In 2014 I spent a lot of time angry about politics. Too much time really. Within my reflections on the year gone by I'm considering some positive alternatives to the broken system we're stuck with. I don't have any political aspirations as such, but I've been wondering how I'd lead New Zealand. Obviously I'd be keen to make sure three-handed handshakes become entrenched foreign policy. However I would like to place a ban on the leader of NZ (and any country for that matter) answering any media question with the phrase 'whatever' unless they are somehow elected while still under the age of 16 during a parliamentary slumber party. It's naive but here it is: New Zealand under the leadership of PM Scottie Reeve... I'd begin by putting some serious money behind five impoverished 'pilot' communities around New Zealand with serious social and economic problems. I'm not just talking about new aquatic centres and skate parks, I mean resourcing the respected community workers in those neighbourhoods with what they need to get the job done and to employ other locals as good as they are. The problem is not quality people, there are great community workers all around Aotearoa who are too tired and too busy chasing funding to do what they're best at. Let's equip them with what's needed and not make them jump through hoops to get it. This requires more than a one or two term commitment, so let's cement this strategy in for 25 years. If good investment in social change still doesn't result in transformed communities then we can finally say that the welfare policies of the left haven't worked, but as yet they haven't been tried.
Secondly, I'd run dinners all around New Zealand between the richest business owners and the leaders of some of the poorest communities. There is not just a financial divide, but an understanding divide between these two echelons of society. Labels don't help the poor access the philanthropy and wisdom of the wealthy, and they don't help the rich to truly understand those in poor communities as genuine people rather than 'bludgers' or 'dependents'. Let those paying higher taxes understand where there money is going and why it matters and let's dismantle the vilification from both sides that only serves to widen the gap in the long run.
Thirdly, I'd clean up parliament. Many of our MPs have a wealth of experience in corporate and business settings and this should have taught them that culture is everything. What would it look like to overhaul the culture of parliament? This means ALL parties airing out their dirty laundry before Nicky Hagar has to do it for them. What about a collective acknowledgment that parliamentary integrity has slipped and that our leaders engaging in espionage and smear campaigns actually poisons the political environment in a way that is detrimental to all New Zealanders.
Perhaps without a culture of character assassination our representatives could have the courage to take the kind of risks I'm talking about with social policy. Every year we sink millions of dollars into research and development in the hope of stimulating the economy with another success story like Xero. What if we developed the courage to do this with social policy? Nobody is surprised when scientific research doesn't return the results expected, yet we have a 'bang for buck' approach to welfare and crush every initiative that hasn't delivered on deeply entrenched social issues within 3-6 years. Let's not forget that well researched and developed social policy could return economic dividends in the form of hard-working, educated New Zealanders who don't require government assistance.
Finally, I'd back New Zealanders to come up with good, world-changing ideas before Sony, Time Warner or the latest Lonely Planet Top 10 says we have. This bizarre obsession we have with being the little guy who punches above his weight is getting old. Let's develop a national identity we can be proud of, rather than adapting our identity to please global tastes and trends. Did you know that around the world the Family Group Conference, a NZ born approach to restorative justice, is hailed as game changing and is being implemented widely? Many people don't know that because New Line Cinema didn't promote it, it didn't win an Oscar and it didn't get a song on The Hunger Games.
So there it is, my dream for New Zealand. What's yours?