That neither of New Zealand's largest political parties is offering transformational policies should they lead the next government is cause for serious concern.
As Audrey Young's report showed on October 2 ("Election 2020: What's the plan to crank up the economy? Policies compared."), more of the same prevails, with longstanding dire crises ignored.
The crises include housing, education, healthcare, infrastructure, immigration, productivity and especially fiscal policy, which should be used to lift low rates of business investment and feeble productivity growth.
Hi-tech export-led startup businesses have great difficulty raising capital. We need many more of these businesses to succeed because they have the potential to raise our standard of living and our wellbeing.
Besides earning considerable overseas currency, these businesses help bind local communities together, with their well-paid quality jobs, apprenticeships, retraining,
innovation and research and development.
Although there are some long-established successful tech export-led businesses such as Buckley Systems (Auckland), the Gallagher Group (Hamilton) and HamiltonJet (Christchurch), they are too few, and few people know much about them.
Self-taught engineer Bill Buckley, who founded Buckley Systems in 1986, has made it a hi-tech world leader by perseverance, ingenuity and inspirational leadership. Besides operating the numerous machines, Buckley will sweep the floors if need be. He's the quintessential "hands-on" highly knowledgeable employer.
Buckley Systems makes extremely complex machines that enable silicon chips to conduct electricity. Incredibly, more than 90 per cent of the world's silicon chips function due to Buckley's machines.
Recently Buckley put a lot of his own money into the development of a revolutionary machine - Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) - that destroys cancer cells. It is an alternative to established radiotherapy and proton therapy because it delivers targeted radiation to cancer cells with minimal damage to healthy tissue. Further, many fewer treatment sessions are needed. Buckley works on BNCT with medical physicists and other experts in Finland and in the United States.
Because Buckley is well aware of the scarcity of capital in New Zealand, he proposes listing BNCT in the US. However, he is adamant that Buckley Systems' manufacturing will remain in Mt Wellington, Auckland, where his employees work.
Gallagher Group develops solutions for animal management, security and fuel systems for customers in some 130 countries. This family-owned firm was founded in the 1950s by Bill Gallagher, who specialised in electric fencing that managed livestock.
Bill's son, Sir William Gallagher, has greatly expanded the business in Hamilton and overseas. He found that outsourcing production overseas compromised quality.
Consequently, most of Gallagher's production is done in Hamilton, providing good jobs for many people. Besides apprenticeships and retraining, there is substantial innovation and research and development.
With its financial support of sport, the creative and performing arts, Gallagher helps bind the Hamilton community together.
Sir William says shareholders are "a pain" because they expect high returns, leaving little money for much else. He adheres to the dictum: "An export-led business that doesn't invest substantially in innovation and R&D usually fails."
There is a dearth of New Zealand businesses prepared to participate in the fiercely competitive overseas marketplace. Instead, many New Zealand businesses survive here by paying their employees low wages with little investment in technology to improve productivity. No wonder our productivity and standard of living are poor compared to most other developed countries.
Auckland, where one-third of New Zealand's population lives, exemplifies this reality since it is more expensive to live there than in London or New York.
HamiltonJet is a hi-tech business that dominates the world market with its jet-propelled vessels. Bill Hamilton, who founded the original business, CWF Hamilton, in 1956¸ got on particularly well with his employees.
One shopfloor employee made a crucial suggestion that Hamilton heeded. It enabled his jet-propelled vessel to speed up the shallow Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1960, to the amazement of the world.
Now HamiltonJet sells millions of dollars of jet-propelled vessels worldwide each week in competition with the likes of Rolls-Royce. A former 40-year employee (1967-2007) John Walsh, who wrote an excellent biography Hamilton's Jet (2014), expressed surprise at how few New Zealanders know anything about this business.
Since the free market policies of "Rogernomics" were introduced in the 1980s, the main increase in our wealth is due not to savings and productive investments, but principally rising house prices.
What we urgently need is political leadership that will allow new generations of innovators to create wealth in a way that benefits not just a few, but most, Kiwis.
• John Hawkes is a fourth-generation Kiwi; a medical graduate of Dunedin Medical School; a consultant rheumatologist near London for 25 years; a NZ athletics champion; and author of New Zealand: Paradise Squandered?