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Current as of 05/12/16 05:59PM NZST

Mood of the Boardroom: Inequality big problem for NZ: Air NZ chief


Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon is urging a more strategic approach to some major issues facing New Zealand.

Luxon says NZ has a lot of advantages over bigger places in getting things done.

"But our worst excesses are that we can be a bit enthusiastic, amateurish, and a bit tactical, and we don't fundamentally solve comprehensively for good strategy."

Luxon points to some real emerging issues he believes concern all New Zealanders.

"Inequality is a big problem for us because it's getting back to the fabric of who are we as New Zealanders, and what's our narrative about what we're trying to do as this country, and what we want to be and what we don't want to be."

He questions whether enough attention is paid to the country's narrative. "We went into a more tactical conversation around the flag debate for example, without having that foundational support or narrative in place. So I think when you talk about inequality, as New Zealanders we either -- implicitly or explicitly -- have very strong views about where we think we should be on that continuum.

"And we haven't had that debate as a nation yet about what that means for us all. Because with that comes some sacrifices about choices that you get to make, about how you might want that to be, and some consequences -- good or bad."

The airline boss cites infrastructure as a second big issue which needs to be comprehensively and strategically solved. "As a CEO you build strategic plans to tool your business or to upgrade it or reform it. From the top to bottom of this country there's a list of infrastructure," Luxon explains.

"Central banks are running out of tools, and monetary policy, I think, has run its course. Germany can do a negative interest rate 10-year bond, New Zealand can do a 10-year bond for 2 per cent.

"So why wouldn't you fire up when debt's so cheap, and actually go off and do some one-off projects that fundamentally enhance our medium-term economic wealth?"

Luxon also cites the exponential growth in digitisation, which is fundamentally disrupting industries; noting that NZ's education system is still prescribed on "how we went to school".

When you talk about inequality, as New Zealanders we either -- implicitly or explicitly -- have very strong views about where we think we should be on that continuum.
Christopher Luxon, Air NZ

"It's not just about numeracy and literacy -- it's going to be about digital literacy. Our kids now are learning in different ways. It's important to resolve as this issue feeds directly into rising inequality, which in turn will become a bigger problem economically, socially and politically for us as a country."

Luxon recently unveiled a record result for the national flag carrier. Though the aviation market is becoming increasingly cut-throat he says "our relative performance is actually pretty good in the world".

- NZ Herald

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