The Trumpian has made his State of the Union address and our own Jacinda has spoken to the nation from Waitangi, so I think that, in terms of balance, it is only right that I should make my own State of the Nation speech.

Ahem ... unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I will instead write this out so you can absorb the momentous import of the width and depth of my wisdom over breakfast.
First, I must state that the union is in a right old state.

We may be but a small group of islands at the bottom of the known world but, as a country where everybody seems to know everybody and their entire whanau by name, it is astonishing that we struggle with planning for the future.

We are some four and a half million people – give or take a few stragglers — which is on par with the entire city of Sydney, yet we seem incapable of organising ourselves.


Mind you, Australia has been giving us a taste of its weather and the fiery risk of bushfires so, while there are things we could learn from other countries, we don't need to copy everything they do.

For some reason we are not good at learning from the mistakes of others. Auckland should have been taking notes from United States cities years ago on how not to neglect public transport and become trapped in gridlocked carmargeddon.

We should have been watching countries like Switzerland and Germany managing recycling and cleaning up their lakes and rivers but, no, we needed to create our own pollution problems – none of these crazy foreign good ideas stuff for us. We are quite capable of mucking things up by ourselves, thank you very much.

Housing is another look and learn.

House prices in Australia's major cities rose to astronomical figures with even the cheap ones selling for a million-plus. This was driven by the nonsensical notion that what goes up will keep going up.

Now the downward slide is demolishing people's equity and creating a mortgage crisis. This, of course, will not happen in New Zealand because we have been learning from their example – not.

I have, in the past, noted the odd coincidence that all our MPs, from all sides of Parliament, have been reluctant to tackle capital gains as one way to bring some reality back to NZ house prices. My fix for that is that all MPs owning more than one house should not be allowed to vote on housing legislation as they have a very direct conflict of interest.

By last reckoning that would mean three MPs would get to decide policy as most of our elected representatives own numerous properties.


Geographically we have two main islands, but socio-economically we are divided into two states — one the desperate state of the have-nots; the other, the have-plentys with small colonies of Smugsvilles where the inhabitants wallow in privilege and do not care. We need to do better.

The current state of the union requires us to be united in finding solutions. This means listening to the voices of the disadvantaged and understanding the reality of high rents, low wages and escalating living costs for some families.

At this time of year, the cost of a school uniform can break the family budget. Why do we have uniforms?

The kids have clothes yet we impose another set of rules on an issue that has no effect on the quality of education. Einstein's hair would have had him sent home from school if this was the way such things were decided.

My State of the Union address cannot end without mentioning the state of the status quo and the need for New Zealand to be moving into the status futurae.

Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a writer, musician and social worker — feedback always welcome: