Aotearoa New Zealand pivots….backwards?

The Aotearoa New Zealand Parliament in Wellington

Visiting close family, I have recently been privileged to visit Aotearoa New Zealand.

Several things I saw impressed on me, once again, as to how forward-looking the country has been and is.

We visited the Auckland Women’s Suffrage Memorial which commemorates the successful 1893 petition which made Aotearoa New Zealand the first self-governing country in the world to enshrine in law the right for women to vote in parliamentary elections. Similarly, in Wellington there were several prominent streets and memorials named after Kate Sheppard, the leading suffragist.

We saw lots about ground-breaking Liberal Prime Minister, Richard Seddon. His statue dominates the local government building in Hokitika, and the main parliament gardens in Wellington. Seddon’s government achieved many social and economic changes, such as the introduction of old age pensions.

In 1938, Aotearoa New Zealand was ahead of the curve in introducing unemployment benefits.

More recently we’ve seen key actions on climate change.

It is also inspiring that the country has enshrined prominence of the Maori language and people.

One has to respect elections in other countries. But it is somewhat disappointing that the new government has some retrograde steps in its programme. I’m thinking particularly of the repeal of the world-leading law to ban smoking for future generations in order to pay for tax cuts, the review of the historic Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori people, the general rolling back of Maori-centred provisions and the reversal of freshwater quality standards.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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One Comment

  • Will McLean 7th Dec '23 - 8:37pm

    Hello! I hope you enjoyed your trip! I have been here for 2.5 years been interesting to observe the latest election – especially when there isn’t a direct equivalent of the Lib Dems.

    Of course, there are two sides to everything. My new local National MP, James Meager, had an impressive opening speech in parliament that turned a lot of heads. He is of Maori descent, and his quote has made a few headlines “the left do not own Māori, the poor, or the workers”. It is worth watching in full, and perhaps encapsulates the sense of feeling that the electorate has that Labour did not make good on their promises, and punished them accordingly at the ballot box.

    I think the smoking ban was always a silly policy, impossible to enforce and would result in a black market. This of course introduced by Labour – the same party had a referendum on legalizing cannabis. The Greens are currently in knots with their inconsistencies around this and their liberal attitude towards drugs also. In any case, it is extremely expensive to smoke here (there are arguments that this fuels poverty in itself) and the country has its lowest smoking rates ever.

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