Seven steps to save New Zealand by 2020
New Zealand is frequently listed as one of the best places in the world to live. These surveys tend to give Kiwis warm fuzzies, and I agree that we're incredibly lucky - but it's not all rosy.
In some respects, our country needs to get its head out the sand. New Zealand has growing issues with child poverty, the environment, immigration, and the cost of living. We need to push for accountability.
Rural New Zealand is struggling. Auckland is struggling with a lack of housing, overpopulation and traffic issues. Christchurch is still struggling to get back on its feet following the quakes.
But this article isn't about listing probems; I want to offer solutions. Here is how I would try and improve our country by 2020.
1. Promote investigative journalism
Without investigative journalism, politicians, businesses, councils and decision-makers don't face consequences for their actions, because the public doesn't know what they're really up to. The media is a vital cog in holding them to account.
So how do you promote investigative journalism? It starts with us - the readers and viewers. We have to demand the best journalism and vote with our devices and remotes.
Journalists must also take responsibility for quality research and checking facts and figures. True investigative journalism is what comes to mind when I think of 'freedom of speech'. It puts the truth out there using facts and research and allows people to form opinions of their own.
2. Demand more from the Commerce Commission
The Commerce Commission needs to grow more of a spine. I accept that New Zealand is a price taker, not maker, on the world stage. This doesn't excuse the sky-high costs for fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy, petrol and power.
We must demand the Commerce Commission does more to examine the price of simple commodities in New Zealand.
Everyday New Zealanders are at the mercy of duopolies and oligopolies that are continually pushing the boundaries of collusion. It is the lowest socioeconomic group that suffers the most.
3. Temporarily introduce a tough stance on immigration
The problem is not immigrants, it's immigration.
New Zealanders are returning home in droves, and immigrants are turning to New Zealand for the lifestyle and opportunities. However, until basic infrastructure, transport and supply issues are dealt with in our two biggest cities, we simply cannot cope.
It hurts me to say this because immigrants add so much to our society.
Currently, nearly all political parties are dancing around the issue. No-one wants to make the hard decisions for fear of political suicide, but whoever forms the next Government needs to tackle the problem.
Unless a role absolutely can't be filled by a local, for now we have to say no. When we have the resources to cope, I will be the first to cry to open the borders again.
4. Our councils need to introduce accountability for the completion of basic infrastructure works
I am certain contractors in New Zealand are laughing all the way to the bank. New subdivisions suffer from a real lack of planning; road works seem to take forever; public transport is sorely lacking in all our main centres.
Councils need to be bold and think long-term rather than make decisions for their own job security.
When issuing contracts for infrastructure, they must impose deadlines and tough penalties for any breach. We need to demand efficiency. Projects should be completed in days and weeks, not months and years.
5. Overhaul our environmental standards
We talk about our pristine environment a lot from a tourism perspective. Unfortunately, this is turning into a sham.
There needs to be an immediate enquiry into the state of our lakes and rivers. We need more support for policing standards and harsher penalties for polluters. This involves a collective effort from Regional Councils, District Councils and the Government.
Our "polluter pays" principles need to be tightened up, as well as our laws governing freshwater and emissions. Tradable water rights need to be examined further, ensuring an efficient allocation of resources, and indefinite restrictions need to be placed on foreign exports of water.
We must demand businesses take social responsibility and implement a proper green bottom line for running their business, rather than just planting the odd tree or making a token donation to protect an endangered species.
We have no excuse not to be a world leader in environmental standards. A collaboration of iwi, Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, councils and central Government is desperately needed.
6. Start resourcing lower-decile schools with better initiatives
Our child poverty problem is multifaceted, but solving some of the problems above, such as lowering the cost of living, will help alleviate it.
When it comes to schools, we need to look at creating community facilities as well as educational centres.
More resources need to be poured into low-decile schools to ensure every child has basic living standards met. Compulsory nutritional lunches and breakfast, clothing initiatives and community education initiatives must be introduced everywhere. It's clear many children are not receiving basic care at home, so we need to demand it for them in schools.
7. Eliminate P from our society
I admit this is an audacious goal for 2020. But P is extremely damaging for our society. Gangs are collaborating, white-collar crime is growing and P use is steadily increasing.
How do you eliminate P? Again, it's multifaceted. Customs and police need investment in better technology, and more staff. The legalisation of marijuana may free up some of these resources. The Government needs to pool our limited resources efficiently and effectively.
We need decision-makers who are not scared to make tough calls and journalists who are not afraid to ask tough questions. If New Zealand want to be an example to the rest of the world, the "steady as she goes" course is no longer good enough. It's time to wake up and see the real New Zealand for what it is, before it is too late.
- Stuff Nation