It's official - Dunedin is the best city in New Zealand. According to an article published in The Herald last week, Dunedin was ranked in an ASB survey as the best place in New Zealand to live in based on factors such as a sense of community, trust, cultural richness and diversity, and the physical environment. The Herald was only reporting what we Dunedinites already know, but like all great places there are downsides, and in the same week the survey results were published, two articles appeared in the Otago Daily Times that remind us of these: an irrational application of the Protestant work ethic and racism.
Unless you were wisely holidaying overseas last week you might not know that the country was hit by an Antarctic cold wave that left quite a bit of snow in its wake. In Dunedin schools were closed, most public transport was canceled and many workplaces advised their staff to stay at home. My employer was one of them, which was a relief as I had no idea how to navigate the front path let alone the treacherous walk to the bus stop. However, a Mr Christie, CEO of the Otago Chamber Pot of Commerce, took a different view. He contended that workers used the weather as an excuse to skive off for the day costing the city $10 million. There were plenty of amusing comments on the ODT's website advising Mr C of the error of his ways, including one that suggested the Chamber buy the city a fleet of snow ploughs. Apart from the miserly meanness of Mr Christie's comments, they were irresponsible given the number of prangs as people tried to get around, and potential ACC claims and time off for snow-related injuries. And the sums don't add up. It's hard to understand how a relatively small number of childless layabouts, who live on the flat and virtually next door to their work, could have cost Dunedin $10 million. It makes me question the credibility of the Otago Chamber of Commerce.
The second article has more serious implications. A Mr Chapman, former "director" of the National Front, is establishing leadership in Dunedin of a misguided set of losers called the Resistance Party. The group was responsible for a recent leaflet drop headed China A Threat to New Zealand. To those people - Chinese and non-Chinese - who were offended by the flyer Mr C (another one) responded, "they really need to go back to whatever country they came from". Hello. They come from New Zealand. If anyone should go anywhere it's Mr Chapman, preferably to the Kermadec Islands where he can't do much harm. In the UK and other European nations activities such as printing and distributing racist material are illegal on the grounds that they incite racial hatred and violence. Perhaps we in New Zealand should look at introducing similar legislation, but it might backfire by drawing attention to and garnering support for these groups. And it could be unnecessary. As the ASB survey shows, these sentiments are not shared by the majority of Dunedin citizens, and probably many other New Zealanders, because most of us value and celebrate cultural richness and diversity.
You might think these two articles are unrelated but they both sit firmly on the right-wing political spectrum. Mr Christie's views are mean and anti-worker; Mr Chapman's are mean and anti-Chinese. Both positions are irrational and divisive. While it would be satisfying to see Mr Chapman packed off to the Kermadecs, Mr Christie should travel back in time to a 19th century English factory to witness the effects of his stance at a time when it was taken seriously.