Speaker by Various Artists

So Who Really Are Our Heroes?

by Mark Graham

Well, they’ve confirmed that arsenic is in the Waikato River, but never fear, the filtering process strips that out, and the pesticides, herbicides, bacteria, chemicals and assorted crap ending up in it between Lake Taupo and Meremere. I understand that the unfortunate thing is that the company that tests the efficacy of the filtering process is the same company that runs it.

Which brings me to a horrifying conclusion. Maybe the Water Pressure Group was right all along. God knows, as Russell B. has testified himself, that Penny Bright and the WP Group are not the easiest people to deal with.

Bloody-minded, dogmatic, aggressive, in-your-face confrontational. But get past that, and there’s a lot of sense behind what they say. I guess on one level, the WP Group resort to anger through loud noises and concreting water mains, interspersed with berating the media (and in one very sad case, Phil Raffills, dying of cancer at the time) – making them our version of suicide bombers. However, I must say that resorting to strident calls for action against the powers that be rather than violent mayhem is a very New Zealand approach (thank God)!

Which led me to think, however, that in a way, these people are our heroes. We may not think so now, but give it 20 years.

Look at John Minto. Once viewed as a dishonourable “professional protester” by much of the country in very ugly fashion during the 1984 Springbok tour. At the time, he was vilified and on occasion, beaten, along with other protesters. Now, pretty much everyone agrees that what they were fighting for was a just cause and Minto’s place in history is now ‘anti-racism warrior’.

Minto had commitment and persistence. He had a vision of a better place and goals to achieve. Which he did. And now he’s still getting up people’s noses, fighting for a better education for our children.

Go back fifty years to the 1951 Waterfront Lockout and many of the union leaders, especially Jock Barnes, eventually became heroes – kiwi icons. During the lockout the Government passed legislation that made it illegal to give the workers food!

These men, some of whom fought in WW2 against fascism, found fascistic methods being employed against them in their own country. But they fought on and now many who know the circumstances of that fight believe they fought justly. Regardless of the merits of the fight, in the context of history, they have become heroes.

There are Maori who have fought for indigenous rights in this country who are now loved by the country but were once considered radicals and ‘stirrers’. Ex-City Councillor, Maire Leadbeater fought for East Timor for years. Everyday, thousands of people around the country take pen to paper, as Amnesty International members, to write to dictators and tyrants, pressuring them to treat political prisoners with respect and fairness and often gaining their release.

Everyday, there are people who work to make this a better place. Take pen to paper. Take action. Claim the right.

In a city bereft of monuments to great people (our heroes) building a $10,000,000 glass case (beautiful as it is) for a yacht as a remembrance for a man who tried to save the oceans – a task slightly more important than winning a billionaires’ yacht race a couple of times – is, at best, inappropriate.

Question the logic of the person chosen as our city’s leader to spend $100,000 on an opening party for something he condemned and to which most of us won’t be invited (the irony of a horse-drawn carriage being used to open a rail terminal has not been lost) every chance you get.

What is the difference between a Banks and a Minto? On the face of it the similarities are startling. Commitment, persistence. But there is a crucial difference: fighting for a cause greater than oneself. Herein lies Banksie’s ultimate failing. I don’t think he believes there is anything greater than himself.

Please – could we have more Mintos and Brights and fewer Banksies?