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New Zealand Alternative

July 29 2019 by Thomas Nash

Prior to moving home to New Zealand in 2017, I had been living overseas working on humanitarian and disarmament campaigns. I was abroad for 16 years, and as a proud New Zealander I frequently promoted my country as a humanitarian, peacekeeping, environmentalist, progressive multicultural society. At the time I believed these narratives completely, however, now that I am home, I know that the perspectives I shared with people in Laos or Lebanon were not truthful representations of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Since my return I have been confronted by the deeply contested identity within New Zealand society. We celebrate our nuclear-free status and the suffragette movement as defining foundations of our modern society. Yet other inspiring dimensions to our shared history are less well known. The role of Kate Shepherd as an anti-war activist and the role of Parihaka in inspiring Ghandi on strategic non-violence are two significant examples.

I began thinking about the contradictions which exist between how we see ourselves in New Zealand, and how the rest of the world views our society. I began thinking more broadly about how our identity shapes the role of Aotearoa New Zealand in the world. Instinctively I also began seeking platforms to share new ideas on how New Zealand engages on the global stage.

I discovered that the conversations relating to our role in the world are often reserved for academics, diplomats, business leaders and suited officials. Foreign policy is not an area that receives much political or media attention and the conversations tend to exclude Maori, Pasifika, young people and community organisations.

As a response, in 2018 a group of us set up New Zealand Alternative - an organisation dedicated to opening up public discussion and debate about the role our country should play in the world. We want to start a conversation with communities around the country and to generate creative ideas for what we might do as a progressive actor in the world.

We’ve started to open up the space to ask these important questions. We’ve produced a report proposing that New Zealand build on our effective peace mediation work in Bougainville in the 1990s and set up a Conflict Prevention Unit.

We’ve got some good ideas about how New Zealand can be a leader in progressive politics in the globalised era and we’re working on some policy briefs that address initiatives such as a global treaty to phase out fossil fuels, and rethinking colonialism, sovereignty, free association and migration in the Pacific. 

We’re holding community hui around the country from Whangarei to Dunedin to discuss what an independent foreign policy for New Zealand might look like. Our Queenstown workshop is being co-hosted by Catalyst Trust.

Among the questions we are asking are, if a small Pacific nation like New Zealand can have an impact on global issues - how, what and why should it be?  We look forward to Queenstown community’s input, which will be included in the framing of multiple policy papers due out by the end of the year.

This is a great chance to have an informed discussion about global issues that matter. Please join us at The Rees Hotel Queenstown, 6 to 8:30 PM, Wednesday, August 7. Registration is required on Catalyst Trust’s Eventbrite page, as numbers are limited and dinner will be provided for those who register.  Further information about the event on www.catalystnz.org or on Facebook, catalystnz.QT.  For further information on New Zealand Alternative, see https://www.nzalternative.org/

- Thomas Nash
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  • Home and Away

    Selfish me , as all I have been worrying about is how I can keep my family housed and feed in Queenstown for the next week .Silly me,I should have more foucused on events in Kyrgyzstan and why our Prime Minster is spending a week sailing in a leaky boat on a Pacific cruise with her Father giving handouts to far flung Islands.

    Posted 29/07/2019 3:39pm (1 year ago)


    Here is my 10 cents worth......NZ should sort out its own problems first, and keep it nose well out of other countries problems....we have people like you running around the world giving all these other idiot "S###hole" countries advice about how they should behave when really, who gives a monkeys? One way of really getting your country dis-liked, is going around giving other people advice....Just ask America....best we just shut up and sort out our own problems, and get on with having a nice life....once you idiots start giving advice to the likes of the Israel/Palestine problem etc etc....you are bringing our good name into question.....what the world really needs is a lot less people, so if they want to fight and slaughter each other, then they will be doing plant earth a favour. Some of these countries/people have been killing each other for the past 3,000 years, so why get involved in their problems....stop being a busy body, and mind your own business......and whatever you do, dont bring New Zealands good name into it....if you want to push your point of view on everyone, become an American....they seem to enjoy that sort of thing......

    Posted 29/07/2019 8:50pm (1 year ago)

  • Hippo Critical

    Queenstown's community is too busy having to watch the town being shredded apart by hotels and an unsympathetic QLDC business model to give two cents about global chat.

    We can't even recycle properly or run a bus.

    Our current shower of idiots get on board with Extinction Rebellion and then two minutes later start chatting about airport expansion.

    If you want to inspire change you should instead lead people in the local community instead. No one gives a sh1t about global politics when they are stuck in traffic for one hour to travel 2km up the road.

    Posted 30/07/2019 9:24am (1 year ago)


    I totally agree Hippo......Thomas, you can take your "dogoodism" elsewhere....perhaps to the Greens Party annual conference.....they will be enchanted to hear where they can spend another billion of taxpayers money on foreign countries problems.....as far as I am concerned, you are not welcome here......

    Posted 30/07/2019 7:18pm (1 year ago)

  • BULA

    I too spent a number of years in far flung spots which could be described as third world countrys.
    Unfortunatly the only assittance programs i experinced was local politicians setting up visiting dignitaries to drop a bundle of cash into their Swiss bank accounts. The aid agencies personnal staying in swanky hotels or expatriate housing compunds , catered to by local low paid service staff .These profesional know it alls could be easily identified by the latest model landcruisers they used to drive around in to the local club or for wekend get always.
    If you you want to see how it all works look closely at the current NZ prime and foreign ministers recent visits to our ever needy Pacfic neigbours, which is always accompained by a cash give away for which in return they recivced the red carpet treatment,, flag waving school children , traditional dances, a nice wooden carving and the ever lasting gratitude of the local elites who have profited from the misery of their fellow citizens and in whose interest it is keep to the status quo.

    Posted 30/07/2019 7:59pm (1 year ago)