I know someone who knows John Key. I know people (or know people who know people) who know all the party leaders, and who knowÂ each cabinet minister, the mayor, senior journos and public servants. Who else matters? Because I probably know someone who knows them too.
If I meet someone influential we’ll do that kiwi thing and figure out the connection, and in 5 mins we’ll know we have friends or family in common.
I know those people because I’m middle class, well educated and have lived in NZ my whole life. I expect most of you can make the same claims, it’s the beauty of being at the heart of a small connected country.Â
ThatÂ connectedness helps me in a variety of tiny ways; I can ring a friend and say “So, who do I need to talk to to get the promisedÂ traffic calming measures on my street under way?” if I ever needed something passed through a Minister’s office I’d have coffee withÂ a mate and ask who’d be the best person to get the request to.Â When a less connected friend was struggling with immigration rules I hooked him up with a friend who explained how it really works, and permanent residence was back on track.
More importantly it makes me feel connected and part of society, I know that the rules are made by people like me for people like me and I know people who know (and make) the rules. I’m confident that I can make my way through the maze, and that my friends will make sure I do.
New immigrants don’t have that connectedness nor do most beneficiaries. A kid from a working class background starting university doesn’t have the connectedness advantage I did.
The informality and friendliness that we love about New Zealand can also be insular and exclusive. From the inside we’re a classless level friendly society, from the outside we look a like a clique.