Archive for the 'In the news' Category

Pressing forward

Equal pay cartoon on Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay tea towel (pic: private collection, Fran McGowan)

Equal pay cartoon on Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay tea towel (pic: private collection, Fran McGowan)

The other day I read a rather gloomy article entitled ‘Gender pay gap still there: so what are we doing about it?’ On average New Zealand men still earn roughly 10% more than women for an hour’s work – and the gap has actually widened in the past year. Equal pay for women has been an issue here since the 19th century, when feminists identified it as one of the prerequisites for women’s emancipation. As the Te Ara entry on Women’s labour organisations shows, despite many years of activism, this goal has not yet been reached, even though the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1972. While the gross injustice of men being paid a higher rate than women for doing exactly the same job has been rectified, female-dominated occupations such as early childhood education and aged care are still poorly paid, a reflection of the low value society still places on the work of looking after and nurturing others – work traditionally done by women. Moreover, career progression is often fraught for women in all kinds of occupations, especially for the large number who work part-time or take breaks from the workforce to raise children.

There are promising signs though. Recently Lower Hutt rest-home caregiver Kristine Bartlett, with the support of the Service and Food Workers Union, took a test case against her employer, TerraNova, arguing that her measly pay of $14.46 an hour was less than the rate men with similar skills would earn, and was so low because she worked in an industry where most of the employees are female. The Employment Court found in her favour, ruling that female-dominated industries should receive pay equivalent to what would be offered if that industry was male-dominated, and after TerraNova appealed, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Employment Court decision. Inspired by this landmark victory, Wellington nurses Erin Kennedy and Ann Simmons have just gone to court, alleging that hundreds of women working as nurses and caregivers are being significantly underpaid.

I will be following this case with great interest, but in the knowledge that the fight for equal pay and pay equity has a very long history, and that progress has been slow and hard-won.

On 19 September we will mark another Suffrage Day, and New Zealanders will once again be reminded that New Zealand was the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote. It is good to celebrate this, but we should also remember what has still to be achieved. As Margaret Sievwright, one of those who campaigned successfully for the vote, remarked in 1894, ‘We have reached one milestone, it is true, the milestone of the suffrage; we pause, but only again to press forward.’

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Ko Te Wiki o te Reo Māori tēnei. Ko whāngaihia te reo Māori ki ngā mātua te kaupapa, arā, ka manaakitia e tātau ngā mātua ki te ako, ki te kōrero tā tātau reo, kia whāngaihia te reo e rātau ki ā tātau tamariki.

I te tau nei he āhua orite te mahi mo tātau.  Ia wiki, ia wiki ka whakawhiwhia e Te Taura Whiri tētahi kupu me tētahi rerenga kōrero. Ko e te tau te kupu o tēnei wiki, ko haramai, e te tau te rerenga kōrero.

This week is Māori Language Week. The theme of the week is fostering the Māori language in parents – if we support parents to learn and speak te reo, they can foster and teach the language to our children.

This year Te Taura Whiri have used the same idea as last year – one word a week, extended to include a short sentence or saying. This week’s word is ‘e te tau’ (darling), and the sentence is ‘Haramai, e te tau’ (come here, my darling).

Anei ētahi atu kia whāngaihia tō reo.

To help foster your language, here are a few more examples.

Tō ātaahua hoki!             You’re so beautiful.

Kei te mamae tō puku?    Is your tummy sore?

Tō kakara hoki!               You smell lovely.

Kei hea tō koti?               Where is your coat?

Māku koe e āwhina.         I will help you.

Ka nui tēnā.                    That’s enough.

Ko te reo kia rere, ko te reo kia tika, ko te reo kia Māori


Wellington 150

Wellington in 1866, the year after it became the capital (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Alexander Fisher Album)

Wellington in 1866, the year after it became the capital (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Alexander Fisher Album)

This weekend Wellington celebrates a birthday – 150 years as the capital city of New Zealand. To mark this event, a host of national and local institutions are participating in The Treasures of Wellington, a series of free tours and events. On Saturday Dave Dobbyn and the Orpheus Choir will perform on the grounds of Parliament, accompanied by a sound-and-light show about the city’s history. Wellington will be in celebration mode.

Roll back 150-odd years and the mood in Wellington was not only celebratory, but triumphant. In January 1865 the New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian reported that the city was ‘preparing herself to take that station among the New Zealand provinces which her central position and natural advantages have so well fitted her for, and which have marked her as the Capital of the Colony’.

Wellington’s gain was Auckland’s loss. Auckland had been the capital city since 1841, when Governor William Hobson moved his premises from Okiato near present-day Russell in the Bay of Islands, after being offered land in Tāmaki-makau-rau by Ngāti Whātua chiefs. In an era of scattered settlements, basic transport links and painfully slow postal services, Auckland was very far removed from the rest of the population. In 1854 New Zealand’s first head of government, James FitzGerald, proposed moving the capital to a more central location. This first bid was unsuccessful but the issue remained a live one. In 1864, after Parliament passed a resolution to move the capital, three Australian commissioners chose Wellington over Whanganui, Picton, Port Underwood, Havelock and Nelson. The legislators set up shop in Wellington the following year.

