What is it about the city of Tauranga, a warm and pleasant place to be, it has always seemed to me, and set in the lovely eastern Bay of Plenty, which is so true to its name, with rolling pastures, laden orchards and gardens?

And yet ...

The area supports a cheap populist as its member of Parliament, Winston Peters, and just before Christmas a correspondent to the Herald expressed her relief at going home to Tauranga from Auckland because of the Asian presence in our largest city.


I, for one, was glad to see the grumpy woman leave. I'll bet she wouldn't have smiled and said "Hello" if I'd passed her in Shortland St, but many beautiful young ethnic Chinese women do.

I guess it is fear of change that drives these poor old Kiwis into their aggression and unkindness. I have had business dealings with ethnic Chinese residents and found them never less than scrupulous and polite.

By and large, New Zealanders are a friendly and tolerant lot but there is a kind of lager mentality among some of our older, provincial residents.

For example, Tauranga raises its angry head again this week in my email inbox in the shape of Mr Russell Fletcher, who fulminates at my suggestion last week that there is something engagingly anachronistic about the word "commie", specifically when it was used to describe Waitakere City, whose council, I would have thought, was notably free of reds under beds - although Mayor Bob Harvey has a sense of humour which I have sometimes thought refreshingly subversive.

But beware of commies as much as ever, according to our Russell Fletcher. He sent me one of those rabid, right-wing tirades from the internet which explains that communists haven't gone away, they have just transmuted into all those people its author hates.

A vast network of reds pretending to be another colour threatens our "civilisation". He says that "in the remote chance" that I read the article, "the knowledge might prevent you from offering such outdated, uninformed, apologist, leftist garbage in the future".

The article is written with heavy irony (which I have emulated below for fun). For example: "I mean, imagine how idiotic it would be to call the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, a 'communist'.

"Just because he was a terrorist who plotted to blow up buildings and kill hundreds of people, and just because he wrote an essay on 'how to be a good communist' doesn't mean he was one."


Later: "And clearly, Germany's new anti-Americanism has nothing to do with the percolating, festering, inwardly hidden communist leanings of the '60s and '70s radicals who now run the German Government."

Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic are also still in the hands of the communists. Indeed, "Europe is still in the grip of the Russian mafia".

And then: "All that left-wing agitation against war and imperialism, all those peace protesters, the Green Party, the politically correct - none of their ideas have anything in common with communist ideas.

"It's only a coincidence that they hate capitalism, yearn for the collective ownership of the means of production and love the underprivileged.

"Just because these people subscribe to all the major communist ideas of the past, it doesn't mean they're communists."

Strange political obsessives like Russell Fletcher are present in small numbers throughout the country, but they do seem to be disproportionately represented in Tauranga.

So, Taurangans, when you take your morning tea or coffee on the sundeck this week, whether you live in Paranoia Place or Angry Ave, remember the enemy is everywhere.

Smoulder away. Be frightened and accept that hatred is a healthy byproduct of fear. Don't count your blessings or enjoy your enormous luck in living in one of the world's loveliest and most peaceful environments.

And don't, whatever happens, have a happy New Year. You might be caught unawares by a disguised commie or a nasty peace protester, a creepy Green, a sneaky Asian or a lethal Muslim. They look different from you as part of God's early warning system, so you know whom to hate and can get in first.

* When newspapermen call this the silly season, they say more than they think. Another rant I received this week was from someone signing himself Mike Ake, who reads like a Taurangan but I have no evidence he's from there.

When Saddam Hussein was caught, he sent me a crude email about the anti-Americanism of me and the Herald generally for not supporting the Bush regime's attack on Iraq.

I replied: "Has it occurred to you, you stupid man, that if not liking Bush and his policies is anti-American then something like 50 per cent of Americans are also anti-American."

He came back with: "I've been called worse. Of course, one person's anti-Americanism is another's love of country. I was referring to the sort of commentary that spews from ageing Lord Haw Haws like you, Fisk, Pilger, Chomsky (man, what is it with elderly, silver-haired white people?).

"But I guess you knew that. Anyway, seems I owe you an apology - you refrained ... "

Get it? I don't either.