Achieving our nationhood milestones

by Fiona Rae / 05 November, 2011
With the Rugby World Cup we showed the world; now let’s show ourselves.


The national surge of joy and goodwill generated by the Rugby World Cup is a precious once-in-a-lifetime commodity. Now we’ve got to figure out how to build on it. There can hardly be a New Zealander left who argues “it was only a game”. It’s not too much to say it was a milestone in our nationhood.

We showed we could host a global-scale event with confidence, competence and flair. The one glitch, with Auckland’s infrastructure, was quickly remedied. New Zealanders were warmly welcoming, the humblest provincial areas ebulliently taking teams to their hearts. There was not, as was feared, a wholesale fleecing of visitors. Police were near-ecstatic about crowd behaviour. Emergency waiting rooms were not overwhelmed with drunken fans, nor rape crisis centres with assaulted women. Ticket sales targets were met, friends and families created fun events around the games, and the mana of rugby was well and truly restored, finally laying to rest the divisive ugliness of the 1981 Springbok tour.

As for the “only a game” bit, the All Blacks won – but not just the game. They won hearts, because the more the country has come to know the individual players, the more an appealing modern ideal of the true Kiwi bloke has emerged. Sure, he is modest, rugged and near-impervious to pain, as in the old Pinetree All Black ethos. But now he is also articulate, charitably minded and able to talk openly about his emotions – even, like Piri Weepu, able cogently to discuss high match strategy while cuddling his infant daughter in front of a TV camera. He may even dress smartly, read poetry and wear – steady on – make-up. The ideal Kiwi male, as epitomised by the All Blacks, is an evolved person, who channels his natural aggression and competitiveness on the rugby field, but strives for a rounded life outside it. He may need to watch his drinking, but he’s hardly alone there. Perhaps best of all, he is gracious even when he, rather than the ball, is in rough play.

Stephen Donald, long the butt of puerile and spiteful social media attacks, endured with great humility and dignity the position of being the last, unwanted cab off the rank – and became the player who saved the day for us. The nature of that bruising win has a resonant symbolism for New Zealand’s global economic struggle. Despite confidence that they could continue to sweep all before them, the All Blacks found themselves simply battling to keep the wolf from the door. France had what it took to win the Cup. The All Blacks, fortunately, had what it took to stop them. Suddenly, however, it was all about fighting to safeguard territory, rather than being able to drive forward. That’s where we are economically – being driven backwards and scrambling to keep our feet against unexpected threats.

There are other lessons to heed. The Cup has been salutary for the media, which – while only doing their job – erred too often to the negative. Public indignation was palpable. And although rugby really was the winner on the day, the International Rugby Board will need to curb its heedless machismo. Those rapacious and heavy-booted decisions mandate a showdown, and the Australian and New Zealand rugby authorities show signs of gathering world support for a reckoning before the next World Cup.

But this extraordinary sporting event has brought New Zealand advantages beyond the immediate cash injection from foreign visitors. National goodwill and joy cannot alone pump up export industries, create jobs and increase wages, but this country was showcased to the world in the best possible light. And putting aside the prejudices that thrive south of the Bombay Hills, Auckland finally began the renaissance the politicians promised would flow from its amalgamation. After years of neglect of the central city, while disparate municipalities quarrelled and competed for kudos, downtown Auckland was restored to its rightful status. Its ravishing harbour and waterfront, its vibrant nightlife, its equable climate, its walkability and its leafiness were finally honoured as they should always have been. It’s a city with great potential to galvanise the economy and it’s time to curtail the regional jealousies and the begrudging of Auckland’s needs.

In the end, despite all the political eye-gouging and turf-warring over infrastructural spending, they did build it, and people did come. We have shown what a united New Zealand can do.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Immigration, tourism hold at record levels
71637 2017-04-26 12:18:08Z Economy

Immigration, tourism hold at record levels

by RNZ

Immigration has reached another new record driven by people on work and student visas and returning New Zealanders.

Read more
'No magic figure' for immigration numbers - Andrew Little
71625 2017-04-26 10:11:38Z Politics

'No magic figure' for immigration numbers - Andrew…

by RNZ

Andrew Little has confirmed a Labour government would cut immigration by tens of thousands a year, but is refusing to give a definite figure.

Read more
Indefensible position: The case for Donald
71464 2017-04-26 00:00:00Z Politics

Indefensible position: The case for Donald

by Judith Baragwanath

Judith Baragawanath has had it up to her back teeth with Trump haters.

Read more
Australia's citizenship plan 'slap in the face' for NZers
71621 2017-04-26 00:00:00Z Politics

Australia's citizenship plan 'slap in the face' fo…

by Catherine Hutton

The government should get Australia to sort out the "mess" over new citizenship rules that appear to go back on last year's agreement for Kiwis.

Read more
The Guns of Navarone writer knew he had to have a Kiwi hero
71551 2017-04-26 00:00:00Z History

The Guns of Navarone writer knew he had to have a …

by Charles Hamlin

When Alistair Stuart MacLean sent his heroes up a sheer cliff, he knew he had to have a New Zealander in charge.

Read more
NZ spied on Japan to help US - NSA document
71615 2017-04-26 00:00:00Z World

NZ spied on Japan to help US - NSA document

by Craig McCulloch

Leaked US documents reveal Kiwi spies gathered information about Japan at a whaling conference, then passed it onto the NSA ahead of a crucial vote.

Read more
Mustard with your mustelid? The future of ethical protein eating
70342 2017-04-26 00:00:00Z Innovation

Mustard with your mustelid? The future of ethical …

by Margo White

If we want to feed the masses without wrecking the planet with more intensive agriculture, we might need to reframe our attitude to insects.

Read more