Opinion: the haves and have-nots

The Age of Reason

By Peter Carr

During the second half of my perambulation around Northland last week I had the opportunity to witness not only magnificent vistas (both land and sea) but also to reflect upon the socio-economic bifurcation that besets our lovely country.

Staying with the tourist aspects first. I defy anyone in the world to produce simple but dramatic vistas as one can witness when on the east coast of Northland. Bay after beautiful bay went past the campervan window. With so many beaches a sensible tourist drive in this area could well reap plentiful tourism awards. Interestingly Helena Bay – yet another geographic jewel in the Northland crown – hosts the overseas holiday home of a Russian billionaire. It also has large, well-kept grounds and its own wharf. The owner, displaying good resident traits, complied fully with the local Council with regard to ecological requirements when building his sprawling residence.

Now comes the rub. On passing the splendid entrance there was ample evidence of a tidy, well-kept vista which one must assume is in keeping with the hidden major part of the grounds. It appears that the owner is applying for increased water rights to assist with maintaining the splendour and support of nature but that some locals are not keen for him to obtain that support for his gardens.

Who is right? It’s an interesting conundrum and one which, when multiplied, shows the quandary that government has when permitting overseas ownership of large tracts of New Zealand’s natural land areas.

Further along the same very windy, but well-surfaced, road we frequently came across what may be termed as poorly maintained shacks that were clearly doubling as permanent residences. They immediately indicated the extremes of the problems abounding in Northland. Driveways are not sealed, and the number of very old cars is evidence of the financial state of the owners.

I raise this – not in any way to be disparaging – far from it. But one starts to witness that all the WINZ payments in the world are never going to balance the books. What is clearly needed is good and continuous employment where a worthwhile wage is the very necessary basis for anyone. Not only so people can be proud of what they are attempting to achieve but also so it gives people a self-esteem that goes towards more peaceable family lifestyles and a marked reduction in male-dominated family violence.

Over on the other coast, towards the west, a coffee stop in a small country town showed a predominance of people who struggle to meet the requirements of satisfying residence. Retailers clearly get support commensurate with the amount and frequency of the credit they permit. Shops which are shuttered may not have been open for some time. Teenage youths, who should be at school, are roaming the streets mindlessly. The government of the day (any government) has a long way to go to balance the ‘living’ books and the upwards spiral in house prices will only drive deprived people deeper within their shell.

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