Tapu Misa on current affairs

Tapu Misa is a Herald columnist focussing on Pacific affairs

Tapu Misa: No complaints allowed - we have to celebrate

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The size of the crowds that descended on downtown Auckland for the opening of the Rugby World Cup seemed to come as a surprise to event planners. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The size of the crowds that descended on downtown Auckland for the opening of the Rugby World Cup seemed to come as a surprise to event planners. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The time for complaining is past. Now is the time for Relentless Positivity. I knew this even as I stood in a long queue at Britomart two Fridays ago, rapidly losing the afterglow from the brilliant Rugby World Cup opening at Eden Park.

We'd come into the city some 10 hours earlier, the Tongan and our teenage son and I, on a creaking, dangerously packed train, grateful we hadn't left the trip any later. By midnight, when we were trying to get home after the game, having picked our way through rubbish and vomit and people in various states of inebriation, I was over it. Downtown Auckland looked like a tip. I wanted to go home, but there were several thousand people and a lack of trains (and buses and taxis) in my way.

When I started to complain, though, my son all but clapped his hands over his ears to block me out. He didn't want me to ruin his perfect memory of the night.

The Clark Government's support helped secure New Zealand's bid to host the Rugby World Cup, but the timing has been a heaven-send for the current Government, which is coasting to almost certain victory in the November 26 general election.

Paula Bennett sounded like the Minister for Relentless Positivity last week when she berated Phil Goff for reminding the Government of the part they'd played in the downtown debacle on opening night.

She poured scorned on "the negativity of the Labour Party ... the Hobbit-haters, the World Cup-droppers, the people who do not want to celebrate New Zealand for all that it is and for all that it achieves".

"This Rugby World Cup has brought aspiration, hope, and pride to New Zealanders. That is something we should be celebrating - celebrating the successes. But instead all we hear repeatedly from the other side of the House is just the relentless negativity of what is wrong, what is wrong, what is wrong ..."

Transport Minister Steven Joyce averred that "New Zealanders are in a mood to celebrate" (which is true), and characterised Labour's "forensic analysis" as a desperate attempt to "lift itself off the canvas by ripping down the rest of the country".

It seems post-mortems about public transport and crowd control failures are only useful if the blame can be pointed elsewhere.

If Mayor Len Brown thought the Government's interference (the micro-managing Minister for the RWC Murray McCully; John Key's insistence on the too small "Party Central"; the Super City reforms that saw Auckland landed with government creations like Auckland Transport) meant it would shoulder equal responsibility with the Auckland Council for both "the glory and the grief", he was sadly mistaken. There's no "grief" in the Nats' win-win scenario.

Criticised for not taking responsibility, McCully decided that meant "taking over" (essentially formalising what he'd been doing all along). Apparently, leadership means never having to say you're sorry. (Or "tena koutou" in the Prime Minister's case, even when welcoming the world on New Zealand's biggest night.)

McCully's high-handed, paternalistic approach is well known to Pacific aid agencies. And, according to Russell Brown of Public Address, his "capricious behaviour and poor decision-making [wasn't] really news to anyone who has been involved with planning for the Rugby World Cup. He and John Key sprang the "Party Central" theme and location not only on the city and the nation, but on the CEO of Rugby World Cup 2011, Martin Snedden ... By the middle of last year, McCully's office was something of a law unto itself ..."

A Herald on Sunday poll finds that the Rugby World Cup runs a close second to the general election as the event Aucklanders think will have the greatest impact on their lives this year.

The election is just over nine weeks away, but good luck to anyone trying to get the country focused on anything else for the next five weeks.

Last week, the Child Poverty Action Group released a report calling for urgent action for the one in five New Zealand children who experience hardship severe enough to compromise their health, education and future.

The group argues that child poverty isn't inevitable, but amenable to government policy. One policy that would make an immediate difference is extending the Working for Families In-Work tax credit to the children of beneficiaries, who are currently discriminated against in the belief it will "incentivise" their parents to find work. This isn't the case in Australia, which doesn't distinguish between poor children on the basis of their parents' work status.

Unsurprisingly, the report got less attention than the rugby. Paula Bennett was quick to dismiss the report's findings, telling Radio New Zealand it was a political document and a rehash of work already done by the group.

Perhaps the lobby group should have taken a leaf out of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services' recent newsletter, and given its report a rugby theme, say, "Future All Blacks Left Further Behind".

- NZ Herald

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