Losing our direction
From the archives.
Way down at the end of the world is New Zealand, a country that needs to find ways to remain a viable, first world place to live. A country whose light shines for everyone to see, who wants an image of ‘being green’, environmentally friendly and the home of the All Blacks.
New Zealand has fine wines, great scenery and a way of life which is seen as settled and without (fortunately) traumas which occur just about everywhere else. Think civil war, tsunamis, oil spills, massive financial upheaval (Greece and Spain) and a change of government every other year in Japan.
The truth is actually more brutal than we think. New Zealand is a country which is just about too expensive to live in. The National government, when in power, embarked on reforms which made the average New Zealander poorer in the pocket.
These reforms include the Environmental Trading Scheme (ETS) tax and an increase in the Goods and Service Tax (GST due to become law on 1 October.
It is time for Kiwis to stop the moaning about GST and do something about it. A proposed Bill by the Maori Party suggesting no GST on healthy foods is commendable. In Australia and Great Britain a GST tax does not apply to all that the consumer buys.
But government cannot consider this proposed Bill because – wait for it – it is too much work. Which really means reduced revenue will come our way!
We need a more caring approach to people instead of government expecting everyone to go along with the changes because they say so.
The whole GST system needs urgent consideration – an overhaul- and the extra five percent increase from 1 October is enough to send people over the wall – or over the Tasman, take your pick!
Not only healthy foods need GST taken off them but electricity, fuel and medical supplies as well. Think the elderly, think the poor, think the middle class and tell them that New Zealand is a caring place in which to live!
The future of a country which taxes its people into oblivion is, to put it mildly, bleak. Other creative measures need to be considered and if finances are such a big issue with government (we’ll take the money anyway we can) they need to put in – and think laterally -as to how a country with a population of just over four million is expected to cover their costs, maintaining central government systems and putting money in the back pocket of parliamentarians. Think weekly salaries.
Recently, Country Calendar, a weekend rural-focused television program, showed how growers in the north of the country grew produce and sold it to the Saturday market in Whangarei. These growers were unable to sell to supermarkets – the large chains – because they were being offered too little in return for the labour and basically being ripped off. The supermarket chains – you know who they are – offered these growers no choice- they could either close up shop or find another way of selling their goods.
And to their credit, they creatively put steps in place to make this happen
Back to government. They know the way the market is for growers; members of parliament may well have seen the program and given credit for the efforts these growers have made to remain viable… But will they do anything to bring about change? Will they take on the supermarket chains and hold an enquiry into the lot of the grower and – come to think of it – the lot of the consumer?
Will they say the grower is not being treated fairly and the consumer is being treated shabbily? No they won’t because all of this too hard stuff scares them. Means an effort will need to be made to look after the citizens and Ð wait for it Ðless money for the government coffers.
How do we reconcile this one? New Zealand emits 0.2% of the planet’s emissions. There needs to be some responsibility taken to make the world a more environmentally pleasing place to live in.
But let’s get this right. ETS has come along and prices are beginning to rise across a whole range of products and services. New Zealanders are not stupid, but they are apathetic. This tax is one they need to question more. This country has the population of Victoria, an Australian state, emits little, is taxed highly and there is so much stress amongst its population that residents continue to flock overseas to find greener pastures.
The first question is “Why has the ETS bill been passed as law”? Why was there such urgency to push it through the house especially when such countries as Australia have not done the same thing and believe there are issues to be sorted out before it becomes law over there?
It was passed quickly because it is a revenue earner. It’s as simple as that.
Wait, there’s more
Peter Bills, a visiting British writer said recently in an article in The New Zealand Herald that New Zealand rips visitors off. With the impending Rugby World Cup in 2011 Mr. Bills sees a whole range of tourism costs going through the roof – think accommodation, wine – and thousands of visitors paying though the nose.
He is right.
For years New Zealand has considered the green image enough to entice visitors. Someone from London with no backyard and rubbish on the footpath will happily sit in a plane for 29 hours just to see a tree. Or someone from an outback country – think Australia – will fly in to see the Marlborough Sounds and be expected to pay exorbitant rates as a privilege.
What does it all mean?
Money. That’s what it means. The tide has turned so much in New Zealand that the ‘top shelf’ approach to making a buck is leaving a nasty taste on the tongue of both the locals and the visitors.
What it will take is a change of attitude. An approach to a sense of fair play so that visitor and local alike are better off, being cared for through consideration and the will being exercised to give everyone a fair go.
GST, ETS and visitor treatment are symptoms of a society which is losing its direction. And we haven’t even touched on manufacturing and the future of work for young and old.
Because The Mirror is widely read around the world, I welcome feedback as to how these issues are tackled in your country. How does your country take financial pressure off the elderly? Is their assistance for them in meeting their heating costs?
Is your food taxed? If so, does your country invest some of it into Trusts or community groups for a better way of living?
If you are reading this article in New Zealand and have suggestions as to a fairer more equitable way of life please write to me with them.
Equally, if you are reading this article in New Zealand and believe I am being too harsh, I will be delighted to hear from you. Together we can bring about change.