Finance Minister Grant Robertson assures business community more of the numbers behind the Government's policies will be released on December 14 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson assures business community more of the numbers behind the Government's policies will be released on December 14 
Cartoon of Grant Robertson by Jacky Carpenter

Grant Robertson has delivered his first major speech as Finance Minister, committing the Government to being an “active partner in the economy”.

Speaking to a business audience in Auckland, he says: “This Government will dedicate itself to closing the social and infrastructure deficits that have opened up in recent years. We cannot expect to solve these problems by continuing business as usual.

"We are a government that believes in shared prosperity.”

Robertson has also announced the Government’s Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) will be released on December 14.

“New Zealanders will be able to see the progress we have already made under our 100 Day Plan. A Budget Policy Statement alongside the HYEFU will include our best estimates to date of our coalition and supply and confidence commitments,” Robertson says.

“The Budget Policy Statement will kick off the process towards Budget 2018, when we will detail Government policy commitments not contained within the 100 Day Plan.

“The HYEFU will also include Treasury’s latest forecasts for the economy and show how this Government will track against our Budget Responsibility Rules, including our target of reducing net core Crown debt to 20% of GDP within five years of taking office."

Robertson remains committed to delivering operating surpluses every year, unless there’s a major disaster of economic shock.

He says he has directed ministers to assess their budgets against the government’s priorities, so that if they don’t match up, funding can be reinvested elsewhere.

Robertson also remains committed to ensuring government spending as a proportion of GDP doesn’t rise about the recent historical average of 30%.

Population growth and home sales to be ditched as growth drivers

Looking at the state of the economy more broadly, he notes Reserve Bank and OECD forecasts have been more optimistic than that of the bank economists.

Yet: “In general these economists agree that over the next year there will be some softening of growth as the housing market remains flat and as net migration tapers off slightly.

“Then, there is a consensus of a stronger growth track through 2019 and 2020 which is expected to be supported by government policies such as increasing R&D tax credits, increased wages and export growth.

“In other words, we’ll be swapping out population growth and the buying and selling houses to each other as our two main growth drivers for much more sustainable ones…

“If that means slightly lower growth for a year while the transition to a productive economy occurs, then that will be a price worth paying.”

Robertson recognises the Reserve Bank’s Financial Stability Report highlighting the Government’s housing plan as a reason for the Governor's confidence in easing loan-to-value ratios.  

Progress already made

To recap what the Government’s done, Robertson says:

“Just last night the first two significant pieces of legislation were passed - twenty six weeks Paid Parental Leave (at a cost of $325m over the forecast period) and the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill that significantly increases minimum standards for rental housing.

“Progress is being made on all the measures in the Plan. These include the introduction of a minimum wage of $16.50 an hour from 1 April 2018, in line with the coalition agreement with New Zealand First to lift that to $20 an hour, with effect in April 2021.  

“Contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund will re-commence within the 100 Days.

“Student allowances and the living costs component of the student loan scheme will both increase by $50 per week from the 1st of January next year.”

Robertson also highlights the Government’s Families Package, aimed boosting income for low and middle-income workers. 

He says this will be paid for by repealing the previous government’s tax cuts, which gave $400 million per annum to the top ten percent of earners.

Here is a copy of Robertson’s speech:

This morning I want to outline the goals and some of the key policy initiatives in the government’s economic strategy; update you on the steps we will take before Christmas including the release of the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update and Budget Policy Statement, and the implementation of our 100 Day Plan.

It is only just over a month ago that the government was formed, built on a coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First, and with the support of our confidence and supply partners, the Green Party.  While these are three parties with different traditions and histories, they are bound together by a shared desire to deliver a fairer and better New Zealand.

In both these agreements, there is a common mission statement that reads “Together, we will work to provide New Zealand with a transformational government, committed to resolving the greatest long-term challenges for the country, including sustainable economic development, increased exports and decent jobs paying higher wages, a healthy environment, a fair society and good government. We will reduce inequality and poverty and improve the well-being of all New Zealanders and the environment we live in.”

The parties that make up this government have a shared belief that the status quo and the tired out former government were failing too many New Zealanders.

While the fundamentals of our economy were, and are, strong, the purpose of it had become lost. While some enjoyed the fruits of growth, many did not.

This government will change that and build an economy with the purpose of delivering shared prosperity. We are committed to removing the social and infrastructure deficits that have emerged, and to shifting the focus to improving the wellbeing of all our people.

This will be an economy fit for purpose for the 21st Century. Resilient, Adaptable, Productive and Inclusive.

One of the things that struck me over the last few years as I have moved around the country was that the message I received from workers in smoko rooms was the same one I received from Executives in board rooms – the gaps in our country have grown too large. In this year’s Mood of the Boardroom survey 70% of the CEOs said they were concerned about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Concerns about child poverty, homelessness, and inequality dominated the election.

It’s not the New Zealand way to see our fellow citizens left out and left behind.  The clear message from voters was that we had to do better, to fulfil our country’s egalitarian mission.

And to do better, we have to do things differently.  In crafting our plans and agreements we have had this at the forefront of our minds.

On a personal level I have had in my mind a man who last year sent me a copy of a letter he had sent to the then Prime Minister. He and his wife both worked, 60 hours a week in total, but they were not making ends meet.  He was struggling to pay the bills and he said his children did not play sport because he could not afford the fees.  He ended his letter saying “I am lucky. I have a house to live in and my wife and I both work. But we are poor.”

It is a not a successful economy where people in work feel poor or lucky, simply because they have a roof over their heads. A successful economy must be one where all our people can live a life of dignity, security and hope.

Economic strategy

The goal of our economic strategy is to improve the well-being and living standards of New Zealanders through sustainable and inclusive growth.  This means moving beyond narrow economic indicators and measures of success, and instead puts the well-being of our people and the environment at the centre.

Budget Responsibility Rules

Underpinning our strategy are our Budget Responsibility Rules.

We set these out earlier this year to ensure that everyone understood our commitment to responsible fiscal and economic management. In government we will abide by these rules.

To recap, this means that we will deliver a sustainable operating surplus each year unless there is a significant disaster or major economic shock or crisis. We will ensure that government spending as a proportion of the economy won’t rise above the recent historical average of 30% of GDP. We will reduce net core Crown debt to 20% of GDP within five years of taking office.

In order to meet these rules, it will require discipline. We have an ambitious programme and a plan to deliver on.  We will grow the economy by making it more productive and we will have greater revenue from rejecting National’s tax cuts and cracking down on multinational tax evasion and speculators in the housing market.

But that will not be enough in itself. We also need to reprioritise and seek out programmes that are good value for money.

I have directed all Ministers to assess their Budgets against the new government’s priorities. If programmes are found that do not match these priorities then Ministers should consider whether this funding can be re-invested in new, higher priority areas which match our strategy.  This work is already underway and will contribute to Budget 2018 planning.

The last Labour-led government showed that it is possible to be fiscally disciplined and deliver progressive policies. We will do the same.

I want to mention two other pieces of work that underpin our strategy. We have already begun the work to modernise our monetary policy. While in general our Reserve Bank Act has served New Zealanders well, after 28 years the legislation needs to be updated.

We will continue to ensure that inflation is carefully managed within the target band. But we will expand the objectives of the Reserve Bank Act to provide monetary policy support to our goal of improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders, including focusing on maximising employment. As announced within our first two weeks in office we will review the work of the Bank in two phases, looking at the objectives and decision making first, and then other issues including the macroprudential framework in the second.  The independence of the Bank remains paramount.

We have also established the terms of reference for a Tax Working Group to investigate possible changes which would make our tax system fairer and more balanced. At the moment, our system supports the speculative economy over the productive one.

The group, led by Sir Michael Cullen, has a mandate to propose changes that will make our tax system fit for a 21st Century economic plan, including the changing nature of work and commerce, and the enhancement of our environment.

