Saturday 20 May 2023 | Written by Thomas Tarurongo Wynne | Published in Editorials, Opinion
No place like home, I’m not sure how many times I have said it and felt it deeply over the past week but it is without a doubt the overflow of my heart as I settle in to a couple of well-deserved weeks at home, after tumultuous past three years, and work that has been all consuming in the halls of power in New Zealand.
Sometimes you don’t know how much you need something, until it starts to fill your heart again, and that sense of fullness becomes a welcome level of being again.
Paradise it is, flying in when so many of us see those mountains again, Maungaroa and Maungatea, the reef on one side as we float in, bumping from side to side until rubber meets the runway and the familiar smells, fragrance and smiles of our people are there to greet us again, as if we had only just slipped out the door to grab some milk or bread.
Milk or bread seem such staples to any household, even if it yellow in colour or powdered. And as New Zealand dines on its bread-and-butter budget this week, I couldn’t help but notice the cost of living here also has been greatly impacted by global pressures and economic decline. Bread in the shop was a startling nine dollars, and I thought to myself it would take the average worker here one hour of work to earn enough to buy that loaf of bread. Another hour for the milk to go with that bread and five more hours to earn enough to buy a carton of chicken. In fact it was close to a day’s labour to buy just those three items, and items that are essential to any household here, especially those with small children and extended family to feed.
Times are tough for many of those of us who call this place home, and unlike Samoa who has a remittance economy with more than $55 million coming into the country from Samoans living overseas, very little remittance finds its way back to Rarotonga or the Cook Islands. Except of course for the tere parties that have traversed New Zealand and Australia over the past 12 months, collecting monies from our often struggling communities to celebrate the 200 years of the Gospel here and the reconstruction, or rebuild and refurbishment of the churches, halls, pastors’ houses and church halls.
It was concerning therefore to hear in my own village of Arorangi that monies collected from our Arorangi diaspora and communities in Aotearoa and Australia – a total of well over $400,000 – is now being withheld and the Church having to go back to the community to pay for necessary refurbishment costs, windows and doors. A dispute that seems to be contradictory to the reasons why so many gave in New Zealand and Australia, and for the singular purpose of the Church in Arorangi and its beautification.
I couldn’t help but think, if this situation is as it seems, and has been presented that poor advice has resulted in poor decisions and why good advice and accountability are so necessary be it in government, in the community or in the Church and especially when money is at the heart of it. Having worked in a Parliament where advice, and good advice is critical to good decisions, and where accountability has a high threshold to the public, again it seems we still have much to learn and so much more to build into how we do things and how we ensure the good of the people is never compromised, for the sake of the few. Though it is a heartfelt meitaki maata to Teariki Heather and his team for the work they are doing inside and outside the Church in Arorangi.
James the Apostle was clear that: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them”, and King Solomon said that “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”. Good advice and good counsel, along with lines of accountability, are critical if we are to have good management and good governance. Be it our spiritual life, our government or our own lives and families. These things are put in place to keep us all safe, because without them we can be tempted to make decisions that we all suffer from in the end, including ourselves.
Nonetheless, it is so good to be home, and I look forward to spending more time with my Mum and family, looking over genealogy, old photos, speaking to friends and family and just reconnecting again with the place I call home. This is our paradise, and a paradise we share with so many, let’s just ensure its paradise not just for the tourists but for all our Iti Tangata, our toketoke enua and those who reside here.