|When it came to the Colmar/Brunton poll on marriage equality poll, I wasn't particularly surprised to see Auckland trailing other New Zealand metropolitan centres. Why should this be the case, however?
I am not denying that other New Zealand metropolitan centres have problems with pluralism and diversity. Particularly, Christchurch has a serious problem with violent white supremacist underclass extremists and they need to be eradicated, even if their disunity and internal schisms render them politically impotent.
However, Auckland has its own difficulties to negotiate. True, New Zealand's largest metropolitan centre has appreciable cultural diversity and the largest LGBT community in this country...but it also has the largest number of Christian Right pressure groups and fundamentalist/social conservative media outlets. Consider this... only Right to Life New Zealand is headquartered in Christchurch. No other Christian Right groups are headquartered in any of the other major New Zealand metropolitan centres.
By contrast, Family First and the Conservative Party, Radio Rhema, Challenge Weekly, Voice for Life (anti-abortion), Family Life International, Investigate and Radio Live are all concentrated in Auckland. Why is this? And the answer isn't "Mount Roskill"- that might have been the case once, but that particular once-fundamentalist suburb has been modified through thankful new settlement from East and South Asian migrants.
Nor is necessarily the case that this social conservatism emanates from Pacific Island communities. For one thing, while it is indisputably the case that first-generation migrant communities tend to be insular and oriented toward preserving traditional cultural values from infringement by palagi host culture, younger Pacific Island generational cohorts are more open to different forms of cultural expression from youth subcultures, and interaction with members of the same youth cohort from other cultural backgrounds. Thus, as was the case when marriage equality was debated in multicultural Canada, we are witnessing the emergence of diverse Pacific Island voices about gender identity and sexuality issues.
To be sure, there are undeniable Pacific Island social conservative voices- conservative Mormon and Mangere Labour MP Su'a William Sio, Pacific Viewpoint (Triangle Television) presenter Setitia Miller and Word of Life Church Samoan minister Tavale Matai'a. However, in that context, the primary "problem" will be the "Tamaki Effect"- mobilisational scale is one thing, but it is countered by the relative impoverishment of Pacific Island communities. Moreover, we are currently enduring a severe recession, which is hitting Maori and Pacific Island communities particularly hard. Destiny Church found this, and Pacific Island fundamentalist opponents of marriage equality may share their limitations.
Moreover, this Pacific Island marriage equality opposition seems restricted to Auckland. One notes that Charles Chauvel and Kris Faafoi (Labour) do not share it, and Wellington Pacific Island communities within Porirua and elsewhere do not seem to be voicing similar objections.
It may be the fact that Louisa Wall is herself Maori, but Maori communities seem to have already gone through this set of experiences. When it came to Destiny Church, mainstream Maori abandoned the sect and shunned its political vehicles, the Destiny and Family Parties, in the polls. Hannah Tamaki's ill-judged attempt to gain control of the Maori Women's Welfare League presidency led to further backlash. Mainstream Maori are far more concerned about asset sales, water ownership and access rights, environmental guardianship, iwi land claims, language and cultural preservation than so-called 'moral' issues. Their communities have other things to worry about. Although John Tamihere and Willie Jackson are exceptions, they are isolated exceptions.
If it isn't ethnicity or geography, then why has the Auckland fundamentalist community mushroomed? It's quite possible that the answer is economics and haphazard growth. Urbanisation tends to lead to secularisation, and in the context of Auckland, urbanisation has been a piecemeal and uneven process. Because of that, there are rural and provincial outcrops still. Granted, Pentecostal churches are relatively growing, even if that is far outstripped now by accelerating secularisation. However, there are fewer of them, they have fewer branches with smaller congregations and their parishioners are fickle, heading off toward the next celebrity preacher and "in" megachurch. Given that Auckland has a larger demographic base, and fundamentalists tend to be concentrated within small businesses, Auckland migration may provide them with greater market economies of scale.
Of course, there are questions about whether or not those economies of scale are more apparent than real. In the case of Pacific Island social conservatism, economies of scale might be deceptive, given their lower socio-economic status and the impediment that might present to their mobilisation. One saw something similar in the context of Destiny Church and its satellite parties.
As for Family First, the key word may be 'virtual.' With the sole exception of their "Value Your Vote" election publicity and "Forums on the Family," it is noticeable that most of their presence is online. This raises some questions about the actual offline extent of its constituency and support base, and the authenticity of some of its respondents. For example, the Family First petition against marriage equality had a number of evident falsified signatures, which is an occupational hazard with such populist tools. Why is Bob McCoskrie seemingly their only spokesperson?
While the Conservative Party may have the advantage of Colin Craig's business expertise and infrastructural tools, there seems no doubt that no matter what stealth tactics that he adopts, the Conservative Party is yet another New Zealand fundamentalist microparty.
Again, its level of apparent support has varied within opinion polls, from almost three percent at the New Zealand General Election in November 2011, to anywhere from half a percentage point (Roy Morgan) to one point five percent (New Zealand Herald) in current opinion poll ratings. And unfortunately, given the stronger concentration of anti-bill/fundamentalists in Auckland, one needs to accept that the latter polling is probably accurate, whereas Roy Morgan's sample would be likelier to be more distributed across the country, driving down Conservative Party support levels.
This has certain implications, reflected in statistical measures. It means that most of the marriage equality opponents are concentrated in Auckland, so Auckland LGBT communities need to recognise that and adapt to this situation accordingly . Craig Young - 3rd October 2012