We really don’t know how lucky we are

Oct 30th, 2018 | By | Category: Hot Topics, Latest News

Philippa StevensonTamahere Forum’s Philippa Stevenson reports in from the Solomon Islands.  Fred Dagg was right, she says.

We don’t know how lucky we are. Well, I didn’t anyway. Oh, I thought I did. But there is nothing like a month in a developing nation to challenge that notion.

I’ve been in the Solomon Islands since September 11, my very own 9/11 reality check.

I’m volunteering with NZ’s VSA (Volunteer Service Abroad), working in a small media company in Honiara, hoping that journalism skills learnt over a lifetime in NZ will be of use here.

I am loving learning about the Solomons and its chatty, inquiring, charming people.

Life in Honiara has already taught me how spot on Fred Dagg was.

How lucky we are in New Zealand that we can put rubbish bags at out gate. And they are picked up.

No such luck – or good management – in Honiara.

People care. And try. Daily, I see people tidying up, collecting cans for recycling, sweeping rubbish into piles, putting it into a few bins and then … waiting.

The Honiara City Council says it doesn’t have enough money to have an efficient rubbish collection and needs help from the government.

The government says it doesn’t have enough money. The result is the gateway to the beautiful Solomon Islands is, well, rubbish.

How lucky we are in New Zealand that traffic flows along smooth tarmac. Even in Auckland.

Honiara traffic beats Auckland to a standstill. Every time. It’s the potholes. Holes that could swallow a car.

I’m sure some have. I pass a long line of cars down my road every morning. And I’m walking.

How lucky we are that New Zealand kids get a good, free education. Hold your complaint about school fees and PTA fundraisers.

Tamboko High School classroom

The Tamboko High School classroom.


Imagine you had to find $800 a year for a primary education for each of your kids – on top of books, uniforms, shoes, bags etc – and you are earning the minimum wage of $5 per hour.

Or you had no job and no welfare support.

Imagine, too, that the school had not had new educational resources in six years.

Or that when the principal spoke about stemming the absenteeism rate she was talking about the teachers.

Tamboko High School classroom.

The Tamboko principal who works hard to keep his teacher absenteeism down.

How lucky we are in New Zealand that we don’t have to line up on payday in a queue about a hundred people long in hope the ATM still has money left when our turn comes.

How lucky we are that New Zealand generates 80 per cent of its power from renewable resources and does not rely solely on diesel.

How lucky we are that New Zealand is not continuing to clear fell its remaining native forests.

How lucky we are that New Zealand has a feisty news media that is not afraid to hold those in power to account.

Solomon Islanders know what they are missing.

Many of them travel back and forth to New Zealand and Australia, propping up both countries’ workforces and earning money that makes a real difference back in their home.

They know that luck comes from hard work. I’m lucky enough to have been reminded of that.

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