Monday, December 30, 2013

Transport Choices Limited Under National

This National led Government is strong on providing greater choice for New Zealanders (or so they claim) but when it comes to transport, it seriously fails. Under this Government the preferred mode of transport is cars and each budget ensures that it remains so.

While I do drive a car and appreciate well maintained roads, the $12 billion dollar obsession with building motorways of dubious benefit is a concern. When I travel overseas and experience sophisticated European cities I become aware of how limiting New Zealand is for those who wish to cycle, walk or use public transport. In the 1970's Holland decided that they wanted towns that were safe for children and all cyclists and ensured that separate cycle paths were built, well removed from motorized transport.

In the 1950's cycling was the most common form of transport for getting to work in Invercargill and it was actually cyclists who forced the City Council to properly surface all the streets in the city.

Esk Street, Invercargill 1950s

The Tour of Southland cycle race is the longest running cycling event in New Zealand, our velodrome is an internationally recognised facility and yet it is probably not safe for a 10 year old child to cycle to school. We do have cycle lanes painted on roads, but a painted line is no protection from opening car doors or inattentive drivers. Only 23% of all accidents involving bicycles is the fault of the cyclist according to national research. Since 2008 we have had almost 1,000 cyclists seriously injured and  53 deaths, most of which could have been prevented with properly designated cycle lanes. 

With one million New Zealand adults now deemed obese we need to have a serious look at how we live our lives. Children are now brought up to think that a car is the logical way to travel short distances and one of the busiest times on our roads is when children are being delivered and picked up from school. Making cycling safe and convenient will remove large numbers of cars from our roads, reduce the need for so many parking spaces in our cities, allow children to be more independent and make us a much healthier society. The initial expense of building proper cycle lanes will be quickly recovered from savings in health costs and a drop in the demand for imported oil. 

It is a real pity that we don't have a Government that has a strategic approach to transport funding and is committed to providing real transport choices that most developed and sophisticated nations already have. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Day of Contrasts

It is amazing how quickly one's perception of the world changes with the weather. Yesterday we hit temperatures of over 25 degrees and ate our evening meal under the shade of our large weeping silver birch. I gloated on Facebook about Invercargill leading the national temperatures for the day and our wonderful long twilights. This morning I met up with a friend and her parents and gave them a tour of Anderson Park Art Gallery. It couldn't have been a better day to show it off, the sky was an intense blue and the gardens looked well tended and sparkled with good health.

Inside the Gallery my guests were amazed at the quality and breadth of the New Zealand Art on display. My friend's father is an architect and he also took a keen interest in the features of the house. It is a unique building and the combination of art and historical features make for an interesting ambience. 

All the photos above come from the Gallery Facebook page.

On returning home and enjoying a lunch with my family under the aforementioned tree I decided to delay working in the garden until the temperatures dropped. However, within an hour, the feeling of an endless hot Summer and time to do anything outside changed as grey clouds filled the sky, thunder rumbled and the rains fell. The lawns and hedge will have to wait for another day. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

For the last five years my son has made a gingerbread creation for our Christmas enjoyment. The fact he is now studying industrial design at Victoria seems to have inspired him to greater complexity and they are edible works of art. As a proud father I thought I would share them with a wider audience and wish all who have visited my blog over the past year a wonderful festive season, whatever your beliefs or family traditions.






Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Christmas Experience Not Good for Many

It certainly feels like Christmas in my house at the moment. My son is back home from university and is busy in the kitchen making his traditional gingerbread creation and my daughter has casual job at the Warehouse (often working to midnight) and tells me of the hundreds of dollars people are spending in the jewelry department. Our tree is up and glittering in the lounge, festooned with decorations collected over past decades and still some handmade ones created by our children when they were at kindergarten. My wife has the Christmas cake sitting in the pantry and every morning I am picking strawberries from our garden to eat with our breakfast.

Life in New Zealand seems good, there are regular reports of an improving economy and we have just had a record amount of money spent on art over the past year. Over $20 million worth of paintings have been sold through auction rooms and I'm sure many millions more have been bought from dealer galleries and directly from artists. A Charles Goldie sold for $730,800 and Bill Hammond got the best price ever for a work from a living artist ($328,300). There is money about and people spending.

Sadly there are two distinct worlds in New Zealand now; those of us who look forward to Christmas and all that it traditionally involves and those who dread it because even basic expectations of what we think as Christmas are unaffordable. Today's Sunday Star Times had numerous articles describing the latter.

