Should The World Be More Kiwi?
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
It was a fairly ordinary day in Wellington, New Zealand. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary occurred. For six-year-old Eddie Writes, however, it was time for something to change.
Eddie decided that the world needed a little more kindness, so he decided to do something about it. Eddie wrote to Wellington’s Mayor and asked him for help putting on an annual ‘Kindness Day’.
To Eddie and his family’s surprise, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester wrote back.
Eddie’s idea has been turned into a reality as on November 16th, New Zealand’s capital city will hold its first Manaaki Day. Manaaki, the Maori word for kindness, will bring citizens together to encourage and celebrate charitable acts.
Eddie’s mother, Emily Writes, the renowned Kiwi writer and feminist, said:
“I am pleased to see a change in politics in New Zealand that I hope focuses more on listening.” (Huffington Post)
The mayor’s support for the new holiday is not a one-off in New Zealand. It is part of the new wave of progressive, child-centred politics sweeping the country, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a new parent herself.
Speaking at the United Nations last month, Ardern pledged that New Zealand would be
“a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people.”
Ardern has been making good on her pledge so far. Under her government, twenty-two weeks parental leave was introduced and this will rise to twenty-six weeks by 2020.
This cause is a personal one for Ardern as she is only the second world leader in history to give birth while in office.
In another world first, a new law requires victims of domestic violence to be given up to ten days paid leave from work. This will be separate from annual leave and sick leave entitlements and will give victims the chance to get away from abusive partners and relocate and protect their children.
In response to the housing issues that arose in last year’s elections, Ardern’s government has launched ‘KiwiBuild’; a government initiative offering 100 000 entry-level homes over the next decade that will be sold at a capped price.
The New Zealand government has also responded to the recent IPCC report on global warming by implementing environmental policies including a ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration. In addition, they have plans to generate 100 percent of energy from renewables as part of an aim to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
Speaking on the country’s progressive policies, public policy researcher Jess Berenton-Shaw said:
“The move to measure something other than GDP is a significant signal for a government to make. It is recognition the scales have tipped too far. The benefits that wealth have brought are eroding many things that matter more.”
As a country, New Zealand have their share of social and environmental challenges. They have the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world and more than 40 000 children are admitted to hospital each year with health problems stemming from damp and mouldy homes. In addition, their environmental track record has definite room for improvement as they were named one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world.
The government’s response to its county’s struggles is admirable, with these initiatives a direct response to the problems New Zealand are facing.
Ardern admitted the frustration she feels with the pace of change after twelve months in office.
“Transformation does take a bit of time, though. If there’s anything that I’ve learnt, that I’ve struggled with, it’s how long things take.”
Progress may be slow, but there is a clear driving force from Ardern’s government to make positive changes within her administration and the country that she represents. New Zealand’s Greenpeace executive director, Russel Norman declared that the “best thing about New Zealand is its politics right now”. He continued:
“Jacinda Ardern has given hope to the world that if people make enough noise then the politicians will actually listen. What she’s done will change the course of New Zealand’s history – and hopefully the world’s – forever.’’