OPINION: I grew up in Christchurch, always dreaming of bigger cities, more people, being where the action is.
I turned 18 a week after the February 2011 earthquake. Having spent early adulthood amongst the rubble, I was fed up with a small, broken town as well as the National government under John Key. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
Initially I decided on Wellington as my new home and even toyed with the idea of Auckland, until I actually visited that city, but it was a couple of weeks in Melbourne in July 2013 that made up my mind.
Melbourne had higher wages, more jobs, longer summers, slightly warmer winters and many more ways to spend one's time. Back then I was not aware that Melbourne was "the world's most liveable city"; it was just the place where Pete Rock casually played at a dive bar on a Tuesday night and I could go out dancing on Christmas night.
I first arrived in Footscray, a largely ethnic suburb with many African restaurants, shisha joints and one of the largest Vietnamese populations outside of Vietnam. Just about to turn 21, I had basically no money and only a few years of experience in a really crappy cafe behind me, I had made it baby!
From there Australia got me. I'll be the first to admit I am easily impressed but I just liked the feel of it, 40-degree days, slang words like 'doonah' (duvet), large infrastructure projects and hell, even nasty politics and really big social issues to battle with.
It easily filled the void in me that was crying out for something different. I started working in hospitality, lived in affordable, urban housing and kept myself busy fitting into a population less easily impressed than me.
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- 14,000 could die in New Zealand if control measures fail
- Better Safe Than Sorry
- China Sends the World Faulty Medical Supplies
Fast forward to 2020 and suddenly the very aspects of Australia that I once found charming are now exasperating. In Melbourne we are into what can only be described as Lockdown 2.5 Premium, hopefully the final stage in a drawn out, wasted procedure.
Many of us have the right things since late March. But thanks to the actions of otherscoupled with major oversights by a stretched Victorian state government, we now have an 8pm curfew and a further six weeks added to our prison sentence.
It feels like being kept behind after school because half the class were talking while you sat quietly waiting for them to stop.
I work in a pub, am a medium wage earner in an industry that, until recently, offered endless opportunities. Bored of one hospitality job? Go and get a different one. Not getting enough work? Get second job, easy. Holiday in Europe? Go for it!
My pub opened in June before being closed down again in July. While I watched New Zealand tentatively declare themselves Covid-free, we had opened and closed again.
It is pretty depressing to see New Zealand's bars open, friends getting away for the weekend and the general positive feelings oozing from their social media.
Unlike the Kiwi team of 5 million, Australia is split into factions of people with different priorities and given the chance they will flout advice for that haircut or the shopping trip. Months were wasted because of central government inaction and a reluctance to damage the economy. I honestly wonder how things didn't get this bad any earlier.
New Zealanders, even those who have been here for decades, do not qualify for the unemployment benefit. Some, like myself, are lucky enough to qualify for the JobKeeper scheme. Unfortunately, many others don't, like the three chefs at my pub.
Australia's contempt for immigrants is confusing.
When the pandemic set in many of my Kiwi friends fled back home and now they are now stuck on the right side of the Tasman as the Australian government fumbles with a worsening outbreak and a crumbling economy.
Scott Morrison distributes the handling of the virus to the states. They deduct $70 billion from promised Covid financial aid while enthusiastically announcing $270 billion on single-use missiles.
This summer will likely be plagued by more catastrophic bush fires caused by a climate catastrophe the Australian government is outright ignoring by continuing to back big coal and promise nothing in the way of green jobs.
In New South Wales they banned Black Lives Matter protests while allowing NRL games to continue with crowds.
- Countdown introduces strict measures to keep customers, staff safe during lockdown
- COVID-Z. Z for Zombie
- Health Minister David Clark moves house during COVID-19 lockdown
- Kiwis warned against casual sex during lockdown
Covid aside, I now look to my home country with longing.
Jacinda Ardern is a masterful and considerate leader in every sense of the word. Scott Morrison avoids all responsibility in favour of holding on to power. In my time here the environment has been carved up by politicians, children continue to be imprisoned on island and indigenous people ignored and persecuted.
New Zealand is not perfect, I know that and I think New Zealanders know that and are willing to discuss it and to even deal with it.
Meanwhile, I am locked up in the "worlds most liveable city" impressed with how New Zealand has performed and dismayed at how Australia has dropped the ball.