Saturday, August 28, 2010

Support group seeks an appeal for repugnant double murderer Mark Lundy...

 A group formed to support convicted double killer Mark Lundy is set to fund an appeal against his convictions. They would have to be a misguided group - Lundy is a particularly repugnant character.

Lundy, who maintains his innocence, was found guilty in 2002 of killing wife Christine and seven-year-old daughter Amber in Palmerston North.

He was jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 20 years.

Factual (For Amber and Christine -- Truth Uncovered About Lundys) says on its website it is raising money for an appeal which will be lodged "in the first half of 2009".

Officer in charge of the case, Detective Inspector Ross Grantham, now in Wellington, told the Manawatu Standard that contentious issues surrounding the case had already been covered thoroughly in the courts.

"It was all traversed at trial. He had a very good defence at the time," Mr Grantham said.

Since the killings, questions have been raised about parts of the police case, including a timeline alleged by police relating to a high-speed trip made by Lundy between Wellington and Palmerston North on the night of the killings.

However, Christine's sister-in-law Phillippa Barstow said jail was where Lundy should be.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Superhero funeral for little Lucas Ward...


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Superhero funeral fo rlittle  Lucas  Ward...

Four-year-old Lucas Ward will make his final journey dressed as his favourite superhero, Spiderman, and wearing Buzz Lightyear boots.

The preschooler, whose body was found yesterday in the Waimata River after being missing for 10 days, will lie at Tikapa Marae in Ruatoria before a private family burial.

The boy was honoured yesterday as schoolboys gathered on the riverbank to perform a stirring haka.

"It was magnificent," Lucas's great-uncle Brian Hunt said.

"Our family is devastated, absolutely devastated. We are coping together, coming together as a family, and we will go from there."

Plans were under way for a public memorial service but details were yet to be finalised, said Mr Hunt.

"This community has gone beyond any expectation. I am from Wellington and I have never seen this sort of bonding before.

"It has been really amazing the way everyone has come together to support us. We really appreciate it and we really feel for the community as well.

"Everywhere we go, we pick up the vibes and energy, and we feel the grief. This has affected everyone."

The final glimmer of hope that Lucas would be found alive was extinguished yesterday when a kayaker discovered his body at midday.

Lucas was found only 400m upstream from his grandparents' Graham Road home, 10 days after he went missing.

The kayaker went to a riverside home to ring police, who recovered Lucas's body and broke the news to the family, Gisborne police area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said.

"It absolutely gives that closure to the family and to the community as well. The outpouring of support and grief from the community was amazing. Lucas was the nation's little boy for a while there.

"This is an incredibly distressing time and our thoughts are with them and their extended family as they grieve for their little boy."

Police divers had not searched the water where Lucas was found but land Search and Rescue crews and Coastguard boats had scoured the area, he said.

"The divers searched about 300 metres upstream from the jetty but Lucas could well have moved within the water before he rested where he was found," Mr Aberahama said

There will be a debrief for the police, search and rescue crews, and all those involved in the search within the next few weeks.

A post-mortem will be conducted and the case referred to the coroner. Lucas's body was expected to be returned to the family today.

Lucas leaves behind parents Jessica and Damon Ward, and siblings Alex, Raegan and Sheridan.

No rahui was required for Waimata River but kaumatua Temple Isaacs yesterday blessed Lucas, his family and the river.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gisborne's missing little four year old boy's body was found today...

The body of four year old Lucas Ward, the missing little boy from Kaiti in Gisborne, on New Zealand's east coast, was sadly found today just 400 metres up the river from his grandmother's home. The river and its banks had been extensively searched since he went missing on the 16th August, 2010, just ten days ago. The little boy never liked the river and its water which tragically took his young life.

 The police had downgraded their search a few days ago, because the area had been continually searched. But the family, friends,  neighbours and locals  had continued to search regardless of the official search. The family and the police have thanked all who searched for the little blonde headed youngster. His family and friends are devastated at the news which had  become inevitable because of the length of time he had been missing.

