• Community Values

    Most mornings, when we’re at home, my wife and I will have coffee on our deck. I am the barista of the household and I make the coffee, the way we like it, on our espresso machine.

    This winter we have sat with our coffee, day after day, in glorious sunshine, looking at the Pacific ocean spread out in front of us and watching Whakaari (White Island) behaving itself and puffing gently.

    Winter sunshine is one of the great benefits of living in New Zealand. Add to that the fresh sweet air, the dozens of goldfinches pecking on our lawn, the pigeons gorging themselves on the young leaves of our kowhais, and the tuis steepling and tumbling, just for the fun of it, and there is little wonder that we judge our return from overseas twenty six years ago to have been a success.

    But it is not just the physical manifestations of kiwi life that endear themselves to us. We also appreciate the social aspects – the friendships and the sense of living in a caring community.

    Throughout the tribulations of the pandemic, we have had the comfort of knowing that our friends and neighbours have kept a special eye out for us, on account of our age. A kind neighbour, for example, did our supermarket shopping for us, picking up a shopping list from us in the morning and bringing our shopping back to us by lunchtime.

    But the kindness that prevails in our community is best exemplified by the experience of an elderly friend who, having filled her shopping basket in the local supermarket, found, when she came to pay, that she could not remember her credit card pin number. She was naturally embarrassed and distraught, in tears, and at a loss as to what to do.

    A woman in the queue behind her, a complete stranger, seeing her distress, stepped forward and paid her bill. When our friend, having thanked her profusely and taken her name and address, went later to that address so that she could repay her benefactor, she was astonished to discover that the woman had recently suffered a bereavement and that she lived in circumstances that indicated that she had little cash to spare.

    It is that spirit of kindness and generosity that warms the heart and that – we like to think – animates our society. We see it not only in our own immediate interpersonal relationships, but also in the wider sphere. It animates, we think, the whole of kiwi society, whether it is in the response to the Christchurch mosque massacre, or in the efforts of the “team of five million” to defeat the coronavirus.

    These experiences bring back to me what it was like to grow up, as I did all those years ago, in the New Zealand of my childhood. We took it for granted, during the years of the Second World War and the post-war re-build, that we were “all in this together” and that we and our neighbours were all on the same side.

    It is only in recent years that we have seen, in some parts of society, the growth of a somewhat different ethos – the belief that it is the individual alone that must prevail and that, as Mrs Thatcher would have it, “there is no such thing as society”.

    The future of our country depends on finding and living again the values on which it was built. If we want to rediscover and re-assert the New Zealand qualities that have made us, in so many respects, the envy of the world, then we must remain true to its founding principles.

    And, before we become too self-congratulatory, we should also recognise how much is yet to be done to meet the challenges – climate change and racism amongst others – of the modern age. We may enjoy the sobriquet “Godzone” but we must constantly strive to earn it.

    Bryan Gould
    9 September 2020