National identity more than a brand

NZ FlagLets keep the current New Zealand flag. When the alternatives appeared I was for a brief moment open to change. But any appeal they had due to be being fresh and new has quickly faded.  With the passage of only a few weeks, reflection upon them has revealed them for what they are. Shallow attempts to “re-brand” our nation.

In contrast as I walked up the green slopes of the Auckland Domain to the Museum this week, the flag flying high above it once again resonated in my soul. It holds a gravitas, a dignity, an authority that lifts it into a realm beyond the pretenders that are now on offer. It has stood the test of time.

In an age of  constant change to keep up with fashion, over a hundred years of faithful service is a treasure. It means our flag carries a mana not easily or quickly replaced. You don’t walk away from such precious things lightly.

The fact is that national identity runs much deeper than simply brand. It holds intangible values related to our long walk together as a people. The hopes and struggles, the tragedies and triumphs, the aspirations and heritage. These are all profoundly fused into the national psyche and character of the people of these islands.

In contrast “brand New Zealand” as some of our politicians like to call it, doesn’t even come close to expressing the depth of what our current flag proclaims. Long may it continue fly over our journey together.

Ewen McQueen
October 2015

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Taranaki Settlement – another quiet step forward

Whilst the New Zealand media worked themselves into a frenzy last week over the refugee situation in Europe, they largely missed another major step forward in the Treaty settlement journey. On Saturday, Taranaki Iwi and the Crown signed a deed of settlement involving apology and redress for Crown actions in Taranaki that ignited the land wars across the North Island.

Given the significance of what happened in Taranaki it is no surprise that the settlement is one of the largest. It includes $70 million compensation for loss of land and returns various sites around the west coast to Iwi. It also acknowledges the injustice and devastation caused by one of the most notorious episodes in the history of the land wars – the sacking of Parihaka. This peaceful centre of non-violent protest was invaded and destroyed by Crown forces leaving a legacy of pain and suffering.

But now things are being put right. Quietly, away from the limelight, Taranaki Iwi and the the Hon Chris Finlayson are getting on with dealing with the past and laying the foundation for a better future. When it comes to nation building, Finlayson is the current Government’s star performer. The Prime Minister’s campaign to change the flag doesn’t even come close in terms of its significance.

However to John Key’s credit, he has given Finlayson a clear mandate to progress the Treaty settlements and is strongly supportive. Perhaps Key would do well to more visibly lend his weight to the process. Standing alongside his Treaty Settlements minister at Parihaka would have helped focus media attention where it should have been.

Of course the most credit for this good news story is not due to the politicians (although they deserve their share). It is due to the Taranaki Iwi who in spite of losing so much have acknowledged it is simply not possible to fully compensate them. As such they have accepted the settlement as fair and final and agreed that:

the Crown is released and discharged from all obligations and liabilities in respect of the historical claims”

That is truly nation building.

Ewen McQueen
September 2015


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Why is the Prime Minister a social liberal ?

At a function I attended this week the Prime Minister described himself as a social liberal. The next day the NZ Herald reported a man had been charged with murdering a six month old Raumati toddler in July. It noted he “was in a brief relationship with her mother at the time of her death”.

The social liberals’ creed is that all relationship types are equal and must be treated as such. However while all relationship types may be equal in terms of our ability to choose them – they are not equal in the outcomes they produce for our children.

The social science evidence clearly shows our children are at hugely increased risk of abuse and death in specific family types. Mum’s latest boyfriend is the highest risk factor to any toddler. So how did we get a culture where so many kiwi kids have to deal with mum’s latest boyfriend rather than their dad?

We can thank the social liberals for that.

It is the social liberals who for years said marriage didn’t matter – it was just a piece of paper. They successfully pushed public policy to downgrade the unique legal, cultural and moral status of marriage. It is the social liberals who said family breakdown was not necessarily bad, just a reflection of greater “diversity”. It is the social liberals in our media who constantly push the concept of “modern family”. It is the social liberals who pushed Family Planning ideology into our schools. Ideology that normalises any relationship as long as it’s “safe”. Safe for who ?

