Tick. Tock. The Bell Will Toll On Tory Rule
Here’s a Southern Auckland perspective as to why.
Opinion by Selwyn Manning
Isn’t democracy a fine thing. Just when it seems this country has been governed by self perceived born to rule cronies forever, the population deals out a right old telling off. Yip, here in south Auckland, three terms is long enough. That’s the gut feeling. Not just with me but seemingly from any breathing Aucklander of votable age that I have talked to.
It’s all in the trend.
Polls are fickle. That’s clear. Remember former Prime minister, Jim Bolger’s off the cuff election night spin? “Bugger the polsters.” There’s a lot to be learnt from that experience.
In this state of the region expression, I will concentrate not on polls but on a nose for change. I believe it offers a are more clear perspective. Polls can do and have picked up trends, but they do not predict outcomes so precisely. So caution is required with polls.
Lets take a leap of faith. Trends have done it before. Consider the fate of Britain’s John Major, Germany’s Helmut Kohl, and New Zealand’s Sir Robert Muldoon. Change for them was in the wind. None of us were surprised. And the wind’s been a blowing here since the Hikoi passed through last year.
However, for those who want proof of a more scientific bent, the points to follow show why south Aucklanders, and Aucklanders in general, will largely abandon the Party List support they gave National three years ago. That vote will be redistributed in substantial proportions to minor parties across the political spectrum. Suburban Auckland regionalites will create a shift to the centre-left. The floaters of the more affluent areas will mix it up, a little for Labour, ACT. Forget New Zealand First.
And the rural Auckland voter decisively is to follow in behind Richard Prebble, Rodney Hide and the ACT team.
That’s the gut feeling. The polls vary to proportions, but a trend is clearly evident.
How long has it been since urban Aucklanders had representation within Cabinet? Yes, yes... I hear you say: “Clem”... “Lockwood”... “Doug Graham”... every journalist’s friend “Maurice Williamson”... “Bill Birch!”. Sorry, yes, you have a point. But so do I. I meant to say real representation which matters to the majority of people. Social policy representation.
Auckland has been neglected. And herein lies one of the greatest problems facing National.
National cannot understand the extremes of societal change which has manifestly taken hold in this region. Nor can it understand the scale of urbanisation around Auckland with its sprawling suburbs. Each suburb population-wise is often larger than the local town from where the incumbents gleaned life’s experiences.
How can National’s leaders understand Auckland and its suburban underbelly? Jenny Shipley is from rural South Island. Bill English is too. Nick Smith is a South Islander. Tony Ryall, Wyatt Creech, Roger Sowry; all have been raised far from this cosmo-collective.
National’s future lies in the experiences of southern politicians. And Auckland’s does not. And this difference will show in Saturday’s vote take.
Even National’s surrogate cousin, New Zealand First, neglects Auckland. Not one Auckland candidate on its list is within reach of getting into Parliament going on current political poll support.
Seems it is the Tory way.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF NEGLECT
Here, at great risk of being labelled a “doom merchant” thanks to one National MP and party list hopeful, Arthur Anae, I’ll list a few observances.
National’s ruralites look to the big city with a certain disdain. They wonder why Aucklanders cannot see how National’s market rent policy for state house tenants is, as Tony Ryall puts it, a “fair system”. Funny that.
National cannot understand why a brown faced mother of six cannot get her kids to the doctor. Surely the free visit for the younger ones, under six years of age, makes this possible. Taxis? What’s all this garbage eh?
Barriers to understanding exist on both sides of the fence, huh.
And in education, National cannot understand why students are spewing about having to fork out interest on student loans at rates far in excess of floating mortgages.
Nine years is a long time in Wellington. I’d say a few weeks on the campaign trail has been an eye opener. Yes Jenny Shipley, people are polite, will be photographed willingly. But you cannot get to all of us, there are too many of us.
The ruralites look upon this big city as an example of economic wealth and growth. Auckland is the petrol in the country’s engine. It’s a consuming society. It consumes not only commodities but also lives.
Yes, Auckland has a fine network of roads and highways. But drivers cut through the urban sprawl like a Shipley motorcade through the West Coast. Like her, one does not want to stop if one can help it. During gridlock, you cannot help it. Try it if you southerners have the time.
The motorways are framed by homes: blinds pulled down, doors shut, a city of individuals. Each masks suburbanitis. The poor in clearly defined groupings look pretty pissed off. And the rich in clearly defined groupings look pretty pissed off.
Suburbanitis? The affliction exists.
Beneath the motorway bridges spray-can patchwork decorates walls. Some of the squiggles are familiar. Cursed graffiti. Here you will find Castro, Cleva, Snort and a host of other youths. “Arrrrr this is familiar,” I hear you say. Yes, the scene you remember is likely fictional. Duff depicted it well. But the one I scribe here is not fictional.
Do you see? Can you see? Motorway bridges offer a windbreak for a handful of Takanini kids lying on mats sniffing ados and drinking steam. Yes they are brown. They live here as have kids for about five years now. You may have seen them in a blur should you have taken the late night train from Wellington to Auckland. Their beds sit only metres from the main-trunk-line. Plastic bags take flight on the zephyr, and above, on the motorway viaduct, a river of headlights cut toward destinations somewhere out there.
Parts of Manurewa are simply a ghetto now. I feel like a creep saying that. I grew up here. Feels disloyal to even think it. But it is true. The place needs commitment at Cabinet level.
Otara looks better by day. But is still dicey for a white boy or opposing ethic gang member by night.
Mangere, population 60,000, merely copes with a second generation of so many benefit dependent people. Racial tension builds here. Pairs of brown eyes watch from abodes. They survey the haves and have nots like players in a show. Suit donned dudes take their Audis around Corporate Cabs toward Auckland Airport - destination Wellington, reason, business meeting.
Inside many Mangere homes, overcrowding attracts many ills. Have a look next time you drive along the Mangere Motorway or along Massey Road. Take a couple of turns down a no exit road. Park curbside and listen. Draw in your scents. Witness with your senses. Feel the vibes. Open your ears. The wind blows in Mangere, and there’s a tang to it.
Up to 18 persons per household live here. The co-relation between bad housing policy and fiscal wastage in health is obvious to all except those with ulterior motives.
Overcrowding is a phenomenon of the later 1990s. Take a look at the homes along Shifnal Drive in Manurewa. You can see them on the right, just past the Takanini turnoff. People are suffering in these places. There are more to be found a little west of hree in Clendon. Oh yes and around Mahia Road. And south a few kilometres around Smiths Ave and Bates St in Papakura. And then there are the plywood houses in Wiri. And then the dens of worry on top of asbestos crudded earth at Clover Park.
Blink for a few minutes and you have Wymondley on the estuary sides of Otara.
Then Otahuhu where you will find more languages spoken on the Great South Road than in and around Oxford Street, London. But sadly, here too you will witness poverty of which I can compare through experience to the streets of Saigon.
To the east of here there is a sociologist’s paradise: Glen Innes. And over the hill there is St Helliers. Arrrrrrr, now this looks more palatable. Indeed. This is where Clem hangs out. Seems a little quiet here though.
Unlike the wealthier suburbs, children in south Auckland tend to be outdoors a lot. There’s a reason for that. Both Manukau City and Papakura District pride themselves on outdoors recreation. In the more dire parts though, the reason is cloaked in the statistics which emerge from here. I suspect, for too many, home just isn’t a home at times.
Remember the stats?
Yes, that’s it, the lowering health status reports, the high morbidity rates, the overcrowded housing stats, the blow-out of hospital budgets at Middlemore, that’s all Wellington stuff which means here: lots of truants, missing children, female teenage prostitutes, male prostitutes, transsexual prostitutes, domestic violence, abuse, anger, prejudice, burglaries, robberies, rape, murder, unsolved heinus killings, generally low crime clearance rates.
Doom merchant be damned! This is reality sucker.
All this comes back to remind you each time your emerge from work at a Counties Manukau paper after 10pm. Forget Bangkok. Forget Kingscross. You got it here Mr!
It is shameful.
As a young teenager, my friends and I walked these streets at night. It was pretty dodgy, I remember street brawls, specially when the Otara gangs would come to Manurewa to be staunch. But it wasn’t like this.
It is Monday morning. Half passed ten. I’m on McEnally Street Manurewa. Outside the Bellbird Arms, three glue sniffers shuffle past me. The skin around their lips reddened from the chemical fix. The eyes reddened from the vapour. The hair matted from sleeping rough. They sway slightly threatening, but is unintentional I am sure. These fellas are not teens, they are approaching 30.
Leaves one wondering huh. Leaves one feeling empty. Think it was the look in their eyes.
But then again, there’s another side to south Auckland: the parks and fields hum with activity. There’s a scent in the air this time of year. Honey suckle is out in bloom. How I miss home. Where the fit practice their touch rugby, softball, kirikete and a host of other summer sports. There’s a vibrancy about the pace - it’s to do with cultural life. There’s a healthy pride in how things are done: “The Manukau way”, as councillor Len Brown calls it.
There are brilliant minds here too. Mangere’s James Papali’i, Michael Lamont, Manurewa’s Rangi McLean, Ngaire Munro, Otahuhu’s young Teneka Hyndman, Otara’s Jesamine Wanoa. And smart businessmen too: Papakura’s Chris Verissimo, Manukau’s Peter L the Mad Butcher to name just two.
