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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

I hope I didn’t just give away the ending: a real agenda for 2017

Well 2016 is over and to some peoples mind it was an Annus Horribillis of record proportion.

Why? Because Trump got elected and a lot of pop stars and actors died!

Now if this is your definition of disaster and misfortune then you are:

a)      Far more of a pop culture receptacle than I am; and
b)      Lacking a sense of perspective

Yep, dead cultural icons (mostly Baby Boomers) and the US election turning out to be as much of a shambles as any other country are causes for doom and gloom and I seriously considered deleting several friends on Facebook because I was getting nothing but posts whining about such things from them.

So if you got sucked into the endless stream of impotent media ejaculation (a somewhat disgusting image but one I think is accurate) in 2016 and ended up fixated on pointless trivia while slightly more important issues slipped past your scrutiny let’s try to avoid that 2017 by highlighting some of the things you should really be thinking about.

So here is what I think New Zealand should (and most probably will be) focusing on in 2017.

The Environment

If the slew of articles in local media in the last quarter of 2016 was anything to go by environmental concerns will be something on Kiwi minds this year.

From polluted rivers, industrial dairying, water issues, the degradation and exposure of our 100% pure NZ image as being more of an advertising slogan than an actual reality, to maximum tourist capacity, melting glaciers and just a general sense that things can’t go on the way they are; the environment has been getting increasing attention and many of the effects are hitting very close to home for more than a few people.

All of these issues are of concern in and of themselves but the reality is they all fall under the overarching banner of the environment.

In Canterbury where I am the fact that some rivers can’t be swum in to the Ashburton council doing dodgy deals over water along with the fact that some rivers are dry while you can drive past endless streams (pun not intended) of damp, green and endlessly irrigated dairy paddocks has all the makings of a grassroots issue that will go big this year, especially as the warm weather drives people out to the river (traditionally a kiwi place to cool off during the summer) only to find that they enter the water at their own risk.

That’s just one facet of an issue which Kiwis are always claiming they are passionate about but don’t always put their money where their mouths are.

This year will see Kiwis either put up or shut up as Big dairy does its best to keep the issue off our radar and the tourism industry keeps on shouting “more room, more room!” while tourist capacity is at its limit and the benefits of people visiting our country start to pale to the sheer numbers coming and parts of NZ start to look like any other overrun tourist rat trap in the world today.

And that’s not even taking into account the larger issue of climate change and how it may be related to some of the issues already mentioned.

I could go on but suffice it to say that there is a nexus of issues which could trigger this debate full time but the odds are that more than one will end up being the catalyst for public push-back at the national level.


Normally we only get irked at the Ozzies because they are our nemesis at sports and because they won’t shut up about Kiwis being “sheep shaggers” but 2017 is going to be the year that we finally start to look across the Tasman Sea and question a bit more about our “special relationship” with our ANZAC neighbors.

The biggest issue at the moment is how Kiwis in Australia are being treated by being denied a pathway to citizenship through the normal visa category despite many having lived in Australia nearly their entire lives which leaves them vulnerable to deportation and other benefits available to those living long term in OZ.

What makes this situation even more galling is that NZ does give all these benefits to Australians living in NZ under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement so it basically Australia not reciprocating on a situation where they get all the benefits of living in NZ but Kiwis in OZ do not.

Add to this the deportation of Kiwis back to NZ (be they criminals or otherwise) no matter how long they have lived in Australia and the detention of Kiwis in what I can only term politely as “detention camps” along with anyone else having “immigration issues” in Australia.

And then there is the fact that New Zealand has always been Canada to Australia’s United States (as anyone who has lived or worked with Canadians or Americans will know).

We both remain democratic states but politically we are often moving in different directions.

Australia’s wholehearted support for military measures in the Middle East and its military relationship with the US are mostly at odds with New Zealand’s and while the geo-political situation for Australia does remain different (being “slightly” closer to Asia as well as having some incidents of domestic terrorism) what is really driving the split appears to be coming from the sheer volatility of government with its revolving door of Prime Ministers and parties and the polarization of politics along partisan lines just like the US it so often seems to want to emulate.

So expect things to remain tense between us and them across the water as Oz has served as a safety valve to NZ for a long time with many Kiwis hopping across the ditch to find better, jobs, better pay and better lives there and if that valve is closed or even reduced expect all those issues to remain (or come back) in NZ and that means more discontent at home and less “exporting” our problems to Oz.

If that happens then that could directly have an impact on elections here and if anything will make it an issue, pissed off Kiwis ragging on the Wallabies to their local MP will.

So like the environment expect this issue to heat up (pun intended this time) in the next 12 months.

Auf Wedersehen Godzone?

Where to start with NZ?

It’s clear that New Zealand of the twentieth century is changing as we move into the 21st, that the social democracy that was built up in the first three quarters of the previous century is rapidly being eroded by changes enacted in the last quarter.

Child poverty, the housing hernia, immigration issues, infrastructure limitations, the earthquakes and the rise of two separate classes of people (a small wealthy elite and the mass of those desperately holding on to declining middle class status or sliding into crippling poverty) in a country once considered to be classless.

Add to this the entrenchment of career politicians in Wellington and the parasite politics that such vermin bring and it’s not hard to see that Kiwis will soon be faced with a decision on which direction we, as a nation, wish to go.

Do we seek to retain our social democratic, classless society with such things as a social security net and fair and just laws or allow our society to be broken up and Balkanised into small enclaves of wealth and privilege while the majority are pushed into an increasingly lawless wasteland of user pays, privatized and profit orientated values amid a country in which we become second class citizen serfs?

The choices we make, may have already been made for us but if we do retain any options it may be to go quietly or put up a fight and the old joke about NZ having 60 million sheep but three million think they are human might not seem so funny in a few years’ time as Smiths Dream finally comes about via a complacent populace.

I could say a lot more here but this is as good as place as any to end this post (also as I will get into this more in the future).

So stop worrying about which pampered actor or musician is going to kick the bucket this year or what President Trump is currently raving about and turn your attention to your own backyard, your own peoples, your own cultures and your own well being first.

If you can’t do that at least have some style in whose death you bemoan. Crying out over the passing of grade Z celebrities or musicians shows a shallowness which betrays a point of view which is at the absolute screen face of media as a puppet dancing to the tune called by someone else.

Happy 2017.

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