I am a New Zealander first and foremost. I support two teams in world sport: New Zealand and anyone playing Australia. I have traded convict jokes with Australians in return for getting sheep ones back. I’ve heard the odd grumble about New Zealand not pulling its weight on regional security and fire blight in apples. I have debated on which country really owns Phar Lap and Pavlova. I have been ribbed about the performance of the New Zealand cricket team of the day – though I should point out the current one Australians might do well to watch – though much less when it comes to rugby union. It is part of the banter between two great nations.
But I love Australia. I love Australians and Australiana. If it is done in good humour, having “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” followed by “Oi, oi, oi” is quite okay with me.
New Zealanders, despite the recent complaints about how we are treated in Australia, can live and work in Australia without a visa. The number of flights that go across the Tasman in either direction each day, is quite impressive for nations of 21 million people and 4 million people respectively. New Zealand television has Australian programmes such as Home and Away, Border Patrol and used to have older comedies such as Hey Dad. We have been treated to the best of Australian musicians such as Midnight Oil, John Farnham and Slim Dusty. Reading about your settler history, your efforts on the Kokoda Trail against the Japanese in World War II all helped to form the view I have of Australia today.
We have grown up watching the National Rugby League getting played. We have seen you lift your Rugby World Cup title with John Eales at the helm, and have had to tolerate the impossible sight of an Australian captain lifting the Cricket World Cup three times in a row. And you have come to the understanding that the All Blacks currently set the standard in international rugby union. And when (sad as it is for the sport)netball have their World Championships, the question is not which teams will make the final, but which side of the Tasman Sea the trophy will spend four years (or more)residing on.
It is quite a unique relationship New Zealand and Australia have. Born in a baptism of fire on the sun drenched, blood splattered hills overlooking the Dardenelles on 25 April 1915, we both went to our first big international conflict together in World War One as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. They went home as Australians and we came home as New Zealanders. We fought together in World War Two, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Although diferences opened up with the A.N.Z.U.S. rift of the 1980s our relationship with Australia did not suffer the major deterioration it did with the United States.
Australia and Australians are family. Although if true, I certainly don’t intend that we become the official seventh state of Australia and have a radial route in Canberra all to ourselves, the love Australians show for us when there is a major natural disaster as they did on 22 February 2011 when Christchurch was hit by New Zealand’s worst disaster in 80 years, is unquestionable. It’s beautiful. Six weeks before that fateful day, shocked by the ferocity of flash flooding that ravaged Queensland and in particular Toowoomba, New Zealanders sent a U.S.A.R. crew across the Tasman to help. During various bush fire outbreaks, sometimes amongst the most ferocious known to occur because of the dry conditions, the eucalyptus trees with their oil and the intense heat, New Zealand fire crews have gone and helped.
We will agree with you now that Aboriginal art work is beyond amazing. That Uluru is simply stunning and the erosion features cutting through billions of years old sedimentary rock in Queensland, the Northern Territory everyone who can reasonably see them should try to. In return us New Zealanders hope you will agree that Milford Sound on a clear calm day cannot be beaten, that the stink of sulphur in Rotorua is not a bad price to pay for the rewards you get for going there.
But you can have your Sydney funnelwebs, your Taipans, your Tiger snakes, box jelly fox, crocs and horse flies. And I am sure you don’t want our 250 fault lines, and their attendant hazards, or our volcanoes, or tsunami’s.
So, thank your very much for being yourself Australia. Even if the majority of biosecurity threats do arrive here from your shores. It is not to say we want you to win the Cricket World Cup, because we don’t, but who better to co-host it with? A good rival, an awesome ally in war time and when things go pear shaped, family.