Thursday 31 August 2017

A Policy A Day: America's Cup Broadcasting

In the lead-up to the election, we are examining a policy a day. We're exploring a variety of policy areas, explaining the background and analysing some of the policy options, with a mixture of technocracy and values-based approaches. Inevitably, some opinion will make its way in and we make no apology for that - after all, we're voters too. A list of all the articles is available hereEnjoy!

Today's post is written anonymously.

While no parties have the America’s Cup Broadcasting at the forefront of their policies, this is hardly surprising given more pressing issues including transport, housing, health, social welfare, the environment and the economy are the big ticket winners. New Zealand First has its ‘Broadcasting and ICT’ policy where they propose a restructure of TVNZ and Radio New Zealand (see Andrew’s analysis of this during the last election). New Zealand First pledges to “ensure Games of National Significance will be broadcast live and free-to-air” – more on this below. So why is America’s Cup Broadcasting important when it hasn’t been addressed by the parties?

The America’s Cup isn’t exactly an election-friendly topic. However, the America’s Cup will be hosted in New Zealand, it will be a big event and will require significant financial investment, even if Grant Dalton can work his magic (again) and drum up funds from private investors. While it’s not being talked about in the lead up to the election, whoever is in government will definitely be making decisions about the America’s Cup post-election. It’ll become a hot political topic again when Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) announce the protocol for the 36th America’s Cup. ETNZ will no doubt be looking to secure support and funding from the Government (and most likely Local Government) to stage their defence, so there will be very robust discussions about the Government’s involvement/investment in the campaign.

While we are currently awaiting the release of the protocol to obtain further details of what the 36th America’s Cup will look like, some things are certain, one of which is the broadcasting of the event. What is uncertain though is whether every New Zealander will be able to watch ETNZ’s defence live and free-to-air.

Broadcasting Rights
The broadcasting of the America’s Cup was a hot topic during the Bermuda campaign. Sky Television (Sky TV) successfully bid for the broadcasting rights and its subscribers enjoyed exclusive live coverage of the event. However, once ETNZ won the Louis Vuitton challenger series and secured the right to challenge Oracle for the Cup, Duncan Garner campaigned for the America’s Cup to be shown live, free-to-air, to all New Zealanders. Garner argued that the taxpayer has contributed to ETNZ’s campaign, so it’s only right that the taxpayer can watch the boys pedalling their hearts out 14,000 km away.

‘We Don’t Care’
This is where the controversy lies. In the lead-up to Bermuda, Grant Dalton and ETNZ were rubbished. It’s a rich man’s sport. New Zealanders don’t care. You broke our hearts back in San Francisco 2013, so we’re done. But we’re suckers. Once we saw our golden boys Pete and Blair flying across the Great Sounds of Bermuda, they got us – hook, line and sinker. And just as ETNZ tacked and gybed their way back into every race, we too were back in the campaign, pulling on our red socks and waking at 5am. Why?

NZ’s sporting culture
We love our sport. It’s ingrained in our culture. We mourn an All Blacks’ loss. Our Olympians are (symbolically) anointed as New Zealand royalty. The Lisa Carringtons. The Richie McCaws. And despite already becoming our latest superstars following their success in Rio, Pete and Blair solidified their place in New Zealand sporting history.

We were the underdogs up against Oracle with money bursting from their seams. We had a young, inexperienced team. And after the heartbreak of San Francisco, we were vulnerable. But ETNZ was sticking it to the Man, it was more than holding its own, and despite the lack of support in the lead-up to the racing itself, New Zealanders were again inspired when little old New Zealand at the bottom of the word, with all the cards stacked against them, came out on top.

However, despite pulling at the heartstrings of Sky TV (and giving them the opportunity to show some public goodwill), the best Sky TV did was provide delayed coverage on their free-to-air Prime channel.   

Securing Broadcasting Rights
Now that ETNZ has won the America’s Cup and New Zealanders have somewhat bought into ETNZ’s campaign to host the next event, where to from here? The Government were quick to invest $5 million in ETNZ following the big win, in order to secure key team members and ensure as much intellectual property as possible remained in New Zealand and with ETNZ. But will the Government secure the broadcasting rights to ensure that when ETNZ defends the America’s Cup, New Zealanders will be able to watch the events live and free-to-air?

Television New Zealand (TVNZ) has held broadcasting rights for the past 25 years but were outbid by Sky TV for the Bermuda campaign. As a keen sports follower and also as a passionate New Zealander, I noticed a considerable difference between San Francisco and Bermuda (apart from being on opposite sides of a win). With live, free-to-air coverage of San Francisco, the nation truly did come together. Hundreds descended on Queens Wharf before work each morning, and there was a real buzz across the country because the coverage was accessible. I would go so far as to say the feeling of ‘a galvanised nation’ helped with the grieving process post-San Francisco. With Bermuda, I felt part of the privileged few who were able to watch the events live on Sky TV. There simply wasn’t the same level of buy-in and support from the public for what was taking place in Bermuda.

But how can TVNZ secure broadcasting rights and ensure all New Zealanders are given accessible, live, free-to-air coverage when we come to host in 2021?

New Zealand First
Late last year, New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell had his member’s bill drawn from the ballot. The Broadcasting (Games of National Significance) Amendment Bill would ensure games of national significance such as All Blacks test, the majority of World Cup matches involving New Zealand, Olympic games and Commonwealth games, would be broadcast live and free-to-air. If this bill was passed into law, the America’s Cup would have most likely passed as “any sporting event funded by the Major Events Development Fund.” However, there was significant criticism of the Bill, and it failed to progress further.

The Bill reflected the anti-siphoning laws in Australia where free-to-air broadcasters are given first opportunity to purchase rights to a specified list of sporting events, reflecting the belief that there are games of national significance which should be broadcast to the public.

While anti-siphoning laws are ideal from the public’s perspective, recent amendments to anti-siphoning laws in Australia have highlighted the commercial realities of broadcast media in a highly competitive market. This is where the crux of the issue lies.

Sports Funding
A large part of revenue for sports teams and events is generated from broadcasting rights. There are varying reports that broadcasting rights generate between 40% to 50% of the revenue of our major sports. Sky TV says it paid sports team $120 million last year for broadcasting rights. If the Government is to provide live, free-to-air broadcasts of our major sports games, then it would also need to make up for the loss of revenue generated from the sale of broadcasting rights. If the Government isn’t able to account for these losses, it would be sports at the developmental grassroots level that ultimately lose out.

Commercial Realities
In a highly competitive media market and the rise of alternative viewing platforms, broadcasting rights are lucrative and important for sports teams and events, particularly in New Zealand. Anti-siphoning laws may be effective in Australia. However, New Zealand’s market is much smaller compared to that of Australia’s, and our sporting bodies rely on the considerable revenue generated from broadcasting rights.

