Our government: still no idea



Happy Easter everyone, bad weather aside.

A previous post of mine was called “The Government with no ideas”.  Unsurprisingly, the theme of the piece was of a current government thoroughly absent of any creative ideas or solutions to assist more New Zealanders achieve a decent standard of living.


Well, they still have no idea.

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You might not have realised it, but we actually reached a fundamental point in history this last week.  In the future, people will look back at this time and say: “that is when things changed!!”.

(Or will they?)

The release of the concluding part of the fifth and final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) occurred on 14 April 2014 and represents a marker in history.  From now on, there is simply no doubt.  The science is out, and climate change is in.

The sceptics are scurrying away into silence, their increasing marginalisation by the Tsunami of evidence only outweighed by their motivation flowing from matters other than scientific.

But, the response from our government has so far been deafening in its silence.  Indeed, the only related and contemporaneous action has been to approve further exploration permits, including over pristine and protected land (of which the Minister was ignorant – he’s lining up Aorangi next!).  I could appreciate the irony more, were it not so symptomatic of an abdication of responsibility and leadership.  Yet further proof of this government’s genuflection at the altar of profit.

The thing is, though, I’m not much of a scientist.  I probably couldn’t even turn on a Bunsen burner these days.  Nor am I much of a greenie – I mean, I like recycling, but I also like to shower fairly regularly.  So, a commitment to the environment and mitigating the impacts of climate change has never really been at the centre of my personal or political philosophies.

I am, though, a pragmatist.  I believe in confronting problems head on.  There is simply no point putting your head in the sand and ignoring the challenges you face, especially when you are talking about the responsibilities of our elected representatives.

This government is happy with the head in the sand approach.  Captured by privileging short term wallet expansion over long term survival, the short term wins out every time.

One of the refrains we hear from this government is that there is no point for New Zealand to set ambitious targets or take other innovative steps without a binding international agreement.  Taking that argument further, the theory is that New Zealand companies would be at competitive disadvantage if put to higher standards.

Superficially, this argument has some appeal.  But, I don’t buy it.  My concern, especially following the IPCC reporting and the shift towards consensus that international action is required, is that New Zealand companies and industries will be caught short.  Ultimately, we will be less competitive.

This is particularly so given our isolation.  A global food shortage might sound great right now for New Zealand’s industries, but it won’t help much if we can’t transport our products anywhere.

Waiting for an international treaty just leaves us behind the curve.  We need to be in front of the curve with our sectors ready and able to ship their goods and sell their innovation to the world.

So, what would I like to see?

I would confront this by trying to come up with strategies and targets, but I would not want to impose these.  For this to work, I think you need buy-in and committment.

I would set up a cross-sector task force with an aggressive mandate.  Constituents would include scientists (like Professor Ralph Sims who is a member of the IPCC), Iwi, industry representatives, and members of civil society.  Shoot, Richie McCaw too – he makes his living off grass.

No politicians though.  This needs to be non-partisan.

I would set up a three day summit where New Zealanders can come and submit ideas and thinking to the task force.  We could have speakers address key themes and possible solutions.  The summit would have side events focused on green technology, sustainability awareness raising, and specific sessions targeted for school kids.  Civil society and advocacy groups can create their own side events on specific issues.  There will be an online interactive space where New Zealanders can also engage – by submitting proposals, posting videos of great inventions, and voting on already submitted ideas.  It will be a national discussion, where those who want to participate, can.

Let’s create some energy around solutions.  Let’s bring people together.  Let’s do something.

Yes, it might be hard to come to an agreement and of course there are flaws in my idea.  But, this is the biggest challenge facing our planet right now.  If we do nothing about it, then what does that say about us?


  1. Every single person in the world is just that, a single person, and every single person has their own contribution to the situation, so to say we are too small a country to do anything is disingenuous to the nth degree.
    Fact is, person for person, we are indeed responsible for a disproportionate amount of the cause of global warming, so it IS our responsibility to take some sort of action.
    Just because we don’t manufacture much does not mean we have no responsibility for the problems it causes, as long as we choose to purchase the goods that have been manufactured

    • In the early 1970’s we were at the top of the OECD countries with record current account surpluses since then we have had Piglet Muldoon raid the Superannuation Funds for his Think Big Projects, we have the sell down of our prime State Assets by Roger Douglas to his buddies, we have had GST increases to 15% and the country is in an even bigger financial mess under the Bankster Hone Shon Key with a record debt of $70 Billion.

      Personally I don’t think NZ Politicans over the past 30-40 years have displayed high levels of fiduciary care when handling NZ’s financial affairs on behalf of the NZ Taxpayer.

      • This is of course an attack on Key from the political right

        While ACT are worrying about the RMA and incest, the daily blog is castigating Key for massive borrowing…

  2. Thanks for this post Michael. Perhaps you could forward it to the Labour MPs who should be leaping in to fill the gap that the Govt is leaving wide open. This is such a great opportunity to stake out a real and credible difference between the left and right blocks. Or are some of the old Neo liberal elements still too paralysed by their own suppressed feelings of guilt to get off their backsides and be pro active.this could be the Election issue which turns the polls around. You have good suggestions here for action. Even the wealthiest citizens on Tamaki Dr must now be worried. Meanwhile Bridges announces more fossil fuel exploration. Unbelievable stupidity but also a limp response from the Leader of the Opposition. Show some real leadership and some moral courage Labour, middle nz may be relieved to see some honesty and practicality. Or alternatively sit on your hands and let John Key take NZ backwards to obscurity.

