Chris Trotter delves into the demands for a Covid-19 exit strategy and points to four fundamental operating principles to serve as a guide for 'Covexiters'

Chris Trotter delves into the demands for a Covid-19 exit strategy and points to four fundamental operating principles to serve as a guide for 'Covexiters'
Picture: Miroslava Chrienova, Pixabay.

By Chris Trotter*

The clamour for a Covid-19 exit strategy grows louder by the day. But why the fuss? Surely it’s just a matter of getting in touch with Covid-19’s communications team and asking them politely for a clear steer on when the Virus is planning to wind-up his global tour? Make sure they understand that a specific date is not required – merely a rough estimate of when the World might reasonably start looking forward to getting back to normal. Simple, really.

Facetious? Of course! But what else can one do when people who should know better keep demanding a detailed plan for getting New Zealand back to normal – dates included – from the Government? What is it about protecting New Zealanders from a global pandemic, currently showing no signs of abating, that they don’t understand?

When asked this question directly, the “Covexiters” are quick to disavow any suggestion that they want to open the borders immediately – perish the thought! All they claim to be seeking is a step-by-step guide to how the Government proposes to reintegrate New Zealand into the global economy – because we can’t remain within our South Seas bubble forever.

Now, this is a remarkably peculiar argument to advance. Because New Zealand is still very much engaged with the global economy. Our exports continue to be loaded onto ships and planes and sent off to the four points of the compass. Likewise, imported goods continue to arrive on our docks for distribution across the country. Thanks to the wonders of information technology, New Zealanders are able to engage with their business contacts through Skype and Zoom. Te Awamutu – and Turkestan – are equally available on speed-dial. Satellites and fibre-optic cables continue to carry stupendous quantities of information across the planet in milliseconds.

Clearly, the Covexiters are not thinking about these sorts of exports and imports. Uppermost in their minds are the current impediments to people (apart from New Zealand citizens and permanent residents) coming across our border. Tourists and overseas students – all of them clutching large quantities of overseas currency in their little hot hands – are the sorts of “imports” and “exports” the Covexiters have in mind.

Worrying about the economic impact of suddenly turning-off the foreign-tourist and overseas-student taps is perfectly justified – especially if your business model only remains viable while those taps are turned on full. What cannot be justified, however, is expecting your fellow citizens, and the rest of the New Zealand economy, to place themselves at risk for the sake of your business model.

Leading the Covexiters’ charge over the past few days have been Dr Peter Gluckman, formerly John Key’s Chief Science Adviser; Rob Fyfe, former CEO of Air NZ; and – rather surprisingly – the former Labour Prime Minister, Helen Clark. Together, this high-powered trio released what they describe as a “Conversation Starter” in which they purport to examine the propositions preparatory to once again opening New Zealand up to the world.

The release of this document was managed with considerably more finesse than the release of the infamous “Plan-B” for suppressing – rather than eliminating – Covid-19, which emerged around the time New Zealand entered Level 4 Lockdown in late-March. That effort proved to be an embarrassing flop, with the authors of “Plan B” suffering fierce criticism.

The sheer stature of the Conversation Starter’s three authors guaranteed a response that was, for the most part, courteous rather than enthusiastic. There were, however, exceptions. A number of journalists seized upon the document uncritically and used it to dignify the attack-lines of the Government’s critics. Others, however, were scathing in their assessment of the document’s worth.

Certainly, Dr Liz Gordon, educationalist, barrister and former Alliance MP, pulled no punches in her “Daily Blog” response to Gluckman, Fyfe and Clark:

“Do not be confused by the title of this document as a ‘conversation piece’. It may have emerged from a conversation between the three authors but it neither opens up a conversation nor provides much in the way of solutions. It expounds.

“It is not a research-based piece either. There are no references.  It came out of the heads of the three people. It was said to be ‘peer-reviewed’ by David Skegg.  But it wasn’t. Peer review relates to a process of understanding a research piece within the context of a field of research.  As I said, it was not a research piece so peer review was not possible.

“Is it a brilliant piece? The answer is no. There is nothing much new in it. The basic thesis is that closing down our borders is much easier than opening them up again. But open them up we must, at some stage.”

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the document represents just one more, among many, lobbying efforts on behalf of the tourism and tertiary-education sectors. The latter, in particular, has been unceasing in its efforts to persuade the Government to re-open the borders to full-fee-paying foreign students. So insistent have the country’s universities become of late that serious questions should probably be asked about the long-term robustness of their beleaguered business model.