Living Standards Framework

One of the things we will be doing differently is how we decide our priorities and how we measure the success of our economic strategy.

It is true to say that our GDP growth in New Zealand has been relatively impressive on a global scale.  But that tells us only a fraction of the story. Firstly, it is a measure of activity, not the quality of that activity. And secondly, on a per capita basis, our performance has been significantly less impressive than many of our OECD counterparts. 

Our supply and confidence agreement with the Green Party commits us to working on new sustainable development indicators.  Alongside this work I have asked the Treasury to further develop and accelerate the world-leading work they have been doing on the Living Standards Framework.  This focuses on measuring our success in developing four capitals – financial, physical, human and social. These give a rounded measure of success and of how government policy is improving our well-being.

This is a far better framework for judging our success. It is easy to say a policy is successful if it grows GDP, but what if that is at the expense of the physical environment? How can we be successful if the skill level of our workforce is not improving at the same time?  If we do not have strong communities, any individual success can easily be undermined.

Success for us will mean more than just a strong balance sheet - as important as that is.  It will be marked by how we improve the well-being of all our citizens.

This framework is still being developed, but I see this approach of focusing on well-being and lifting living standards as a core element of how we will create our future Budgets and measure the success of our work. 

It is too late in the process to make significant changes in this regard for the 2018 Budget, but I will have more to say when I deliver that Budget about how this approach will drive our future work.

We will, however, take the first steps in this direction as part of our 100 Day Plan. We will introduce legislation to set measures of child poverty and a requirement to set reduction targets against them. This will include amending the Public Finance Act to ensure this work is part of our Budget process.

I want to say something about the way we must work if we are to achieve the goal of our economic strategy.  This will only be possible when central government partners with local government, businesses, iwi, unions and communities.   There are some big challenges in front of us, which I will now turn to, but I want to be clear that we will be coming to you to solve them together.  

Delivering the Economic Strategy

To deliver this strategy we will have a number of areas of focus. We will develop detailed plans over the coming months but today I want to highlight several key issues.

Lifting Productivity and Wages

Fundamental to creating a more inclusive and prosperous economy is increasing productivity, so that New Zealanders achieve more with every hour they work and our businesses become more internationally competitive.  For the last five years we have had almost no labour productivity growth. Low productivity has been a cloud over the New Zealand economy for decades and previous governments have failed to tackle this issue – this government will not.

Lifting the skills of our people is critical to solving the productivity challenge. We believe that learning for life is core to the further well-being of our people and to promoting our economy. The Future of Work Commission undertaken by the Labour Party in the last two years identified this as one of the most important transitional factors in the changing world of work.  

Just as the first Labour Government moved to make a full secondary education the norm for people we need to update that vision for the 21st Century.  We are sending a clear signal that post-school education and training will be for all.

Let me be absolutely clear – our first-year fees-free policy will come into force from the 1st of January 2018. This is for all quality post-school training. Only about one-third of school leavers go to University. They will benefit from this policy, but so will the other two thirds - those who will go to Polytechnics, other training programmes, apprenticeships and industry training.  This policy is also for those who have not studied or trained before but are in work now.

Also critical for lifting productivity is increased investment in Research, Development and Innovation. The first step in this is the introduction of an R and D Tax Credit.  Beyond that we will move to work smarter, adding value to change the mix of our exports and using and creating new technologies.

We also want to see wages rise.  The government can and will take action to help this happen, including through lifting the minimum wage, paying core public sector staff the living wage and improving fairness in the workplace.   But it is through improving productivity and developing new technologies and approaches to work that we will see long term sustainable improvements.

Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the world and has the potential to undermine our primary industries.  But our response to it is also an opportunity to develop new high wage jobs.   The government’s commitment is to sustainable development that makes the transition to a low carbon economy.  Work is already underway, under James Shaw’s leadership as Minister for Climate Change Issues, to develop a Zero Carbon Act and an Independent Climate Commission. Through our $100 million Green Investment Fund we aim to stimulate $1 billion of new investment in low carbon industries by 2020. This will contribute both to New Zealand’s climate targets and to the sustainability of our economy going forward.

Supporting Regions To Thrive

It is essential that the regions of New Zealand thrive again, for the sake of the people who live there and to take the pressure off Auckland. Long-term under-investment and inter-generational poverty are undermining areas of the country that have enormous economic potential.

The cornerstone of this government’s response to this is the $1 billion Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund agreed with New Zealand First as part of the coalition agreement.

This fund will (among other things) invest in regional rail, supporting the planting of a billion trees over the next ten years, an investigation of the future of the upper North Island Ports, and investment in other large-scale capital projects.

The criteria for the fund are currently being finalised. But I can say that successful bids will have to have robust business cases that show long-term development potential.

There is also a strong commitment to forestry with the development of a NZ Forest Service to be located in regional New Zealand and the regionalisation of some other government services.

Infrastructure To Support Sustainable Growth

One of the biggest challenges facing the incoming government is the need to update and build the infrastructure for sustainable and inclusive growth.

We will make the necessary investments in our health and education assets to ensure that we do not have hospitals that make people sick, or schools where students cannot learn. This is the core role of any responsible government.

Beyond that, we know that at a local government level, a significant amount of infrastructure is inadequate, aging and vulnerable. Many of our local authorities are either at the limits of what they can borrow, or do not have the revenue to service more debt.

At a central government level, we have an urgent and pressing need to fund the infrastructure that will support the unlocking of growth opportunities.

The fiscal plan that we have used as the starting point for our Budget has room for significantly more capital investment than the previous government.  This is as a result of a slightly slower debt repayment track that will allow us to make investments such as the capital injection to kick off KiwiBuild.

But to create the 21st Century infrastructure, New Zealand needs to be innovative. We need to unlock capital and capture the value of investments through the work of urban development agencies and innovative instruments such as infrastructure bonds.

We want to work with those who can be partners in taking forward developments that build and modernise our infrastructure. Ministers have come together to identify and co-ordinate this work.

Growing exports through a Progressive Trade and Investment Agenda

New Zealand will and must remain open to business and the global economy. We welcome foreign investment that adds value to our economy, improves productivity and grows jobs.

This does not mean, however, that anything goes. Where we have drawn the line, is to say that we will not accept that there is value in having offshore speculators buying existing residential property and keeping first home buyers out of the property market.  We continue to welcome offshore investment that adds to our housing stock.

We have heard the concerns of New Zealanders that they do not want to be tenants in their own land. To this end, we have already issued a new directive to the Overseas Investment Office and legislative changes will follow, to be introduced as part of the 100 Day Plan.  We recognise the importance of an efficient and effective overseas investment regime and will be working to improve the operations of the Office.

When it comes to immigration, we must have people with the right balance of skills coming to New Zealand, with a particular emphasis on closing regional skills gaps. We must ensure that those who come to study are in quality courses and are not exploited or are simply here to gain residence.

Where there are genuine skill gaps that need to be filled to drive sustainable economic growth, we will continue to support entry of the people with those skills.

Labour-led governments have a proud record of delivering high-quality trade agreements that open opportunities for our exporters. The government will build on this record.

We have made progress with the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership. This agreement now balances improved market access with preserving our right to regulate in the public interest and also builds a progressive agenda in areas such as sustainable development, labour rights and gender equality.

We will continue to pursue this style of high-quality, progressive free trade agreement, with the European Union, UK and other nations.

Supporting Maori and Pasifika Aspiration

As we move towards the end of the major Treaty settlements it is timely to reset the dial on how the Crown and Maori work together, and how to focus on maximising the strength of Iwi.  Through the work of both Minister Kelvin Davis and Nanaia Mahuta the government will support Maori in this process.   At the same time, our economic goals will not be met if we do not improve the outcomes of Maori in employment, education and housing where there is still a significant and ingrained disadvantage.

Next Steps: HYEFU/BPS/100 Day Plan

The first steps in delivering on this government’s new economic strategy are included in our 100-Day Plan.

