149 not out!

Sitting down in front of my laptop to write my last column for a while and instead the temptation to procrastinate on Facebook snuck in.

But I’m back again, having seen the perfect quote to sum up my approach to these 149 columns over the past 149 weeks.

“It’s nice to belong.  And it’s great when others see things the same way that you do.  But sometimes, to be true to your own heart and mind, you have to stand alone” – Steve Biddulph, Australian author and psychologist.

Writing this column has been a privilege.  I have tried not to be too self-indulgent with my writing, although have strayed from time to time.  I’ve tried not to make it a political soapbox too often, although have shared my political leanings on occasion.  I have eased off my pet topic of climate change of late, mainly because I see it talked about in the mainstream media more often – for example, this week’s NZ Herald had a great piece on “Ten things NZ can learn about climate change”.

Sometimes I have written about topics that are bound to cause consternation – 1080 to knock back possums and rats and give forests a fighting chance, fluoride in water to help our children’s teeth grow strong, New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd’s journey of discovery as a “recovering racist”, or the science-based evidence around our declining water quality and its relationship with intensifying agriculture throughout the country.

If this wasn’t my last column for a while, I’d probably be writing this week about how the stand-down of prison volunteer Ngapari Nui has not followed the principles of natural justice, especially given his gang associations were apparently known over his five plus years of volunteering. 

We have to try new approaches to deal with entrenched issues like reoffending and violence crime – the influence of reformed people, gang members or not, in reaching those in jail has to be worth careful support.

One of my favourite quotes is from Henry Ford: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  From all accounts, Nui was making a positive difference.  Even the Salvation Army and MP Chester Borrows, a former police officer, is backing him.

From next week, two friends of mine, Rachel Rose and Chris Cresswell, will be picking up this slot, writing columns on alternate weeks.  If I could offer them one piece of advice, it would be to be true to your experience of the world and write about your passions – it’s meant to be a personal point of view.  It took me a while to warm up – to let go of my journalism roots and just interview myself, instead of researching and trying to quote others. 

The other balance I’ve tried to strike is between writing about serious topics like inequality in NZ and the joy (and challenges!) of being a working mum.  Actually, those two topics come together for me – what happens to children in a country with significant inequality and growing poverty?  What future do they have?

Next Thursday kicks-off a three-week series on inequality in Whanganui, with author Max Rashbrooke first up speaking about the facts behind inequality, followed by a panel of local social service providers discussing the daily reality of inequality on July 21.  The final night on 28 July will feature Living Wage NZ’s Lyn Williams, Left Wing Think Tank’s Sue Bradford and Green Party MP Jan Logie.

While I will miss the opportunity to have my say in the paper every week, I am looking forward to having one less thing to fit in – I haven’t missed a deadline in nearly three years of writing, although some have only just snuck in. 

The most consistent feedback I’ve received about my column is people saying “I don’t always agree with everything you write, but you make me smile and you make me think” – I’m pretty satisfied with that.