Shop Santas describe conversations with children that have them returning home emotionally exhausted. Many children don't ask for the toys as they used to but for things we once considered basic necessities for living in a developed nation, like living in a house rather than a car or garage. "This year's Christmas wishes are sadder than ever," says Robert Fisher, who has been the official Santa at Auckland's Westfield WestCity for nine years.

2500 people are expected to attend the Auckland City Mission Christmas dinner this year and already the mission has given out 3000 food parcels, up from 2400 the previous year. People are not expecting anything special in their Christmas food parcels like a ham or cake, but are just asking for basics like bread, milk and baked beans. Christmas dinner for some will mean feeling grateful for having any food in front of them.

Queues outside the Auckland City Mission, Christmas 2012.

There was also the heartbreaking article of of how we treat asylum seekers in New Zealand. Such people get none of the support we provide those arriving under our UN quota. The 100 or so asylum seekers who are successfully given refugee status each year struggle to get that status and often have to survive in exploitative jobs (paid well below the minimum) and have limited access to support services. It took seven years for the Mundele family to receive refugee status and another nine to get residency. Racial and cultural bias still seems to exist within the immigration department.

There is also an upsurge in family violence over Christmas as finances are stretched and and families are stressed. While retailers spend up on advertising and the commercialization of Christmas, it is terribly hard on those who do not have the money to participate. At least 270,000 New Zealand children will wake up on Christmas day with little expectation that it will be much different from any other.

I will probably have Christmas Day with my extended family as I have in the past, over-indulging in food and wine while surrounded by the wrapping paper left from the present opening earlier. While my donations to various charities will hopefully help provide something for those less fortunate, I do feel uncomfortable that such inequality is now common and that what my family experiences is becoming less normal than it was.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Key Sees Greens as Biggest Threat

Prime Minister John Key (cleverly pictured wearing a Swanndri) was given some quick-fire questions from Jamie Mackay on the Farming Show. When asked what was New Zealand’s greatest weakness or threat, he answered “The Green Party”. Although it was a light-hearted interview, one could see a deliberate intent in his answer as he often says similar things in the House in response to tricky questions from Green MPs. When asked which member of the opposition he would like to eat dinner with, he suggested Russel Norman because “he would be able to pay the bill by printing some money while we’re having the dinner.”
During the last election the Greens were being talked up as having more to offer than Labour and we were seriously courted as a possible coalition partner. I remember one prominent National member telling me candidly that he would prefer working with the Greens rather than the ‘fruit loops’ they often have to go into coalition with.
We even had a memorandum of understanding with National in the first term and the home insulation scheme (one aspect of the agreement) is now touted as one of the most successful initiatives of this Government and claimed as one of the main tools for addressing child poverty.
The Green threat is just so much spin when in reality the Greens credibility in economics is very strong. Julie Anne Genter, one of our younger MPs, won over those with sound credentials in economics and law according to Stephen Franks:
Julie Ann Genter MP last night won over the LEANZ audience, Most turned up cautiously sceptical, expecting perhaps at best some nuggets amongst a lot of green faith.
Instead we got one of the best presentations I've seen. Genter won over the audience with a lively, fact filled, economically sophisticated argument for abolishing the power of local authorities to impose minimum or maximum parking space requirements on specific site uses. Her case could be summarised as proving why the best plan for private land parking may be no plan.
The conditions – among them that management of publicly owned parking be sophisticated and directed to maximising the value of the land concerned did not raise hackles.
If you get a chance, go along to hear the Green MP who is not there to tell people how they should get to work or use their land.
To say that the Greens are the biggest threat to the New Zealand economy is also utter nonsense when green industries are the fastest growing in most economies and New Zealand is well behind the rest of the world in this area. The Greens' opposition to National's coal mining and oil drilling plans are not a threat to our economy because there are so many better and more sustainable alternatives and the economic risks of both industries could potentially do more harm than good.  
The real threat the Greens pose is not in regard to New Zealand’s future, but the future of the National Party. It is the Greens who have really challenged the Government’s credibility over the last two years and have been the most effective party in opposition. The fact that Key is taking every opportunity to talk us down is proof of that.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013, A Green Reflection

As another year ends political commentators are reviewing the performances of our MPs and once again the Green MPs generally get less attention as a whole than the likes of Colin Craig (who isn't even an MP). While Tracy Watkins and Vernon Small did give Russel Norman the same performance score of 7.5/10 that they gave John Key, there seems to be a determined effort to ignore New Zealand's third largest political party unless there is a whiff of controversy. Solid, consistent performances don't make headlines.

The year preceding election year used to be a low ebb for the Green Party, in the past we used to receive our lowest support in the polls and our branches had little to focus on. 2013 broke that pattern. Green support in the polls has remained solidly around 12% and occasionally reaching 14% and we have experienced smaller fluctuations than Labour and National. Membership has been steadily growing and we currently have the highest level of paid membership in the Party's history.

Two things have ensured our Party's higher profile and success, our capable MPs and some high profile campaigns. Having 14 MPs has meant a greater level of parliamentary resourcing, which in turn has allowed our MPs to cover a larger number of issues effectively in the house. Our new MPs have gained useful experience and confidence over the last two years and this has been evident in their performances in the House and as they travel around the country. With a combined experience of twelve years our leadership team of Metiria and Russel are solid performers and this has been an asset to us when Labour was going through leadership changes. Russel was even called the real leader of the opposition by some commentators and Metiria's assured performances have impressed.

The CIR campaign kept the Green membership active for most of the year. The Green Party has demonstrated that it has the organising strength of a major party when the bulk of the petition signatures were collected by members and supporters. While the opposition criticized the Party for paying coordinators this was actually just smart use of resources for an important campaign and the total cost was a fraction of the taxpayer funds used to promote the asset sales. The Green Party's ability to organise will be a major asset in 2014.

Last year I criticised Jane Cliften for her ability to ignore the existence of the Greens in her 2012 summary and I provided a brief overview of our MPs achievements. I thought I would do this again and have listed our MPs in alphabetical order to avoid the impression of ranking, they all deserve recognition:

Steffan Browning's many years protesting about the Waihopai spy base has shown to have substance after whistle blower Edward Snowden's revelations. He has been prominent in criticising the GCSB bill and exposing New Zealand's involvement in the Five Eyes intelligence network. Steffan has also been active in voicing concerns about the Government's weakening of GE management and biosecurity measures.

David Clendon has been busy traveling the country in support of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). His business background and knowledge of sustainable business practice is a valuable asset to the party and he has highlighted the Government's lack of support for SMEs. While many were shocked about New Zealand's drastic fall in the PISA education rankings, David has highlighted a similar drop in our University Rankings.

Catherine Delahunty has been extremely busy fighting a number of mining battles around the country. Saving the Denniston Plateau from open cast coal mining has been a major focus for the year but it is it is actually one of many mining issues that she is actively involved with. Catherine's 'Black Drain' bill is receiving a second reading and has highlighted the fact that the Green Party is the only credible environmental party. Catherine continues to be active in the education portfolio and has hosted forums on the Health and Disability Act that discriminates against family caregivers.

Kennedy Graham has been rationally and articulately challenging the Government on its refusal to take climate change seriously. He has also been touring the country to explain how an economic transformation could save the planet. Kennedy has recently attended the UN's climate change conference in Warsaw and will later be visiting European countries who are currently leading the world in climate change policy. It is difficult to find more than one Government Minister here who even believes Climate change is an issue so Kennedy has a lot of work ahead of him.

Julie Anne Genter has impressed with her ability to outflank Ministers in the House with her grasp of economics and her in-depth understanding of transport. She continues to strongly advocate for sensible transport solutions for Auckland and has exposed the shonky economics behind the construction of the Transmission Gully project.

Kevin Hague has been highlighting the Government's dismantling of services aimed at preventing ill health and voicing strong concerns about the impact of obesity in peoples lives and the demands it places on our health services. As the ex CEO of West Coast Health Kevin has a good understanding of the issues and the impacts and what the Health Minister is turning a blind eye to. Kevin's prominence in the anti-apartheid movement saw his name suggested as more deserving than others in Key's delegation.

Gareth Hughes continues to be an effective thorn in the side of those promoting deep sea oil drilling and fracking. Gareth has exposed the poor protection and processes in place that would protect us both economically and environmentally should a major oil leak occur. It has taken some strong questioning and solid investigation and research to expose the fact that the Government's enthusiasm for oil has clouded their objectivity. Gareth's questioning of fracking waste being spread on farmland has caused the activity to be stopped.

Jan Logie has been a strong advocate for the marginalized and oppressed in our society. She has forced a change of approach in how prisons manage transgender inmates and brought greater attention to bear on the need for properly funding sexual abuse support services. Jan also received media attention for having her passport confiscated in Sri Lanka because she was exposing the human rights abuses in the country.

