Tak­ing the fu­ture se­ri­ously

The Northland Age - - Opinion -

The gov­ern­ment is dead-set on im­prov­ing “well­be­ing” as the mark of their lead­er­ship, and “long-term in­ter­gen­er­a­tional well­be­ing” in par­tic­u­lar. This re­quires whip­ping out the binoc­u­lars and tak­ing a strate­gic view, one that fore­sees well beyond the next few elec­tion cy­cles.

New Zealan­ders are age­ing and be­com­ing more eth­ni­cally di­verse. In 2038 there will be around twice as many peo­ple aged 65 and above than there are now. The de­pen­dency ra­tio — the num­ber of workingage peo­ple for ev­ery older New Zealan­der — is set to plum­met over the next few decades. From around seven work­ing-age peo­ple for ev­ery older per­son in the mid-1960s to around five to­day. In 2061, it is pre­dicted that will be down to two to one, a dra­matic shift to say the least.

Due to a younger age pro­file, many of the work­ing-age will be young Ma¯ori. In 2038, 18.4 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion will be Ma¯ori, com­pared with 15.6 per cent now. Te Puni Ko¯kiri re­cently out­lined how in just un­der a decade, over half the Ma¯ori pop­u­la­tion is pre­dicted to be un­der 30, form­ing a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of our labour force and tax base.

We don’t, then, need binoc­u­lars to look to the fu­ture. We can just take a walk through South Auck­land, where around 20 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion are Ma¯ori. This is our fu­ture, and we need to change the way we do things now for a bet­ter New Zealand then.

As Gael Surgenor, CEO of the pi­o­neer­ing Auck­land Coun­cil group The South­ern Ini­tia­tive says, South Auck­lan­ders are sick of be­ing seen as a prob­lem to be solved. A threat. What is good for South Auck­land, she claims, is good for Auck­land, and that’s good for New Zealand. An op­por­tu­nity. She’s right, and we would do well to lis­ten.

There’s a good case to in­vest in our young Ma¯ori and their wha¯nau on well­be­ing grounds, as the em­bod­i­ment of the fair go, or a faith­ful re­sponse to the Treaty. But look­ing at the de­mo­graphic trends, there’s a self­in­ter­ested an­gle too. If those in their work­ing years now wish to en­joy the ben­e­fits of New Zealand su­per­an­nu­a­tion when their time comes, it is in their in­ter­est to back any po­lit­i­cal ini­tia­tives that get be­hind young Ma¯ori and their wha¯nau.

These need to in­clude pro­grammes that do things dif­fer­ently than we’ve al­ways done, in ways that res­onate with te ao Ma¯ori. I’m talk­ing about wha¯nau-based ini­tia­tives, like Wha¯nau Ora, that go beyond sim­ple re­dis­tri­bu­tion, and place-based re­sponses like The South­ern Ini­tia­tive that are em­bed­ded in the lo­cal com­mu­nity, just to name a few.

I chal­lenge our politi­cians to re­frame this from a threat to an op­por­tu­nity. It doesn’t need to be a hard-sell. The “New Zealand way of life,” how­ever it is un­der­stood, is set to change, but we can set a hope-filled nar­ra­tive. If we want one where older New Zealan­ders are sup­ported as they are now, it’s im­por­tant that we make a real in­vest­ment in the fu­ture. Now is time to take that op­por­tu­nity.

"The “New Zealand way of life,” how­ever it is un­der­stood, is set to change, but we can set a hope-filled nar­ra­tive. "

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