Guernsey

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The latest Eyebright ‘Joy Giver’ is Kay Duquemin. That’s pronounced something like ‘do-come -in’.  Although not as common as ‘Owen’ in Wales, or ‘Smith’ in England, there’s plenty of Duquemins on the Channel Island, Guernsey.

Seeking a less stressful life, and hot on the heels of friends Soo & Simon Kneebone, and Diane & Steve Moriarty, Kay and her husband, (also a Simon), emigrated from Guernsey to New Zealand.  All three couples settled here in Tasman with their children.

The name Guernsey may conjure images of a temperate isle, hedgerows and stone buildings.  That is true, but prosperity and tourism has conspired to change its rustic character.

Guernsey is smaller than Waiheke Island.  You could fit one hundred and fifty Guernseys in the Tasman District.  Yet it’s like an independent country.   It’s a British Isle, but not part of the UK.  It’s what’s known as a bailiwick.  Guernsey has its own currency, although British money is also legal tender, and, pound for pound, has the same value.

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 The UK sees to the bailiwick’s defense and its representation at the UN.  Otherwise, Guernsey is self-governing.

Regulation has contained its population growth.  In the last thirty years it has increased by a modest 7% to be 62,000.  Compare that with Tasman’s 70% growth from 34,000 to 58,000.  The big mover for Guernsey has however been the net worth of her citizens.

Guernsey is a great place to be rich.  Along with Jersey, the other self-governing Channel Island, Guernsey has very low taxes.  Income tax is a flat 20%.  There’s no company, capital gains, or inheritance tax; and no GST (or VAT as they call it in the U.K.).

In the 1970s banks from around the world gravitated to the Channel Islands.  By the 1990s Guernsey had eighty registered banks.  That number has, since, reduced, due to mergers, but not the volume of business.

Low taxation is not the only thing that attracted banks.  Guernsey’s tiny government maintains a stable, well regulated, framework in which they can operate. International corporations have also made Guernsey their home.  A familiar example is Specsavers.  Investment has directly boosted the Island economy and then generated further wealth, and well-paid jobs.

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Saint Peter Port

Guernsey's commercial heart, and the seat of government.

The ancestral homes of Jersey and Guernsey cows are now the domains of high rollers who are accustomed to having their way, right away. 

Kay was growing up in Guernsey as the change occurred, and is happy to have escaped to New Zealand.  She told me about an instance where her husband, Simon, a tiler, was sitting on the beach after having worked a six-day week.  He was approached by one of his clients, and berated for resting when there was work to be done at his house.  The other two men are both builders, and were also subjected to demands in excess of what they could reasonably do.  It’s a case of wealth leading to impatience and intolerance.

 

With 1000 plus homes built or being built across the road from Eyebright, no doubt there are similar work stresses occurring .  Typically, however, our relaxed Kiwi demeanour dampens down our response.  When it comes to stressing, we are below the median for the developed world.

Soo said that within hours of arriving in Nelson, she and Simon knew that this is where they wanted to be.  The location, the town and the climate were wonderful, but it was the politeness and helpfulness of the people that was telling. 

 

Kay says that competitive materialism has become a feature of Guernsey.  ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ is a motivator I read and hear about, but is not something I’ve noticed in New Zealand. 

The Kiwi way is to mind your own business, rather than comment on somebody else’s.  Kay recalls that in Guernsey, she almost always encountered someone who knew her, and they weren’t reticent about expressing their opinions.  In fairness to Guernsey, Kay’s family and the family she married into was deeply rooted in the island.  How she was regarded, would be affected by current and preceding relatives.

 

In the years before Covid, hundreds of thousands of tourists mobbed Guernsey making for a crush in the main town.  But in the country side there are still places where you could find solitude.  Facing France, to the east, Guernsey has good swimming beaches, and there are wave-bashed rocky shores to the west.

Both Guernsey and Jersey also have some interesting relics from their German occupation during world-war two. Both have underground hospitals that you can visit.  And although the Germans widened roads and improving intersections, there are still narrow country lanes to explore.

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Petite Port Bay

Guernsey has the simplest possible electoral system.  Just as, in New Zealand, we voted on electoral reform in 1993, recently, in Guernsey, there was a referendum to decide if they would stick with a system based on geographic areas, or go with one of a number of other options or hybrids.  The people choose the least complex option.  That is selecting thirty-eight representatives from across the whole of the bailiwick.  At their next election, every voter will be able to select tick to thirty-eight candidates from a list that will exceed one hundred.   

There are no political parties and campaigning is much like our local government elections.  Hopefuls sell themselves on the basis of their views, reputation, and competence rather than specific issues.

The winners form the government for the next four years, and get paid £40,000 per annum, with a £12,000 top up if selected to be the president one of six committees: Economic Development, Sport & Culture, Employment & Social Security, Environment & Infrastructure, Health & Social Care, Home Affairs.

A seventh committee is the ‘policy and resources committee’, and it’s president is also deemed ‘the head of government’.  She or he gets paid about £70,000 per annum.  Committee presidents are selected by the representatives. 

Thank you, Guernsey for sending us one of your daughters, Kay Duquemin.

We are super lucky at Eyebright because we have fantastic staff.   People like Kay gravitate towards us and totally get our fanatic dedication to customer service.  Kay is on duty most Saturdays and occasionally fills in when other Eyebright Joy Givers are on leave.