TVNZ may struggle to compete with the deep pockets of Sky TV, but the America’s Cup will be significant on many levels and will warrant commitment from the Government. Not only will it create excitement levels last seen when New Zealand hosted the Rugby World Cup, but the economic benefits are too great for the Government not to give it proper consideration. Not only do New Zealand’s boat building, marine, technology, hospitality and tourism industries all stand to benefit from the event itself but also the vast knowledge, skill and intellectual property held here in New Zealand.

The government has helped out in the past – it shelled out about $3 million to ensure that the Rugby World Cup in 2011 could have some free-to-air matches (particularly the final) but Bill English said that it was “pretty special having it here”. That was justification for not chipping in for 2017, but maybe it’s an argument for doing so in 2021.

So should you be voting for New Zealand First on the basis of their broadcasting policy? Probably not. Anti-siphoning laws don’t appear to be well-suited to New Zealand’s sports and media markets. However, regardless of what our new Government looks like, the America’s Cup is too great an economic opportunity and sporting and national event for any Government not to commit its support to ETNZ.

Even if Sky TV again outbids TVNZ to become the broadcasting rights holder for the 36th America’s Cup, one would hope that Sky TV do the right thing by New Zealand and New Zealanders and provide live and free-to-air coverage as they did for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. After all, they need to show some public goodwill and win back some supporters. Given Sky TV’s declining revenue and subscriptions, it may be a very different media landscape come 2021.

Today’s contributor works as a junior solicitor in the media industry and has chosen to remain anonymous. The views expressed are their own. 

Wednesday 30 August 2017

A Policy A Day: New Zealand's Role in Asia

In the lead-up to the election, we are examining a policy a day. We're exploring a variety of policy areas, explaining the background and analysing some of the policy options, with a mixture of technocracy and values-based approaches. Inevitably, some opinion will make its way in and we make no apology for that - after all, we're voters too. A list of all the articles is available hereEnjoy!

Today's post is by Ash Stanley-Ryan

No New Zealand political party has a particularly exciting foreign policy right now – if they even have one. Most are either a very narrow approach (see: Labour's refugee quota and immigration policies) or a series of platitudes that we already do (see: NZ First's foreign affairs pledges). National has a trade policy, but no announced foreign affairs policy. To be honest, that's because it can be hard to see how the rest of the world impacts your life compared to something like a train to Auckland Airport or a big tax cut, and political parties target low-hanging fruit like these because they're flashy and draw electorate seat votes.

What happens around the world does affect you though. We're a tiny little country on the bottom of the world which imports a pile of the things you use every day. We rely on our neighbours and especially, we rely on Australia and on Asian states. We have policies on Australia, which is great [Editor: even if their policies on New Zealand aren’t so great]. We don't have such strong policies on how to approach Asia, which is bad. Asia as a region is immensely important to us and will continue to become more important. Where we do have policies, they tend to be inward-looking and see Asia as a "big bad", rather than as an opportunity.

That's why for me, a policy that would swing my vote is one that understands and grows our role in Asia. I want to see a policy proposal which does three things:
  • Acknowledges that Asia is key to the future of our foreign affairs;
  • Focuses on preparing New Zealanders to engage with Asian stakeholders, countries and businesses;
  • Does this, and provides opportunities for New Zealand, whilst upholding our core values.
Pretty much every number or figure in this article is drawn from research by the Asia New Zealand Foundation. If you want to go learn more about the NZ-Asia relationship, they're a great place to start with.

Like it or not, Asia is our future:
There's a lot of angst in New Zealand about Asia and Asian people, particularly in the context of immigration and purchasing of property. I'm not going to address this beyond saying that even though investment from Asia is growing, the region only accounts for ten per cent of foreign-owned assets in NZ. Australians own 30%, and another 20% is from the UK. It's much more likely that someone from Australia [Editor: or New Zealand] is going to buy your dream house and price you out of the market.

Whether you think foreign investment is good or bad, however, it's going to increase, particularly from the Asian region. This isn't just because investment is seen as good; it’s also because Asia and Asian states are becoming more important to us, and the world, all the time. They're economically important – ASEAN was our fourth-largest trading partner in 2015. China's growth means that if you account for purchasing parity (read: what your hard-earned $$ can get you in this late-stage capitalist world) they're the largest economy on Earth. Some Asian states have created their own international development bank, India is positioning itself to be a leader in renewable energy, and Japanese inventors file more patents than anywhere else in the world.

Economic leadership is one thing, but Asia's emerging superpowers lead in other ways too. For example, China's global influence is growing steadily, partly through targeted investment in developing countries.  They don't have the largest armed forces in the world or the most well-equipped, but measuring a country's importance by its military power is only one metric. China has positioned itself to be a world leader, and the perception of a leadership gap in the world order at present could boost its rise.

What does that mean for us? Basically, that any policy which pretends Asia is "just another area of the world" is a bad one. Asia is our backyard, and our backyard is full of developing world powers who happen to also be key trade partners. Whether you like the idea or not, New Zealand cannot and should not pretend that the Asian Century isn't a thing. Instead, we should have a clear policy towards it that acknowledges and embraces our role with Asia.

Because it's our future, we need to be prepared to engage with Asia:
New Zealanders have a confused attitude towards Asia. 70% of New Zealanders agree Asia is important for us. However, only a third of New Zealanders think they have a decent knowledge of Asia. This is important because people who know less about Asia are both less warm towards Asia in general and more negative towards Asia in specific areas. A little bit over 50% of New Zealanders tend to recall negative news about Asia, focused mainly on house prices and immigration. Negative opinions on the influence of Asia are more common in provincial cities.

The results are worse with school leavers: only 37% feel that learning about Asia will be important for them, a fifth of students feel they know nothing about Asia, and over half feel they are unprepared to engage with Asian people and cultures in New Zealand [Editor: understanding Asia goes beyond attending the Lantern Festival once a year and eating “ethnic” takeaways on Friday nights]. This means people are leaving school unprepared to engage with a region that'll be key to their future.
For a country that acknowledges Asia is important to us, our readiness and interest in engaging with the region is surprisingly weak. Saying "Asia is important" is only half what needs to happen: it's like going "yes, we care about the environment" and then taking no action to give effect to that. It's weak at best and actively harmful at worst.

A policy towards Asia needs to include a focus on preparedness to engage. This means emphasising, at school, university and the workplace, the role Asia plays for us and the opportunities it presents. This should be focused on two broad sub-policies:

1.       Equipping New Zealanders to learn about and understand our Asian neighbours (an education policy);
2.       Promoting the opportunities Asia presents for us, linking New Zealand businesses and individuals (a trade and foreign affairs policy).

