Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Value of Work

In my humble opinion Robyn Kahukiwa is a national treasure. 

Her art has supported political movements, changed lives and adorned walls in wealthy homes. It makes me very sad that the print she sold at the Kapiti Arts Trail was going towards her panel beating bills.  I’m sure she was relieved to sell it, but really is this how we value people who contribute so much to our society?

Speaking of national treasures I think the people (mostly women) who look after our  elderly/older people are amazing. While there can definitely be personal rewards for caring for people in the later years of life, I don’t think many of them get to experience these rewards very often as part of their paid work.

 All we have to do is imagine ourselves as old and infirm or suffering from dementia to realise these are the workers on whom many peoples’ entire lives, let alone quality of life, depends. To pay them the minimum wage of $13 per hour is to my mind, an abuse of power and an exploitation of their labour. That’s less than $500 per week for working full time in a physically and emotionally demanding job with life and death consequences.

These wages are keeping people and their children in poverty. Their labour is   subsidising the quality of life of other New Zealanders, because we do not value them.

To paraphrase Helen Kelly from a meeting the other night – we need to actually put it out there that, according to our labour laws, we no longer expect someone working full time to earn a wage that will pay their basic expenses. In our major cities less than $500 pw will not enable an inidividual, let alone a family, to live healthily.

What has happened in this country that we allow that, and at the same time, allow some CEOs to earn over $2,500 per hour?

 To believe this is wrong is not a politic of envy or nostalgia.

 To pretend that trickle down economics works for all of us is dishonest.

I don’t believe most New Zealanders think that we’re all better off because the CE of Westpac earned of $5.5 Million dollars and the 150 people on the rich list got $7billion dollars richer last year.

 In fact, I think I remember most of us being told to tighten our belts because we were in a recession.

 As a global community, and as a country, we desperately need to reassess how we value work and what kind of societies we want to live in. 

A good start would raising the top tax rate, and setting the minimum wage at 2/3rds of the average. Then we could actually cost out how much is needed to live healthily and participate in society and maybe even consider a Universal Basic Income to ensure everyone, including our national treasures, can do that.


Could Kapiti fall victim to an oil disaster?

All of New Zealand has been watching the environmental disaster unfolding in the Bay of Plenty. As I write, the broken container ship Rena still sits precariously on the Astrolabe reef and bad weather is closing in. The ship holds 1700 tonnes of fuel oil and innumerable containers. Already 300 tonnes of oil has leaked into our environment and a meagre 90 tonnes has been safely pumped out of its tanks.

Here on the beautiful Kapiti coast some are asking, could the Kapiti coast fall victim to an oil disaster? Sadly, the answer is yes.

In November last year an oil spill in Taranaki led to oil washing up on our beaches here in Kapiti. A year ago I raised concerns about prioritising short term economic gains at the expense of the environment. I pointed out that the environment is the basis of our core economy as well as our lifestyle.

This week an oil exploration ship arrived in Taranaki to start exploring for oil off Raglan for US oil giant, Anadarko. Anadarko was a part owner of the deepwater Horizon well which leaked 780 million litres into the Gulf of Mexico.

 Since 1992 New Zealand has allowed uncontrolled entry to ships, like the Rena, that do not meet safety standards in their country of origin. Letting unsafe, “unwarranted” ships with thousands of tonnes of oil on board into our harbours is irresponsible.

One of the reasons the Green Party is here is to help ensure that the Government does everything it can to protect our beautiful country. This is about much more than politics.

We are doing everything we can on the ground in Tauranga to help out with the clean-up. Local Greens will be out in force helping to look after the coastline and our MPs will be up there to provide support where they can.

Green solutions

The Greens would stop deep sea oil drilling and exploration. The Rena disaster shows that we don’t have the capacity to deal with potentially massive and catastrophic deep sea oil spills. There needs to be higher standards for coastal shipping that supports the use of local crews and ships that know New Zealand waters and hazards. New Zealand needs to invest in our emergency maritime service so that they have the capacity and resources to respond quickly if accidents do happen. We also need a stronger legal framework, so that when accidents do happen the corporations responsible are financially liable for their mistakes. New Zealanders should not have to bail out corporations for damaging our beautiful country. There needs to be better enforcement of marine regulations by Maritime NZ to make them effective in protecting our marine environment and there needs to be an independent inquiry into the speed of the Government response, maritime regulations and the capacity of out maritime services to respond to accidents.

The solutions we need to prevent our beautiful Kapiti coast falling foul of an oil spill are known, all we need now is the will to make them happen