Can the team of five million now apply its mind to the economy it wants to become in the future?

Tim McCready

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman told attendees at this morning’s ‘Kickstarting the New Zealand Economy’ session from the Trans-Tasman Business Circle that we won’t go back to ‘business as usual’ following the pandemic:

“New Zealand needs to grow its R&D strategy, which is still designed for the 1980s and not for the 21st century.” He said our two biggest industries – tourism and agriculture – won’t be the same in the future due to the impact of Covid, along with climate change and other factors.

The panel, moderated by Fran O’Sullivan, all had a part to play in New Zealand’s success over the past year: former PM Helen Clark, Sir Peter Gluckman, and Rob Fyfe. They suggested there is a risk that New Zealand’s success in responding to the pandemic could very easily become an Achilles heel for the next phase of the recovery. “That safety can deal complacency and result in us being slow to move,” said Rob Fyfe. “That is a risk and a real challenge to move the mindset of the population to look to the future and will need a different risk profile.”

Engaging New Zealanders in a conversation about the future will be an important part of this, said former Prime Minister Helen Clark, in a similar way that New Zealanders pulled together to eliminate Covid and keep it out.

“Can the team of five million now apply its mind to that? This is what needs to happen now – engage New Zealanders in this conversation with as much as can be put on the table on what the scenarios are and confront the future.”

Said Gluckman: “We need to get beyond New Zealand’s traditional ‘she’ll be right’ approach – where we live off traditional sectors – to the point where we start to live more off our brains and innovation skills. That needs a fundamental shift.

It is the tenth anniversary of Sir Paul Callaghan’s keynote address at ‘StrategyNZ: Mapping our future’, where he challenged New Zealanders to think about the type of country we might like New Zealand to become. From today’s session, it is clear that more than ever there is a strong desire to rise to that challenge and ensure New Zealand has its say in planning for the economy it wants to become in the future.

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