Engagement shouldn't mean compromising our values:
If statistics and figures switch you off, then good news: this entire section is pure, uncompromising moralism.

New Zealand's values can be a difficult thing to nail down, partly because we have the benefit of being a country where you're free to think whatever you like about what those values should be. There are a couple of things that are more or less universal:
  • Democracy and the rule of law (this means the government doesn't steal you off the street in broad daylight and if they do you can sue them);
  • Human rights and a "principled" approach, meaning we prioritise rights and freedoms here and abroad;
  • Being a constructive partner – one thing New Zealand is well known for internationally is helping others to solve their problems, as well as competently balancing the interests of our overseas partners with one another.
One of the challenges engaging with the Asian region presents to us is that many countries there come from a fundamentally different value system. Whether that's political – Vietnam, Cambodia and China for example – or social, like the Japanese approach to work-life balance, it means we can't treat Asia as a homogenous entity where every country is the same, or approach every country within it the same way we'd approach, say, Australia. This makes cultural understanding important: our approach to countries needs to be appropriate to the country or region we're working with.

That doesn't mean that our core values should fall to the wayside though. A New Zealand that didn't promote democracy, the rule of law, and human rights would be a very different place to live, and all three have their purpose defeated if they're only promoted selectively [Editor: #kiwivalues]. This is the final part of the policy puzzle for me: New Zealand should continue its strong and consistent stance on key issues, even if on occasion that means calling out a partner state for rights abuses.

In short, policy towards Asia is something I want parties to tease out more. It's not a pretty, low-hanging topic that wins votes. It runs the risk that people hear the word "Asia" and immediately switch off or think "housing prices". That doesn't make it unimportant though. I would love to see and vote for a party that can show it's prepared to work with our neighbours. These kinds of policies are normally determined post-election, but in this case, I think a clear, pre-election promise of preparing New Zealand for the future is a better one.

Ash Stanley-Ryan is a fifth-year law and international relations student at Victoria University of Wellington, with a focus on international law. He is a member of UN Youth New Zealand, the Successor Generation Initiative, and the Asia NZ Leadership network (but his views are his own).

Tuesday 29 August 2017

A Policy A Day: Tertiary Education Pathways

In the lead-up to the election, we are examining a policy a day. We're exploring a variety of policy areas, explaining the background and analysing some of the policy options, with a mixture of technocracy and values-based approaches. Inevitably, some opinion will make its way in and we make no apology for that - after all, we're voters too. A list of all the articles is available hereEnjoy!

Today's post is by Jenny Sahng

The problematic path
In New Zealand, few students shoot a clear, confident path from high school, through tertiary, to a meaningful career. Of the 146,000 domestic students at our universities alone, 16% do not complete their course. This figure rises to 28% in Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), and 46% in Wānanga. Although trying new things and changing directions within the tertiary sector can be formative for some, it is often more of a stressful, disillusioning, and ultimately costly experience for both the learner and the education budget. So what is it about our education system, which is really quite good on the whole, that leads to this dissatisfaction and lack of direction among young learners? How can we provide our high school leavers with enough information for them to make the best possible decision about their future? We’ll take a look at some of the reasons behind these issues, what our parties have to say, and which policies might work towards creating a more engaging and tailored careers system.

What’s blocking the way?
Everyone has talents, and everyone is unique [1]. A successful education system would complement this with a range of accessible pathways out of high school, to allow young people to realise their potential and contribute positively to our world. However, in a 2012 study, 9% of Kiwi high school students responded as being unsure, having no plans, or expecting to do nothing when it came to life after leaving school. What’s more, the percentage of New Zealand youth completing any form of tertiary education sits below the OECD average [2]. Education is about providing the right environment for people to flourish, but there seems to be a lack of coherence and facilitated transition between high school and tertiary study. Why?

1. Social pressures for/against certain pathways
You want to herd cats, not llamas, but everyone seems to think that cats are not very cool. Your entire family has been herding llamas for generations, and you’re expected to take over the family business. What’s more, herding cats is a tough job market, and people say that someone with your stamina and precision should really be going into llama herding.

Not everyone is suited to university, nor does everyone need an expensive and long degree to have an optimal career. Unfortunately, there is a certain stigma against polytechnics, apprenticeships, and other forms of tertiary education. This seems to push many high school leavers into universities as a default. A student who might really suit a certain career may feel pressured to go down a different path that is seen as more prestigious, lucrative, or “challenging”. This stops people from entering a role where they would be most productive and engaged, which - if you’ll excuse the utilitarian terms - could be considered an inefficient use of a valuable human resource. Not only that, but it can also damage a learner’s self-esteem and well-being, especially when they find themselves struggling in a learning environment that doesn’t work for them, or in a course that they don’t identify with. This combines with academic pressure, the financial cost of failure, rising living costs and the changing, business-like structure of universities which already make for a stressful environment. It’s probably reasonable to suggest that this could be a factor in the recent spike of mental health issues among university students. Although this is a broad social and cultural issue, better public education at an earlier stage on our fast-changing industries, and wider parent engagement on their child’s interests and skills may alleviate some of these pressures.

2. Barriers to accessibility
You’re fast. You’re agile. You can fall and land on your feet and you don’t even have a flexible spine. But you can’t afford to go to a cat herding dojo. You don’t actually know that much about what cat herding involves - they didn’t offer it as a subject at school, and no one within your network has ever done it. Someone once did tell you that cat herding involves a lot of rolling in poop, and you’re not so sure about that.

Many high school leavers who harbour valuable skills are unable to access any further education at all. While the student allowance and living cost loan are adjusted annually to somewhat reflect the cost of living, the $40 maximum accommodation benefit for students living away from home hasn’t changed since 2001 despite spiralling rent particularly in cities like Auckland and Wellington. Even with part-time work alongside full-time study, higher education becomes an unaffordable or incredibly stressful endeavour for students who aren’t able to access other financial aid such as parental help or scholarships. Other socioeconomic or personal barriers may also be at play, such as lack of exposure within their networks, misinformation or a lack of confidence in their abilities. Possible solutions to these barriers, aside from different funding options, may include mentorship programmes such as First Foundation, proactive careers information from unbiased sources, and more talk on occupations which focus on breaking stereotypes and conveying realistic industry expectations.

3. Lack of opportunity for developing soft skills
Despite all odds, you finally get into the cat herding dojo. But it’s not just about scaling trees and rubbing legs. You need to be able to meow, purr and hiss too! Everyone else grew up with cats, but your family couldn’t afford one. Turns out learning cat language when you’re an adult is really hard.

Speaking of industry expectations, one of the main purposes of tertiary education is to equip people for the workforce, but there’s always a rift between what is taught, and what employers want. “Soft skills” like the 4Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) are a prime example. They’re often considered just as important as technical ability and need to be developed as early as possible. Not only are they necessary for the workforce, but they are also key to the independent, self-directed learning style that a lot of tertiary study requires. Despite their importance and impact on employability, not all students receive the same opportunities for developing such soft skills, further widening the gap between the rich and poor. For students from low-income backgrounds, getting involved in these skill-building experiences might not even be an option. Many students are unable to afford the cost of extra-curricular activities or have the time for summer internships. They may need to look after siblings and family or work significant part-time hours to support themselves or their household. On the other hand, students from higher income backgrounds have the freedom to pursue different activities, making them better equipped to market themselves as employable workers with transferable skills. We need to provide ways for all students to access that broad experience, both to enhance their learning and to develop these crucial life skills at an early age.

Long, winding and expensive
These issues in our tertiary sector cost us - they 
cost our young people, and they cost our government. Ensuring that our youth are guided down a post-secondary path that is right for them could reduce the funding that goes into paying for abandoned degrees, extra years, and repeated courses, saving taxpayers’ money for use elsewhere (health, infrastructure, avocado subsidies, etc.). After all, for every $6000 a student borrows in course fees, taxpayers have sunk another ~$24,000 in domestic fee subsidies to pay for the remainder of their tuition. It may also reduce the average time spent in tertiary education, meaning that people can start working, earning, and contributing faster. It maximises our productivity as human resources and creates a diverse talent market of engaged workers across a wide range of industries. Finally, reducing the number of people who become disengaged with the education system would likely have positive outcomes on public mental health, unemployment and life satisfaction.

What are the parties saying?
Honestly, I’m mildly impressed by the sheer range of education policies put forward by our parties this election. I have never, in all my years of being a millennial, had so many tabs open on so many windows. However, many of the most well-known education policies are funding-related (fees, loans [3], allowances etc.), which are very interesting and necessary, but don't really address the long-term health of our tertiary education sector (which is what I've decided to focus my word limit on). So here are three policies which I considered to be most relevant to the transition from secondary to further study or work [4].

1. Improving careers advice
Our current National government has been proactive about improving careers advice in schools. Over the last few years, they initiated a review of our current careers system, and are moving Careers New Zealand over to the Tertiary Education Commission as a result to consolidate scattered resources. This is an exciting move since a consistent and easily accessible platform would be an invaluable tool for students, teachers and careers advisors. However, some concerns have been raised about the risk of this move coupling our universities too tightly with industry, which is a valid point. National has been very keen on funnelling students down STEM pathways, like when they promoted tuition subsidies for “high-value subjects”. Although it is probably a good move to encourage diversification of our exports from primary industries, this continues to perpetuate the age-old stigma against subjects like the arts and our creative industries.

Labour proposes a slightly different policy on “transforming careers advice”, which aims to professionalise and integrate careers advice into the curriculum to improve its quality and consistency. Despite the estimated $30 million/year of implementing such a plan, I quite like its boldness. Providing highly-trained careers advisors for schools would be a critical step in developing a tailored career system that works to minimise misdirection (and therefore wasted fees) when leaving secondary education.

Finally, NZ First also considers the careers system to be a “priority focus area”, and promises to review Careers NZ funding and to enhance parent engagement. That all sounds great, but most of NZ First’s policies tend to be very general, and there’s no explanation of how they would implement these goals, so I don’t really know what to think about that one.

2. Continued investment in Secondary-Tertiary Programmes
The National government’s recent DualPathways pilot was an example of a Secondary-Tertiary Programme (STP) under the Youth Guarantee Scheme. These programmes partner schools with tertiary institutions and industry organisations to provide alternative pathways for senior high school students to achieve industry-focused qualifications at NCEA Level 2. This is particularly targeted at students who are at risk of leaving school with no qualifications. According to the Education Review Office’s 2015 report on these programmes, they found that STPs “made a very positive difference for students”, with 80% of students in 2013 making a successful transition from secondary school. The programmes are highly tailored to each individual, and there’s a lot of collaboration and communication between the school and the education provider to develop an integrated curriculum which complements their study at school. Finally, the programmes were promoted as a valid learning pathway through school assemblies, course booklets and careers evenings, which I imagine would remove stigma, legitimise the course, and promote the trades and careers that they lead to. This sounds to me like a recipe for success. Imagine if we could have such tailored pathways for all students!

In the National government’s recent response to the Productivity Commission’s report on new models of tertiary education (which is a fun, light read for those interested), it appears that they intend to continue supporting and funding these programmes. NZ First has also expressed their support for similar programmes.

3. Paid work experience for unemployed young people
The Māori Party, Labour, and NZ First are all offering similar policies which provide six months of paid work experience for unemployed young people. Labour and NZ First have similar policies which subsidise wages for employers who take on unemployed youth for community or environmental work. Although it is a seductive idea to fill job shortages in the Department of Conservation or the city council with unemployed youth, we need to ask how fencing waterways or riparian planting will truly develop the young person’s key skills. It seems to creep into the category of cheap (minimum wage) work. Labour even says in their Ready for Work policy fact sheet that these are jobs that NGOs and councils normally “cannot do because the labour cost is prohibitive”! While it’s not ideal for young people to be in unemployment for long periods of time, pressuring them into cheap labour roles is not the way to help them - especially not at the cost of $60 million per year.

The Māori Party’s “earn as you learn” job experience scheme is a similar 6-month programme, but there was no mention of the type of work involved. Unfortunately, there are very few details on how this scheme would actually look, other than its clear focus on bridging the gap for Māori and Pasifika youth [5].

It’s great to see these policies asserting paid work experience. Unpaid internships and “voluntary” work experience schemes exacerbate gaps in opportunity (some people can’t afford to work for free, and therefore have fewer opportunities for work experience). They also make room for exploitation and inevitably devalue the work of everyone in the industry in question. It’s definitely something that all industries in New Zealand should be rejecting. However, in the context of unemployed or disengaged youth, these paid work experience policies are clearly constrained by the cost of incentivising employers to provide unemployed youth with training and enriching work - the cost of training and paying for an unskilled worker, essentially. An alternative is an unpaid, training-based youth employment programme like National’s partnership with The Warehouse. While I would normally be opposed to any form of unpaid labour, the opportunity to earn NCEA credits and to practice communication and teamwork sounds much more likely to create long-term positive outcomes for the individual.

