A mass of flowers adorns the Botanic Gardens fence on Rolleston Avenue in Christchurch, paying tribute to the people who were killed or injured in the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019. The flowers are starting to wilt and will soon be removed. The sense of respect and suffering though is still strong.
For days we attended the vigils, laid flowers, made donations of all sorts. We grieved. We cried. We felt sick and sad The country changed in terms of our perceptions that New Zealand is free from the sort of hatred espoused by the gunman.
But life goes on, and for our own mental health and to move this great country forward, we must come to a time when we move on, whilst never ever forgetting. Three weeks on, many New Zealanders, myself included are looking for normality to resume.
A Royal Commission of Inquiry has been announced into the Christchurch Mosque attacks, with Justice William Young expected to head it. Today Parliament will move the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts)Amendment Act to its Second Reading as the Finances and Expenditure Committee seek to make sense of the 13,000+ submissions that arrived in the space of 48 hours.
However it is still the New Zealand that has lost 112 people in road accidents since 01 January 2019. It is still the same country that has an 89,000 ton a year electronic waste problem; a country with a justice system failing to deliver sentences that both the public and the prison population both respect; a country with unhealthy house prices; a country with its biggest measles out break in year.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern might have wowed the world with her warm compassionate embrace of the Muslim community in the days and weeks after the attacks. It was certainly the right thing to do and it was admittedly very well played. Yet this is the same Prime Minister leading a Government with a Minister of Housing whose pet Kiwi Build scheme is in potentially terminal decline 18 months after it started. The same Prime Minister made a gamble in 2018 when her Minister of Energy and Resources, Dr Megan Wood announced that New Zealand would go free of oil and gas by 2020.
What do I think our major priorities other than dealing with the aftermath of the terrorist attack should be?
- The future of Tomorrow’s Schools, the 1989-vintage model of how our education should be administered and the review that the Minister, Chris Hipkins ordered
- New Zealand’s burgeoning road toll. Desperate for attention, the Grim Reaper has claimed 112 lives since the start of the year
- Reviewing how Kiwi Build is (not)working and make appropriate amends – I cannot see it getting even 40,000 or 50,000 of its promised 100,000 houses on current performance
- Addressing our waste issue – far too much is going straight to the landfill and the war on plastics, whilst nice only has a certain degree of practicality as no coherent plan is in place to get people on to more sustainable material
- Overhauling the Ministry of Social Development umbrella agencies and the legal framework under which they operate
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is going to have to make some choices in terms of her Ministers.Who are all of her Ministers and what do they do?
- Some, like Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta and Minister of Social Development Jenny Salesa are barely visible – they might have policy announcements, due, but would do well to raise their profile
- Others like Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins have major announcements due soon and will be nutting out the final details of their announcement.
- High profile ones like Minister for Regional Development Shane Jones who is regularly courting media interest with his provocative and – at times – thought provoking comments, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters who has had a number of high profile engagements
Now that the mourning is coming to an end, the harder questions and conversations need to start. Has New Zealand really learned from this or is it all just for show?