OPINION: The Palmerston North City Council's decision to agree to a request from Te Manawa to relocate the museum's sign after a child fell from it and broke his arm, while clearly well-intentioned, was ill-advised.
The work, which cost $14,000, has been roundly condemned by the public as a frivolous use of ratepayers' money to mitigate a danger that is inherent in every child's daily life. While the cries of "PC gone mad" are trite and simplistic, Te Manawa's response to the child's fall perhaps demonstrates a little bit too much good sense. The city council should have therefore declined the request to uproot the signage and relocate it to a safer spot.
In terms of council expenditure, $14,000 is a tiny sum, but the decision creates a poor public perception of its spending priorities. The expenditure would not even register as a blip in the council accounts, but for the average ratepayer it's an overseas holiday for the family, a few months' worth of mortgage repayments, or the student loan still hanging round their neck.
The obvious need for the council to spend large sums of money on public works is accepted by the public, albeit grudgingly at times, because there is a demonstrable public good in doing so.
In this case, however, a sign was erected that met building regulations and the liability for a child falling off it and hurting themselves lies squarely with his or her guardians, not with Te Manawa or the Palmerston North City Council.
Ratepayers are not angry at the cost of moving the sign per se; they are angry that public money has been spent to fix a problem that is the responsibility of private individuals. Clearly, that anger is coloured by the belief bumps, bruises and broken bones are a natural – even healthy – part of a child's development.
Kids should be encouraged to explore the world around them, but parents need to guide them through the process of growing up. They need to be made aware of the dangers around them, and restrictions on their behaviour imposed when needed. As every adult knows, though, the most valuable lessons are the ones we learned by misjudging the risk, or ignoring the good advice of our parents.
No amount of money can protect children from the risks they encounter in the world around them, and even if it could, it shouldn't come from the ratepayer's pocket. It's great to see Manawatu's newest All Black, Aaron Smith, will run out again tonight to start the second test against Ireland. Our sports editor, Peter Lampp, this week called on the selectors to also take a close look at giving Manawatu Turbos captain Nick Crosswell a black jersey. The way Crosswell's playing, he can't be too far off national honours.
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