The budget – the dawn of a well-being culture?

By Andy Kenworthy

The Government’s 2019 Well-Being Budget could be the start of a genuine transformation. But much greater and consistent investment in the transition to an equitable low carbon economy is needed.

The New Zealand government’s shift away from Gross Domestic Product as the main measure of national success makes perfect sense. Accordingly, the latest budget includes much needed investment in public transport and social well-being. But the required investment into true economic transformation is still lacking.

Rachel Brown is CEO of SBN. She says: “It’s great to see the Government act to address issues like mental health and public transport. They have been neglected for far too long. And reframing national success beyond GDP is a vital step forward in ceasing to see these issues in isolation.”

“Mental health is a great example. It’s at least partly a symptom of unresolved cultural breakdown and inequality. It’s awesome that we are investing in treatment and support. But we need to change the fundamentals.”

“That leaves gaps in this budget where that future thinking should be. There’s been progress with the Climate Change Bill. But $85 million to mitigate agricultural emissions looks like small beer against the urgency and scale of the problem. We have an entire agricultural sector to make sustainable in just a few decades.

The $229m for waterways, wetlands and sustainable farming   is more of the sort of down payment we are looking to see. It’s also vindication for SBN’s Million Metres Streams project and others like it. Together we’ve been tackling this head on for years.”

“Perhaps the biggest disappointment comes with the $4m for resource efficiency and zero-waste. It’s another area where we need to change the fundamentals rapidly. We are working on that through our Circular Economy Accelerator, and others are pushing it forward. But that sort of money isn’t going to go far in making systemic change occur.”

“Unfortunately, this will leave progressive businesses continuing to do much of the heavy lifting on these issues. The best of them are changing how they work and innovating solutions. It’s good to see more money for start-up innovation, but a lot of this work is already going on inside existing businesses, especially SMEs. They need more help to do the right things.”

“We can only hope that future taxation and spending policies live up to the great promise this budget offers. It’s great to finally have a sense that we are heading in the right direction, but we still have a long, long way to go, and the clock is ticking.”