I have been asked a few times over the past couple of weeks about why I am wading back into public life by voicing an opinion through these columns and fundraising for the National Party.
It is a fair question. There is sound reasoning at a personal and professional level for getting out of the public eye and just getting on with a new healthier life, but I believe there are those in life that sit on the sidelines and spectate and there are those that participate, and since I was useless at sport I participate by entering into public debate and supporting a cause. I give a damn about this country and the direction it is heading and I still want to contribute in a minor way. It got me thinking this week about how people contribute to wider society.
Louisa Wall has contributed to society in a way that not many will. Not long after her marriage equality bill was passed I attended the wedding of good friends. They are about to celebrate 30 years together and because of Louisa shepherding her bill through in 2013, they have spent the last nine of them legally married. At the wedding, friends of theirs approached me with tears in their eyes telling me what a difference it had made to their sense of self.
I went to school with Louisa but we weren't friends then, she was the sporty Māori girl driven to excellence, I was the one behind the bike sheds wagging PE and trying to cause chaos. We met up again at university years later and I was student president and she was the women's rep. Our politics haven't generally aligned but I always admired her conviction, dedication and bloody-mindedness to make a difference. For all that she has been through in the last couple of years, I hope it is her contribution to making us a fairer society that she is remembered for.
Our business leaders big and small are currently being forgotten for their contribution to society. They put themselves on the line, take risks, worry about paying their staff and their bills and hope to make a profit, although, for many that last one is a distant dream, survival now takes priority. They have been broken by having to close their doors or cut right back and for most, it has been the heartbreak of letting people go they have worked with and cared about for many years.
Those that have survived through the worst of the Covid years now need our support more than ever but instead, they are treated with disdain as cost after cost is piled on to them with regulatory changes that make it harder to stay in business. An extra public holiday, increases in the wage bill, transport costs going up and a struggle to get workers will drive a whole lot out of business. Their contribution is more than the goods and services they provide, it is how they play a vital part in our community, employ us and our neighbours and support the many charities that need them – often quietly and without recognition. We need their entrepreneurial spirit and their dream of the next big thing.
Lastly, it's the contribution of our many community heroes. Those that selflessly think of others first. We have a food stall called Pātaka Kai in our Te Atatū Peninsula village where people can put food for others to take if needed free of charge. Local businesses and individuals contribute as they can. Some provide fruit from their trees or jams they have made, others buy bread and other basics and fill the shelves, no one polices it and it works. Just people quietly contributing in their own way.