Fifty years on, my arms remain pock-marked from the constant pinching.

What a time it was to be alive. In the early spring of 2014, the nation of New Zealand - as then it was known - lurched like a drunken moa through mudflats in the most remarkable election campaign anyone could remember. Today it seems an unreliable memory, alien, a museum piece. But even now, 50 years on, my arms remain pockmarked from the constant pinching, such was the parade of astonishment.

It was not, however, a dream. And despite the catastrophic Obliteration of the Cloud in 2024, some records remain. I even have a collection of crumpled old notes - written in "ballpoint pen", believe it or not, on paper.

In those heady days the people voted once every three years, choosing their favourite person for their area and which party they liked the best. A quirk in the system led to some strange and tiny bands of people to focus on strange and tiny areas or "electorates", including the rotten boroughs of Ohariu and Epsom. Indeed the hostility in Epsom in many ways sowed the seeds of the ill-fated separatist movement, the People's Republic of Auckland Taxpayers.

The strangest manifestation of this so-called "coat-tail" rule, however, was the strategic alliance between a flamboyant German internet mogul and an indigenous leftwing activist politician. Most remarkably, this inchoate and freakish collaboration was far from the most remarkable thing to happen. (To this day, of course, Kim Dotcom, his name now changed to Kimbawimba Bambam, continues from his home atop the Sky Tower to fight US extradition attempts.)


In a furiously explosive campaign, the first detonation came with the release of a book (made of paper) that painted a picture of a malignant force within the ruling party and the dank, sewer-based delivery of information to the wider population. Hospital intakes climbed in the months following, as those reading the text found themselves uncontrollably vomiting in response. The story appalled and captivated the nation, until the Prime Minister explained that the journalist responsible was a crank and conspiracy theorist and it really wasn't a big deal.

Next came a convoy of international visitors, who appeared in the flesh and virtually to explain to New Zealanders the breadth of surveillance, in contradiction of government assurances. This may seem a strange thing to worry about these days, given The Everyone Safe Programme, but it raised considerable controversy at the time, until the Prime Minister explained that the journalist responsible was a loser and conspiracy theorist and it really wasn't a big deal.

A world-famous hip-hop artist called Eminem launched legal action over use of a soundalike tune, sparking an incredulous fuss, until the Prime Minister freestyle rapped that the mofo was whack and it ain't no thang.

Some of the details are hazy now, I confess.

Back then, of course, it was just the "five eyes": the "United Kingdom" was a thing, as was "New Zealand". These days they seem to add eyes faster than teams to the Super-42 rugby competition. It means updating the national flag regularly, but the waves of separatism at least mean there are more competitors at the Eyes Together four-yearly games.

There is so much more to say, but I can see I am testing your patience. Consider, however, these words I have scrawled on this yellowing paper. Many I barely recognise.

A manipulative man. A screaming man. A little henchman. A puffed-up little shit. Apologies and effigies, FJK and CGT. Sugar daddies, ratf***ers, Rawsharks and whales. Chemtrails. Kingmakers, king hits, crushers and Slaters. The aristocracy in pre-revolutionary France. Dumps and leaks and rock-solid bottom lines. Blogsters, black ops, brainfades. Speargun, XKeyScore, Cortex, coxes. A five-headed hydra in high-vis at the end of the day. Steak and lambchops and snapper and cheese. And after all that, the big winner of course was President Peters. Though he was just plain old Winston back then.

I was recounting all of this to my grandchildren just the other day. They were hardly paying attention, partly because they were glued to the live holovised launch of the iPlant 28 - when will they stop using bloody Bono for these things! - but also because they regard the political tales of generations past with some contempt. Which is fair enough, when you consider the sea levels, apocalyptic weather and ongoing refugee crisis.


For them, the very idea of a triennial expression of suffrage, of ticking names and parties on a paper ballot, seems exotic and other-wordly. I miss it, I tell them, but they consider me a deluded old romantic; for them "voting" means nothing but the daily automated "thought surveys" and mood analysis of Sensory Algorithmic Democracy.

Still, their ears always prick up to the story of September 19, 2014. The events of that evening are as famous as any in our country's history. And you hardly need me to tell you what happened when that strangest of periods culminated in the emergence through the crepuscular mist, paddling a cabbage boat and bearing secrets, of Chris Cairns, Aaron Gilmore and a hotel waiter from Hanmer Springs.

Debate on this article is now closed.