Like the mediaeval city-state of Venice, New Zealand universities have staked everything on their ability to extract prodigious fees from the people forced to pass through the “territory” they control. What they neither foresaw, nor had any useful means of counteracting, was the sudden closing-off of the Silk Road upon which their prosperity depended. The capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans put the kibosh on the Venetian’s maritime empire – just as the sudden closure of New Zealand’s borders has left our market-driven universities at the mercy of the banking consortia currently keeping them solvent.

It is disturbing, given the universities’ claim to contain the best brains New Zealand has to offer, that they have devoted so little effort over the years to developing an alternative funding model for the country’s tertiary-education sector. Their heedless defence of a stricken business model differs markedly from the response of the equally beleaguered tourism industry. In this respect, the tourism sector’s graceful pivot towards the domestic market is instructive. If anyone can fill the visitor void left by Covid-19, it’s New Zealanders rediscovering their own back-yard. Perhaps the universities should reconfigure their business model around the needs of New Zealand students?

If nothing else, the Covid-19 Pandemic has reminded us all how much even the most sophisticated modern economy owes to its domestic market. The conventional response to the question: What is economics all about? has been “Choice”. The correct answer, however (as our reaction to Covid-19 has proved) is “Need”.

If there is a pandemic playbook (and the Prime Minister assures us there is not) then its fundamental operating principles are simple and straightforward. First: keep your people safe. Second: keep your people working. Third: keep your people spending. And Fourth: don’t let foreigners across the border until you’re damn sure they’re not bringing anything unwanted with them. If the Covexiters are looking for a reliable route back to normality, then those four principles constitute a pretty good guide.

*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. His work may be found at He writes a fortnightly column for

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An ex govt scientific advisor, and an ex-politician/PM all commenting on opening the borders. Stick to your own knitting. Not quite sure why Helen Clark is putting her oar in. She did have an interest in four or five Auckland residential properties at one time. Maybe they are unlet right now.

An ex Air NZ CEO and Business council chief? I can understand him throwing his two bits worth in as he has a business motive irrespective of the consequences..

As an aside I understand the need for isolation, under current world wide circumstances, when re-opening the borders but did I read correctly isolation only in five star hotels.
Chris Trotter comes up with "Second: keep your people working. Third: keep your people spending." Easier said than done.

I sense an opportunity here:
Why doesn't Labour appoint Gluckman, Fyfe, and Clark (and Winston Peters for good measure) to be our 'canaries in the coal mine'. They could each be appointed an 'international business goodwill ambassador'. For example, Peters could be sent to Victoria in Australia, Gluckman to the USA, Fyfe to Brazil, and Clark to the UK. They would be tasked with circulating openly and widely within those countries. If after a nominated period, say a month, they are Covid-free, then they at least would have acquired some minimum of authority to talk about opening the borders to those countries. They could even volunteer right now and regain at least some of the respect they have just lost.

I would say to these self-appointed pundits: "Walk the talk, or otherwise stick to your knitting".

What is it with people who have succeeded in one field think that that qualifies them to be an expert in all other Jenny Shipley, an ex-kintergarten teacher and short-term failed prime-minister, thinking she could be a director of a large building company like Mainzeal?
And did somebody just say that Fyfe and Clark were highly qualified epidemiologists?
And Gluckman has had no track record whatsoever in his past sinecure as chief science advisor, and he could only name RocketLab as the way of the future in one of those TV interviews some weeks ago!


Border closure is bring home to roost the NZ economic model of the last 10 years of mass immigration and tourism. That has screwed over the average kiwi. Lower wages for the unskilled, clogged roads, unaffordable house prices and rents, hospital and schools over capacity.
Auckland is a suburb of Beijing and New Dehli these days. No wonder Kiwis are fleeing to the provinces and Australia (when they could).


When you see alarmist headlines such as "Coronavirus: 40% of bars, cafes could close due to skills shortage — expert"

I say good riddance. If your business relies on paying your staff minimum wages to survive you probably shouldn't be in business.

Meanwhile i have frequented several hospitality venues here in Christchurch over the last week which were absolutely pumping. Good businesses will get through this just fine.

The fact that some business owners such as those in the article are expecting to get skilled workers with previous experience and then pay them minimum wage and make them work unsociable hours is laughable.


That article made me spit my coffee out. There is nothing "skilled" about a bar or cafe worker. If there was, there would be a 4 year University degree in coffee making. Making coffee, pouring drinks, and serving food is nothing that cant be taught in a couple of polytech night classes or on the job. When I was a student jobs in bars and restaurants were highly sought after, they paid a students way through University. I remember going around all the local places dropping my resume off, asking "If anything comes up?". Of course, back then they were reasonably well paid jobs. Now its minimum wage work, and most of the migrant workers get paid less than that thanks to visa scams and paying foreign students under the table for all their illegal work hours. The hospitality industry isnt missing "skilled" workers, just those prepared to work illegally for less than minimum wage.


