Michael Woodhouse has become Dunedin’s first ever National Party Government minister (albeit currently outside of Cabinet). He’s also a right-wing success story in Dunedin for another reason – at the 2011 election, National beat Labour to win the party vote throughout the city. Woodhouse can take some credit for this historic accomplishment, as he’s worked since 2008 as National’s only Dunedin (list) MP. [Keep reading my monthly column for Dunedin's DScene newspaper below]
Should academia and politics mix? Two recent books published about very different topics in New Zealand politics provide some light on the relationship between academic intellectuals and parliamentary politics. Both books offer examples of academic intellectuals jumping into the political sphere, with varying results. Typically, New Zealand has a rather flimsy relationship between the realms of central government and academia. Unfortunately, intellectuals tend not only to stay out of the ‘issues of the day’ but also parliamentary politics full stop. There seem to be push and pull factors going on, with New Zealand society not being particularly receptive to intellectuals – hence academics don’t often make it far in politics – but also the universities are relatively disengaged from current affairs and governance. Academics often appear to be somewhat scared of intervening in the grubby world of politics, in terms of standing for election, being politically active, or just taking sides in public political debate. There’s a dearth of public intellectuals in New Zealand as a result. [This book review has just been published in the latest edition of The Journal of New Zealand Studies - read more below]
Warwick Stanton is a Green Party activist and partner of MP Metiria Turei. On Facebook he goes under the name 'Worik Stantonq'. In a discussion today about New Zealand's tallest tree, he advocated that it be cut down! And that the tree be milled for firewood - see the screenshot below. This might seem like a strange demand from an environmentalist - to call for a special tree to be chopped down - but it can be explained by some of the other ideological currents that are dominant within the Greens: Maori nationalism, indigenism, and xenophobia. Because New Zealand's tallest tree is not actually a native tree - it's an Australian eucalyptus. So those that are in the thrall of all things indigenous - native trees and animals, for example - are inclined towards a hostility to anything introduced into the environment from another country. Similarly, of course, Maori Nationalist activist Mike Smith famously took to a tree with a chainsaw on 'One Tree Hill" back in 1994. Part of his beef was that the tree was a 'foreign tree'. Such sentiments obviously still run strongly in the Greens.