responsible for running their sphagnum moss export business. The family was highly regarded within the community. After Ms Tarawa left, she adjusted to life outside of the camp taking advantage of the broad range of practical skills she had developed – sewing, cooking, reading music, knitting among others. She also wrote a book about life inside Gloriavale and what prompted her family to leave.

Ms Tarawa’s book backgrounds issues in the community that raise some serious doubts about the credibility of the story that the Gloriavale management told the Coroner when it investigated Ms Ready’s death. The release of the Coroners findings will do nothing to silence the speculation about what really went on. It is time that Gloriavale told the truth. It will hurt the community, but I think not telling the truth might in the end destroy Gloriavale.