Tertiary education is not a factory that stamps its users with a qualification. It is a bustling, unique and diverse environment of inquiring minds, unbridled discovery, questioning debate, shared knowledge and rigorous training. These academic communities are only as strong as the engagement of their student bodies. It is the responsibility of our education system to ensure that all students make the most of this rich environment. This is not possible if our students are disengaged, stressed, and burdened by uncertainty about their future. We need to provide a web of accessible tertiary options, tailored career plans, exposure to a range of industries, and education on transferable life skills in order to create an effective tertiary education system that caters to everyone.

It appears that our political parties are largely focussed on what I would consider more short-term solutions of alleviating student hardship by reforming funding and financial support options. However, perhaps we could better combat these issues by also addressing the limitations of our current tertiary pathways which are causing these hardships. By guiding our high school leavers along a path that is best suited to their talents and needs, we are essentially implementing preventative measures to reduce the number of disillusioned students, and the amount of spending that goes into abandoned, transferred or unused qualifications. Policies around improving careers advice, secondary-tertiary transition programmes, and paid work experience opportunities need to be brought to the forefront of each party’s agenda and continually refined, not added as afterthoughts to supplement their flagship funding policies.

Jenny Sahng is a fledgeling software developer in Wellington. She loves coding because you can write some lines of code on a text editor and turn them into awesome things with a bit of creativity! She is not affiliated with any political organisation and is generally rather mystified by politics and public policy (at least until an election season rolls around), but is quite left-leaning, and has been involved in several youth-led education initiatives. Her interests include tramping, Harry Potter (always), salsa dancing, and patting dogs (yes, dogs, not cats).

[1] Editor: citation needed.
[2] Yes, I realise it’s an average, and yes, Korea is busting that average for everyone. But you get the picture. I mean, we’re way behind the Aussies and that hurts.
[3] Read up on the drama following the Productivity Commission’s report earlier this year, which recommended reinstating student loan interest. Bold move.
[4] This does eliminate some parties that don’t have any transition-related policies, namely Greens, United Future and Act, so do check out their stances on other issues in education.
[5] This policy was actually part of a rebuttal to the “bootcamp” policy put forward just last month by National (and a similar bill proposed earlier this year by NZ First) for serious youth offenders. As Māori Party candidate for Tāmaki Makaurau Shane Taurima emphasised, “Their plans [to put youth offenders in bootcamps] will impact the hardest on Māori and Pasifika rangatahi and whānau, and perpetuates the injustice and abuse our people already and continue to experience, in state care.”

Monday 28 August 2017

A Policy A Day: A Vision for The Arts

In the lead-up to the election, we are examining a policy a day. We're exploring a variety of policy areas, explaining the background and analysing some of the policy options, with a mixture of technocracy and values-based approaches. Inevitably, some opinion will make its way in and we make no apology for that - after all, we're voters too. A list of all the articles is available hereEnjoy!

Today's post is by Ben Tan

The current government has placed a lot of emphasis in Science and Technology, with a clearly articulated set of aims (for example, the National Statement of Science Investment), and actions like providing increased funding for teaching/research in STEM subjects (Science. Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), or the formation of the National Science Challenges. There is a general consensus that STEM is an important part of our economy, and certainly something that needs a lot of active guidance and cultivation. The government has a vision for “a highly dynamic science system that enriches New Zealand, making a more visible, measurable contribution to our productivity and well-being through excellent science.”

In contrast, ‘the arts’ is often seen as the diametric opposite of STEM. It is not as easily defined and its impacts are hard(er) to measure. Creative arts are often seen as a hobby, recreational activity, or something nice, but not especially important overall - and in my exploration of this area for this piece, it seems to me that the arts in NZ is treated as something that seems to keep ticking away, with arty people doing whatever it is that arty people do, and not much else in terms of higher level strategic thinking or discussion, at least, from the perspective of public policy-making. At the time of writing, the only statement I could find from any political party about Arts, Culture, and Heritage was from the Green Party with a policy statement from 2014. In many ways, the arts (and culture) is an example of an area that the Government has some interest in, but as it has not been identified as the source or symptom of a “problem”, it is not really discussed. That doesn’t mean that it is all hunky-dory in the arts; at least anecdotally, funding availability is tightening, and that, unlike in other parts of the world, there is not a huge community of philanthropy for the arts (especially in terms of younger philanthropists). But while many might argue that we have far more pressing issues to address, like infrastructure and healthcare, at the very least, we should be having ongoing discussions about the arts, and where it sits in our society. I don’t get a sense that there is a big picture vision for what the arts should, or could, be.

As such, this piece will attempt to serve as a cursory discussion about the arts and associated policy in NZ generally. First, I’ll look at some of the background and context for the arts sector in New Zealand, and discuss some of the merits and attitudes around the arts generally. I’ll explore some possible policy directions for the arts, as well as implications for the arts, and its role, in the future.

The arts, and more generally, the “Cultural Sector” typically refers to a collection of industries including “film, music, broadcasting, design and digital technologies; our built heritage, libraries, literature, museums and galleries, performing and visual arts”. According to research published in 2014, New Zealanders as a whole have a positive attitude about the creative arts, recognising that “the arts are good for you (88% agree)”, and that “the arts help improve New Zealand society (82% agree)”. Economically, the arts also contributes; according to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, “the sector is an engine of growth for the New Zealand economy.  In recent years, it has either matched or outpaced other sectors of the economy in terms of income, employment and value added”. There are numerous benefits for support and wide participation in the arts, and Creative New Zealand (the Crown Entity responsible for promoting and supporting the arts, as well as managing government funding of the arts), has a section on their website dedicated to information and research espousing myriad contributions of the arts.

Early government support for the arts was formalised in the 1940s with the establishment of the first ‘cultural office’ embedded within the Department of Internal Affairs, the creation of the New Zealand Film Unit, and the initial setup of the national orchestra. A ministerial portfolio for the arts was created in 1975, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) as it is today was formed in 2000. In general, the Ministry describes New Zealand as favouring an “arm’s length” model for supporting the arts, and today, one of its main institutional roles is the administration of funding for cultural statutory bodies, like Creative New Zealand (Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa), the New Zealand Film Commission, Heritage New Zealand, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa). As far as MCH is concerned, their mandate is to achieve:

The most efficient use of public resources to maximise understanding and appreciation of, access to and participation in New Zealand culture, and to promote the enhancement of New Zealand’s cultural identity

As part of the general “arm’s length” approach, government funding to creative arts organisations and projects (other than the NZSO) is managed by Creative New Zealand, where the Arts Council “makes grants to companies, individuals and national and community projects in literature, theatre, music, opera, the visual arts, crafts, dance, multi-media and experimental film and video (and combinations of these art forms)”. About ⅓ of Creative New Zealand’s funding comes from the budget, and ⅔ from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, where decreasing lottery revenues have caused some alarm within the arts sector. Arts endeavours are also often supported by grants from local government bodies, such as through Auckland Council’s Community Grant Policy, although the scale of funding available through these sources are lower. With this current structure, there is some uncertainty and risk for people working in the arts, as funding levels are quite volatile, and as such, planning for growth is a significant challenge.

