The future can be bright - let's make it happen

Looking back on the past six weeks, I’ve found that previous experiences have provided powerful guidance on how to respond to unprecedented challenges.

I grew up on a farm and orchard and enjoyed a typical rural upbringing, it was a small community and our extended family were all neighbours and the best of mates. A strong sense of community developed in me there; being so close to people, through family ties and community connections, I developed an understanding that everyone depended on each other. This is exactly the response I have seen during COVID-19, even the restrictions imposed by Lockdown didn’t stop us showing that we cared.

Now, with Level 2 signalling progress on health and wellbeing, the focus is shifting towards addressing the huge economic challenges our country faces.

With so much at stake, we have to get it right. With much already endured by businesses, we need to ensure that vision is matched with cogent action. The right policies and the right teams need to be in place this year. If we fail in this, we will not only saddle the next generation with a huge debt, we will also have failed the employers who provide jobs, and the people who desperately need that employment. If the pandemic was a once in a 100-year event, this year’s election is your once in a generation opportunity to get it sorted.

That’s why I see significant benefits in Todd Muller assuming the leadership of the National Party with Nikki Kaye as his deputy. Todd brings proven business experience to the role and Nikki is already noted for her fresh perspectives on policy.

We can’t afford to get the recovery wrong. Proven experience needs to be in place as soon as possible, so that the fresh thinking required to break out of COVID-19’s stranglehold generates momentum now, as we lift the economy out of recession. We need leaders from business to rebuild business, we need proven visionaries in infrastructure to energise projects, and we need key people from health to ensure that the resources are there to tackle the backlog in procedures left by COVID-19.

My career in banking, followed by a Deputy Chief Financial Officer role in the country’s largest DHB, has demonstrated to me the vital necessity of experience. Just as my continuing commitment to St John as an emergency ambulance officer highlights that there is no substitute for having done the job when lives hang in the balance.

There’s no escaping the truth that the virus was just the beginning of our trials, we have won that battle but another looms, and we need the right strategies in place to meet it. But we should take comfort in our strength of purpose and our ability to build a country that’s even better than it was. Life on that orchard taught me a lot. I remember a storm tearing through when I was eight, leaving just-ripened apples strewn everywhere. By roping in my cousins, and organising gate sales we sold enough apples to finance a family holiday.

Crisis can bring opportunity.