Exactly. If they offered decent wages and decent conditions you would have people lining up for the jobs.

The reality the "skill" that is in short supply is just being willing to work for terrible pay, horrible hours and conditions. People will say "oh its minimum wage, people should be happy for the jobs". But in reality if you want people to work unsocial hours with little to no prospects for career advancement, you might just have to compensate them for that.


It's been farcical. Some strange expectation that every Tom, Dick or Harriet has the "right" to run a cafe or restaurant and the profitability of these businesses should be able to rely on cheap, exploitable labour later supported by taxpayer-funded services and benefits. We redistribute masses of money in Working for Families and the Accommodation Supplement in absurd efforts to bolster businesses and rental yields.

The question is will you pay an extra dollar for every coffee or $2 for every beer, $20 for every meal out, more for rates, tax, groceries, cleaning, WOF, tyres, petrol, clothing, because most of these industries also are relatively low skill, low wage industries.

Your Good Riddance comment is like the nasty Hipkins Labour response to business concerns about increasing wage costs early in their term - they can just "Transition....". Well companies are "Transitioning" at present, costing thousands of jobs. These companies pay wages above benefit levels without taking government funding, contribute to the tax take that is sinking like a stone, keeping money flowing in the economy.

I know of many good business who have shed people, with the flow on effects to others who used to have good businesses too, even the local coffee guy is impacted by the changes. If you can't see that, your head is in the sand


Actually yes i would, in fact i would love to see a scheme where accredited living wage hospo venues can promote themselves as i would love to support them and they would deserve to be celebrated.

If all it costs is $2 more on the price of my beer to know that the person who pours it and serves is valued, has job security, is skilled and can afford to put a roof over their heads and feed their kids, then that is the best $2 i have ever spent. $20 extra for a main is a bit dramatic , but the same applies.

Having worked in hospo for many years, the industry has been very bad at developing itself into a career worthy industry. There are many good businesses out there however and as i mentioned in my initial comment, they are (for the most part) doing a good trade right now and will get through this year just fine. The bad ones, well they need to up their game, look at the competition and innovate. If they cannot, then yes they do need to question themselves and ask why they are in business at all.

Its tough times out there, but businesses that innovate and adapt will survive, those that do not will get left behind and only have themselves to blame.


Yep me too

Look at where profit is being extracted in the value chain. Perhaps inflated commercial property values are leading to crippling rents. Other industries/services have had to modify the simple cost plus business model that leaves the final consumer paying over the top prices, to one that is much leaner. Renegotiate rents downward - share the struggle.

This is so wrong headed it is hard to even know where to start, but the people you hurt most with high minimum wages are the poor and low-skilled, who are denied opportunity to earn and develop more valuable skills and move up the chain. The welfare you will need to offer as alternative dooms people (and their kids) to miserable half-lived existence.


Disagree with this, its not the minimum wage thats caused kiwis to miss out here (in fact the link between increases in minimum wages and reductions in employment is disputed), its runaway low-skilled immigration that has denied kiwis the chance to participate in parts of the labour market, and kept the cost of labour in some industries low.

Now that that tap has been turned off, its simple supply and demand. Businesses will need to start paying rates that not just appeal to kiwis, but also adequately cover their living costs in order for them to seriously consider taking them up.

Lets let the market do its thing, rather than importing low cost outside labour to artificially lower it.


Agree. The result of years of viewing minimum wages as a competitive advantage. There is enough evidence now to support increases in wages to increases in productivity.

Supply and demand - we were importing 3rd world wages and boasting about diversity and growth of GDP.
There is no problem with high-paid immigrants (see how many Indian and Chinese born CEOs are running big businesses in California) it is volume of low-paid immigrants that produces the rorts and corruption, the low wages and kills of training. Those low wage immigrants makes our elite (I mean Labour & National, Academics & Journalists) happy with cheaper cappacinos and higher house prices but are a knife in the back of struggling Kiwis.

Some people never move up the chain and are happy with this. A decent living wage should be a right.
The whole cost structure is up the crapper, lets have a look at lease costs, what the owner is pulling out etc etc... And I own a business so Im not some lefty leaning level playing field knob.

Exactly! Couldn't agree more.

"If nothing else, the Covid-19 Pandemic has reminded us all how much even the most sophisticated modern economy owes to its domestic market." Exactly Chris. The point of my, and many other's arguments to develop local resilience. Take the opportunity to diversify and revitalise the economy as a part of this process.

