New Zealand's biggest issues - your views

While the politicians scrap over election-year policies Nikki Macdonald asks prominent and ordinary Kiwis about their vision for New Zealand.


Raewyn Habergham, Putaruru

I am concerned at the way the present generations perceive it as their right to produce children BUT not to take responsibility for their care and nurture; It is everybody else’s responsibility – the Government’s especially.

I come from a large family but my parents were not given any government handouts, they accepted that their children were their responsibility and worked hard to provide for us.

I spent 40 years in England where I worked in a school on a council estate in West Yorkshire. Here I experienced first hand the consequences of handing out benefits – girls coming back 12 - 14 years later with their children, aged 3 to register them for pre-school. They were better off than I was as a teacher and widow. No sense of responsibility for the consequences of their drunken actions.

So if the bureaucrats/politicians are hell bent on giving away yet more taxpayers’ money to try to eradicate poverty amongst children, then the best course of action would be food and clothing vouchers along with a mandate that they have to attend good parenting classes run by people who have a wide and lengthy of experience of rearing children, (not someone with letters behind their name). Perhaps then we might start making some inroads into so called ‘poverty’.


Hal Josephson, program chair for The Project: Digital Disruption conference

New Zealand’s economy needs to migrate from exporting containers of ‘stuff’ to exporting innovation. If, over the next decade, New Zealand entrepreneurs focus on commercialising our IP, (intellectual property), we will (re)position New Zealand as a globally competitive 21st Century economy. And this shift will create more jobs, enable more prosperity and grow the collective wealth of the nation.

We have taken small steps in this direction but much more needs to be done. We must track global market trends and assess the appetite for new products/services across multiple foreign market sectors. We must build relationships with savvy partners in key markets to help distribute and/or succe$$fully license our great ideas.


Margaret Hall, Christian broadcaster, grandmother of 10

The biggest issue is the disintegration of the family. Strong families are the foundation of strong communities; strong communities make for a strong nation. And traditional marriage is proven to produce the best outcomes for children.

Liberal laws have eroded the honourable status of traditional marriage, reducing it to one of a confusing variety of relationships, including same-sex marriage, while easy divorce has produced broken homes, with thousands of insecure and potentially rebellious children.

Also insecure, and at risk of abuse, are the children of women with multiple partners who each take their pleasure then abandon the hapless mother and offspring. Further consequences of sexual permissiveness are teenage pregnancies, STDs, abortions and even suicides.

The only real remedy is a return to the Christian values of earlier generations, when marriage was a lifelong commitment and parents raised their children with love and discipline to become responsible citizens.


Dr Gloria Hettige, wife, mother and businesswoman, Wellington

The biggest issue is a debt-ridden culture and the growing gap between the poor and the rich. Has capitalism gone wrong?

I came to New Zealand in 1978 to pursue postgraduate studies. At that time, the culture was do it yourself, work, save and invest. Borrowing was not heard off. In the past 30 years, society has become affluent and with it came the rising individual debt levels.

To change the mindset ‘buy now and pay later’, we should be teaching our very young the importance of savings and investments and building bridges between the poor and rich through social entrepreneurship.


Carl Reller, Carterton

We think of ourselves, family and friends as the centre of the universe and reference point through which everything else is measured. However, we only exist because the world is hospitable, providing shelter, food, water and air; that is, the environment. Look around where people thrive and you’ll find natural resources in abundance. Gaze upon failed nation states and you’ll see severe shortages.

We New Zealanders thrive not because of our innate knowledge, skills or entrepreneurialism. We thrive because our environment is gifted and we drink deeply from a well spring of bounty.

As we harvest more trees, catch more fish, water more pastures and build more homes we must remember: we thrive with permission of a forgiving and productive environment. Without that we’d be as hospitable as one of our sub-Antarctic Islands or a sinking atoll.


