COMMENT

The first column of the year, after not going near a newspaper or computer for two weeks. Time to refocus again.

What, I'm wondering, will ignite my passions in 2019?

Probably many of the same things that motivated me last year. Definitely climate change, the spluttering global economy, the coming energy shortage.

Northland's transport infrastructure will no doubt feature, as will housing and inequality.
It would be easy to be pessimistic at the moment. There's a bit of doom and gloom about.

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Any environmentalist or climate change scientist would be hard pressed to come up with much positive to say.

And as I've written before I think our global civilisation is on the cusp of some profound changes, mostly forced on us.

Though I don't see this as being pessimistic, I'd prefer realistic.

There's some sanity and perspective to be gained — individually and for a whole country even — if problems are appraised realistically, rather than maintaining blind optimism that things will carry on as before.

It's also true that one person's optimism can be another person's pessimism. It depends on your interests and your politics.

But because I don't want my stark appraisal of the global situation to be mistaken for entrenched pessimism, I want to start the year on a note of optimism.

There are many things I'm optimistic about for 2019, but I've narrowed them down to three biggies:

1. Unions will continue their comeback. Primary and secondary teachers may well combine in a nationwide campaign and strike action.

Workers in the private sector are also likely to take more action to secure better pay and conditions.

Labour's plans to encourage national industry-wide agreements is going to be an interesting development, even if watered down by opposition from NZ First.

With unemployment low, and the minimum wage going up to $17.70 an hour on April 1, it feels like 2019 might be an opportunity for workers to push for a better share of the country's wealth.

2. This year, investors will increasingly exit the housing market. Some of the Government's policies will encourage this, particularly a capital gains tax, if Labour has the courage to commit to one.

The house price party might be over in our big cities, though it might continue in Northland for a little longer, as homeowners sell up in Auckland. Photo/File
The house price party might be over in our big cities, though it might continue in Northland for a little longer, as homeowners sell up in Auckland. Photo/File

But either way, if house prices stop going up and there's no speculative gain, investors aren't going to buy. That's what's happening in Australia, with house prices in Sydney and Melbourne falling dramatically.

It might just be that the house price party is over in our big cities, too. Though it might continue in Northland for a little longer, as homeowners sell up in Auckland.

The inequalities created by the house price boom will take years to address, but young people can expect housing affordability to improve rather than worsen.

3. It's been eight years since the Occupy movement came from nowhere and burst into global consciousness. I'm predicting that this year or the next something similar will spark.

I'm predicting that this year or the next something similar to the Occupy movement will spark. Photo/Getty Images
I'm predicting that this year or the next something similar to the Occupy movement will spark. Photo/Getty Images

I'm hopeful young people can go beyond the micro-politics of identity and sexuality and realise the power they have to put pressure on global governments to act on climate change and inequality.

With rightwing populism stealing the show in recent years, a progressive and inclusive movement of young people on an international scale would be most welcome. We'll see.