Right now we have a chance to build a better New Zealand - this moment will not last and it must be used wisely.
This is the message to politicians and business leaders from Rebecca Mills, co-ordinating author of a new discussion paper, Build Back Better Framework, which provides a process for rebuilding New Zealand after Covid-19 and identifies principles and questions to enable confident decision-making.
The framework recommends eight projects to start on, based on insights from interviews with more than 20 business and community leaders, inlcuding former BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly and Orion NZ chair Raewyn Jones.
Mills, founder of The Lever Room, a consultancy focused on the intersection of innovation and sustainability, wrote the paper over the lockdown.
She said an ad hoc approach to recovery at this time would at best create disconnected solutions that work in the short term but may create worse outcomes in five to 10 years.
The eight projects range from advocating New Zealand evolve to an economy that provides for environment, social and economic wellbeing, to creating an investment fund that allows the Government to take equity stakes in companies.
One suggested actionable project is recycling tax revenues.
In New Zealand and around the world there was an opportunity to incentivise building back better by reimagining new concessions and capital-raising instruments that enhance natural and social capital, the paper said.
Other projects include scaling up affordable, resilient homes, screening and tailor-making financial support to companies, and supporting tourism, farmers and foresters.
Behind the paper is a practical set of organising principles based in ethics which also make practical and scientific sense, Mills said. It examines how public sector investment could assist valuable businesses and applies system-thinking to key questions on the challenges New Zealand faces.
"The principles give us guidance and we also wanted to make sure were asking the right questions. When we understand what we most need to know for the good of the whole country, we have the best opportunity to build back better.
"We are calling for the Government to integrate this framework into its decision-making today."
A strategic approach would provide certainty that the choices New Zealand makes now would benefit the whole country, from its farmers to our tourism sector, from small businesses to school children, she said.
Mills told the Herald the biggest challenge for the paper will be getting cut-through in the current clamour of political noise.
"There are a number of parties with various single-issue focus putting up multiple projects and suggestions.
"What we are lacking is any kind of framework or organising principles. How do we best make those decisions to optimise the outcomes that we already want for the country? We actually need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to think about the system and what we have already committed to."
Once the key questions are identified and asked, it would become easier to filter all the projects being mooted.
Asked how confident she was that New Zealand would recognise and grasp this opportunity to build back better, Mills said the country had some good leaders who had shown they were capable of listening to complex issues so they could make the decision to go hard and early into lockdown.
It should be the same for recovery and response.
"At the moment we haven't been seeing that. Obviously we've had some economic stimulus which is good and right and proper as an emergency response to some of the smaller companies.
'But when we are talking about a significant amount of investment to the over 2000 companies that potentially will have an $80 million turnover we are talking about significant investments where the extent of the risk means - as with the virus itself - taking that step backwards and saying how are we going to optimise the multiple outcomes."
The discussion paper was funded by The Lever Room and the PIF Foundation, a charitable trust founded by Rod and Sharon Bryant in 2006.
The paper is free and can be read here.