The national day is always something of a performance review. It could be a day of pure celebration if New Zealanders were disposed to do that. But it feels like gloating which is not in the national character. So while we should acknowledge how well the country is doing, economically, socially and, most important, in honouring its founding Treaty, we prefer to talk about how we could do better.

A new government ensures the focus will be on improvement rather than achievement. After five years of sustained economic growth, government over the next few years is going to be focused on those groups who it feels have not kept pace with prosperity.

Parents on low incomes and benefits are going to be given legislated increases in wages and child support. Women will be able to use pay equity mechanisms to try to lift their earnings by comparison with male rates. Employees generally will gain more favourable bargaining laws.

All of this should be able to be done without loss of budget surpluses and economic growth now that the international economy is looking better than it has in the 10 years since the financial crisis.


Until the last year or so New Zealand was one of the few economies to return to growth, making it attractive to migrants and keeping more of its own people at home. In consequence, it has seen a population surge that has created new problems. No longer do we worry about losing our young people to larger and richer countries, now we have to deal with the demands of growth, especially in housing and infrastructure.

The new Government is led by one of the generation we once feared were "leaving in droves". Our Prime Minister is young, female and about to have a baby. She is the epitome of the new confidence in New Zealand among the young as well their social and environmental values. Alleviating child poverty is her personal priority and climate change is her Government's over-riding concern. It is setting out to reduce the country's greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050.

Waitangi Day inevitably and properly is about the Treaty partnership, though. Governments have largely completed the long phase of negotiating compensation for colonial breaches. Most iwi, with the sad exception of the largest, Ngapuhi, have now not only acquired capital for their economic survival, their tribal administration, connections and identity have been strengthened in the process.

The new Government wants to see a more equitable distribution of the fruits to iwi prosperity just as it does with the wealth of the whole economy. That was the Prime Minister's message to iwi leaders during her extended visit to Waitangi this year.

Her party has now recovered all the Maori electorates, putting an end to the idea of an independent Maori presence in Parliament. Instead, Maori have a strong presence in all significant parties in the new Parliament and their welfare, culture and language cannot be neglected.

When considering the country's achievements today and confronting its challenges, we should allow ourselves some quiet pride. New Zealand is fine, prosperous and fair, and will get even better.