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The kiwi is in Shane Jones’s sights
The kiwi is in Shane Jones’s sights

PoliticsMay 6, 2024

At last! The kiwi is getting its comeuppance 

The kiwi is in Shane Jones’s sights
The kiwi is in Shane Jones’s sights

For too long our so-called national bird has maintained its stranglehold on the economy of regional New Zealand. Thanks to the fast track legislation, we will have our revenge.

Theories abound on what ails New Zealand’s economy. National leader Chris Luxon has posited that we’re negative, wet, whiny, and inward-looking; bereft of mojo and no longer in possession of the plot. Others have pinned the blame on a tax system that overburdens work and underburdens capital, employment rules designed to keep wages low, local government restrictions that constipate construction and create chronic housing shortages, and a transport network designed to impede anyone who’s not actively running over a child in a Ford Ranger. 

Some of these arguments have merit. Our mojo meter, in particular, has been running low. But none of them are enough on their own to explain why unemployment keeps rising and business confidence keeps sinking. Despite extensive efforts, no politician, journalist, or even Spinoff blogger has ever satisfactorily diagnosed the rot festering in the heart of this country’s finances. 

That is, until March 7, when Shane Jones stood up in parliament to speak at the first reading of the fast track consenting bill. His speech started strong, with references to Geoffrey Palmer and “resource endowments”, before elevating into a face-melting indictment of a national scandal. “Gone are the days of the multicoloured skink, the kiwi, many other species that have been weaponized to deny regional New Zealand communities their right to a livelihood,” he said.

At last. For too long, this country has coddled the kiwi and its ragtag band of allies. We’ve put a kiwi on our $1 coin. Allowed ourselves to be named after the bird. Fostered an environment where overseas writers call it the “suppository night goblin heathen worm queen of wet earth”. 

On the rare occasion where someone has stood up to a kiwi, for instance by torturing it in a brightly lit hell container of unwelcome hands, we’ve emitted a beam of fury so intense that it has forced zoo ambassadors to beg for forgiveness under the unmerciful gaze of Ryan Bridge.

Miami Zoo ambassador Ron Magill grovels to Ryan Bridge on AM

As we’ve done its PR around the globe, the kiwi has been sabotaging our society from the inside. Its comically round body and impractical eggs are a deception, designed to keep you from properly identifying it as a gun pointed at the head of our small towns. It has turned our affection against us, using the prospect of our national bird going extinct to kill off the most treasured native species of all: fast-paced regional economic development. But, as Jones solemnly notes, it hasn’t done its malign work alone.The kiwi has co-conspirators. In parliament, he fingered the multicoloured skink. Previously he pointed the finger at the blind frog Freddy*.

Other government ministers have shied away from admitting the fast track bill will free the country from the clutches of this defenceless animal alliance. Chris Bishop has sold it as a tool for streamlining renewable energy. Nicola Willis says it’s aimed at changing how our economy’s operating to meet climate change goals. Luxon says it’s how we’ll get “more wind farms, more geothermal plants, more solar energy plants”. 

These ministers are not brave enough to stand up to the might of Big Kiwi. Their PR messaging is designed to disguise the bitter taste of the medicine healing our economy. Jones is the straight talker in this coalition, and he says this bill is about nutting up, doing what’s right, and steamrolling some critters on the way into a mine. Even if a wind farm or two gets built along the way, the goal is to stop flightless birds and friendly skinks standing in the way of our prosperity. 

An all-too-powerful kiwi (Photo: Getty Images)

That’s a relief. Factory fumes may be toxic, but there’s nothing more toxic than allowing love to stand in the way of your growth. Jones is determined not to let feelings hold us back any more.

There’s no time for him to rest on his laurels though. Just as the fall of Morgoth paved the way for the rise of Sauron, the kiwi’s decline creates a gap at the top of the country’s animal organisational chart, waiting to be filled by another all-powerful powerless endangered animal. The days of the kiwi are nearly over. But the government is going to have to keep designing more “environmentally friendly” legislation. The last thing we need is the age of the kākāpō. 

*This may have been a case of mistaken identity. The Archey’s frog to which Jones was referring is deaf, not blind.**

** A previous version of this footnote said New Zealand has only one native frog species. It in fact has three!

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