OPINION: Politicians are always fond of talking about their long-term aspirations for the country, because by the time we get there they will almost certainly be at an overseas embassy, on a corporate board, posted to the United Nations, or sitting on a local council.

The trickier question to ask is what the starting point is for all this “building back better” talk.

Is the starting point for discussions on the housing crisis a general assumption that house prices should rise steadily and the investments of homeowners should be guaranteed by the State?

Or is that we need an oversupply of good quality housing along with prices and rents to drop?

On migration, is the starting point that we need to scare these migrants out of the country and “reset”?

Or is it that we need to carry through on the promises to the people we invited to apply for residency, and understand that mass deportations are a near-impossibility in the current climate as is the possibility of sending some back to their home countries?

When it comes to infrastructure should it be we want to bring everybody along on issues like water, or should it be we actually want to just get this extra infrastructure built?

Our starting point with the MIQ booking system should be about how we’re going to fix it.
Our starting point with the MIQ booking system should be about how we’re going to fix it.


I would pose the same question around housing densification too, where Wellington City Council seems to be dragging its heels on a report other tier 1 councils have met with little drama around how planning rules are affecting the availability of housing in Wellington.

Let’s just say the results of this report are unlikely to be positive in a city where building consents have lagged far behind other cities. We hear from the council officer involved they did a similar plan two years ago, which you think would make it easier to do another one rather than the other way around.

Then there are other Covid-specific issues like the ongoing managed isolation (MIQ) booking saga. Should the starting point be that our widely-abused booking system is crucial to our Covid-19 response and cannot be changed substantially? Or should the starting point be that we should probably improve it?

Equally, as we eye the re-emergence of Covid-19 across the Tasman should our starting point be an assumption Delta will never get here, or should it be that we now have a golden opportunity to build up our containment and tracing systems before we experience something similar?

Getting Covid-19 tracer app usage up needs to be a must-do before an accidental breach occurs.
Getting Covid-19 tracer app usage up needs to be a must-do before an accidental breach occurs.


This isn’t just about vaccines. One idea proposed by Rako Science is to use constant saliva testing, which has a turnaround time of a few hours as opposed to the two-day time for nasal swabs, and could see us develop rings of protection to more easily get on top of an outbreak if it starts before we are vaccinated.

Then there is the idea of making the Covid-19 tracer app compulsory, which would undoubtedly increase the uptake and use of it and hopefully help us get on top of any Delta outbreak.

Should the starting point be we want to get people in the habit of scanning all the time, or that we want to hold on to our agreements with the tech giants around how the bluetooth components of this app should be used (part of the agreement for using their tech is that it cannot be made compulsory)?

I ask this question because the extra uptake we would get from making the app compulsory could very well outweigh any additional benefit we get from their components.

Let us not forget the major problem of climate change either, which can never be ignored. Is our starting point our current way of life while getting others to sacrifice more, or is it that we need to throw everything at it?

The sudden drop in support for Labour is probably not as dramatic as it appears, given the reduced frequency between polls, and the result is likely not driven by discontent over the long-term direction of the country.

In the immediate aftermath of lockdown it was fashionable to talk about building back better, but maybe the better question to ask is: where do we start?