Nick Mowbray: NZ deserves better than this Govts mediocrity


At what point do we begin to demand better from our Government? At what point do we stop accepting mediocrity?At what point do we start demanding a Government that delivers results? A Government that is proactive, forward-thinking, and delivers meaningful solutions rather than half-baked ideas delivered through a web of PR nothingness?

When I think about our business, Zuru, a key mantra has always been the notion of continuous improvement. Our relentless pursuit to better ourselves each and every day is underpinned by the idea that “we suck now compared to the future”. Without doubt, complacency is the enemy and is something I firmly believe has been one of the biggest contributors to our success over the years.

How can we get some of this thinking into Government?

I reflect on our Covid response, and we are not learning any lessons. Frighteningly we borrowed more money per capita than any other country in the world outside the US in 2020 and 2021. This was despite us being least affected by Covid due to our geographic location (ease of shutting borders) and low population density.

And what do we have to show for the doubling of our national debt?Better hospitals?No.More ICU beds? No. More nurses? No. Wasn’t this the Covid fund? Two years later and even the most simplistic initiatives have not been executed. The learnings we’ve been able to witness internationally from our less fortunate geographic neighbours have not been integrated into our Covid response, common sense and basic strategic thought has not been applied, and consequently, the most basic of infrastructure has not been integrated into our short, medium or long-term plans.

We should demand better than this.

Off the top of my head, ideas like the below come up as initiatives that should have been proactively pushed over the last year. :

1. Proactively training medical students to do basic jobs like vaccinations and testing to free up more experienced nurses;
2. Incentivise retired nurses to have additional on-the-ground resource;
3. Incentivise nurses and doctors to come home by creating special MIQ arrangements;
4. Give Mission critical health workers a thank you bonus and not freeze their wages.
5. Using the COVID fund on mission critical hospital infrastructure( We need this regardless of Covid);
6. Removing the bureaucratichurdles and leaning in with business to get RATs into the country. (We tried bringing our own in for our business and they were not allowed into the country) ; and
7. Leadership getting into DHBs weekly to understand how we can move faster to prepare our health systems. Coming up with creative solutions to support them.

I am told ICU nurses need specific training. I am not a medical expert but by virtue of freeing up more experienced nurses to do more basic jobs (testing and vaccinations) and the remit of Covid intensive care being more narrow than a traditional ICU nurse – then surely we could have prepared to triple this resource?

Back to the overarching question, however – where is the plan? Where is the regular checks ins with the DHBs to work proactively on preparing our country?

The problem is now that we are more than 90 per cent vaccinated and we are still not getting on with life. Whatever way the Government wants to spin it, the reality is we are now, and will continue to live with a variant that has a very low hospitalisation rate and even lower death rate. Yet, because we have not improved anything over the past two years, we are having to live in fear that our public health system is not ready.

Andrew Little sounds lost when interviewed and his track record highlights what should amount to nothing short of negligence. Among other things, it has taken two years into a pandemic to announce additional funding for hospital improvements, and the Government has continued to ignore medical professionals wanting to come home and make a meaningful impact to our health system.

What is truly worrying is the absence of research undertaken by our Government to learn from the actions taken by other countries. New Zealand was perfectly positioned to closely monitor the strengths and weaknesses of respective global efforts to tailor the best possible localised plan, proactively. It was clear a year ago Rapid Antigen Tests were going to be key to living with Covid, yet the Government has seemly spent its time communicating efforts around an idyllic, unrealistic elimination strategy rather than proactively securing supplies that will ultimately enable New Zealanders to get on with their lives. Every other country has had them available widely for well over a year. Like with everything we have been the slow to react and seems not learnt our lessons from our vaccination roll out.

Throughout my career, I’ve always believed the best leaders are those who are willing to get stuck into the weeds to truly understand their people and the challenges which need to be solved. So I ask the question – where are Andrew Little and Chris Hipkins? How can our leadership be so disconnected from the reality of the situation? Is this mediocrity what New Zealand is prepared to accept?

Despite all this, the sad reality of the situation is that the world is moving on, but New Zealand is being left behind. Millions of Kiwis are trapped, unable to come home, unable to see their loved ones, unable to attend weddings, funerals, and other significant events.Our economy is high on a sugar rush from the past two years, but that will soon wear off. Inflation is running rampant, the cost of living is soaring, house prices are up 45 per cent.Companies and businesses like our own cannot get out into the world. How long can this go on for?

In Australia, 86 per cent of people now cite their biggest concern as the cost of living.Consumer spending in the US is down 27 per cent Q3 vs. Q1 – the flow-on effect of this is going to be monumental, and it’s only just getting started.At what price do we stop and say enough is enough?At what point do we demand better of our Government?

Surely that moment is now.

Nick Mowbray is the founder of Zuru.

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