When the Life Force becomes suppressed, we renounce our higher, humanizing responsibilities. When we renounce our higher humanizing responsibilities, parental personality authorities dominate us. This is now the state of our society.”
– Sri Bhagavan YanchiGuruji
Since hearing the news that our home is to be “acquired” and bulldozed to build an expressway, I have had an education in politics. A ringside seat has given me a close look at the conduct of politicians, at both local and national levels. The illusion that I live in a democracy has been shattered.
The governance of this country seems closer to dictatorship than democracy. The nature of democracy is that all people have equal rights, and that people hold the ruling power, either directly or through their elected representatives. The role of politicians in a democracy is to act in service of those who put them in power, not to impose their will on the people for their own self-seeking motives.
One November morning last year, two representatives from the New Zealand Transport Agency arrived unannounced to visit us at home. They unfolded an aerial map, which showed yellow lines running straight through our property and through 24 of our neigbours’ homes and gardens. There was a plan to construct a new expressway, we were told, part of the first RoNS, a “Road of National Significance” for which our home would be required.
This was a bolt from the blue. The traffic in Kapiti was bumper to bumper along the State Highway Friday nights and holiday weekends; undoubtedly there was a need to make changes to roading. Behind us sat empty land, the wind blowing through the gorse, designated for over 50 years for roading. Successive councils had invested hundreds of thousands of ratepayers’ dollars in the design of the local two-lane Western Link Road on this land. But no one ever dreamed of building a massive new expressway. No one, that is, except the Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce, that is.
Rumour has it that as a schoolboy in Kapiti, Steven Joyce did a project on “the Sandhills Motorway.” The RoNS are the Minister’s special project, seven monolithic expressways to run the length of New Zealand. No matter that peak oil has passed and the price of petrol is skyrocketing. No matter that expressways are part of a 1950’s mentality, when oil was plentiful, and road vehicles were king. No matter that Europe is no longer building expressways, moving away from roads to “smart” sustainable integrated transport systems and the use of rail.
No matter that the Kapiti Coast District Council was within a month of starting construction on the Western Link Road,(WLR) when the Minister (himself an Auckland resident), first announced an expressway for Kapiti in 2009. In his plan, the Minister high-handedly swept aside years of council planning and research. The mayor reportedly said she had been “shafted”.
The Minister of Transport proclaims that RoNS are to promote economic development, for “the greater good.” For whose greater good? Certainly not for those of us dispossessed of homes. Not for the thousands of trees in our green belt that will fall to the bulldozers, the flight corridor for native birds winging their way between Kapiti Island and the Raumati hills. Not for the wildlife, nor for the occupants of 1350 homes left sitting beside a monster expressway. For the good of the trucks – huge trucks, known as “road trains” to thunder through quiet seaside towns.
Despite the Minister’s protestation that RoNS are essential for the country’s economic growth, figures for the Wellington- Levin expressways do not stack up. The cost-benefit ratio for the Kapiti part of the project was so low – 0.6% according to the SAHA report – that a second report averaging out the figures of seven roads was quickly commissioned. How it will benefit Kapiti to have trucks roaring through its heart, with few interchanges to allow vehicles off the expressway is hard to see. And the massive expenditure for the RoNS will take money from the health and education sectors, speeding the sale of assets by a government that is already borrowing $350 million a week.
The new expressway, to be constructed alongside the existing State Highway, will mean a total of 9 lanes of road at the entrance to the small seaside village of Raumati. It will cut a swathe through the centre of two more coastal townships, Paraparaumu and Waikanae, where a nine-metre high concrete interchange, with all night fluorescent lighting will be visible for miles.
After the expressway was first announced, the New Zealand Transport Agency embarked on what it termed a “consultation process.” Coloured brochures were delivered to letterboxes, with a list of reasons the expressway needed to demolish Raumati homes. Not one of the reasons stood up to close scrutiny. Spurious arguments were put forward to justify taking our houses: not wanting to encroach on park land (it would be required anyway), archeological and iwi concerns (there were no known remains), not wanting to build on peat (our houses were on peat lands). We found ourselves involved in a sophisticated game of smoke and mirrors.
At “expos” held in local halls, teams of NZTA employees, roading engineers, geo-technical engineers, and urban planners pointed smilingly at posters of the new expressway, our homes and land already erased. Oddly enough, the huge glossy posters showed not a hint of noise pollution, air contamination, oily run off, of carcinogens or respiratory ailments. There was not a single vehicle on them, just a shiny new road – the Minister’s dream of glory to ensure him a place in the hall of fame; his world of make believe translated into action by an entire ministerial department. No one asked the people of Kapiti whether they wanted a monolithic Road of National Significance to carve through their community.
Division and duplicity have been hallmarks of this process. At each stage, NZTA issued two equally unpalatable alternative routes, pitting affected groups against each other. In Raumati South, guardians of the Park and Steiner school under threat were set against homeowners; in Waikanae, owners of private property were set against local Maori, defending Wahi Tapu land and a cemetery.
While publicly declaring his willingness to meet with affected parties, the Minister has repeatedly made himself unavailable. Finally, after a letter to the paper, he agreed to meet with a group of residents about to lose their homes, on condition that they did not discuss “issues such as route choice and design”. When 300 protesters against the Kapiti road gathered on the steps of parliament on July 6, the minister chose to remain indoors, inviolable in his seat of power.
Is this the politics of integrity, of service on behalf of the people, or is it dictatorship, concerned above all with carrying forward a personal agenda? Politics is the expression of our collective values. In a culture where we have lost connection with the truth of who we are, and live instead from ego, then dictatorship will be the inevitable outcome. All around us, the dynamic of domination and conflict, victim and oppressor is being played out endlessly, as we live in our own egoic constructs.
Economics, not wisdom, is the criterion for most political decision-making. The result is the systematic desecration of our environment reaching such proportions it threatens the very future of this planet. From the perspective of the wise, at an individual level people are devitalized and passive, submitted to parental style authorities, a clear sign that we are not taking responsibility for our Conscious condition. The Spiritual Adept is One who restores us to our higher humanity.