No 'single solution' to future problems

Prof Jonathan Boston, of Victoria University of Wellington, gives a talk in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Prof Jonathan Boston, of Victoria University of Wellington, gives a talk in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
New Zealand is likely to face ''enormous costs'', including widespread environmental damage, if we cannot find better ways of preparing for the future, Prof Jonathan Boston warns.

Prof Boston, who is director of the Institute for Governance and Public Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, gave two public talks at the University of Otago yesterday, in association with the Otago Centre for Theology and Public Issues.

One talk focused on ''Governing for the Future: Stewardship, Sustainability and the Tyranny of the Present'', and the other dealt with child poverty myths and misunderstandings.

Finding better ways of ''governing for the future'' was ''critically important'' for New Zealand, he said.

It was also vital that New Zealand moved away from a relatively narrow form of economic analysis, and took wider environmental and social costs into account, he said in an interview.

There was a tendency for politicians and voters in many countries to focus on relatively short-term issues, and to delay dealing with some impending future challenges.

And ''many problems and poor decisions'' had arisen from excessively short-term thinking.

But most countries, including the United States and New Zealand, would pay ''enormous costs'' if global climate change challenges were not met and there was a big rise in sea levels.

Parts of Dunedin, including St Kilda, were low-lying and people there would ''need boats'' rather than cars to get around if there was a big rise in sea level.

New Zealand also faced major problems if other long-term issues, including persistent child poverty, were not properly addressed.

And the country's growing obesity problems would impose ''absolutely enormous costs'' on the health system unless they were tackled more effectively.

There was no ''single solution'' and a mix of approaches was needed.

However, we could also learn from mechanisms, including the Fiscal Responsibility Act, we had already put in place to address future needs.

Such approaches also included the superannuation-related Cullen Fund, and the Earthquake Commission, which had provided funding after the recent Christchurch earthquakes.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz