Sea change in the making

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    So now we can get our sleeves rolled up.

    This has been an interesting first week of the rest of our lives. Electorally, I’ve plumped for change every election since John Key’s National policy tore democracy and environmental protections apart in Auckland (and Canterbury) in his first term.

    Even so, it’s been eerie, over so many issues, to notice how much changed early last Thursday evening.

    The Economy god’s fire and brimstone culture of iron rule and proscribed doctrine has miraculously receded.

    The silo temples erected to keep us out of everything from our historic assets and environmental imperatives to the Pike River Mine are no longer inviolate.

    The sour centralization that’s turned public officials into miserly hoarders of budgets doled out from Wellington can relax and build up more inclusive and wholesome decision-making processes.

    It’s a pretty big sea change when being nice to each other stops being a mug’s game.
    The tight-lipped political interregnum focused on values, policy and public process has been an inestimable good. For the first time, perhaps since the 1980s, we have a sense of knowing where we are going – and a trust that we can get there, not necessarily easily but with generosity.

    Much has been made of the comments by Winston Peters when he announced that he was taking New Zealand First into coalition with Labour and the Greens. The moment when he pronounced neoliberal excesses no longer fit for purpose for too many New Zealanders has been recorded almost with surprise by the media.

    Jacinda Ardern, whose policy we voted on last month, is credited with ‘echoing’ him. Of course, it started long before that.

    Our new prime minister has said many iterations on that theme over half a dozen years in interviews I’ve had with her as an MP well acquainted with her Waiheke voters. It was what a majority of us voted for.

    Even the well-heeled aren’t so foolish as to think that it’s workable on any measurable timeframe to have an almost kleptocratic culture of robbing from the middle and the actual ‘have nots’ to enrich the insatiable ‘haves’.

    DoC in freefall, the New Zealand Initiative spinning everything from fish stocks to financial inequality, houses earning more than their occupants and life itself unaffordable for far too many of New Zealand’s own citizens is insanity.

    Even if you were on the property train and had managed not to fall off yet, it’s damned uncomfortable to have so many urgent and apparently-insoluble social and economic disasters going on at once.

    Leaving the regions to rot while Auckland staggers under a weekly influx of 800 more people and cars was one of them.

    My own irregular meetings with Winston Peters have never matched the generations of media gabble about the long-ago whistle-blower who called out offshore tax havens that still flourish to this day.

    He’s a sapient after dinner speaker and, in a lineup of top politicians at an Environmental Defence Society lecture a few years ago, had easily the most leadership charisma on show.

    I snatched a half-hour ferry-trip interview with him when he turned out in support of Waiheke ferry travellers lobbying for the Explore ferries to have access to a level playing field with monopoly operator Fullers for Gold Card travel.

    His passion and grasp of New Zealand’s underlying issues and of the daily detail sounded eminently sensible.

    That he might throw his lot in with a power-hungry status quo in exchange for a few baubles didn’t match at all. That he might be delving deep into the detail of implementation and cementing goals with a young, intelligent and far from inexperienced Labour leader was a distinct possibility.

    How cool is a billion-dollar budget to revitalise the regions from which the post offices and hospitals – even the train tracks – have been stripped mercilessly since the 1980s?

    A brake on asset stripping of our manufacturing and off-shoring of intellectual property, productive farm land and homes can only be good.

    Building legacy houses on the scale now envisaged plainly wasn’t happening, for all the noisy hype. And if it’s genuinely done to empower New Zealand citizens, it will make the money go round and, hopefully, be accomplished in a wide range of initiatives, not just developer-friendly sprawl that sucks Auckland dry with insatiable infrastructural needs.

    As for the Kermadec sanctuary that was the National government’s sole contribution to our otherwise woeful marine reserve quota, this is a country where opposition member’s bills have died like leaves in autumn for a decade. A private member’s bill at this stage sounds more like the new Opposition’s attempt at ‘flinging a dead cat on the living room table’ for the media claque to chew on.

    We won’t miss that stuff. – Liz Waters

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