I respect our Prime Minster for a number of reasons. Key has provided great leadership in times of national crisis. He has shown real conviction on the need to confront ISIS. He has generally proved a sensible economic manager, avoiding ideological sidetracks. He is a positive and engaging leader who likes people.

However if the Prime Minister wants to build a New Zealand where families are strong and children are protected, he needs to leave the ranks of the social liberals.

Ewen McQueen
September 2015

Posted in Honouring Marriage, Protecting Children, Respect for Life | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Domestic violence law review will change little

Another discussion paper, another waste of time. If the Minister of Justice is as concerned about family violence as she claims, she should face the inconvenient truth – our casualised relationship culture is not working. Then she should sit down with her cabinet colleagues and work out an action plan to affirm marriage.

The social science evidence showing the root cause of this problem is very clear. Domestic violence is experienced in households with casual partners at a rate 10 times higher than married households. You would have thought such evidence would command the attention of our political leaders.

Unfortunately not. The same overwhelming evidence exists on the type of households where child abuse flourishes. The Hon Paula Bennett completely ignored it with her vulnerable children action plan. The Hon Amy Adams is following true to form with her domestic violence law review. It’s all the usual stuff – more information sharing with government agencies, better co-ordination of agency response, new laws. In short do anything but get to the heart of the matter.

TVNZ tonight hit the nail on the head. They reported that part of the review is whether women should have access to domestic violence history when they take on new partners. New partners is the problem. We now have a relationship culture of multiple and not always serial partnerships. Relationship “churn” is an accepted and normal part of the social landscape, especially for younger New Zealanders.

But men and women are not created for this. We have an inherent calling to faithful commitment. Ignoring it is not a recipe for freedom and fulfillment. It is a recipe for insecurity, anger, and violence. The evidence confirms it. Why do we keep ignoring it ?

Ewen McQueen
August 2015

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Honour a long way from home

We pulled into the supermarket in a coastal village in southern Greece just as it was closing for the evening. The grandfather of the family business inquired where we were from. New Zealand we said. He immediately informed the rest of the family they must re-open for us. There was gratitude for courageous services provided by our fellow countrymen many years before.

A few days later in a mountain village in the Mani we had coffee. This time our young Greek waiter told of us of the many New Zealand soldiers who had been in the area in the 1940s. He knew more than we did about the deeds of our soldiers.


Thermopylae, Greece

Some days later again we stopped at perhaps the most famous battle site in Greece – Thermopylae. Located on a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the coast north of Athens this was where in 480BC a tiny band of 300 Greek Spartan warriors held out against hundreds of thousands of invading Persian soldiers. Eventually they were all killed but their heroic efforts against all odds are upheld in Greece as the pinnacle of Greek courage and fighting spirit.

We were surprised to find that there was a second Battle of Thermopylae. This one was in 1941 at exactly the same location. Once again a courageous band of outnumbered soldiers stood their ground against an overwhelming force sweeping into Greece from the north. This time it was the New Zealand 5th brigade. They were tasked with holding the pass at Thermopylae against the Germans long enough for the Allies to make a strategic retreat and evacuation from Athens and other locations further south.

The New Zealanders held out bravely and the evacuation was successful. In doing so they earned immense respect from the Greeks who had already been forced to surrender. Some later confessed a sense of shame that in those crucial days at that iconic Greek location they didn’t stand with Kiwis. But we had stood for them. And they have not forgotten.

Indeed all over Europe peoples have not forgotten the contribution of New Zealanders who have fought to bring liberty to their lands and villages. It is why when we travel we sometimes find unexpected honour a long way from home. It comes from a debt of gratitude for people of conviction and courage who would come so far to help another people in their time of need.