Garrick Batten, semi-retired agriculturalist, Brightwater

The biggest issue has to be the unbalanced treatment of rural New Zealand in recent years. The current classic example is the so-called ultrafast broadband initiative that has rural spending at only one-fifth of the urban spend, to deliver a 5mbs entry level service of 15 years ago and five per cent of urban speed level. And it will reach only 86 per cent of rural New Zealand.

Provision of UFB service to rural New Zealand at similar levels, coverage and timing to urban service would enable a better spread of population, regional development, capitalise on existing rural social and practical resources and reduce the ratnest problems of cities like Auckland and the constant financial drain on taxpayers for their infrastructure that is a further rural roading penalty.


Cynthia Christie, retired secretary and freelance writer, Waikanae

The biggest issue is that we are wasting our greatest resource – our children. The sad fact is that a large number of families do not seem to be managing their lives. No government, school or other organisation can attend to children’s daily needs. We have good schools and great and generous teachers but they do not have time to attend to a child’s health and well being.

We have some very bright people who are capable of doing great things and some do, we also have too many young men and women in prison. Improved housing, better life skills eg. health, home economics and family planning are needed for at risk families. We have a great little country with many people and things to be proud of but without an even distribution of wealth and well being our country will not flourish.


Ian Spellerberg, Lincoln University emeritus professor of nature conservation

The biggest issue is the increasing unsustainable and inequitable use of nature and the environment.

The issues include human-induced climate change, wholesale land-use change to dairying, pollution of waterways, mining fossil fuels, unsustainable transport policies, environmentally unfriendly building designs, and insufficient resources for conservation of our indigenous biota.

There needs to be cross-party environmental sustainability forums and a Ministry for Sustainability. Sustainability should be a compulsory subject at all levels of education. Gardening should be taught in all schools. All new buildings including houses should be built to the highest environmental or green standards.


Michael Barnett, retired civil engineer, thinker, Wellington

The biggest issue is the growing divide between the haves and the have nots and the concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a wealthy few, which manifests in a disillusioned middle class and a despairing group of struggling poor.

New Zealand desperately needs visionary political leadership that recognises that the free market model for managing the economy has its limitations.

I suggest the following: Implement a financial transaction tax with a focus on speculative currency transactions, tax all banking transactions, a flat rate of income tax and the phasing out of GST.

Adopt a Universal Basic Income for all New Zealand citizens including children to replace the current ad hoc delivery of social welfare.


John Williams, Former CEO of Production Engineering Company, ONZM

New Zealand must urgently increase its innovative, high-tech, cloud-based exports by establishing an overarching enterprise which will ensure New Zealand becomes the world leader in the supply of cloud-based products, services and training for Small and Medium Enterprises. (SMEs)                              

Rod Drury’s Xero leads the world in cloud-based accounting software for SMEs. Xero employs highly innovative, ‘‘quick on their feet’’ New Zealanders, and that is why Xero leaves far behind the world’s traditional accounting leaders like Intuit, Sage and MYOB. 

The proposed overarching enterprise would ensure innovative New Zealand companies like GeoOp, Vend, Unleashed and many, many others, would have access to world-class marketing and customer support for their products and services and New Zealand’s ‘weightless’ exports would increase dramatically.


Richard Ryan, retired naval officer and ex Director of the NZ Commission for the Future, Havelock North

An ode to the Land of the Long Lost Opportunity

Where should NZ go? We should turn round and head off in the opposite direction - towards utopia!

Stop being China’s dairy before they realise that rice and soy that they produce is healthier.

Stop harvesting pulp and firewood and plant Kauris and other value-added natives.

Go over entirely to organic production and reinvest in the wool industry.

Reform the monetary system, taking back the printing of money from the banks.

Declare ourselves an armed neutral state and withdraw from unhealthy alliances.

Use complimentary therapy in place of transnational medicine where feasible.

Move to energy self sufficiency and alternative home grown fuels.

Favour import substitution where realistic and subsidise further advances in carbon fibre vehicles (cars, aircraft, airships and ships.)

Initiate and help others to run a South Pacific and Antarctic nuclear free zone.

Replace MMP with STV and use electronic referenda for major decisions.

