John Campbell and Radio New Zealand has covered the issue extensively. The only explanation that the authorities and media come up with is the escalating cost of smokes. Graphic scenes of dairy workers cowering on the ground after being attacked, then gratuitously set-upon for a second or third time, seemingly just to rub it in, surely cannot be attributed to the increase in tobacco tax!
If we look to history it is not difficult to rationalise the dilemma. As the idiom goes, there is nothing new under the sun. For more than two thousand years, enterprising , immigrant traders have travelled and settled in far way places often treated with suspicion, verging on hatred. Migrant traders have been universally reviled as parasite rogues who exploit indigenous communities. Jews in particular have been persecuted for millennia, so much so that the term anti-semitism was coined to define the behaviour towards them. Ah, but little old New Zealand considers itself a non-racist country where all men are equal under God. Seemingly some a little more than others.
A few years ago, the writer gave a lift to a burly young brown-skinned south Aucklander. As we passed by the onion towers of a Hindu temple on the Great South Road, the erstwhile pleasant young man erupted with rage. “Fucking blot on the landscape, we don’t need this shit or them here,” he raved. A surprising level of hatred, particularly as this was a person of brown ethnicity spewing forth hatred towards another brown skinned entity.
Having previously not considered racial antagonism without a pakeha/palagi element, this was a new learning curve. Not long after, the writer moved to a small south Auckland community and stayed there for 4 and a half years. Shoplifting by kids as young as 5 or 6 was commonplace. Worse still, there were no real consequences. Parents when confronted of their children’s misdemeanours, just looked skyward and sighed. A far cry from the days when offenders would be frogmarched by an angry parent to the diary for the purpose of offering-up a craven apology as well as having pocket money stopped for a month. So, with no effective deterrents many youngsters in that neck-of- the-woods graduated to more serious crime. Some were recruited by adults to take part in house burglaries, safe in the knowledge the youngsters had immunity from prosecution. Drugs were also commonplace and schoolkids were targeted by adults to trade their prescription Ritalin for cash.
Equally alarming was street-begging by aggressive teenaged girls who would stand-over victims to get “donations.” Two high profile sisters aged 14 and 15, moved up a notch and conducted their own burglaries. They even went as far as a robbing a Maori family of tangi money collected for a relative who’d passed. A laptop and tablet were also stolen from the unoccupied house. Fortunately, the tablet had “tracking” and police quickly located it under one of the girl’s beds, to which she retorted, “So big deal, you’ve found a tablet, now you have to link us to stealing it.” Such hardened criminal attitude seemed difficult to comprehend from one so young. Days later a smashed-up laptop belonging to the victim family was found dumped in a park.
Many dairies in that town, particularly those close to schools, operated under a siege mentality. Particularly worrying was the time immediately after school where children went en masse into shops. Not all children were intent on stealing, nonetheless, for dairy owners it was a time for all-hands- on-deck where the entire family would stand guard in the aisles.
While the spotlight is currently on south Auckland, the problem exists in some form all over the country. The proliferation of liquor outlets has done nothing to endear immigrant traders with communities. Inevitably new booze barns seem to be largely operated by Indians and for this reason migrant traders per se are perceived to be a major contributor to the alcohol problems of society.
Thankfully, it is not all bad news. Children of dairy owners tend to do well at school, seeing education as a means of escape from long hours working in dairies. They tend to get good grades and secure careers beyond the dairy industry. These second generation Kiwis adopt high dress codes and drive late model cars, literally aspiring to their dreams, while many of their hoodie-clad counterparts continue to rob dairies as a way to get by. When migrants make it into professional jobs, they integrate well on both professional and social levels. Their lives seem a million miles away from besieged dairy owners of south Auckland.
It would seem that immigrant traders just need a fair go to become fully contributing Kiwis. There is no magic bullet that will fix prejudice and hate, but reporting the issue with one eye closed is not helpful. Locking offenders in gaol and providing enhanced security for dairy owners simply puts a band-aid on a gaping wound.
New Zealand needs to walk the talk and embrace the fact that we are a diverse nation and are stronger for it.