Steven Joyce writes in the Herald that the answer to our economic woes is to open up resources to entrepreneurs, and to hell with the social cost or environmental impact.
Joyce attacks the people who say:
… “we want jobs” but then in the next breath say “but you can’t do that … you can’t build that there … you can’t expand that … you can’t explore for that there … you can’t live here … you can’t invest in property here – you just can’t do that!”
as if the only thing preventing us from being an economic powerhouse is our reluctance to dig for minerals and dirty coal.
Joyce also blames the early onset of the recession on the Labour government, while at the same time taking a swipe at an area of industry where we have the potential to be world leaders.
Through the 2000s, as a country, we progressively boxed ourselves in more and more to depend on fewer and fewer industries based on what the “can’ts” said. At the end of it the government of the day was pretty much down to talking only about two of the ingredients – skills training and subsidising entrepreneurs that don’t use resources (the so-called clean-tech sector) – as the bits the “can’ts” were most comfortable with. The rest was off the table.
That attitude made it much harder to pay our way in the world and, as a result, we went into recession before the rest of the world in early 2008.
New Zealand’s economic problems have been around for a few decades now. They weren’t created by Labour alone, and both Labour and National are guilty of failing to seriously tackle these problems. Moreover, if Joyce really wants to attack environmental laws for stifling development, then he should be focusing his ire on the Bolger government of the 1990s, which passed the Resource Management Act.
It is simply wrong to blame a lack of diversification on the Labour government, because that lack has been there for decades. It is a sign of National’s lack of imagination and paucity of ideas that Joyce and other ministers continue to blame Labour for everything that is wrong with New Zealand, in the hope that voters won’t realise that National is doing next to nothing to address the problems and in fact is probably worsening them.
Selling our assets, stripping our conservation estate and ignoring environmental best practice will not make us rich. A clean, green economy based on smart technologies is the only future for this country, because of our distance to markets and our modest physical resources. Digging holes in the ground and building more and more roads (as Mr Joyce appears determined to do) will do harm to the “clean and green” image we have managed to establish for ourselves. Whether or not that image is justified is another debate entirely, but the image is something we can and must trade on.
The clean-tech sector that Joyce sneers at may well be our future. One need only look at the success of a company like LanzaTech to see the potential for exporting clean technologies to the rest of the world. Consumers are being driven more and more by environmental considerations when they choose which products or services they should acquire, so Joyce is on the wrong path when he portrays environmental protections as evils that must be minimised as much as possible.
And let us remember that the party saying “we can’t” most often is the government. A central rail loop to take pressure off Auckland’s roads and reduce gridlock? A good public transport system that reduces our addiction to fuel? A broadband rollout that won’t create new blockages and entrench monopolies for existing players? Steven Joyce’s answer is always “we can’t”.