Naked in Nuhaka: 28 Days Later
28 DAYS LATER
By Leo Koziol
7th October, 2004
WE'RE NOW 28 DAYS OUT FROM THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, and I think its time for a bit of an update on the way the world is. Since I last wrote at length on the state of the world, we've hit over 1,000 U.S. dead in the Iraq war (plus awful headless hostages of numerous nationalities), Florida got hit by four hurricanes in a row (the first time in human history) (1), the children of Russia suffered sadly, and New Zealand's had one very nasty round of local government elections. This time next month, we should know: (a) who the Mayor of Auckland is; (b) who the Prime Minister of Australia is; (c) who the new leader of the "free world" is (i.e. the American President); and (d) whether my Mum's got back on to Wairoa District Council.
My mother, Huia Koziol, is one of 20 candidates for the Council seats on Wairoa District Council. This time around, its going district-wide (no wards) and there's only six seats on Council (there used to be nine). Its a tough race, and an interesting one. The Mayoral race is less interesting: incumbent Pakeha farmer Les Probert is running against newbie local electric shop owner Gordon McIntyre. No controversy on the mayoral front (bar Mr. McIntyre being a member of the Freemasons), but candidates for Council include a former terrorism threat arrestee, two real estate agents, three women (all Maori), and six Maori candidates in total.
The former terrorism threat arrestee is Wayne T. Taylor, who threatened to blow up Parliament if they closed his local Kotemaori School. The letter eventually made its way to the Police, he was arrested and went to jail, though was eventually acquitted. Oh, and Parliament was evacuated for about two hours when news filtered through of the threat. Mr. Taylor also made the interesting move last term of resigning his post in the Mohaka ward, running again, and then gloating after beating out the poor chap who dared run against him. "Follow the trail of wine bottles from my supporters houses," Mr. Taylor wrote in the Wairoa Star. Such bravura.
Mayor Probert has had a relatively sure and steady term in office. He progressed a "Reclaiming Wairoa" project to focus on the gang issues, the results of which were announced recently. Its mostly a central government funding package to progress current projects (SCAFS, PHO), as well as a business development programme and a Maori Film Festival (yay!). There has been some skepticism amongst local Maoridom about the package (What are we "reclaiming"?), but despite such reservations I think its good to see central government giving Wairoa some much overdue attention.
More interesting on the local news front is Rongomaiwahine Trust being named an iwi, and thus a party to the multi-million dollar Fisheries settlement. Rongomaiwahine (which along with Ngati Hine up north was the only "hapu-level" organisations to be afforded iwi status) covers the Mahia Peninsula area near Nuhaka, comprising the whole peninsula and the waters surrounding it. I went to the celebration hui at Kaiuku, and it was a zinger. The hui pulled a large taurahere crowd from our urban centres, welcomed by a staunch and strong ahi kaa presence. And the crayfish did flow.
Highlights of the Rongomaiwahine hui included presentations from Donna Hall (stories of chasing Aunty Helen to Avalon studios!; support from Green MP Metiria Turei "your Rongomaiwahine princess!") and a spontaneous chorus from the crowd of Uncle Tommy Taurima's "Mahia Mai Tawhiti Nukutaurau E" waiata. I was overcome with emotion, and felt like I was at the birth of a nation. With an eminent female figurehead, Rongomaiwahine will be an important new energy centre for Maori, with Kahungunu (which Ms. Hall referred to as the "divorcee") getting to keep the rest of the coast (which runs from Nuhaka all the way to Cape Palliser!).
Mahia, with its soaring property prices, is certainly the point of attention for the local Council election, as well, with one writer to the Wairoa Star accusing its residents of forming a "Mahia mob" (though looking at the candidates, they do seem so diverse that this is probably not the case). So with 20 candidates for 6 positions, the outcome seems unclear. Much like the Australian and U.S. elections.
The Australian election had an interesting turn this week, with an announcement by Labor candidate Mark Latham's of his party's multi-million dollar package to protect Tasmania's old growth forests, to both appease the Greens and build votes in the marginal inner city seats. The polls are also showing up to 20% support for Greens in the Australian Senate, which looks set to be quite a turn for the books. Still, Latham and Howard are running neck and neck, so the race should be tight right through to this Saturday night's election.
Which is the same night as the New Zealand local government elections. Of course, the most amazing race to watch has been the one for Mayor of Auckland. I (2), among others, was lamenting the lack of quality candidates against bovver boy Mayor John Banks a few months ago, and - despite my pleadings to Georgina Beyers (3) to do the job - it was left to muesli magnate Dick Hubbard to throw his hat in the ring and end the Age of the Ego. Anyone following the news in Auckland (4) has seen the dirt fly, the gutter journalism flow thick, and of course been thoroughly entertained (the gay Auckland debate a particular highlight!).