Aside from funding the arts sector, the government also supports the arts through education. The New Zealand Curriculum’s vision includes creativity, and the aim to “secure a sustainable...cultural...future for our country”. In the arts specifically, the curriculum remarks on how art education “explores, challenges, affirms, and celebrates unique artistic expressions of self, community, and culture”, enhances “students’ personal well-being”, and “stimulates creative action and response by engaging and connecting thinking, imagination, senses, and feelings”, increasing their “confidence to take risks” - all good things. And yet, once students leave school, there is no real sense of that the arts might provide an important (and viable) place to contribute to NZ society. Funding for arts disciplines at the tertiary level hasn't increased since 2012. In my time looking through the websites and documents of our major political parties, as well as MCH and Creative New Zealand, vision and ambition seem to be somewhat undernourished.

Do we need more vision in policy? Does anyone have a substantial arts policy?
There’s a lot of implication that the arts are important; that the creation of new cultural repertoire and engagement in the community is worthwhile, and yet, there doesn’t seem to be any appetite for really cultivating growth in the sector. There’s a rise in the idea of spreading adoption of STEM, and with that rise, associated funding increases, but while science is science wherever you are in the world, the art and culture of NZ is distinctly our own - no doubt something to be cherished. But what do the arts really mean to us a society? I think we owe a lot to the arts for shaping and developing our sense of culture and uniqueness in the world. And as such, I wonder if it’s time now to revisit what the arts means to New Zealand, and the future of New Zealand as a whole.

For a start, maybe we need to think more carefully and articulate a vision for the arts in New Zealand. For example, take Sweden, where “Creativity, diversity and artistic quality are to be integral parts of society’s development”, and a clearly enumerated goal to “promote opportunities for everyone to experience culture, participate in educational programmes and develop their creative abilities” (emphasis mine). Singapore, in its Arts and Culture Strategic Review, lays out a goal to be achieved by 2025 of producing “A nation of cultured and gracious people, at home with our heritage, proud of our Singaporean identity” where “Arts and culture will be an integral part of our people’s lives”. Singapore’s National Arts Council also produces a 5-year Arts Master Plan. In contrast, Creative New Zealand has a Statement of Intent, with such aspirational goals as the improvement of “service delivery” alongside the refinement of “investment to ensure that the arts continue to develop in New Zealand for New Zealanders”. This level of inspiration is probably linked to our funding situation and priorities, where we need to be conservative and evidently, not too ambitious. Is this really all that arts policy in NZ has to offer us?

I think there’s an opportunity waiting for us in the arts. Norway, which has a population not too dissimilar to our own, has a fund that is entirely financed by their Ministry of Culture of about 132 million euros, and also has a fund which provides stipends to individual artists to encourage innovation. They have no need to encourage gambling or playing lotto in order to enrich their cultural treasures. Many countries fund much more money into subsets of the arts (like in music alone). Germany subsidises health insurance for independent artists so they can be more entrepreneurial. Our Green Party has even proposed reinstating a “financial support scheme for arts and cultural employment”, as well as training Work and Income staff to “recognise and respect the arts as a valid vocational choice”. There’s obviously merit and rationale for strategic fostering and support of the arts. Does a thriving society feature a strong participation and involvement in arts and culture? I certainly think so, but there just doesn’t seem to be all that much happening in the policy space in NZ right now.

I’m not advocating for a simple injection of more money into the arts in NZ (although I’m sure a less volatile funding source would be welcomed by those in the sector), especially in light of all the many pressing challenges. Instead, at the very least, I think we need to think (or at least encourage thinking) about the arts, our vision for the arts. There’s a wide community who would welcome some leadership from government.

Ben Tan is currently a PhD candidate in Engineering (yep… STEM), but also a keen art-enthusiast, largely as a participant in NZ’s world-class choral music scene, but also as an audience member of theatre, and a consumer of literature. He was also a one-time member of a political party in NZ (but then they kicked up a fuss about surnames in a bad way, so that membership lapsed, although he still gets the emails).

Sunday 27 August 2017

A Policy A Day: Refugees and Asylum Seekers

In the lead-up to the election, we are examining a policy a day. We're exploring a variety of policy areas, explaining the background and analysing some of the policy options, with a mixture of technocracy and values-based approaches. Inevitably, some opinion will make its way in and we make no apology for that - after all, we're voters too. A list of all the articles is available hereEnjoy!

Today's post is by Dhanya Herath

The Issue
Refugee, noun:
a person who has been forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Asylum seeker, noun:
someone who leaves their own country, often for political reasons or because of war, and who travels to another country hoping that the government will protect them and allow them to live there.

In any discussion about refugees, it pays to make a clear distinction between refugees and immigrants. A key difference is motivation: immigrants are driven by their own desire to move countries; refugees are forced to relocate.

If we look at the number of displaced people in general, the number of people forced from their homes is at the highest level on record, at 65.6 million people around the world. That's equivalent to more than two times the population of Australia being forced out of their homes. Add three times the population of NZ, and we get close to the actual figure and scale of the displacement.

22.5 million of these displaced people fit under the definition of refugees, of whom over half are under 18 years old. 10 million are stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic human rights. The grey sliver in the pie chart below represents the 189,300 refugees resettled out of the 65.6 million people displaced from their homes in 2016. 

Current Policy
Under the National Party, New Zealand currently accepts 750 refugees per year with an additional 300 places available for family reunification. Our current quota of 750 refugees was established in 1987 - and hasn't changed since, joining perms, mullets, and jazzercise in the list of 'Things We Really Could Have Left Behind In The 80's.'

There’s a bit more to this policy, however. As a country, we receive refugees from four different regions: Asia Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. Before the National Government came into power in 2009, the split of refugees that we took from Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East was roughly equal. In 2009, we had a change of policy which essentially shifted our focus to the Asia Pacific region, citing “broad security concerns” as the reason.  The end result of these policy changes has meant that refugees from Africa and the Middle East can only enter NZ if they already have family here - an effective ban on any new refugees from that region, and one reflected in the numbers: the average number of people from African countries has dropped down to 5% of our intake over the last five years.

