An alternative State of the Nation speech

Today Prime Minister John Key and Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little gave their State of the Nation speeches, in which they outlined their agenda’s for the year 2015. As I, a third party voter read through the coverage of the speeches, I could not help but wonder what I would have said had I been delivering a speech. Rather than give you a full blown speech, the few paragraphs of prose below are my effort at an alternative state of the nation speech:

New Zealand is a nation that has thus far weathered the climate of national security concerns very well. It is a nation that still retains much of the respect built up by decades of relatively prudent foreign policy, carefully asserting ourselves as leading nation of the South Pacific, whilst trying to retain the respect of much bigger powers such as the United States and China. It is not realistic to expect New Zealand to play a big role in the defeat of I.S.I.S. and certainly not practical, much less proper, to carry out a military role. Where New Zealand comes in use is taking a fair but firm hand helping to build up the rule of law, holding nations that flout international law to account via the U.N. and reforming the organs of that organization. It should also be careful not to give regimes undue recognition for human rights abuses, such as that which Prime Minister John Key has given the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah might have forged a working relationship with New Zealand Government’s of both Labour and National Party origin, but that does not excuse his record on human rights abuse.

New Zealand still has an environment that is relatively well regarded overseas, and still the reason for many tourists visiting. However a combination of unsustainable materialism promoted by 30 years of increasingly market oriented economics, and compounded by the slow but deliberate degradation of the very natural systems that are essential for the maintenance of life, poses the single biggest threat to New Zealand’s long term well being. In addition to the damage being done to our fresh water resources, the changes that climate change – man made or not – are causing, we also have a burgeoning problem with electronic waste. Every electronic device you use – your laptops, cellphones, MP3 players and so forth – contain toxic materials in their manufacture. It might be lithium, or it could be caesium, lead or any one of a number of other toxic agents. They don’t break down well, and when they get into water, it becomes unsafe to drink. About 99% of the 80,000 tons or so generated each year by New Zealanders throwing out our unwanted electronic devices instead of getting them repaired, ends up in the landfill. Very little goes to specialised facilities for stripping out the components. That is not good enough. Establishing a long term blue print for managing this particular type of waste should be an immediate priority for the Minstry for Environment, as should establishing a recycling depot in each of the metropolitan centres.

New Zealand is an immigrant nation. Our reputation for being a fair country has been built in large part on the tolerance of diversity and respect for other nationals coming here. Many of them come from far worse situations than that which we could contemplate, from places where genocide is happening; ruled by unstable dictatorships or fleeing a humanitarian catastrophe. We open our doors with great grace. Long may we continue to do so. Thus, it is with concern that I note our government appears to be following the lead of the Australian government of Tony Abbott, which not only makes asylum seekers, who are often the most vulnerable, unwelcome but with little regard for their well being turns the boats back at sea in complete contravention of U.N. refugee laws. Is it too much common sense to address the situation that compels them to leave their country of origin in the first place? Many of them just want somewhere peaceful and stable to live, and given that they often come from nations trying their best to stop them leaving, very often to make it out alive they have no choice but to resort to illegal methods.

We need to ensure that immigrants who come are able to do so safely, and very preferably in a legal manner. When they arrive on New Zealand’s shores they become the responsibility of the New Zealand Government agencies, and that is where – through no fault of the refugee/immigrant – a new set of issues arises. Every new immigrant coming to New Zealand needs the following:

  • A house with running water, electricity, a drive way and sewerage mains
  • At some point, they will need a car
  • A job or other means to pay their way and provide for any dependents

All of this requires resources. The house needs land, the building materials necessary and the skilled labour to assemble it, to say nothing of things like resource consents. Whilst they are not necessarily going to be buying or building a brand new home, at some point all of these resources would have been used for such a purpose. New Zealand has traffic congestion problems in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as well as numerous other locations courtesy of our indulgence in cars. Of course we cannot blame the immigrant for problems that existed long before they arrive, but planning for the long term sustainable future as the Resource Management Act requires, becomes just that much harder. 

Will a New Zealand political party be brave enough to tackle these issues on a broad basis? I doubt it, but it needs to be done and it needs to start NOW. And that, ladies and gentlemen is my agenda for 2015.

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