Home' Auckland City Harbour News : September 7th 2011 Contents 6 AUCKLAND CITY HARBOUR NEWS, SEPTEMBER 7, 2011
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The night their laughter stopped
Comedians make their living
through throw-away lines -- some of
them unwise and in bad taste.
But judges should avoid such
things at all cost -- particularly
when the accused is a comedian who
has pleaded guilty to an indecent
act involving his four-year-old
That was the astonishing and
worrying scenario in an Auckland
court last week.
Despite his guilty plea, the com-
edian -- whose name is suppressed
to protect his daughter -- was
discharged without conviction.
That was the stage that Judge
Philippa Cunningham ruled that a
conviction would outweigh the grav-
ity of the offence. Understandably,
many people totally disagree.
Earlier his lawyer Marie Dyhr-
berg asked that the comedian be
allowed to keep his record clean and
that a conviction would make it
hard for him to work again as a
Apparently agreeing, the judge
then said: He s a talented New Zea-
lander. He makes people laugh.
Laughter is an incredible medicine
and we all need more of it.
So what? We do. But we don t
need any more unthinking
comments like that from people
whose profession calls for judge-
ment. And when the protection of a
child is concerned.
What did the comedian do? A
police summary shows that he came
home drunk and went to sleep with
his partner. Later when his four-
year-old daughter climbed into bed
with them, he laid her on her back,
pulled down her pyjama pants and
nappy and kissed her. When his
partner woke and asked him what
he was doing, he replied: I thought
it was you. He later said he could
Judge Cunningham is quoted as
saying that a forensic scientist
found that the comedian had pre-
vious episodes of unusual behav-
iour after going to bed drunk. It
was possible he was not fully awake
at the time.
Unusual behaviour ? Is that
what you call what happened to a
four-year-old in this case?
Okay, so there are good reasons
why names are suppressed to pro-
tect both daughter and partner --
who wept when she told the court
she and her daughter were having
counselling and her relationship
with the comedian has ended.
But what about those reasons for
him escaping a conviction after
pleading his guilt, that his career of
public laugh-maker would be
endangered and he needed a clean
He hasn t got one -- merely an
officially hidden background.
Judge Cunningham, on the other
hand, now has a public record of
unwise, unthinking comments
totally out of context, seemingly not
taking into account that in this case
the comedian s act took laughter out
of the lives of his victims -- a child
and her grief-stricken mother.
From Len Brown, a solicited
response to last week s column on
Rates notices are a reminder of
all of the services that Auckland
Council provides and the reality
that someone has to pay for them --
and that s us ratepayers.
The council ensures we have
clean beaches, parks, reserves, rub-
bish, roads, public transport, street
lighting, libraries, swimming pools,
galleries, museums and even
ensures a fair and democratic pro-
cess in local government.
Not everything is used or
appreciated by everyone but rate-
payers, like taxpayers, support
them for the good of the whole com-
We are in the first year of the
new Auckland Council. By and large
things are going pretty well and
services provided are at least as
good as they were under legacy
councils. Due to initiatives like the
Auckland Plan, people are starting
to get a sense that the new Auck-
land may actually be a very differ-
ent beast from the old divided Auck-
land and may even be something to
be proud of.
And something to be really
proud of. The rates increase we set
earlier this year is well below the
rate of inflation. The reason we
managed to achieve that is the more
than $80 million in efficiencies we
have driven in the organisation.
Savings, I must add, that we
achieved without any cuts or
reductions in services.
Those savings enabled us to
reduce our rates increase to just
3.94 percent compared with the
more than 9 percent we were look-
ing at -- which would have been
even higher in some areas.
There are also other examples of
the benefits Aucklanders are
already receiving because of the
new environment. For example, in
the former Rodney district area,
mains water costs have dropped by
an impressive 34 percent in urban
areas and 63 percent in rural areas.
We are now working through the
plans required to enable the new
council to function.
The Annual Plan, the Long Term
Plan, the Auckland Plan, the
Waterfront Plan, the Central City
Master Plan and your local board
plans are all needed, and in short
order, to ensure you get the best
value from the council. These plans
will document our aspirations for
Auckland, our priorities, how we
will pay for them.
However all this will take time
to bed in. At the moment, we have a
mishmash of old and new. Charges
for various services are different in
different areas. That will change,
things will make more sense and
you will get even better value from
your council as time goes on.
We need to understand the chal-
lenge the government gave us. The
only merger of a similar size in New
Zealand history was Fonterra and,
even after a decade, that merger is
still bedding in.
My challenge, and the challenge
of your councillors, local boards and
council staff, is to make sure the
transformation happens without
disruption to services, with rates
rises about the rate of inflation and
ensuring local communities con-
tinue to be invested in.
I am sorry the rates notice
doesn t make as much sense as it
should. We are working to ensure it
makes more sense next time and we
will make it easier for people who
are entitled to rates rebates to apply
I find the mayor s letter bland,
not specific and uninformative --
whoever drafted the letter has not
given exact answers to the rates
questions I asked like: What exactly
is uniform civic leadership? and
democracy infrastructure in our
locality? How much precisely in our
rate bill is spent on them every year
and on what?
If the transport rates fund the
cost of building and maintenance of
roads what about the 40 percent of
unsealed road in the Rodney district
plus other rural areas which are
now part of the city.
I would like to know, for example,
how much in rates the owner of a
property, with a capital value of
around $500,000, in some middle
level urban suburb and with access
to the full list of civic amenities,
pays for the services they enjoy
which we pay for in a rural village
but don t have ourselves?
Isn t there a strong case for dis-
counted rates in cases like ours,
where we provide our own water,
drainage and sewerage systems and
many others in this sprawling
supercity who don t have services
which their rates finance?
Etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.
To contact Pat Booth email firstname.lastname@example.org or write care of this newspaper.
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