A few weeks ago, our country was rocked by violence, hatred, and bigotry.
Making worldwide news, the mass shooting in Christchurch which targets two mosques and claimed 50 lives forced this country to reckon with that fact that we aren’t actually an untouchable little country at the bottom of the world.
It’s so easy to disconnect in New Zealand and be separate from the rest of the world, to see global news and breath a sigh of relief that not only is that NOT happening here, it’s likely NEVER happen here.
We are widely considered to be a peaceful and tolerant country with little crime so when the news broke that we were chosen to be the host of such horrific violence, no one knew what to think.
Anger, outrage, sorrow, confusion.
The country simultaneously mourned the innocent lives lost and mobilized into re-creating our safe bubble safe again for everyone, everywhere.
All eyes have been on New Zealand as we implement changes to policy and move forward and without ever asking or wanting to be a leader in crisis response, New Zealand is setting an example for the world. Not just the government but the entire population arose to the call and vowed to make New Zealand better.
But responding to this crisis isn’t the only thing New Zealand is doing right. No, in fact, New Zealand has been making strides to be a model country for decades and by doing so, it’s consequently making the world a better place. Sure, it’s not perfect and there are plenty of problems and issues here, but overall, New Zealand has been steadily working towards making the world a better place. Here’s how:
1. Our leadership is creating the model for the rest of the world
It’s no secret that the way our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has responded to the mass shooting has been groundbreaking. Sure, most world leaders will show empathy and sorrow but Jacinda showed immense support for the mourning community while also getting to work on how to prevent this in the future AND actually enacting change.
She told the world New Zealand is a country that embraces diversity, kindness, compassion, and is a home for those who share these values and a refuge for those who need it.
She wore the hijab and hugged those in the Muslim community who were hurting. She refused to name the terrorist and instead, talked about the victims who lost their lives. She immediately announced the government would ban the kinds of guns and modifications used in the attack within a week.
Every move she made was to reinforce the idea that inclusivity was a core value of our nation and that hatred would not tear us apart. After the attack, she immediately launched in an investigation on whether government agencies could have prevented this tragedy.
Jacinda is setting an example for the world about what response to mass shootings should look like. What the rest of the world, particularly the USA, is doing is normalizing gun violence. Not one person from the USA called me or checked in after the terrorist attack. Why?
Because this happens so frequently in the USA that they have simply detached to that specific violence. Mass shootings have become normalized and unless you are directly affected, almost no one is phased anymore.
New Zealand’s response has been a wake-up call that mass gun violence is not normal and we cannot grow complacent.
2. We take maternal care seriously
Last year, our Prime Minister became the first world leader in history to take maternal leave. She gave birth, took time off work, and then returned as her partner stayed home with the baby.
She’s not the only one in New Zealand who has a progressive take on maternal care and parental leave.
In 2017, Parliament here passed a bill to increase parental leave from 22 weeks to 26 weeks. The government said they are committed to giving the child the best start in life and that starts with longer paid paternal leave.
Almost all women who are pregnant in New Zealand use a midwife. Midwives are the cornerstone of the New Zealand maternity service.
All other services, such as obstetric or pediatric services, fit in around this model so that the woman experiences a seamless maternity service that meets her individual needs.
There are classes before the birth and continued support after the birth including home visits. All of these services are free and available to every resident or citizen and the government also sends you a weekly check to cover your work leave.
3. Minimum wage keeps going up
Starting April 1, 2019, New Zealand is raising the minimum wage to $17.70 an increase of $1.20 per hour with another increase to $20/hour due in 2021.
Sure, it’s not as high as Australia, who has the highest minimum wage in the world, but it’s a pretty good start, and it’s a hell of a lot higher than many other places in the world.
Their reasoning? A fair day’s work should equal a fair day’s wage. For comparison purposes, the national minimum wage in the USA is $7.25 and this amount hasn’t gone up since 2009. Yikes.
4. We’ve implemented domestic violence leave
I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. As much as I love New Zealand, it’s not perfect. Our domestic violence rates are abnormally high, an uncomfortable space the country is quickly dealing with.
On April 1, 2019, a new bill will be implemented to help protect victims of domestic violence. Employees who are affected by domestic violence can request up to 10 days of leave and/or a short term flexible work arrangement to assist them in dealing with the effects of domestic violence.
New Zealand is the first country in the world to offer this type of leave as a universal entitlement and will give those seeking to escape domestic violence a pathway to safety.
5. Single-use plastic bags are banned
New Zealand has officially put an end date to the use of single-use plastic grocery bags in the country.
Major national supermarkets have already started to phase out plastic bags with the official ban going into place on July 1, 2019. Instead, they are encouraging reusable bags or repurposed boxes to get your food home.
Major supermarkets across NZ have reported that removing plastic bags from their stores would result in about 350 million bags saved from the landfill. The majority of the country supports the ban with only a few outliers who are slow to change.
For the most part, New Zealand is incredibly conscious of its role in climate change and protecting the environment and most people — from kids to grannies — agree that protecting the environment has to be a top priority.
6. We’ve increased our refugee intake by 33%
As other countries around the world begin to close their borders to refugees, New Zealand has been working on doubling their refugee quota.