But there appears to be a reluctance to let go of historical paradigms. In the Sunday Star times there were a few articles talking about this, including at least one that expounded on a concern over Government debt. Yet there are more and more articles and papers coming out on MMT that are explaining that Government 'debt' can be a thing of the past. One must ask who profits the most from government debt?

Forget Covidexiting, what this govt really needs to produce is an economic strategy, to get the economy back on its feet besides just welfare handouts, and a Vacinne strategy so we can be sure we will be able to become immune to the virus.

There is no certainty that widely effective long lasting vaccines will become available, seems immune response to wuflu is very short lived in many (most?) cases. This govt has no business experience, and has demonstrated no ability to deliver anything except spending and PR releases, they should not be re-elected (but sadly likely will be). I expect that at some point in next 6-12 months we will just have to grasp the nettle and open borders, because the economic Depression caused by isolation will be doing more human harm than the virus would.

Evidence for your views on vaccines and immunity? And as for your political reckons....

Unfortunately, they may be correct on immunity:
But to my mind that argues more for keeping the borders closed. At least until an effective treatment is developed.

Let us all spend locally and let the government give up some tax revenue, by foregoing income tax for the first 6 months of the financial year 2020-21. Sorted.

Great idea. GST returns would probably increase somewhat anyway.

Thanks Kate. Yes. Governments will still gain because tax cuts are permanent, this is temporary. The increased economic activity will generate more indirect tax revenue, To overcome the shortfall in the interim, they can use their reserves or borrow cheaply in the local/international markets as interest rates are very low, even negative. Good Sovereign Bonds will be in great demand.


An excellent piece from Chris Trotter.

Protect the vulnerable and get on with it. Even in the UK where deaths were skewed by sending C19 ill to rest homes - the risk of dying is remarkably low for most people.

"Cambridge University statistician Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter has highlighted evidence which shows the risk of dying from coronavirus is very similar to the underlying risk people of all age groups from early 20s upwards have of dying anyway.

...Strip out the under-65s with health conditions - about one in 16 - and the risk is even lower, with deaths in non-vulnerable groups being "remarkably uncommon".
Putting risk in perspective is going to be essential for individuals and decision-makers, the authors suggest."

So Profile, all those thousands of deaths over weighted seasonal average are inconsequential?
It's easy to talk of risk as if approaching zero is totally safe. That's foolish thought without considering the potential consequences arising from a risk manifesting.
I hazard that the otherwise untimely death of fellow citizens is a grave (no pun intended) consequence.

We don't know long term health effects yet, it sounds more and more like mutations of the virus can be very damaging. Precautionary principle applies when evidence is lacking.

"they have devoted so little effort over the years to developing an alternative funding model for the country’s tertiary-education sector."
Oh good grief. I don't know what this magical "alternate funding" would be. International students provide three times the revenue of domestic students. Are you suggesting they should raise domestic tuition - because currently the government doesn't allow that. NZ universities have some of the lowest government funding per student in the developed world. If the government funded research properly then they wouldn't need to rely on foreign students. Who did a large part of the heavy lifting in the Covid-19 research - modeling the specific spread of the disease in NZ? That's right, university academics. NZ would be a lot wealthy if we respected research more and funded it properly.

Just in case you need help, you do realise you answered your own question.

avatar99: we in NZ are seduced into admiring and financing glamorous rocket launches (or launch failures) a la "Rocket Lab" than doing useful research into medicine or food science because the latter aren't deemed 'sexy'.

Its not even a kiwi company according to google?


Downsize them. This whole idea of sending people with average (or below average) intelligence on to University, and sticking them with massive student debts to obtain dumbed down qualifications for jobs that don't even require them, is simply stupid. Universities should go back to providing advanced learning for the top 20% of students, and every one else can go get some vocational training via polytech, apprenticeships, or on the job training like people used to.

I agree. They've been pushed into the business of credentialing rather than being first and foremost about pushing the boundaries of knowledge and research, followed by passing this on to others who have the passion and the capability to master such knowledge. They've become de facto finishing schools for the job market.

We see academics complaining of being pressured to pass people who have no business being passed, and to excuse cheating lest it undermine money flowing in. This undermines the value of degrees legitimately earned and of the universities themselves.

Vocational training should be separated from universities back into technical institutes.

Unfortunately - given economic growth is powered by education then innovation - we also have too many in the population that rant against proper funding of education yet are perfectly happy to see us indulging in credit bubble economics to push up asset prices. Guess it's not the legacy we leave to next generations that matters, just how hard folk can party right now.

