The Chinese calendar marks February 10 as the end of the Year of the Dragon and the start of the Lunar New Year. For 2013, it will be the Year of the Water Snake.
The Chinese New Year does not always fall on the same date but moves around because it is anchored to solar/lunar events and is the halfway mark for the cycle of 12 Chinese astrological signs.
The water snake is considered a careful, stealthy creature that plans every detail before making a move.
It prefers to work alone but has charisma that can readily charm others into doing their bidding. That description sounds so like a politician to me that I feel, with February 10 just ahead, it is an appropriate time to cast a glance over the possible outlook for our politicians and their respective parties in the coming year.
For the National Party it will be snakes and ladders as they propose then retreat from policies as voters start to understand the expression "beware of the snake in the grass". The sudden demise of various ministers will make John Key look like the barracuda that swallowed a beach ball. Hekia Parata will be summoned to the headmaster's office and dismissed for continually failing at education. Gerry Brownlee will not be swallowed whole as he might prove a bit of a mouthful but, like the historic buildings of Christchurch, he will find his powers dismantled brick by brick till there is nothing left to do but recycle some other old ideas.
The principal coalition partner, the Maori Party, will find to its cost that the snake can be poisonous to both the party and its supporters. Their followers will abandon them in order to keep their votes well away from the venomous reach of right-wing policies and will transfer their loyalties back to Labour. The Maori Party will find themselves walking the one major plank of their policy programme that is Whanau Ora into oblivion.
Whanau Ora is a concept - a practice model - it is not a product that should be bought and sold as a contracted package to some providers and not to others.
No one would argue that an approach to social and health problems that views the individual within the wider context of family, environment and culture is the ideal way to improve outcomes.
It should be an expected practice model in all situations, not just for those who have been given money and contracts to provide this as a service. Just as past colonial governments traded iron and muskets for Maori land, so the party of Maori has been bought off by government money. It has traded a coalition agreement for contracted services that pitch providers as competitors against each other - the classic divide and rule strategy.
Labour may prove a slippery and elusive choice for voters. Like the snake, they may shed their old skin and take on a new appearance perhaps as the new modern but old Labour - the political party that working people with long memories will recognise.
As for the minor parties, they will all vanish in a puff of hubris. Mana, Act, Progressives, NZ First and United Future will all be gone, leaving only fond memories of one-man bands and the tattered remnants of shonky policy ideas. The Greens will remain sustainable and grow their voter base regardless of what they do or say because the planet is telling us to listen.
Wishing you Gung hay fat choy - prosperity in the Chinese New Year of the Water Snake.
Terry Sarten is a musician, writer, social worker and situationalist.
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