Just last night the first two significant pieces of legislation were passed - twenty six weeks Paid Parental Leave (at a cost of $325m over the forecast period) and the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill that significantly increases minimum standards for rental housing.

Progress is being made on all the measures in the Plan.  These include the introduction of a minimum wage of $16.50 an hour from 1 April 2018, in line with the coalition agreement with New Zealand First to lift that to $20 an hour, with effect in April 2021.  Contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund will re-commence within the 100 Days. Student allowances and the living costs component of the student loan scheme will both increase by $50 per week from the 1st of January next year.

I want to highlight one part of the 100 Day Plan that will be one of the most significant policies this government will pass this term. Our Families Package.  This is an ambitious programme to give low and middle-income workers a much-needed boost in incomes and address inequality and child poverty. 

It is paid for by repealing the previous government’s tax cuts, which gave $400m per annum to the top ten percent of earners. Again, in the election the message on this was clear.  New Zealanders knew that now was not the time for tax cuts.  And that included more than half the CEOs in the Mood of the Boardroom.

This package will deliver increased targeted assistance to families through Working for Families changes, greater support for children in early years of life through Best Start, support for increased cost of living for our seniors and those on low incomes through a Winter Energy Payment and support to deal with soaring cost of rents through the Accommodation Supplement.

It is a major shift to improve families’ well-being, along with other initiatives such as the minimum wage, reducing cost of doctors’ visits and improving the quality of rental accommodation.

In less than a month of being in office, we have worked to develop the details and assess the costs of the plan. All the fiscal costs of the 100 Day Plan, which are currently being finalised, will be incorporated into the Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update.  This will be released, along with the Budget Policy Statement, on Thursday December the 14th.

You will see when the Half Yearly Update is released that we are meeting our Budget Responsibility Rules, in particular the commitment to reduce net core crown debt as a percentage of GDP to 20% within five years of taking office.

One of the core elements of the 100 Day Plan is the reversal of National’s tax cuts. This provides $8 billion of fiscal headroom over the forecast period. This will more-than meet the costs of the 100 Day Plan and provide further resources to invest in Budget 2018 and beyond.

The Budget Policy Statement will outline our priorities for Budget 2018 and show the level of operating and capital allowances for the next four Budgets. These allowances provide the expenditure necessary to deliver our policy plans, including the coalition and confidence and supply agreements.

All these commitments – outside the 100 Day Plan, which will already be in HYEFU – are now subject to the normal Budget process to finalise details and costings.  We will, however be providing the current estimates of the costs of the policies in the coalition and confidence and supply agreements at the time of the release of the Budget Policy Statement.

The HYEFU on 14 December will also include Treasury’s latest forecasts for the economy.

There have been a range of forecasts for economic growth since the new government was formed.  Some are more pessimistic than others, with both the Reserve Bank and the OECD Economic Outlook more optimistic than some of the bank economists.

In general these economists agree that over the next year there will be some softening of growth as the housing market remains flat and as net migration tapers off slightly. Then, there is a consensus of a stronger growth track through 2019 and 2020 which is expected to be supported by government policies such as increasing R&D tax credits, increased wages and export growth.

In other words, we’ll be swapping out population growth and the buying and selling houses to each other as our two main growth drivers for much more sustainable ones. That sounds like a good description of our plan.

If that means slightly lower growth for a year while the transition to a productive economy occurs, then that will be a price worth paying.

As one economist put it, we will be passing on the baton of growth.

While I understand a new government and the change that comes with it will inevitability cause some uncertainty I think there is a clear understanding that the government’s policies will ultimately be good for sustainable growth.

Relatedly it is good to note that in the Reserve Bank’s Financial Stability Report released this week the Government’s Housing Plan was highlighted as a reason the Governor felt confident to ease LVRs.


It is sometimes easy to forget that it is little over a month since the government was sworn in.   We are making good progress to building the better and fairer New Zealand we have been charged with doing by the public.

The foundations on which we are building our economic strategy are disciplined and careful fiscal and economic management, and a clear goal to see the well-being of all New Zealanders improve. We are moving at speed to implement a 100 Day Plan that will lift incomes and well-being.  We are putting New Zealand back on a course of fairness, compassion and shared prosperity.  It is early days, but the journey is an exciting one. I look forward to working with you all over the coming months and years.

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JT, can you please check the press release for mis-spokes: like this.

If that means slightly lower growth for a year while the transition to a productive economy occurs, then that will be a price worth paying.

Shurely 'year' is meant to be 'decade'? Or perhaps even 'century'?

We all look forward to Dec 14th with low expectations and will be Interested to see just what sort of a Hole is avoided by borrowing, deferral of costs or abandonment of promises, And it will be particularly Interesting to review their Revenue assumptions, because if business confidence keeps circling the bowl, tax and related receipts will tank...

Read about a load of sound bites, but not much numbers. This indicates a poor update.
On another note, my Aussie boss said this month (Nov 17) that my sales were lowest for 7 years, co-incidence? I have the feeling of less activity in the market place in the past few months.


But, but, but, he did say this:
“In other words, we’ll be swapping out population growth and the buying and selling houses to each other as our two main growth drivers for much more sustainable ones".

I mean what's not to like? Oh, you mean it might not be quite as easy and delightful as the Finance Minister suggests? That it might take longer and involve hardship and general difficulty and unpleasantness all round? That he might be, er, well, not to put to fine a point on it, well, kidding himself.

I thought that was a pretty impressive summary of New Zealand's silly primary business model though, even if it was Cullen and Clark who perfected it and National just lazily copied it. Hopefully National are eating a bit of humble pie there.

Point is - it seems the GDP advantages of population growth have mainly influenced the tradeables sector but those spikes seem to have worn down, and if anything, we are now experiencing more deflation in tradeables than inflation. Perhaps reflecting too many shops, cafes, restaurants all competing for custom from an increasingly credit-and-cashflow squeezed population;

See Chart 1.

And similarly the game is up on buying and selling houses to one another as there is not enough activity at the bottom end of the market to provide the needed flow through (upgrading) to higher priced properties.

In other words, GR might be saying "they" are swapping out population growth and housing transactions for something more sustainable, but to my mind it is more the market that is driving the GDP decline brought about by poorer performance in those sectors anyway.

So the new government does definitely need to "re-purpose" the NZ economy in a significant way. Whether any government can do this will indeed be interesting - as it does become a matter of 'staying the course'. Much the same issue facing the Lange/Douglas government (but completely different drivers - the debt being with the government then, and the debt being with the private sector now). The transition won't be pretty, but as in the Lange/Douglas era, I suspect it is necessary.

The difference between this Labour government and the Lange/Douglas one is that as GR states;

"We are a government that believes in shared prosperity.”

Whereas the 1980 reforms had to focus on fiscal, as opposed to social, matters.

That’s uncanny, i often think we are at the same type of tipping point as we were in 1984. You are the first person I have read here who seems to share that view.

Yes, but who is the Geoffrey Palmer of this coalition government? I do hope they are listening to that master of NZ regulatory reform.

Totally agree. The RMA needs to reapplied as effects based planning as originally intended by Palmer. The zoning system has to go. Why should urban planners with no skills in economics and no requirement to do regulatory impact assessments on every rule they write (just generalised s42 analysis) screw up our planning system.
We need a national based effects based planning system. Not district and regional plans stacked as high as sky tower. And amalgamate the 60+ local government authorities on the way into unitary authorities.

Although I think the RMA was an innovative and elegant piece of legislation when enacted (i.e., the institutional reforms associated with it were even more spectacular than the statute itself), it has been amended sooooooooooooooo many times since 1991 and the related case law has become sooooooooooooo complex and onerous - in my opinion it's time for new.

We've learned a lot about what is good about it and what is bad - and in particular it (effects-based management) just doesn't seem to work all that well in urban environments (or at least we haven't figured out how to write a plan to make it work in urban environments). Hence the reason that this (and the just past) government are looking at "tag on" statutes, such as the Special Housing Authority Act and and the now planned Urban Development Authorities.

