New Zealand hasn’t been a social-democratic paradise since Rogernomics’ deregulation, selling off public assets, and slashing state investment.
“Over the past 30 years, more than $350 billion has flowed out of New Zealand's economy to overseas banks and foreign owners of our assets.
At the same time, the share of the economy going to working people has fallen from over 50 per cent to just over 40 per cent, cutting NZ $20 billion a year from pay packets.
That's not a coincidence. Reducing employment rights and, more specifically, reducing the rights of New Zealanders to build economic power has led to a massive transfer of wealth away from the majority of Kiwis - our families, our communities and small businesses.”
New Zealand needs to move away from our reliance on a low-wage economy where companies compete by paying people less.
We need to remove the temptation to throw more cheap labour or longer work-hours at a problem, and make investment in skills, productive capital and innovation the better option.
The situation that New Zealand currently is in can be directly related back to the National government’s Employment Contracts act of 1991.
The Employment Contracts Act (ECA), once it passed, had a devastating effect on workers’ rights and living standards in New Zealand. It dealt a body blow to the trade union movement, one from which we’ve never recovered.
Union membership almost halved between 1991 and 1995, with union density going from 41.5% to 21.7%,
The ECA gave employers the right to refuse to negotiate with unions, and made it much easier to use lockouts and ‘scab’ labour or migrants to break workers’ resistance.
It eliminated hard-fought reforms like compulsory union membership, compulsory employer-employee bargaining, and unions’ special place in this process.
Listen to Robert’s interview including a shocking revelation about how New Zealand employers have been caught treating migrant workers, that feels like the final nail in the coffin of assuming New Zealand is the world’s best place to live and work in.
Robert Reid is President of the 28,000 strong FIRST Union after retiring as General Secretary in November of last year.
He talks about his life, his work in trade unions, the community and the role of trade unions today.
Robert has recently been appointed to the NZ Government’s Welfare Experts Advisory Group.
From school age Robert was an organiser, forming a Students Union while still at High School, starting the Organisation to Halt Military Service to get rid of conscription during the War on Vietnam and becoming the International Vice President of the NZ University Students Association in his first year of university.
Dropping out of university and starting a family at a young age, Robert worked at General Motors in Petone for 10 years where he learnt his trade unionism until, like tens of thousands in the manufacturing industries was made redundant as Rogernomics named after Roger Douglas the radical monetarist Minister of Finance in the 4th Labour Govt. With its neo-liberal trade policies kicked in.
Robert spent the next period of time working with unemployed and community employment groups until returning to union work with the Council of Trade Unions as a regional organiser out of Palmerston North.
With the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 decimating the trade union movement, Robert worked in Asia for 6 years helping in the establishment and growth of independent and genuine trade unions across the region.
Robert came back to the NZ trade union movement helping to rebuild it again by being part of the formation of Unite and with roles in the Trade Union Federation, the Footwear Union, the Clothing Union and then as President, then General Secretary of the National Distribution Union which together with the Finance Union FINSEC, became FIRST Union.
During this period Robert also completed a Graduate Diploma in Economic Development and worked in the Green Party Parliamentary office for 2 years on the Buy Kiwi Made campaign. Robert has also served on “industry good” boards such as Textiles NZ and the Forest Industry Safety Council.
Robert lives with his partner, Maxine Gay in Mangere Bridge and is a doting grandfather to 6 grandchildren.
It’s about individuals coming together to localise, in creating business around farmers markets, food growing, timebanks and cooperating at numerous innovative tiers and levels.
Many more NZer’s today are talking among themselves that there has to be a far better way for us to live, especially for our collective planetary future.
Up and down and across New Zealand, many 'kiwis' are slowly but methodically going about integrating with their local community - wishing to share at a deeper level, values that are expressed from the heart and from a place of honesty and courage.
From little villages, districts, towns, to suburbs in cities, farmers markets seem to be a key ‘nodal point’ where people can congregate and cross pollinate news and views of how community can come together - so as to become self reliant, and resilient as well as creatively taking innovation to a new art form.
