When it comes to puppets, I am not, and never have been, a huge fan.

I don't know why, but I expect it has something to do with whoever is at the other end pulling the strings, known as the puppeteer.

Sometimes they can voice their actions to the puppet and, in doing so, stay silent behind the curtain or whatever it is that secretly separates them.

Give me the real deal of good old-fashioned storytelling played out on a stage by real people in the form of live theatre any day, where I get to like or dislike the choreographer.


Why do I distrust puppets? To be honest - and that in itself is a crazy statement given we all tell the truth all of the time right? - it's because I never got to see who was pulling the strings as a kid when puppet shows came to our schools, and that distrust has stayed with me.

The English playwright W Somerset Maugham summed it up best with his quote: "Money is the string with which a sardonic destiny directs the motions of its puppets".

More and more our lives are being dictated by faceless fingers pulling strings to make the rich richer and the poor even poorer - none more so than what is happening with the two leaders with bad hairdos and fingers on the nuclear buttons.

In one corner of the puppet show is Kim Jong Un aka Rocket Man, swept on to the global stage by his high-stakes button bluff, and in the other is the ultimate dealmaker who has gone all in on the biggest political global gamble ever.

Only this time, if things don't pan out for Trump and the new kid on the block Kim, he can't say "You're fired" as it could backfire on him and trigger a potential catastrophic standoff. One they may not have the mana to back down from.

And, seemingly on both sides pulling two sets of strings, is Chinese master puppeteer President Xi Jinping. What is clear is that it was only once China threw its weight behind economic sanctions that North Korea started talking, just as Billy Somerset predicted.

"Money is the string with which a sardonic destiny directs the motions of its puppets."

Nationally, in the land of the political puppet show, we are about to find out who exactly is pulling the strings, with the inquiry into the value for money Māori are getting.


An independent panel is reviewing Whānau Ora to ensure it is providing better community outcomes and responding to people's needs. The panel is expected to deliver its report in early November.

Te Tuinga Whanāu's chairman and I are questioning the ability of the Whanāu Ora commissioning model to deliver sustainable changes that I believe are urgently required, particularly in the social sector.

Not to be outstaged, Sheriff Shane Jones is calling out the puppeteers of the forestry industry who have been pulling some in-house industry strings for decades, and the free ride on this cash cow enjoyed by so-called kaitiaki (or caretakers) of our whenua are about to have their wings not so much clipped as chainsawed.

The balance of planting native trees for long-term survival of the East Coast environment and short-term gain of pinus radiata, with potentially devastating consequences as seen in recent floods, is in my opinion, a crucial call and again the wise words of Wiremu Somerset should be adhered to.

"Money is the string with which a sardonic destiny directs the motions of its puppets."

Just who is pulling the strings of the iwi contesting the overlapping claims between Tauranga Moana and Hauraki is a question worth asking and for my two bobs' worth of bluff on both sides, the key to finding this out is applying the W Somerset Maugham theory.

It is all about the money and, until we start measuring the success of collective iwi clout with mana and not money, we will always be at the mercy of the puppeteers who are pulling the putea strings of Māori trusts without putting their hands in their own pockets.

If, and it is a big if, we are to survive as a planet, as a people and a culture – (according to the doomsday clock it is critically close to the midnight hour), it will be because of the endeavours of real people, not puppets.

It will be because the power of love can and will win over the dark forces of mean-minded puppeteers, who will never have enough money to quench the insatiable thirst they have for power.