By Ali Shakir
Iraqi-born architect and author of A Muslim on the Bridge (Signal 8 Press, 2013) and Café Fayrouz (ASP INC, 2015) member of The New Zealand Society of Authors.
It’s been eight years since I arrived in New Zealand, three years since I became a citizen. And yet, the psyche of my “fellow-kiwis” remains an unsolved mystery to me. In this beautiful country of ours where rugby is the national game and domestic violence against women is considered highest—or, among the highest—in the world; how is it conceivable that the majority of New Zealanders stands so indifferent, even passive, in the face of this governmental dysfunction? How can two opposing traits like subversion and subservience coexist and manifest themselves interchangeably in the same character without it being confusingly paradoxical?
No, I’m not trying to incite riot. In fact, it was the breakout of chaos in Iraq, my country of origin that made me pack my bags and flee to these distant shores for peace, so the last thing I want is to have the same scenario repeated here too. I’m only wondering how bad things need to be before kiwis start to pressure their politicians—through means of nonviolent protest such as collecting signatures—to address an issue that’s snowballing fast into a national crisis, if it’s not one already.
Despite skyrocketing house prices in Auckland, the vendors’ initial thrill is clearly wearing off and the fiesta seems to be over, or almost. People can still get a good chunk of money by selling their properties to overseas investors at auction, but it would hardly suffice to buy them decent places to move to, let alone put some cash back in their pockets. The shortage of new listings is driving prices even higher, and rents too. Tenants are being thrown out on the street by greedy landlords. Crime rates are on the rise. The world press is tackling our ordeal and economists are warning that we’re verging on disaster, and what is our government doing to solve the matter? They’re asking the Auckland Council to agree to free up more land for future housing. Seriously?
Wearing his trademark smile, John Key not only refuses to take responsibility for the problem while appearing on national television; he denies it even exists.
Could someone please wake him up?
Ten years ago, Aucklanders barely heard of selling houses by auction. If the case remains unsolved by taking the measures necessary to fix an obviously liable auction system, impose a land tax on foreign buyers, and temporarily suspend the issuance of eviction warrants for current tenants—at least in Auckland; I wouldn’t be surprised to read in the newspapers two or three years from now that kiwis started taking their only remaining possessions to auction too.
‘Selling once, selling twice,’ the auctioneer’s gavel goes down, announcing:
‘A New Zealand citizenship, sold for a million dollars to bidder 8 on the internet!’
Read more of Ali Shakir’s work here: