This is a velorio. A velorio is a kind of tangi, the part before the actual funeral in South America where the dead are honoured and people revisit the lives lived.
This is a velorio for all the family businesses that have died a horrible death, born of hopeful new immigrants who have come to these shores with all the illusion and naivety of those who have done it really hard and see the chance to finally make something of their lives.
This is the velorio for the businesses which became toddlers with the owners' actual toddlers shelved under counters and out the back with Grandma while the parents pulled 16-hour days trying to make it work. This is the velorio for the pasta factory with the gourmet flavours and catchy slogan with the glass windows, paid for with the house that was sold on a rising housing market. This is the velorio for the gourmet steak house, built on the capital gain from the sale of a house in Auckland because, after all, houses don't employ anyone.
Or, at least that was the case in the countries these people came from where heavy capital gains tax dissuaded people from investing in the property lottery and tax incentives encouraged them to build businesses that would employ people.
Regional tax incentives that actively encouraged businesses outside of the main centres, in some cases tax breaks for starting up in economically challenged regions.
This is the velorio for two of the many businesses built by new immigrants who eschewed playing the housing lottery because they have seen it as an economic anomaly which can't possibly be sustained.
I remember sitting at those conversations to sell those houses and knowing that these people desperately wanted to get ahead and make a future for their children, and even have the privilege of offering others work.
I also remember thinking how churlish it would be if I said that small family businesses are not really encouraged here and they'd be better off just sitting on their houses in South Auckland and waiting it out in minimum wage jobs. These are the businesses which won awards, were on national TV and in national magazines that attracted the wealthy and the small-time famous that is NZ celebrity. They were good at what they did.
They did not fail because their owners failed to put in enough effort or hours. Perhaps they failed because they put in everything and had nothing left over.
Not even their relationships.
At the end of it all, the strain left not one of the marriages intact. Maybe I should have told them how it is: This government encourages immigrants who bolster a runaway Auckland housing market. This opposition backed away from a capital gains tax that would have mitigated the problem because it confused good policy with a popularity contest. Maybe I should have told them: This government encourages immigrants, just not really their kind.