Have a look at this chart to get some idea of how convoluted RMA plan making has become - and these are just other Acts (i.e., outside the RMA) for which RMA plan makers have to consider in terms of their interface with RMA plans;

This has all got too complex - not only for planners but much, much more importantly for the general public. We need new legislation that allows us to build a simple, standard house on a simple, standard site without the need for any qualified professional other than your builder.

We need to start afresh, drawing on the considerable experience we now have with respect to the needs of an integrated RM system which is functional, socially and environmentally responsible, as well as economically efficient. At this juncture (26 years since its enactment), I think every change made makes it much, much worse.

I had to laugh at National's naming of its changes as 'Simplifying and Streamlining' amendment bills. The history of amendments to (attempt) to sort out legislation with respect to the sustainable management of urban trees is the classic!!!!!

And I totally agree with you on the lack of requirement for regulatory impact assessment - which in itself would require more disciplined and informed approaches to the cost vs benefit of policies and rules.

We need new legislation that allows us to build a simple, standard house on a simple, standard site without the need for any qualified professional other than your builder.

Absolutely. Our first house was built exactly that way on a 1 2/3 acre site in Otautau with:

  • Simple brick veneer, coro roof, gable-end, rectangular shape. No tricky roof elements, wide eaves, a verandah.
  • Self-drawn plan and elevation(s) on two A3 pages.
  • No architect, draughtsperson, land surveyor, no QS, no schedule of works.
  • A scribbled site plan which showed we left a 7.5m strip each side for future subdivision access (which has since occurred).
  • Built by a reputable local builder (inspector lived next door and I worked at the County, road re-construction, so advice re builder choice was free but minimal was needed.
  • House is still there, no additions ever needed, looks good. Quelle surprise.

Probably 120 squares, 3 bed 1 bath. A central Mackay fireplace, central bathroom backing onto the fire, warm bliss.....No garage, self built a shed with a wonky (tapered cuts...bandsaw followed faults in the heartwood) thus cheap rimu pack from the local mill a year or so later.

Ah, them were the days....$19K IIRC in 1976, land cost $200.

Them were the days - and we can get back there with respect to RMA requirements. The Building Act bits, well that's not my area, but I'm sure that the right group of people could make a huge difference there via existing BA amendments to Schedule 1.

NZ was technically bankrupt in 1984. We have progressed from that point.
But your point is valid. The reforms since then were mainly (not totally) economically and financially focused.
The natural course of capitalism is to concentrate wealth. (simple example is that a richer person can save whereas a poorer person cant as their income only covers expenses)
Its time for rebalancing so that we better meet our social and environmental goals.

I remember the early 80s well. My boss got a phone call from his bank Manager suggesting he might want to send his money overseas - so he did. My boss made a tidy little profit when the NZD floated.

Its everyman for himself when such an opportunity for quick gains presents itself.

The money deposited in our trading banks is even more mobile today!


Totally agree. Our reliance on creating “growth” via immigration and out of control mortgage credit creation put us on a road to nowhere. And yes, I would not underestimate just how hard that will be nor how many sacred cows need to be finally laid to rest as part of that process. But I really like this as a statement of intent. This would be a project that goes well beyond a single parliamentary term, but it’s what we need to focus on. It’s really the single most important thing we need to focus on. I have despaired at the lack of vision and political courage that’s been shown over the last 9 years or so.

As someone that has not voted for either of the two major parties for about thirty years untill our recent election, I will be watching future events with an enormous amount of interest. If our coalition shows sufficient courage then Labour may again get my vote in three years time.

Yep, I’m in the same place

I really hope we can find something to pivot to economically, but realistically we can't compete in manufacturing given long supply chains and expensive labour. We don't have the size or skill base to engender competition in any significant global technology field. We can do agriculture and tourism well and we can provide the same bullshit english tertiary education as other Western English speaking countries.

Past governments have not been blind to these realities, and have done the best they can within our constraints to build our economy - even if immigration driven growth is transient it was (in my opinion) better than long term post GFC+earthquake recession which was on the cards. There will be no miracles or brilliant economic pivots created by the current govt. We can only hope that they don't sink us with poorly executed experiments in industry creation (picking winners always fails) and regressive tax and industrial policies.

I keep thinking high value, niche products. Our bloodstock industry is another good example;

Labour and Green antipathy for the farming sector is undeniable (David Parker quipped that if farmers complained about water tax they would double it). This is hardly a government that we can expect the agricultural sector to thrive and grow under.

Similarly their antipathy towards small business is palpable - with only 1? minister who has any business experience (David Parker), and many coming from backgrounds where business is regarded as the enemy we can hardly expect growth to occur in businesses subjected to more draconian regulatory and industrial relations policy. Hence massive fall in business confidence.

There is nothing to be optimistic about regarding NZ economic management in coming years.

Yes I agree. The essential impetus for exports must come from the business community and the wider community. The govt can’t just wish that into existence. I agree agriculture is something we do well, maybe aquaculture will be the same for us. Tourism is also positive, so long as we don’t fall once again into the high volume low value trap, I would like to see fewer tourists from whom we extract higher value.

One innovation that would pay off massively for NZ would be investment in cheaper supersonic transport. NZ is unpopular as a destination because we are so damned far away, but there is room for disruption through small unpiloted supersonic planes where the crew overhead is eliminated making the cost similar to conventional air travel, and small size makes sonic boom noise tiny. Cutting Asia-NZ or USA-NZ flight times down to 5-6 hours at same cost would massively increase our tourism.

I think the key for us is to increase the value we extract from each tourist, not simply increase the numbers of tourists. We have enough tourists sleeping in cars, we don’t need any more thanks.

Good luck with the development of a QSST. I have worked on the early stages of the development of a QSST aircraft. The development costs are considerable, much higher than a subsonic aircraft. The operating costs per seat mile are also considerably higher, whether piloted or unpiloted. All you need is a few $billion, and you could get started on designing one! As to the amount of boom reduction, well... not going to be that quiet unfortunately. A lot of the boom reduction in a QSST design comes about via design elements that cost a lot in terms of $/seat-mile and still results in relatively high over pressure as compared to detectability or for that matter, what causes windows to rattle.

Foyle, that's easily the best comment (apart from mine - preens chest feathers, looks smug - and of course Roger WitheredSpoon's).

Gubmints have a terrible record at picking winners in peacetime.

But War, now, has a habit of Concentrating the Best Minds. But unless this sorry lot blunder into a shooting match with the Big Dry (mostly) Red country across the ditch, or the Wizened Wun upsets Kim Fatty III on his Norks Pacification junket, no chance of That.

Whereas in business, it's a low-level war every day - getting and holding onto paying customers, selling them stuff, making payroll every week, and extracting munny from customers who drag the chain on paying. To say nothing of fixed costs, bureaucrats who Always Know Best, consultants eager to borrow your watch, competitors, and Legal Eagles.

My bet's, as is yours, on Business. $1 each way.....

It's an interesting one, manufacturing. We have examples such as Sistema that suggest manufacturing can be done viably in NZ, where most would simply have outsourced the production to China. These seem to buck the general assumption that distance is preventative.

Well said Rick just what the economy needs

Woger - evil triumphs when good men do nothing because they have a vested financial interest.

The Ponzi we have (had?) in housing thanks to JK and his Asiafucation model has to end in tears at some stage, bettter now than in 10 years when we would have tenfold the issues with FHBs, education, crime, traffic, education, infrastructure and environmental degradation that would have taken us to 0.1% Pure

Was JK our Sam Dastyari, or was it the whole National panel?

John Key was our own Bertie Aherne. I think history will judge him harshly

"We will continue to ensure that inflation is carefully managed"

Inflation is dead. Its deflation that they need to "manage".
Shrinking buying power is the name of the game ... so basically every govt everywhere will be looking at more freebies and more handouts and more pointless infrastructure spend. There is no alternative.

