On Facebook, I see frequent updates from the National Party telling me about all of the things that they want New Zealand to know about. Members of Parliament and Ministers of the Crown state “Great to be at _________ “, “New Zealand has a Government doing _______, _________ and __________ so that __________ can be achieved”. But behind the smiles for the camera and the claims of good things happening, is New Zealand really doing as well as the Government claims?
It is obvious that the economy is not performing as well as the Government suggests. There are several factors that work in conjunction to support this idea:
- Immigration is not sustainable
- A continuing lack of investment in research, science and technology continues to stymie New Zealand growth just as it has done since before the Fifth Labour Government took power in 1999
- Market economics have gone too far and a rebalancing is needed
- There is an imbalance both in terms of infrastructure investment geographically, but also in terms of what the investment is in
- Councils are not hiring many consents staff to process applications for resource consent – signalling demand for activities such as construction projects are down
Despite this we have people in Government saying that business is as usual and that there should not be any cause for concern. It is true that this could simply be a demonstration of what political analysts call third term-itis, symptomatic of a Government that has run out of ideas and despite outward appearances, knows that this is its last term in office.
I have addressed immigration and its currently unsustainable rate in other articles, but it is useful to note that Labour, a party which normally supports greater levels of immigration is in favour of cutting the numbers let in. It is also a slightly more personal issue in that I have a non-New Zealand sister in law moving out here in December.
The lack of investment in science is not new either. It is one of the primary causes of the average income per capita being relatively mediocre compared to some higher earning locations such as the United States, Britain and Australia. An overly complex system for applying for and dispensing research grants means that instead of focussing on a few key areas, funding has become quite diffuse across a broad spectrum.
When the Government of Mike Moore, who had only been Prime Minister for a few weeks, was ousted in 1990, it was hoped by many that the radical reforms that had shaken up New Zealand in the previous few years would stop. In that time deregulation of the railways, the floating of the currency, among other reforms had been undertaken. Unemployment had soared as “bureaucrats” viewed as surplus to needs had been laid off in large numbers. Reform of environmental and local government was underway. But those hopes were somewhat naive and certainly dashed when the Fourth National Government of Prime Minister Jim Bolger picked up where his predecessors had left off.
An imbalance exists in New Zealand in terms of both the types of infrastructure that need investment and where in geographical terms it needs to happen. Whilst it is true that Auckland has one third of New Zealand’s total population and grows the equivalent of 2015 Tauranga every three years,the rest of New Zealand – even if it wanted to – cannot be Auckland’s ever growing hinterland without good supporting infrastructure. Too often politicians forget this.
One of the primary functions for city, district and regional councils is to determine the suitability of activities and development projects within their area of responsibility. The activities need to be weighted against the planning blue print for the issuing council and put through a set of checks and balances to make sure it is not contrary to the Resource Management Act and other legislation. The people who do this work investing resource consent applications are generally people with experience working in resource planning and have a degree from University to back this up. A good way of determining how well the local economy is doing is finding out how much demand there is for new buildings, and activities – the lesser the demand the implication is that fewer people have money or a need for a project requiring resource consent that can generate jobs and wealth.
And what does the Government think?
Yeah, nah. She’ll be right mate.
Except that she will not be without greater care.