A post mortem will be held in a few days, and his death will be discussed at a later inquest.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Search for missing Kiwi four year old continues...

Search for missing Kiwi four year old in Gisborne continues - the modern little boy lost...

Search for missing Kiwi four year old continues...

A young four year old boy, Lucas Ward, who apparently wandered away from his grandmother's home in Kaiti, Gisborne, on New Zealand's east coast, still hasn't been found after four days. his bike has been found close to the river.

Police divers have been searching in the local river for the youngster, described as a little extrovert who may have just been a little boy exploring new territory, or had tried to walk home to his father's home.

His extended family has been assisting the search and are now becoming deeply concerned for their young family member, a little blonde headed Lucas Ward. Prayers are now being said for the youngster. The changeable springtime weather making conditions wet and cold. The little boy was dressed in sweat shirt and track pants - hardly suitable in the conditions.

Some of you readers who are old enough will remember the search in the north American wilderness many decades ago for the 'little boy lost', and later the song written about him. I have a grandson the same age as Lucas Ward, and my heart goes out to his parents, grandparents and extended family whose hearts are now breaking. So many thanks to the Gisborne community who are assisting the police and family in the search for Lucas. I hope they find the little boy alive!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The economy, housing, jobs and a clueless PM John Key and his rusty lock administration...

John Key, leader of the New Zealand National PartyImage via Wikipedia

The economy, housing, jobs  and a clueless PM John Key and his rusty   lock administration...

My guest blogger  today:  Frank Macskasy

In the last seven days a triple-conjunction of political portents has publicly demonstrated just how bankrupt of imagination and policy this current government truly is. The lack of direction and paucity of creative ideas is breath-taking. A “caretaker-government” would be a polite euphemism in this context.


Unemployment rose 19,000 during the June quarter to 159,000 – a rise from 6% to 6.8%. There are over quarter of a million jobless Kiwis (the unemployed plus those who have given up actively looking for a job) and another 100,000 who want more hours than they can get. The effects of the Recession are still being felt, and is taking its toll amongst workers and their families.

Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett’s response?

”No-one wants to see a jump in unemployment. And I think that we have got to put it in perspective – where it’s 7.1 per cent in December last year and now it’s 6.8…We’d sort of see it as an evening out now.”

This government’s response thus far to our growing unemployment? That would be… the cycleway.

Total number employed under this project: a staggering… 70.

Instead of addressing this worsening situation, this government has spent tax dollars on a “working group”, led by former Commerce Commission head Paula Rebstock.

It’s conclusion? “Most people on a benefit have little or no focus on paid work, with a growing number “locked into” the system for years. ” And, according to Ms Rebstock, “we have concluded the current benefit system ignores the importance of paid work to the well-being of New Zealanders,”

When in doubt; when there’s nowhere left to turn; and when embarrassed by lengthening dole queues – reset National Government Default Setting #1: blame it on the “dole bludging beneficiaries and solo-mums”.

In the last twenty years, National has found iself taking office during two full-blown recessions; 1990 and 2008. Their knee-jerk reaction on both occasions was/is attack the beneficiaries. (Most of us remember the cruelty of Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of all budgets”.) True to form, this government attacks those New Zealanders who – until a couple of years ago – were employed in enterprises from Kaitaia to Bluff; earning money to feed their families; and not foreseeing that, because of events in Wall Street, they would soon be losing their jobs. I struggle to understand how workers in New Zealand were able to effect the collapse of Lehmann Bros on September 15, 2008, thereby sparking the worst recession since the Depression of the 1930s. And by causing that Recession, destroying their own jobs in some Lemming-like pursuit of a dole-funded Nirvana.

The Rebstock report is not a re-analysis of how social welfare works in this country. Instead it is little more than a none-too-subtle attempt at blaming beneficiaries for this current government’s laziness and ineptitude in addressing increasing growing numbers of unemployed.

