That was then…

One of the joys of de-cluttering for people who didn’t want to do it in the first place, is that you sometimes find unexpected treasures. Things that weren’t that special but for some reason you just couldn’t throw away.

As we foraged through paper mountains in a spare room, we found a special 100th issue of Metro magazine, dated October 1989 and called In Our time – Auckland in the Eighties.

Within its pages were the results of the 1989 Metro Readers’ Poll, which judged the mood of the Eighties on issues ranging from politics and politicians, to race, education, and a few other categories.

1989 – thirty years ago and five years on from the unmandated imposition of free market policies by of all parties, Labour; five years can make a difference and readers’ answers seem to indicate a lurch to the right. For example:

  • Do you approve or disapprove of the deregulation, corporatisation and privatisation the government has undertaken in recent  years, 59% approved; 41% disapproved. And:
  • Should there be more or less government intervention in the economy?   68% said less; 32% said more.
  • Should there be less government in people’s lives? 94% said less (up 5% from the previous year’s poll) and 6% said more.
  • In future, would you prefer New Zealand’s political and economic direction to be more to the Left or the Right?  68% said to the Right, 32%, preferred the Left.

These answers came predominantly from readers (average age 41) who described themselves as ‘middle of the road’ politically. Twenty-two per cent were right wing (up 4%) and 10% Left, (up 2%).

On the subject of race, readers were asked if Maoris got a fair go in New Zealand. Yes said 81%. No said 19%.

  • Should there be less emphasis on things Maori in national  life? 76% said less. 24% said more.
  • In your opinion, do Maoris have a good case to have their grievances about the Treaty of Waitangi  put right?  43% Yes. 57% said No.
  • Should Maori parliamentary seats and such Maori-only institutions such as football teams, the Maori Education Foundation etc be retained or abolished? 65%  opted for abolition.  35% wanted them retained.

And in another answer 91% did not want the country renamed Aotearoa, with 9% saying, Yes it should be…Watch this space.

Metro also asked about that perennial concern – education and some of the responses are familiar:

  • Are more subjects needed in the school curriculum, or should there be more concentration on the basics and what is already in the curriculum?  20% said more;  80% replied saying Concentration.
  • Does everyone get a fair go in the education system?  Yes said 10%. No said 90%.  Among those who readers claimed missed out were gifted, poor and bright Maori students.

Next up was the then relatively uncontroversial issue of immigration. Readers were asked if New Zealand had a big enough population to which 26% said Yes and 74% said No.

  • If we do need more immigrants, where would you prefer they came from?  Europe 44%;  Asia, 16%; Pacific, 7%; anywhere 33%.
  • Will increased immigration improve or worsen the New Zealand economy?  Note – society isn’t the subject of even part of the subject here but nonetheless, the answers were: Improve: 90%; worsen, 10%.

And then finally a kind of omnibus set of questions the first asking if Auckland was a soulless, anonymous, mirror glass city. 43% agreed; 57% did not.

  • The rich are getting rich and the poor poorer?  72% agreed; 28% disagreed.
  • Do women get a fair go in New Zealand?  Yes said 67%;  No said 33%.
  • Do you support local body amalgamation? 44% said Yes and 56% said No.
  • Does it concern you that major New Zealand companies and former Government corporations are passing into foreign ownership?  Yes, said 72% and No, said 28%.

And then the survey concluded with the personal:

  • Has the AIDS scare caused you to alter your sexual behaviour? Yes said 22%. No, said a whopping 78%.
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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.