NZRise members attended our end of year meeting in subdued mood on Wednesday. A mood that seems to be shared by many businesses and other organisations. The unfolding electoral map of the USA filled NZRise attendees with a feeling of impending doom.

So, whilst it may be that Trump opposes things like TPP, he does so for very different reasons to NZRise; and we have to recognise these differences and not pick the wrong allies and end up with an even worse result.

We cannot and should not ignore the fact that demagoguery is generally bad for business, bad for economies and bad for our fellow citizens. It doesn’t represent progressive or conservative values, both of which form such a core part of our stability and sustainability.

Equally we in the business and government communities need to understand the role we have play in creating the circumstances that lead to demagogy. When we ride roughshod over the rights and concerns of our fellow citizens; oppose a living wage for the poorest workers;  celebrate the “Uberisation” of our economy as if it was a good thing; and yes, when we negotiate trade agreements in secret that clearly cause harm, we create conditions of resentment, distrust and disillusion. Fertile ground for messages of fear and hate.

The tone that our representative organisations, such as BusinessNZ and our Chambers of Commerce, use can often come across as elitist and uncaring. Centred only on the need to further enrich already powerful lobbies. Given New Zealand businesses tend to be tiny, struggling and unrepresented, this does not only do our country a disfavour it also paints battling Kiwi businesses in a very poor light.

Equally, we have a public service whose procurement policies routinely discriminate against New Zealand businesses in favour of multinationals. There is a “we know best” attitude to external engagements with local suppliers, and a pretence that, despite being the largest part of our economy, it has little influence on the success or otherwise of our industry and the wider New Zealand economy.

NZRise is calling on our government and our fellow business community representatives to change track. To eschew secrecy and to ensure every action we take improves the wider social and economic well-being of New Zealand. Now is the time to be collaborative and inclusive.

Don Christie, Co-Chair NZRise

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