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Do We Know What Success Looks Like?

Do We Know What Success Looks Like?

From Michael Barnett

Little noticed, the New Zealand and especially Auckland economy is performing well above the expectations of the average punter and media commentator.

For years, we’ve expressed an attitude that New Zealand is programmed for failure, and facing years of tough economic and social difficulties.

However, there is a major problem with this view of ourselves and our nation – the “here and now” of the economy is telling a different story. There is a mismatch between what we believe and what is actually happening at the coalface of the economy. It seems that our attitudes about how well we are doing as a nation are not connecting with the very real successes the nation is achieving. For example:

At no time in its history has Auckland enjoyed the massive economic infrastructure and business developments currently underway across all parts of the region.

On my count at least $2.2 billion of major building construction projects are new starts in the Auckland-Waikato region alone. They compromise some 19 projects each worth more than $30 million in value. They vary between Albany and Sylvia Park shopping and retail centres, hotel and office towers, new and expanded prisons, and expansion of tertiary institutions and hospitals.

Add to this list the Auckland roading infrastructure projects currently underway worth well above $800 million, with projects worth billions more awaiting the green light as consents, funding and a work force are organised. It is now undeniable that we look like making more progress in the next 3 years than has been made in the last 30 years combined, to switch mode from planning to complete Auckland transport network to actually building infrastructure! Yes, we are walking the talk!

But it’s not just in Auckland that growth is getting good results. New Zealand’s tourism industry is projecting to grow by between 4-to-6% in the next year, and farming incomes are projected to increase 15% this year.

And our success is registering internationally. The Auckland metropolitan economy is now reputed to be the fastest-growing in Australasia, and our annual national GDP growth of 3.5% is currently well above the OECD average of about 2.2%.


This is what success looks like. I concede we need to address issues of skills if we are to optimise our potential as a region and a nation, but that shouldn’t stop us from recognizing what’s staring us in the face.

It is time, I suggest, to challenge attitudes that limit our perception of how well we can do and, instead, adopt an attitude change of going into bat on how well we are doing. The facts show that faced with an open mind, we can be upbeat about our progress, firm in the optimistic belief that we can do better.

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