“I reported from South Sudan and Sierra Leone. What I’ve returned to in New Zealand still shocks me” – Caitlin McGee

homeless people in auckland e2nz.org

One can learn a lot about a country by the way it treats it’s most vulnerable people

A former Al Jazeera journalist, Kiwi Caitlin McGee spent years reporting from war zones, South Sierra Leona and Indonesia and lived in the Middle East.

Writing for The Spinoff she has spoken about her dismay on returning to New Zealand. You can read her full article here By Caitlin McGee.

Here’s what she said about her return. Many of her concerns reflect issues we write about frequently at E2NZ.org. The polluion, the over exploitation of natural resources, hints about corruption at the highest levels, terrible levels of family violence against women and children, crime that has exploded and filled prisons to overflowing, a critically underfunded health system where Kiwis not only lack sufficient first world clinicians but also first world medications, a state that has abandoned its most needy citizens leaving them homeless while encouraging overseas investors to use New Zealand as a means of escaping taxes, and to top it all – the Prime Minister’s son rubbing his wealth on the noses of the people his father is supposed to be serving. In short – a country where injustice and hardship are the norm. Even living in war zones and the middle east didn’t prepare her for that.

These are the New New Zealand values, welcome to NZ:

… I am not only disappointed in what I’ve seen in the six months since I returned, I am angry.

o not be able to swim in our rivers because they are so dirty would’ve been unthinkable to me 10 years ago. In March, the Waikato River Authority said it could take up to 100 years for the Waikato and Waipa rivers to be restored to clean and healthy levels. I’ve seen first-hand waterways that run off the Waikato River blanketed in a creeping toxic algae, festering like a black drain, lifeless. Meanwhile, what remains of our pristine water is being sold by the likes of the Ashburton District Council, to be extracted, bottled up and sent overseas.

Above ground, New Zealand’s reported rate of intimate partner violence is the highest in the developed world. Our incarceration rate is also one of the highest in the developed world and more than half of the men behind bars are Māori. According to Corrections Minister Judith Collins, our prison population topped 9,000 for the first time last year: “Since 2014, the prison population has increased… leading to record highs throughout 2015 and early 2016.” In part, she said the booming prison population was due to locking up family violence offenders for longer.

According to Infometrics analysis the health system has been under-funded by $1.7 billion since 2010, leaving it unable to keep up with inflation and population growth. Meanwhile District Health Boards are being squeezed, exemplified by a recent report into the Waikato DHB’s Mental Health and Addiction services that argues for the need to “secure adequate resources and meet staffing gaps” immediately.

Then there’s housing and homelessness. New Zealand has one of the fastest growing rates of income inequality in the OECD and it’s on show in our biggest city. In Auckland, families with at least one working parent are living in vans and cars, with marae and charitable trusts stepping in to fill the breach left by social services. How galling it must be for those parents trying to find a warm place for their children to sleep to then see the Prime Minister’s son in all his privileged glory, posing with a Lambourghini and helicopter in his music video.

John Key has long wanted New Zealand to be seen as the Switzerland of the Pacific. The Panama Papers showed we are, but not in the way he envisioned.

Of course, apart from the stench from the Panama Papers, none of these issues are new nor is the government solely to blame. House construction in Auckland has long lagged behind population growth and New Zealand has a well-publicised and also very long battle with family violence. What I find so difficult is that these wounds have been open for so long, and still, they’ve been allowed to get worse. Surely, we can do better.

Maybe because I’ve returned after a long period it has struck me with greater force. I still feel disconnected, like an outsider, and that may well give me a very different perspective on the issues facing New Zealand. But to me it seems as if a few people are shouting warnings while the rest of the country is like the oblivious frog in a pot of water who only notices it’s boiling when it’s too late.

I have lived a privileged life. As a woman, I have had basic rights to education, employment. I choose who I love and I grew up in a financially stable household. The majority of the world’s women do not have these luxuries. I know I am lucky. I may have not lived through injustice and hardship but I know what it looks like. And I am seeing more and more of it in the last place I expected: home.

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12 thoughts on ““I reported from South Sudan and Sierra Leone. What I’ve returned to in New Zealand still shocks me” – Caitlin McGee

  1. Recently I made an complaint about kiwi’S which was not appreciated under some immigrants living in New Zealand on a forum. But I am just sharing my experiences with them in Canterbury area. Until an Dutch immigrant told me there is an rumor in Otago that the UK released it’s mental hospitals and prisons about an century ago… I was not surprised with the news and it did cross my mind several times.