Mojo Mathers has had a leading role in animal rights campaigns and advocating for those with disabilities. She recently launched her Action for Animals campaign and has a private members bill adddressing the use of animals for testing legal highs. Mojo has also been helping lead the support of a petition to ensure that the Christchurch developments make accessibility a priority.

Russel Norman's high rating by political commentators has been a reward for consistently strong performances in the House and his ability to bring media attention to important issues and hold the Government to account. He has been able to expose the costs involved in the Government's asset sales and his speech in response to the storm in the Philippines was seen as opportunist by some but actually had the support of Philippine people. Russel has been prominent in challenging the Government on a range of issues from the GCSB to the Tukituki Catchment Proposal.

Denise Roche led an evening to 'clean up the house' by encouraging MPs from all parties to help the Parliamentary cleaners to do their work. Not only did it highlight the hard work done on MPs behalf but it also exposed the low wages that cleaners earn, well beneath the living wage. Denise is committed to fighting the shocking amendments to the Employment Relations Act and challenging the SkyCity gambling deal. Denise can also communicate well through song.

Eugenie Sage has been leading the campaign "Stand up for the Environment protect our Law" which hopes to shift the Government away from the planned changes to the RMA which will make the purpose of the act one that enables development despite the environment. Eugenie is also working with others to expose the economic and environmental costs of the massive Ruataniwha irrigation scheme. Her support of the Save Fiordland Campaign helped stop the crazy tunnel proposal but the monorail development is still alive.

Metiria Turei became the Green spokesperson for Education again and has strongly challenged the many ideological changes being forced on the sector by this Government. Whether it be Charter Schools, or the Christchurch school closures, Metiria has had the Education Minister on the back foot and struggling to give convincing answers. She is also possibly the only Green MP to be ejected from the House, her crime was related to using the word sleazy in reference to the SkyCity deal. Metiria has been particularly effective at exposing the shoddy process that allows the change in our gambling laws in exchange for a convention centre.

Holly Walker has been very effective in challenging the Minister for Social Development regarding her refusal to have official measures of poverty or set targets to reduce it. She has also worked very hard in opposing housing bills that will actually reduce the numbers of good houses available to those that need them and make life more difficult for Housing New Zealand tenants. Holly has recently given birth to her first child but came back to the house on the last sitting day to deliver this inspiring speech that sums up for many of us why we are involved with the Green Party.

Few political commentators or journalists have picked up on the fact that Green Party MPs are amongst the hardest working and most informed in Parliament. The issues of the moment are actually green issues and whether it be housing shortages, child poverty, compromised rivers, climate change, a lack of sustainable jobs, human rights or an economy that serves only the already wealthy. 2013 tested the resolve and capability of our MPs and our Party and in all cases we have risen to the challenge and have proved, to those who actually take an interest, that we have what it takes to lead New Zealand to a better place. 2014 will be the year when people can vote for hope or more of the same.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Key Desperately Spinning Referendum Result

It would have been nice to have at least 50% of eligible voters participate in the referendum but given the involvement in local body elections (an average of about 44%), achieving a similar turnout in the preliminary count wasn't too bad. The Government also did their best to time it when people would be least bothered, just before Christmas and near the end of the year. Key and English also claimed that they would ignore the result anyway, so many thought there was no point in making the effort and especially when most of the assets have already been sold.

Down in the six most southern electorates our results made interesting reading. At 46.5% the average turnout was higher than the national average and in two electorates over 50% of voters took part (Dunedin South 53.6% and Waitaki 51.9%).

Three of the electorates are held by National MPs and yet the average 'no' vote was just short of 75%, so three quarters of all those who voted were against asset sales. The strongest no vote came from Te Tai Tonga (the most southern Maori seat), which had 91% voting no. Dunedin North had 80% voting no and the lowest no vote was in Bill English's electorate, Clutha Southland, which recorded 61%.

Nationally it was interesting to note that the electorates that were the most affluent, and more likely to benefit from the selling of shares had the strongest yes votes. Epsom had the highest level of support for the policy at 54.6% (still not a strong mandate) and the seven Maori seats, which probably contain those on the lowest incomes averaged 6% support. John Key's own electorate of Helensville could only muster 47.7% support.

