Sunday, December 24, 2023

Bruce Cotterill: Why we need a good dose of national pride

It feels like we need a good dose of national pride.

It’s been a challenging year in many ways. The end of a controversial government has left us almost unrecognisable from our 2017 selves. That government left us financially bereft and emotionally divided. Many New Zealanders are more fanatical than ever on matters of health, education, law & order, race, or even climate.

And as you would expect, our media coverage over this last year has reflected these matters and the growing uneasiness around many of them. But sometimes we all get a bit close to it all.

Last week, during a quick visit to Sydney, I was fortunate to attend the John Howard Lecture, an event honouring Australia’s long serving Prime Minister. The event, in it’s eleventh year, is run by the Menzies Research Centre. Past speakers have included former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former UK Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith. Our very own Prime Ministers, Sir Bill English and Sir John Key, have also appeared.

This year’s speakers, all former Prime Ministers, comprised of Scott Morrison, a very sprightly 84 year old John Howard, and their special guest for the evening, former UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

What struck me about the evening was three-fold. Firstly, the ovation that Sir John Key received when introduced proved that conservative Australia continues to regard him and the country he represents as a close ally. Secondly, there is a very generous two way relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom. Thirdly, the former leaders of both Australia and Britain look outward at the contribution that they and their countries can make to the world rather than looking inward at their own problems.

This final point is their major difference when compared with the New Zealand that has emerged over the last six years. Sir John Key once called us “the hermit kingdom”. A combination of recent government policy and our response to the Covid-19 pandemic has forced our once amazing little country to become uniquely insular. And yet, rather than scrambling over the crumbs of our internalised disenchantment, there are bigger opportunities elsewhere that a cohesive and focussed country could pursue.


Morrison, Howard and Johnson all spoke with great enthusiasm about the roles their respective countries are playing on the world scene. Support for the Ukraine is not solely about the Ukraine, but rather any western liberal democracy that resides alongside an autocratic government. The importance of our western liberal democracies was highlighted by the way those countries and their pharmaceutical companies responded to the need for vaccines just a few short years ago. The AUKUS partnership is a reflection of the future defence needs of the free world, and nuclear power will be a necessary component of the transition to cleaner energy. The UK and Japan are collaborating on the fighter jets of the future. And so on it goes, you get the idea.

I walked out of that lecture feeling like our country needs a good dose of national pride. And it got me thinking. Why not us? Why aren’t we having those conversations about how we aspire to a better future for ourselves and the global community we’re part of? We don’t have to be the leader. In fact we shouldn’t be. We’re too small. But we should participate. We’ve earned the right to do so.

As I reflect on 2023, I sense that we have plenty to be proud of. We’re just not very good at talking about it.

Instead, we’ve been focussed on each other. Inward looking. Arguing over politics, race, climate and the like. Discussing the politicians we don’t like, the climate emissions or the electric car discounts offsetting taxes on the family ute. Bickering, internally, about ourselves. Meanwhile, the world moves forward.

When Boris Johnson speaks of the importance of the UK’s role in the Ukraine, we argue about whether we should get involved in the wars of other countries. And yet, we have an outstanding military record. It’s not perfect. War never is. But from the first and second world wars, to Vietnam and the Middle East, we have a fiercely proud military history. New Zealanders from all races and all walks of life contributed to those efforts. Among the most famous was the Maori Battalion who remain revered to this day on the western coastline of central Italy.

A generation later we made the world think twice about nuclear weapons. As a result of our wartime track record we have a role to play in these matters. We have some credibility and we should have a presence. Those soldiers we lost would want us to continue the fight for a world with a peaceful future.

Elsewhere, we seem to get quite engaged in discussions about those on welfare or kids not turning up at school. We seem intent on reporting the activities of gangs and criminals. Imagine if we spent as much time celebrating our high achievers as we do criticising those that don’t bother. We have surgeons working around the clock to save the lives of children and business leaders spending weeks away from home at a time, forging new international opportunities for our country. Alternatively, we have charity workers, working full time for no pay, and changing lives in the process. Our Mental Health workers are saving our most troubled from themselves. These are people and causes we should be celebrating.


Historically, we have been heralded internationally for our approach to race relations. Until the turn of the century we were regarded by many as a world leader on the matter. This country played a constructive role in the end of apartheid in South Africa. As we did so we risked division amongst ourselves. But common sense prevailed and our efforts were not in vain nor unnoticed. And yet, this same country has allowed politicians to lead us backwards, to a position where we’re arguing amongst ourselves about the politics of race in our own country.

