Home' The Wellingtonian : August 11th 2011 Contents 11
THE WELLINGTONIAN, AUGUST 11, 2011
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Putting the focus on income inequality
Over time, income
inequality tends to erode
access to employment,
education, health and many
avenues of opportunity.
Two years ago, the British
researchers who wrote the best-
selling book The Spirit Level mar-
shalled evidence from around the
world to support their thesis that
income inequality results in poor
Last week, evidence on the local
situation emerged from a variety
Not that the data was headline
news exactly, even though the
Social Development Ministry s
report on household incomes did
include the startling observation
that New Zealand had one of the
higher poverty rates in the OECD
in 2008-09, for those aged 65+ .
Given the greying of our popu-
lation as baby boomers begin to
retire, one might expect that
income inequality would occupy a
key position on the election
agenda this year.
Not so far, though.
In reality, New Zealand has
precious little time left during
2011 to consider such matters.
Only a few weeks remain before
the country will become totally
absorbed by the Rugby World
Cup, and election day occurs
barely a month after the cup final.
New Zealand s levels of income
inequality will probably remain of
concern only to a handful of
academics and policy wonks.
The recent publication of the
annual Rich List has offered one
way of measuring wealth concen-
tration in New Zealand.
As Auckland business analyst
Brian Gaynor pointed out only
last week, the 10 wealthiest New
Zealanders owned wealth equal to
37.5 per cent of the total value of
all companies listed on the New
Zealand stock exchange at the end
of June, 2011.
In Australia, the comparable
figure is only 4.1 per cent. Simi-
larly, Gaynor went on, the 10
wealthiest New Zealanders own
assets equal to 11 per cent of our
GDP while again, the total assets
of Australia s 10 wealthiest
individuals equal just over 4 per
cent of GDP in the Lucky Country.
Some of this difference does
reflect the relatively sorry state of
the New Zealand stock exchange,
and the fact that a bigger share of
wealthy Australians invest in
their buoyant share market.
Instead, New Zealanders tend
to get wealthy by property invest-
ment, or by selling private busi-
nesses, rather than through
ongoing productive investments.
Last week in Parliament, the
Ministry of Social Development s
household incomes report briefly
became a political football.
Prime Minister John Key
welcomed the findings that the
growth in income inequality had
been slowing down in recent years
-- while in response, the Labour
Opposition cited the same report s
findings that the Working For
Families scheme was the main
reason why the gap had narrowed,
thanks to how the scheme had
lifted the incomes of low to middle
income families with children.
If anything, any relief is likely
to be temporary.
Almost by accident, the global
recession has briefly reduced
income inequality by lowering the
gains enjoyed by the top two tiers
of wealth in New Zealand.
Moreover, the Ministry of Social
Development report didn t include
either the last round of tax cuts,
or last year s hike in GST, both of
which seem likely to increase the
gaps between rich and poor.
No doubt, our rates of income
inequality provide a revealing
snapshot of New Zealand society.
Yet in November, are voters
likely to pass a damning verdict
on the policies causing those
Almost certainly not.
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It would markedly relieve the
strain on the existing roads.
It would be an even more viable
option if we had a decent light rail
system, something Iona Pannett
has been propounding for years.
This is exactly what is needed
to bring this city into the 21st
century, not the backward options
being espoused by the NZTA and
unthinkingly supported by Evan
On the same page, like a breath
of fresh air, was the excellent
letter from New Yorkers E Semel
and B Henderson reinforcing the
point that extra roading capacity
may not be necessary once we
install light rail (which is
essential to link the airport with
the wider region) and saying that
we should learn from overseas
experience, not make the same
best plan yet
The road plan with the X factor as
portrayed in The Wellingtonian
(July 28) seems to be the best plan
put forward yet.
There are a few minor faults,
but at least the plan gets rid of the
horrible and ugly bridge concept
at the north end of the Basin.
A tunnel taking most of the
traffic under Buckle St, Tory St
and even under Taranaki St if
necessary could solve two
problems -- no road would go
through a memorable memorial
park; and the problematic
intersection would be eliminated.
This would result in smoother
traffic from the southern suburbs
to the city.
The important thing is to get it
right this time -- for whatever
The motorway extension was
never as good a concept as the
original through idea.
Subsequent meddling has
So let s bite the bullet, get it
right and choose a far more
friendly and pleasing concept.
a worthy read
Regarding your August 4 front
page item about a library book
now overdue for over 23 years, I
read The Dunwich Horror about a
dozen years ago, and can
recommend it to readers who
enjoy creepy supernatural stories
of that genre.
For all we know, that last
borrower may have expired from
the horrific thoughts prompted by
that short story!
It is set in coastal New
England, with an early mention of
some degenerate types living
there, so it may have been
suggested by those Salem Witch
Trials of the 1690s, and a local
tradition over 200 years later.
Its weird ending will be
unforeseen by most readers.
Anyway, there are probably
other copies available by interloan
if Wellington public libraries have
no copies in stock.
One difficulty is that many such
stories are reprinted in several
different published collections, so
it s unlikely most of them will also
use that story s title as the chief
title of a collection. H WESTFOLD
Most commuters spend between
$35 and $70 per week.
Free public transport would put
this money back into the pockets
of the commuter and effectively be
a pay increase for every worker.
Who would bother taking their
car to work or into the central
business district when they could
travel for free?
The congestion on our roads
would clear up and the need to
build new roads would cease.
Our local roading budget could
then be used to maintain the
roads we do have and fund our
free transport network.
Other benefits of a free public
transport network would include:
More spending money for locals
and tourists, which would
stimulate the local food and retail
Yard, building and on-road
parking space could be converted
and used for other purposes.
Wellington could gain a national
and international reputation as a
great city to visit and move
around in. MALACHI MANSOR
Readers views posted to our
website and Facebook pages.
Patrick: You assert: The traffic
snarl-ups around the Basin
Reserve must be fixed.
What snarl-ups? I frequently
travel through the Basin area and
most of the time traffic flows well.
A few minutes of queues around
peak times doesn t justify this
ugly and unaffordable overpass.
I d like to see more choices, like
Option X, considered.
Malcolm Stayner: The
maximum fine levied [on library
books] should be the current cost
to replace the book.
Phil: We ve already assumed that
the level of traffic is a given, but
it s a choice we re making.
Driving our private vehicles has
a cost, in terms of infrastructure
and carbon emissions. If we truly
charged for this necessity we d
be looking at congestion charging
and higher vehicle registration
fees in Wellington.
At the moment we all have to
pay for these roads whether we
use public transport, walk or
drive. Let s see all the alternatives
for reducing the number of private
short-trips on the road and the
costs and benefits -- then stack
them up. I d much rather do the
right thing than save two minutes
around the Basin.
John Stokes: I like the concept
that is shown on the front page of
The Wellingtonian, the X-Factor.
That plan seems to mitigate the
effects of the anticipated increas-
ed traffic around the Basin -- the
hill with tunnel is imaginative.
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