Investing in a resilient future a lesson from Covid-19


Food supply is a matter of national security. Empty shelves in the supermarket are an unfamiliar sight in New Zealand, more reminiscent of 1980s Eastern Europe. We’ve had such relative privilege for so long, many of us forgot how dependent we were on contingent, international supply chains.

Our supermarkets have been full of food from around the globe, and we’ve had access to travel to all its corners. Before Coronavirus, people had become complacent about the ability to buy a pair of shoes made in China, a t-shirt from Bangladesh, food from Turkey, or a trip to Antarctica or Machu Picchu. Often price and pleasure informed our decisions to buy, regardless of the impact on workers, the environment or food miles and carbon emissions. Meanwhile we knew our best lamb and apples and kiwifruit were sent offshore to reach high prices there while we had the smallest and misshapen, non-export grade stock at world market prices. We felt the effects of over-tourism, but took our tourism dollar elsewhere. We could order a book on Amazon, and we’d watch Donald Trump with distant dismay. That’s what globalisation brought us.

Our ability to fly or buy from around the world made our global community smaller and more interconnected. Unlike in nature, complexity in supply chains leads to increased vulnerability. According to supply chain risk managers, cars, for example, have anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 components; aeroplanes have up to six million. Sophisticated but ubiquitous technology such as cell phones are supported by raw resources from Africa, tech from the US, construction from China for consumption in all of the above and beyond. Any one component can include parts from many countries, each with parts from many others. Dependence on international supply chains has made us vulnerable – to exposure to disease, disruptions in any part of the chain, and dependent on successfully functioning markets to sell our own goods overseas. That dependence has left us over-exposed to risk. It’s made us mostly takers not makers.

Coronavirus related supply chain disruption is already altering the way we do business. Some of it’s the result of domestic lockdown, some from further afield.  Here in New Zealand 5000 pigs a week are not being ‘processed’ (killed) because there’s no outlet for their meat with independent butchers prohibited from sales. But another 7000 pigs a week are still imported and consumed from North America and European states where animal welfare standards are poorer. Milk, meat and fruit around the world, are dumped because they can’t be picked, produced or sold. When shop shelves are empty – it’s not necessarily because there’s no stock, but because of supply chain failure.

Responses to supply chain failures often focus on three R’s – building Resilience, Reshoring – bringing industry back on-shore, and Replacing inaccessible offshore goods and disrupted supply lines with local alternatives.

TDB Recommends

As New Zealand rebuilds its economy after the Covid-19 lockdown, these responses will be essential. Through retraining we have an opportunity to rebuild New Zealand’s domestic capacity and reduce global dependence. We can stimulate local employment and consumer markets for locally made goods. It’s anticipated that domestic tourism will partly offset losses from closed borders (all those Kiwis who have traveled the world but never toured the South Island – now’s your chance). We can support a green, zero-carbon economy and build in more resilience, we can replace inaccessible goods with God’s Own from Godzone. Jobs previously filled by international workers and holidaymakers might now be more appealing to Kiwis made jobless elsewhere.

Imagine a resurgence of New Zealand made clothes, shoes, cars and trains as the value of supporting domestic trades and industry are considered in cost equations, not just seeking the lowest price tender. But just as global supply chains have geopolitical implications, the shape of rebuilt supply chains and economic streams in New Zealand are political too. So expect a fight among vested interests.

The renewed era of nationalism automatically appeals to the policy purview of New Zealand First. Never shy to reject internationalism with an approach bordering on xenophobia, NZ First are already advocating a Buy New Zealand Made campaign.

An apparent new era of interventionist, nationalist ‘big (New Zealand first) government’ also has support from NZ First – through perhaps a new Ministry of Works, and through levies on timber exports to support domestic access and local industry recovery.

In response to the Government’s calls for nominated ‘shovel ready’ projects to kick start the economy after lockdown, there is already jostling on the list of preferred projects. Some seek preference for the construction sector over roads and pipes and the project formerly known as SkyPath. But there’s plenty of support for roads too. Improved internet services and travel demand management should be a priority in the new era of remote working and to sustain the wins of working from home during lockdown. Many socially beneficial projects need not be expensive – such as tactical urbanism responding to the need for social distancing on narrow footpaths which have never been so popular. Community gardens will assist long term self-sufficiency and help maintain food security and supply. Greenpeace have proposed a clear Green Covid Response plan here.

There are debates about whether the economic costs of lockdown outweigh public health costs, again New Zealand First are arguing for a quicker resumption of business as usual. Last week Auckland Council considered its bids for the Government’s list of ‘Shovel ready’ projects in a process that pitted progressive Councillors against conservatives.