Are you one of these cultural creatives? Who enjoys meeting people to talk deeply about how we can address the urgent needs within the biosphere of today. I trust that you are as the following interview I feel, will fill you with optimism and dear I say it, joy, which as you inherently know - we need to experience far more of - especially if we are aware of current world news.
Juliet Adams became a volunteer in Lyttelton (just beyond Christchurch) in the South Island, just after the earthquake that affected so many people’s lives. This came about because Project Lyttelton had a ‘Time Bank.’
A Time Bank - is a system that helps people to help each other, without money changing hands.
To join a local time bank - there needs to be a basic program on a small computer system so as to record what exchanges are being made. When you join you list the ‘skills’ you can offer towards the community and any other ways of helping people in the community to do things.
Plus, you will also ‘have some needs' as well where you would like some help.
For example if you spent one hour minding a friends children, they will credit you ‘one hour’ on the time bank records. Then you can use that credited ‘one hour’ on your account to pay someone to do something for you. Like fixing the broken fence or mowing the lawns. etc.
So it’s a matter of people exchanging their abilities and their time to help one another - without money changing hands.
What ‘time banks’ do is bring people and connection much more closer together. Where as money can be over convenient as in the human equation it may not play a ‘closer quality’ in reaching out to people and their inner needs. i.e good relationships that are far more healthy … where you spend time talking and making sure that everyone is warmly satisfied with the ’transaction’.
In Lyttelton there is over 750 members in their time bank - so if these 750 people congregated all togther in a hall - there is huge potential and possibility with the collective skills that are there. Thus a time bank like this has 'vast social capital' that can be unleashed and put to good purpose.
Community Treasure Chest.
The ‘community treasure chest’ - is where people who belong to a time bank, donate and credit their ‘one hour’ to the community treasure chest - which allows other people who are going through a tough spell and need a hand up, can avail themselves of accumulated gifted ‘one hour' credits from the Community Chest.
So that people who are not even time bank members can receive community assistance.
This is the difference between a system that is built around people - rather than money.
Project Lyttelton is based on many projects.
Having many community gardens - you give some work time and you can walk away with some of the fresh produce.
Garage Sales - about 4 or 5 a week - are all organised through Project Lyttelton - having a well organised, publicised outreach.
Saturday Farmers Market - which is a huge success - and this is where town and country meet and much sharing and networking takes place.
Helen Dew of Carterton and and Living Economies, North of Wellington and Margaret Jeffries of Lyttelton went to ITHACA in New York in the US many years ago and learnt about ‘time banks’ and brought the concept back to NZ. http://livingeconomies.nz
Today more and more Councils and Central Government are actively supporting communities to assist them to become more cohesive and healthy to improve the lives of their citizens. Healthy, happy people, as a result are not dependent on health services and do not draw down on the community or economy.
Locally there are Time Banks in Christchurch, Sumner and New Brighton areas.
Minimisation of Waste
Saturday markets - you can borrow a cup - take it away full of a hot drink or soup and carry it with you, refill it and later on in the day drop it back at the market and one of the staff will happily wash it at the end of the day.
Same for plates, knives and forks - you can enjoy food and have no concern about disposing anything in the rubbish - food scraps go for compost etc. A very clean thought out action plan to minimise waste. The idea of washing up is easily achieved and you have no concerns either.
Many festivals are run in the town that bring people together.
Bertie the truck, can be hired off Project Lyttelton PL for localised use.
Fruit and veggie crates of fresh food are available every week.
They have a Library where many leading edge books on community building, finance and success stories of what is happening around our planet are available. This is where Juliet volunteers her time. As volunteering is a large part of PL.
Volunteering is the glue to keeping the community cohesive and flowing.
They also have shares in a health food shop that is owned as a coop called ‘Harbour Coop -, Selling healthy and organic food see - harbourcoop.co.nz
Project Lyttelton is a wonderful fulfilling experiment of people working and playing together.
It is also emotionally healthy as well as providing physical health for ones body.
It in many ways is the microcosm of the NZ macrocosm - where ideals and warm hearted values coalesce into unfolding a better tomorrow.