This quilt has many patches. A “Face of the Future” as Manukau City Council so elloquintly puts it. But never have the patches clashed as much as they do now. The quilt has turned red - let’s hope Marxist Alanysis is wrong. The socio-economic statistics show the divide. Colloquially it’s called...? Yes that’s right, the widening ditch. The Tale of Two Cities. The cliques go on.
The problem for National is it cannot hope to represent all these groups of people who are feeling the consequences of its policies. Jenny Shipley may be a mother, but she cannot be the mother of this nation.
The low socio-economic areas seldom vote Tory. But this election, all people of this region can see the effects of free market ideology. The affluent Conifer Grove residents had noticed that recourse to law and order and security within their suburb was a thing of the past.
So residents opted to pay SRT security response team, a private security firm, to provide this ideal. Householders now get security and law and order to a degree determined by how much they pay. This is National/ACT reform. Thanks fellas.
Conifer Grove’s peace of mind monthly bill costs a minimum of $12. This buys you a strong protector should a burglar or a peeping tom snoop around your home. For more money, SRT will clear newspapers from your letterbox while you are away, and for more money SRT will even pick your children up from school.
Now that’s service.
SRT has simply placed an almost crime-free fence around Conifer Grove. Well, compared to other areas within the district. But even though the crime rate has dropped remarkably since SRT has been operating, a Conifer Grove resident told me today he is resentful toward the National minority Government for not insisting our police attend burglaries and keep up an obvious presence within the community. He says his taxes, not his cheque book should pay for peace of mind.
No one can escape a disinvestment in society’s community cogs.
It may be debated that many of these problems are not all National’s fault. But the point I am making here is National has been in government for nine years. It has no one else to blame. People have no one else to blame. There is good happening, there is growth, there is prosperity, there are mechanisms which permit us to make overall economic progress. But this has come at a cost. Funny eh, but the trickle down theory does not work. The many have not benefited by the prosperity of the few. And now, in south Auckland, people are saying that cost, that sacrifice, is too high.
South Auckland is not just one big concrete sprawl. There is the rural sector. Counties Manukau. Rich in sporting tradition. Rich in horticulture. Rich in Freisian dairy farms.
About 14 months ago, I was offered a warning. Not for me mind you, but for National.
It came from a man who is quite high up in Bill Birch’s old electorate committee. A Pukekohe spud farmer. A success story. A multi-multi-millionaire. Self made too. He made an art form out of turning seed potatoes and onion seed into big export bucks.
Well, anyway, this man said to me:
“rural south Auckland is going ACT”.
He was determined to fall in behind ACT. Even after years of giving loyalty to National.
National, he said, had lost touch with the farmer. Had stopped listening to his needs.
National he said had taken farmers for granted for too long. And National was not managing the pace of reform in a satisfactory manner.
His call was repeated this weekend by a farmer I spoke to on the other side of Counties Manukau.
Here, the rolling pastures are a rich green. The wind caresses like a foaming sea. The stock breed healthy and the water runs pure. But there’s a rapping on the fence post.
And it’s an impatient hand tapping belonging to a big man with a broad view. Clevedon he said was all ACT. That’s the view at the local pub just down the road from the Polo Grounds. That’s the view of the farmers all along the Ness Valley.
ACT has pulled in the punters. National constituent MP Warren Kyd is out of favour. He is a poor local MP, the Clevedon farmer said.
The farmers are savvy though. Kyd will get their electorate vote, but ACT will get the party list. “Totally!”
“Gun policy. Tax policy. Clear cut right moving reform. And the big one; the Treaty!” he boomed.
ACT’s Treaty policy lassoed in any sunburnt haymaker that may have been drifting leftward. The signs out in Clevedon and the Ness Valley do not say “No Trespassers” for nothing. They frown down on Maoridom here. They frown down on urban idealists. And they got guns in them there hills and they are mobilised come ballot box day.
National’s support has dwindled. “National is in for a big fright,” my farmer contact said. “Come Saturday.”
And then there is the humble person who has voted with his/her gut every three years. It’s an instinct which has done them proud. They after all are the swingers. They after all are the ones who vote governments out.
And the clock is ticking for National. And come Saturday, we shall see for whom the cuckoo chimes.
Okay, here’s the prediction, not in percentage points but in seats in the House. A Labour lead coalition with the Alliance and Greens totalling 64 seats in a 121 seat Parliament [the extra seat due to United’s Peter Dunne winning his seat but having no nationwide party list support.].
Greens 5 (With Fitzsimmons Winning Coromandel)
Act 18 (With Prebble Losing Wellington Central to Marian Hobbs)
NZ First 6 (Losing Te
Tai Tonga – Peters Winning Tauranga)
United’s Peter Dunne - 1 seat
Ikaroa Rawhiti Independent Derek Fox – 1 seat