As first the Budget and then the election loom, clarity about what the big issues are is getting firmer and so are the policy positions.
Government can claim the economy is chugging along nicely (Tourism roars past dairy as NZ's biggest export earner - Business - NZ Herald News), but the evidence that we’re not all enjoying the pleasures it promises is no longer arguable: (NZ's wealth divide continues to grow - report | Radio New Zealand News; NZers face financial hardship when buying a house - analysis | Radio New Zealand News; Kiwis' private debts put the country at risk - Newsroom; Each day begins with ... fear' - shopworkers tell politicians | Radio New Zealand News).
The good news is we’re not alone: ('Call to action' for G20 health ministers ahead of Berlin meeting | Devex); echoes the Melbourne Demand for Action adopted at the World Congress on Public Health in April.
While President Trump sets about undoing the constraints his predecessor put on the banks that brought the international monetary system to its knees in 2008 (Big unwind of Wall St restrictions begins - Newsroom), our media provides us with better insights into our Government’s policy options (Finance Minister rules out tax cuts but lifts infrastructure spending - Politics - NZ Herald News; Under the skin of the new debt target - Newsroom), and effective pressure on corporate wealth and welfare (The big reveal: Lifting the lid on CEO pay - Business - NZ Herald News). And politicians' pecuniary interests (MPs' latest home ownership, interests revealed - National - NZ Herald News; Barry Soper: Most of our politicians well heeled lot - National - NZ Herald News; Government MPs' property ownership revealed | Radio New Zealand News).
The contribution of housing to wealth, inequality and disadvantage is now well-established. Five years of beavering away at how to quantify this has now verified what everyone in the community knows: (Housing affordability better for renters, worse for Auckland buyers: new government figures - Business - NZ Herald News; NZers face financial hardship when buying a house - analysis | Radio New Zealand News), and good advice to fix these problems is at hand: (IMF wants reforms to cut housing risks - Newsroom; More houses should be the primary target | Child Poverty Action Group; Will Joyce’s Working for Families changes be enough? • Child Poverty Action Group; When Good Intentions Are Not Enough: Smart Investment in Families Needs to Look To a Thriving Future for All - Morgan Foundation).
There’s plenty of advice now available to address some of our most critical environmental issues. After ten years as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, is retiring from the job, to be succeeded by the Hon. Simon Upton, a former Minister of both Health and Environment. During her term, Jan Wright earned a reputation for "fearless independence and deep respect for evidence” (Dominion Post 1/04/17).
In his more recent role with the OECD, Simon Upton has also been unafraid of upsetting his former colleagues, pointing out that New Zealand’s economy "was starting to show its environmental limits with increasing greenhouse gas emission and water pollution” (Dominion Post 1/04/17). There are plenty of well-researched recent environmental reports to guide the new incumbent. (The environmental challenges NZ needs to think about - Newsroom; A Line in the Sand for Freshwater Quality? | Insight | Radio New Zealand; 'The mauri of our natural world has been diminished' | Radio New Zealand News; NZ needs to act now on rivers, top official warns | Radio New Zealand News; Landmark report finds freshwater at risk | Radio New Zealand News; Our water: 5 takeaways from today’s report - Newsroom; Councils faulted over Havelock North gastro outbreak | Radio New Zealand News). Let’s hope the new Commissioner can persuade his client, Parliament, to act on this advice.
If we could only stop obsessing about “ownership” and think about the environment as our most precious asset, we might get past the self-defeating arguments about responsibility for protecting our water, rivers and foreshore and seabed. (When the river runs dry: The true cost of NZ water - Newsroom; Water Fools? - The river is me | Radio New Zealand News; Rights claim made for all NZ's foreshore and seabed | Radio New Zealand News; Relax, Māori aren’t banning you from the beach. Or are we? | The Spinoff; Save us, I beg you, from this never-ending bullshit about the foreshore and seabed | The Spinoff).
Another sign of an election looming is the perennial resistance to Māori asserting Tiriti rights to "the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures (taonga)”. Only a rabid materialist would interpret ‘taonga’ as excluding health and happiness. Last week a Māori health forum explored identity and belonging as fundamentals of health, and the role of te reo Māori and tikanga in fulfilling those fundamentals. So why is it so hard to resolve Māori calls for te reo Māori to be taught in schools? (Kaye expects 'healthy debate' over Te Reo in schools | Radio New Zealand News); Kura Kaupapa schools? (Kura has best scholarship achievement rate in NZ | Radio New Zealand News); Te Reo in public places? (The Kapiti Expressway, Māori road names, and the media outrage machine | The Spinoff; Maori Affairs Minister backs proposal for bilingual towns | Radio New Zealand News); Maori-run prisons? (Māori Party backs Māori-run prisons as 'inevitable' | Radio New Zealand News); and theft of intellectual property (Haka drink maker says sorry over 'cultural misappropriation' of name - NZ Herald; Uruguayan energy drink company 'bastardises' Maori culture | Stuff.co.nz).
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