In May, the Prime Minister's former chief science advisor announced the Government had "wasted millions of dollars and hundreds of state homes based on the assumption methamphetamine contamination in houses was a much larger health risk than it is".
That prompted questions regarding how well sound science advice is appreciated in New Zealand.
Housing New Zealand (HNZ) is estimated to have spent roughly $100m on the testing and decontamination of houses suspected of being contaminated by the drug, with several hundred remaining vacant as a result, which appears not to have been necessary.
When scientific information is so easily accessed by one click on the internet, never has it been more accessible.
However, when you get ill, do you go to the internet or see a medical doctor with training and patient experience?
We hope you see the doctor.
Science and innovation have been the foundation of the New Zealand economy.
And science requires patient, long-term investment.
For example if it was not for the development of Zespri Gold, the PSA virus devastating the kiwifruit industry would not have been avoided.
The quality of New Zealand's research and development is extremely high and it is often the pioneering nature of that R&D which sets it apart.
It has a distinctive character which is robust and resourceful, often multi-disciplinary, breaks boundaries, challenges preconceptions and tackles traditional problems in innovative ways.
This character may be the result of New Zealand's distance from world centres, with the unique mix of freedoms and constraints that distance brings.
It may result from learning to make do with the relatively few resources that we have, "the No 8 wire" approach.
It may reflect our creative responses to chronic under-funding or the can-do attitude that is inevitable in a small society.
And because our R&D is carried out in relatively small institutions, it has a certain practical intimacy to it.
It is inspired science.
It is not "big science" - it is science on a human scale.
New Zealand currently sits in the lower range of OECD metrics on researchers and science spending — eight researchers per thousand employed, with 1.2 per cent of GDP spent on R&D.
Compare this with the top country Israel, which employs 18 out of 1000 and 4.3 per cent respectively.
We will come back to this Israeli comparison later.
Our earlier leaders, in two tough economic times, had the vision to establish the New Zealand University Act of 1874 to build the nation's knowledge capacity, and in 1926, to establish the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) to build science that supported industry and economic development.
The DSIR surveyed, identified and classified the country's animal, vegetable and mineral resources; worked on ways to increase the utilisation of natural resources and reduce the risks of natural disasters; bred better plant varieties; developed better pest and disease control methods for agriculture and horticulture; provided advice for industrial developments; standards for commerce and industry; and data for the maintenance of public health.
In 1989, the Government restructured and partially commercialised R&D institutes (including the DSIR, Ministry of Agriculture and Technology, Research Division of the NZ Meteorological Service, and others) into corporatised new Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) with their funding allocations placed in the Public Good Science Fund for competitive funding.
In the absence of strategic planning we tend to allow the system to meander wherever the funding takes us.
This puts pressure on science culture, institutions and commercialisation.
Compared to New Zealand's sports icons, our scientific community is perhaps not held in high regard.
For example, there is not one agricultural scientist on the primary production (agriculture) committee.
In the 2018 Queens Birthday Honours there were few scientists, but plenty of sportspeople, community carers and of course medical professionals received awards.
New Zealand has a love of appointing lawyers, company directors and managers to advisory committees, rather than the appropriate scientific and technical people.
The failed attempted development of New Zealand's biotechnology economy has been a core theme of national and regional economic development strategies since the publication of "Growing an Innovative NZ".
Recently Liam Dann wrote: "hoping New Zealand is on a high-tech path to becoming a wealthier nation, our slide down the rankings in the Global Innovation Index should be cause for great concern."
Interestingly both New Zealand and Israel traditionally relied on agriculture and tourism.
In 2012, we ranked as the 13th most innovative economy in the world — now we are 22nd.
Israel has climbed from 17th to 11th.
Agriculture in Israel is now only three per cent of the GNP.
New Zealand ranks 22nd in R&D and Israel is third.
Israel is now a high-tech nation.
Ultimately, no science strategy can work unless it is led by a partnership between the leading scientists and government.
We must develop a science-driven model of policy setting, in which scientists are involved and respected from the very beginning.
Science is a common good, and it is in the national interest that our capability be better directed, maintained, resourced and utilised in support of national economic, environmental and social goals.
• Dr Jim Salinger is a Visiting Professor at the University of Haifa, Israel. The late Dr James (Jim) Watson, founder of New Zealand's first biotech company, Genesis Research and Development, was a passionate advocate for science in New Zealand and former President of the Royal Society of New Zealand. This opinion was developed from a chapter in his book A Walk on the Science Side completed immediately prior to his death.