Every now and again, I check myself over the amount of criticism I level at this country.
Usually it's after talking to someone who has chosen to call New Zealand home because the quality of life here is substantially better than where they came from.
When I bring up house prices, unending roadworks and the war on cars in Auckland's CBD they often smile politely and say something like: "I see what you mean, but I don't think it's that bad".
It's then that I shrink inwards and do a frantic assessment of whether I've become one of those "whiney Kiwis". A few moments of self-reflection lead to the conclusion that I'm fine, and we go on talking about whatever else I feel like poking at.
Light-hearted and informative, the exchanges often pop up when I'm trying to understand New Zealand's never-ending debate around migration and immigrant workers.
Put crudely, it's about who is let in and why. That question featured as part of pre-Covid life. It is potentially more important now as we look to set-up systems in a Covid world that has enabled a reset of sorts.
For me, I've always been interested in the appeal of New Zealand to individuals and families who I often think get a raw deal once they land here. A review into temporary migrant worker exploitation established under the coalition government showed the abuse of basic rights endured by many. A steady stream of news reports and academic research on migrant worker abuse also highlighted a dismal state of affairs.
In my own reporting on migrant abuse cases, I've challenged sources on their desire to remain in a country where they've been robbed of wages and received little help to address injustices. The responses weren't that different to reactions around my complaints on traffic and housing mentioned earlier.
Essentially, life in New Zealand - even with severe challenges and adversity - holds more promise than the status quo back home.
As a country, it's important to understand the gravity of that. It goes to the heart of New Zealand's responsibility as a nation which recruits overseas labour for jobs locals frequently find undesirable.
A report published this week by the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) examined the issue as part of a wider assessment on workforce productivity and migration. Titled "Could do better: Migration and New Zealand's frontier firms", the report detailed how pre-Covid migration policies resulted in an overall labour force with skill levels that tended to hinder innovation and development.
In addition to unpacking the drivers of migration, it touched on social factors that contributed to a steady stream of migrant labour from our regional neighbours.
"For many people in developing countries in the Asia Pacific region - think those one non-stop flight from New Zealand - employment in a minimum wage job in the service sector here is likely to be far more attractive than staying home," the report said.
It then outlined the downfalls of that on industry development and sustainability. Unfortunately, our readiness to capitalise on migrant workers' desire for the Kiwi dream isn't conducive to growing productivity and innovation.
"Experience has suggested however, that large scale migration of people who can fill these sorts of jobs does little to improve productivity in New Zealand," the report said.
"And as noted earlier, we should be alert to the potential for exploitation."
Addressing both those things must be done as part of our Covid rebuild.
To begin, labour migration policies that complement economic growth without repeating conditions minimising the rights of overseas workers have to be prioritised. The recent announcement that 2000 RSE workers due from the Pacific in January would be paid the living wage rate ($22.10 per hour) is a step in the right direction. The higher rate for overseas workers recognises their preference to local labour options.
Secondly, New Zealand must come to terms with the privilege it holds in our corner of the world.
While we often think of smaller Pacific Islands or places like the Philippines and Thailand as idyllic holiday destinations, for many in those nations' life is difficult. New Zealand represents a less corrupt and more peaceful way of life. Schooling and opportunities for children is another significant drawcard for parents determined to provide better outcomes for the next generation.
Grasping that context is essential to tackling current double standards between locals and overseas workers. From there, we can form fairer and more sustainable migrant labour pathways.