Posted by David Gledhill on Oct 05, 2017
Many folk are born in their country and are dutifully proud of it, while some deliberately choose to settle in a country, and have therefore actively chosen some responsibility for it.
I came to NZ in 1962 after completing my degree.  NZ had the second highest standard of living in the world and a reputation second to none. There were four unemployed people in the Hutt and the Mayor knew each one by name.  Unpleasant jobs like dustmen were relatively highly paid because no-one wanted to do it and so had to be well compensated. Everyone was well housed: State houses were well built, affordable, and "pepper-potted" around to avoid creating slums.
 
Certainly, things were not perfect: normal people could never hope to buy a new car and olive oil was only available from chemists. Unions were truculent at times and it took ages to have a telephone installed. Nevertheless, we had a stable society, no gangs, few murders except for domestics and there was equal opportunity for everyone. People mixed together: law students worked on the wharf in their holidays (and I worked at the Gear and enjoyed a most stimulating company).
 
Reforms were needed and were made by Roger Douglas et al, but somehow the baby was thrown out with the bathwater. Inefficiencies were removed but a sense of responsibility was lost. Our society since then has been transformed, what made us the envy of the world has been betrayed.
 
Incrementally but cumulatively our society has become divided. Those whose snouts are nearest the trough have done very well. MPs used to have the same salary as qualified teachers - but look at them now. The change has been partly institutional. Management salaries are set by consultants. Fine, but Boards and managers choose the consultants and guess which consultants they choose.  Fonterra is set up as two companies and basically, the company that employs the staff prosper best when milk prices are low. I do begrudge their CEO his $8 million, but I begrudge even more the twenty or more lower managers who earn (or are paid) over $1million p.a. While farmers struggle.
 
The change has also been political. NZ has prided itself on a high dollar. Briefly this rewards importers, discourages manufacturers and makes Mercedes and overseas trips cheaper for the well-off. More money goes offshore and wages are driven down for workers in our productive sectors.
 
The change has also been social. The book-keepers at treasury (they were not macro-economists) believed state housing should pay a dividend.  That could have been ok except that the National Government believed it was not the government's job to subsidise it.  The result has been the run-down of state housing, (higher remuneration for the managers for achieving targets), homelessness, unstable families and real suffering. We will soon have a lost generation in West Auckland but we will have to build many more prisons.
 
Our health system is in crisis. I was discussing this with a very wise friend recently who deplored the fact and complained how expensive his private health insurance is. He did not seem to realise that if we had a good public health system he would not have to pay his exorbitant insurance fees.
 
The change is also (I hope) unintentional. Paying rent subsidies rather than building more state houses helps landlords more than tenants (and look how many MPs own several rentals). The "Working for Families" subsidy sounds good but in fact was tried in England (the Speenhamland System) and over the years simply depressed wages. Immigration for low-skilled jobs also depresses wages. I could go on, but my message is clear: we must wake up to what we are doing.
 
I still love New Zealand, my chosen country. I love the diversity: I have stood in front of classes with nine or ten nationalities and we live together happily, and the richer for that. I love the informality and sociability and integrity, the opportunities for all prepared to work hard and honestly, and for all these reasons we must see how we are in danger of destroying all that is best in New Zealand.
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