But we’ve been there before and we can recover again. To get there we will need all people working together in the interests of one people and one country. Then, perhaps we can re-take our once-lofty position as an influential global leader on matters of racial harmony.

And as this most difficult and divisive year runs it’s course, there is plenty to celebrate about the young people of New Zealand. The St Andrews High School musicians from Christchurch and the Head Boy of Blue Mountain College near Tapanui in Otago provide recent examples worthy of our respect and celebration.

While we’re at it, we have international sporting success that most countries our size can only dream of. We get excited about our big international sports teams; rugby players, cricketers, and netballers, and rightly so. But we have young people out there who are breaking the mould the hard way, in foreign lands, competing in individual sports, by themselves. World beating triathlete Hayden Wilde, Indycar rookie of the year, Marcus Armstrong, Under 23 Mountain Bike world champion Sammie Maxwell. Our young rowers, golfers, cyclists, triathletes, boxers and snow sports athletes are lighting up the world and we should be more aware of them than we are.

We’re good behind the sporting scenes too. The last fifteen months has seen New Zealand host not one but two outstanding international world cups for women. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than last year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, this year’s FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup, the hosting of which was shared with Australia, proved that we can host big global events with full stadiums as well as anyone. Such events are a showcase for our country and we’ve proven that we can do it well.

Our media get plenty of flak, and often for good reason. But even here we have some champions. In Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking, Heather du Plessis Allan and Barry Soper we have outstanding New Zealanders who swam against the prevailing media tide and held a government to account. These journalists challenged the status quo, and to stood up to a government they rightly perceived as reckless. Another journalist, Rachel Smalley has campaigned to challenge the government owned Pharmac, bringing an insight into that organisation and a level of scrutiny that has seen a Chairman resign and a CEO under substantial pressure.

We should be proud and grateful to live in a country where journalists are free to take up such challenges, without fear of a government initiated reprisal. Sure, there are plenty of anonymous social media critics, but their opinions don’t matter. There are many countries where such freedoms of expression do not exist. One might argue that we were recently at risk of becoming such a country. But that didn’t happen and our freedoms remain.


Finally, we should be excited by the competence and confidence of our new government. Whilst the vocal minorities will continue to shout their displeasure, the direct, no nonsense approach to the new 100 day plan, and the immediacy of the Cook Straight ferry decision shows that we have a no-nonsense government that is serious about the economic and structural repair job that awaits them. The fear of what might have been, has been replaced by an atmosphere of hope for the year ahead.

And finally there is us. The examples above don’t even scratch the surface. Because the biggest difference in the outlook for New Zealand will come as a result of the attitude that we bring to our challenges and opportunities alike. Across the broadest possible spectrum we have a history to be proud of and a contribution to make to the world. Left and right. Maori and Pakeha. Local and immigrant. Educated leader and blue collar worker. We all have a contribution to make. And we should be excited about what we can collectively achieve, and what we can offer a world in need.

After all, that’s how the world’s leaders think.

Bruce Cotterill, a five time CEO and current Company Chairman and Director with extensive experience across a range of industries including real estate, media, financial services, technology and retail. Bruce regularly blogs on - where this article was sourced


CXH said...

Hard to take anyone that puts Key on a pedestal seriously. He took Clark's ponzi scheme and gave it a huge dose of steroids.

Then showed Jacinda how to cowardly duck out the back when it was going to collapse.

So yeah, nah.

DeeM said...

Of course it's wonderful to focus on all the positives in a country and push the negative stuff aside.
Trouble is that just electing a new government that promises to reverse a lot of the economic carnage, racism and woke nonsense doesn't mean it's going to happen.

In NZ we are in a very precarious position, democratically. We have a mainstream media overwhelmingly biased to the Left who have made their views on our new government only too plain to see.
Our public service, academic institutions and judiciary, to name but a few, are riddled with the same.

This will be a tale of many battles and only if people realise just how bad Labour let things become on all fronts will they have the intestinal fortitude to push on and make things right. This is going to take years and years to sort and we need to be regularly reminded of the deep hole we're in so we don't sit at the bottom of it but we build steps to get out.

So Bruce, you're right that we should celebrate success when we find it, but NZ doesn't have the luxury of ignoring all the terrible stuff. Not yet.

EP said...

Thank you, Bruce - timely and well said. I've just been soul-searching myself -how have I got to being so crabby? I voted for Jacinda last time- used to watch the one o'clock Covid broadcasts. Then, it started with 3 Waters - the straight-out dishonesty, Nanaia, co-governance, He Puapua, silly money for anything Grant. It all rapidly crumbled as they became completely despicable. I am ashamed of us. I acknowledge that we still have many wise and good - and power to your elbows folks - but WE let this happen. So many of us have become embarrassed to speak out amongst our friends and acquaintances, for fear of seeming racist - because it is race that is at the basis of all this. Happy New Year New Zealand.

Anonymous said...

We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy our economy.

Anonymous said...

@anon at 1024:
judges (not lawyers) destroy justice
academics (not universities) destroy knowledge
reporters (not press) destroy information

Basil Walker said...

I applaud you Bruce and support your vision . I particularly applaud your paragraph on sport and NZ contribution. NZ should stand up proudly and declare New Zealand will host the next Commonwealth Games.
I realise other nations for their own reasons have declined however , NZ can provide across the nation every facility and experienced management for all international competition. We have existing every stadia required for a successful Commonwealth Games . Invercargill and Hamilton have cycling velodromes and cycle tour events , Lake Ruatiniwha and Karapiro have rowing, canoeing facilities , Dunedin has covered stadia. Christchurch and Hastings new olympic swimming pools , Queenstown marathon and triathalon courses , Auckland covers track and field, sailing , gymnastics etc. Other regions have the remaining facilities for lawn bowls , squash , badminton gymnastics et al . WE just need to agree to not have opening and closing ceremonies which are grandiose affairs that delay athletes and increase accomodation costs . One issue to be discussed is the accomodation villages . Solved by one designed multi purpose accomodation that will be called the 2024 Games Villages throughout NZ for our increasing elderly , pensioners and emergency accomodation that Central Government can provide .
The discussion should be immediately in 2024

Anonymous said...

The Velvet Fascism Of "Protect Our Democracy"

Whenever that term is used, one can be assured that the democracy 'they' are referring to has no semblance to any actual democracy.

In this case, “ours” does not mean “all of ours” – it means “theirs.”

What they are protecting is their democracy; not a democracy of the people, but now merely a word used to fig leaf the ever-expanding slither of socialist socialite statism, the velvet fascism that is deftly hammering its way through the society and the culture.

Stay vigilant people.

Anonymous said...

Good piece Bruce. I also agree with DeeM, we need a more balanced media and tertiary institutions. We have effectively save the left from themselves, but now we need to steady the ship and undo the mess created under the last govt.

Anonymous said...

This statement is false.
I wish it wasn't.

Hazel Modisett said...

What's to be proud of ?
The culture revolves around rugby, racing & beer,
"She'll be right mate" is a catch phrase for apathy,
Our #8 wire approach to fixing things has long been buried under a mountain of idiotic regulation & ever increasing fees,
The cornerstone of our society, the family unit, has been undermined by woke, retarded ideology to the point that it is demanded of us that we accept the scientific impossibility that men can be women thereby undermining the work that REAL women have done to improve their lot & you would now be arrested & charged for preventing a male from using a female toilet, not to mention the gross injustice of allowing men to compete in female sports.
In addition, we now have a radical minority that wants to change history in order to claim sovereignty (that they ceded to the Crown) & an equal say in how our country is run when they cant even agree amongst themselves on how to do it.
NZ is NOT the proud & fiercely independent Nation we once were & if the PEOPLE dont take charge then we will devolve into Civil War...or slavery.

Harry said...

This article contains some ridiculous tosh. Example: "the way those countries and their pharmaceutical companies responded to the need for vaccines just a few short years ago."

No Bruce, there was no "need" for a vaccine that has killed more people than the disease it was supposed to prevent (and failed to do so), while proven remedies like Ivermectin were banned by public health tyrants.

Also the nonsense about the UK's role in Ukraine which consisted of Boris sabotaging last year's peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, so the war could continue as it has.

The writer of this article should make more of an effort to inform himself before publishing his ignorance.

Anonymous said...

You cannot have national pride when governments insists that we are not one people. You cannot even tick New Zealander on any forms.

Constant pushing of division, a lack of a clear NZ identity, do not allow for unity or pride. We cannot even sing the anthem without getting lost as "artists" switch between languages randomly through verses. Which flag do we sign to?

Now there are government departments targeting support for specific race, sex, age. More splitting and separation than unity.