The 19th century was a time of fierce provincial and town rivalries as different centres struggled to establish themselves as going concerns. The capital city question provoked disdainful, and at times lurid, commentary in newspapers.  The New Zealand Herald, then as now an Auckland paper, heaped scorn upon Wellington, a ‘wretched collection of dirty wooden structures, built partly upon a mud beach, and partly in the space formed by the scarping of the hill which hems the “city” into landward’ (31 March 1865, p. 4). Well-informed people knew that Wellington ‘would not make up a third rate street in Auckland’. The paper described Wellington’s impending new seat of government as:

… a very creature of Frankenstein…. The monster, however disgusted with its existence in such a spot has, like its prototype, destroyed one after another of the dearest objects of its creator’s affections. It clings to him with pertinacity, returns gibbering and grinning to him from time to time with the evidence in its hands of some new disaster which it has worked for him. (New Zealand Herald, 24 March 1865, p. 4)

Papers in rival centres like Christchurch, not facing a great loss as Auckland was, could indulge in a little pompous, self-satisfied commentary:

The great difference between the South and the North is that here the question of self-interest is really never thought of. It is no exaggeration to say so. We talk of all parts of the colony as parts of a common country having common interests. In Auckland they talk of nothing but Auckland. (Press, 14 January 1864, p. 2)

It’s fun to browse through the newspapers of the time and have a good laugh at the duelling colonials, but things are not so different now. In 2013 Prime Minister John Key told a meeting of Auckland businesspeople that Wellington was dying, much to the chagrin of many Wellingtonians, who vociferously defended the health of their city. Then-Labour Party leader David Shearer retorted, ‘This is absolutely negatively John Key talking about Wellington, it’s a vibrant city, anybody that drives down to Courtenay Place on a Thursday or Friday night knows that’. Perhaps in another 150 years readers will chuckle over statements like this.

On the house

State house, Taitā, 1949 (pic: New Zealand Herald)

State house, Taitā, 1949 (pic: New Zealand Herald)

It seems as though everyone is talking about housing at the moment. What is causing high house prices, particularly in Auckland? What role should government play in the provision of housing? Do renters need greater rights and security?

If you want some background and wider historical context for these discussions, Te Ara is the place to go. You could start with the entries by urban historian Ben Schrader on housing and Māori housing – te noho whare. But there are also entries on such topics as housing and government, domestic architecture, building materials, home décor and furnishings, Māori architecture – whare Māori and real estate, as well as information on more specialised subjects such as railway housing and inner-city flats.

Here are some interesting things about housing I read on Te Ara:

  • New Zealand’s first building regulation – the Raupo Houses Ordinance – was passed as early as 1842. It sought to deal with the perceived fire risk of buildings made from raupō or other grasses by imposing financial penalties on such buildings.
  • From the 1870s, Māori were incorporating European materials, including glazed windows, into traditional wharepuni (sleeping houses).
  • The first state house was opened (with Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage famously carrying in some of the furniture) in the Wellington suburb of Miramar in 1937.
  • Māori were not admitted into state housing until 1948, and were placed into predominantly Pākehā neighbourhoods (‘pepper-potting’) to encourage assimilation.
  • New Zealand’s home ownership rate peaked at 73% in 1986, and had fallen to 62% by 2006. You can see a chart of housing tenure (owner-occupied versus rented and other) over a 90-year period here.
  • In the early 2000s, average house prices in the Queenstown Lakes area overtook those in Auckland. I wonder how they compare now?

And when you’ve finished browsing through all the fascinating information about houses, you can always return to Te Ara’s home page by clicking on – what else? – a little icon of a house!

Queen Victoria’s Māori godson

Diana, William, Charles and buzzy bee,1983

Diana, William, Charles and buzzy bee, 1983 (pic: New Zealand Herald)

Royal news has been abundant in recent weeks with the birth of a royal baby for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and William’s brother Prince Harry visiting New Zealand. William’s visit as a toddler in 1983 and the gift he received of a buzzy bee is an iconic New Zealand image. Te Ara has an entry focusing on the royal family, which has provided New Zealand’s head of state since 1840.

A lesser-known historical link between British royalty and New Zealand is that Queen Victoria had a Māori godson. In 1863 Wesleyan lay preacher William Jenkins organised a Māori performing party to travel to England. He planned to give lectures which they would accompany with waiata and dances.

Though the party believed they would be well treated, it was not to be the case. Jenkins travelled first class, while the Māori performers lived in appalling conditions aboard the Ida Zieglar in a journey that took 100 days. The tour continued with tensions between Jenkins and the Māori group.

In July 1863 the party met with Queen Victoria, who saw that one of its members, Hariata Pōmare, was pregnant and asked to be the child’s godmother. Hariata and her husband, Hare Pōmare, agreed. On 26 October 1863 the baby  a boy  was born. He was named Albert Victor after the Queen and her deceased husband, and was presented with this cup and cutlery as a christening gift.

Hariata Pōmare, Hare Pōmare and Albert Victor Pōmare (baby)

Hariata Pōmare and Hare Pōmare with their baby, Albert Victor Pōmare (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library)

The couple then had their first-class fare to New Zealand on the Statesman paid for by Queen Victoria.  Despite his promising start in life, Albert Victor Pōmare was soon to face tragedy. His father, Hare, died in Wellington hospital soon after the return to New Zealand. A few years later, his mother also died.

Albert Victor ended up in an orphanage in Auckland. The Queen paid for his tuition at St Stephens. One story has it that he went on to go to sea, and either settled in Canada or died in California. But the truth is lost in the mists of time.