Henk Habraken worries that New Zealand is not the place it used to be. The 60-year-old came to New Zealand on a ship at age four, his Dutch father looking to set up a new life as a farmer after spending the war in a German concentration camp.
"Dad left because the economy in Europe was not going anywhere. And people said if you want to go farming, New Zealand was the best place to be."
That was true back then. These days, Mr Habraken is not so sure.
"We used to be a get-up-and-go society, where you could fix anything with a pair of pliers and a piece of number 8 wire," he says.
"Yes, New Zealand is still a good country, a nice country to be in, but we are making it far too difficult and I think it's going to get worse."
Mr Habraken, a Tuakau farmer, was one of 1000 voters questioned for the first Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll to gain a snapshot of how we feel about New Zealand and where we are headed, compared with a year ago.
People were asked whether things had become better or worse across a range of measures in those 12 months.
The economy was the standout concern.
Among those we questioned, 45 per cent thought the economy was worse, whereas just 21 per cent thought it was better.
The trickle-down effect is that people feel less confident about their own circumstances. One in three believes their financial security has lessened over the past 12 months, compared with 23 per cent who felt their situation had improved.
But on the flipside, nearly as many people think we are doing a good job looking after the environment as not, more of us feel pride in being New Zealanders and we are evenly split over whether our sense of living in a positive, happy community has become better or worse.
Some of the survey findings are surprising - young men are more likely than older New Zealanders to feel positive and optimistic about the country's direction, while those in their 40s and 50s - children largely of the 1960s - are comfortable financially, and optimistic about their own prospects, but less positive about the direction of the economy in general.
They also worry about the protection of the environment and New Zealand's core values.
Sociologist Mark Lloyd agrees he is probably a poster child for that group.
"I have two daughters aged 20 and 21, but while I'm financially reasonably secure, I can't help but think about their lives and feeding into that are concerns about superannuation - can we support the growing [number of] baby boomers coming through into retirement?"
The Victoria University lecturer says it is no surprise that people feel more negatively about a range of measures when there is also a general feeling of negativity about the economy.
"What you will find if there is any trend [is that] it does reflect a general negativity . . . if there is a core thing causing negativity on one issue, it might translate into every question you ask."
The survey shows that some feel things have improved across a range of measures, but in some areas - race relations, the sense that New Zealand really looks after its people, and the sense that we live without too much government interference - more people think things have become worse in those areas over the past 12 months than better.
Mr Habraken is particularly hot on government interference. He is about to wind down his 16-hectare pig farm to make the move into dairying for himself and his sons because he reckons he is drowning in red tape.
He agrees that New Zealand has become worse at looking after its people and also believes race relations is worse.
"When the government took land away forcibly from some Maori and they are given it back, I agree that is legitimate, it was taken away for bloody nothing. But what is happening is we are always looking back and back.
"What a lot of baloney that the Maoris suddenly own the water."
Across 1000 interviews, one of the themes that emerged was a growing sense of "us and them".
STAY-AT-HOME dad Matthew West, 35, from Taupo, agrees there seems to be a growing undercurrent of resentment in New Zealand toward those who have made it financially.
"You see that in higher tax rates for the rich. If you're rich - which I'm not even if I'd like to be - you pay more tax anyway just because you earn more money. But it creates that sort of environment - people think ‘Oh, that person's rich, he gets this and that, he can dodge his tax' etc.
"I think the whole system is set up to breed that resentment. I do think that's becoming a big issue."
Dr Lloyd says some of that sense of "us and them" has been fuelled by worldwide events and the growing transfer of wealth to just a few, which has spawned the likes of the Occupy movement. But National's asset sales plan is the sort of issue that also helped drive that feeling.
The Government plans to sell a minority stake in the state-owned energy companies and says it will encourage Kiwis to buy shares with loyalty schemes and other sweeteners.
"They say you need only $2000 to buy your shares but the average New Zealand family has substantially less than that," Dr Lloyd says.
These are figures that obviously stick in one's mind.
"The irony of the fact that the nation owns these assets collectively - and is now being forced to buy them back, but it's only the wealthy who can do so . . . it's very in-your-face."
But Mr West, an upholsterer by trade, thinks the Government is doing the right thing.
"I don't think a government needs to be running a business. It should be worried about running the country and let business run business, and if they can get money out of it, great."
But although he is generally optimistic about where the country is headed, and personally optimistic about his own circumstances - "my wife has just bought into an accounting firm, so that's had a lot to do with it" - he does worry about a breakdown in community spirit.
"I think people are keeping more and more to themselves. Even from what I can remember 10 to 15 years ago, the community spirit isn't there. It's very easy to make acquaintances but it's getting harder and harder to make friends. People don't reach out any more."
Up in Auckland, however, Bev Robitai feels community spirit is as strong as ever.
"We've got quite a nice neighbourhood, we all look out for each other, take care of the weaker members, it's always been that way," says the 56-year-old murder mystery writer.
When our pollsters questioned her, she was feeling upbeat about the country and about her own circumstances.
"Our financial situation has improved; my husband has gone from temporary contracting to a fulltime position so we're actually more secure than we were. For a couple of years there he had no income and I had two-tenths of bugger all, so any change would have been an improvement."
They survived by running up big debts on the credit cards and because they had a mortgage-free home.
But that has not affected her outlook on life and she says she remains a "pretty optimistic" person anyway.
"I think possibly the people of my generation have come through some fairly tough times already. When we came out of uni, admittedly we were not saddled with loans and debt, but we were pretty hard- pressed to find a job. In those days if you'd seen a sign for a vacancy in a shop window the place would have been mobbed.
"I don't think things now are that bad and they will recover."
- © Fairfax NZ News
How important is NZ's anti-nuclear policy to you?Related story: It's all good, just don't mention the nukes