Rights must be earned
Let’s care for our people and our place
Every year the challenges issued at Waitangi Marae get me rethinking what it means to be a New Zealander. The hard questions about how we can all live well in this land are still on the table. Every year I face tough choices about how much time and energy I amwilling to put into making my world a better place. It’s easier than ever to drift into the trap of thinking I could just shop my way to happiness. We used to be citizens who lived together in a society. Nowadays we are customers living in someone else’s economy. We used to take pride in our egalitarian nation. Nowadays the gap between our richest and our poorest people is wide and growing. We talk a good line in 100 per cent pure, but we don’t fill our water bottles out of our rivers anymore. Waitangi Day brings my working class ancestors to mind. They came here looking for a better life. My favourite great aunts were suffragettes. They got me the vote. My childhood heroes fought so ordinary kids like me could get a decent education for free. They put themselves on the picket lines so I could earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. And they sailed out in little boats so my kids can live in nuclear-free Aotearoa. When you have the luxury of living in a country where our state broadcaster spends half an hour every Sunday morning mocking each political party in turn, it’s easy to take the joys of democracy for granted. Our citizenship has been hard won. The right to call this place home comes with responsibilities. We earn that right by investing our time and energy in caring for our people and our place. It’s a twoway thing. ◗ Sue Coutts lives in Hawea Flat, manages Wanaka Wastebusters and is interested in almost everything.