Remember that prior to the Recession, our unemployment rate was a mere 3.9%. And while no one is blaming National for the Recession that nearly doubled that figure over two years – they are responsible for their abysmal response to it.

Remember: we have 357,000 people who are looking for work.

This government is sitting on it’s collective, well-padded backside; on equally well-padded ministerial seats; fiddling with dubious reports whilst our economy burns to the ground.

Which brings us to…


Yet another government quango, established by Housing Minister Phil Heatley, has complained that “22,000, or 32 per cent of Housing New Zealand tenants, had been in the same state houses for at least 10 years.” They were evidently portrayed as taking up room – room required by just over 10,000 people on Housing NZ’s waiting lists;

Current Housing NZ waiting list:

As at 31 July 2010 there were 10,153 people on the waiting list. Of this:

* 334 were A priority (severe housing need)

* 4,160 were B priority (significant housing need)

* 3,093 were C priority (moderate housing need)

* 2,566 were D priority (lower level housing need)

Ten thousand-plus people on a waiting list. What does the government do? What policy does it embark on? The following is a multi-choice option:

A. Build more houses?

B. Criticise New Zealanders for daring to live long-term in their homes?

It is with considerable unease that I note that Housing Minister Phil Heatley (who has his accommodation paid for by the taxpayer) said, “We want to ensure this significant asset is utilised to the best effect. We also want the system to be fairer and to work better for those families most in need.”

This government’s idea of “fairness” seems predicated on the suggestion that one family is booted out, to allow another to take up residence.

By no stretch of the imagination can such a policy be even remotely seen as imaginative or creative. Or fair.

It is an undeniable fact that there are many families in dire need of decent, affordable, accommodation. But rather than evicting families, and uprooting them from their communities (which in itself would create even more dire social problems), it strikes me that this government has alternatives it has not bothered to consider…


Fact #1: we have 255,000 jobless fellow New Zealanders, looking for work and a further 100,000 needing more work.

Fact #2: we require several thousand new NZ Housing units (commonly referred to as “homes”) for people in need.

Fact #3: the economic recovery has been uneven, and has mainly benefited exports such as dairying and unprocessed logs. The rest of the economy has not picked up – evidenced by the sharp rise in unemployment. Indeed, ANZ New Zealand chief executive officer Jenny Fagg said that “the New Zealand economy has stabilised in a number of areas although the recovery is somewhat uneven at this early stage. There are signs of a lift in business conditions although growth remains subdued.”

Taken in conjunction, the three facts above would seem to point to an obvious conclusion. The answer is not to bash beneficiaries for daring to accept tax-payer support in feeding themselves and their families. The answer is not to evict families from their state homes. Nor is the answer to guilt-trip solo-mothers or those with disabilities who haven’t a hope in hell in competing with 159,000 other unemployed people to scramble for non-existent jobs.

The answer is to utilise the resources we have and by doing so, give people the opportunity to find work.

In case I need to spell it out to this clueless government: build more bloody houses!

The flow-on effects of a crash building-programme to build five thousand new state houses would create thousands of new jobs – not just 70. There would be a demand for architects; builders; electricians; plasterers; roofers; drainlayers; glaziers; tilers; apprentices; and other tradespeople; raw materials purchased from building retailers; additional staff at each retail outlet; transport operators; increased demand from the timber industry, creating new jobs in forestry; and support businesses every step of the way. Each tradesperson; truckie; forestry worker would take home a wage. That wage would be spent at local supermarkets, which would then have to hire one or two extra staff-members as well as purchase more stock. Even the companies that rent out jumbo-bins to cart away the detritus from building sites would find their turn-over increasing. Or the local pie-shop that would sell food to nearby building-sites. That is what flow-on is.

The government would recoup much of the outlay for the building programme by way of GST, PAYE, ACC, and provisional tax receipts; rent collected from the new homes; and less spent on unemployment benefits.

This is the sort of bold initiative we require from a government with any claim to having a vision.

Instead, we are seeing a cruel bullying and calculated persecution of those at the bottom of the heap.

