by Andi Cockroft, Chairman Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ
Recently a Fairfax columnist Lana Hart advocated New Zealand could embrace a population of 10 million.
This archaic thinking is still upheld by a few people and politicians. Even the current government has made noises towards placing a more enlightened view of life by calling its yearly financial planning as a “well-being budget”. But then in the detail, there is constant reference to GDP, i.e. gross domestic product, which is based solely around maximum economic growth which leads to more people.
Significantly some economists are now questioning GDP, in fact debunking it. They have suggested a more enlightened approach.
The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations New Zealand (CORANZ) has advocated in its charters for the last several elections, a population policy for New Zealand. Hand in hand with a population policy, CORANZ has advocated replacing the outmoded GDP measurement for progress with Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) embracing economic and social and environmental values.
However MPs – with just a few exceptions – and political parties have shown lethargic interest.
GDP on its own is nonsense
Simply measuring GDP only tells us the income profit/loss of a Country. It says nothing of the lifestyle and prosperity of its citizens. It says nothing of its poor and underprivileged.
Although still a poor measure, GDP per capita shows income generated per person. This provides a much better yardstick to judge New Zealand’s fiscal performance against its peers.
Looking at GDP per capita within the OECD, New Zealand sits roughly in the middle alongside the likes of Spain, but below the UK and well below Australia. Indeed, NZ enjoys only 37% of the GDP per capita of Luxembourg, 50% of Ireland, 90%of the UK, and only 75% of our trans-Tasman friendly rivals the Australians.
Why then is New Zealand such a poor performer on the World stage? Why does New Zealand figure so badly caring for its most vulnerable, its elderly, its poverty-stricken children?
Perhaps simply chasing the almighty dollar isn’t so good for the average Kiwi after all. We’ve had decades now chasing that impossible dream, and all that seems to happen is our once Clean-Green GodZone is polluted by rampant over-fishing, monoculture, and agriculture. Our once vibrant wildlife destroyed by a poison industry funded by a blinkered Government.
We have sold off huge chunks of our lands to overseas interests at no benefit to the populace.
So why do politicians ignore the need for foresight and planning?
Half a Century
The folly of uncontrolled, unrestricted population growth has been around for over half a century.
American author Paul Erlich warned about the people problem in his 1968 book “The Population Bomb”. In New Zealand about the same time – almost 50 years ago – a few enlightened environmentalists such as “Save Manapouri” conservationist and NZ Deerstalkers Association president John B Henderson publicly warned about the folly of “further proliferating the hordes of humanity.”
Our population is now five million.
Five Million Hope Gone
Five million is significant for John B Henderson 50 years ago said “it is high time New Zealanders set themselves an upper limit — I have no hesitation in tabling my own estimate – it is 5 million people.”
However New Zealand still has no population policy. Growth for growth’s sake is the mantra. Auckland’s growing pains perfectly illustrate the economic cost of unbridled growth. More ratepayer and more taxpayers’ money is needed for roading and motorways, upgrading of sewers and stormwaters etc., and sprawling outwards over fertile valuable farmland.
More and More
More people and more consumers mean more resource demand, force more costly infrastructure upgrading, and make even more emissions. Then there’s creaking health services, inadequate water supplies, and more and more costly problems because of more growth and more people.
Then there is the environmental impact of overcrowded national parks and walks, more water from rivers, rampant consumerism, more effluent, and more garbage for landfills.
Greedy “more and more” policies have to be eliminated not only for our sake but also that of future generations.
Sincere “well-being” is about quality of life and not just indulging in lip service.