Pre-empting its Three Year and Annual Planning processes currently underway, the Council has cut around 1100 jobs – reducing the chance of a recovery for those workers at the very least, and undermining Council capacity to deliver on projects. The Council should be investing in staff, recognising the flow-on effects from employment and spending, but it’s instead laying them off and cancelling contracts. Whether rates will be frozen to reduce household expenses, but also reducing the capacity to deliver important social, economic and environmental projects, is a subsequent question.

Government and Council investment decisions should consider more than just monetary profit and loss. Taking lessons from supply chain economics, they should consider matters of resilience, – ensuring investments are carbon neutral and future focussed. They should be socially equitable and building capacity in-house and in-country. They should replace dependence on fragile external forces. Generally, the shorter supply chain- the less risk, there’s strength in staying local. They should replace outdated modes with environmentally and socially friendly alternatives – walking and cycling – to help us all burn fat, not oil.

In the meantime, we should get used to less diversity on the shelves in our shops, and recognise the premium of supporting local suppliers, vendors and workers. We should be supporting our communities. Times like this show how essential our community is.


  1. the 3R’s that’s a good way to put it . also a chance for outlandish employers to get their sh*t together and make sure they have good sustainable working conditions for incoming new and old employees .

    and why not aim for a sustainable population , of say .. where it is now for example .. that would mean close to enough housing in NZ for everyone .. and less need for ‘big infrastructure projects or to strip the planet bare of resources , consequently saving billions of $$$

  2. We always had enough beds to house the homeless!

    This is a good initiative and hopefully ends homelessness in NZ.

    However putting up the homeless in hotels, is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff though.

    To avoid this there needs to be serious thought about having so many poor outcomes for many in NZ with drugs/alcohol/cigarettes/mental health issues/cognitive issues/poverty for more and more many people going forward….

    Aka avoiding people getting to the bottom in the first place.

    This should be a wakeup call.

    Teenager is tortured to death and fails to escape with police that come to her door. She is so badly abused she fails to even have a flight mentality to escape her torturers with two chances to leave them! It’s chance, police even found her body. WTF!

    Auckland teen was kidnapped and tortured, court hears

    Another sad story of another teenager in care that in stead of being protected and rehabilitated ends up in prison for a decade over a fake rape allegation from another ‘troubled’ youth.

    AKA Better care for NZ children and youth is a must. Under neoliberalism we don’t seem to care about children, just the businesses and bogus charities to ‘donate’ to help children and another marketing campaign.

    Funny enough kids need protection against abuse and a future to turn to, rather than a charity/business sponsored raincoat! But neoliberalism doesn’t rate social care, but the growth markets of money to be made from expanding poverty!

    People also need to have worthwhile and fair work to do. The current competitive and insecure gig economy, low wages that are topped up by benefits, is not a viable future to churn out well balanced citizens or retain a welfare state going forward.

    Funny enough the nurse who helped save Boris left NZ a decade ago.

    A familiar theme for many in NZ who are good at their jobs and choose to leave rather than irk out a living in NZ that prefers moneylaunders, lower waged workers and billionaires, to the price of retaining decent nurses and other competent workers and experts in NZ.

    • Many young Kiwis get lured to do their “big OE” and get socially involved while overseas. Some get married and some get involved with a social group, have a job and become settled. It costs to travel home and then accommodation and a job have to be secured. It can look too hard to move.

      • @John W, High skilled Kiwis who should be getting high wages, used to come back to NZ, now they don’t.

        Instead we have been sold a pup from John n Bill, that having millions of low skilled, lowed waged migrants to permanent residents will replace them and bridge the gap.

        Judging by the multiple crisis and increased poverty, housing, jobseeker at 11%+, pollution, congestion, shortages everywhere of key staff in every area from bus drivers to doctors, it ain’t working out too well. You can replace a doctor with a nurse aid (big on our ‘essential skills’ ) with no qualifications and think you will get the same quality health system.

        As they say if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

        The decent migrants with real skills, also leave NZ to work for real wages so brain drain can never be solved with migration.

        Aka only by increasing the high paid opportunities and good work conditions to retain a professional workforce in NZ for local people and high skilled migrants like Dr Alejandro Jimenez Restrepo, (aka highly skilled experienced migrants who will not put up with lowered professional standards and constantly being duped by their employer just like the professional Kiwis who also leave.)

        And with the amount of screw ups in NZ from everything to building a house or apartment that falls down and leaks, to now having the most expensive roads in the world being built in NZ, lowest ICU beds per population in western world, to constantly leaking IT data through stupidity and our phones not working whenever there is a crisis and everyone trys to ring at once, NZ is falling behind the world…. big time!

        NZ has become a Kafka type society where the ‘middle men’ control everything and micro manage and undermine the experts out of the workforce here.