If this is the best that National can offer us, then it is simply not good enough. We deserve better than a caretaker government.

Acknowledgements:  Frank Macskasy

Also     Anzac Bloggers Unite

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The final disembowelment of the NZ Welfare State? Maybe, maybe not...

United States President Bill Clinton meets wit...Image via Wikipedia

The final disembowelment of the New Zealand welfare state? Maybe, Maybe maybe not!

 Last week's release of the Welfare Working Group's report and the Government's intention to set up another working group on compulsory superannuation signals one thing - that the last edifices of the welfare state are being smashed.

Ever since the time of the Ballance-Seddon Liberal governments and the First Labour Government of 1935-49, New Zealanders have (more or less) been able to access the support offered by the state in times of need. Not only that, the state has previously fully supported people raising families and individuals in their old age. The welfare system created a sense of social solidarity and equality, something that has gradually diminished since 1984. It also gave people an expectation that they could enjoy a minimum standard of living, even in the hardest times. As the 1972 Royal Commission on Social Security commented, the welfare system enabled even the lowest income earning New Zealanders to participate within their society through, for example, having some money to buy birthday presents or go out occassionally.

In 1990, that ideal was smashed by the Fourth National Government's benefit cuts. Jenny Shipley and Ruth Richardson, ideological diehards both, attacked the welfare system with a viciousness not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Benefit rates were slashed while entitlement criterion were tightened. This impacted on the most vulnerable groups in society, namely, the unemployed, sick, those living with disability and single parents.

It now appears that the current National Government wants to finish the job. Last week's report of the Welfare Working Group, chaired by former Securities Commission head Paula Rebstock and stuffed with neoliberal sympathisers like former Act president Catherine Judd, made some hysterical assertions about the costs of the welfare state. The group estimated that if every New Zealander currently on a welfare benefit (like me) were to stay on it for a large chunk of their lifetimes, then the welfare system could cost up to $50 billion a year by 2025.

This $50 billion figure was designed to whip up a sense of 'crisis' about the system. Deliberately creating crises has always been a favourite tactic of the New Right. This was based on many assumptions and one is that most people on a benefit tend to stay there. True, there are issues around long-term receipt for people on sickness and invalids benefits but I would contend that has more to do with discrimination against disabled people in the labour market than anything else. Another thing is that many long-term ACC clients who were culled from that system during the 1990s (who are collectively known as 'the tail') were placed on sickness and invalids benefits. Furthermore, more disabled people and those with health issues are likely to be laid off in recessionary times like these (as happened to me) and the best place to go if you want to survive is onto an invalids benefit. But that is not to say that me and other disabled people might stay there forever. In my own case, once I have completed my Masters degree (and given that I have a work history), I will probably be more employable. However, recent research undertaken by Workbridge and CCS Disability Action also shows that many well qualified disabled people have the same job placement rate as those who are unskilled - which is pretty low. And I personally know of many well qualified disabled people who have found the job search process extremely difficult.

All these issues show that there are more complex issues involved. But the National Government and their big business allies aren't prepared to listen to these. They simply want to destroy the welfare state in order to further alleviate the tax burden on their wealthy mates. That's why they want results pretty soon.

I can't help but think too that the desire for further welfare reform is being driven in tandem with proposed labour market reforms. Wait, hasn't this happened before? Yes, it was in 1991 when both the benefit cuts and the Employment Contracts Act were both introduced at around the same time. This was in accordance with neoliberal supply-side theory which holds that to create 'incentives' to encourage beneficiaries into work, you have to lower wage rates and attack working conditions. This, in turn, creates an oversupplied labour market where the price of labour is further reduced, thus lowering employer costs and raising their profit margins. Now, it all makes sense!

In fact, if you think I'm being conspiratorial about this, I'm not. In one part of their report, the working group looks at a scheme designed to get long-term ACC recipients into work. It mentions, as part of this example, that relatively high benefit levels as well as personal grievance and minimum wage laws essentially 'hurts more than helps' the most vulnerable people in our society. This assertion was not supported with any empirical evidence and is merely being used to create a justification for scrapping both protective labour and welfare laws.