This point may seem like nit-picking - does it matter where a refugee is allowed to enter from? It’s still a life saved, right? Well, perhaps. It does pay to note, however, that the United Nations have recommended that the refugee quota should be focused on resettling the most vulnerable, and have explicitly stated that the most vulnerable people are from the African and Middle Eastern regions – precisely the regions which the 2009 policy changes leave out.

Party Policies
As elections loom ever closer, the parties have brought out a range of policies on refugees and asylum seekers, broadly summarised below.

If your first reaction on seeing this flowchart is to lament that we ever opened our borders, then NZ First is the party for you. NZ First has not expressed support for increasing the refugee quota and has not announced any policies regarding refugees or asylum seekers, which may be a statement in itself.

The National Party is for those who favour raising but not doubling the quota, with their policy to raise the quota to 1000 places in 2018. They are also planning to select a further refugee settlement location and pilot a new community sponsorship category, the details of which have not yet been released.

The parties which do favour doubling the quota differ mainly on the extent and speed of the increase. In the camp of parties which want to double the quota but not right away, we have Labour with a one-liner of a policy: over the next three years, they will increase the quota to double its current value.

The Green Party, United Future, and TOP all favour an immediate doubling of the refugee quota to 2000 places, and support the idea of a community sponsorship scheme for refugees. Having doubled the refugee quota, the Green Party would progressively increase it to 4000 people per year in 2023. In addition, they would begin a community sponsorship scheme which would take in 1000 additional refugees per year and introduce a new humanitarian visa for people displaced by climate change in the Pacific, for a total of 5000 refugees per year.

TOP plans to begin their community sponsorship scheme with 300 of the 2000 quota refugees proposed. While TOP and the United Future Party haven’t explicitly stated a goal of increasing the refugee quota beyond doubling it, both parties have stated that they would dynamically shape the refugee quota to reflect the response from groups who want to be involved in resettling refugees.  

Then there are the parties which haven’t made an explicit statement on refugee policy. The Maori Party hasn’t released a policy regarding refugees and asylum seekers, although co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell has said that he would like to see the refugee quota increased, and mentioned that ‘We need to make sure there are proper checks and systems in place so that they can't just come in and buy land for example.’

While the ACT party website also doesn’t have an explicit policy on refugees, ACT leader David Seymour has stated that the quota should be "pegged to our ability to support refugees” (as well as insisting that refugees should sign up to “kiwi values”). Our ability to support refugees can be measured in a range of ways, the most common being population. As of mid-2016, NZ was taking on 0.3 refugees per 1000 people, a quarter of the number of refugees Australia is taking in per capita.  For the quota to keep in line with population growth in NZ over the years, it would need to be increased to 1500 places. ACT also specified that new arrivals should sign a "statement of commitment to New Zealand values".

With the election coming up soon, it may be time to decide whether a party’s stance on refugees and asylum seekers will influence your vote. It’s not my place to sway your vote either way, and this piece was supposed to be simply a quick guide to the range of party stances available for you to choose from. But here’s the thing. I’m human, and being human means I’m biased.

I had planned to start this with a disclaimer: I am an immigrant child, of immigrant parents. The disclaimer was supposed to be a peace offering: "Look," it would say, "I know I have biases, but I hold them lightly. They're not the reasons I believe what I do." That would be a lie though. I don't hold my biases lightly - I couldn’t, just as you couldn't let go of yours easily. My biases are wrapped around me like a scarf, in the way I make my tea, in the way I slip back into Sinhala when I'm annoyed, in the way I instinctively feel a connection with someone speaking Sinhala on the train. I think it would be the same for the refugees.

So I'm not here to say that we should increase the refugee quota because the people seeking asylum are the same as us. I'm saying that we should change the refugee quota despite the fact that they are different, despite the differences in culture, despite the differences in language, even despite the fact that they may put the milk in before the hot water when making tea. There will be hurdles – many of them, quite likely, and ones which we can’t make light of – which come with refugees adjusting to the new culture and social mores. In the face of all of that, I can't seem to step away from the fact that every single one of these people were driven to our shores by the same desire that brought my parents here, and the same desire that brought our ancestors here to New Zealand: to build a better life for themselves and their children.  It's hard for me to judge refugees any differently than I would someone moving from Hamilton to Auckland for a better life - except that the people arriving on our shores as refugees were driven by the fear of war and death. When refugees come to our shores, they’re not seeking a better life – they’re simply seeking to live.

Dhanya Herath is a recent biomedical engineering & speech science masters graduate from the University of Auckland, who is currently working as a newbie software developer. When not failing miserably at being impartial, she likes hiking, human rights, and not being cold. She's also part of a new voting campaign targeted at youth, Political Hatchlings.

Saturday 26 August 2017

A Policy A Day: Degrowth for Aotearoa

In the lead-up to the election, we are examining a policy a day. We're exploring a variety of policy areas, explaining the background and analysing some of the policy options, with a mixture of technocracy and values-based approaches. Inevitably, some opinion will make its way in and we make no apology for that - after all, we're voters too. A list of all the articles is available hereEnjoy!

Today's post is by Elliot Hurst

If we want a prosperous future for all those who call Aotearoa home, we need a society which functions without economic growth. A ‘degrowth movement’ has been building in Europe over the past decade, with a network of academics and activists making the case for economic transformation. So what is degrowth? And what is the relevance for Aotearoa and our political parties?

Degrowth is a call to decolonise our imaginations from the ideology of endless economic growth.

Degrowth challenges the notion that growth is necessary to ensure a good standard of living. On a real per capita basis, the New Zealand economy is 60% larger than it was 25 years ago in 1992. How much bigger will it need to be to provide those sleeping in their cars with adequate housing? Or to have enough money available to make our polluted rivers, lakes, and harbours thrive again?

The degrowth movement recognises that infinite economic growth is socially and ecologically unsustainable. Politicians may speak of green growth, techno-fixes, and the decoupling of economic growth from environmental destruction, but the reality is that our gobbling of resources has only continued to increase. Much of the impact of our lifestyles isn’t visible to us here; it is found in these drowning islands, burning rainforests, or unbreathable air. While some relative decoupling of resource use from economic growth may be possible, adequately address climate change while continuing economic growth is simply infeasible.

Our politics and policies need to set a new course towards ensuring a good life for all. From our current situation, this will require a reduction in economic production and consumption. A deliberate and democratic shrinking of our economy is not a vision of austerity; it requires new policies and ideas to guide a fair downscaling. This is the heart of the degrowth vision. The Research & Degrowth group in Barcelona has been developing degrowth proposals for new left parties in Greece and Spain, and it is not just wishful thinking – it is being discussed as a legitimate topic overseas. The rest of the article will explore degrowth policies for Aotearoa using those proposals as a starting point. Rather than evaluating a single policy, this post aims to describe how adopting a degrowth philosophy would create significant changes across a range of economic policy areas.

