Post-Lockdown Planning Proposals

These are just some useful discussions on plans for economic recovery post-lockdown that I’m parking here for reference, feel free to add other suggestions. I’ll expand on each of them soon.

Other useful resources and models I’m interested in:

 

Views on public issues by highest qualification

Over 600 people around Aotearoa New Zealand responded to this online survey over two days (20-21 April 2020) on some of the issues being discussed in public recently – these are the results from respondents based on their level of highest qualification.

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Spread of participants…

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Māori & Pākehā views on the big issues

Over 550 people around Aotearoa NZ responded to this online survey over two days (20-21 April 2020) on some of the issues being discussed in public recently – these are the results from respondents identifying as Māori & Pākehā / NZ European – around 46% of respondents were Māori, so over-sampled compared to the proportion of Māori in the general population, Pākehā were around 67% of respondents (who could choose more than one ethic group).

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Reinventing Tourism

The impact Covid-19 will have on the tourism sector is understandably under significant scrutiny.

Around 230,000 people have been directly employed in tourism, that’s just over 8 percent of the entire New Zealand workforce.

International tourists spent $17.2 billion last year and over five million arrivals were expected this year. International tourism contributed just over 20 percent to New Zealand’s total overseas earnings, and been the largest earner along with dairy for the last 20 years. Tourism generated a direct contribution to GDP of nearly 6 percent and indirect value from industries supporting tourism generated another $11.2 billion.

In the past 20 years Tairāwhiti has on average attracted only half of one percent of these international tourists vising New Zealand.

In contrast, spending by domestic tourists across New Zealand was nearly $24 billion last year, nearly 40 percent more than international visitors spent.

Compared to most other regions, MBIE figures suggest tourists in Tairāwhiti spend has a much higher proportion on supermarkets and fuel while other regions see more spend on restaurants and bars, accommodation and passenger transport.

Australia has said they probably will not allow foreign visitors for the rest of the year, and we can expect something similar here that could result in at least 100,000 tourism jobs lost and the subsequent flow on effect to supporting industries.

Five years ago New Zealanders were spending about $10 billion on overseas travel and New Zealand was earning just over this amount from inbound tourists. While a good proportion of New Zealanders’ overseas travel is for business, the majority is for holidays and that most of that spend is now likely to be spent domestically. Tairāwhiti has always had a much higher proportion of domestic visitors than those from overseas and once we’re back to Level 2 we can expect a surge in domestic tourists compared to any previous years.

Local tourism infrastructure has always been very limited in our region and that is part  of the attraction for visitors who want to go somewhere off the beaten track, away from the more polished and pricey tourist attractions of places like Rotorua, Queenstown and Auckland.

Accommodation options north of Gisborne are few and far between but it should not be difficult to quickly increase the number and range of accommodation to suit low, medium and high end budgets. Quickly developing an increased hospitality workforce may be a much bigger challenge.

The big opportunity I believe exists in quite a different kind of visitor experience to what we think tourists usually look for.

If set up right, Tairāwhiti has the opportunity to create a whole new class of domestic visitor experience, one that is based on deeper, lasting relationships rather than just catering to fly by nighters. By offering experiences that provide an authentic, long-term relationship between hosts and visitors we can encourage longer stays and more repeat visitors. We can also harness some of the skills and networks these visitors bring with them.

One community in the region has been doing something similar for more than ten years, every Labour Weekend between 30 and 100 visitors come into the village and reconnect with locals, help with a community project and enjoy authentic East Coast hospitality.

Another East Coast community has facilitated exchanges between young people in Wellington and the Coast for many years. The idea is to bridge the cultural and experience gaps between urban and rural New Zealand.

These kinds of deeper visitor experiences are mutually beneficial, offer more than just foreign exchange earnings for our communities and provide a unique point of difference that other regions will struggle to match.

Prioritising Sci+Tech in Post-Covid Planning

A survey on 30 March of 317 Chief Financial Officers across a broad range of industries revealed that three quarters of the companies plan to permanently move some of their staff to working remotely. This kind of change represents huge opportunities for a region like Tairāwhiti that still has comparatively low housing costs (though a real housing shortage), a relaxed pace of life and reasonable year round climate.

We’ve seen a number of technology-based companies relocate to the region in the last few years, and many more could be persuaded to establish offices in Tairāwhiti if central and local agencies can look beyond logs.

In 2014 Tairāwhiti had the Gigatown prize snatched away by some last minute rejigging of the rules and Dunedin got 53,000 homes and businesses subsidised with cheap gigabit connections. While we might argue about how transformative a similar outcome for our region might have been, the real tragedy is that the comprehensive digital plan hundreds of Tairāwhiti residents and organisations contributed to designing was in the bin within a month and never to be heard of again.

A few of the initiatives that were already happening have carried on but for all intents and purposes, the plan –  which largely didn’t rely on the gigabit subsidy – has been forgotten and barely mentioned since.

A year later in 2015, the Government sought proposals for Regional Research Institutes, designed to inject research and technical capability into regions that don’t host a university. Similar to the Gigatown effort, an impressive array of Tairāwhiti businesses, local authorities and education organisations scrambled together, partnered with a group of universities and pulled together a great proposal. When Tairāwhiti didn’t get short-listed, the plan was likewise abandoned and probably never looked at again.

Successive governments have promised tens of millions to Tairāwhiti, mostly for roads and forestry-related projects – much of the cash never materialises as bureaucratic processes delay pay outs, the region can’t spend it fast enough and/or the funds get reprioritised in the next budget or election cycle.

Living near Ruatorea for the last five years, I’ve spoken with quite a few students, whanau and educators who desperately want more employment options than roading and forestry. According to Statistics NZ, science and technology is now the largest sector of the top ten contributors to GDP and agriculture is the smallest, just below retail. When I was born in 1972, agriculture was at the top of the list of ten sectors and retail was at number two.

As governments and local authorities around the world start planning for a cautious return to the new normal of post-lockdown society, the city of Amsterdam is working closely with British economist Kate Raworth who replaced economic orthodoxy with a model of the economy as a donut.

The inner ring of Raworth’s donut sets out the minimum we need to lead a good life, derived from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It ranges from food and clean water to a minimum level of housing, sanitation, energy, education, healthcare, gender equality, income and political voice. Anyone without access to these minimum standards is living in the doughnut’s hole.

The outer ring of the doughnut represents the ecological ceiling drawn up by earth-system scientists. It highlights the boundaries across which communities should not go to avoid damaging the climate, soils, water bodies and biodiversity.

As Tairāwhiti business, political and community leaders consider options for local initiatives to recalibrate the regional economy, hopefully with central government support, let’s ensure science and technology are prioritised – both to inform the shape of our current donut, and to help design an evidence-based recipe for truly sustainable employment opportunities.