all we have left are the memories.
Well. We also have $60 billion of additional sovereign debt, an expanded social welfare roll, inflation, a generation locked out of homeownership, expanded restrictions on free speech, and a container-ship of social meddling, from a ban on plastic shopping bags to a law preventing the sale of cigarettes to anyone born during or after the reign of Sir John Key.
Ardern’s zenith was in the weeks after the Christchurch terror attacks.
She represented the best of us. I have taken her lead and never mentioned his name nor written it in print, and take comfort that those directly impacted by this evil could see that our Prime Minister reflected the pain and sympathy of us all.
However, this brief season of national unity was used to force through a prohibition and compulsory acquisition of a range of firearms with minimal engagement with the usual democratic processes.
Ardern proved skilled at seizing the moment. Even her resignation was timed perfectly.
She left undefeated, leaving the Ponsonby and Thorndon elites in grief as she stepped out of the crow’s nest and onto the jetty without a backwards glance.
Much has been written about the Covid response and the merits of the decisions taken. We are now in a position to reflect on the costs; both economic and social.
Under Ardern’s guidance we became a nasty team of 5 million.
We hounded the unclean out of their employment and our cafes. For anyone whose understanding of history is more extensive than whatever is taught in our schools, the sight of citizens having to show their papers to board public transport or attend a lecture was dispiriting. As was the public’s uncritical compliance.
Worse was to come. The Fourth Estate cowering on the balcony of the Third Estate as the marginalised, disenfranchised and desperate ranted in impotent rage on the lawn below is a metaphor for how civil society evolved under Ardern’s guidance.
Those protesting were not rivers of filth. They were driven by desperation and often delusion into an act of insanity no more deranged than demanding that a man languish in managed isolation as his father died in a nearby hospital.
It was Charlotte Bellis who demonstrated what courage looks like, and the vitriol directed towards a desperate fellow citizen and the willingness of then Minister Hipkins to weaponise her personal information reflected the toxic environment that we not only lived through but many of us embraced.
Remember the Wanaka couple? What crime did these two really commit to warrant becoming the focus of such fear and loathing?
As we look back, it becomes clear that we were in the grip of hysteria that was being used by the state to drive compliance.
What was done was done with pure intentions by those who believe with certainty that sacrificing the individual for the collective good is not only just but necessary. It is a rationale with a troubling legacy.
Yet the real gift Ardern has left the land of the troubled long white cloud is in the area of race relations.
Like most Pākehā I am not that interested in the Treaty. I have read the various versions, written columns on the topic, but like our current Prime Minister I’d struggle to rattle its principles off if put on the spot. And yet I, like most of my contemporaries, am perfectly happy with the process of dealing with historical grievances.
If land was taken, it should be returned, and if it cannot be then compensation paid. The Waitangi Tribunal is imperfect, but it allows for those who have suffered to be heard and a pathway for remedy, an apology and, where appropriate, a cheque.
I am suspicious about the elastic and ill-defined principles of the Treaty and believe that the Tribunal itself is operating outside its statutory remit.
Equally, I am aware that those whose lands were taken and ancestors attacked and killed by colonial forces breaching the Treaty’s undertakings feel that the regime is far too parsimonious, slow, and the compensation inadequate for the wrongs committed.
If you look around the post-colonial world, New Zealand has navigated these issues far better than most. The cost, in terms of our GDP, has been trivial, and the advantages of having a robust if imperfect process for resolving historical grievances far outweigh any errors at the margins.
Into this delicate balance crashed Ardern and her progressive thoughtlessness.
Co-governance in areas like water infrastructure, land management and the health sector has been imposed without the usual process of consultation and consent.
We are moving from a regime where historical wrongs are being addressed, to a state where one ethnic class has an inherent and enduring political status that is based on their ancestry. This cannot end well.
It is possible that the reform remains in place amid a growing resentment in the wider population.
There will also be disenchantment when it becomes clear that this change does not benefit the rank and file within Māoridom but only those with the skills connections to capitalise on the opportunity.
Equally, it faces being dismantled to a chorus of discontent by those who will perceive another treaty right not being honoured.....
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Damien Grant is an Auckland business owner, a member of the Taxpayers’ Union and a regular opinion contributor for Stuff, writing from a libertarian perspective.