  3. Russel Norman has some fantastic solutions for this. You can listen to some of his ideas here in this interview. (See link below)
    It was conducted in response to the disparaging comments made by the National party about antigrowth. Allowing Russel Norman to respond makes you realise just how many progressive ideas they have for this country whearas National are completely intellectually bankrupt.


    When you examine all the green initiatives implemented overseas we are in danger of being left behind and looking like an ignorant backwater. This country used to have a reputation for innovative solutions and the world still looks to us for those solutions. In response to Beijings persistant pollution problems they invested 950 million in a New Zealand waste management company to address some of their problems.


    • KATE – I listened, and I noticed, the questioner had few more questions to ask, he was overwhelmed by the intelligent, smart and hard to follow answers that Russel gave. What a stark contrast to any Labour aspirant for the PM job.

      I feel the Greens are way smarter and have more potential, while Labour lives in the past and thinks they will win over 40 per cent of the vote. Time to wake up and smell the roses, David and the rest.

  4. Indeed, it just comes to my mind, how many attacks we have had over the last few weeks on policy announcements, on personalities, on media releases, coming from the mainstream media and government against Labour and Greens. What the hell have National announced, by the way, next to bloody NADA!

    So this election campaign is nothing else but a smear campaign, by Key, National and their bought media hacks, to run down the opposition 24/7. It smells bad, it stinks, it is getting close to Kim Yong Key style politics, like they do in places like North Korea, where the media (paid by the task master) loyally preach the same praises and messages about the “great’ government and “leader” every day, but have no time, or only bad time, for those that may challenge the status quo.

    Yes, there is NADA coming from National, and we are supposed to trust them, vote for them and cheer them on.

    FFS, media deserve to be “bombarded” (with dissent) for their mercenary servitude to undemocratic forces here.

    Stand up Kiwis, wake up, just for once, and throw the shackles off, and wake up, stand up, and claim back your damned rights, that are even trampled on by the underfunded, overworked and mistake making Ombudsman now, who is supposed to be Parliament’s Officer to uphold justice.

    I fear few know what I know, but I tell you, your country is AT RISK of total sell out and seizing by forces that have NO interest in YOUR well being.

  5. It is the job of the Key government to have no ideas. They are simply doing their job. John Key “rat cunning” yet devoid of ideas, que?

    A thriving NZ employing a different model of entrepreneurship, clean tech, green initiatives, GE-free, low-carbon, zero growth would be a very unsightly pimple on the smooth smiling face of global neo-liberal capitalism.
    At base it would be a very unwelcome threat to the house of cards that purports to be our financial system which is really a mechanism for creaming off wealth and is underpinned by a growth imperative i.e. debt-based money.
    Once the TPPA millstone has been applied we can unleash all the ideas we like, perhaps only to find that they are already owned by US corps or are anti-competitive.

    That’s the reality we have to face before we come up with bright ideas. The first bright ideas will need to be how to deal with the actuality not the mirage. It’s not that ideas don’t exist because there’s a vacuum, they don’t exist because there’s a wall.

  6. Key has been groomed by the Brotherhood in New York to complete the Corporate Takeover of NZ by the New York Merchant Banking Community. NZ debt now sitting at $70 Billion and rising.

    Debt is used as an instrument to enable one country to control another countries affairs, borrowing from offshore to fund tax cuts for the wealthy is mindless stuff, meanwhile slamming the lower socio economic groups with a 2.5% GST increase was just plain cruelty.

  7. The National government has no ideas? ridiculous. They have one idea: let the market decide! Whenever they do anything they first ask themselves “what will the market think?” National is not a government, it is a rubber stamp council for the 1%, the Employers Federation, Federated Farmers, Warner Brothers, the liquor industry and the gambling industry. That is National’s idea of “The Market” and that is what runs our country now.

    • The 1% stuff is just crap. But as to your first point, in a choice between the market deciding and Govt. deciding I’ll vote for the market any day.

      • You’re right, IV, most people think it’s closer to 0.1% of the population who are in the world’s driving seat.
        No lessons learnt from the market driving us over the cliff during the GFC, I see, also no humility after the taxpayer had to bail out so many “to big to fail” market driven companies, banks and insurance companies.

  8. Off on a tangent here: did the author really mean to say this:

    ” Nor am I much of a greenie – I mean, I like recycling, but I also like to shower fairly regularly.”???

    No one objects to your showering ‘fairly regularly’.

    Now find a practical and ‘green’ alternative to sending potable water, expensively captured and processed, wastefully used, literally sent ‘down the gurgler’ instead of sending it out through a gray-water capture system for flushing the loo, or washing the car, or watering your garden.

    Australian towns do this sort of thing from necessity. They’ve even contemplated reprocessing effluent water to a ‘fit to drink’ state…

    Sigh. ‘Green’ is not a synonym for people who seldom wash.

    • Andrea,
      Personally I would suggest a composting toilet is an even better option than a “gray-water capture system for flushing”. Joseph Jenkins’ book “Humanure” is a great way to get down and dirty on this subject.
      It has always amused me that we humans are the only animals silly enough to deliberately crap in our drinking water.

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