Mark Wilson: We don’t know how lucky we are, New Zealand


OPINION: I was too young to enjoy John Clarke, aka Fred Dagg, in his heyday but like many Kiwis I’ve always felt a strong connection to his message.

I’m not afraid of a bit of travel – I recently had a fantastic trip around Asia.

However, I always appreciate coming home.

That said I’m in a state of constant bafflement at those who seem to be ungrateful for the privilege of residing in the greatest country on earth.

Most global agencies seem to rate us as the pinnacle of places to live, but this group of Kiwis seems to live in a bubble of ignorance, with little idea of the rest of the world.

Just like Fred Dagg’s anthem: “It’s not perfect and shit does happen but when it’s all said and done we just don’t know how lucky we are!”

There’s no shortage of examples of Kiwis running down New Zealand like we are going to hell in a handbasket.

Take water quality – you’d think from our media landscape NZ’s a toxic wasteland of poisoned streams and polluted rivers.

While we have challenges I’d take the Kawarau and Oreti over the Red River in Vietnam or the Pearl River in China any day.

Our cities’ sewerage treatment systems need improving but on the famed tourist island of Koh Tao, in Thailand, and many other parts of the world, they don’t have any at all.

Human waste just works its way into the ocean via the ground water – the same ground water from which drinking water is drawn.

The seemingly pristine beaches in the rainy season would breach NZ health guidelines daily due to polluted run-off.

We think our tourist industry is destroying our serene natural beauty, but in Halong Bay, Vietnam, while cruising with more than 100 other tourist boats, I watched a tour guide throw the local delicacy ‘choco pies’ (a biscuit) complete with wrapper to monkeys.

Those wrappers ended up in the ocean to join the already plastic-laden waters.

We think poverty is rampant, yet we only really know what relative poverty is – being poorer than someone else – and little concept of absolute poverty.

A trip overseas will often highlight the difference.

Visit the Hmong hill tribes in North Vietnam and tell me you still believe we have it rough in NZ.

Dreadfully poor, they simply get on with life with a mile-wide smile.

In Macau they seem to have built another 50 odd casinos since my last trip 10 years ago.

They provide great entertainment and shade you from whatever pittance of the sun’s rays sneak through the smog and the haze blown from China’s industrial belt.

The action might be hot and the shopping amazing, but air’s killing you slowly and the water – well let’s just say you wouldn’t bathe the dog in it.

NZ’s far from perfect and we do need to work hard to protect our environment and our way of life.

But in the words of the late, great John Clarke: We simply don’t know how lucky we are.

Mark Wilson is a Queenstown marketing consultant who seems to spend most of his time abroad