Goldsmith Update - Feb 2022

The Government’s Covid policy for the past two years of ‘buying time’, better to prepare for the inevitable arrival of Covid, is now reaching a natural end point.

With sky-rocketing daily cases, the cat is now out of the bag and with it the logic of continuing on with crushingly expensive controls, restrictions and subsidies to buy more time.

Every week and month that our formerly largest export earner – tourism – is effectively shut down materially affects our living standards and our ability to afford healthcare and the many things to which we aspire. Same with our former fourth largest export earner – international education. The current timetable of many more months of restrictions needs to shift.

What’s missing is a sense of urgency on these matters.

Meantime, most people are in a state of confusion as to the ever-changing isolation requirements. We can’t carry on for weeks with businesses crippled by asymptomatic people staying at home.

Christopher Luxon has been making a calm and clear case for swifter adaption to the new reality.

Economic challenges ahead

There is urgency in restoring our economy fully to life because we’re entering very challenging economic times.

Russia’s naked aggression in Ukraine is roiling global markets. We’ll feel the effects in fuel prices, as well as in all likelihood a lower NZ dollar, which will put further pressure on our cost of living. Fundamentally, the world has become a more dangerous place. Who knows what affect all this will have on trade flows and our ability to make a living?

What we can’t do is carry on as we are, living in a false sense of prosperity funded by massive government spending of borrowed money and still-cheap interest rates.

Our prosperity has to be based on real production – including those previously significant engines of growth – tourism, international education and the hospitality sector.

Have you ever heard a single Government Minister talk about the importance of New Zealand being internationally competitive and that our domestic cost structure is often a key element of how competitive we are?

At a time of labour shortages and inflation, bizarrely the Government still pours hundreds of millions into make-work schemes, such as Jobs for Nature. I’ve got nothing against spraying weeds, but not when the government is competing for workers against businesses that can’t find them.

Social divisions.

As Chris Luxon pointed out in his recent speech, Ardern’s government has made an art form of pitting different groups of New Zealanders against each other. Landlords (dubbed speculators by Ministers) v renters, farmers v urban Kiwis, the vaxxed v the unvaxxed.

We’re stronger when we draw all New Zealanders together.

Tragically, we’re seeing the consequences of that division playing out on Parliament’s ground. The underlying issue around mandates is a real issue and fair topic of debate, but the lawlessness of the protest is unacceptable.

I skirted the protests several times a day last week, and it seemed like a weird combination of Woodstock and North Korea. The mud, hay, clouds of marijuana, hippies, tents and music had shades of Woodstock; but then there were mad Trevor Mallard’s speakers blaring parliamentary debates across the crowd, like the North Koreans do on their border with the south. Walking in one evening I heard Scott Simpson giving a speech on EV vehicles blasting across the protestors. That’s just not fair.

It is inconceivable to me how the protest has been allowed to disrupt so much of central Wellington for so long. Court cases and justice adjourned because nobody can figure out how to get people into the High Court. Schools closed, businesses disrupted.

This government consciously chose a non-confrontational Police Commissioner in Andy Coster, and New Zealanders are seeing the results of that style.

Just as we’ve seen with the 50 per cent increase in gang membership across the country since the government took over and the growing sense of lawlessness in parts of the country.

Law abiding New Zealanders expect the police to deal effectively with those who break the rules and who seek to intimidate others. The men and women in uniform want to do their best, but when the Government of the day sends mixed signals we run into trouble.

Wishing you all the best in these unsettling times,