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Lonely Planet has recently declared Wellington one of the best top 10 cities in the world and “The Coolest little Capital in ther World.”

This has out done such iconic cities as New York, Paris and London. Naturally, a number of New Zealanders who like polling on Stuff’s polls have claimed that this is a silly assertion.

It has become a part of the NZ psyche of pragmatism that anything seen as a positive can’t possibly be that good and we shouldn’t get our hopes up. It’s an odd mentality given that this country actually has a lot to crow about, we just seem to have it ingrained into our national identity that we shouldn’t.

The reality is that because we live here, we tend to take what makes Wellington and this country for granted.

To me one of the key things is that NZers are often awed by the cacophony and civilisation of larger cities because we just don’t see it here. New York, to the NZer, is an exotic and monolithic monster of a city that is always moving and always bustling. There are sights we never see at home, and so much mad variety that it can astonish at any given moment.

So naturally its difference would make NZers rate it as an amazing city – and it is.

But Wellington has a different wonderment to it. When I first came to Wellington what impressed me is the blend of nature and urban. This is what inspired the Winding City for me. Wellington entwines itself into and around its environment. Where Paris, London and New York are examples of civilisation triumphing over their landscapes; Wellington’s Town Belt and coastlines still retain some of their primal geography. Houses peek out from behind green veils, roads precariously wind up the hillsides, hugging the natural shape of the hills. Tunnels drive through hillsides still covered in native foliage, and you can one minute be in the urban centre, then in a suburb with colonial style houses the suddenly be in the middle of a small natural valley with only one or two houses visible before turning a corner and suddenly plunging back into urban sprawl.

The restaurants are multiple and varied, full of interesting and often friendly people. Yet there is space to breath. Walking down Lambton Quay and having room to move and see the tall buildings which are almost a time capsule I themselves. One is an old building from the early 1900s, a 60s building next door and further along a new 00s style structure. Framing these is the looming greenery of the Town belt.

Maybe it’s NZ’s slow pace. While busier than its island neighbours, we still move at a laconic pace compared to the greater cities of the world. While there are those NZers who don’t find this pace appealing – and this slow pace does lead to people picking at smaller issues – it is partially this pace that makes us so appealing to people from the great cities NZers adore.

The wonder of our beaches and natural landscape that is always a short journey from our urban centres. Dramatic mountains, great oceans and primal forests.

I genuinely feel New Zealand is the greatest place to live as a landscape. I also feel that we, as a nation, need to forge a new identity that is better in line with the country we live in. An identity built on the harmony between our natural landscape and our cities. Our technological development and our agricultural development. We should embrace our many cultures and the shared pride in a country that should encourage calm and contemplation but also inspiration and adventure.

Our nation has been suffering recently from drinking problems, violent crimes, domestic abuse and suicides. Our pragmatic identity seems to be to just accept these things as inevitable. Yet we live in a landscape of beauty and serene yet awesome sites. We should be inspired by our landscape, be proud of our cities and return to the unity that this country once believed it was founded on. We have struggled with this, and will continue to do so – but we should not be wasting time trying to keep up with the Joneses.

We already have one of the best living conditions and have some of the best cities to live in worldwide. Screw the Joneses. Let’s forge our own destiny, our own identity that the Joneses will be racing to keep up with us.

We should embrace educational, social, technological and ecological development. A recent study showed that even with our problems, NZ has a better level of education per person than many western nations. We were once known as an inclusive secular nation that was one of the first to give women equal voting rights. We once were at the forefront of invention. And because of our close relationship to our natural landscape we are uniquely placed to combine those others strengths to produce new technologies that will help less ecologically responsible nations reduce and possibly reverse the damage to their countries.

But first, we need to stop thinking we can be like Australia or the US. We need to stop thinking we need to give foreign interests carte blanche to plunder our resources. We need to be different and think outside the box.

We will need foreign investment, but it needs to be wisely managed and pursued correctly. We need to embrace the skills of those who have them regardless of that person’s ethnicity, gender or preference.

I’m not proposing we become communists, but that we try new ideas.

I love New Zealand. I love Wellington. I also think that this country has a lot more to offer the world than we have allowed ourselves too. We need to stop being pragmatists and become optimists.

Come on New Zealand! We earned the accolades, let’s enjoy them and be inspired by them!

Conan

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September 2017
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