Important fun


    I found myself handing out the honours for Waiheke’s fastest business-house trolley at the Great Gulf News Trolley Derby last Sunday, and was suddenly aware of the elegant silver trophy in my hand that had been fought over by generations of fierce competitors and of the depths of our own particular community.

    The annual derbies always did whip us out of our usual weekly grind and into serious, sometimes expensive, fun after the long island winter and before the summer visitors arrived, reconnecting us with all the various and quite distinct strands and shards of the island’s social, ecological, commercial and generational groups.

    Sunday’s 2023 derby was no exception, capturing the spirit of camaraderie and unity in the shared effort, showing the complex threads that criss-cross the island’s distinctive villages and island life.

    It came with the same anxious young drivers in overalls and oversized gloves, the wind off the sea and the village’s grassy slopes filled with the same excited and partisan spectators.

    It even had much the same atmosphere of meeting and greeting of old friends as it did 35 years ago when the derby was part of the Late Great Waiheke County Fair on the eve of Waiheke’s absorption into the new and resented Auckland supercity.

    Festivals are sewn into our human DNA and are a vital part of the tribalism that makes communities work. Waiheke has been rich with them, perhaps because our well-travelled citizens have seen seasonal festivals in every small corner of the world and relish the important fun they bring.

    Popular centralised mass entertainments have taken their place, but we lose them at our peril.

    In 1989, as now, we were facing uncertain times in a new era of remote supercity administration with its perennial austerities and shocking habits.

    After last summer’s radically changing weather patterns and the empty streets of Covid before that, it often felt as if all of Waiheke was emptying out, sinking under the difficulties of housing costs and monopoly and transport issues that threaten businesses and the survival of households on the island.

    The slogging match of national election polls and mudslinging at the only level of governance that can address the systemic inequality going back to the late 1980s isn’t helping.

    This is not a meaningful contest of ideas and ways forward for a 21st century society.

    Working taxpayers should not be fodder for international plunder and they should be able to keep a roof over their heads. There is no question that the biggest effects of the current reserve bank policies hit hardest on the poorer half of the population – mostly young families. Whether we can take another year of this blatant inequity is not even a political football. It’s firmly locked away, although if the idea of building houses to hock off to another round of well-resourced overseas buyers as a matter of government policy shocks you, do some homework.

    We have had Rogernomic capitalism and our first reserve bank arrive since the time when we on Waiheke were plotting the first derby. Inequality hit out of the blue, went through the roof and has stayed there. Multinational corporations have literally monopolised our food, banking, fuel and ferry transport; demonstrating the actual endgame of capitalism and showing no mercy,

    Nor is it a contest between two main party politicians who are, erroneously, I think, conflated into ‘the centre’ by the commentariat.

    The concept of the ‘two Chrises’ in some amorphous middle and orbiting, self-selecting minor party candidates is insanely dangerous and – shame on the media – Prime Minister Hipkins did the best job so far this week when he pointed out that the two main parties are built on entirely different foundations.

    To paraphrase, one – with far and away the largest campaign funding – is focussed on GDP growth and winners take all. The other is based on people and services.

    Rattling between the two every three years hasn’t served us well and has principally, one suspects, enabled self-serving, nation wide bureaucracies and their consultants to flourish to the point where basic human needs are constantly at risk.

    As for voting. If you want what you’ve already got, go right ahead. If you’re uncomfortable with the way it’s going for people around you, do some mahi. Analyse every party’s strengths and weaknesses for yourself. Get interested in what your politicians are actually doing. Go deeper. Do some research into the change you want and how that might be brought about from those we vote to lead us.

    Nor is this a ‘time for a change’ rationale, which is plain lazy.

    Our greatest threat at this time is apathy. • Liz Waters

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