John Key and his Government are working extremely hard to spin the result, claiming that only 1/4 of eligible voters voted no to the asset sale policy, with three quarters not engaging or voting no. This is very clever, but one could also say only 1/12 bothered to vote in support, hardly a ringing endorsement. It is also a big stretch of the imagination to suggest that those who didn't vote were either ambivalent or supportive. Many I have spoken to recently told me that they weren't bothering to participate because the Government would ignore the result anyway. The referendum still reflected most polls conducted on the asset sales, such as the October Horizon poll. The result also matched the anecdotal responses I received when collecting signatures for the petition.

It is very clear to me that at the very least, two thirds of New Zealanders are opposed to the asset sales and the Government's stubborn determination to continue with the sale of Genesis Energy shares is extreme arrogance. They have only raised a fraction of the money that they had originally claimed, with Treasury estimating that it will be around $2 billion less. The promise of shares going to "mum and dad" investors also proved to be a fantasy when less than 2% of New Zealanders were able to take up the offers. The Government claimed that the cost of the sales wouldn't be more than 2% of the revenue and yet they ended up costing a quarter of a million, around three times more (the $9 million spent on the referendum is chicken feed in comparison).

No matter what Key tries to spin, this referendum result clearly shows that this Government is out of touch with most New Zealanders. The asset sales were one of the most important policy platforms of 2011, but they will be joining all the other underwhelming achievements of National's second term: Novopay, child poverty, Solid Energy, education achievement, motorway construction, job creation…

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Westpac Greenwash and the Denniston Plateau

With the legendary Jenny Campbell QSM and the Climate Change Elephant outside Invercargill's Westpac

While the news has recently been dominated by Mandela's death, our education rankings and the latest child poverty statistics, there have been protests outside Westpac branches around the country. I spent most lunchtimes over the last week outside our Invercargill Branch.

Westpac have an interesting history, they are a highly profitable Australian owned bank, they are our Government's main banker and the IRD had to take legal action to recover almost $1 billion of avoided taxes from them. They are also one of several banks that are the subject of a class action to claw back  $1 billion of unfair default fees. In 2011 the New Zealand Westpac CEO earned $5.4 million for the year, but the current CEO is struggling on a reduced salary of $3.16 million (about 7 times the salary of our Prime Minister).

At a recent CTU conference we heard from bank workers (possibly from Westpac) that they have targets for the number of debt based packages they have to sell to customers, whether they need them or not, and risk losing their jobs if they don't meet them.

Westpac is is making huge profits, is known for avoiding tax, overpays their management, talks customers into debt that they don't need and then charges them unnecessarily. While this is bad enough, they also have a dirty secret that they hoped no one would discover...

Westpac spend a lot on PR and they have managed to win awards over the last three years for sustainability and good environmental practices. In 2012 the bank won the Sunday Star Times Canstar Cannex Social Responsibility Award. The judges were impressed by Westpac's management of "environmental impacts" and "socially responsible products". One would have thought if they were really committed to protecting the environment, and being socially responsible, that they wouldn't provide the funds to finance activities that had severe environmental impacts and contributed to climate change. They have, and it is no longer a secret.

Westpac is the principle banker for Bathurst Resources Ltd Australia that have recently won court action and ongoing battles with environmental organisations (Forest and Bird, and the Coal Action Network of Aotearoa) so it can mine the environmentally significant Denniston Plateau for coal.

Bathurst does not have the capital to set up the new mine and will have to borrow the money to do it. When the World bank and European Investment bank are scaling down support for mining coal because of its effects on our climate, we think Westpac should do the same. Providing finance to a company that intends to remove 84 million tonnes of coal from the plateau and cause the release of 218 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is not a good look for a bank that actively promotes its environmental awareness.

Westpac has already shown its lack of respect for our tax law, our people and now our environment, obviously nothing is sacred except the ability to make money. We need support to write letters to the bank to pressure them into doing the right thing regarding the environment and to give them the opportunity to improve their diminishing credibility.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Does Paula Bennett Really Care About Kids?

Paula Bennett has been very stubborn regarding calls to measure child poverty. She used to claim they are a Government that does things rather than just measuring things, but she has been asked so often that she now states that they use multiple measurements for poverty. When questioned about what those measurements are and the progress against them, Bennett refuses to give a straight answer.

Regarding a child poverty strategy, the Government obviously has none and resorts to listing the money spent on immunisation, insulating homes and dealing with child abuse. While all the initiatives are useful they hardly constitute a strategy and, in the case of the home insulation scheme, it still hasn't had an impact on the cheaper rental housing that most poor families live in. Obviously most initiatives are just addressing the symptoms of poverty and the real causes are being ignored.