NZ prides itself as country that has been a prolific food bowl for fresh quality food produced from family farms for over 130 years. ‘It’s in our bones.’
Now with the increasing rush of new technologies, many of these developments are being pushed on to ‘the market’ with a good number not being tested over a longer period of time or over a succession of for example seven to ten generations. (Glyphosate and GE organisms being the case in point).
This is where ethical considerations are being left behind in the haste to profit at all costs and in the process - overtaking or bypassing the code of - duty of care and the precautionary principle.
Farmers and people who work the land are by their nature conservative and do what they know has successfully worked for them in the past - and they are weary of smart young technocrats who may have never got dirt under their fingernails, selling them yet another device or method that takes them further from what they intuitively feel is natural.
So the saga of GE and GMO’s is now taking a turn for the better in NZ, especially for consumers in our country, as well as globally and in particular the ecology of this country.
This dialogue with Mark is a continuation of interviewing NZers around the country based on ‘pulling the strings of localised community together’ and linking them across the nation.
Mark is a passionate change agent and realises the importance of having robust and resilient communities founded around: Farmers markets, permaculture, organics, green dollars and Time banks as well as building shelter and sustainable buildings, holistic health, homeschooling, mensheds and women’s cooperatives, plus other regenerative initiatives.
That all of these connect the community into a vibrant, self reliant organism.
For many years in some cases decades there has been a growing awareness by NZers - especially away from the largest cities that in small towns and villages across the country, people still have a sense of community.
That people seeking both better connection, and environmental quietness away from the pace and size of urban conglomeration have gravitated to the rural setting, that is always accompanied by being close to the sea or ocean in some way.
So apologising in advance, I trust that you forgive me and advise me accordingly if I have committed your town, village of region below.
From Kaitaia up North, to Kerikeri, Hokianga, Whangerei and …..
To Thames Coromandel, Raglan over to Gisborne, the Hawkes Bay Hastings region. To Wanganui, Masterton
To the Soul Island of Nelson, Motueka, Takaka and Golden Bay, to Kaikura and Lyttelton, the West Coast and further South - people have steadily built a cooperative commercial understanding around markets and now farmers markets are a key hub to community getting to gather to cooperate in other ways as the threads of community tie in so many other aspects from holistic health, to shared working bees, permaculture, organics, recycling etc see list at the bottom of this article.
Marks interview on what is happening in the Thames Coromandel starts with how people are addressing housing and shelter.
Having many differing forms of life style, and various forms of building homes - Cobb houses , rammed earth, straw bale, lots of permaculture permutations - people living ‘off grid’ and largely self sufficiently - other people living semi on grid whilst developing organic businesses - green businesses, lots of sole traders - that is sort of going on at one level.
At another level also grappling with how to connect up with other parts of the community that are more traditional - who have come there to retire and live in peace by the sea but are now becoming alarmed by sea level rise and climate change - eroding roads as over the last 18 months massive storms have come up the Firth of Thames and the Coast road up to Coromandel has been taken out. Plus lots of flooding on the other coast and at Whitianga as well.
There are some intentional communities, as well as spiritual communities that are rarely well integrated into the larger community running meditation courses as well as extending into town as a shop presence.
People looking at ways of cooperating to group together on the land and adding tiny houses etc
But in a sharing of care, Mark mentions there is also now on the other side of the situation about 30 homeless people living in Thames - sleeping in cars - or sleeping out at the back of the community garden etc and some of them have various addictions of some kind or another so there is still growing challenges around the dispossessed that needs to be addressed.
Why? Because these people don’t have that sense of community and connection … and access to the resources to be able to change their lives - like to buy some land you are talking half a million dollars so there is definitely a different social strata
around different degrees of wealth, resources and affluence involved and amidst all this correct choices that have been taken.
Mark shares from a humorous perspective how the people strive for success and then laughingly asks how does one define success?
He says how do we equate neo liberal economics with half a dozen people sleeping in a car outside your house …?
That neo liberal perspectives are so interwoven into our society that often we all don’t realise how embedded we really are inside this economic model. Like a goldfish may have no concept of water!