Totally agree. I have been doing part time lecturing at Auckland Uni for several years and my estimate is that at least a third of the students shouldn't be there, many of them struggle to put coherent sentences together let alone construct coherent assignments (ps. I am talking about kiwi students. International students - that's a whole other conversation...)

That's a bit of a superficial analysis, based as it is on the asssumption that those in favour of reopening the border are doing so for purely economic reasons, and are from the tourism and education sectors. There's much more behind it, including the free flow of citizens from the country as well as to. Much of what has made New Zealand the country it is, is our ability and willingness to get away from a remote, small nation and to absorb what the rest of the world has to offer. To see the border purely in economic terms is to deny the importance of us being able to feel part of a wider humanity. Close the borders for the time it takes for this virus to go away and this country will have atrophied spiritually.


'this country will have atrophied spiritually' ... well on the way. The bizarre worshiping of health officials and a PM simply doing the jobs they are paid for is disturbing and will only become worse the longer we stay shut off. This morning there is a 'news' story that consists of a denial from the princess that she saved NZ from C19. Pure cringe. We mock the North Korean deifying of the Kims but similar embarrassingly cultist trends are present here.

"...atrophied spiritually" Disagree. A part of what has made NZ what it is is our separation from the rest of the world. In the early days it took months to get here, and as a consequence we were known for our independent spirit and attitude, to the point that we are actually proud of the "damned colonials" tag bestowed on us by the Brits. In the modern world, as CT points out, information technology keeps us connected without the risk of a virus. So spiritually and nationally we have an opportunity to rebuild that resilience we became known for, and that successive generations of politicians have undermined as technology progressed. So we can keep up with the world, stay connected and do what we need, just without them bringing their problems here.

One of the things not being discussed, again, is that one of the most attractive bits about NZ is population. We are not very crowded by world standards. COVID gives us an opportunity to get that under control, identify and manage a population target that keeps NZ the paradise many view it as. Kicking out the non-citizens will be a good start, to get the population back to where it needs to be.

Kicking out the non-citizens is a little strong. There are many PI fruit pickers who would love nothing more than to go home for winter and return next harvest when they will be needed. But I agree with you about residency without citizenship - they ought to choose and only be allowed to vote if citizens and to pay for the privilege of living here (work permit fees) if they don't become citizens.

Although many countries allow dual citizenship such as NZ and the UK, not every country allows dual citizenship e.g. Singapore, Netherlands, Japan and I believe also China, or make it extremely difficult to get an exemption for dual citizenship e.g. Germany. If you have to look after an ailing family member in your country of birth, especially if it is over an extended period of time, doing so without citizenship would be a very difficult. Permanent residency is a solution for this problem.

There's much more behind it, including the free flow of citizens from the country as well as to.

The government is not stopping people leaving the country, assuming you can get a flight out. If you're a citizen you can freely return in future and it looks like only the most dire circumstances would ever curtail that right.

You'll have to go through 14 days of quarantine on return, but that restriction is only likely to be reduced for Australia and the Pacific Islands in the near term.

Unless you have inside knowledge - There is nothing preventing anyone leaving NZ - they can leave at any time they like. Should they go to Australia they will face 14 days in isolation or quarantine on arrival - should they choose to return they will face another 14 days isolation or quarantine plus CV19 tests and by then there will be a co-payment charge for the privilege

That's why I used the words "free flow"

There is nothing preventing anyone leaving NZ - they can leave at any time they like.

If you want to go to Australia, yes. Plenty of places you cannot go and pitch your tent.

"But open them up we must, at some stage."
This opinion is fatally flawed, there is no reason why NZ MUST reopen its borders for human travel.

These people would better serve NZ by putting their minds to a conversation on the best way to restructure NZ as a standalone entity with physical imports/exports maintained, just as they still are now, but without the travelling human petri dish. This pandemic is not going away any time soon, we need a 2 year plan minimum to keep NZ running effectively within its own borders and a 5 year plan to continue effective border control.
If the new guy under National wants to get in his best plan is to actually get some brilliant minds together to come up with this plan, instead of wasting his efforts on feeble attacks in opposition. So far he has not displayed any level of leadership or gravitas in thinking or presentation that would encourage any voter support.

Recessions (and depressions) kill. Less money spent on health, worse mental health, relationship and business failures, severe career knock back for young and myriad other negative impacts. Balance that against a risk of death about the same as a few months of your normal risk of death (and much less for younger adults). It is likely that opening up international travel sooner and using transmission mitigation (masks for all) is going to produce better outcomes for NZ than keeping strict 14 day border quarantine. Current policy is sacrificing happiness and hopes of young adults to benefit retirees.

