A few weeks ago we asked people about their views on 'Kiwi values'. We got some great feedback and the overall response was pretty clear.
Reading through the responses it was great to see so many of us holding similar views on what really defines us as New Zealanders; Integrity, empathy, honesty, loyalty, kindness, gratitude and appreciation were all mentioned regularly. Of course these things are easy to preach and harder to practice. Beyond the pretty words we wanted to know what they actually mean to us.
When you elaborated on these values much of it, in one way or another, revolved around our connection to the environment (Out of around 800 respondents over a third mentioned the value of our environment in some way). For some people, it is being able to swim in our rivers, and having nature on their front doorstep; for others being able to hunt and fish, putting food on the table for their families. Either way, we have a pretty special connection to our whenua, wai and kai (land, water, and food). Making sure that future generations can grow up with the same opportunities to interact with our environment that we had is clearly something that we all hold dear. I personally identify with the fishers, and from my own experience around the world I can tell you we have something very unique here.
Family, friendship, and fairness were all popular values, and ones that are universal, however again when we look deeper there are aspects that are inherently Kiwi. Growing up in neighbourhoods where regardless of your wealth or standing your kids play with the kids across the road, people view people for who they are, not what they earn, and everyone goes to school with shoes on their feet (or jandals in the summer). We love our small communities, and being able to give each other a wave or a friendly nod walking down the street. Having experienced firsthand a taste of the infamous Kiwi ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and resentment of wealth, I found this declaration by correspondents reassuring. It is a key reason why I sent my own kids to public schools, and why I’m concerned at the growing gap between rich and poor.
Finally, it seems like freedom of opportunity is something many of us value (freedom in one way or another was mentioned by around a third of respondents). That and our traditional admiration for the ‘number 8 wire’ and Kiwi ingenuity sounded a familiar resonance. It is important to many of us that freedom and innovation are not stifled by the heavy hand of bureaucracy, according to you. Again that rugged independence is a classic Kiwi trait I can identify with. That is why I’ve always struggled working in (or even running) large businesses, because inevitably the bureaucracy follows.
This freedom of opportunity obviously needs to be balanced up against fairness. Traditionally freedom of opportunity is a value of the Right, and fairness of the Left. We’ve been told that we can only have one or the other, but I don’t believe that is true. The old left/right ideas are dying, there are ways to improve both fairness and opportunity, and that is what The Opportunities Party’s policies are all about.
It would be sad if many of these classic Kiwi values become more nostalgic than of the here and now. At TOP we support the things that make us proud to say where we come from, and ensure that ‘back in my day’ is not a common refrain when we look at our waterways, our native flora and fauna, our multicultural and social friendships, or our fair, laidback lifestyle. Our TOP 7 policy priorities are all about keeping these values strong.
We go further. We believe it is well overdue that New Zealand joins the vast majority of democracies and adopts a written Constitution (that only the people, not parliament can amend) so we’re constantly reminded of these values we hold dear and new New Zealanders can have no doubt about the sort of country we want to live in.
If we look at what is happening in America now, many would argue that what Trump is doing is against the American value of tolerance and its history of being open to migrants. These values are upheld in the Constitution, and it is the Constitution that is proving the most effective foil to Trump’s executive orders. Without a Constitution, what protection does New Zealand have against a ruler of Trump’s ilk?
Our next blog will give a Starter for 10 on the synopsis of that Constitution and as always we will welcome your feedback.