OPINIONBusinessJune 10, 2020

What next for New Zealand? Six visions for a post-Covid country


Visionweek is a not-for-profit web summit with an aim to stimulate a conversation about the future of New Zealand as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. We asked participants to give us their big ideas to transform the country.

Running June 8-12, the Visionweek online summit features an array of New Zealand’s top business leaders, entrepreneurs, activists and thinkers in conversation about the opportunities and risks created by these last few months of upheaval. Tomorrow the summit will welcome prime minister Jacinda Ardern; other speakers include Stephen Tindall (The Warehouse Group), Kirsti Luke (Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua), Peter Beck (Rocket Lab) and Nicole Rosie (NZTA). All content is free to watch, and the public is encouraged to get involved using the #visionweekNZ hashtag.

As a taster of the event, we invited some of the participants to share with us their vision for post-Covid New Zealand.

Frances Valintine

As we’ve seen technology leapfrog ahead in the last few weeks, we’re getting back to where we should have been perhaps two or three years ago with the digitisation of systems and processes. We’re finally getting in line with the other markets in the world we trade with.

During the lockdown everyone who could work from home changed their behaviour, and as we come out of the Covid-19 crisis that’s the new norm. Now we have to understand how our businesses can catch up with the human aspects of wanting change. I’m really excited about the idea that the economy is going to increasingly take into account society and humanity and fairness. I also look forward to people having the opportunity to get into roles that are more about having a chance to contribute and feel valued, and less around clocking in and out.

Frances Valintine is the education futurist at Tech Futures Lab

Rod Drury

Through Covid we have demonstrated the power of a team of 5 million, what it can achieve. I think most New Zealanders are really good people and want to give back. Our size means we have an opportunity to coordinate, this is an advantage. For me, the future needs to be environmentally friendly and it needs to be inclusive. I think there has been lots of thinking about what our future could look like, now it’s time to get quite crisp with this. This requires good relationships between government and business. There are lots of ideas floating and it’s important that a really diverse group contributes to the conversation, that no-one is left behind and that decisions that are made are good for all of New Zealand – that they are people-led solutions.

I think one of the really big ideas is for us to lead in electric flight. One of the cool things about New Zealand is we are a long skinny country, but you know, we’re an island – 100% of our domestic network is flying under two hours. Imagine if we had a vision that within a 10 year timeframe we had a hundred percent of our domestic network flying using electricity.

You can imagine building smart networks that tie into public transport as well. And the idea of having autonomous electric vehicles, small buses that you can chain together with software is really, really interesting. We’re just getting to a threshold where technology is making that quite possible.

Rod Drury is the founder of Xero

Rachel Taulelei

We as Māori have a beautiful and unique relationship with our taiao, our environment. Our land, ocean, rivers, mountains. They are our tupuna, or ancestors, and as such we revere them. We are hardwired for collective responsibility for people and intergenerational care.

Through Covid I have seen a set of values show themselves through all of Aotearoa – ideas of manaakitanga or generosity, of what it is to be good kaitiaki or stewards, through which we have shown care for people and place.

I don’t think we will be able to go back to the way we were. The way we engage with each other, the nature of our conversations and what is important in those conversations. It’s profoundly different, both personally and professionally.

We shouldn’t feel the pressure to race back to the status quo, we can take a breath. The world that we knew before Covid wasn’t actually great for many people – there was inequality and inequity everywhere.  Underrepresented groups will feel the impact of this more so than any of us, so we need to make their wellbeing a priority.

My future vision of New Zealand would include taking the ideas around kindness that the prime minister has propagated and actually give effect to them. How do we take the values we’ve seen demonstrated during Covid and allow them to live on through the coming weeks, months and years, for the benefit of everyone?

Rachel Taulelei (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Rarua, Ngāti Koata) is CEO of whānau-owned, Māori food and beverage producer Kono

Shamubeel Eaqub

I think some change is possible because we are going to find a window of opportunity where we are all united in dealing with the health crisis, but also thinking forward in terms of what it means for our children and grandchildren because the consequences of this recession is going to go on for many decades to come.

What’s really important is not just the amount of money we spend, but making sure that those investments are the right ones. We don’t want to trap New Zealand into our history. We want these investments to enable the future of New Zealand. We need to make sure that they are going to be flexible enough and they’re going to be green enough that it can meet our needs of future generations, but also be consistent with a sustainable outlook for New Zealand.

What is the economy for? What purpose does it serve? And I think it’s about making sure more New Zealanders are better off. If we can be very consistent in applying that test, it is about current generations and future generations. And better off means not just this material terms, but also in non-material terms, in terms of wellbeing, in terms of happiness, in terms of mental health.

Shamubeel Eaqub is an economist at Sense Partners

Vaughan Fergusson and Zoe Timbrell

Our vision for the future is rapid retraining, in our communities, alongside industry and innovation.

We need to fire up new types of innovation and training centres. Not glass classrooms on campuses and not new degrees. We need to create new spaces for inspiration and innovation – where industry, Iwi, and communities work alongside new innovators and students with a common interest and a problem to solve.

We need to get our people innovating in the real world: in the bush, in communities, on the marae, in the regions, on our land, in our sea, and in our air.

We need new vocational training paths to measure skills using microcredentials, acknowledging that intensive study for three years no longer produces future skilled people.

We do this by engaging industry – specifically the science, technology and creative sectors.  With industry mentorship and government support, new technologies and practices can be explored, learned and then applied creating skills, jobs and new opportunities benefiting everyone.

Now is the time for more innovators and entrepreneurs. For our kids to find connection to the things they are passionate about, and for this to be seen through a lens of culture, technology and sustainability. Pathways created for them that go from inspiration and belief as kids, to education with purpose, through to new vocational training that puts practical action around learning. So we can do big bold projects driven by our people, for our people.

The outcome is 1,000,000 innovators creating new jobs with new skills.

Vaughan Fergusson and Zoe Timbrell are the co-founders of Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust and OMG! Tech. Vaughan Fergusson is also the founder of Vend.

Tessa Meyer

My vision for Aotearoa is for our economic prosperity to be a product of the health and wellbeing of our environment and of all New Zealander’s. We’ve got to prioritise equity, uplift our most vulnerable communities, and make sure our we use our Covid-19 recovery as an opportunity to invest in our resilience and urgent decarbonisation.

I’m passionate about urban resilience and believe the built environment must serve us. Our massive investment in infrastructure will be so important for our recovery, not only through job creation but by improving the lives of people for generations to come. I’d love to live in a country where everyone has access to healthy, resource efficient homes and workplaces, where we can walk and cycle safety, live in vibrant neighbourhoods with amenities, fresh food, jobs and green space on our doorsteps. Climate resilience is also about social resilience, so we cannot leave anyone behind and need to make access to these things equal.

I hope that we have courage to do the right thing, and I hope Aotearoa can show the world how to put people and the planet first.

Tessa Meyer is the New Zealand Green Building Council’s 2020 Future Thinker Of the Year

Visionweek (June 8-12) is a week-long online summit that asks the question: What next for New Zealand? All events are free to watch and people are encouraged to contribute using the hashtag #visionweeknz

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