  3. The Skypath is not in your wildest dreams anywhere like ‘shove ready’ but the 2nd harbour crossing via a tunnel is.

    • WTF? What are you smoking man! Firstly the second harbour crossing is not even needed because traffic volumes are not growing across the bridge, secondly it will just induce more traffic, thirdly it would need to have extensive design and consenting work done, fourthly it would disgorge traffic at both ends directly into suburbs that are unable to absorb more traffic, and fifthly, public transport would be a much better use of money.

      • Well if we had a tunnel straight across from Devenport to Parnell then we could move the Devenport Navy Base and local Iwi can manage it as a gated community for foreigners, then replace the Harbour Bridge with something that can take passenger trains.

        • The existing bridge is not strong enough to take trains. The tunnel would take rail both ways plus road one way. The existing bridge then becomes road the opposite direction and cycle/pedestrian both ways.

          Zero need to touch the existing bridge, bar a few cans of paint.

      • I love the way some have an argument that is that feeble, weak and pathetic they feel that can’t address the ball so they go after the man instead.

        nukefacts, you do really need to up your knowledge level about the path, it’s obviously lacking as the points you raise are inaccurate, dated or can be applied to all options equally.

        I’m not discussing the merits of the options just stating the FACT that the Skypath is NOT or even close to shovel ready. NZTA has plans to make plans on how to do the SkyPath but that’s as advanced as it is, concept drawings only. The tunnel has been consented and can start quite quickly.

    • SkyPath has resource consents and th ding granted. A (third) harbour crossing us still being debated.

      • Oh yknow there’s that great man Phill Goff that nak of turning 1yr projects into 4yrs. Yknow if we had of went the other way in last years mayoralty race we’d have sky bridge my now.

  4. These are the policies this government should have been implementing anyway. Instead it had had to be dragged kicking and screaming to implement even modest reforms. The policies listed above would raise the incomes across a broad range of New Zealand and give local companies a chance to get to their feet without being undercut by cheap imports. In Denmark farmers felt it was wrong that locals paid international prices for produce and mandated some was reserved for local consumption at fair prices. Don’t expect that altruism here. Part of recent dairy market legislation proposed to disconnect the local market from international pricing was removed after intense lobbying. We can only hope this crisis bring an end to mass importation of low cost labour and allows the market to dictate salaries and wages by supply and demand as it should have been allowed to. Also meaning firms had to up skill and train staff if there was a shortage. Funny how anything that improves conditions for ordinary workers means we are happy to distort the market. I think we will try and maintain the status quo, even if it means more damage to our people and society. Labour need the support of the aspirational middle class, who even now continue to vote against their best interests.

  5. Many practical points that could be very helpful, given the complexity of climate adaptation in reality.

    Climate Change – through its genesis – is a global, terrestrial phenomena and most implications cannot be handled through narrow nation-state-like makeups and semantic borrowings made from warfare experience.

    Ecology is about human species re-discovering meaning and fitting in evolution. This has not much to do with generational attitudes but is (presently) founded in capitalist means of production and consumption.

    On the surface, nationalist simplicity may offer the illusion that previous (black-and-white) negatives can be brought back to shine by re-colouring the (glorious) past.

    Wrong turn, most probably.

    Instead, what we should seek for is sense, value, quality, opportunity of direct local-global interaction, and a flow of knowledge and wisdom that fosters individual and collective emancipation.

    The New Internationalist.

  6. The market will hardly produce the changes suggested. More of the same is what the system is geared for and the big monied players will seek that.

    Changed need to be made by Govt but business NZ will resist anything that cuts across their perceived grip on the economy and wealth stream.

    Its Govt ( the people) who need to force the changes and make them work.

  7. A very good post indeed. It is amazing that this microscopic organism is providing the impetus for change that we as humans were incapable of… yet one could say it was bound to happen sooner than later…

    The whole combination of globalism and neo liberal free markets and the political structures built upon it are being dismantled,… before our very eyes, the fear is the shocking vulnerabilities it has exposed.

    It is a case of taking the medicine from which fate and folly have now dealt us.

    And part of that medicine is the reevaluation of the importance of people and community’s rather than growth for growths sake and placing profit before people. The people in third world country’s know only too well the small deprivation’s we think we are going under, – they’ve lived it for decades if not century’s being the exploited by more wealthier nations.

    And now the days of reckoning have come for globalism. Which is not to say that’s a bad thing save for the serious issues it brings to so many working people. But looking past this pandemic is a golden opportunity to demand change. To force politicians to listen up to whats needed . And less to those extremely wealthy lobbyist groups who have for so long bent their ears.

    And part of that is the redevelopment of national industry’s, of a serious attempt to developing our own internal trade, of buying Kiwi made and Kiwi grown again. Years ago , there was such an attempt at developing our own industry’s right smack bang in the middle of the neo liberal juggernaut, but nothing ever came of it.

    But now, the boots on the other foot and firmly on the throat of the neo liberal paradigm,… and this time they are forced to listen. Its not going to be just us, the little people who will notice the changes, – but also the old die hard free market capitalists who wont accept change and don’t want it.

