A handout of public money was announced without much fuss on 20 December, a gift from the Government to a seemingly small and insignificant community near Wanganui.
This gift – or should we call it a bribe? – was actually paid for by taxpayers who had no say in the matter (as Alf’s mates sternly pointed out to him when they demanded why Eketahuna had not been the beneficiary).
It was a Christmas present for Ratana “to receive essential repairs and upgrades”.
Actually, it looks more like an exercise in pork-barrel politicking and Alf was reminded of it as party leaders prepare for their annual trek to Ratana – the media call it a pilgrimage – to address Ratana followers at the religious movement’s annual celebrations near Wanganui today.
The media statement announcing the expenditure said –
A new initiative to repair and insulate houses in Ratana township will significantly improve the quality of life for residents, and act as a showcase for the benefits of energy efficiency initiatives for other Maori communities.
The project, announced today by Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee, Minister of Maori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples, and Housing Minister Phil Heatley, allocates $2.7 million to provide basic essential repairs, insulation and efficient heating for around 100 homes.
Genial Gerry welcomed the scheme as an extension to the government’s successful Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme, which has insulated the homes of over 85,000 families, about half of them on low incomes.
The Ratana project was due to start in the New Year. While he’s up there, John Key might take time out to check on progress.
Heatley said the scheme was a positive step to improving housing conditions for a community in need.
“There is little point in insulating a home that has leaks or unsafe wiring. The scheme will focus on repairs that will enable the safe and effective installation of insulation and new, efficient heating.”
Alf reckons all of us know of communities in need where housing conditions need improving.
Just have a word with Hone Harawira. He can take you to plenty of them in his electorate.
So why the special treatment for Ratana?
Politics, bro. Politics.
The buggers have declared their support for Labour over many years and been influential in securing the Maori seats for Labour candidates until the Maori Party came along.
We Nats are hoping Ratana leaders – a remarkably persuasive bunch – will tell their people that henceforth they should give their votes to us.
If the strategy is successful, we could win the Maori electorates – hurrah – and no longer have to rely on the Maori Party in coalition.
The same strategy could be applied to winning back the rich buggers who vote for ACT.
Alf accordingly has proposed to Gerry that he look into the merits of announcing something like the Ratana scheme, but on a grander scale for the blue-rinse set in Epsom.
Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart – for those who are unaware of it – is an insulation and clean heating programme intended to give more New Zealanders than ever before the opportunity to make their homes warmer, drier and more energy efficient.
It started on 1 July 2009, and aims to retrofit more than 188,500 New Zealand homes over the next four years.
It is run by EECA and replaced previous EECA home insulation programmes.
But here’s the thing.
* Under the scheme, homeowners on all incomes with pre-2000 homes are eligible for a third of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation, up to $1300. Provided their home is insulated they may also get a $500 grant towards clean heating.
* Community Service Card holders are eligible for 60% of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation, and $1,200 towards clean heating.
Dunno how much money the Ratana people will be chipping in for their scheme.
Alf gets the impression the answer is not much, because the Government announcement said:
The project will be delivered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) working closely with Te Puni Kokiri and Housing New Zealand.
Each house will be assessed prior to any work starting to allow the best allocation of total funding. EECA will work closely with the Ratana community and, in particular, the Ratana Ahuwhenua Trust on prioritising the funding.
The project is expected to cost $2.7 million. This is made up of:
• Basic essential repairs (new appropriation to Vote Energy) – $2.06 million
• Te Puni Kokiri (Vote Maori Affairs) – $350,000 for insulation and clean heating
• Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart funding (Vote Energy) – $300,000
Hmm. Can you spot any mention of the size of the contributions to be made by the good people of Ratana?
Nor, Alf observes, did they ask for the scheme.
Alf recalls last year’s gathering at Ratana.
During the opening speeches, the National Party was thanked for its work in government over the last two years. A minister of the Ratana Church, Joe Everett, said unlike previous years, he had no “shopping lists” for Mr Key as he has been fulfilling the needs of Maori.
“It’s a great day for us. Thank you to you and the National Party.
“In the short time that you have been in power you’ve done so much more than what others have done for the … Maori people,” Mr Everett said.
We had won the buggers over to our side without spending anything more.
Alf supposes we are now aiming to warm them even more to National with the insulation money.
But he fears the Maori Party will want to take the credit, and he observes that the Wanganui region is very much Tariana Turia’s patch.
It could be money down the gurgler, just like giving a handout to the trade unions to win them away from Labour would be futile.