Its a real shame you're using dodgy facts on things like suicide to make a political point. Maybe stop playing games and realise this is a global recession. This is nothing caused by the government and just opening up the borders is not going to send us into prosperity. In fact the NZ Economy has been able to re-open and get back up and running sooner than others because of the border lockdown. The position we are in has been hard fought and we dont want to lose it now.

You want to put all that at risk and potentially cause more economic harm? Good luck with that.

Strawman. I said nothing about suicide - which if anything drops in times of immediate crisis like war. But economic hardship inevitably leads to worse health (mental, physiological) outcomes over long term and that comes with a body count - just as lockdowns have increased deaths due to poor treatment of other maladies. See GDP vs life expectancy graphs. If you want to save the most lives you have to balance health costs of a Depression against those of having some wuflu cases in NZ. There are huge swathes of the economy and whole regions that are being devastated by lack of international visitors.

V notable that news media laped up the "3 wise" folk ideas attacking government (supposedly - did not in fact attack at all but tin criticism seized upon by media after a "story" to be a gov with) Then, on Q and A Sunday morning, the Head of Advisory body to WHO on vaccine safety (Dr. Helen Petousis Harris) said plenty in support of government keeping border closed for long time and that vaccine would not be widely available til end of 2021. News media in eve bulletins reported NIL of that interview??? Could this per chance be because their advertising dictates what content they choose to put on? Advertisers want the foreign income. I emailed Channel 1 and Channel 3 to ask that they give coverage in the bulletins to what the Dr had said in morning, given that Q& A has much power viewing figures and that the Dr was giving v important info. It did not work: silence. So much for reporting the news and their other favourite "all you need to know"

PS: economy is not about need, it is mostly about induced desire to consume.


To the folk who parrot things re risk of dying under 60 from CV19.
You conveniently forget that those deemed "recovered" are amorphously described so.
No one bothers to look at how many have permanent lung damage, or kidney damage
This is not flu.

So how many people do have permanent lung or kidney damage? I've looked, and seen very few answers other than that doctors believe people "may" suffer such damage, which is in itself a usual consequence of coronaviris illnesses. But you apparently know the answer. So put up or shut up.

You may underestimate how nasty the common flu is? "For the non-vulnerable population, coronavirus carries no more risk than a "nasty flu", says Prof Mark Woolhouse, an expert in infectious disease who led the research."

"The 2017-18 season was the first season to be classified as a high severity across all age groups."

You know that people who recover from the flu also suffer permanent lung or kidney damage right? In fact, just about every click bait headline about covid complications are simply the same complications as from the flu or any other virus. Here's a flu sufferer that had to get a double lung transplant afterwards

It's lucky we can vaccinate against flu then isn't it.

'able to engage with their business contacts through Skype and Zoom'..... Trotter exhibits his academic insularity by suggesting remote interaction is adequate for the conduct of business. It might be fine for socialist international talk fests but anyone in the real world of import/export will identify this as nonsense. Face to face interaction requiring travel is fundamental to transacting, especially with non english cultures. The price businesses pay for neglecting physical meetings is progressive atrophy.

Worldwide business travel per capita is never going to recover to its previous levels.

I think you are wrong, but I expect it will take 5-10 years - mostly due to lingering effects of the wuflu-Depression

"It is disturbing, given the universities’ claim to contain the best brains New Zealand has to offer, that they have devoted so little effort over the years to developing an alternative funding model for the country’s tertiary-education sector."

From my experience of having worked in NZ tertiary education sector. Yes it is very disturbing that their business model revolves around getting the "cheapest" not the best! This usually involves recruiting current students who are willing (And have wealthy parents) to study for a Masters degree which will allow them be lectures whilst their effectively still students. Most Universities will complain that they can't get the experienced qualified staff which is completely untrue it's just that they don't want to offer a decent salary.

Lectures even in Auckland are on less then $60k a year and if you are on a much higher salary then that, they will cost cut and make you redundant as soon as they've had the yearly NZQA visit to tick the appropriate boxes. This has happened to lots of other well qualified and experienced lectures here in NZ.

And yes students do complain that they're being taught by inexperienced and in most cases unqualified people especially the international students who are having to pay huge fees.

