2020 - Let's Dare to be Different

by Peter Newport - Jan 06, 2020


As we start to reluctantly drift back to reality from the Xmas break it is traditional to set some goals, aspirations and even dreams for the coming 12 months. For our special part of NZ it will be a critical year.

Our separation from the woes of the world is becoming ever more fragile as global markets, social media, cheap air travel and migration all blur the lines that used to define where we lived. It’s a cliché – but we are all citizens of the world now. No longer can we say that Queenstown, Wanaka or Cromwell represent meaningful boundaries or borders – the problems of America, Europe, Auckland and Wellington are our problems too.

Can you spot the "Art Gallery Now Open" sign?

As if to underline that point, the smoke and ash from Australia’s tragic bushfires has settled on our houses, cars and gardens, adding to the impact of global political unrest that laps at the shores of our lives and our businesses.

There is one last line of defence though. Not to isolate ourselves from the world’s problems but to define ourselves by being different.

At a time when every main street, every airport and every retail outlet in the world is becoming ever more the same – dare we be different?

The temptation is always to be the same as everybody else. It’s tribal – it gives us security. Especially in New Zealand where “designed in Europe” or “market leader in the US” have become part of our domestic marketing heritage. For decades we yearned for the sophistication of Europe or the get rich quick brashness of the US.

Now though – we are more grown up. Kiwi food, art, music, wine and even science give us reason to be very proud. So why would we want to copy the rest of the world anymore?

Does it make sense to replicate the increasingly toxic consumerism that knows no boundaries, buying plastic stuff we don’t need, and the planet can’t afford? What will be the rewards for our shops, petrol stations, movie theatres, ski fields, airports and TV entertainment being exactly the same as Australia, the US, Asia and Europe? What’s the point in people burning a lot of carbon to come to New Zealand if it is the same as everywhere else with traffic congestion, ugly malls and a stressed, unwelcoming local community?

Welcome to Paradise?

These are real issues. Commercial issues. Lifestyle issues.

There are pressures though for us to be the same as the rest of the world. Global hotel chains, global airlines, global retailers even global restaurant brands – all want to peddle their mantra of a mass market numbers game. With that comes the death of local culture, local food, well paid local jobs and especially local identity.

And of course there are local, often privately held, corporations that are making hundreds of millions of dollars from our lakes and mountains without putting back what they take out.

The 1970’s theory of global corporate wealth trickling down to us all has been proven to be 100% nonsense.

What price our culture and sense of local identity?

So, let’s make 2020 The Year of Being Different. Being ourselves – and being proud of it. And to those people who want to get rich quick by inviting “global partners” into our almost perfect and still quiet corner of the planet you should feel the deepest sense of shame.

Our identity, and our points of difference, are the lifeblood of our future and our children’s future. Our identity, our love of our environment and of our unique community culture have been hard won – let’s not be so stupid as to throw it all away.

Let’s start to call out the much vaunted “you can’t stop growth” statement as being untrue and dangerous. We can and we should. We can embrace and develop our own sustainable growth – but why buy into someone else’s greed disguised as “growth”?

Let’s Dare to be Different.

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