The Big Issue : Edition 469
14 THE BIG ISSUE 10 – 23 OCT 2014 KIWIS ON TOP COVER STORIES JUST OVER 20 years ago, Australians watched Live and Sweaty on ABC TV and sniggered to Andrew Denton’s sporting anthem with the refrain: It’s just not fair/ But I don’t care/ As long as we beat New Zealand... Kiwis were good for a laugh; useful for vaulting over on medals tables at sundry Games. Now, things are different. Kiwis are still good for a laugh...intentionally. The Flight of the Conchords duo even took Manhattan; the smaller one (Bret) also took home an Oscar. Sport? Hmm, who’s laughing now? Certainly not Australian rugby fans, who have conceded that the formidable All Blacks are better than all right. Kiwi netballers inevitably stand between Australia and glory in finals. Footage is still uncorked of Bob Hawke in that blazer celebrating Australia II’s America’s Cup boating victory in 1983, but the fact is, NZ has won it twice since then and versatile Kiwi sailors even bob up in boats representing Switzerland. NZ has what Switzerland lacks: coastline. Much of it is stunning. Most impartial observers long ago gave the scenery gold medal to NZ. It’s one reason Peter Jackson recreated Tolkien’s Middle Earth there and not, say, outside Dubbo. But NZ is not just about massive films. It also produces funny films (What We Do in the Shadows, featured in Ed#467) and clever films – including anything by Jane Campion, the first female filmmaker to snare the Palme d’Or at Cannes (for The Piano, in 1993). It’s greener. Roughly 30% of the country is national park. It has fjords. And NZ tops the global Social Progress Index, which measures how countries provide for the social and environmental needs of citizens. (Australia is, ahem, 10th.) Politics? New Zealand increasingly looks like islands of stability. Recently re-elected PM John Key is approaching six years in office; in that same time Australia has had four prime ministers (including Kevin Mks I and II); five if you go back one more year to squeeze in John Howard. Julia Gillard had to deal with a hung parliament; Tony Abbott has battled a hostile Senate. One more thing: NZ does not have Clive Palmer. Case closed. Music? Several bands – most notably Split Enz and Crowded House – were claimed by Australia but are undeniably Kiwi. Australia had an operatic Dame who could hit the high notes, the late Joan Sutherland, but (unlike her Kiwi counterpart, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa) ‘La Stupenda’ never appeared on Downton Abbey. Lorde is simply a superstar. What else? NZ has the haka. And same-sex marriage. It can also claim the first person to split the atom (Ernest Rutherford), one of the first two to conquer Mount Everest (Edmund Hillary) and Russell Crowe (whom it can keep). Its jobless rate is falling. Its dollar is close to parity with Australia’s. Kiwis still migrate here in droves but then, as former PM Robert Muldoon once observed: “New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries.” After Muldoon came the larger-than-life David Lange, who made NZ nuclear- free way back in the 1980s. As a poster on the wall of Murray, the manager in Flight of the Conchords, put it so well: New Zealand – Better than Old Zealand. by Patrick Witton and Alan Attwood (neither of whom are from NZ) IN SPORT, POLITICS AND THE ARTS, NEW ZEALAND IS ON A ROLL. AND IT HAS FJORDS.