Social change

Some social change — from the people and not imposed on them by the government — could be a positive consequence of this episode.

by Geoffrey Churchman

Both NZ and Australia have been almost unscathed in terms of the physical health impact of this pandemic. In fact there may have been a net positive impact from the lockdowns: fewer accidents, and reduction in transmission of other infectious illnesses because of all the precautions. Mental health is another matter, unfortunately.

Parts of the Northern Hemisphere have had negative physical health impacts.  There are postulations as to why that has been, but attention now must be on what happens here in the bounce-back.

Short term, the government is going to have at least double the number of unemployed on its hands, which it is looking to deal with by bringing forward the infrastucture projects it and different councils have on their wish-lists.  That can only be a good thing because of the substantial under-investment in it over the last quarter century, most notably in the railways.

Using Reserve Bank credit to finance this would be a way of preventing interest costs going to overseas bankers.

There are several needed infrastructure projects in Kapiti, the most important of which is electrifying and double-tracking the railway to Otaki at least, ideally to Levin.

Health infrastructure (not bureaucracy) is another area in which there has been underinvestment.

Longer term there needs to be some restructuring of the economy to reduce dependence on manufactured imports from countries that will likely be affected the same way again by the next pandemic.  The existance of import substitution industries was government policy by both main political parties from 1936 until Rogernomics came along in 1984.  The argument then was that they were inefficient cost-wise — there were better economic activities for people to be involved in and the free market was the best way of bringing that about.  Of course, in practice many markets are not ‘free’, even in the U.S., and governments interfere heavily.  We should at least manufacture the finished products from raw materials that get exported — like paper from logs.  Toilet paper and newsprint are made here, but not more processed (coated) paper

The whole export sector of the economy is going to find the going harder because of reduced spending power from other countries, but there’s nothing new about that.  NZ is a big net food exporter and people still need to eat: reason for optimism, not pessimism.

by Roger Childs

Dairying in CanterburyLike previous wars, economic downturns and disease outbreaks, the Coronavirus pandemic will pass. It has not reached pandemic proportions in New Zealand and we should be over the worse, but it is still horrendous overseas. Italy and Spain have been ‘basket cases’; the U.K. has just passed 10,000 deaths with more than 30,000 projected; and the U.S. with more than half a million cases, recently had 2,000 deaths in a day. Most of those who have died around the globe had underlying health issues, but the simple truth is that without Coronavirus they would probably still be alive.

However, while remaining vigilant, we need to look to life after Covid-19. The lockdown has been about protecting and preserving the health of the nation’s people, but after the country opens up again, the successful rebooting of the economy will be the crucial priority for ensuring the future well-being of the population.

It will be a very different world from earlier in the year. We may come out the other side of the “crisis” largely unscathed, but much of the rest of the planet will probably take longer to become safe and resume normal economic activity. So travel and tourism will take some time to return to anything close to what was normal.

A new New Zealand – the economy and environment

pp2o_landing_pageEveryone will have their ideas on what the country should become, after we lift the curtain on the lockdown. For what they are worth, here are my thoughts.

 Initially a massive injection of funding from the government to help businesses restart – these could be long term loans repayable with zero interest.
 Major infrastructure projects for health, education and transport.
 As regards transport there should be a focus on both public city networks and major roading and railway projects. Underpinned by government funding, all the major cities should expand public transport, for example light rail in Wellington. The “Roads of National Significance” should be completed and the Auckland- Hamilton–Tauranga nexus of rail connections constructed. In our own area, complete the electrification of the railway system to Levin, and ultimately Palmerston North.
Maybe it’s time for the proposed Hutt Valley — Wairarapa road tunnel.
 A modest capital gains tax, which most OECD countries have, should be introduced to provide government revenue from the “unearned increment,” say 10%.
 Stop paying NZ Superannuation to the wealthy. A reasonably high threshold of income and assets should determine who gets the Super.

 Encourage people to travel within New Zealand — the “don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country” concept.
 Stop poisoning the land, which kills thousands of birds and millions of insects.
Increase the trapping of pests and possums. Recognise the latter as a resource and promote a rapid expansion of the fur and pet food industries based on this animal.
 Accept that our biodiversity is a combination of natives and exotic species. Continue to promote the planting of native flaxes, shrubs and trees, but also species from overseas, like radiata pine and eucalypts, which are the most efficient trees for carbon sequestering.
 Look at new ways to reuse plastics. The plastic fence posts are a great success and there must be other ways recycled plastics could be used, like in building products and roading materials.
 Continue the clean-up of our rivers and other waterways. Provide incentives to farmers, foresters and other who have responsibility.
 Only promote particular types of farming in areas where the climate is suitable. For example, no dairying in very dry areas. Encourage greater overall food self-sufficiency for New Zealand. Also aim to reduce fertiliser use.
 Add value wherever possible to our resources, e.g. logs.
 Continue to promote electric cars to reduce fuel imports.
 Encourage car pooling by the electric tolling of driver-only cars during commuter hours on major highways.

The new society – equality and freedom
 Honour the Declaration of Human Rights and treat all New Zealanders the same, regardless of their ethnic origins.
 End institutionalised racism and inequality for non-Maori – tribunals, laws, taxes and funding (see more detail below.)
 Close down the Waitangi Tribunal which is a racist organisation as only part-Maori can make claims.
 Remove all clauses from the 100+ pieces of legislation which provide special provision for Maori.
 Abolish the seven Maori seats in parliament (there are more than 25 part-Maori in our present House of Representatives.)
 End the charity status for tax purposes of Maori Trusts. Currently the businesses of the iwi trusts have a huge taxation advantage over non-Maori companies and services.
 End all special funding for Maori – such as the special provisions in the Covid-19 package.
 Pass a Freedom of Speech Act guaranteeing this fundamental right to all New
Zealanders with a minimum of exceptions.

 Ensure that history teaching in schools is based on the truth and the facts of what actually happened as recorded by people living at the time.

Pollution kuku creekUnquestionably, this is a lot of wishful thinking. However, beyond the Covid -19 lockdown, we have the means to become a fairer, cleaner, more prosperous and diversified New Zealand. Key ingredients for bringing this about, are to unite in working for a better future and acknowledging that, regardless of our origins, we are one nation of New Zealanders.