AS I SEE IT: Michelle Quirk

Business development manager,First Foundation

How would you describe the New Zealand identity?
What pulls us together? We are proud, hard working, bright, and fiercely independent with dry sense of humour. We probably drink too much. We are ‘a bit’ rugby obsessed. We are increasingly diverse with strong and respected indigenous history and culture.
What would make us stronger? If we spent more time off the couch and in our communities; if we spent more quality time with our kids; if we had more meaningful conversations with each other (and talked less about house prices); if we listened more; if we celebrated the successes of others rather than coveting them for ourselves; if we did more of the things that make us happy.

What will be our next major challenge?
Our most important challenge over the next 10 to 20 years will be to achieve social equity as nation. By this I mean the challenge of ensuring that all New Zealanders become (and want to become) engaged and positive contributors to our society. This is not something that can be achieved within one or two electoral terms and it is complex; however, we can talk as much as we like about our other challenges (be they financial, economic, or political), but unless we close the gap between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-nots’ we will always have simmering layer of social discontent, disengagement, and conflict that stops us from all moving forward together and thereby achieving even more.

What do we need to do to prepare ourselves for this?
We need to change the paradigms in which we think so that we recognise how good we’ve got it. We need to stop making decisions based on “what’s in it for me?” and start asking “how will this benefit others?” We need to create long-term national plan that articulates the four to five areas that are key to the long-term health and wellbeing of New Zealand – let’s start with children, education, economic success, and national wellbeing. This plan must transcend political and other agendas and will require us to leave what we think we know at the door, work together, and create an image of what we want our future to look like.
In world that is increasingly concerned about scarcity, we have what everyone else wants – clean water, abundant natural resources, renewable and non-renewable energy sources, stable and democratic government, primary food surplus, and more land per capita than anywhere else. If we get it right, we have an incredibly prosperous future ahead of us. However, the trick will be to ensure that this wealth is not captured in the hands of the few, but is shared in way that benefits us all.

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