Letters to the Editor: hospitals, roads and gangs

Today's Letters to the Editor from readers cover topics including the principle of road-user charges, the banning of gang patches, and who is to blame for our addictions?


Gang patch ban: the Whanganui experience

I was the mayor of Wanganui/Whanganui from 2004-10 when the gang patch ban bylaw was introduced and I championed its passage through Parliament and publicly at the time.

There are various media reports that are not entirely accurate with regards to the reporting of the operation and effects of that gang patch ban:

1. It was prompted by the murder of 2-year-old Jhia Te Tua by Mongrel Mob members. She was killed in a drive-by shooting of her Puriri St home, in which her Black Power father was resident.

2. It followed a number of public disorder incidents in the city involving the intimidation of citizens in the main street and at the Kowhai Park children’s playground.

3. A district-wide referendum on whether the council should introduce anti-gang insignia was supported by two-thirds of residents.

4. It was a local Bill — passed by Parliament — that applied only to the Wanganui/Whanganui district.

5. Local police were initially reluctant to implement it but received direct instruction from the police regional commander in Palmerston North to do so.

6. It was an effective tool used then by police to harass, annoy and upset gang members in their activities in the district.

7. Police commissioned independent academic research as to the bylaw’s effectiveness — the conclusions were:

a) it was a very useful policing tool.

b) gang membership in the city dropped 15% (gang members left town).

8. It was overturned in the High Court because the area covered by the bylaw was deemed too large, and a new bylaw could be drafted that centred upon just the CBD and playgrounds, etc.

9. The incoming mayor and council in 2010 decided not to implement a new bylaw doing such — it was as much an ideological decision because the bylaw still had strong public support. I retired as mayor in 2010.

Overall, the ban was effective in reducing gang visibility, reducing inter-gang incidents and reducing gang membership.

Michael Laws


Broken but beautiful

I am writing this after a prolonged stay at Dunedin Hospital, December 18-February 16, a period of 60 days. I wish to publicly thank all the staff who cared for me during that period.

We hear so much about how our health system is failing and broken, but the people who work within that system are some of the most kindhearted, dedicated and generous people you could ever meet in society. I wish to express my personal thanks to the surgeons, consultants, registrars, house doctors, radiology staff and especially the nurses that assisted in my care and recovery. A special mention of thanks to the staff of the intensive care unit and the doctors and nurses on ward 4A.

Even if the system is broken, we have to appreciate the special people who work within it.

Gary Mason


An attempt to avoid courting controversy

I have no particular wish to court controversy; however, some opinions are so embedded as to demand significant disentangling. The initial impetus to this correspondence was Russell Garbutt’s observation that nobody was forcing Māori to smoke. The greater issue for Garbutt is that he overlooks the relevant history.

Systemic abuse has a twofold effect.

The first effect is that the victim identifies with the perpetrator, by, for example, adopting the settler’s smoking and drinking habits. Alcohol was one safe drink in cholera-riddled England; tobacco was understood to counteract airborne diseases. Aotearoa inherited that problem. However, Ariki Tuai of Ngare Raumati learnt in the 1810s that an Englishman’s word was not always synonymous with his honour. In the 1840s unheeded pleas from ariki to stop the introduction of recreational drugs obliged them to go over the heads of British Governors and entreat Queen Victoria’s protection.

The second effect is that the victim insulates themselves and believes, justifiably, that the dominant society means them no good. The downfall of Waikato iwi was, ironically, that they became too good at producing food for Auckland settlers.

In both instances self-medication via recreational drugs provides a temporary salve to, for example, being told that your skin colour makes you dirty or of being stripped of your birthright and denied your intelligence. Blaming the victim for their addictions should be controversial.

Philip Temple’s assumption that I believe Ron Crosby is more controversial than (Sir) Ranginui Walker is by the by. No one authority should be relied upon.

Acknowledging that our history comes from both sides of the mountain and that we are all merely human need not be controversial. I take no pride in some of my ancestors’ belief structures but I do take pride in their history.

Marian Poole
Deborah Bay


A review of rationale for RUCs

Your writer, Glenn Turner (ODT 26.2.24), doesn’t seem to understand the principle of road-user charges (RUCs). He seems to believe that RUCs applied to EVs are an "extra" tax being applied to users of EVs. As a current EV user, and someone who travelled several hundred thousand kilometres in a CNG car in the 1980s, I understand and mainly agree with the imposition of RUCs for EVs.

RUCs pay for the provision and upkeep of the nation’s roads. Petrol vehicle drivers pay RUCs within the price of the petrol they use. However, diesel-powered vehicles don’t pay RUCs in the price of the fuel. There are so many non-road uses of diesel that imposing a RUC on diesel would force users such as agricultural, forestry, construction and fisheries to apply for a refund, as they make no demands on the roading infrastructure.

There will be no difference between an EV and a diesel-powered ute, both will carry a RUC certificate on their windscreen, and pay RUC on the basis of the distance travelled.

There is, however, an inequality in the current RUCs for EVs. The rate of RUCs which will apply to most, if not all, EVs is that for a vehicle up to a weight of 3500kg. My EV weighs only 1560kg, and would contribute much less damage to the road surface than a three and a-half tonne commercial truck.

Perhaps there is a need for a lower RUC rate for vehicles up to a weight of 2000kg, say $44/1000km instead of $76/1000km. The government implies that eventually charging all vehicles, including petrol vehicles, for RUCs separately to the price of fuel and based on the distance they travel is equitable.

What would be more equitable than charging vehicles a RUC rate also based on their contribution to roading costs.

Steve Streater


Address Letters to the Editor to: Otago Daily Times, PO Box 517, 52-56 Lower Stuart St, Dunedin. Email: editor@odt.co.nz