Steady on there, you might be putting a straight line on a graph there. That's what they thought in the sixties during the now long forgotten oil glut. The inflation in the seventies came rolling straight out of nowhere when oil went up times 4 overnight, apparently.

I just found this wonderful chart:

In the 70's prices rose and so did wages. I think they called it a spiral. But now in the globalised labor market of the new millennium. Prices rise, incomes stay the say, demand falls and then so do the prices The only difference is when its a monopoly supplier of an essential product or service and they can extract a price increase no matter what. Unless all of the oil producing countries can unite again they will be forced to continue to sell at the price that the world can afford.

Oil suppliers are desperate to empty their wells. Hence the continued price slump.

I agree, and we can expect that to escalate over the next 10 years or so as car manufacturers and cities go exclusively electric

The oil will just be burnt in large power stations instead. Most of the world doesnt have the luxury of our hydroelectric resources, and solar and wind arent stable enough. Coal and nuclear are not politically acceptable at the moment.

Yeah, and I think to counter that oil shock and build some resilience, Muldoon launched the Think Big energy projects - but then the oil price reversed. To my mind, many of those investments have served NZ well in the longer term.

It presently does look like deflation will become a persistent problem - I suspect oil will remain cheap right up to when what is left is way too difficult and too expensive to extract. Such is the idiocy of the application of capitalism in this modern day.

Yes, the application of capitalism as far as not recognising negative externalities (depleting finite resources). As opposed to blaming capitalism full stop.

Exactly - capitalism works until the regulators decide not to regulate it. The history of the NZ Companies Office is a good case study on that. They implemented a world leading online registration process absent a significant boost in compliance and enforcement which has resulted in the global free-for-all mess that it has become.

"I suspect oil will remain cheap right up to when what is left is way too difficult and too expensive to extract. "

Right. The price can only rise to what doesn't stall the economy... and a tightening supply is slowing pushing prices up ... At some point theres a snap
The problem now is the stall price is below the level which allowed our economies to grow in the first place (ie the production cost is too expensive NOW) .... we are free wheeling on debt and legacy oil ... for the time being
The days of affordable think big projects are gone - we are struggling to afford to maintain the infrastructure we already have

I do wonder whether it is a trait of human nature. Even Maori, who have tikanga and practices that are based on resource sustainability (e.g., rahui), such custom did not prevent them from hunting down the last moa.

The book 'The Future Eaters' goes into detail of how pretty much every group of people colonising a new landmass has crashed the megafauna in no time flat and then had to learn conservation out of necessity.

There are also studies around people's behaviour with a giant economy-size sack of something (washing powder, sugar, anything really) which found that when people have a new full sack they're pretty relaxed about wasting it, use lots, generally behave like it's infinite, but when they're down to the last quarter or so start to be careful and ration it. So yeah, looks like it's one of those flaws in human nature that we're stuck with, which can only be overcome with effort.

agree entirely. Energy was essentially "free" for decades when it gushed out of the ground... so we gorged on it.
Now suddenly it isnt.

But all those debt promises already baked in depend on it being there in ever greater quantities to infinite.

I've often thought when the IPCC converts to teleconferencing only for all of their meetings, that will be when they have really confronted the essence of CC.

In real terms the cost of fuel for transportation is probably lower now than it has ever been. In real terms oil was about $25/barrel through much of the 20th century, but car and truck and aircraft mileage has basically doubled so $50/barrel is pretty consistent with long term trend. Expect oil to get cheaper as battery vehicles increase in popularity and OPEC pumps like there is no tomorrow.

Overall fuel has become a smaller and smaller component of household budgets as 'neoliberalism' has made us all so much wealthier.

Or burning the forest cover off of the entire East Coast of the South Island by around the end of the 15th century - see the vegetation maps on P88 of 'Tangata Whenua' - in pursuit of the last Moa. We are still experiencing the slow adjustment from this - just as it takes a century-and-a-half for a peat bog to fully drain out (Central Southland, west of Winton), such radical changes to ecosystems take centuries to work through......

ham n eggs, I saw an article the other day that in Germany they're commissioning wind farms at under 4 euro cents per kW/h. (I presume that meant total cost / lifetime production). Also in south Australia they've just opened a 129 MWh !! lithium battery farm to store the wind energy they're making. Also sodium batteries look like they're becoming a reality. If sodium batteries pan out then we'll have endless cheap energy storage. It can't be all bleak can it? a bit off topic but a penny for your thoughts.

remember this was also the time when DEBT was added in place of affordability ... we cant use that trick again


I have to applaud the current government's vision of ditching population growth and construction as economic drivers, and hope that the government assumes the leadership role in partnering with the private sector to look for alternative and sustainable growth drivers.

By saying that, I have to admit that it is all just so easy to make a good speech. What high tech industries, core technology, IP do NZ have to make the wonderful dream come true though?


Here in Nelson we get a stream of government types exhorting us to try harder and export more. Nelson is, apparently, more self reliant on export and less dependent on government than any other region. The problem has been the flood of foreign capital coming in with new residents and via the foreign owned banking system for more mortgage lending. This has pushed the exchange rate up, resulting in lower profitability for exporting and export substituting businesses. Low profitability means no capital for expansion.

Here in Nelson, and elsewhere throughout New Zealand, there is a veritable Mittestat of Small and Medium Enterprises just ready and waiting to export more and to substitute for more imports. We just need Central and Local Government to stop stuffing things up. If the exchange rate stays at current levels we might all be rather surprised by what happens, in a good way.

Much as we need to solve the environmental issues associated with King Salmon's operations (and I think they/we are doing that as knowledge about fish farming improves locally) - I see them as a very good example of the type of successful NZ business needed in the future - non-commodity, high value, niche market produce. I think I read somewhere that they had a 75% market share in farm raised salmon.

Kate we don't have 75% market share of farm raised salmon but we are the biggest producer of farmed Chinook salmon. (You may need to scroll down a bit before you get the article.)

Ah, right - thanks for the clarification!

This has been a really interesting day on the site. Good comments, references to Greek philosophy, and then immediate responses from the man from King Salmon!? Long may it last.

Editors: the village idiots seem to be quiet today. Are they having an offsite somewhere? Could we make that permanent? Just an idea....

People just need to learn not the feed the animals, in this instance the trolls.

Amen to that

Comment of the month from Roger.

There's quite a number of successful companies out there taking on the world - A2 milk, Xero, Pushpay, Fisher & Paykel Health to name a few. Sadly, once a NZ company hits a reasonable size they tend to migrate overseas (A2 is mostly based in Australia now, Xero is delisting in NZ, Pushpay and Xero both aiming for US listings).

We have plenty of ideas and opportunities here, but the country is too preoccupied buying and selling houses to actually get behind them. Sadly, too many see the stock market as a casino rather than where we fund productive businesses.

Well we do have excellent world class software & tech companies which tend to perform much better when considering NZs population and position. They do punch above their weight. That being said they do face a distance in going from NZ workshops to larger worldwide offerings. Normally the practice is to open out to certain chunks at a time e.g. Australia, US, UK, Europe, South America, Asia etc. It hangs on whether they have enough capital for the growth and that growth pans out. It has been an emerging industry and usually the early investment is thin on the ground limited to a few companies in extremely large sums of public money.

"Robertson remains committed to delivering operating surpluses every year, unless there’s a major disaster of economic shock."

Which there is almost guaranteed to be given flattening international bond yield curves, historically high P/E ratios, plumetting NZD, deflating house bubble and collapsing NZ business confidence. We can pretty safely ignore everything else he says as unrealistic nonsense.

Finesse Minister Robertson should realise the Capital Gains of the Major Players with Property....via a sizeable TAX.

Grab it while ye can...or is he labouring under some misunderstanding. of where his bread is buttered.

