New Zealand: this is your life

We might have fought over it, at the time. Sometimes, we fought bitterly. At Gallipoli, we lost; but we were on the right side of history, and we found a blood-coloured poppy, like a heartbeat in the dust. Later, it would dawn on us: this is who we are, New Zealand.

Last month, business force-for-good Pure Advantage launched their latest Green Race paper. “A race has begun, and we are in it,” they said, and they showed a short film.

It was like an old home movie, or a dream. Jack Lovelock  was there, and Mr Hillary - Sir Ed to you - knocking the bastard off. In 1917, when Ernest Rutherford split the atom, a big nuke muscle man towered over the world. Seventy years later, New Zealand would vote to ban it.

In 1970, in a vignette that makes me smile, encyclopedia of New Zealand Te Ara shows staff of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society stacking Save Manapouri petition boxes, piled above the heads of the women in heels beside it.

In the Maruia native forest Declaration - which, circulated as a petition, topped 340,000 signatures - Gwenny Davis of Nelson, and 341,159 others declared “that the wholesale burning of indigenous forests and wildlife has no place in a civilised country”.

Later, this groundswell from the 70s would spark political change in the Lange-Palmer government, which established Conservation and Environment ministries, passed conservation laws, drafted the Resource Management Act, and set aside public conservation lands.

This is your life, New Zealand. Look at your own plain-spoken, stubborn, self-deprecating, plucky little country: coming from behind, rising above all odds, making choices and winning battles that now define us.

We lost the Rainbow Warrior, but we won that battle for a nuclear-free Pacific and New Zealand on the world stage, and continue to.

We fought bravely, lost heroically, at Gallipoli; but every year, Anzac Day is one of our times to stand together, remember, and say: never again. There is a better, kinder way than this.

In 1981, we tore ourselves apart. Rugby, our icon, met that other part of the Kiwi psyche about fairness, and fighting for the underdog, against apartheid. “In one sense they were fighting over what it meant to be a New Zealander,” writes Te Ara.

We were on the right side of history, as we were leading the world with votes for women, standing up for gay rights.

I believe it was the same spirit, the same sense of self, when 50,000 people filled Queen St in defence of our national parks: not mine, ours.

All of them are times when we stood up, passionately, for New Zealand values, and won. We were standing against bullies, for someone (or something) oppressed.

Rachel Stewart is a columnist for the Taranaki Daily News.  “All I know is I used to be so proud to be a New Zealander. Now, environmentally in particular, I am simply, and very sadly, devastated,” she tweeted yesterday, @RFStew.

This week, she’d had two death threats, and a dead possum in her letterbox, for writing this.

John Hart @farmgeek answered: “How did we become a New Zealand where scientists get shouted down and journalists get death threats for speaking out about the environment?”

But I look at the 80s, when we were at civil war - spitting at one another and calling people traitors - and I think: here we are, again. A battle for our soul.

In time, I hope we can look back and say: we remember what we stood for, that day. We stood up and fought for this thing - for this country of ours - and won.

Happy Christmas, New Zealand.

But my prayer for 2013 is this. Perhaps, it’s not so much of a prayer as a love letter:

“Dear New Zealand. Love your work. But please - please - be prouder and stronger in 2013 than you were in 2012. Find your self.

Knock the bastards off.”