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  • rmacculloch

Yes, Mike Hosking, NZ's Infrastructure is a Mess and who's to blame? You and your mate, John Key.

It's best Mike Hosking sticks to being a radio host, rather than go on about how to make NZ more prosperous. Even though the previous government was a disaster-show, there was actually little that could be done on infrastructure for at least 3 of the 6 years it was in power as the pandemic raged & border controls were in place around the world. The real damage was done over the nine years that John Key was in power, facilitated by their media mate, a certain Mr. Hosking. So when he writes about "the plane that didn’t work & the same week a transmission tower falling over .. It's pathetic. This country is on its knees & it's embarrassing .. We have to wake up to the fact this nation has, in too many respects, been run into the ground. It looks increasingly third world", in many ways I regard his own contribution to the problem as also being rather pathetic. He never turned the torch of scrutiny onto National when it was in a position to prepare NZ for the future which is today. Mr. Hosking was part of the problem those nine years National was in power. He let them get away with not taking the actions required to avoid the mess we've got ourselves into.

I know exactly why National did not act back then. Bill English's obsession was to reduce the size of government and balance the budget, without doing any "radical" efficiency-inducing reforms to the country. Radical was a dirty word to conservative Bill, and to his boss, John. I did economics presentation after presentation arguing that 2008-2017 was the best of times to fix NZ's ailing infrastructure, even if it meant borrowing. I could not have done more to urge National to do better on infrastructure - and to lobby the business folks I met at the NZ Initiative (National's think tank) to pressure the government into doing so much better on this front. At an Initiative Retreat, I questioned the then CEO of Fletcher Building why the company wasn't pushing harder to offer its services for infrastructure projects, in front of all the Members. I got no support from them. The Fletcher's CEO, who had been hired from the UK, told those assembled that he did not think NZ had an infrastructure problem. Back then, in the post Financial Crisis years, interest rates were close to zero, and yet the yield on fixing our roads, doing a second harbour bridge crossing in Auckland, and so many other projects, were in double digits. It was a no-brainer. A guy called Chris Luxon used to attend those meetings, as he was CEO of Air NZ at the time. A CEO from one of this country's biggest companies told the conference, "Well, I'm making money and if you're making money, then my philosophy is 'don't rock the boat'". I never returned to a single Initiative meeting after that -they didn't want me and I didn't want them.

The proof is on my computer - here are extracts from the Slides I presented back then to business & government - they started with a NZ Treasury quote in 2012,Since Budget 2009, the Gov’t has been charting a course to tighten spending, return to surplus, cap the increase in public debt as a share of GDP & bring this debt down to more prudent levels” . But why, I asked? "Why in the NZ context of a low Public Debt to GDP ratio (35% compared to 80-90% in US, UK); No “too-big-to-fail” problems arising from Financial Crisis; A High Credit Rating on Public Debt; NZ government able to Borrow at Historic Low Interest Rates post-2008; Spare Capacity post-2008; World’s lowest corruption so small leakage on public investment; Not “Crude-Keynesian” or a Return to ‘Think Big’ - instead an investment program in infrastructure (and people / skills / education) aimed at boosting private sector productivity".

This kind of presentation got me laughed out of the room in 2012. But over the course of those Key years, when NZ had a "rock-star economy", when interest rates were close to 0, where we had every advantage & every opportunity to plan & build for the future, no one wanted to upset the apple cart. No-one wanted to put pressure on the Key government to plan for a better long-term future for NZ - including a guy called Mike Hosking. He was a player in helping National get away with it. Then the pandemic blew up & here we are. The chickens have come home to roost. The Nats (and Mr Hosking) should look at the man in the mirror when they complain about jets and ferries and electricity break downs.



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