After weeks of preparation for the ForesightNZ workshop, the participants were eager to begin the first of three full days at the New Zealand Treasury thinking about New Zealand’s long-term future. The night before was spent meeting their groups and coming to terms with the fundamentals of futures thinking.

Participants listen to Wendy McGuinness' presentation on futures thinking

Participants listen to Wendy McGuinness’ presentation on futures thinking

Participants familiarise themselves with the ForesightNZ program

Participants familiarise themselves with the ForesightNZ program

Wendy McGuinness opened the workshop and welcomed Bill Moran, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Secretary, Strategy, Performance and Engagement of The New Zealand Treasury. Bill explained to participants that Treasury is a uniquely long-standing institution whose permanence places it in a strong stewardship role for New Zealand. He discussed the complexity and large scale of the work that Treasury is doing to refresh the narrative of the Statement of the Long-Term Fiscal Position, which will not be finished until later in 2016. Bill challenged the participants to be confident in voicing their thoughts, noting that Treasury doesn’t ‘have the monopoly on good ideas’. Next, the team from Treasury – Katherine Meerman, Luke Maguire, Dora Livas and John Janssen – explained the importance of the Living Standards Framework as a tool to increase opportunities, capabilities and incentives for each New Zealander to live a life that they value. The team then asked participants what sustainability, prosperity and inclusiveness mean to them personally, as part of an ongoing engagement process to ensure that diverse New Zealand voices influence Treasury’s development of long-term strategy. Su’a Thomsen and Trevor Moeke, Principal Advisors of Pacific Capability and of Crown-Māori Capability respectively at Treasury, brought ideas of cultural diversity to the fore. Su’a emphasised that who you are is as important as what you do, and Trevor reminded us that we are no longer living B.G. (before Google) – that we are more interconnected than ever. Margaret Galt, Principal Advisor at Treasury, described herself as the sheepdog herding the Living Standards Framework team, and expanded on the five dimensions of the framework.

Margaret Galt pentagon diagram 1

The dimensions of the Living Standards Framework

Speakers in the second session each proposed three ideas in answer to diverse and engaging questions about New Zealand’s future. Geoff Bascand, Deputy Governor and Head of Operations at The Reserve Bank of New Zealand, discussed the importance of paying attention to demographic movements and global trade patterns over time. He noted that there are vastly differing perspectives on the idea of future growth, from technology optimists who foresee unlimited technological growth to secular stagnationists who anticipate a dwindling in innovation.

Bill Moran is thanked.

Bill Moran is thanked

Next was Yoseph Ayele, co-creator of Kiwi Connect – a team helping to realise New Zealand’s unique potential as an ‘Incubation Nation’. Yoseph discussed New Zealand’s geographical location and small size as advantages that allow for agility in testing out innovative solutions to global problems. He also emphasised the power of having a high density of talented people working in one place.

Participants analysed the key ideas from the speakers' presentations.

Participants analysed the key ideas from the speakers’ presentations

Patrick Nolan, Principal Advisor at the Productivity Commission, discussed the ways that New Zealand can grow its prosperity and productivity. Participants heard about the relationship between outputs and outcomes, and were encouraged to envisage what New Zealand should look like in 2056. He emphasised that New Zealand can make choices that shape a bright future if it pays attention to trends and history. Kate Hodgkinson, a natural resources analyst at the New Zealand Treasury, discussed the ways that climate change will impact New Zealand. She covered the post-Kyoto Protocol period and explained why New Zealand needs to be cautious of the consequences of detrimental weather events and rising sea levels. Kate encouraged the group to think more broadly about the long-term impacts of climate change to New Zealand society, by considering things such as changes to infrastructure and insurance. Parekawhia McLean, CEO of Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Inc., steered participants’ focus to the changing nature of the relationship between the Crown and Māori and its future impacts on the environment, the economy and inclusiveness. She quoted Kīngi Tāwhio, who said ‘mehemea kare kau ana he whakakitenga, ka mate te iwi’ (where there is no vision, the people will perish). Parekawhia discussed the forward-looking focus of Waikato-Tainui and how this has enabled her to understand the importance of working collaboratively, taking integrated approaches to achieve outcomes. She explained that Māori policy should be in the centre of New Zealand’s long-term vision, not tacked on to the side.

The speakers' panel

The speakers’ panel

After the presentations, speakers hot-seated with groups around the room, enabling participants to pose considered questions about challenges facing New Zealand and its possible futures. The groups then presented the speakers and the plenary with their key reflections from the session.

Michael Cullen discusses the sessions with participants

Hon Sir Michael Cullen discusses the sessions with participants

To begin the afternoon session, the Honourable Sir Michael Cullen focused on the opportunities and challenges of making good policy. He introduced the session by noting the self-interest and personal bias that dominates long-term policy discussions. He encouraged participants to think in terms of evidence, and to keep questioning who bears the costs and who reaps the benefits. David Mackay, Director of Growth and Public Services at the New Zealand Treasury, and Tim Ng, Director of Economic System at the New Zealand Treasury, discussed New Zealand’s long-term fiscal, economic and social priorities. They explained that New Zealand’s economic growth per person is low by OECD standards, and that we should be aiming to rank higher internationally. They noted that social priorities need to centre around social cohesion and a true interrogation of what we mean when we say ‘equality.’ Charlotte Greenfield, Fulbright scholar and journalist, explored the topic of citizen empowerment in the 21st century. She encouraged participants to pay attention to who is telling our stories and how they are being told. Charlotte discussed the tyranny of geographical distance for New Zealand in that globalisation no longer permits us to think in terms of ‘in here’ and ‘out there.’ She noted the importance of investigative journalism and data-driven stories to enable all citizens to engage with the shape of their future. Dr Bronwyn Hayward, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Canterbury, discussed the ways in which policy can create positive long-term legacies. Hayward stated that the four big challenges she thinks will confront our lives are dangerous environmental changes, the weakening of democracies, growing social inequality, and unprecedented youth unemployment. As food for thought, Bronwyn left the participants with the recent introduction of the Future Generations Wellbeing Act in Wales, which requires that every new piece of legislation considers its impact on future generations. Colin James, political journalist of more than 35 years and Political Columnist of the Year in 2003, was the pre-dinner guest back at the Institute. Participants walked along the waterfront to the McGuinness Institute offices where they had many questions for him. He gave a broad-ranging talk on how to make change in the political environment, and encouraged the group to chart global trends.

Bill English group discussion 2

Hon Bill English answers participants’ questions in the after dinner Q&A session

After dinner, the Honourable Bill English joined the group for a Q&A. The group listened to his insights on foresight, namely that we must ‘be humble about the future, as it has happened before.’ He responded to participants’ questions on the ideal timeframe for policy strategizing, and much more.

Hon Sir Michael Cullen and Hon Bill English talk after the Q&A session

Hon Sir Michael Cullen and Hon Bill English talk after the Q&A session

After coffee and brownie with guests, the participants retired to their accommodation to prepare for day two.