Plenty to celebrate in here and now

Cr Stu Duncan has a marvellous way with words and comes out with witticisms that, on occasions, have brought a council meeting to a standstill while the rest of us contemplate them.

One of his sayings which I have taken on board as a bit of a mantra myself is ‘‘the good old days are here and now, so let’s get on with it’’.

I take this to mean that there’s not a lot of use in looking back at ‘‘the good old days’’ with rosetinted glasses and thinking that now and the future are somehow lessened in comparison.

That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges today and certainly tomorrow, but I think some people can get too bogged down in little things without taking a broader view of how fortunate we are.

Take our average life expectancy, for example, surely the most basic measure of how we are going.

This has risen in New Zealand from 71 years in the year I was born to 82 years today; 11 years gained in the course of my lifetime.

That is astounding when you think about it.

There are many other things to celebrate, too, such as the ability to talk face to face to offspring living overseas at the push of a button, so different from back when we got to speak to my older brother by scratchy phone line twice in two years while he was on his OE.

And I marvel at the thought that 150 or so years ago there was no ability to hear recorded sound.

If you were lucky enough to go to a concert, that was your one experience of that music; now the world of music, speeches and thoughts from all the people of the world are at our fingertips too.

I was reflecting on this last week during a panel discussion among mayors I attended on lowering the voting age to 16.

There was very vocal opposition to this concept from many in the audience, but in all the noise, the arguments against weren’t terribly compelling to me.

On the flipside, one of the panellists, the 23-year-old deputy mayor of Nelson, Rohan O’Neill-Stevens, spoke in a sensible, compelling way that put many of his much more senior colleagues in the room to shame and slayed most of the arguments against giving other young ones a voice.

I know there are some who look back fondly to the days when council chambers were 100% full of older men making the decisions, but having come from sitting on boards where almost all the members were male to chairing a council where the gender split is 50:50, I can say from experience that gender diversity around the table adds huge value.

For me, the huge challenges that we face tomorrow are likely to be better met by hearing from, and listening to, the diversity of thought younger people bring.