Each week Canvas asks a public figure to confess to three of the seven deadly sins. This week, journalist Mihingarangi Forbes enters the box.


Who do you envy, if anybody?

Every now and again I am envious of people who are oblivious to the state of the Earth or of [unequal] wealth distribution. I'm kind of envious sometimes of people who are mass consumers, who replace their lounge suite every other year because the cover has gone out of fashion. I'm envious of my family - my siblings and my mother are all at different stages on their journey to eating plant-based food for the purposes of lowering carbon emissions and all those kind of things. My brother is completely vegan and moving into living a carbon-zero life, my mum is plastic-free and makes all her own margarine, my sister is general manager of Para Kore/Zero Waste. I am hugely proud of them and I am envious and sometimes ashamed that my life is so busy and I make those excuses for not being as good as I could. Now that I have four children I am really conscious of wanting to be better.


Is there anything in this world you want more of?
I want to want less. When you're wealthy enough to have basically everything you need, the hardest trick is not wanting to want. We live in a country where we have accepted that the wealthiest 1 per cent owns 20 per cent of our assets. We celebrate economic progress but the equation is so flawed. [Some of] the stories we do at The Hui, we are dealing with people who have nothing and no means to achieve any kind of financial goal because the starting blocks are so uneven. Basically greed has screwed the world.

How do you stop yourself wanting more things?
I've got a wardrobe full of too many TV jackets and sparkly things. I used to just buy dresses for awards ceremonies and flash dinners but now I think you have to use what's already in the world. So I stopped buying so many clothes and I hire dresses. My husband is great, he recycles everything in the house. But even then we have to be careful that we're not using Vinnies and those places as dumping grounds. When you really want a new cheese grater, maybe you see a flash one in the shop when you still have one, you just have to use that one 'til it's dead. When the kids are thirsty and you're out and you [would habitually] buy a bottle of water, it's like, "Okay, get a cup and find some water somewhere." So how do I deal with greed? It's making small changes in my family life to support the bigger legislative changes that government and communities are making.

What makes you angry?
My mother is a counsellor and we grew up with, "If you're angry, punch the pillow." All my friends got the same treatment and the grandchildren now, it's crazy. But obviously being frustrated and the anger that comes from that creates change and it creates movement. We can see that with #MeToo and people who are frustrated and angry enough to donate their time and energy to fighting for the planet. The other kind of anger comes from hurt. I get a fair bit of that directed at me with the issues that we raise on The Hui. Whether it's poverty or education or health, we get lots of really angry New Zealanders come at us - and a note if you are reading this, don't come at me with your reaction because I'm just sharing my thoughts. People get really upset when their privilege is challenged or when the stories they were taught or that they have always believed get poked.

Do you think that conversation is getting more sophisticated - that while people are still upset, they are less angry and more understanding?
Absolutely, there is a real social shift and it's awesome. I have conversations with Māori and Pākehā New Zealanders that are heartwarming and I think, "Gosh, it's so different to how it was 20 years ago." I remember in the 90s you couldn't even say the word "racist" in a newsroom because people would say it was unhelpful - "That kind of conversation is unhelpful and we don't need it and you guys are just angry." I still get called an angry Māori journalist or an angry Māori woman. It doesn't matter if you are challenging schools to provide te reo Māori for your children or if you're talking about the history of this country or if you are sharing your opinion or advice with other people in the industry around how they are handling a Māori issue, we often get called angry Māori women. [Hui producer] Annabelle Lee-Mather and I put our korowai around us when we know we are going into a battle, the battle of kōrero, and we know people are going to be angry and upset.