These days the brave spirit of our land is eroded by constant voices telling us to keep our heads down and let others deal with the injustices of the world. But this is not who we are, and never has been.

Ewen McQueen
July 2015

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Eight steps to stabilising the Auckland housing market

Blenheim Home May 1960The Reserve Bank has started ringing serious alarm bells about skyrocketing house prices in Auckland. They recently noted a real risk of a crash causing major economic instability. The Prime Minister’s response was to shrug his shoulders and say the “ball is in their court”. Last week the Finance Minister Bill English said the Government had “left nothing undone” that could happen fast enough to make a difference. He is wrong.

By solely focusing on housing supply the Government has abdicated its responsibility to provide some sensible and pragmatic economic management of a situation that is getting out of control. Yes Auckland has a supply constraint pushing on house prices. However the situation has moved well beyond economic fundamentals to one of psychology – it is not so much lack of supply as it is inflationary expectations that are propelling the market upward. Prices are rising because of speculative demand from investors and fear from first home buyers terrified of being left behind.

Given the serious implications for both economic stability and social equity, a responsible government would take action not just to increase housing supply in the long term, but also to moderate the psychology driving the market right now. Here seven things they could do immediately:

1) Ring-fence losses on rental properties so that investors cannot off-set these against  their other income.

2) Significantly ramp up IRD enforcement efforts on existing requirements to pay tax on properties purchased with the intention of resale.

3) Run a high profile publicity campaign to ensure awareness of the existing law and the ramped up enforcement regime.

4) Make it clear that the Government will consider a capital gains tax if the existing framework fails to address the problem.

5) Restrict purchasing of residential property to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

6) Reduce external migration into the Auckland region until housing supply increases.

7) Publicly support the Reserve Bank taking steps to tighten lending criteria on residential property investment in Auckland.

8) Announce all of these measures as part of a a highly publicised package address housing demand in Auckland. This will ensure maximum impact on inflationary expectations.

All of these steps are something the Government could do now. I have often heard the Hon Bill English say New Zealand as a nation is not going to grow wealthy by us all selling houses to each other. I couldn’t agree more, especially when we are borrowing foreign money to do it. Its time he took action to address that delusion.

Ewen McQueen
April 2015

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An underground spiritual phenomenon

Whilst largely ignored by mainstream media, Easter remains New Zealand’s most celebrated spiritual event. Church attendance statistics tell us that this week well over half a million people across this nation will gather to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Any other cultural or spiritual celebration inspiring this magnitude of involvement would be big news. There would be plenty of preview feature articles and programmes followed by live-stream reporting from smiling and earnest reporters on the scene. Councils in towns and cities around the country would also chip in ratepayers funds and fireworks displays to ensure the diversity of the community was highlighted and celebrated.

However Christianity is not fashionable among the media and other cultural gate-keepers who monopolise the narrative about what is important in our land. Hence Easter in New Zealand is now almost an underground phenomenon.

Yet it remains a remarkable phenomenon. Not only in the sheer numbers of New Zealanders involved, but in the way it builds unity and kotahitanga across all the peoples of this land. The Church is now the most diverse institution in this nation.

Every Sunday kiwis young and old gather together to celebrate an enduring faith that has crossed the centuries and the oceans to uttermost ends of the earth. Singing together are people who vote all over the political spectrum. Sharing the cup are not only Maori and Pakeha, but now individuals and families from all over the globe – Indian, African, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, and of course our Pacific cousins. Having coffee together are professionals and tradespeople, business people and teachers, single parents and couples married for 40 years.

The Church in New Zealand brings together peoples who in the ordinary course of life would often have little or no interaction. It is vibrant, diverse and rich. It is a living miracle that imparts unity and life that sustains our nation in ways unseen.

This week it will gather again around the One on whom it is founded – and the miracle He established as the centre-piece of history.

Ewen McQueen
March 2015

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Spiritual Renewal | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments