Editor’s Note: Here is another weekly column published in the Wanganui Chronicle.

Anyone who writes for any of our three local papers should be commended for their courage. It takes a lot more guts to express your opinions in a public forum than to talk behind people’s back. I don’t know the backstory to Kate Stewart’s column last week, but I agree with her that opinion pieces are just that: opinions.

Our city is blessed with a great number of writers who weekly share their informed opinions on some topics and random musings on others. In my opinion, the most important factor is not the quality of the opinion but rather the quality of the writing. Writing is a craft and some do it better than others. It’s the same with painting, surfing and cooking.

I have seen some shocking one-off pieces in the Chronicle, and even the periodic case of plagiarism. I hope we can all agree that plagiarism is the worst kind of bad writing, and that anyone should feel free to call those writers out in public for the indiscretion. I feel the same is true for factual misrepresentations – ie, “porkies.”

We know from the Letters page that the Chronicle will publish almost anything, but to write a regular column is a significant step up from that. Aside from quality writing, I think opinions that are original, progressive, and outside of the mainstream are more important to share in the press than those that simply reinforce the status quo or share one’s personal domestic affairs.

Interestingly, the best feedback I have received on nearly 300 pieces in the Chronicle was the one following up on Duncan Garner’s visit to the River City and some peoples’ reactionary response to it. “Spot on” summarises the feedback I got on that opinion piece.

Kate is a great writer and she has original thoughts. For these reasons she is fully qualified to write a weekly column. I suspect those that question her qualifications are simply jealous. Is it any wonder the photo accompanying Kate’s column showed a bunch of turkeys sitting on a fence?

To those turkeys I would simply say, “put up or shut up.” In other words, have the courage to write a weekly column yourself and see what feedback you get on the Letters page.

The letters page is a valuable part of the Chronicle and a number of our community members use it as an informal weekly (or more frequent) column while others treat it more like a Twitter account. Any way you slice it, our local press is an invaluable forum for us to share almost any opinion.

Another great place to share opinions is in the comments section of online articles. I especially love reading the comments that accompany articles relating to home building in New Zealand. The following comments followed a recent article in the Herald titled: Videos of building horror stories no surprise, council inspectors say.

Here is one: “What a shock the most unreliable profession in the country does shonky work, who would have thought!”

Here is another: “When money can be earned as a fast rate by getting the job done and moving onto the next one, particularly in the housing market, then quality falls out the window.

When apprenticeships are ignored in favour of hiring cheap inexperienced labour, in the same market, then quality falls out the window.

When every man and his dog can get a basic qualification from a technical school, in many trades, then quality people are few and far between.

Just a few points that impact on things like new houses or buildings that show cheap often overrides quality. Why do a job properly when you can do it cheaply and unfortunately in New Zealand, we love cheap.”

A point of clarification regarding the difference between cheap and thrifty, and specifically eco-thrifty:

Cheap in the short run is almost always expensive in the long run.

Eco-thrifty in the short run is almost always cheap in the long run.

In my experience, more problems that occur with buildings are caused by poor design rather than poor construction. While there may be some shonky builders out there, most of the shonk falls firmly on the shoulders of architects and designers – in my opinion.

Peace, Estwing

2 thoughts on “”

  1. As a registered architect of 40+ years experience, (during which I have had very few construction failures), I am disappointed to see your comment that it is mainly the fault of architects and designers that “shonky” building work is so common.
    I and the majority of my colleagues work hard to keep our technical knowledge up to date, and take every job seriously. There are in any field of work a number of people who take short cuts and are careless about integrity, but I am glad to say that there have been few architects that I have met who do act like this.
    Regards,
    Ros Empson, Pirongia

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