The Government now appears to be alone in thinking that they are being effective in addressing child poverty, with a continual stream of NGOs and authorities exposing failure:
  • An expert group set up by the Children's Commissioner expressed concern that the Government has only partly addressed 23 of the 78 recommendations from their landmark report on the issue. The co-chair Professor Jonathan Boston described the Government's efforts as "at best I would call it 'modest'."
  • The Children's Commissioner decided to publish his own stocktake of child poverty after the Government refused to. It shows hospital admissions linked to poverty are continuing to rise with tens of thousands being admitted every year with respiratory and infectious diseases associated with living in damp, overcrowded homes. 1 in 4 children are 'mired' in poverty and 1 in 6 children are going without the basic necessities like a bed or having enough food. Those who have a single parent relying on a benefit are more likely to be worse off, but 2 out of 5 are living in working families.  
  • The latest PISA assessment has New Zealand getting the worst education rankings since the assessment began with a substantial decline under this Government. Inequality and poverty are seen as the main contributing factors and even the National Standards data, flawed that they are, revealed that the decile of a school largely determined the levels of achievement. Under National, New Zealand has one of the fastest growth rates of inequality in the OECD
  • A UNICEF New Zealand report has found that New Zealand has some way to go to meet its obligations under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child that we signed 20 years ago. The report called 'Kids Missing Out - time to make progress on children" identified that 270,000 children are having to survive without adequate income or housing. When Jan Logie questioned the lack of Government priority given to children's rights, Bennett replied, "I do not agree that it is a lower priority." She also dismissed the concerns of the Child Commissoner, UNICEF and the Child Poverty Action Group, "They can have any perspective they like, that's their right, they're independent, that's the beauty of living in a democracy."
  • While Paula Bennett had been claiming child abuse was dropping, it turns out that the Ministry of Social Development had been under-reporting and there is actually an increase in levels of abuse.  The number of children being neglected by their caregivers has actually soared and is 60% higher than official reports.
Levels of child abuse are soaring, inequality is growing at a faster rate than most OECD countries and our ranking in educational achievement has plummeted. The Government refuses to measure child poverty, has no strategy to address it and has no meaningful way of reporting on progress. While Paula Bennett may disagree with with all the criticisms of her Government's performance she has no reliable evidence to prove otherwise. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

John Key and Mandela's Funeral

In 1981 I marched in Invercargill in protest against the Springbok Rugby tour, as many thousands did across the country. Although there were personal costs to myself in terms of my relationships with those locally who had a different world view, it was a small gesture compared to what other activists in New Zealand endured. Mandela was labeled a terrorist by many New Zealanders, including our Prime Minister at the time, Robert Muldoon. Those who marched in support of Mandela were also considered traitors and terrorists by many.

The actions of the anti-apartheid activists in New Zealand actually played a significant role in overturning apartheid in South Africa. When Mandela spoke later of when the news of the protests reached his prison cell, he likened it to sunshine. He was overcome with emotion and hope when people so far away were prepared to stand against their own government and police on his and his people's behalf.

Time has changed Mandela's status from terrorist to saint (for many) and he will probably be regarded with the same reverence as Gandhi in future history books. Although Mandela was the first to admit that he was no saint, his humility and ability to forgive those who persecuted him meant that the divisions in his own country and in New Zealand were healed much faster than one would have expected.

Now that he has died the leaders of the world are fulsome in their praise of Mandela as a man and the legacy he has left. The media is full of stories of those who had personal encounters with Mandela and even shook his hand and yet many of these same people had once regarded him as a terrorist.

Despite claiming to be interested in politics from an early age, when asked about his view on the 1981 Springbok Tour our Prime Minister John Key replied:

"Oh, I can't even remember ... 1981, I was 20 ... ah ... I don't really know. I didn't really have a strong feeling on it at the time. Look, it's such a long time ago."

While I do think it is appropriate that our Prime Minister represents our country at the funeral I think it would be a gracious move on his part if he included representatives from the anti-apartheid movement to be part of the New Zealand delegation. Considering the physical violence and persecution that many leading anti-apartheid activists suffered during the protests (many are still the subject of abuse), it would be in the true spirit of Mandela himself if Key was able to do this. It would also be a wonderful symbol of how our own country has moved on from that divisive time.