by Roger Childs
A very happy New Year to all readers and contributors living in Waikanae, the nation and around the world. Thank you for your support in making 2020 another record year for Waikanae Watch. (See the previous story.)
What can we expect from 2021? Death and taxes are always certainties, but hopefully there will also be plenty of friendship, tolerance, compassion, honesty and greater equity.
But what about 2020?
A great year for China
The overwhelming evidence supports the conclusion that the coronavirus, which ravaged the planet in 2020, started in Wuhan either from a wet market where the virus jumped species or out of a laboratory. The Chinese Communist Party delayed three weeks before it advised the World Health Organisation, and there is the suspicion that China knowingly spread the virus world-wide.
China recovered remarkably quickly and has had a boom year economically which no other country could match. It is now likely that this growth will bring forward China’s inevitable march towards becoming the largest economy on the planet.
The Chinese continue their mission to buy up assets, resources and facilities world-wide and the consequence is that many poorer countries are now hopelessly in debt and economically dependent on China.
The impact of Covid-19
This is what 2020 will be remembered for most. New Zealand has done remarkably well and the government’s go hard, go early policy, based on expert scientific and medical advice, has worked. The doom and gloom merchants predicted a smashed economy, unemployment over 10%, thousands of businesses going to the wall and a lasting recession. There was the predictable economic downturn and there are still problems to be solved, however the country has proved remarkably resilient and bounced back economically.
Hindsight, that tool of the lazy critic, indicates that some different things could have been done in dealing with Cv-19, but the simple truth is that starting the New Year we don’t have restrictions on our freedoms or our ability to gather in large groups. There is no limit on the number of people who can assemble at music festivals, cricket matches, church services, weddings and funerals.
Would anyone want to be in Britain, the United States, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Brazil or South Africa right now? Our government’s approach the coronavirus netted the Labour Party a resounding victory in the October election and gave them the first outright majority in parliament since MMP began, If Trump had had a consistent policy towards the coronavirus and followed expert advice he would probably be embarking on a second term.
Under the new Biden administration it is likely that America will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership and that could result in better access to their markets for our exporters. The ‘eleventh hour’ Brexit deal may also work in our favour as Britain seeks new trading relationships now that it is not bound by European Union rules.
The New Zealand scene
There are many social and economic challenges facing the government as a consequence of the coronavirus and the huge number of Kiwis returning home. This forced migration had put pressure on housing where demand massively exceeds supply. Although there is currently a boom in the building industry, inevitably housing prices have surged ahead and first-time home buyers are struggling to get one. The Coalition government foolishly rejected the very sensible proposals of the Cullen tax group in 2018 and the PM unwisely ruled out a capital gains tax on her watch.
Poverty and the income gap remain as major problems. The wealthiest people in our population have generally had a very good year and this has inevitably widened their lead on those at the bottom of the heap. The increase in the minimum wage to take effect in April is a good move, but tax reform is crucial to closing the gap. Grant Robertson’s timid tax increases on higher incomes are not enough. Arden declared a “climate emergency” last month, but far more important is the problem of income disparities.
There is no question that reducing air pollution is desirable, but as far as the environment is concerned progress needs to be made on cleaning up our waterways and ending the dropping of 1080 poison.
The Kapiti scene
The Covid-19 emergency allowed the KCDC to be even more secretive in how it operated. There can be no disputing that the CEO runs the show and elected Councillors are often not in the loop. The latter are constantly bogged down in papers to be read and do not have a big enough role in policy making. Community Boards, which are close to Ratepayers in their respective areas, have not been empowered as the present mayor promised at the last election.
One of the biggest issues in the Kapiti District is the lack of a large functioning library in Waikanae. KCDC shamefully failed to deal with the problems of the old library for over a decade. As a result of the pressure applied by ROBB (Restore Our Book Budget) the Council did install a ‘pop-up’ library, but the Kapiti area still has one of the lowest library book buying allocations per capita in New Zealand.
In 2020 a key ‘initiative’ in the district was mayor Guru’s desire for a lasting legacy close to the sea at Paraparaumu Beach. The proposed Gateway to Kapiti Island (a.k.a the Kaj) is an ill-considered, poorly researched, unpopular concept which is based on shonky financial calculations and unrealistic estimates of future patronage. If the official council concerns over rising water levels and erosion along the coast are genuine, why build an expensive and unnecessary edifice a few metres from the beach at McLean Park?
On the positive side the Council does its best work on tracks, reserves, gardens and shared pathways, and its support for the 20+ conservation groups in the area is admirable. However, KCDC needs to have more staff working outside and less spin-doctoring in the media department.
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Waikanae Watch is one of the most attractive publications on the Internet with its excellent presentation and superb photos of the Waikanae area. It is a great credit to the dedicated work of Eva and Geoff with its mix of local, national and international news items; book and film reviews; satirical articles and visuals, and the promotion of Kapiti events.
It also doesn’t shy away from issues that the mainstream media barely touch — poisoning the land, freedom of speech, gun laws, accuracy about our history, and the unjustified demands and actions of a few Maori extremists and their non-Maori fellow-travellers.
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