Sir Peter Gluckman has described New Zealand as a “potentially more fractured society”, and it’s becoming clear access to politicians is now compromised as reports of violence and intimidation grow, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
Social cohesion a focus for Dunedin study
As many of you will have seen, Richie Poulten died over the weekend. Poulton became the deputy director of the Dunedin Study in 1995 before replacing its founder, Phil Silva in 2000. If you missed it, Poulton spoke with John Campbell before he died in an interview that aired on Sunday night. The longitudinal health and development study began in 1972 and is regarded as one of the most seminal studies of its kind. In a paper published to mark 50 years of the study last year, it listed some of its new areas of focus, which include testing the hypothesis that people’s experiences in childhood are likely to also influence socially cohesive behaviour. “In lay terms social cohesion refers to members of a society feeling and acting in solidarity, or “sticking together” to achieve mutually beneficial goals, and is essential for the effective functioning and wellbeing of society,” it says.
Access to politicians on the trail compromised
One of Poulton’s close friends and collaborators, former New Zealand chief science, Sir Peter Gluckman, penned an opinion in June this year following the release of a discussion paper about social cohesion. “Aotearoa New Zealand in an election year finds itself a potentially more fractured society,” he wrote. “Our national resilience has been tested by Covid and responses to it,” before citing other stressors and changes. Our pandemic era is arguably a big backstory to this election, yet many don’t want to talk about it. I think we’re a way off establishing a grand narrative about this year’s election campaign, but what is starting to become clear is that the access to politicians on the trail is now compromised as assault, home invasion, threatening behaviour, and intimidation become more prevalent.
Campaign is more difficult and dangerous
In an illuminating piece for The Spinoff this morning, Stewart Sowman-Lund catalogues the growing number of incidents of MPs being intimidated and verbally and physically abused and asks former and current MPs whether this year’s campaign is more difficult and dangerous than previous elections. According to National party candidate Siva Kilari this morning, party volunteers have stopped campaigning in Auckland’s Manurewa because they have been chased down the street and threatened with abuse. Yesterday, National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop released details of threats and intimidation levelled at its candidates, claiming one of its candidates had had their home broken into while alleging another was forced to move house after a gang threat.
‘It’s because I’m young, I’m female, and I’m Māori’
Bishop’s comments came after news broke over the weekend that Te Pāti Māori Hauraki Waikato’s candidate, Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke, had made three separate reports to police after her home was broken into and her rubbish rifled through. Speaking on Sunday morning to Marae, Maipi-Clarke said, “It’s because I’m young, I’m female, and I’m Māori, that’s what the threat said on the paper.” Maipi-Clarke says she feels “gas-lit” by other politician’s reactions to the news. Party leaders have been quick to condemn escalating violence and intimidation during the campaign but also quick to make accusations of politicisation. The issue of addressing why these things are happening in a society described by Gluckman as potentially more fractured is, in and of itself, causing division.