Recent controversy about the Avatar production crew shows how hot the COVID recovery issues are.
Having beaten the virus, at least for now, New Zealand has an opportunity to seize our crushing-the-curve advantage and become a glocal vibrant haven.
Our COVID-19 crisis will have three main stages.
We have benefited from the courage, communication and values-based management of the lockdown crisis.
We are weathering the post-lockdown recession, but the full effects are yet to come.
The real opportunity is in what we do after that – and how we invest in building back better.
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Forecasters differ on the likely length and depth of our covid recession, with unemployment forecasts from 9 per cent to 15 per cent and lasting from 12 to 24 months.
Regardless, it will be painful. Māori, Pasifika, and young people will be hit hardest. More job losses will likely come in waves. Whether it is from global factors, such as the instability in the US or Europe, new infections, or from our own business cycles – such as SMEs coming off Government support and hitting the January-February tax/cash squeeze.
To offset the near-term slump the Government is investing heavily in temporary income support, and fast-tracking "shovel ready" infrastructure and Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) projects.
Reserving $20 billion for the recovery is a courageous and far-sighted decision. The Government is signalling it wants regions and communities to come forward with breakthrough ideas.
It is also expanding skills training and lifelong learning opportunities to support a "just transition" to a "new normal".
So far, so good. The rainy day has arrived. The neoclassical economic rule book is no longer fit for purpose. Keynes is necessarily back at scale.
But just "going back" to what was before won't be enough.
We need a future that is radically smarter, greener, and fairer than the past.
So how about we look beyond the immediate economic and social needs and use this opportunity to build a radically smarter, greener, and fairer country?
How can we recover to an economy that is different and future-proofed, so that our children, who will ultimately be paying back the money we are borrowing now, have something to work with?
The most exciting scenario for New Zealand, and one that is increasingly likely, is one our firm has dubbed "vibrant haven".
In this future, New Zealand leverages its advantage as a covid-free, secure, peaceful, and progressive democracy. We remain the best and least corrupt place to do business.
Building resilience means sourcing more locally as well as securing our key supply chains. The covid-19 lockdown reminds us that we are heavily reliant (maybe too reliant) on global markets.
As a vibrant haven, we have bountiful food, water and bio-economic opportunities on land and sea. Agriculture is both a backbone in the short term and a platform for the future. We must plan for, mitigate, and manage climate impacts.
We can also become a hotbed for innovation. We can take the bio-economy to the next level: we grow safe, sustainable food that earns a premium; we farm the sea sustainably; we use science and rongoā to generate high-value products from honey to hemp to horopito.
We can build on our bio-tech and aerospace clusters. Remote working expands to bring jobs, markets and customers closer in new ways. We excel online and invest in world-leading ICT infrastructure.
We value our environment and our resources, using and developing leading global green technology to build a zero net carbon future.
We attract plentiful, high-quality global investment and become a true magnet for the world's top talent as we trade off our reputation as a beacon for reason in an increasingly uncertain world.
Entry to New Zealand remains a privilege, as we judiciously protect our health and borders and we take an active stance, choosing the projects that understand the value of the New Zealand brand, add value and fit with our locally-determined vision for Aotearoa-NZ. The Avatar debate shows how powerful – and sensitive – this issue is.
Our new glocalism depends on innovation and enterprise driven up from businesses, communities, regions, iwi and hapu.
We raise incomes and wellbeing by boosting productivity through higher value jobs and smart investment, not working longer hours, or cutting corners to pollute our environment.
There is no one-size-fits-all magic bullet to becoming our best vibrant haven and for change to be sustainable, it must not be imposed from Wellington, but lived in the community.
The world is enduring horrific challenges.
New Zealand has earned a historic opportunity and we have every incentive to make sure we use it wisely. Let's do so with courage and creativity.
- David Cunliffe is a partner in boutique strategy consultancy Stakeholder Strategies, which provides support and solutions to businesses, regions and government; and across commercial, economic, social and environmental domains.