A range of social, economic, political and environmental challenges loom large on New Zealand’s horizon as the year 2019 gets underway. In a turbulent world and stressed domestic situation New Zealand finds itself trying to live up to the international reputation bestowed on it as a clean, friendly and – for the most part – safe place to visit, live and do business. Addressing these challenges will go some distance towards improving our future. So, what are those challenges?
Environmental challenges are numerous. But they also present some opportunities which are beyond the scope of this article, and which will be discussed at a later time.
- Our fresh water continues to be stressed by the demand placed on it by domestic consumption, dairying, industrial and other uses. Despite increased acknowledgement of the threat posed to it there is still resistance in some economic and social sectors, who view it as green wishy washy politics.
- Waste is a rapidly growing problem and despite moves to tackle plastic bags, it ignores significant other sources such as electronic waste, food waste, packaging and our poor recycling. This may threaten our reputation for being clean.
- The level of carbon in our atmosphere is the highest it has been for 3 million years. Whether one believes in climate change or not, this carbon is having serious effects on the marine environment, peoples health through air pollution and potentially cancerous dioxins
Economic challenges exist both on the world stage and domestically. Some are challenges that are decades old and some are challenges that have only arisen in the last few years:
- A trade war between the United States and China might have flow on effects for New Zealand and other trade partners of these two countries – no immediate talks on ending the hostilities which started last year seem likely in the near future
- A continuing reluctance to diversify our economy so that fewer eggs are in the same proverbial basket means opportunities to develop niche sectors such as recycling and environmentally friendly technologies are being passed up
- New Zealand is supposed to be carbon neutral by 2050, but the Ministry for Environment and the Ministry of Energy and Resources have not given thought as to what a long term blue print for this might look like.
Tackling social challenges might be one of the bigger success stories of the Sixth Labour Government. In adopting a policy of greater kindness and compassion, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took a great step forward in including the more vulnerable parts of society that have been marginalized by market economics. But challenges remain:
- Whilst moving to address the effects of drugs on society is a laudable action, clearly some such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine have more damaging effects on individual than cannabis – having a referendum on cannabis will not address the need to be firm on the manufacturers, importers and sellers of these more damaging substances
- Our road toll – what a disaster it has been these last few years and too much of it caused by offenders thinking that a wet bus ticket judicial system is a licence to reoffend. Whilst true simple ownership of attitudes will also go some distance towards lowering the road toll as well.
- Reform of the labour laws is necessary to stop New Zealand developing a wild west reputation for employing non-New Zealanders and then exploiting their likely lack of knowledge about their rights and responsibilities under our laws
New Zealand has some serious decisions to make in the near future politically. What sort of constitutional system do we want? Is our flag still relevant? Do we want Prince Charles as our head of state?
The above is a flag design that I conceived over Christmas and New Year. Whilst I supported the New Zealand flag in the referendum, that was not so much because I like the design of the existing one, as I found it suspicious that replacing it should suddenly be a raging priority. The time to have that debate is when we are forced to address the constitutional issue, which I suspect will be when Queen Elizabeth II passes on.