And as for the cost of superannuation, yes, I believe in the need for some contributory super scheme but it should remain voluntary. In fact, we have KiwiSaver and the Cullen Fund right now. Even so, I saw a report from an economic think tank the other day which held that even with a dramatic increase in the over 65 year age group population, superannuation will still be affordable given that there will fewer young people requiring an education or even appearing before our justice system. Therefore, this will create savings that could be put into paying for additional superannuation payments.

Right now, the John Key National Government is popular. They are supposedly presenting a 'centrist' image to the electorate but, yet, they are planning to implement extreme right-wing policies in a piecemeal manner. No more the blitzkrieg approach adopted by Sir Roger Douglas or Ruth Richardson in days gone by. Getting the electorate to placidly swallow things is electorally better for National and makes it supposedly more difficult for opponents to pin the Tories down. But we on the left can see the benefit and superannuation working groups for what they are - a mere prelude to a welfare state massacre that even Jenny Shipley would blush at!

That would be true if the situation of a year ago still existed; but I believe that things are slowly going to custard for John Key and his Rusty Lock administration. Everybody has forgotten wily Winston Peters and his lost 4.5% of the vote in the last election campaign; something National didn't have and wasn't  utilised - the government was decided on 95.5% of votes cast.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Hutt River is the name of our river...

The Hutt River is the name of our river...

Here is another case of the politically correct Geographic Board trying to drive public opinion. I would suggest that they should get out and establish what the public thinks before making a decision about name changes. They don't have such a mandate to do so. We live in a multiracial democracy and the majority should make any decision.

The Wanganui/Whanganui controversy was a case where a minority forced their opinions through on the coat-tails of the Geographic Board. The majority wanted the retention of the Wanganui spelling for the City of Wanganui. The minority Maori interests got their own way with the spelling of the river, and so be it! But pronunciation is not with a soft F, but with the same W sound. Maori don't have a traditional written language; so who could really tell anyway?

This latest nonsense is what appears to be a fait accompli - the Geographic Board has decided the name of the Hutt River will be changed to Te Awa Kairangi the name given by the original tribe or iwi that lived in the area. Really? It is based on oral history; pretty dubious in my opinion. Who was the real original iwi to live in the area.? All the original tribes in the area were driven off by the present iwi who originated from the Taranaki.

It appears to be alright for Maori tribes to usurp land from each other, to enslave and kill the alleged original inhabitants, but not for caucasian people from Britain, Ireland and Western Europe to do the same. All some of them did was to usurp a bit of land from Taranaki iwi; people who had originally fled from Taranaki in the 1830's as invading Tainui forces neared their area. They fled to the Wellington/Hutt areas for protection from British troops based there.

We can record the original names for posterity, but I totally oppose any name change for the Hutt River, which would create a precedent to change the name of Lower and Upper Hutt cities, and the name of the Hutt Valley itself. The only time a name change could be considered would be when the two cities decide to amalgamate; and this could happen sooner or later if the National Government is re-elected next year, and its super city policy is extended further south.

I would suggest the Geographic Board enforces the use of the proper name for the southern entity in the Hutt Valley - Lower Hutt. I complained to the Geographic Board some years ago about the practice by the Hutt City Council, some media interests and a number of businesses in refering to our city as Hutt City. I think it has been a back-door method in preparing the public for a name change that has never came about. The Hutt City Council has never applied to the Geographic Board for a name change, though they did communicate on a whim with the board about the required procedure for name changes.

No doubt there will be some discussion during the coming local body election campaign about the controversial policy to change the name of the Hutt River. I say no now, and no again in the future! Go paddle somebody else's waka!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Winnie Laban to swap Parliament for University - she will be a loss to all...

