Too close to call


    So here we are, Easter 2022, perhaps the strangest year yet.

    Nearly eight billion people, all but a tiny fraction of us struggling to find mechanisms to save ourselves, our children and – if we are lucky enough to still have them – our communities and histories.

    If you arrived for Easter Weekend on the island with a vehicle, you’ll already have seen the mesh fences and security guards behind which kororā burrows in the rock sea wall have been picked apart to build a floating car park and the once-tranquil bay’s soon-to-be enormous boat-garage/marina.

    If you came through Mātiatia, the same traffic midden as last time will be, if nothing else, familiar; the roads neither wider or safer and many, many heavy electric buses driving around “not in service”.

    Depending on your place in the overall scheme of things, it may be good news that more than 1000 submissions were lodged with the Department of Conservation in support of a locally generated proposal for a full-scale no-take marine reserve,

    Taking in some of the best remaining remnants of kelp gardens and endangered fish stocks among the rocky reefs off Waiheke’s northern coastline, it will, if successful, be the last addition to the microscopically small amount of the magnificent Hauraki Gulf to be protected from over-fishing and habitat degradation.

    However, if you are at the eastern end of the island and look out across the Waiheke Channel towards Coromandel,  a 300-hectare fin fish farm on an industrial scale, and intended to produce 8000 tons of yellowfin kingfish a year, is in the consenting process (with the Waikato Regional Council) and is already applying to expand its death-dealing footprint.

    This is our state of play, but it is still Waiheke, so we are not necessarily going quietly. We have taken to electric cars with gusto and embrace bicycles in spite of narrow and broken-edged roads and the ever-increasing size and number of vehicles.

    We spend precious time composting, washing and sorting our recycling and biking when it would be easier and quicker to drive, even if we watch a year’s worth of effort go down the drain every time a chopper flies over or a jetski spends the sunset hours doing water donuts in our bays.

    How can Auckland Council expect us to be OK with yet another tax to address a climate emergency it has been avoiding like the plague and still has no plan or responsibility for. While we watch them grant upwards of 50 helipad consents so one or two people can fly in to lunch?

    If you look around Waiheke – rich in trees, its productive Mediterranean hillsides, tiny coves and  magnificent beaches, some acres of sand, others rocky and rich in birdlife – it’s obvious we have a lot to lose, and it’s going by a thousand short-term cuts, often from our city council’s parsimony with its rank-and-file citizens. Democracy-light and increasingly autocratic, it seems to have spent the Covid years getting its rule books up to date, rather than preparing shovel-ready projects to prepare the city for a clean, green and thriving new start.

    Internationally, we’re swallowing some unpalatable truths about the world we now live in. For 50 days now, we’ve watched Ukraine’s epic struggle to avoid the grasp of its imperialist Big-Five neighbour, the ensuing refugee exodus and the conflict’s reshaping of Europe and the western world’s geopolitical settings.

    The David and Goliath struggle, citizens dead in the streets and whole cities in burnt-out ruins, has cracked open many of the tangled forces that lurk behind new and old global agendas, the segue of democracies into authoritarian regimes and the power sequestered by global big business.

    On present evidence, we should probably conclude that, in a tight corner, the smaller nations probably won’t get much help from the United Nations, NATO or the exceptionalist US.

    A tired-looking Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of war crimes this last week, asking the UN Security Council: “Are you ready to close the UN? Do you think that the time of international law is gone? If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately.”

    It remains to be seen if it will. In the meantime, he said, it is not just the moral duty of all democracies, all the forces of Europe to support Ukraine’s desire for peace. “This is, in fact, a strategy of defence for every civilised state; to restore power of international law as soon as possible and to prevent the catastrophe caused by the application of force.”

    In the Christian ethic, Easter, after tragedy and death on Good Friday (and some fairly bad behaviour even from the good guys), became, on Sunday, a joyous renewal, in many ways a transformative new narrative on how to live with each other on the earth in equality before God and man. 2000 years later, it feels as if we are perched on the same cusp.

    • Liz Waters

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