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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