One size does not fit ALL. that gambol. Our major business is gambling on Houses for eternal gain,

Often thought of as a Capital Idea by Politicians....please note.?.

So no...Nah never...I thunk.....

Just thought I would mention not much else is "Working"...these days....judging by the hammering going on around here.

Remember, common taters, as y'all ponder that magic word 'sustainability', that it cannot stand alone. It has to be accompanied by the qualifier 'at What level of comfort'.

Because subsistence farming, under a centuries-embedded tyranny, is certainly Sustainable. Or has GoT taught us nothing?

Aristotle referred to that appropriate level of comfort as 'the golden mean' - the midpoint between excess and deficiency;

Our modern problem stems from the fact that we base most of our decisions on teleological ethics/consequentialism;

That is, the end (i.e., the consequences of our actions) justifies the means (our actions themselves).

And the point I'd make is that we (as a society) aren't even conscious of it (i.e., teleological ethics) being our current 'mindset'. It's why I think ethics should be taught from primary school onwards. If we grow up knowing that there are alternate ways on which to look at things and make decisions, then we will use the ethical basis most appropriate in the circumstances.

Kate, aah or utilitarianism vs deontology eh? Bentham vs Kant vs Mill ad nauseum.

Sadly, all these ethical/moral/philosophical theories always avoid the most important factor. Human beings are NOT purely rational beings. They make endlessly irrational decisions, are driven by emotions and lack psychological insight on themselves as individuals or as societies. Occasionally, great thinkers pop up with great insight into this (like Machiavelli or Rousseau) but we still mostly delude ourselves en mass about our level of objectivity and rationalism.

I'm not sure morality or ethics are any more helpful for school children than strict religious regulations particularly. They are all just a bunch of rules that people will break unless we can be realistic about human behaviour and deal with what our species is actually like, rather than some idealised version of ourselves.

I've found no better way to understand my own and others' perspectives than to be able to analyse people's opinions and behaviours via their moral framework and their environmental worldviews. Teach it from an early age and we'll grow adults that are able to argue right vs wrong from a more objective/learned philosophical basis. And understanding ethics (to my mind) has the advantage of taking the tribalism out of political decision-making and social discourse.

Presently we attempt to solve many of these seemingly intractable problems via scientific knowledge (i.e., GM's evidence-based policy) - but data can be read/manipulated in so many ways as a means to suit a particular end. The 'truth' for me, lies not in 'facts' but in our values.

Isn't the trouble that man is corruptible? Not all, but it doesn't take all. It only takes two. One to dangle a carrot big enough and another to fall for it.

Machiavelli's point.

Kate, I wouldn't disagree that moral values and worldviews are important, however, they are extremely changeable. I think much more fundamental to human future is understanding psychology, neurology, our emotional selves. This isn't chicken and egg, the psychological, neurological impulses come before the conditioning that happens within society, creating morals and worldviews. Human beings appear motivated by the same emotions throughout all history..... we can discern this in Babylonia, in cuneiform where a wife chastises her husband for not sending enough money home for her to build a better house, when her neighbours have done so.

However, you can be sure that morality and world views change significantly over time and culture. I would say that becoming emotionally, psychologically and biologically/neurologically self aware, is far more significant for understanding people than morals, which are socially constructed, and can change person to person and within a person in a very short period of time.

I am not suggesting that DATA and FACTS will save the day, because I agree that these things can be manipulated. Much as Machiavelli described in the early 16th century.

And here's my point. Our morality and values are vastly different from Renaissance Italy, and yet his understanding of human nature is still true. People still behave the way Machiavelli described 500 years ago and can be manipulated the same way too. For us to understand our emotional self, our strengths our weaknesses, our nature is more fundamental to morality because at certain times, morality and world views are dangerous and destructive. We can observe they exist but we need to understand WHY they exist.

You can understand ethics. But whose ethics? There are as many ethical beliefs as there are religious ones and they are subjective, changeable and can JUST as tribal. Ethics in Judaism is different to ethics in Islam. Will that help them take the tribalism out of Israeli politics? No of course it won't because their values are irreconcilable. So that leaves us back where I started. The predictability of human behaviour and understanding our deeply rooted emotional, psychological drivers.

Human beings *are* tribal, we have tribal instincts that drive emotions. You can't avoid this. All human beings have tribal motivations, some manage that better than others and I would suggest those who have deep self awareness and emotional maturity are the ones least governed by issues like tribalism and can step outside of their conditioning to look at objective solutions. I have met professors in ethics, have friends with PhD's in philosophy, with utterly rampant ego and intensely competitive and tribal. Emotional toddlers. So what good did their ethical learning do them in the absence of emotional maturation and self reflection/awareness?

I really enjoy the discussion, gingerninja.

I'd caution not to confuse ethics with religion. Most religions have their basis in deontological (i.e., duty/rules based) ethics. So, ethically speaking, Judaism and Islam (to my mind) are in the same ethical camp, with different rules (i.e. sacred texts and rituals). The very essence of religious teaching being that notion of
moral universalism... (i.e., "rules" everyone must live by and "duties" everyone has toward their fellow man). Kant just built on that (to my mind) replacing the 'deity' with 'pure reason' or rationality.

I categorise all the philosophies/philosophers in ethics into one of three camps or 'schools' in moral philosophy: deontological, teleological and virtue ethics.

It sounds to me like your aspirations regarding humankind becoming more self-aware comes straight out of Virtue ethics as it is based on self-realisation, as per Aristotle's description, When a person acts in accordance with his nature and realises his full potential - he will do good and be content... his point of departure being that human nature has a fundamentally 'good' intent, but can be swayed (most usually toward excess) if the person is not self-aware.

To become self-aware is to be able to identify that 'midpoint' between excess and deficiency and to act (i.e.,make choices/decisions) in accordance with it.

Machiavelli wasn't a philosopher/ethicist - I see his insights as a study on power - and (in my reading of him) I put a lot of his thoughts as being based in the teleological/consequentialism moral approach. I think this best describes my reading of his writings and how they 'fit' within the philosophy of ethics;

Thus, Machiavelli lays claim to the mantle of the founder of “modern” political science, in contrast with Aristotle's classical norm-laden vision of a political science of virtue.

Plenty to learn from him as long as we don't accept the points made as 'acceptable' moral behaviour, if you get my meaning :-).

And as to your PhD friends that are emotional toddlers, they're obviously better at theory than practice :-)!!!!

PS - in case you're still reading (lol) - this statement of yours:

Our morality and values are vastly different from Renaissance Italy, and yet his understanding of human nature is still true.

Isn't quite right from an ethical (disciplinary) perspective to my mind - although I do understand the point you are making. But, what I'd say is that these three fundamental 'schools' in moral decision-making all existed during the Renaissance, just as they do now. Morality is a first-order set of beliefs and practices about how to live a good life - whereas ethics is a second-order, conscious reflection on the adequacy of our moral beliefs. Hence the reason why I think it (ethics) as a subject/discipline should be taught from a young age.

I provide my students with a little exercise before I begin teaching the basic schools - as a means for them to discover their own first-order set of beliefs. It goes like this:

Which statement is the most "you"?

1. I tell the truth because lying is always wrong.
2. I would tell a lie if it was the best thing to do in the circumstances.
3. I find it very difficult to tell a lie.

Your answer reflects your 'school' of moral thought.

I tried to read this thread but there were too few short words. I gave up. I must be a one-syll - oh, no that has more than one syll....darn. I'll just stop right now.

hehehe, waymad, let me analyse this:

You're a 2. (teleological). The best thing to do in the circumstance (rather than engage and expose your moral philosophy) was to satirize regarding your obvious intelligence and comprehension.

I smiled.. so appreciate the post/acknowledgement.

Why, thanks, Kate. I aim to please. Still with few syll..oh, wait.

