The great unease


    It doesn’t pay to speculate on the future of the human race at this point in history. The knife-balance future is unknowable and it’s no wonder that we all seem to have a visceral unease that makes us cranky (to say the least). It’s a logical response to the multiple threats and uncertainties posed by the huge, and seldom benign, aggregations of power everywhere we look.

    If we believe the empty-headed news cycles, the squabbling and self-serving politics, the polls and the naysaying, it looks very bleak.

    We have soot-stained soldiers in trenches fighting for their lives and right to exist on our screens every night, for heaven’s sake. A deadly rise of dictators in murderous regimes. Rogue tech giants looting the planet.

    And that’s before you even start on climate change and the environment.

    There’s so much of it, we’re paralysed.

    There are lessons from this week’s ceremonial coronation. In media covering leading up to it you’d think it was going to be “nothing special”. The Queen was gone and it was a tiresome historical artifact.

    Yet, in reality, the very history of it had a power.

    Since 1066 the (mostly Noman) kings and queens of England were often a dubious and sometimes violent bunch but they gave us reference to their times. The ethics and moral precepts of constitutional monarchy with primacy of parliament 400 years ago (at the time when France was violently overthrowing theirs) have their roots in that tradition of royal subservience to the people’s will.

    There was an inclusivity, affection and impeccable precision to the Westminster parades and that contagious coronation party and spontaneous acts of kindness all over Britain. Reminding us that citizens need that medieval – and back into time pagan – gregariousness and attention to festivals and communal celebration in place and time.

    Beware weeding out history.

    There is something very joyless about centralised governance, the primacy of growth and the frumious GDP insistence on money as the sole measure of a human’s worth. It has a corrosive effect on life, as any self-respecting tyrant knows.

    That is a very real threat in Auckland where our interface with the supercity is pretty tattered at this moment.

    Auckland Council gathers in upwards of $30 million a year in rates and revenues from its Waiheke ward. It’s an estimate; probably on the low side. The actual figure stopped being available some years ago. If you call up Waiheke’s annual budget, it shows the Waiheke Local Board gets to have a say over less than a third of that. With wages for advisers and other staff coming out of it. That’s $22 million for the city that palpably hates us.

    Service Centre personnel have been hollowed out over the last few years and the former Waiheke County Council offices in Belgium Street is now to be closed. No ifs or buts this time.

    It started before the election of mayor Wayne Brown but the arrival of an out-of-town figurehead mayor has given the city’s officials a virtual carte blanche to raid every coffer in sight. Except the benighted city’s elephant-in-the-room wages budget for administrators who are mostly distant, disdainful and wretchedly ignorant.

    Council ambitions to build water-borne sewerage systems for large swathes of the island some time in the next 90 years is back on the table and we lose social and community grants, services and urgent attention to our monopoly-model ferry service as well as a say in our future.

    And as the dregs of democracy drain away from sheer exhaustion, I noticed this week that the Kantar polling company report on the council’s proposed annual budget has flopped through the email. Its main remit was to ‘balance’ the 40,000 submissions made by residents and ratepayers to the city-wide austerity budget and it was done at enormous cost.

    Doubling up on the public submission process that evaded any mention of internal staff efficiencies and was, in any case, designed by the same council officials whose day jobs were to run the council with fiscal integrity – in other words, without a $254 million fiscal hole in the first place. After that earlier $800 million a few years ago.

    All of it to justify selling off the highly lucrative airport share investment for nearly $2 billion (minus a handsome sum to complete the sale process).

    The relentless refusal of all political parties to get in behind a long list of things to grant even a quantum of solace to rank and file, tax-paying New Zealand – on home ownership, mortgage rates, fruit and vegetable prices, GST, equitable tax, school funding – is coming close to breaking civil society and we risk becoming a dark, mean and disappointing little country.

    Give a little kindness but get angry too. • Liz Waters

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