Hubbard seems in for a good shot on the day, but as they say out here on the East Coast "Don't count your crayfish until you've caught them." Dick Hubbard is the founder of NZ Business for Social Responsibility and a strong Business Council for Sustainability supporter, and I think he will be able to bring a fresh and innovative vision to Auckland. Oh, and he's an all around nice guy.
The visionary (albeit brief) policy platforms on Hubbard's website (5) look good, and he could do well checking out some of the ideas in Metro's "Metro for Mayor" issue (coast to coast volcanoes race, international architecture design competition!) or, ahem, the ideas in Leo Koziol's "Lost in the Land of the Jafas" essay (Maori urbanism, sustainability planning, international architecture design competition!). Nicola Legat, Metro editor, seemed to like my ideas: "Yes, I saw [them] on the Public Address site -- it was really interesting reading, having just sent ours to the printer, and many of your ideas were, likewise, awesome." Now, on to planning that Auckland Tamaki Makaurau Visions panel for when there's a new Mayor, up there....
I was also in Taupo on the weekend, where the talk of the town was the Mayor of Invercargill, Tim Shadbolt, as he was speaking to the local business awards dinner. I recall being bombarded with attendees saying "I thought he'd suck, but he was great!" and Tim looks set, along with fellow westy icon Bob Harvey, for another term in chains.
I was in Taupo for the Resource Management Law Association conference, through the auspices of my iwi. The most interesting part of that event was hearing from OECD sustainability leader Simon Upton tell the audience "coal isn't running out, but liquid fuels are" followed by a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment speaker mentioning the implications of "Peak Oil". I asked him, in the Q&A, what the government was doing about it. He said he didn't know. Though he did tell me Denmark's gone to wind power not to be greenies, but for national power security (in an age of global insecurity).
The age of global insecurity is perhaps the biggest issue of this month's U.S. Presidential election. That, and the marginalisation of the United States from the core of world affairs. China – which has managed to double its oil consumption since the turn of the century – is the new global economic powerhouse. U.S. firms outsource high-paying high-tech labour to low-paying high-tech employees in English-speaking India. And, as Richard Florida notes, screen dreamers like our Peter Jackson are dragging major Hollywood production dollars away from America's hallowed shores. (6)
This very problem came up once in yesterday's Vice Presidential debates between Cheney and Edwards, with Mr. Edwards pointing out that the Republican's support outsourcing, whilst his party does not (though I'm sure Ralph Nader would have a thing or two to say about that). The rest of the debate was only vaguely entertaining, though the bit about Cheney's lesbian daughter was actually quite touching -- well at least as far as the caliber of U.S. reality television goes?
So, much as it is in that ghoulish movie (7), 28 days later from today the world will be a different place. Elections in Wairoa, Auckland and Australia don't necessarily mean a lot in the scheme of things. They will affect only the people who live there. But the election race in the U.S. really does matter. It impinges upon the fate of the world.
Last term, my son asked me for a topic for his English essay. I suggested George Bush. George the elder, who was in office the day he was born, in 1990, and George the younger, our current encumbent world leader, preaching "freedom, truth, justice and the American way." Just like Superman. Jordan used a bit of visual improv for his speech, using this (8) as a prop for what will happen if George wins again. I don't think his teacher was amused.
My mother Huia, in her own way a political thinker, shares some of my son's fears for the future. She and my father, both retired, both ex-Americans, sat at home and watched the entire George W. Bush party convention acceptance speech on satellite television last month. And Mum said it was distressing. She said the people in the audience were frenetic and frenzied and manic, and that that was something that made her fearful for the future. A future her children and grandchildren will inherit. That if things tilt George W's way come November 5, we may really have something to fear for.
Something to fear, some twenty-eight days from today.
(1) Though watching the special hurricanes episode of CSI Miami, I was advised that hurricanes apparently *decrease* global warming via energy dispersal? Talk about calling the symptom the cure...
(2) Lost in the Land of the Jafas: http://www.publicaddress.net/default,1421.sm#post1421
(3) Who's flip-flopped for the second time running and announced she'll put her name forward for the Labour Party list in 2005.
(4) Try publicaddress.net, nzherald.co.nz, or, um, www.nbr.co.nz. National Business Review has kindly put all their Hubbard articles online for "public service." How kind. Whatever. On the positive, Dick Hubbard copped a mention on Richard Florida's website: http://www.creativeclass.org/newzealandnews_083104.shtml
(6) Washington Monthly, Creative Class Wars: http://www.creativeclass.org/creativewar.shtml
ABOUT NAKED IN NUHAKA Leo Koziol (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes essays on ecology, identity, culture, place and planning in Aotearoa NZ in the 21st Century. Nuhaka is located on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
ALL CONTENT (C) LEO KOZIOL & RAUTAKI GROUP 2004.