    He had married a kiwi lady in Otago himself and had gotten an divorce .. So he told me the Otago dna was suspicious down there… I really wanted to confirm this information and this is what I had found

    Parkhurst Boys 1842-1843
    A number of ‘boys’ (many late teens) from Parkhurst Prison in England were pardoned, on condition they went to New Zealand and, in some cases, served apprenticeships. The aim was rehabilitation and the British Treasury paid. The St George in 1842 brought 92 boys and another 31 came on the Mandarin in 1843, making a total of 123.

    General Biographical Index lists most boys [Bio 1]
    Correspondence and Reports (‘Guardian of the Parkhurst Boys’) about the scheme can be found through Internal Affairs Department Indexes 1843-1845 [IA 3/2/2-3 & 3/3/3-4] & Registers [IA 3/1/3-5]
    Ship Return for Mandarin listing 31 boys [IA 1 1844/2097; AREPRO 4711/364] (AK)
    The scheme was not a success. Many boys were difficult and the Protector of Aborigines complained of the harmful effect they had on Maori. No boys were sent after 1843 and this system of immigration was officially discontinued in 1845.

    See article NZ Genealogist Jan-Feb 2005.

    In 1846 Governor George Grey asked the British government to station at least 2500 soldiers in New Zealand to maintain order. The British government sent about 750 army pensioners, with their families. They arrived in eleven ships 1847-1853. These retired soldiers, the Royal New Zealand Fencibles, were also known as Chelsea pensioners because their British pensions were administered at Chelsea, London, though paid through the New Zealand Treasury.

    The name ‘Fencible’ comes from the word ‘defence’. The pensioners were settled in villages to the south and east of Auckland, at Onehunga, Howick, Panmure and Otahuhu, as a chain of defence to protect Auckland from an imagined Maori threat to the south. They had fairly nominal military duties in return for free transport to New Zealand for themselves and families, plus a grant of a cottage with one acre, which became their property after seven years.

    Fencibles appear in the General Biographical card index Bio 1]. Other records:

    Pensions Pre-emptive Schedules 1853-56, Lands & Survey Department [BAAZ 4708/1a] (AK)
    Auckland Deposition Books may include additional details [BADW 5989] (AK)
    Fencible material compiled by Shirley Kendall [AREPRO 4711/366] (AK)
    Index to Fencibles, etc (compiled by Shirley Kendall). [Paper Finding Aids Wellington]
    Copies of the passenger lists of most of the ships which carried the men and their families to New Zealand. [Paper Finding Aids Wellington]
    Treasury Department Registers 1865-1891 record the pensions paid to these soldiers (and also some retired police & civil servants from Britain). There may be details of physical description and service. The original book is missing, so those who died before 1865 are not recorded. Personal details for men whose pensions started before 1865 and continued after that date were not usually transferred to later books. [(ADRK 17399) T 9/1-7]
    Considerable information about the Fencibles was published in official records, often available from larger libraries and museums:

    ‘Electoral Roll for the Pensioner Settlements’ (in alphabetical order), Auckland Provincial Gazette 1854-1858.
    ‘Report of the Land Claims Commissioner on the claims of certain pensioners lately serving in the New Zealand Fencible Force, to Pre-emption Land’, AJHR 1861 D-6.
    Non-alphabetical lists of claimants, to appear before a Commissioner under the Pensioners’ Claims Act 1861, New Zealand Gazette 1863-1865.

    RELIABLE SOURCE http://archives.govt.nz/research/guides/migration

    I am not judging all Kiwi’s but my experiences with them are not to go good unfortunately.. have missed most good ones. but this info might explain it all for the bad ones….

    • Thanks for sharing this. I have generally regarded New Zealand as a place where the British exported a significant percentage of lowlifes. The Kiwis generally exhibit the same mental and physical deformities that one sees amongst the chavs of northern England.

      The quotation from Barry Lyndon nicely encapsulates the type of people who first settled New Zealand. “Gentlemen may talk of the age of chivalry, but remember the ploughmen, poachers and pickpockets whom they lead. It is with these sad instruments that your great warriors and kings have been doing their murderous work in the world.”

  2. Hello everyone

    New to this country, 2 weeks, and came across this website searching depression and suicide rates in NZ. First time comment.

    I would like to encourage all the brothers and sisters to fight. Don’t give in to despair and apathy. I have less than 900$ in my bank account. No friends and family, all alone on my own in a foreign land. Becoming a homeless person for the first time ever in my life is a real possibility within the next 3 weeks. Yet I am spending the last of my money travelling all over the place trying to fight the exact same cancer spreading across the globe. Everyday I am met with apathy and hostility but I keep going. Deliberately burnt all the bridges behind me to eliminate falling to temptation in my moments of weakness. Nowhere to go but forward.

