Feedback: August 20, 2016

by The Listener / 16 August, 2016
An invitation from sunny Gisborne; high-rise hype; defying dementia; David Bain's payout; and being unkind to conservatives.
Cartoon/Steve Bolton
Cartoon/Steve Bolton


Auckland’s housing crisis – er, “challenge”, to use the Government’s word – is enough to make the whole country despair (“House of the rising sum”, August 13). But those Aucklanders who own a standard box in Papatoetoe or Mt Roskill should do the sensible thing: sell up, buy a mansion with beautiful grounds in Gisborne and have enough left over to live comfortably, especially if they have a trade, business or profession to pursue, without Auckland’s traffic congestion and frenetic lifestyle.

For the retired, the prospect is even rosier. This district has a very good climate, superb beaches, golf, gardens, fishing, parks, cafes and restaurants to rival those in the big cities, a thriving cultural scene, ease of access to the latest movies, friendly people, an outstanding museum, a library and everything else for the active and outgoing, including frequent flights to major centres.

What on earth would make new migrants want to live in Auckland, since the city is Sydney for beginners, or could be a chunk of downtown anywhere in the Western world? Sooner or later, Hamilton and Tauranga properties will be out of a reasonable price range as well. Think a bit further afield and never look back, as recent arrivals in this district are finding.

Norman Maclean

House prices are more nuanced than the headlines suggest. In the past month, we have sold our home in St Heliers and bought an apartment in Newmarket. Our house was bought new 10 years ago and sold for 50% more than we paid for it, increasing in value by a modest 4-5% a year. During our research into apartment prices, we found units with a CV from $400,000-600,000 sold for up to three times the valuation, whereas those with a CV from $1-2 million went for between 45% and 50% more.

I believe that once houses in the $400,000-600,000 bracket start selling for $800,000, price increases in this range will slow, for the simple reason that there will be no one to buy them. The average Aucklander does not earn enough to spend more than $800,000 on a house. Ironically, when this happens, the Government will take the credit and say, “See, we told you we could stop house price increases.”

Eddie Mann
(St Heliers, Auckland)


In “Karmageddon” (Politics, August 13), Jane Clifton says the likely effect of a substantial drop in house prices “would still constitute a crash, with all the attendant hysteria and economic disruption”. This description fits the present situation perfectly.

So it seems likely that if there’s a big price fall, nothing will change, except that journalists may have to review the settings on their word processors. How much the situation has been exacerbated by the media is anyone’s guess.

Geoffrey Horne
(Roseneath, Wellington)


Jane Clifton’s column on the Auckland Unitary Plan (Politics, August 6), complete with photo of cheek-by-jowl Hong Kong housing implying 30 storeys or more, is depressingly ill-informed.

She mentions high-rises, yet the majority of the Unitary Plan’s residential zoning is two-storey. The plan does not encroach on existing public open space and indeed increases protection in greenfields developments for permanent and intermittent streams, with increased planting and recreational walking and cycling facilities.

High-rises of 18 storeys or more are confined to small areas of the CBD, the former Manukau City and Takapuna. Most apartment zones will be limited to four-storey development with basement parking, which developers avoid on lower-value land.

The conclusion that the plan will make Auckland “a much less desirable place to live” echoes the complaints of Glendowie residents, where the maximum building height is still two-storey, but, horror, sections will go below 600sq m and be closer to Ponsonby and Grey Lynn’s 300-400sq m. This means their children (or more likely, grandchildren) can play in their backyards still, but to kick a rugby ball may have to play with others in the many adjacent protected neighbourhood parks.

This all makes it much more Sydney, on a reduced scale, than Hong Kong. Increased revenue from developers’ levies and rates can then pay for the transport, recreational and cultural amenities that come with this global city that is among the top 10 worldwide for quality of life.

Paul Edmond
(Pt Chevalier, Auckland)


It’s timely after the article about Professor Dale Bredesen’s dietary and lifestyle treatment regime for Alzheimer’s disease (“Switching the lights back on”, August 6) to remind readers that there are simple, cheap (though not always easy) ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia and slow its progression.

These are: to preserve brain blood supply by treating hypertension, high blood lipids and diabetes and stopping smoking; ongoing cognitive stimulation through learning; moderation in alcohol intake; socialisation; and physical exercise. Regular physical exercise by itself reduces dementia risk by 20%.

Chris Perkins
(Pt Chevalier, Auckland)


It would be interesting to know what evidence retired judge Ian Callinan was allowed to consider in reviewing David Bain’s compensation claim (Editorial, August 13). At Bain’s last trial, the judge decreed that two important pieces of evidence, one of which had been reported frequently over the years, were to be withheld from the jury because “they would be detrimental to the defence”. Their absence was certainly detrimental to the prosecution.

The abiding mystery is how the jury system survived the Middle Ages. If we want our cars fixed or our tonsils removed, we look for an expert, but to decide the fate of someone charged with a heinous crime, we hand the task to a team of randomly chosen amateurs. Three learned judges wouldn’t get it right every time, but their strike rate would surely be better.

Alan Tomlinson
(Herne Bay, Auckland)


Marc Wilson provides a simplistic and condescending narrative of conservatism (Psychology, August 13). He cites a 2003 paper that essentially portrays conservatives as dumb authoritarians.

The paper is noted by Professor Jon Haidt as an example of the politicised and hostile academic climate that exists towards conservatives in social psychology.

Haidt says statistically “normal” human societies are built on five moral foundations and liberals tend to focus on two of these.

Rather than demonising conservatives, it may be more productive to apply the liberal value of tolerance and try to understand the moral concerns that shape their world view.

Brian Richards
(Khandallah, Wellington)


I find it a bit condescending of Lauraine Jacobs (Food, August 6) to urge us to broaden our repertoire of fish-cookery while providing yet another recipe I could cook in my sleep. I know dozens of ways to cook fish. The trouble is, where to get it?

Fish retailers generally limit themselves to the usual tarakihi, monkfish, gurnard, snapper and ling, all of which are good but much of a muchness. They’ll say there isn’t demand for other fish, but I think if that’s so, the reason is people haven’t had the opportunity to try a greater variety, and they won’t demand what they’ve never had.

Oily fish are good for us, but we never see delicious herrings or sardines in our shops, and you have to leave the country to get freshwater fish.

Perhaps Jacobs could use her influence to exhort the people who control our fish supply to give us readier access to greater variety. If our fish-cooking habits are limited, it’s suppliers who are at fault.

Elizabeth Newton
(Karori, Wellington)


I was pleased to read of Gillian Wheeler’s advanced-care planning and will check if my medical centre can provide the same. But my own experience so far has been very different.

I had a stroke nearly a year ago, and since then have used the care services of the local rest home on two occasions to give my husband a break.

The first time I was asked to sign something to say whether I wanted to be resuscitated. I said if I were to end up the same as I am now, I would want to be, but if I were left with no physical abilities, I would want to die. But since I had to give a yes or no answer, I said yes.

My husband says if I am incapable, the family will be able to make a different decision if needed, but I am not sure that would be allowed.

I heard recently of a young man injured in a car accident who spent the next 25 years immobile. Although I have never been very active, the thought of that is unbearable.

Name and address withheld

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