The future is now: Implications of Covid-19 for New Zealand

The Covid-19 crisis presents multiple, complex and ongoing challenges for New Zealand. But it also provides an opportunity to consider our place in the world, and how we operate as a country and cooperate in future, according to a discussion paper produced by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures.

Download the discussion paper

‘The Future is Now’, co-authored by Koi Tū director Sir Peter Gluckman and deputy director Anne Bardsley, advocates for prioritising long-term thinking, and inclusive dialogue on these issues.

Koi Tū, an independent and apolitical think tank at the University of Auckland, has engaged with academic and sector leaders and thinkers in New Zealand to consider some of the macro issues that will emerge over the coming months and years. Conversations with, and feedback from, this group informed the shape and content of the discussion paper.

It is the first in a series of reports looking at issues that will emerge from the pandemic and identifies many urgent questions that will need deliberate and informed reflection –affecting every aspect of New Zealand’s future.

Dr Bardsley says the paper aims to catalyse important conversations that are needed in the wake of New Zealand’s response to Covid-19.

“It is clear that we won’t go back to where we were before, instead we will inhabit a new normal,” she says.

“Social, environmental, business and geostrategic impacts will echo for a long time and force both global and local change. We must seize this opportunity to have urgent reflection on many issues, not just to recover from the horrific disruption, but to find the opportunities for a better future.”

We would have had to confront many of these issues in coming decades anyhow, but the crisis has accelerated the discussion, says Dr Bardsley.

Koi Tū chair Bridget Coates says while this is an extremely challenging time and many decisions are urgent, it is also an opportunity for New Zealand to transform positively for a better future.

“Prior to the pandemic, there was much discussion about the need for New Zealand to move towards a more sustainable and carbon neutral economy. Trade-offs that may have seemed impossible prior to this crisis may now be seen in a more credible light,” she says.

Sir Peter Gluckman – the former Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister – says a range of expertise is needed to support the plans for safely moving from the restrictions of the level 4 lockdown, back towards a fully functioning, though indelibly changed, society. He says many people and businesses will face major disruptions to their lives and livelihoods with disadvantaged sectors of society, including many Māori, particularly affected.

“While we can’t predict with certainty the path of the pandemic, what we can influence is how we respond as a country.

“Finding paths to cooperation within and across sectors, and in ways that promote rather than stifle private sector innovation, will be critical. It would be an unfortunate loss of opportunity if a broader framework did not emerge.

“The nature of the conversations needed to help New Zealand as a whole to move to a more secure, sustainable and resilient future requires innovative thinking from multiple perspectives. The magnitude of change following Covid-19 will be large. In this context trust, transparency and resilience will be critical,” he says.

The report also outlines what can be done to make the safe transition to level 2 and beyond as quickly as possible, such as having a transparent and multi-disciplinary-agreed criteria for exiting levels and progressing through subsequent easing of restrictions.

However, Sir Peter also stresses we must remain vigilant, with adequate capacities to manage any further breakouts.

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