The New Zealand Institute has produced the NZahead report card that provides an overview of New Zealand's social, economic and environmental wellbeing. By measuring our performance in 16 key areas it hopes to generate robust discussion and support prioritization in future decision making.
It makes especially interesting reading because when we are ranked against other developed nations it puts into perspective how well we are performing and highlights where our government's priorities should be.
If you look at where we perform best we find that we are ranked 4th in the world in education and 3rd for our per capita levels of agriculture and forestry.
The areas where we perform worst and near the bottom of the OECD are:
- Income inequality, this especially disadvantages children where a high percentage live in substandard housing and low income households.
- Mortality through assault (worse than the US and Mexico)
- Low household wealth (largely due to mortgages on overpriced housing)
- Low productivity, while our manufacturing industries are strong our performance in housing, finance and renting is particularly poor and yet these are the areas where much money has been focussed but have suffered through poor regulatory controls and over investment.
- Innovation and Business Sophistication, our investment in R&D has been particularly poor over recent years and because of a focus on the flawed National Standards, science advisors to schools have been sacked and the introduction of our world leading Technology curriculum has been effectively delayed.
- Water Quality, while currently not amongst the worst overall the obvious decline in our water quality is a concern. Nitrate levels in most rivers are rapidly rising and many currently degraded lakes are continuing to deteriorate.
- CO2e emissions per capita make us the 4th worst in the world and with the Government's energy focus on fossil fuels, especially lignite, this will only worsen.
It is interesting that the Government is doing its best to create a crisis in education where we are doing particularly well and dismantling what made us successful with the introduction of National Standards and cutting funding to early childhood. As for agriculture and forestry I don't see any effort to ensure these industries are being managed sustainably or used as potential areas of employment growth.
In the areas where we are failing dismally I see nothing substantial in the latest budget to show that the National Government is determined to address them in any effective way. I can imagine what our report will look like after another National term of office and it won't be a good one!