Fixing the ship

By: Daniel Hutchinson

Daniel Hutchinson
From The Hutch

National Party supporters are fully immune to leadership changes, having had two jabs and now a booster shot, thanks to Chris Luxon.

Substance rarely beats style when it comes to politics, which may explain why interim leader Shane Reti never appeared to be in the running. After a long stint as a doctor in Northland, Reti completed his second master’s degree at Harvard University in 2007 before becoming an assistant professor there. He’s been a senior lecturer at Auckland University and to top it off he is also a trained and registered accountant. He was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for public service in 2006.

In his maiden speech to Parliament in 2016, Reti described himself as “Just Shane, a Māori boy from Northland”.

Humble, dedicated and brilliant – quite obviously not the required attributes to make it to the top of New Zealand politics.

Luxon was always going to be the favourite when he put his hand up. He’s been touted as leader since April last year - before his first term as an MP even started.

He’s also an overachiever, although he only has one master’s degree (commerce) from the University of Canterbury. But he does have a high-profile career to launch from, notably as the former CEO of Air NZ. He also owns seven houses, which, in New Zealand is a direct measure of success – a bit like goats in Mongolia.

During his introductory speech on Tuesday, he covered off some of the hot topics, including his Christian faith. It seems that clean, righteous living is something that must be justified these days.

But what really jumped out at me was his penchant for DIY. Now we are talking.

He spoke of shopping for power tools at Bunnings – the Ryobi One+ to be exact. I have a few pieces of that collection myself but if I owned seven houses I’d be buying something a bit more professional like DeWalt. Also, Bunnings is Australian-owned. Mitre10 is too but the individual stores tend to be owner-operated.

It was a master stroke to mention DIY, for anyone who knows anything about key words and internet searches.

GETTING THE JOB DONE

For example, Tuesday’s speech didn’t get anywhere near the 1.7 million views that another Bunnings shopper got on TikTok, after posting a video of a badly loaded car at the Takanini store on Monday this week.

A man in a late model Holden Commodore sedan stuffed 4.8 metre lengths of timber through the back window and into the front passenger seat, leaving an absurd amount of overhang – almost as wide as the vehicle itself.

The comedy-drama that ensued perfectly summed up the lengths some Kiwis will go to for that DIY project.

With less than a year of politics under his belt, Luxon will have to use all those DIY skills to get the National Party back up and running.

COVID COUNTRY

There has been quite a lot of talk about vaccination rates varying by region and ethnicity but what is quite noticeable is how the percentages drop in line with the size of the population.

The smaller towns of the central North Island, Northland, East Cape, West Coast of the South Island and Southland are well below the national average for vaccination rates.

Detailed breakdowns of suburbs within towns show more well-heeled suburbs within these towns have higher rates than average for their area but still lower rates than the national average.

For whatever reason, small town and rural New Zealand is taking longer to get protected. I doubt if that is all down to a lack of willingness. More likely a lack of access and marketing.

Otago University highlighted this trend two months ago with associate professor Garry Nixon and his team from the Dunedin School of Medicine finding vaccination rates to be 11 per cent lower in rural areas.

The problem with this is that the quality of emergency medical services also declines in line with the size of the population. If that’s not a disaster waiting to happen, I don’t know what is.

Hopefully, with the traffic light system coming into play today, those rates will see a bit of a boost.

daniel@thesun.co.nz