New Zealand for All of Us: Maori, Equal Pay, and More – Part II

Maori war canoe replica at Waitangi Museum

Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand is no perfect pearl.  There’s a bounty of issues.  Inequality is rising dramatically.  Sprawl around Auckland is a huge issue.  Environmental impacts on some of the island is devastating.  There are interesting signs of progress though, and they are worth looking at closely.

There are too many reminders of the American experience in colonialist land grabbing abetted and rationalized by religious evangelists in the subjugation of New Zealand’s native people, the Maoris.  Making rights wrong and eliminating discrimination and racism is an ongoing project with miles to go, but reading any of the history there seems to be a more concerted effort in recent decades to make New Zealand multi-cultural.  Of the major unions, five of the six have Maoris in key leadership positions. Translated signage in Maori is everywhere.  At 15% of the population and coupled with the island Polynesian votes, they can decide elections and were critical in putting the current, more progressive Labor-Green coalition into power.  Change is coming.

A museum at the seminal location where the Waitangi Treaty was signed between the British Crown and some of the Maori tribes promising them lots, including continued control of their lands, which were honored in the breach was educational.  The museum though acknowledging some of this horror and now turned over to Maoris to run and administer still treats the whole sordid deal as a “partnership” from then to now, which is a bitter pill for many to swallow, I’m sure, and raised eyebrows from us, even as we learned from the experience.

More encouraging perhaps were new amendments to the Equal Pay laws in New Zealand recently.  In the public sector workers in largely female job classifications that low paid are now able to bring claims that their job duties and job content is equivalent to other workers in largely male classifications that are paid significantly more.  While visiting in offices of the union, E tu, with their campaign staff I heard about their huge victory where the equivalent of home care workers was able to challenge their pay discrepancy with prison guards and win a judgment raising their standards to that level costing millions.  What a wonderful tool for finally achieving pay equity!

women’s exhibit in Auckland Art Gallery

Have I already mentioned the best-in-class Auckland Botanical Garden?  Yeah, I guess I did, and it ought to be on everyone’s list who ever has the opportunity to pass through Auckland and the North Island.  My team were also fans of the Auckland Art Gallery, the big museum there.  The downside though on both the Maritime Museum, which I enjoyed, and the Art Gallery and the Waitangi Museum, was the fact that these institutions were free to locals but charged $20 NZ for foreigners with no breaks of any kind, which I found obnoxious for institutions that want to be compared to national class museums in the US and other countries.  It goes without saying that the Botanical Gardens were free.

I wish you all could have been with us.

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New Zealand for My Father: Part I

bay of islands

New Orleans       When I would return from a trip to some country where neither of us had ever been, when my dad was alive he would ask me to tell him the things that would interest him.  Over the years I have found it a useful way of paring down an often overwhelming cultural and geographic experience, so here’s the New Zealand report that would have engaged him, shared now with all of you.

Let’s just start with driving on the left.  Ten days of driving that way for about a thousand kilometers on the North Island was my rookie run on the left side of the road while sitting behind the wheel on the right.  I heaved a sigh of relief when we turned the car into the airport that the family was still alive and well, and that the car was undamaged.  I only turned into the wrong lane twice and came near to catastrophe only once along the Bay of Islands, although I could claim distraction watching out for bicyclers, it was still too close for comfort.  On the other hand, I tended to hit a curb on the left side parking or driving almost daily.  I had perfect depth perception when I left high school and have always prided myself in that area, but this opposite site driving would take some practice on a regular diet.

views of Auckland from Mt Eden

New Zealand traffic around Auckland is what you would expect from a city built to accommodate suburban, single family sprawl in the post-war years.  In a country of less than 5 million more than 1.5 million are in and around Auckland, so it sucks up a lot of the country.  An hour north you pay a toll and all of a sudden are on two-lane roads the rest of the time and often on windy ups and downs on mountains.  I take my hat off to the country’s traffic engineers though.  The signage was excellent, the turning lanes wide and well-marked, and slow traffic turnoffs or passing lanes every ten kilometers or so.  The only thing I couldn’t figure as I was extolling the traffic engineering was the fact that curves were often not marked with solid lines to discourage passing.  I thought the traffic accident rate in the country would be minimal, but was surprised that it was better than the USA, but not by a huge margin, although that seems more an issue of drunk driving than engineering.

the cone

The North Island is not Hobbit country, so don’t ask me about that.  Talking to some of the locals, it was hilarious to see how they were still scratchy their heads about the Lord of the Rings thing, although conceding it was good for tourism on the South Island.

whirlpools at the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean’s confluence at Cape Reinga

The geography is stunning in the north as well, if you try to see the kauri reserves, rivaling the sequoias of my father’s native California.  The whirlpools where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet at Cape Reinga where amazing through binoculars.  The most distinctive geographical feature was the legacy of volcanic activity.  Walking to the top of Mount Eden overlooking Auckland at the lip of the cone was breathtaking, but an even bigger reward for travelers and the locals are the geothermal hot springs.  We went to one enjoyed by the locals off the beaten path near Kawakawa for $3 NZ with varying degrees of hot, dark water and carbon infused mud and a bunch of worn out folks like ourselves that was a lifetime experience.

I wish my dad and all of you could have been with us!

the locals’ hot springs near Kawakawa

***

Please enjoy Politician by Big Daddy and the Mammas Boys.

Thanks to KABF.

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