The New New Zealand: Rebuilding Better is a major new series from the NZ Herald and NZME that will examine how Aotearoa can rebuild economically and socially.
Can we emerge from the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic as a fairer, more prosperous and more sustainable nation?
Liam Dann, NZ Herald’s Business editor-at-large, was joined by economist and director at Infometrics Brad Olsen, as well as Mike Burrell, executive director of the Sustainable Business Council NZ, and Natalie Vincent, chief executive officer of Ngā Tāngata Microfinance. The panel of experts discussed the current state of New Zealand’s economy and what pathway we should take next, as a country, to lead to a fairer, more equitable Aotearoa.
Olsen says we are “more surviving than thriving” in New Zealand at the moment and called on more to be done on housing as one of the key pathways to economic growth.
Vincent, who works with low income New Zealanders going through financial hardship, says she has been seeing more and more people seeking financial help from her microfinancing company, including people with higher incomes than before. She says incomes and benefits are too low in New Zealand and, until those issues are addressed, many Kiwis will remain trapped in poverty.
“We are seeing an increase in people in financial hardship, and an increase in unmanageable debt,” she says. She says people on a medium income are now having to seek the support of institutions like Ngā Tāngata.
For Olsen, the focus has to be on people. If we don’t focus on addressing issues such around housing, schooling or access to quality healthcare, we are “on a highway to nothing”.
“We are more more surviving than thriving,” he adds.
Burrell agrees that incomes and benefits are too low and says that New Zealand “used to be good at looking ahead” but has somehow lost that ability. He says if we want to look at our future, we can just look at Japan, where the only saving grace is the productivity level of the country that would, otherwise, be in a lot more serious trouble, with its ageing population.
The panel also said New Zealand has some serious environmental challenges coming its way and needs to be prepared to address them.
“If you are not focused on productivity, if you are not focused on climate, you are making things worse,” Burrell said.
This was the first in a list of live discussions as part of the Herald’s newly launched series, The New New Zealand: Rebuilding Better.
The project will focus on a series of themes – starting with the Economy before moving on to Health, Social Division, Crime, National Identity, Education and more.
Along the way, we will look at these issues through the lenses of Climate and Equality to ensure plans are sustainable and support all communities.
The project will include video, polls, podcasts, data analysis, interactive features and stories from across our network of publications and radio stations. Coverage will continue into 2023, leading into what shapes to be one of New Zealand’s most pivotal elections.
The New New Zealand will use data and visualisations to tell the story of how Covid has altered our lives and then focus on solutions: What jobs do we need in the future? How do we bridge the wealth divide? What people with what skills do we want to bring into New Zealand? How do we protect our climate?
We also want to hear from you.
The New New Zealand will be running a series of polls, focus groups, and live Q&As to take the pulse of the nation.
“This is an ambitious project for NZME. We want to create a space for constructive debate – and to go beyond traditional political divides in search of common ground,” NZME head of journalism planning David Rowe said.
“The disruption caused by the pandemic has given us a chance to think about the New Zealand we want - for ourselves and future generations.”
Our first NZ Herald poll shows that the most pressing issue for Kiwis right now is the cost of living. We’re focusing on the Economy as our first theme, with three weeks of content, but it’s over to you what we look at next.
Using the poll beneath, tell us what you think we should examine as our second theme.
You can explore the New New Zealand and all the stories and multimedia features here.