In her first candidate diary for the Spinoff, Chlöe Swarbrick recounts a mad few weeks, getting 13th on the Greens’ initial list, and the thorny question of what our country stands for.
Read candidate diaries for the Spinoff by Erica Stanford (National, East Coast Bays) and Kiri Allan (East Coast) here.
In 2017, what does Aotearoa New Zealand stand for? I posed the question the other day, in the most stereotypically millennial fashion, on Twitter.
The most insightful answer came from Mana magazine editor and On The Rag podcaster, the ever-on-point Leonie Hayden.
At present, I don’t think our country lives up to the ideals many of us hold in mind. Our values are something I’ve questioned and discussed at length about with many different groups throughout the country.
If you ask older New Zealanders what our country stands for – why they’re proud to call it home – many wax nostalgic about our nuclear free stance or the Springbok tour; some will reach back to our place in history as the first to give women the right to vote. Pulling focus on 2017, the optimistic will speak of our country’s story: clean and green, socially equitable, paradise. The problem is that story is divorced from reality.
And we know it. We know it in a way that begs cognitive dissonance. We know it in the way that the mainstream media is on a mission to prove that anyone can buy a house, imbued in the perfect irony that the very “newsworthy” nature of these unique circumstances of privilege is that in order to be newsworthy, these stories must by definition inherently not be the norm.
I fell into politics because I was fed up with a status quo that created a feedback loop for the rich and powerful, treating regular people and their concerns as “fringe”.
Literally the only barrier to traditional democratic engagement in New Zealand is an R18 label, but for some reason, we continue to recycle and reinforce tired assumptions about what a politician is and looks like. It’s another terrible irony. Society complains of political stereotypes, but treats with the utmost suspicion the shedding of those stereotypes. Perhaps it’s a case of the devil we know, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result – or being suckers for punishment. I think it’s time to change that.
I was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau. After four years as a journo, interviewing politicians about their solutions to the escalating problems facing our city, and our country, becoming increasingly frustrated about the growing lack of accountability and action, my producer and good friend Lillian Hanley Iowkey pushed me into being one to see if I could do things differently. That manifested in running for Auckland’s Mayoralty.
After losing the joust to become Auckland’s Mayor, I joined the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. Last week it was announced that I am lucky number 13 on the Green party’s initial list. I was also selected as the candidate for Maungakiekie. To be totally honest, I don’t really know how to compute either of those ridiculously humbling and incredible things. I never had a road map beyond throwing everything I had into positive, progressive, systemic change.
I grew up in and around Maungakiekie, haunting Onehunga township as a tween and spending weekends at my Grandma’s house in Mt Wellington. Encompassing so many unique communities, the electorate holds a special place in my heart, and I look forward to doing everything I can to fight for them (and foil the incredibly stupid East-West Link).
The past few weeks have been mad. For the very first time, I have a campaign manager in the form of musician and incredibly organised superhuman Hayden Eastmond-Mein. We’ve started assembling a campaign team which looks every bit like the infamous “wolf cub” ensemble: cycling enthusiasts and current/former Gen Zeros Leroy Beckett, Niko Elsen, and Emma McInnes. My friend Tom Dyton, who made all my videos with Casey Belsham during the local body campaign, is back for round two, as is one of my best friends, Nahyeon Lee.
We’re deep in campaign planning mode at the moment. A strong ground game is going to be central to what we do, so we need as many people to help out as possible. But we’re also exploring ways we can do things differently, so we’re also looking for passionate and talented folks who can help us shape our strategy.
My personal goal is to help make climate change easier to understand; so we as a country can have a hard conversation about taking it seriously, in turn changing the way we approach everything from the economy to housing and transport and food.
I was recently invited to leave the urban familiarity of Auckland and visit Palmerston North with local Green candidate Thomas Nash, and Whanganui with Green Councillor and candidate Nicola Patrick. It was simultaneously one of the most fun and intensive campaigning weekends of my life. I spoke to farmers, librarians, small business owners, school kids, art gallery curators, uni students and youth workers.
While Auckland’s problems dominate national headlines, the issues facing the communities who invited me in during my whirlwind in the Manawatu are not dissimilar. Aotearoa is increasingly becoming a country of two halves: the haves and the have-nots, our rose-tinted perception and the complex, stark reality of struggle.
It’s election year, and it’s time to confront reality. It’s time politics respected people. It’s time we stopped kicking the can down the road, blaming each other, and pull together to fix things and build a country that is clean, green, compassionate, inclusive, kind and equitable.
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.