The amount of refugees has sat steadily around 750 each year but New Zealand has raised the number to 1,000 and is aiming to increase it again to 1,500. Sure, that number might not seem like a lot when you look at the worldwide number of refugees but it’s a good start for an already small nation.
Jacinda has publicly disapproved Australia’s detention of refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, and on Nauru.
She has reaffirmed New Zealand’s position on a number of occasions, and also offered to take up to 150 of the refugees. Her reasoning? She said it was more important to do what was right than what was popular.
The government has implemented a community sponsorship program to help resettle refugees and provide services, furnished houses, English language classes and support towards full paid employment and self-sufficiency.
7. We have universal health care
This one doesn’t take a lot of explaining.
Our health care is free for all residents and citizens. Our no-fault scheme covers everyone, including visitors, who are injured in an accident in New Zealand. The plan covers children, beneficiaries, students, if you’re working, unemployed, or retired. In short, this means it doesn’t matter what you were doing when you were injured or who was at fault. New Zealand will cover you for free.
For prescriptions, many medications are subsidized by the government. The prescription charge for each subsidized prescription medicine is usually $5. How great is that?
View this post on Instagram
Last year, more than half a million people didn’t go to their GP because of the cost. That’s why, as announced in #Budget18, we’re cutting the costs of visiting the doctor for almost 600,000 Kiwis – including free visits for everyone under 14. 👩⚕️👨⚕️ From 1 December, it will be cheaper for 540,000 more Community Services Card holders to visit the doctor. On top of that, 56,000 13 year olds will become eligible for free primary care. This will mean more people will be able to get the care they need, when they need it. Read more about what we’re doing in health – link in profile!
8. We’ve put a halt on foreign house buyers
It’s no secret, New Zealand has a housing shortage in too many parts of the country.
Part of the problem is rich foreigners buying up pieces of land and properties as investments or for — and I kid you not — a doomsday safe haven. Foreign buyers who aren’t living in the country drive up housing prices and push local buyers out of the market, and driving up property prices astronomically.
The new rule is if you have the right to live in New Zealand permanently, you have the right to buy here. The government wants to improve the housing situation and allow more kiwi buyers a path to owning a house.
9. We have a long-standing nuclear-free policy
New Zealand has been a nuclear-free country since 1987. Boom!
There is a three-decade-long ban in place that prohibits entry into the internal waters of New Zealand 12 nautical mile radius by any ship whose wholly or partially dependent on nuclear power.
It also bans the dumping of radioactive waste into the ocean within the nuclear-free zone, as well as prohibits anyone in New Zealand from manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or having any control over any nuclear explosive device. This 30-year anti-nuclear campaign is the only successful ban of its type in the world.
10. New Zealand’s political parties compromise and work together
New Zealand’s government is truly mind-blowing when compared to the overly complicated and inefficient government in the USA. Politics here are made of more than two parties (shocking, I know) and agreements between political parties are usually needed before a government can be formed.
To reiterate that, when it’s time for elections, more than two parties are *actually* considered and taken seriously AND the parties usually have to team up and compromise in order to will the election. For the last election the Labour party teamed up with the Greens and New Zealand First.
Also, elections don’t last two years and have far less money put into them. Just saying.
11. We have partially free higher education
For those looking to further their education after high school, the New Zealand government covers all students’ first year of tertiary education or industry training. Adults who have previously studied for less than half full-time year of tertiary education or industry training also will qualify for free education.
This policy is part of the Government’s first 100 days program which also includes a $50 a week to help alleviate student and living costs.
New Zealand is striving to provide a full program of 3 years’ fee-free tertiary education and training for New Zealanders by 2024 and for those who have student loans, don’t expect to pay any interest on the repayments as long as you live and work in New Zealand. For someone who has paid thousands of dollars in interest while trying to pay off my student debt, this is music to my ears.
12. We are working towards free mental health for people aged 18-25
Along with domestic violence, mental health has never historically been our strong suit but we are adamantly working on changing that. Example? New Zealand’s suicide rates are shockingly high.
The government here is running a pilot scheme that supports 18-25-year-olds with mild to moderate mental health needs for free. They are currently testing the program in Porirua with the hopes of rolling out free mental health care for a great portion of the population.
They argue that 3/4 of all lifetime cases of mental illness develop by age 24 so by intervening early and providing adequate support, they can help prevent mental health problems in older adults.
The program helps support people who might otherwise struggle to get help either because they can’t afford it or their needs aren’t recognized.
13. We’re banning smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 18
Most people recognize the scientific research that supports that smoking is incredibly detrimental to not only the smoker’s health but also those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. It took a while for everyone to get on board with this idea but we’re slowly making progress and New Zealand is trying to lead the change.
New Zealand is banning smoking in cars while children aged 18 and under are present.
This includes vaping and allies to all cars that are stationary or moving. Their primary goal is to protect children but this also helps them work towards their Smokefree 2025 goal.
According to 2014 research by ASH, 100,000 children a week are exposed to second-hand smoke and children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke due to their smaller lungs, higher respiratory rate and immature immune systems.
New Zealand certainly isn’t the first country to implement this ban but it’s a great move towards a healthier community.
As you can see NZ is leading the charge in the world on many hot and modern issues, and we feel incredibly privileged to call this country home.
What do you think? Have any other points to share? Seen these choices anywhere else in the world? Spill!