Katie Newton frequently marvels at New Zealand, usually when she's outside in the sun, her kids playing barefoot. But she's aware she's privileged and that the gap between rich and poor is growing, she writes for RNZ's My NZ series.
Read more from the My NZ series:
'If you feel like a Kiwi then you are a Kiwi' by Lucy Zee
'Kiwi stereotypes are going through a slow evolution' by Sean Scanlon
I often marvel at how lucky I am to live in Aotearoa in 2017. It’s usually when I’m outside somewhere sunny and gorgeous with my family and my kids are running around barefoot, unperturbed by snakes, famine, war or bombs. It’s a luxury.
I think all New Zealanders have those blissful moments, whether they’re rich or poor.
But other times, as a news-addict and avid reader of everything on the internet, it becomes easy to focus on the negative. Climate change, the housing crisis, the fact that a man with the temperament of an over-tired toddler is in charge of the world’s largest economy. Argh! ! I have to remind myself that things are not necessarily going down the gurgler, there’s just a lot more information shared about it all now.
If I had to name my number one worry about our country today, it would be the rising rate of inequality. I’m all for hard work and industry being rewarded but everyone should have the chance to make a good life for themselves, no matter how much money their parents have. Growing up as a part-Māori kid with a solo mum it never once occurred to me that I couldn’t be as successful as my richer, whiter friends. That’s exactly how it should be.
Another big worry is how much waste we produce and what on earth we’re going to do with it all. I try to buy things with minimal packaging and recycle as much as possible but, at times, the amount of rubbish that flows in and out of our little household is really alarming. I hope we don’t become like the UK where you can buy an individual banana wrapped in cling film on a polystyrene tray at the supermarket. That’s madness.
I also worry about our overworked doctors, nurses and teachers, our high cost of living and our unaffordable homes, our child abuse rate, the deteriorating mental health system and our youth suicide rate. They’re all things that I know we can do so much better on.
But for now, my wonderful reality is that this is a near-perfect time and place to raise my family. We can go to the beach and the park and enjoy clean, safe public spaces. I can take them to the doctor for free and I can vote for relatively reasonable human beings to run things (even though my preferred bunch aren’t in power right now).
I love that my kids can go to an excellent local public school that is diverse and inclusive. Owning a home in central Auckland and having a good income is such a privileged way to live, any experience that helps them understand all the different facets of life in our country is just so valuable.
And as my life rolls on I am really beginning to understand that to make a better future for our country, it’s just not enough to achieve a level of success and then spend the rest of your life patting yourself on the back. You have to pay it forward, sideways, backwards – wherever and whenever it’s needed.
*Katie Newton is a freelance copywriter and social media manager who lives with her partner and two children in Auckland's Mt Albert.
Join us each day this week as another New Zealander shares how they see Aotearoa in 2017 - what they prize about the country, what concerns them and what they hope the country’s future will hold.