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Questions and answers on the economy of the Monitor: Tania Pouwhare, social entrepreneur from Auckland


Every week Thing asks New Zealand business and community leaders how they think the economy is doing and what they think are the biggest challenges.

Tania Pouwhare, Ngāi Tūhoe, is Head of the Auckland Council Social Innovation Team, which focuses on economic equity for South and West Auckland.

She is a senior member of the Atlantic Fellowship for Social Equity and an honorary member of Engineering New Zealand.

Pouwhare said she was optimistic, but was more concerned about the “slow violence of poverty and worsening inequalities that face the climate emergency.”

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How do you think New Zealand’s economy is doing right now?

There is no doubt that by putting people and public health first, we are doing better than countries that have implemented half measures and ended up with high death rates and economic recovery. slow.

But some are more affected than others. Auckland is on track to spend twice as much time in Level 3 or 4 blockades as anywhere else in the country.

“Success has to be defined by how places like South and West Auckland fare and prosper on the other side,” says Tania Pouwhare.

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“Success has to be defined by how places like South and West Auckland cross that and thrive on the other side,” says Tania Pouwhare.

The impact is felt first, worst and longest in South Auckland and we have 320,000 citizens who collectively are doing it hard, and we are not out of the woods yet.

The very people who were “essential” during our lockdowns last year have discovered the hard way that they are the most consumable part of the job market once the crisis is over.

As a country, we are doing much better than expected 18 months ago, but that cannot be the measure of our success. Success has to be defined by how places like South and West Auckland fare and prosper on the other side.

What are you most concerned about right now?

Even before Covid-19, Auckland’s economy wasn’t a rockstar if you were Māori or Pasifika; rather, it was a system riddled with paradoxes in which a large part of our fellow citizens found themselves even further behind.

Median incomes of Maori and Pasifikas had still not recovered from the global financial crisis and working poverty appears to have exploded. So if that was the best we can muster in the good times, just going back to “normal” would be a travesty.

What will happen next for South and West Auckland is quite predictable – a steep drop followed by a long and painful return to the starting line. Meanwhile, we are all approaching a tipping point of inequality.

Almost a quarter of all Maori and 64 percent of all Pasifika people live in Tāmaki Makaurau – nowhere else comes close to our scale – and together we make up 27 percent of the city’s population.

The economic recovery will be led by those who have been most isolated against it (or whose voices are loudest). This will not give us a fair recovery, but it will further degrade the social contract.

We are now seeing decades of market and policy inertia and indifference unfold, at a time when we really need to tap into our social capital for the vaccination strategy to work. It is much easier for conspiracy theories and anti-vaccination misinformation to take hold where people are alienated from the social contract, and it has nothing to do with their lives.

What did the last year teach us about the New Zealand economy?

Amid the sadness, uncertainty and anxiety over the impact of a global pandemic, there was also a strong hope and desire to rebuild differently and better for people and the planet. At that time, a fair, inclusive, circular and regenerative economy seemed more possible.

But as soon as the crisis subsided, the return to “the economy as usual” happened quickly. Engari, kua takato te mānuka – anyway, the challenge has been laid at our feet, and I am sure that many of us want to take up the challenge.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the economy this year? Why?

Optimistic, always. The economy is a completely man-made system. We can make different macroeconomic choices that are not limited to tinkering around.

Not tackling gender, ethnic, disability and beneficiary inequalities head-on, with courage, is a choice. We don’t have to go down that road. Rather, we can choose to increase everyone’s ability to live just and well, in what Native American economist Rebecca Adamson calls a “sufficiency economy,” where no one has too little but no one has too much.

You don’t have to look very far to see that Tāmaki Makaurau is the story of two cities, but I still think most of us want more equal communities and a stronger social fabric.

What’s the biggest challenge New Zealand faces?

Without a doubt, it must be the slow violence of poverty and worsening inequalities that face the climate emergency. It’s a nightmare scenario, and it’s on our doorstep. I sincerely worry about the problems that we are accumulating for future generations.

This is why we are calling for a Green New Deal; a wave of smart investments that advance socio-economic equity and the health of our biosphere as a singular enterprise.

We work with Maori and Pasifika companies that are already doing amazing things in the circular economy, so we support them to go further and faster, create more decent jobs and develop more entrepreneurial talent.

These truly are the neglected and undervalued agents of change lurking in plain sight, and they are one of our best bets for the economic transformation of South and West Auckland.

What we do is in our DNA; return to the motivation, mastery and pioneering state of mind that allowed our ancestors to sail a third of the world’s oceans and settle in the Pacific thousands of years ago.

It’s a bold mission, but that’s what we’re built for.

– The Monitor is Stuff’s unique set of information to help the business community better understand the economic landscape and maximize their success. Next to the quarterly snapshot is an economic index showing the speed of growth in different parts of the economy.


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