    For once, TINA is now shown conclusively and emphatically for the straight out bald faced lie that it always was.

  8. Your comment manfred staab is idealistic and 20th century. Before we introduced our inter-dependence on international finance, labour resources and markets, it would already have been out of date as we are always lagging behind the sharper pencils in the world. We have made ourselves dependent on the whims and changes of overseas suppliers and now dance their tune.

    Our Ministry of Education is keen on teaching all through on-line learning and computers, so that puts hi-tech in and expense between us and knowledge gaining and our own simple mind-thinking processes that need to be learned at a basic level so they can be tuned up as we grow more mature and handle more complexity. Instead we are dependent on the computer, and often learn the theory of something by watching only, instead of combining with doing ourselves and understanding. That makes us half-educated and unequal when we meet with people overseas who are more immersed in tech than us. We are becoming doltish followers, wise village idiots; talking the talk but ….what and why?

    • I enjoyed and agreed with your first paragraph but got a little lost with the rest,… I had some strong apple cider last night, you see….

      And currently, this woman’s beautiful voice sounds like its mocking me…

      Fiddler’s Dram – “Day Trip to Bangor (Didn’t We Have a Lovely Time)” – 1979

      Good read, anyhows.

    • Kia ora Greywarbler. Thank you very much for the response. Interesting insights into the Kiwi psyche, eh…..?

      Just did a quick refresher of my very limited knowledge on the real greywarbler ….

      “They sing throughout the year but most vigorously when nesting, during spring. Grey warblers are often heard more than they are seen.”

      Is this correct?

      On a more serious note.

      Nearly all root causes for climate change as a global terrestrial and atmospheric event – and most of the required mitigation and adaptation measures – are outside the management capacity of a single country only.

      I do not know where it is coming from, but many people in AO/NZ see the country as a sort of isolated ark of happiness being able to paddle its way through stormy waters without being bothered by the temptations and dangers of the outside world.

      This is pure fantasy.

      Her geopolitical location in the mineral-rich Pacific, proximity to melting Antarctica, vulnerability from geo-hazards, makes AO/NZ a prime spot for future disturbances.

      As human species we have no real choice, not even in the land of the long white cloud. We must bring our acts together and work in unison.

      Whether we like it or not.

      For these exciting times we need an organizational structure that we do not have at present….. we cannot even properly articulate how it could be designed and composed.

      Plenty of thinking still to be done! But quick, please.

      The assumption sketched out here is very much realistic and highly pragmatic. The relevant baseline – the actual carbon count – is usually very precisely outlined by the comments of ‘Afewknowthetruth’, also done below as part of this blog.
      I can see clearly now.

  9. ‘We can support a green, zero-carbon economy and build in more resilience’

    ‘Imagine a resurgence of New Zealand made clothes, shoes, cars and trains’

    These are mutually exclusive concepts, Christine. All manufacture in an industrial economy is dependent on the utilisation of fossil fuels for energy and the conversion of raw material into products.

    Only a food-and-wood-based economy (as per pre-industrial societies) is ‘zero-carbon’. I doubt many people will vote for life as lived by pre-European-contact Maori.

    Irrespective of what happens in NZ, globalised fossil-fuel-dependent arrangements are what keep most of the humans on this planet alive (planting, harvesting, processing and distribution in the industrial agricultural system).

    The McPherson Paradox hypothesis (reduction in industrial activity causes a surge in overheating) is about to be tested.

    • The concept of a postindustrial society may not be too far away.

      Preindustrial societies did use wood as fuel, wind energy capture with sails and organic windmills. beast of burden such as horses, oxen ; worked some metals and many groups successfully lived as cooperatives.

      The future ahead can support cottage industry, make shoes and clothes, build houses from stone, earth and clay as well as thatch roofs. Windows as we know them will be harder but not necessary.
      Transporting food, fuel and materials will be much reduced with local supplies being what is used locally.

      The population will have to shrink drastically, preferably by way of birth control but life expectancy will fall.

      What you are looking at is a society with minimal energy use and so have a small consumption of Non Renewable Natural Resources (NRNRs).
      The world has a finite amount of NRNRs and we have used close to 75% of what was available in pre industrial times so everything will be a bit harder.
      Don’t think cities nor banks.

  10. Sounds like good reasoning for Fortress Peoples Republic o Aotearoa!

    A major restructuring of the economy, macro’s v micro with a ‘Republic’-centric focus. Less dependence on trade for trades sake.

    This neoliberal government has proved that they can Socialise taxpayers taxes by giving corporates and the business and banking sectors the lions share of the allocated $52b.

    They just need to be told to realign their judgement and remove their pro business, corp bias and focus that Socialising of taxes on to the people instead.

Comments are closed.