    Don’t be afraid, reach out to each other and fight. Get involved, become active and organise. There is nowhere to hide and a storm is coming. It will hit you no matter what you do, I left UK 6 years ago, but by standing tall and facing it you will make a statement. For the parents out there: that statement will be your shining legacy to your children. The greatest gift you can give them, not some brick and mortar or mattress full of money.

    Maggie was wrong, there is a thing called society. Fight to preserve it. You westerners have no idea how lucky you have been. The western civilisation is the crowning jewel of human achievement, warts and all.

    You have no idea what absence of it looks like, I do. I have lived it.Trust me, you don’t want to experience it. I am not of European descent but I will fight for its civilisation and everything it has given me.

    Fight for the rights that your ancestors bled for and come together. You can run but eventually you will have to face it.

    Wish every single one of you all the best.

  3. New Zeeland health system is ranked as third world by UN World Health Organization WHO. Below Cuba. One man told me was brought to emergency at North Shore Hospital with a suspected stroke, he had another stroke that night, and another in front of the House Doctor the next day, who simply told him to leave. He had further strokes and three more admissions to emergency, one in ambulance, but it took the North Shore Hospital nearly three months to even check for a stroke, and then a CT scan proved the fact, he was a stroke patient. Stroke is lethal. Then the doctor gave him blood thinners against a blood clot, and that caused major internal bleedings and a deteriorating health. As it has turned out, he had bleedings in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) and the treatment could have killed him. This was serious and potentially lethal medical failure and gross incompetence. The blood thinner lead to acute bleeding in both eyes, the right eye was saved, but he is now blind on the left. ACC don’t want to know. WINZ do everything to screw him, even on his Super. That is New Zealand. (I have read all the medical reports, this is real and it is true and it happened.)

  4. NZ is now part of a regionally administrated area that the people of NZ have absolutely no say in. The TPP merges us with the EU and the NAU (North American Union) . The NAU was signed in Cancun Mexico in 2005 by Bush, the Mexican president and the leader of Canada. No one in any of these areas had any vote or say in it. NZ seems as though it has been slated to be totally de-industrialised so as to be dependent on another part of the region for certain things, just as other areas are dependent on our dairy exports.
    Voting is a total waste of time.
    NZ could be wealthy for all and totally self sufficient with its own oil, gas, gold, and clean burning coal.
    But it never ever will be, because it is a plantation of a super state.

  5. “Surely we can do better”.

    Perhaps not. There are two issues—

    To what degree is NZ’s present economic and social decline a product of the neoliberal ‘reforms’ of a generation ago? If that’s the situation there’s hope for the nation since a more enlightened government (and electorate) could restore social democracy.
    Can NZ survive as a developed nation, in the long term?

    • I think we can forget remaining a Developed country in the long term ,we do not meet the guidelines of a developed country at the present time ,I may be wrong but I just did a quick google search on the criteria of a developed country,mostly N.Z leads the world in housing unaffordability,violence against children,youth suicide ,wealth gap between the elite ruling class and the rest of the sheep,drug use ,crime ,government corruption,corporate profiteering and ridiculously low wages and overpriced consumer goods etc etc
      Our country is on the edge of a cliff,it will only take a small global shake up to send us spiralling into an abyss of financial pain and further social disaster,take housing related employment and Milk powder away and what do we have left ? Pineapple lumps and tourism .

  6. [Deleted, we don’t fall for the Kool-Aid here, or sweeteners meant to make bitter pills more palatable. Your IP address is Australia, how’s that working out for you? Admin]

  7. the writer echoes much of my own thought, I’m torn between a desire to flee and a desire to stay and try and force change.
    Fleeing is winning because the selfish attitudes of a majority of locals are what have driven this along.
    The belief that they too will one day get to pose with a Lambo and a chopper as props to their shallow lives.

    • Planet Key is not a healthy place. But what is staggering is that there is not enough opposition and protest to get rid of this gummint. Somehow it is all OK, and the cuntry continues to stagger along with the bloated belly of massive social injustice, and the putrid stench of corruption.
      “Fleeing is winning because the selfish attitudes of a majority of locals are what have driven this along.
      The belief that they too will one day get to pose with a Lambo and a chopper as props to their shallow lives.”
      I have lived in two of the poorest countries in the world, Yemen and Nepal, and I was happier living in those countries despite having to deal with some of the problems and issues of developing nations. Here there is too much mental and spiritual poverty. In New Zealand the masses are apathetic, a bit stupid, and greedy and shallow.

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