Treasury has developed a tool called the Living Standards Framework to assess policy proposals in terms of their impact on "four capitals". These "capitals" - the bases on which the future wellbeing of New Zealanders rests - are natural capital, human capital, social capital, and financial/physical capital.

The Government's promised "Wellbeing Budget" is supposed to put the Living Standards Framework into practice. So policies that promise good financial returns but which damage the other three "capitals" – for example, mining in a national park, or reducing poor people's living standards, or sacrificing the quality of education and healthcare -