Editorials 21 June 2010

The Herald calls for transparency around :

Devolution of social services to community groups is by no means a bad idea. It holds out at least the possibility of having a more effective impact on social problems than large, impersonal bureaucracies that lack the intimate understanding necessary for success. …

The Budget provided $4.8 million over four years to this end. It was a small amount in comparison to Whanau Ora’s $134 million over the same period and its aims were, in a sense, more ambitious.

Rather than a grass-roots social welfare initiative, it seemed that this was intended to advance the economic and entrepreneurial skills of Pacific Islanders.

I think most would agree that the intent is good.

According to the Budget papers, the money has been allocated to an organisation called the Pacific Economic Development Agency about which very little is known. Peda, as it is called for short, has an impressive-looking website that is long on high-sounding jargon and short on evidence of achievement.

And this is the issue. It appears PEDA has no track record in terms of delivering such programmes. Granting them $4.8m with no track record is a somewhat reckless decision. More sensible would be some modest initial funding to give them a chance to prove themselves, and then if they actually produce results consider increasing funding.

The other issue is how were they selected. They obviously made  a pitch to one or more Ministers. Generally work should be tendered as contestable by an agency – not by Ministers. Now of course many agencies design tenders so only one firm can “win”, so it can be better to be upfront and say these guys have an initiative worth supporting, so we will. But you better make damn sure they are actually capable of delivering, and that there is accountability for any funding.

The Dom Post lashes the so called train “service”:

Commuters who rely on Wellington’s dilapidated network to get them to and from school, university, work or other appointments can be forgiven for feeling a dejected sense of deja vu.

This time last year, KiwiRail’s passengers were so irate they sought compensation from the company as trains ran late, heating failed, and peak-hour commuter chaos too often reigned.

The result was a significant slump in passenger numbers, leading to a $2.5 million budget blowout for Greater Wellington regional council, which subsidises the commuter service that is owned and operated by the state-owned enterprise.

Last week, those who have persisted with the ageing carriages plying tracks that crisscross the region were grumbling again.

Several thousand passengers were, on average, 20 minutes late one morning, for example, when, in the latest in a series of hiccups this year, points failed.

Particularly grumpy were pupils who have missed many classes or been late for others. Samuel Marsden Collegiate pupil Georgia Smith estimated she had missed 25 classes this year alone because of late-running trains.

KiwiRail’s reluctant owner – the taxpayer, via the Government – acknowledges they are, hence its $550m overhaul of the capital’s entire network.

That major upgrade includes fixing the blessed points, and building a third line in and out of the central city railyards.

I’d be interested in data on what the true cost of a commute from say the Hutt to Wellington is, and how much the passenger pays, and how much taxpayers and ratepayers pay.

The ODT hails justice over Bloody Sunday:

The road to justice is often long and tortuous, but for the relatives of the dead killed on January 30, 1972, in Northern Ireland’s infamous “Bloody Sunday”, it has been interminable.

Thirty-eight years is more than a life sentence for the guilty; for the innocent it is an eternity.

Now, finally, all these years later comes the Saville Report – presided over by British Supreme Court judge Lord Saville of Newdigate – with its unequivocal exoneration of the victims and inescapable conclusion that the shootings were “unjustified”.

Thus, beyond the decades of accrued grief, the pain of false accusation, the chafe of implied terrorism on the part of the victims and their families – which cannot and should not be underestimated – there was the insult of justice denied; and, devastatingly, the unconscionable subversion of all that is right and good about the exercise of power in mature democracies.

What happened on that fatal and fateful day in the Derry winter of 1972 can now be seen for what it was: a blunder by military officers occasioning the needless killing of innocent civilians, followed by years of cynical evasion and cover-up.

Responding to the report on its release last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons: “I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our army, who I believe to be the finest in the world. But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”

David Cameron handled the issue very well I thought.

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