When you’re travelling, it’s easy to get homesick.
Things like a Fat Freddy’s Drop song playing over an Amsterdam restaurant’s sound system or seeing pounamu around the neck of a fellow can bring on a pang for New Zealand’s wide empty beaches and people who don’t think ‘kia ora’ is a subtle insult referring to their mother.
So it’s been with a growing sense of worry that I’ve seen the recent changes that my home country has been going through. I’ve always been proud to be a Kiwi; while we may not always agree on our views, we’ve always been pretty open, I thought, to people having them. We’re a country that hasn’t been afraid to put the hard word to larger powers in the past, despite what it could mean to things like trade relations; and generally we seem to have an all right reputation overseas (although this may have something to do with the fact that often New Zealander travellers, when misbehaving, will claim to be Australian).
It’s been, then, with a slightly tainted sense that I reminisce about New Zealand in recent months, in the wake of actual and suggested law changes which seem to bow to foreign interests rather than that of our citizens – the GCSB bill, the ban on protesting within 500m of marine structures, the proposal to remove the public’s ability to oppose deep sea oil and gas exploration submissions.
Travelling is a unique opportunity to see how wonderful other countries are – and just how awesome your own is – and these changes seem to infringe on the straight up essence of Kiwi culture; we might be little but we do our own thing and we value the rights and voices of our citizens while doing it.
Maybe it’s naïve. But when I step out on the tarmac of Auckland Airport, to spend my remaining dollars on Hawkes Bay Chardonnay and some fresh fish, I’d like to think I’ve returned to my home country of sunshine, pavlova and civil rights.