In other words exchange our unequal, representational democracy with a new and world beating PARTICIPATORY ANTICIPATORY democracy! 


Craig Brown, retired builder, Hastings

New Zealand would take a huge leap forward if our national and local governments stopped treating the working population as a resource to be mined for every last dollar. ‘They’ have no interest in cutting costs to benefit the public (that would reduce taxes) – cost cutting is only to bolster government coffers.

Every step of our lives, there is a cost imposed by central or local government. Often ludicrous, arbitrary charges (laws, regulations, etc) are imposed as revenue gathering. Why is there no attempt to look after the ‘‘owners’’ of NZ?. Because those in power need ever more revenue to stay in power and justify the supposed rewards of ‘‘voting for us’’. 

Cut back the nanny state and excessive rules, regulations and charges. Then we might individually and collectively be able to then save for our future.


David Smith, GP (views are personal)

The biggest issue facing New Zealand is the everyday health of everyday people. The service handling this, your GP and health centre staff, is called primary care. If primary care is rubbish, hospitals fill up and the system collapses.

Being under enormous pressure, most GP practices operate a ‘revolving door’ – one patient per slot, one condition, one payment. Come again next week.

Now that the secrets of long life are being unravelled (blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, smoking, exercise, diet etc) the revolving door needs replacing with a ‘windows of opportunity’ model. That means a comprehensive consultation 20 minutes long, detailed current and archived medical records, prompt treatment of minor conditions (same day if possible), the creation of a health care plan, family group awareness, occupational awareness, leisure activity awareness, a computerised recall system, ready access to specialist expertise for minor conditions  (immediate advice clinics), electronic referrals and the complete raft of modern IT from internet access to printed information.

Once primary care gets its act together, the demands on hospitals will also fall.

The programme needs to be personalised, family orientated, and based on continuing care that is free. Insurance or subscription schemes, rather than automatic payments, would be needed to embrace high needs patients and their dependents. This may not be popular, but it is the only road to economic recovery.

Such a programme would take about 3 years of hard work in most practices. It is achievable, has been done, and could be done throughout New Zealand.


Margaret Willard, City Councillor, Wainuiomata

New Zealand’s future lies in the value we place on our children. They will shape the future, and we need to ensure their input is constructive rather than costly through the health, justice, police and welfare systems.

We must aim for every child being a wanted child. This needs to start immediately through the education system, where schools with foresight have already introduced programmes like Roots of Empathy and the experience of caring for a vulnerable life through inanimate objects. The rights of a prospective child should take precedence over the rights of women to procreate. We should value the role of parenting as much as any career.

For our most vulnerable and for our future, taxing of the most wealthy should be raised and large tax-avoiding companies made to pay to ensure every child is loved, warm, well cared for and will receive an appropriate education.


Peter Watt, retired editor, Havelock North.

The biggest issue facing New Zealand is its ridiculously low population given the country’s size and its bountiful natural resources. We need to boost our population by an additional 3 million over the next 10 years.

New Zealand’s large economic potential will be held back because there simply are not enough people in the labour force, right across the spectrum of skill requirements.

Already, the dairying juggernaut is reporting a lack of skilled labour, let alone the additional labour requirements needed if we are to substantially boost our food commodity exports with value-added processed foods, as Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland have done in recent years.

So we need a bold and imaginative immigration policy which invites people with our required skill sets, from countries renowned for their hard work, entrepreneurship, innovation, respect for the law and sound business practices.


Ernest A Norris, retired business adviser, Feilding

The biggest issue facing New Zealand is that we lack a business mentality intent on making a profit. Government and politicians have got to pull the country together so that we all work as a profit making company. We cannot go on living on borrowed money. All the products and services we can provide have to be aimed at the rest of the world, because that is where our market is. To work with them we need the very best communications that money can provide.

And whilst we tidy up New Zealand, get rid of separate racist claims for land and money etc. We are one people and everyone should be equal under the law. We have all got to work together as a single team with the best possible leadership at the top.

Your Weekend