AS I SEE IT : Steve Price

How would you describe the New Zealand identity?
Our identity is young, pure and fresh, and we are renowned for spectacular countryside and friendly, smiling people. But it is also tough and we punch well above our weight on the world stage, particularly in sport and business. The perception is built by the reputation of the country and its people, highlighted through the great achievements of many people, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, Peter Jackson and the Team NZ America’s Cup winners. Looking back, the courage and fighting spirit of the Anzacs has become legendary and this epitomizes, I believe, the true spirit of the people who are New Zealand and what makes this beautiful country so great.

What will be the country’s next major challenge?
Climate change. Born in Australia, I have seen first-hand how important this is. In Toowoomba, where I grew up, we had climate very similar to that of Auckland. High rainfalls, cold winters and hot summers were the norm, until almost overnight all that changed. We went from having plenty of water to serious situation where now the Toowoomba dam, which supplies the town’s water, is only 12 percent full. The fear I have, since living here, is that we take it for granted that it will always rain. In New Zealand, we complain when it doesn’t rain for two to three months. Where I am from, it hasn’t rained like it used to for more than 15 years. We are talking about region which is only five hours away. We need to prepare and implement policies now instead of reacting after the climate turns to disaster, as they did with little success in Toowoomba.
The other issue facing New Zealand is, I believe, retaining local talent and offering them opportunities and packages that will keep them living in New Zealand and keep them in business here. There are so many fantastic organisations in New Zealand screaming for great talent, but we see it being snapped up by overseas companies. As result New Zealand is losing its greatest asset, the New Zealander. We need their valuable skills and expertise.

What do we need to do to prepare for this?
In preparation for climate change, I’d like to see policies and planning implemented with vision for households to become self-sufficient so they don’t place pressure on local infrastructure and services. Subsidies and projects should fund residents to install rainwater tanks. Part of the consent requirements when building new home should be to install large rainwater collection tank under the driveway to store rainwater to service all of the household’s needs. This would allow the government to store water in dams or retention centres, making the power supply more consistent all year round. We would then be able to respond to climate change appropriately.
The talent drain is tough issue to tackle because the New Zealand market is small and I accept that companies can’t afford to pay high wages. It will be hard to solve while overseas companies can offer more attractive packages to skilled workers.

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