Yes. The tertiary sector has become a bit of a Ponzi scheme. Suck in money from foreign students and postgrads (who mostly get funded by the gov't), and use those same postgrads as your front-line teaching force while shrinking your workforce of experienced academics (who are used to being paid more). It's a fairly inevitable result of the corporatisation of universities. Why pay for the best available teachers when you can get a postgrad to do the job for half the price? Why have stringent entry requirements for courses when that means you're turning away $$$? It's all totally self-defeating in the long run, of course, as standards inevitably fall, and all entirely predictable; it's just taken a few decades to reach the endgame. My loathing for New Zealand's 'vice-chancellors' is boundless; in their avarice, they've overseen the destruction of a public good that took a century to build up.

I'd suggest the govt whether Labour or Nats have had a great deal to do with this situation. Basically forcing the institutions to take on high paying foreign students to subsidise locals because the govt have drastically reduced the subsidies over the years or at best not increased them. The Universities must bear some of the blame by offering nebulous courses in flower arranging whatever. Originally the problem started withe Nats making Universities compete with each other. University centers of excellence need to be imposed so that three or more Universities or Technicons are not offering the same courses or degrees.
The additional "benefits" of foreign students is cheap labour during vacations or part time jobs. Not required.

What I mainly took from the argument of three - was that they don't want opening our borders to become politicized (i.e. an election issue) but rather want such a plan to be informed by a rational/informed collaborative, or cross-party exercise/agreement.

But if that was their intent - why not just say it!?

Funny a seasoned politicians saying that it should not be politicised. Can any thing escape being politicised, especially major decisions like these ? See what Todd is doing and learn what the reality is.

My point is they didn't actually say that, but that is what it should not become (in my opinion) - politicized/an election issue. You only need to look at the mess the US is in due to the highly politicized nature of their COVID response.

If you mean Todd Muller, well he's a politician too - what reality are you talking about. The facts about COVID? About unemployment? About business hardship? The stats/numbers are all there for everyone to see on those matters. Todd's got no different facts/reality than the other parties. They might all have positions/perspectives and those positions and perspectives might differ But the reality is what it is.

I think we got where we are (no community transmission) by taking the advice of a health expert - someone given certain responsibilities and powers for just this situation. I really don't think anyone is in a better position to know the reality of this epidemic than our Director General of Health.

As usual Trotter has a particular set of outcomes in mind and is perfectly happy to use the pandemic as a pretext to push his agenda.
Anyone trying to be pragmatic about it instead is just evil ( a former Alliance MP said so .. therefore it is the truth ).
It is notable that he is not really discussing any practical obstacles to opening the border ( which are many ) or the ( very real .. ) risks that would bring- it is the very notion of open borders he objects to .

Agree with article but one must not forget that one of the pillar of our economy was immigration and international Education / Student played a major role as it were this international students who besides spending money (fees, rent, utility, retail) were working below minimum wages - only reason why many business survived by exploiting and now when they have to pay full wages may have to shut down - Very Bad but True.

Without internation tourist many industry and region will die or hibernate but still care has to be taken before rushing to open border as in this we are not alone but is world over so external factors also will have to be taken in consideration before opening the border.

At the same time, now government should provide target assistance to those that actually need or not able to do business due to border restriction and not to businesses who are operating and doing fine but manipulating the system / critearea to avail assistance and make profit out of it.

Immigration and international eduction has resulted in NZ being a low wage high cost of living economy so long may the borders stay closed to allow the country to rebalance and reset.

Many businesses relying on minimum wage immigrants to stay afloat will close and universities and vocational training organisations offering diplomas in such things as coffee making, hole digging and petrol dispensing will close.


Border closure is damaging, but Clark/Gluckman/Fyfe have not calculated the real murderous economic disaster of the necessary level four lockdown. Thank god it was only a few weeks.
We cannot go there again but easily could. Melbourne is only a short hop away.
Border closure benefits our economy, compared with the alternative.

Now that is a valid argument - against re-opening the border without ensuring the safety of it.

This is not what Clark/Gluckman/Fyfe are advocating which is a considerate debate about how/when/(if) the border should be opened and under what conditions / prerequisites .
The alternative to having that debate and/or working on preparations is being bounced into reopening in a harry when it suddenly becomes a BLM or trans rights issue ..

