If I was Prime Minister . . .

23:55, Sep 02 2014
Eleanor Catton
LIBRARY BOOST: Eleanor Catton wants to make it easier for people to read.

On the hustings this weekend, regular Kiwis have appealed to John Key and David Cunliffe to use the office of Prime Minister to fix problems large and small. A woman approached Cunliffe in Auckland, asking for help with her ACC claim. Most people ask for selfies, he joked afterwards.

Whoever is elected has the responsibility, indeed the privilege, of trying to make New Zealand just a little bit better, of trying to solve people's issues.

Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon once said he hoped to leave the country "no worse off than I found it". Well, that's not enough.

All of us know there are things we would like to change to make New Zealand materially better - perhaps we'd like to close the inequality gap, reduce the tax burden, or clean up our waterways. Perhaps our ambitions are smaller, but no less important: to get speed humps outside the childcare centre our children attend, to persuade the council to mow the berms of the elderly man across the road, or to raise money so the sick girl down the street can get specialist healthcare.

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger said yesterday that leadership provides the opportunity to fix problems big and small.

"It is the small, unseen things - that you can help someone in a way that they may not get helped otherwise, you speak to someone, you change something."


Bolger took the oath of office in 1990 with a single, succinct goal in mind: "To create a decent society."

"Leadership requires us to take a longer-term view, to persuade New Zealanders to take a longer term view beyond ‘what am I going to do on Monday?"' he said. "Leadership also requires us to take the tough and unpopular decisions that are necessary from time to time."

That is a challenge for all New Zealanders. "We all have the opportunity to lead at our own level, every one of us. And that requires us to not just look for short-term solutions, jam today and forget about next month, next decade. We all have a role in our communities, large and small."

So the question for all of us is, how would you make things better for New Zealand, for your community, for your friends and family, for someone close to you who needs help? What would you do if you were Prime Minister? Comment below or email us with your details and the problem you want to fix in your community. We'll publish some of the best ideas next week and ask readers which are most important.

Then we'll set about asking the politicians and, most importantly, the wider community how they will help.


Xero chief executive

‘I WOULDN'T WANT to be prime minister - what a horrible job. But if I was prime minister I'd put a new internet cable in to connect New Zealand, Australia and the United States. I'd be putting my fins and diving goggles on straight away and getting down there and getting it done. If I was Prime Minister the first thing I'd do is focus on our technology strategy."


All Blacks legend

‘If I was prime minister I'd concentrate on the economy and jobs.

I think everyone should have dignity and there's no dignity in poverty. People make bad choices, or are forced into making bad choices, and life becomes a lot harder for them than it should be.

I'm a South Auckland boy so I've seen the best and the worst of it. Being an All Black opens up your eyes, you see the best of it as an All Black, it gives you a little bit of privilege but being a South Auckland boy you see the worst of it.

I'm all about equality and I hate to see the people right at the bottom who are struggling."


More FM radio host

‘If I was prime minister the America's Cup would be held in a bathtub and with model boats. First past the plug wins the Auld Mug.

I would encourage the burning of fossil fuels because I live three miles inland and I would love a beachside property. If I was Prime Minister I would have Crusher Collins and Cameron Slater go head-to-head against Nicky Hager and David Cunliffe in a tag wrestling Fight for Life.

All hand dryers in public places that don't dry your hands in less than 60 seconds to be run over by a tank.

And I would put a liquor outlet within five metres of every home in New Zealand just to hear the booze barons complain there are still not enough."


Booker Prize-winning novelist

‘If I were prime minister I would double the number of libraries in New Zealand and radically increase funding for library collections. A library is one of the few places in the world where you can transform yourself and your opportunities at no cost. I'd also make sure that every family in New Zealand had access to books and library facilities."

Sunday Star Times