Compulsive elucidation and explication about abtruse philosophical aspects is one thing, but I started the thread to point out that 'sustainability' is one part of what should be a combinatorial whole. And GR's waffle omitted the other bits which mean the most to the recipients of Gubmint-induced Sustainability - the proximate effect on their own living standards. So what I expected was some - er - elucidation about what our new Finance Minister's verbiage, might actually mean in practice.

But then, I could never understand, in Engineering Maths all those decades ago, what possible relevance the square root of minus one could have to anything. I still don't. Call me UnWoke.....

Isn't the point though that everyone's living standards drop when we fail to live sustainably? Take this regards China's unsustainable growth model, for example;

I think you mean "Gubmint-promoted sustainability" - in that it really is to the power brokers of the globe to start making rational decisions and for citizens to support and influence/educate them on what is practical... and morally right.

Sustainability isn't one of the considerations - it is the centre of consideration.

I recall the tremendous kerfuffle from the chattering classes when the government went out for consultation on low-flow shower heads;

Those of us on tank water, thought: limitless supply mentality - hardly rational.

Hi Kate,

I haven't confused religion with ethics. I have said that religions contain differing, often conflicting moral values and world views and that ethics don't necessarily help the resolution of these problems. Whether the three fundamental moral schools in moral decision making existing in Renaissance Italy or not is irrelevant to my point. I didn't say that Machiavelli was a philosopher, I said that he understood human behaviour/nature and was better at predicting human behaviour than ethical theories were.

As for my own ethical values. This is exactly my point again. Human beings are far more complex and changeable than your "pick one of three ethical schools" allows. I could be all three options in one day. I could believe that lying in always wrong, but maintain cognitive dissonance about that when lying was convenient to me. This behaviour is incredibly common, and again, ethics won't help with that at all.

When a person acts in accordance with his nature and realises his full potential - he will do good and be content...

Again, I have to wholly disagree. I feel like you are being somewhat reductionist here. No, my values are NOT Aristotelian. I do not think that human beings are fundamentally good AT ALL, I didn't say personal reflection and self awareness would make anyone more fundamentally good. I didn't even suggest anything remotely like that. I feel like you are over simplifying what I am saying to make it fit in to a particular philosophical slot. If I was to find any philosophers particular pertinent to modern problems I would probably look to Existentialist's rather than any of the schools of moral thought that you have presented.

Human beings are NOT morally anything. They are NOT inherently moral creatures IMO. They are a social ape species with highly evolved brains. Pattern and meaning seeking brains. We are compelled by a mixture of earlier evolutionary survival motives with a more recently evolved frontal lobe. Morality is only a mix of ancient taboos, search for meaning, logic and our innate need for social acceptance (which is where taboos come from anyway IMO).
I fundamentally reject the notion that we are somehow lofty intellectual moral thinkers easily assigned to one theory or another. Our motivations are in constant flux, our values as a society are in constant flux.

Human beings do what they want to the extent that they can. They are often short sighted and poor at risk assessment, and therefore what they want can be short termist and fool hardy. We can lack the knowledge of the repercussions of our actions. Many of us have empathy (again an evolutionary mechanism to encourage our survival as a social species) however, ultimately human beings tend to act in their own self interest or in ways that they have been conditioned. That self interest can often be massively swayed by our own emotional biases and blind spots and conditioning is extremely hard to rid ourselves of because of how significant our social relationships have always been to our survival as a species.

Don't get me wrong, I love philosophy and I do believe children should be taught it. I just simply don't agree that it will solve the problems that you believe it will. Understanding why people think, feel and behave, is a far more important step to solving the problems of our species, than understanding "values and worldviews". But also because values and worldviews constantly change and people do not fit into neat philosophical school boxes. However, human nature, has been proven consistent throughout all history (irrelevant to the morality of the day).
I would rather the issue isn't an either or, of course values and worldviews are important, and usually, fairly strongly and well expressed. And ethics should be part of the curriculum, I agree, but I don't think if it was, that we would be looking at a generation of human beings who had less problems than the ones that didn't.

I could be all three options in one day.

Of course you could - and indeed most of us do draw on the three schools of thought regularly. But my anecdotal experience is that around 75% of students pick 2. (teleological - means end rationality) as 'the most' them. And that's understandable - our formal education and our other institutions condition us toward Western/Enlightenment philosophy - I grew up a 'conditioned positivist'.

But ethics as a studied subject is, as I said earlier, a second-order, conscious reflection on the adequacy of our moral beliefs. So, when confronted daily with moral decisions (e.g., should I accept Wikipedia's request for a contribution when that pop-up comes into my search page; what should I do if I hear or see a behaviour in others that concerns me; my neighbour wants my signature on an affected party resource consent form, etc.) - no matter how simple the answer first seems - there are more ways than one to view the dilemma and make that decision. So yes, like you I don't want the issue to be an 'either or' - I want future generations that critically and consciously reflect on the adequacy of their moral beliefs.

The world won't function and democracy won't survive if we always act in our own self-interest or always apply means end rationality in our decision-making. And if, as you suggest, human beings are "not morally anything" - "not inherently moral creatures" - then don't we commit humanity to more loss of freedoms, more rules, more regulation, more disadvantage/inequality?

I suppose I'm with Plato and still holding out for utopia - though well aware of his critics :-):

The Republic’s utopianism has attracted many imitators, but also many critics. The critics typically claim that Plato’s political ideal rests on an unrealistic picture of human beings. The ideal city is conceivable, but humans are psychologically unable to create and sustain such a city. According to this charge, then, Plato’s ideal constitution is a nowhere-utopia (ou-topia = “no place”). But if ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, then a constitution that cannot exist is not one that ought to exist. So, the objection goes, Plato’s ideal constitution fails to be an ideal-utopia (eu-topia = “good place”).

Sure you could say gravity is just an opinion but the scientific data on the matter has been pretty steady. The issue arises when the quality of research is dropped (e.g. that you pay to publish without review or confirmation), that reporting is sensationalist, biased, uninformed and unqualified and further reduces the quality (e.g. vaccines cause autism fashion), and complex factors are difficult to model so social research usually devolves into poorly designed surveys which are hampered by the quality & bias of the author (and that is where they have widely different results given that significant poor scientific practices being used).

Since humans rarely care to read about the millions of research they tend to just go in for the headline sensationalism with barely any thought on actual research practices for social issues in very complex environments. Sure you could say this has affected the ability to predict results and to measure performance in social policy and that by using faulty data it puts most data research in disrepute as the population is going back to biased uninformed opinion. In that we actually have scientific data that it is happening and can even be confirmed. Unfortunately no one can educate the public in research standards, analysing results, reducing biases, evaluating complex environments and checking quality. In fact at best you could maybe get a percentage of people who could read and understand the headline. I would state that values based on bias, self interest, lack of informed and quality data are critically flawed and will produce results that are unintentional and have large quantities of risk. However while people have died due to that exact process there is an increasing trend to increase the influence of those same factors in the decision making which in fact only serve to put more people at risk.

Thankfully the medical community are fighting very hard to prevent deaths in the very direct social policy routes to failure. Bit of a shame the medical professionals are thin on the ground, are overburdened to the point their own development & research has been abandoned and they have no time for much of it. It is really just unfortunate that scientific communication & standards have dropped through media, but then much of media these days is now less information on actual events and mostly opinions on fashion. It is a shame that even the quality scientific journalists of old would not be hired in modern media as they actually do qualified research, seek professional information and get confirmations before reporting. Even an apology & correction these days in media is very rare. So where the quality of information becomes completely disincentivised then in the words of John Key "he’s offering his view... I can provide you with another one that will give you a counterview".

I use the John Key example (from the BBCHardtalk interview) in teaching about the science/policy nexus.

