Here's a solution to our economic woes. Pour more concrete.
Winston Peters told his campaign launch crowd recently "some people who have a vision worry me, and they should worry you".
Judith Collins sold her billions in concrete tunnels as "economic vision" for the nation. More roads barely rates as vision, and it won't win this election.
The tragedy is the Covid virus disaster presents a unique opportunity for true vision. NZ First's pork-barrel spend across the regions is the closest anyone has come with the Treasury purse strings to supporting innovation in recent history.
This is the direction to build on. A town such as Carterton or Kaikohe has the soils, tech skills and the light engineering ability to produce 80 per cent of what is needed to maintain wages and feed, house, educate and heal its immediate population.
This is more within reach than ever before. A hundred thousand hectares of Māori land waits to be discovered as the economic powerhouse of the country. Farmers would buy in to intensive, revitalised and reimagined agriculture and horticulture with at least the same returns they see now, and possibly much more.
We gave our kids a decocted spoonful of the humble kūmarahou. It didn't taste great. But the colds and wheezes stayed away. It grows on clay banks across Aupōuri. Gumdiggers' soap waiting to be sold in Europe, or China.
It was once kauri forest from Dargaville to Kaitaia. Had that been left alone one small and incredibly valuable product may well have been kererū stuffed with miro berries to the gourmet markets of the world.
We are still a sub-tropical Garden of Eden.
Reimagine this country now, along those lines. We have linolenic released from harakeke, which is essential in human nutrition and hard to find. Companion to the harakeke could easily be cannabis indica, together generating a planet-friendly packaging fibre. This list is endless, with much of the vital expertise waiting to be resourced.
People need work. The world needs to eat. The market has always needed to thrive. Our technology allows the design of a whole new marketplace, employing entire regions, for around the same spend as the concrete tunnels through the Brynderwyns.
Our politicians, wherever they stand in the battle for the centre, are presented with a life-defining opportunity to come to the table with an employed, healthy and prosperous vision for every corner of the country.
Plant more pines is not a vision. It's barely horticulture, given the distaste our soils have for pine needles. But there they are. Let every log be processed here, not offshore.
Taking a new look at proven waste-to-energy technology could allow this safe recycle option in two plants on the main trunk line in the North Island and one in the South. All waste would go by rail to these plants. No more landfill built by the truckloads we can no longer afford to carry our waste.
That cost would be gone from local government and so from the rates demand. Moving waste by rail would also subsidise commuter rail.
We can't afford local government. Martinborough's Alex Beijen said his ratepayers would be coughing up around $10,000 per year if they actually paid for what is needed to deliver local government. Carterton's residents would faint. They already pay the highest rates in the country at around $3000.
Consenting processes could be removed from local government entirely. The local council can say "build this here, this size, this colour, and link to these services". Insurance companies can guarantee the rest, including the indemnity for the quality of builder and occasional leaky home.
The democratic process can be pushed out to every marae, every community by local boards. Legislate their responsibilities, rather than delegate. Let a few sharp staff manage centralised contracts, with the oversight of the mayor, to ensure one thing goes up the pipes and something else down the pipes, efficiently and within budget.
Knitting a vision across the nation means tearing down the silo thinking, particularly across the portfolios now up for grabs. Public service legislation forces Ministers of the Crown and public service bosses to manage and account for their chunk of tax money largely divorced from the Ministry down the corridor.
Ruth Richardson's fiscal responsibility laws shored up much of the potential problems of opened-up and interlinked Ministries. The vision needs to flow out from the top. That's where Jacinda Ardern and Collins come in.
If the vision was a building it would be more geodesic than empirical, more interconnected. Point to multi-point thinking draws on far wider information than linear cause-and-effect thinking, allowing fresh form to emerge and be applied to all areas of human endeavour.
This country is at the threshold of global influence and design far beyond the sum of the parts of its team of five million.
But where is the leadership vision?
• Geoff Vause is a journalist, based in Wellington.