If you want to see a real life tragedy that has all the hallmarks of a “dead man walking” you need look no further than my beloved Tairawhiti region on the East Coast of the North Island. Ironically, it is also a mirror image of the South Africa of yesteryear described so eloquently by Alan Paton in his 1948 novel “Cry The Beloved Country” that preceded the establishment of the apartheid system in that country.
The racial issues described in Paton’s book are not dissimilar to our own but in our case, ironically, it is the pakeha majority who will suffer as a result of the imposed NZ version of the apartheid system.
And our problems are not just related to an ill advised, systematic destruction of our democracy, the blue print for which was developed in a clandestine way by our government.
The local politicians have an equal amount of blood on their hands as well because of failures to deliver on promises to work in the ratepayers' best interests.
In my humble opinion, their intransigence in the face of obvious warnings is equivalent to criminal offences against its own people. Yet I fear nothing will change here, even with a much needed change of government because the local economy is now controlled by those who benefit from the gerrymandered shared governance we did not vote for.
Unfortunately, this community is also hamstrung because it has few options that the local politicians appear willing to consider when it comes time to act responsibly in the best interests of all its citizens. They are like the proverbial possum caught in the headlights unable to get out of the way of the oncoming climatic onslaught.
This situation is made worse because, here in Tairawhiti, we do have one option that is capable of taking us to the promised land yet our council has repeatedly rejected that opportunity to lead and we are left suffering the consequences of that inaction. You can’t make this up!
More about that later. But first, another reason for our pending decline.
To add insult to injury, our local leaders, with only a few exceptions, are sycophantic supporters of the current government who are on a rampage of destruction, the likes of which this country has never experienced.
To explain in more detail, the following is how current government policies and local political inaction is affecting our ability to respond to the threat of climate change on our traditional method of earning a living.
While those of us who must carry the load of restructuring accept that we must change the way we do things, it didn’t need to happen this way.
Collectively, our local and Central Government politicians could have avoided all the unnecessary sacrifice of our prime grazing land on the idealogical altar of emissions reductions targets.
It has been known ever since the government set its zero emissions target by 2030 that this could relatively easily be achieved by limiting the planting of trees to what has been historically known as class 7 land.
The truth is, we don’t need to plant a single hectare of our most profitable country with anything other than the best pasture species especially at a time when the produce from that farm land is delivering returns we have never seen in my lifetime.
This deliberate betrayal will be the main reason why this region at least, is heading to become another version of “Tokoroa by the Sea” - a timber town.
Over the last 40 years living and farming on the Coast, I have watched and personally experienced the good and bad times of our Nation’s number one Industry.
During that time I have contributed to the wellbeing of my community, leading projects that will benefit every person irrespective of race, religion or status on the social ladder.
While I don’t regard my contribution as any big deal - in fact I believe it is everybody’s responsibility to do what they can to help others less fortunate - it has enabled me to accurately assess the real needs of those who can’t do it for themselves and in the process offer some suggestions to Council of ways that could lead us to a truely sustainable booming economy.
If, as we have been warned, climate change and its associated droughts seriously affect our ability to make ends meet relying on the livestock sector, we must make the obvious decision to transfer our dependence on our traditional industry to the production of high end crops on an irrigated 18,000 hectares of the world’s best agricultural land - the Poverty Bay flats.
My own discussions with government - at least with the last one that included the sea anchor NZ First- suggested that government would have financed the transfer with no cost to the taxpayer.
The transfer project would have involved the building of a couple of large fresh water storage dams that were capable of reliably servicing the needs of the intensively farmed flats supported by an integrated irrigation system and the needs of the associated rapidly expanding urban community. The cost would probably have exceeded $200 million dollars but it would be a oncer that only required maintenance of a restructured economy that would be more than able to cover the associated cost through the expected huge increase in income from our new non pollutant export produce.
It’s a no brainer really but unfortunately I can’t see it happening any time soon.