And this is a great John Oliver piece on science and our modern media;

If you enjoy John Oliver then potholer54, (science journalist tackling scientific concepts and inherent echo chambers in the internet media) is always fun for a bit of a listen Although his videos started as a response to creationists and climate change deniers posting on his walls so he would record videos and have an awards bit. Funny but then he has to face and respond with eloquence to so many I feel for the amount of work involved, (his account got attacked a couple of times and videos would have been lost and reposted as well). He has set his videos to a level that is more accessible and nicely include reference links and drilling down links a bit more. Plus his narrations are rather good.

Thanks for the link - will enjoy having a look.

Or better to understand the biases we have and when they are being used:

Hmm the link above may not go through but it is a nice compilation of many of the main ones. You can bet humans are easy to have their decisions manipulated through bias. To be able to prevent ease of manipulation it would be pretty hard to instruct the public in how to recognise bias and reduce the influence of such. But since there is not even an attempt to do so in school or in public media it would just be easier to assume that humans as a whole are easy to manipulate in ever increasing schemes.

That link worked - great diagram/chart.

Indeed. Cheers kiwimm, it is nicely collected and would be good for pulling on the family bathroom wall. Had a bit of a chuckle when Occam's razor was listed but not Hanlon's razor, (roughly the same but with a bit of humour). As well it would be good to add Murphy's Law to the list (the principle is there though).


I was nodding my head in agreement,until you mentioned Rousseau as one of the great thinkers. I don't get it. What made him a great thinker in your view? Would you agree that his thoughts on the General Will were his greatest contribution to political philosophy? That was certainly the view when I was studying him as part of my Open Uni degree. If so, I find it hard to know why he is still considered relevant.


I was enjoying your post-though not sure which Mill you were referring to,father or son,but then you mentioned Rousseau as a 'great thinker'. Would you accept that his greatest contribution to political philosophy was his theory of the General Will? That was certainly the case when I was doing my Open Uni. degree. I would not dispute that he had some interesting ideas,but I just cannot see him as a first rate mind.

perhaps you can help me here.

However sustainability in business, (especially in manufacturing) normally refers to another concept which attempts to retain the level of output with a lower resource cost and broader life cycle consideration. Not sustainable in that the same wasteful practices can continue forever exactly as before. For example a company may toss out two containers of viable product every week, (high cost to wasted resources and manufacturing effort and pretty environmentally backwards). The sustainable approach would be to push less resources through the manufacturing process, (cut efficiencies, JIT manufacturing, better quality management etc), and not have to pay to take two containers of viable product to the dump every week, (real live NZ case there). As a basis sustainability is also good for the business because the return per resource cost and waste cost can be improved. Taking that into account your example would be the opposite where subsistence farming could almost be the opposite approach (high local resource cost and waste cost and low productivity for the overall community as economies of scale cannot be achieved).

Are you referring to an example of mine? Looked back through and didn't see any mention of subsistence farming.

Oops, I see it now - it was waymad that mentioned it.

Yes sorry I should have attached waymad's name as the middle thread did add a bit more distance between the parent comment. They do teach sustainability practices & research and a separate ethics course in engineering fields but that is normally because like with medicine many lives hang in the balance of the work and companies rely on efficiencies in practice to survive and maintain resource availability. However the same argument could be said for many other fields; a builder, teacher, business manager, employer, farmer, agriculture etc. Perhaps since there is not a single period of fixed training before beginning to work many fields do not see ethics as important to learn or practice. So unless there are classes in school philosophical concepts get missed for most people and ethical behaviour has little importance. Sure people will be harmed but then given someone would be willing to go so far as breaking the law in the first place or not identifying their biases and thus hamstringing a project, (the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff in preventing corruption & failures), that any encouragement not to act unethically or learn about the subjects would be futile. Hence Apple's "you can log in with root privileges by entering no password and pressing enter twice" flying by the radar. Security unfortunately is another thing that normally suffers due to bias in projects.

So unless there are classes in school philosophical concepts get missed for most people and ethical behaviour has little importance.

Couldn't agree more. I know this government has talked about introducing civics, but if students have no understanding of ethics, I can't see how teaching civics will be effective.

Perhaps we truly are stuck with only PSAs in advertising. If only we could get McDonalds behind an ad on how NZs government is formed and works we might be able to reduce a lot of confusion and have more public involvement.

""When it comes to immigration, we must have people with the right balance of skills coming to New Zealand, with a particular emphasis on closing regional skills gaps. We must ensure that those who come to study are in quality courses and are not exploited or are simply here to gain residence.""
Easy to say. Hope it is true. Would be more optimistic if the point count was raised and the list of skills revised and most important of all the Labour Inspectorate was beefed up so we could be certain that the promised skills actually were present. Producing statistics showing the average earnings of each category of immigrant would show they mean what they say. Otherwise this quote could have come straight out of the last government.

Could do with a few truck drivers to soak up the idle trucks dotted around the country. I wonder if drivers come in to the right balance of skills category. Not to mention 750 extra tree planters for 4 months a year.

“Swapping our population growth” by such measures as increasing paid parental leave and incentivising parents to not name their child’s father on the birth certificate.

So what are you advocating - that we disincentivise people from having children as per a China approach?

Do you really think that's needed here?

I'd have thought the opposite - we need a larger cohort of young ones coming through from a demographic perspective - but I haven't had a look at the stats lately.

We'll get many climate change refugees.

I’m with you on this one Kate. Merely highlighting gummint contrary statements and actions.

"we need a larger cohort of young ones coming through .."

If the "resources" arent there then it becomes population ponzi only ... The world needs (and will get a massive depopulation) soon enough. We have well overshot carrying capacities courtesy of industrial ag / medicines...

At some point resource issues will snap the financial system ... grinding supply chains to a halt ...
So any country importing food is in trouble ... and any country importing energy to make food is in for major disruption ...

I'd rather have the traditional way of increasing our population rather than sucking in ever-increasing numbers of immigrants mainly doing fairly low-skilled, low-paid work. Twenty years is just about the right timescale for our government to make and implement plans for more infrastructure.

It's incredibly difficult to get people to have more children. It seems to have to happen naturally. When we all sit around and talk about ways we can get natural population growth we have already long gone past the point of no return. This is not something that can be fixed by talking.
What about a free house for every couple willing to have four kids? I bet that wouldn't even work.

But right up to that point, it's growth, growth, growth baby!

Only 2 kinds of people believe in endless growth, madmen and economists.

Watch Grant Robertson as a duplicitous crowd pleaser. Yesterday he was talking about "sustainable" asset price growth (2-3%) while providing "affordable" shelter to the up-and-coming generations. He's positioning himself as a magic pudding chef when he engages the sheeple through the TV media channel, while he is a little more callous when addressing them through a media release or speech where he is less likely to trigger the wrong emotional reaction.

J.C. But even if he does not achieve all that he aspires to it is likely to be ahead of the 2008 Key 'aspirations' that went nowhere, achieved little and carried on sleepwalking aided by a docile Joe and Jill Public for nine years.

Lets see what he and the Govt achieve first before slamming him. I am questioning whether he can achieve what he says. I think practical realities will temper the loftiness of the ideas, but lets give him a go. I think National were running out of ideas.

Anybody who promises to "manage asset prices" at peak bubble while providing affordable options for everyone else deserves a jaundiced eye.

I like what Robertson is saying but this idea of running a surplus while transforming the economy seems like a set up to fail scenario. If Steve Keens ideas on aggregate demand are correct then its going to take strategic government spending (deficit spending) to supplement the slowed domestic credit creation and billions of dollars of foreign money that had previously been pouring into our housing market and wider economy. I'm just recalling the gleeful look on Mike Hoskings face when he and Bill English pinned Jacinda down regarding the maintaining of a surplus. National was only able to run a surplus because of high immigration and all the rent seeking foreign capital that they were welcoming.

I think that National's surplus budgets had more to do with under-funding (austerity budgets by stealth) than anything else. The coalition ministers will only be beginning to come to grips with this.

I still can't see the bit where they have reduced population growth. Are they actually going to do something or just claim that they have because they got elected on that promise, but never do anything because they are progressives who like unfettered immigration.