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, Member of ParliamentImage via Wikipedia
 Winnie LabanLabour MP for Mana Luamanuvao Winnie Laban has today announced she is to leave Parliament to take up the role of Assistant Vice Chancellor Pasifika at Victoria University.

Labour Leader Phil Goff said it is with mixed emotions that he farewelled Winnie Laban from the Labour caucus.

"Winnie has made a significant contribution to Pasifika and this is a new opportunity for her as a Labour member to continue to work to raise Pasifika aspirations and achievements," Phil Goff said. "We are delighted she has been appointed to the position and she remains a strong supporter of the Labour Party."

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said it has been an enormous privilege to serve as Labour MP for the people of Mana over the last three elections.

"I have worked out that it's time for me to step away from Parliament now. This career move is an exciting one and I am very privileged and honoured to be able to be the MP for Mana and I am very proud of my Party," Winnie Laban said.

"This enables me to continue my passion for Pacific people, young people and more importantly having a role in education outcomes that will lead to stronger economic development for the Pacific community.

"I have enormous affection for my electorate. I have loved every opportunity to be able serve the people of Mana and I am very confident that Labour will find an exciting candidate who will win that seat. It has always been a strong Labour seat and I am confident it will remain that way."

Phil Goff said Labour is sorry to see Winnie Laban go, and her departure will mean a by-election later this year.

"Labour will be looking to find a strong candidate and will campaign on both local issues and issues that matter to all Kiwis," Phil Goff said.

"At a time when prices increases are moving faster than wages and employment opportunities are scarce, Labour will focus on building a stronger economy that works for Kiwis. Labour will be throwing the weight of its organisation behind keeping Mana Labour.

"We wish Winnie well for her exciting new career and we look forward to the campaign in Mana."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Today in History: 12 May 1971 Anti - Vietnam War Protests in Auckland, NZ...

Today in History: 12 May 1971 Anti-Vietnam War protests in Queen Street, Auckland, New Zealand.

A civic reception for 161 Battery on its return from Vietnam was disrupted by protesters who accused New Zealand soldiers of being murderers and threw red paint, symbolising the Vietnamese blood on their hands.

The Vietnam War was this country's longest and most controversial 20th-century military engagement. New Zealand's involvement aroused considerable public debate here as in other countries. One protest march in April 1971 saw up to 35,000 people take to the streets. Many protestors argued that the conflict was a civil war in which New Zealand should play no part. They wanted New Zealand to follow its own independent path in foreign policy, instead of following the decisions of others.

Between June 1964 and December 1972 nearly 3400 New Zealand service personnel served in Vietnam. Compared to the First and Second World Wars, our contribution in terms of personnel was small. At its peak in 1968 the New Zealand force only numbered 543 − 37 died while on active service and 187 were wounded.

New Zealand Prime Minister Keith Holyoake's approach to Vietnam was cautious. Under American pressure, the government agreed in 1963 to provide a small non-combatant military force. In June 1964, 25 Army engineers arrived in South Vietnam, where they were engaged in reconstruction projects, such as road- and bridge-building. In May 1965 Holyoake announced the government's decision to send 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, to South Vietnam in a combat role. The artillerymen were later joined by infantry units. The Battery returned home in May 1971 after providing virtually continuous fire support (mainly to Australian and New Zealand infantry) for six years

The artillerymen were acompanied by two military policemen, one of whom was my brother, a sergeant whom I won't name here.

Much of their time was spent in Saigon City and out in patrol. These New Zealand servicemen were respected and never ambushed by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops. NZ later sent infantrymen to Vietnam and that was the time to fight kiwi troops.

The treatment meted out to returning  kiwi troops was really despicable and not really warranted. NZ troops were professional volunteers and not conscripts. However these Vietnamese War veterans were not given the respect of their forebears and suffered publicly for decades. This treatment has since been rectified by New Zealand society and these brave men now stand proudly along side all other returned servicemen in New Zealand's military history. My late brother will be very pleased with the outcome there in the  Valhalla of our Scandinavian ancestors.