Government’s role in the economy
From promoting primary sector growth to expanding non-market spheres

Labour’s Future of Work commission points out that ‘if unpaid care was made a paid part of the economy, it ...could add as much as $23.3 billion or 10.8% [to our GDP]’. It is not clear what definition of “care work” they are using, but this seems like a serious underestimate. Just consider the consequences if all unpaid emotional support, cooking, free taxi services, and cleaning were to stop for a week. The way that ‘productive’ activities depend on unpaid care work is a key insight of the discipline of feminist economics. The conclusion is that we need a richer understanding of ‘the economy’, one that includes all of the work that is done to keep society running. The for-profit, market economy is just one of many diverse spheres of economic activity. Once we understand the diversity of work, we should find ways to support alternative methods of production and consumption. Policy-wise, support for alternative spheres of economic activity, including not-for-profit cooperatives or commons initiatives need to take priority over subsidising irrigation schemes or boat races.

A related point is relatively uncontroversial - stop supporting the fossil economy. The East-West link, spending billions to make the trucking of goods marginally faster is an obvious contender. And why are we still subsiding oil exploration? Investments in public transport, adequate housing, and cycle lanes allow people to live well while consuming less.

Economic Measurement
From GDP to sustainability indicators

For degrowth, it is the reduction of material and energy consumption that is key, rather than a lower GDP. So one of the most obvious degrowth policies is just to stop measuring GDP, and shift to an alternative range of indicators that better capture what we actually care about; for example, our ecological footprint, the number of children living in poverty, or the percentage of native species at risk of extinction. While not transformative in itself, this policy is a signal and spur for a change in political discourse. We currently attach an excessive importance to the government’s ability to increase one magic number, yet it seems to be a poor proxy for whether things are actually better for people. On this front, the Green’s Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill is a step in the right direction, compelling government reporting to include a range of sustainability indicators.

Good work for all with a fair share

One of the tricky issues to deal with as the economy shrinks is how to provide decent employment to anyone who wants it. As it stands, 128,000 people in NZ are unemployed, while many more are underemployed or stuck in insecure work. Traditionally, growth is the magic bullet for job creation, but more creative methods are needed in a degrowth economy. One simple proposal is to reduce working hours; work is shared more evenly, and people have more time to spend with whānau. Aotearoa led the world with a 40-hour working week, but currently, various trials of a 6-hour working day are being conducted in Sweden, and the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in the UK has made the case for reducing the standard working week to 21 hours. These reductions would both provide the opportunity for more people to work, and give people more leisure time. Of course, this move needs to be linked to a living wage and a universal basic income if possible. Extra time away from work can also be a boost to community participation, volunteering, and care work.

Debt Audit
Cutting the ties to growth

One reason our economic system requires growth is to pay off loans with interest; this is one of the most thorny challenges of moving away from growth. To address this, degrowth scholars propose a citizen debt audit, a democratic process to restructure or eliminate household and government debt. Restructuring would mean reducing the amount of debt that must be repaid. For public debt, there are precedents including the Millennium Jubilee campaign of wiping debt in the Global South, when paying this debt was preventing government spending in health or education. The heart of this process is an ideological shift away from insisting that all debt must be honoured. Instead, the debt audit reaffirms the sovereignty of democratic institutions over the financial system. It’s also about facing up to the simple reality that without growth, some debts can’t be repaid. This is somewhat outside of current government policy (or the Budget Responsibility Rules), and unlikely to be popular with our Australian banks. At a local level, bankruptcy exists precisely because we recognise that in certain circumstances it is unreasonable to insist upon paying off debts in full.

Taxing the ‘bads’

Governments have the power to guide the economy through taxation. Taxing consumption and pollution is an important reorientation. This would include a tax on carbon and charging for other resources including water. In addition, higher tax rates for high incomes or taxes on wealth would provide the resources necessary for a universal basic income or guaranteed minimum income. These policies could be an important safety net in a changing economy. Without the panacea of economic growth, a more serious conversation about inequality and the distribution of wealth is needed. We have to share the pie better rather than just trying to make it bigger.

All degrowth policies are built on a deeper ideological shift in how we understand the economy, community, and a good life. Diverging visions of the economy are already found in the political messaging used by the parties. A strong, growing economy, with a government that ‘continue[s] to drive economic growth’ is the National message. NZ First sets out the policies necessary ‘if the New Zealand economy is to grow sustainably over time’. Meanwhile, Labour also seeks a stronger economy, and will ‘boost growth and jobs through our Regional Development Fund’. It is interesting to note that the Green party judges policy success by ‘improvements in the economy’, and envisages a ‘clean’ ‘carbon-neutral economy’ as the target - aligning with the Green party charter which states ‘unlimited material growth is impossible’.

What does a degrowth future mean at an individual level? It’s difficult to sketch out precisely - our lifestyles depend on many cultural factors beyond economics, and it also depends on where you stand in today’s society. Degrowth is built on the conviction that a good quality of life is possible for all, even with reduced economic consumption. For kiwis living in poverty, struggling to even get adequate nutrition, degrowth must be a life of greater prosperity and wellbeing. Meanwhile, for those in a more comfortable position, the biggest changes may be reduced hours of work, or shifts to different ways of working. It's also likely to include a reduced ability to buy the latest gadgets, and fewer overseas trips. Ultimately, degrowth does not dictate how to live. It is up to everyone to build the kind of lifestyles they want, within ecological limits. Continued economic growth is a more severe restriction on freedom than degrowth would be - except for a privileged few.

Degrowth is described as a ‘missile word’. It opens space for a radical understanding of economics and politics. The policies explored here are an incomplete vision for a thriving Aotearoa - so much depends on the values that we choose to live by. Max Harris’ promotion of values of care, creativity and community is probably a step in the right direction. For the more radical degrowth proposals, more work is needed before they become politically viable, but this can be done in many ways: from discussing degrowth to supporting local projects meeting needs outside of the for-profit sector, whether this is urban gardening, bicycle cooperatives, or community childcare centres. With ever more people questioning the ability of today’s economy to provide good livelihoods, housing, and a stable climate, degrowth ideas must be brought into the debate.

For more reading on degrowth - Prosperity without Growth (Tim Jackson) and In Defense of Degrowth (Giorgos Kallis) are good starting points.

Elliot Hurst is a researcher, writer, and activist currently living in Berlin. He has a background in environmental and water engineering. His primary engagement New Zealand politics is through the Green Party, 350 Aotearoa, Generation Zero, and treating friendly conversations as political propaganda opportunities.