By Trevor Ammundsen.
Well, the election has come and gone, a little bit like an old fashion dance night. The Last Waltz keeps going, Winston with arm firmly around the back of the virgin PM in Waiting; forward step, back two three and repeat. The resolution to the Last Waltz approaches so it is time to make comment; what does this mean for our community?
Well, the first thing this election result gives to our community is pride. Those who voted for Jacinda in the 2020 election no longer need to go around the neighbourhood looking at their shoes and apologising. All is forgiven and we move on, hold you head up. More importantly we have opportunity. By this I mean the opportunity to achieve changes, developments, and growth in areas that benefit our community. Top of the list must be the opening of Cathedral Cove to land visitors. The Department of Conservation is playing games and shows scant regard for the Mercury Bay Community. We hope that with a new Minister of Conservation we can have the two-week work effort needed, approved so people can benefit from the resultant encouragement of overseas guests to visit our region.
Another opportunity is with roading. We now have a government that understands roads are necessary and are possibly more receptive to the lobbying that has been carried out by locals. This lobbying is quite specific in terms of focussing on hot spots such as Wade Road and Hikuai. It would be great to see some significant improvement in these areas and who knows, with an enthusiasm for public /private partnerships from the new Government, maybe real progress could be made in getting State Highway 25 into a fit for purpose state. All three parties in government are committed to infrastructure development so I am hopeful that we will see some long-term plans developed for roading, hospitals, schools and so on. We need these plans supported by all our representatives, so we are never again held back by a six-year-development halt such as we have just experienced.
Our personal fortunes could fluctuate. On the one hand we have the promise of an income tax re-set which will benefit many within our community. On the other hand, a tightening of government expenditure, especially a reduction in our bloated central democracy could put the pressure on those of us who have children working in comfortable government jobs. Your children might be holding their hand out more than they have done in recent years as their jobs come under pressure. The thought might occur that you should have encouraged them to a trade qualification rather than a social science degree.
A major saving due to the change of government will be the introduction of more sensible policies and that is sure to get a few people upset. Examples include the Auckland Light Rail project, the Wellington Light Rail project, both of which are projected to cost billions.
Signs are that this government will more carefully manage the transition from abiogenic fuels to alternatives such as electricity and hydrogen. Hopefully we will see a halt to this mad rush into being a first-adopter of new green theories and will work out what is best for us. A good example is hydrogen power which is now being produced in Southland for elements of our transport fleet, a far cleaner and stronger option than lithium batteries. Energy we can produce is a better option in terms of cost and stability of supply than an overseas mining-based technology.
The big item that will no doubt have lots of discussion is the roll back of the divisive racial policies introduced in the last 6 years. All the parties in the new government have, to varying degrees, stated their abhorrence of these changes and the reaction will be somewhere in the range of “No Co-Government” to clarifying the Treaty of Waitangi and putting this into law. This will have a specific effect on our region in areas such as Three Waters where the Co-Government element will be removed, and we should retain control of our assets. Another area that may be revisited is the change that was made to remove the voters’ rights to decide whether we wished to have separate Maori Wards. These decisions were previously made by referendum, so we all had our say, but the previous government removed this right. Here in Coromandel, we had ten people, the Mayor and Councillors, quietly make that decision for us. Democracy anyone?
There is another racial issue on the table currently that will undoubtedly be widely discussed - the move to have Maori interests control access to Cathedral Cove, and to gain an income from this activity. This is of course the control of public property and being funded by public monies with the benefits going to private interests. Will this go ahead with the change of government? Should it go ahead? Should our community, and especially effected businesses have a say? It is hopeful that this project stops being a back-room activity clothed in secrecy. It is too important to the region.
In my view the biggest challenge the new government faces is the handling of racial issues which are becoming more and more divisive. The reactions from bullies, threatening civil unrest and perversion of democratic rights if they do not get their way, have already appeared in our media. At the other end of the debate, politicians are stating that aspects of our society such as the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal have had their day and laws based upon the Treaty need to be clarified. It is obvious that there will be a lot of discussion in these areas, and we can only hope that the result of these discussions is the bringing of people together, not further separation.