This is a very good commentary on the Universities and, in fact, the entire Tertiary sector.
“So insistent have the country’s universities become of late that serious questions should probably be asked about the long-term robustness of their beleaguered business model.
Like the mediaeval city-state of Venice, New Zealand universities have staked everything on their ability to extract prodigious fees from the people forced to pass through the “territory” they control”.
And it’s not just the Universities - it’s all the Polytechnics and especially the PTEs - all of whom spend more time and resources inventing programmes & qualifications solely for the purpose of recruiting international students rather than developing authentic training for the benefit of industry employers and NZ students.
Grant Robertson has spoken at various education conferences etc saying he no longer wanted to see Queen St and Auckland providers solely teaching programmes purely for the income from International students - however the Tertiary business model is so fixated on international recruitment that no alternative strategies seem to be seriously considered.
And what is the benefit to the NZ economy and society (apart from the fees income) as only 20% or less of international 1-2 year graduates (most enrol in postgrad programmes of debatable value) actually secure skilled jobs in their field of study?
Meanwhile mainstream degrees and programmes for NZ students to supply skilled graduates for industry get less attention and are taken for granted.
The sector has serious issues.
Most of the international students recruited into NZ are motivated mainly/only for the job visa at the end. The Tertiary sector keeps ‘inventing’ qualifications and adjusting the length of study and the named subjects so as to keep these students eligible for the maximum job visa and family stay, partners etc conditions - The Govt tightens the rules then the Tertiary planners ‘develop’ new qualifications or duration to comply for maximum exit visas, to keep the recruitment up - a vicious cycle (or as they see it a virtuous one!}.
A more honest system would be to simply sell work visas for $20,000 directly and then fund the Unis etc so they can run for the benefit of their community. Genuine international students who want to join good programmes for enrichment and skills Devt and cultural interchange would be most welcome of course.

I quite agree with Chris Trotter today, Doctor am I normal/?

You are normal kiwichas. Trotter is usually loopy, but about one in four is really good. Go figure

Opening the boarders is not the question that should be asked as this is only just starting and no one knows where it is going.
What should be asked is 'how do we capitalize on this advantage. I am sure a lot of high net worth inderviduals/ businesses would be linded up to enter our bubble for the BAU / safety that it allows. We have been in this situation before in Nuke Free zone where our markets dried up and we dug deep and changed fast.
This virus is going to get worse, much worse. Plans need to made and action taken to sell NZ as a BAU country.
I don't think Labour can think like this and National would allow the CCP to run in guns blazing.
NZ BAU. show us your plan.

On the goods that supposedly are still flowing:may I suggest a visit to PB Tech and stare at the empty shelves?

People needing electronics now that working at home has become more widely accepted.

It should be possible to allow foreign students to study in New Zealand universities, flight schools, language schools etc in a safe manner.

If you designated certain buildings as quarantine facilities that had the qualities needed i.e. self contained study and kitchen units, outdoor walk around areas, secure perimeter barriers then students could be bused to the facility, undergo the quarantine period, be tested and be required to pass the tests and then be released to their halls of residence.

The problem is that it would have to be done properly. Not using the halls of residence as quarantine facilities. Having non-corruptible officials doing impromptu tests without advance notice so that taking a pill to mask illness is caught. Having proper management of the facility, not contracting the operation out to the lowest price staff provider.

In other words an operation that is unlikely to occur given the inept governing structures we are currently seeing operate now.

That is the problem. The New Zealand public seems to be of the opinion that you can't really open the borders to international students safely because the govt will try to do it on the cheap and stuff it up. And the New Zealand public is probably right. Until the forces that be get to the point of understanding that some things need to be planned properly and carried out properly in order for the process to work then it is probably better not to proceed.

If the Covid-19 can teach us anything, it is that some things are dangerous and need to be managed properly not in a neo-liberal + PC, she'll be right, let's do it on the cheap way.

The big challenge would be to keep new international students actually following instructions and keeping to the quarantine rules and conditions. It’s hard enough to keep these students to actually write an authentic assignment themselves and follow instructions within their courses!
There would be stories of extreme hardship, extended family circumstances, swapping of IDs, black market smuggling, and constant persistent lobbying of the staff and security. Very difficult to manage.

Lack of trust in the Managers based on past experience. Once bitten twice shy.

Rightists may decry Trotter as a leftist, but most of his articles are on the money.
But then I am ostensibly a leftist...

Am very surprised Helen Clark put her name to this....thought she was smarter than that....not to mention she must understand the implications of doing so....if she wants to be PM again perhaps she should throw her hat back in the to the other pair, no surprises there.

A great read and convincing arguments. Very well written.

"If nothing else, the Covid-19 Pandemic has reminded us all how much even the most sophisticated modern economy owes to its domestic market. "
I think this is becoming more and more apparent to all. Government and domestic consumption can fill a lot of the spending gap left by the loss of international tourism and export education. Yes some will leak to imports and possibly put pressure on the exchange rate but that will have winners and losers and we will cope. Note right now no currency crisis and no sovereign debt crisis despite huge deficits. Keeping NZ Covid free will be attractive for foreign direct investment also in other sectors.

Where countries like India score, to keep their economies chugging along.