You are subscribed as | Unsubscribe | View online version | Forward to a friend

Insights 29: 11 August 2023
Research Report: Meeting New Zealand’s need for General Practitioners
Podcast: Oliver Hartwich and Damien Grant unlock New Zealand's potential
NZ Herald: Bryce Wilkinson on the case for attracting foreign investment

Healthy changes without government
Dr Oliver Hartwich | Executive Director |
In this election year, the crisis in New Zealand’s health system stands as one of the nation’s primary concerns. So, on Wednesday, we held our first Health Innovators’ Summit’ in Auckland, kindly sponsored by nib.

Despite the severe challenges in the sector, it turned out to be a beacon of hope.

More than 100 professionals, mainly from the health sector but also including politicians like National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti and ACT Leader David Seymour, gathered to share insights and ideas.

David Kirk, former All Blacks’ captain and now an investor in telehealth companies, explained how patients in Australia now have access to essential services online.

Former Prime Minister Bill English spoke about his pioneering work with individualised funding for disability benefits through Manawanui.

Ian McRae, the founder and previous CEO of Orion Health, shared his conviction that the future of healthcare lies in the rise of data, machine learning, and AI.

Emeritus Professor Des Gorman, emphasised the urgent need to increase the number of GPs to avoid a shortage in the near future.

Rangimarie Hunia and Tom Irvine of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei shared the success story of their community-driven health initiative.

Among speakers and guests, there was unanimous agreement that the recent health reforms were misguided. Not least because their centralisation aspect is problematic. Indeed, New Zealand now has the most centralised public health service in the world, surpassing even Britain’s NHS.

Our speakers also cautioned against waiting for grand health reform. Given the complexity of health, grand reforms are likely to fail but suck up enormous resources.

Instead, there was an inspiring call for people to take matters into their own hands. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is a case in point.  Bill English’s work with Manawanui is another.

The use of data to revolutionise health care delivery was another widespread point of agreement, again exemplified by Bill English’s work on social investment and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s use of New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI).

New Zealand’s health challenges are serious, but the mood of the event was not downbeat. Instead, it was a call to action. The event left participants hopeful that change is possible if we do not wait for government intervention but let local and small initiatives lead the way.

The Health Innovators’ Summit showed a path forward. And perhaps surprisingly for a policy event, this path does not require much government involvement. And the health outcomes will probably be better for it.

Tunnel Vision
Dr Matthew Birchall | Research Fellow |
Another week, another transport policy announcement.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and freshly-minted Transport Minister David Parker released the Government’s preferred option for a second Auckland harbour crossing. 

Their “bold plan for Auckland’s future” comprises two three-lane road tunnels under the Waitematā, and a separate 21km light rail tunnel linking the project to the existing Auckland Light Rail corridor. 

Waka Kotahi calculates that the plan would cost between $35 and $45 billion, which would make it the most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in New Zealand. Construction is slated for 2029, or so we are told.

While the Government’s plan for Auckland is undoubtedly aspirational, it is also deeply flawed – and it raises fundamental questions about how New Zealand approaches megaprojects.

The lack of detail is troubling. For example, we still do not know how Government intends to fund and finance the project, nor do we have a clear explanation for why the most expensive option was selected. In fact, it is not even clear that Auckland needs a second crossing – that has simply been assumed. 

Astonishingly, Minister Parker has said that Waka Kotahi will report back to Cabinet next year with specifics.

That is unacceptable. After all, this is a multi-decade transport plan for New Zealand’s largest city that comes with an enormous price tag. It is not unreasonable to expect a business case before an announcement of such magnitude.

The Government has promised the world yet offered little in the way of substance.

Take the light rail component of the Government’s plan. At $27 billion for 21km of tunnel – nearly $1.3 million per meter – you would want to be darn sure that the benefit-cost-ratio was greater than 1. Yet, we currently have no way of assessing how it stacks up. That’s quite the leap of faith.

Just as concerning is the misguided belief that New Zealand can simply build its way out its infrastructure dilemma.

A better approach would emphasise how we can extract greater value from our existing network. That might mean congesting charging, for example. If charging helps to clear traffic, then that second crossing suddenly does not seem so necessary.

It is perhaps wishful thinking to expect sensible solutions to Auckland’s transport woes in election year. That said, the cynicism and puffery of the Government’s latest offering is something to behold. Aucklanders, and indeed New Zealand as a whole, deserve better.

A rite of passage
Benjamin Macintyre | Research Assistant |
In politics, there are certain things you need to be taken seriously.

Some are formal things. You need a platform, of course. And a leader.

Then there are less formal things. Rites of passage, if you will. Survive a scandal. Engage in some backstabbing. Manage a couple U-turns here and there.

And, every election cycle, you need at least one dumb policy. This election is no exception.

The Green Party wants to “focus New Zealand’s defence policy on climate change responses.” Because everyone knows the best way to fight rising CO2 emissions is with bullets. This should play well to their supporters.

The ACT party is an unwavering supporter of libertarian principles, unless you’re a 17-year-old with a troubled past. In that case, you should get tried as an adult because you're "old enough to know better” - though you're still not old enough to have a beer or know who to vote for.

Meanwhile, Labour’s apparent policy to have at least one ministerial scandal a month doesn’t seem to be going so well for them. Then there’s their announcement of a massive green energy project – if only they can get it through their own resource consent regime.

Finally, the National Party has announced that it wants to ban phones in schools.

But why is this policy dumb?

Well, because it doesn’t change anything.

Schools that have problems with kids on phones can already put restrictions in place.

Since National wants the schools themselves to decide how this new rule is implemented, they’ve basically announced that nothing will change.

A good policy requires substance. This policy, though, is a tasty nothingburger.

And yet it’s a nothingburger that has generated at least three days of news.

Prime Minister Hipkins was quick to point out that schools “don’t need Christopher Luxon’s permission” to ban phones. I mean, sure. But criticising National for taking decision-making agency away from local actors is a bit rich coming from a government that seems to want to centralise everything.

Secondary Principals’ Association president, Vaughan Couillault, said the policy is “unworkable”. Apart from the schools that already have restrictions on phone use, of course. It’s working fine for them.

What really matters to the National Party is not whether this policy will actually accomplish anything but whether it’ll give them free coverage with their name on it.

And here I am now, unwittingly obliging. And all for a nothingburger.

Maybe the policy isn’t so dumb after all.

On The Record

Initiative Activities:   
All Things Considered
  • Map of the week: Carbon Pricing Initiatives Around the World
  • If you allow more housing, increased demand turns into more housing rather than higher rents
  • Triggering warnings
  • Rent control is a bad idea
  • Canada's satirical news site, The Beaverton, responds to Meta's block of Canadian news
  • How Google is helping airlines mitigate the climate impact of contrails
Copyright © 2024 The New Zealand Initiative, All Rights Reserved

Unsubscribe me please

Brought to you by outreachcrm