The Florida of the South Pacific.
New Zealand 2025.
May 28, 2025.
Ladies and gentlemen. It’s a beautiful clear morning here in Auckland City. We’re heading for a maximum temperature of 14 degrees, and the local time is now 10:30am. Please remain seated if you’d like to, or get up and walk around the plane if you prefer. New regulations mean we’re no longer allowed to tell passengers what to do in New Zealand.
As the aircraft taxied towards the terminal Paul looked out the window. It was his first time home in two years, he wished it were under happier circumstances. Paul was coming home because last week his father had died.
The plane passed a large billboard. “Labour’s reign of woke terror is over” read the quote above the giant grinning faces of Prime Minister Luxon and Deputy Prime Minister Seymour. Across the bottom was their slogan, “All United, All Equal, All Free”.
Paul tried not to think about the slogan. Instead he thought about having his Uber driver stop on the way so he could get a Steak and Cheese pie and maybe an L&P. He was thinking of the flaky pastry when a young lady wearing an “Air Hostess” badge smiled at him. He responded with a friendly kia ora.
He cringed a little hearing those words in his acquired English accent. But not as much as the cabin crew member. She visibly shrunk back and looked very concerned.
The woman sitting next to Paul, called Kate, turned and said you haven’t been home in a while have you? Paul shook his head. They’re not allowed to say kia ora, she whispered the last two words. The Minister of Transport told them they wouldn’t be allowed to call the airline Air New Zealand any more, unless they “cut the woke crap”.
He told them all communications must be clear. We all speak English, so all messages must be in English. If they wanted to use Māori greetings then they should change the name to Air Aotearoa. Kate smiled at him. Some of us thought that was quite a good idea actually.
Paul sat back in his chair and closed his eyes, he could remember reading all about it from the other side of the world. During the 2023 campaign the two men on the billboard had shied away from policies but focussed on making issues out of things that weren’t really issues at all.
Freedom of Speech, One Person One Vote, Merit not Quotas, the messages had been targeted and Paul’s fellow citizens had voted for them. Some voters even reported receiving White Lives Matter messages, but they couldn’t be linked to either party.
Paul thought back to the last time he was home. Most Kiwis were looking at the crazy regressive laws being enacted in Florida and shaking their heads only in America. Meanwhile it turned out others had been drooling and fantasising about bringing such laws here. There had been a battle royale between ACT and National in the election over those voters.
He looked again at the arrivals card to check he’d filled it all in. It was a lot simpler than it used to be. On the front of the card was the message:
New Zealand welcomes Free Speech.
Discussing climate change, diversity, or anything else woke is forbidden.
As per the National/ACT coalition agreement 2023, this does not apply to Christians.
Walking through the airport he noticed a few things. Firstly anything Māori had been removed, including the gates you walked through at arrival. He thought that was a bit sad, it’d really felt like getting home walking under those carvings.
Where they had been there was now a large advertisement on the wall. Just arrived from America? Get your first Kiwi gun right here in the arrivals hall. There was a photo on the banner of the Minister for Civilian Defence, Nicole McKee. She was wearing camouflage gear, holding a rifle, and grinning into the camera.
He also noticed a large group of women waiting. At the baggage carousel he saw Kate, who’d been sitting next to him, so he asked her what the group was. Wondering if perhaps it was a sporting team or artistic troupe travelling.
It turned out the women had returned on a special flight from Sydney, where they’d been for abortions. These were now illegal in New Zealand. Every week the Minister for Christ, Simon O’Connor, and a group of anti-choice protestors, booed and yelled shame at women as they ran the gauntlet to departures. Paul looked over at them and thought Jesus, aren’t they going through enough without these creeps spewing their hatred for women at them?
What a bizarre combination of so called freedom and fundamentalism it was, he thought. Where the government could preach freedom, while telling a woman what she could do with her body. That people were now free to tell racist jokes, but you’d lose your job if you said kia ora.
Still, some things seemed good. The Uber he called was only $5, not even enough to cover the petrol. Electric Vehicles had been banned because it was deemed their use could encourage discussion of Climate Change. Which was also now banned.
Since all employment legislation such as minimum wages, and leave requirements had been cancelled, many people (including Uber drivers) were now entirely dependent on tips. He discussed this with his driver, but he seemed quite happy with things. Although Paul did notice the words he was saying were printed on a laminated card on the dashboard.
No more pronouns, no more pride parades, no climate change, no transgender people in bathrooms, no Māori names on signs, no more diversity programs in the public sector - the private sector can do whatever they want - anything. It is true freedom that you don’t get anywhere else. Except maybe Florida, that shining city on a hill.
Paul ignored the fact that Florida was a state rather than a city. He figured it was a state of mind as much as a geographical location. In a newspaper he’d picked up in London there was an article about New Zealand being the Florida of the South Pacific.
How it had attracted characters regarded as crooks in their home countries, who were now happily wandering around the Auckland viaduct without a care as if it was Havana before the revolution. Leo Molloy had even opened a bar called Cuban Exiles, comparing his patrons to those who had fled to Florida. It was also a nod to new US president, Ron DeSantis, who’d done much to fight woke-ness as Governor of Florida.
Paul remembered when he’d been home in 2020. At the start of the whole Covid thing. No one was praising the US or trying to emulate them then. He’d come home for the wedding of his best mate and gotten stuck living with his parents through lockdown. He felt quite emotional thinking about that time, considering the reason for this trip.
Last year, in 2024, there had been a new Covid strain emerge, more transmissible, and more deadly. When it came the government had told people to just ignore it and soldier on. Where other countries, that’d fared badly during the first waves of Covid, had learnt lessons, New Zealand had gone backwards. Ten thousand people had died in six weeks. The poster child was now the example others gave, of what not to do.
Paul’s parents avoided it for a long time, but two weeks ago his father tested positive.
The Uber pulled into the driveway of his family home. He embraced his mother and they sat and talked about the changes. Silly little things like the word incel having been banned, a bottom line for ACT in the coalition negotiations. Larger things like Waitangi Day now being called New Zealand Day. Horrible things like it now being perfectly legal to openly discriminate.
Eventually they just sat together quietly. Then after a time he said “I wish I’d voted”. She looked at him, so like the man she met and fell in love with 30 years earlier, and smiled. Tears welling up in her eyes as she said “me too Paul, me too. I wish everybody had. Then he’d still be here”. And she sank into his father’s chair and sobbed.