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Once in a lifetime

12 November 2020

It's not often you get a once in a lifetime opportunity.

In fact, by its very definition, such opportunities are only likely to be encountered a single time in the entirety of a person's life.

Well that's that cleared up, bye.

But seriously, we now face one of these extremely rare situations and the effects of the decisions we make today as a nation will echo for many generations to come.

How do I know this?

Well it's happened before, a generation ago.

There was a time in New Zealand's history when the government of the day poured (no, I think "invested" is a better word) huge amounts of public money into assuring the future of generations to come.

The results were massive increases in NZ's roading network, huge plantations of pine, stunningly forward-thinking hydro schemes and other investments that pay dividends to each and every NZer to this very day.

Is it time to do that again?

The reason I ask is because it seems as if the Reserve Bank is about to unleash a huge pile-o-cash onto the markets.

The ready availability of low-cost borrowing could be used for a raft of things but, sadly, the most likely one is to further inflate the property market, as suggested in this NZH story.

In my opinion, that would be a bad thing... a very bad thing.

NZ's property market is already wildly over-inflated and, as we've seen, surging property prices do little but increase the gap between rich and poor whilst lining the pockets of lenders.

Surely it would be far better for that money to be used for forward-looking capital works that would provide benefits for decades in the future.

Instead of just lining the pockets of property investors, how about we invest in the future of the nation and all its people?

The EV revolution is coming so why not create more infrastructure to support it? Hell, we could even follow the lead of other nations and provide subsidies for EVs -- or maybe even foster an indigenous EV industry of our own. If we can support our own orbital launch industry (RocketLab and Dawn), surely we can make some cheap urban transport EVs whilst creating jobs and reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels.

I'm sure EVs would become a lot more attractive to everyone if we had a robust and comprehensive network of recharging stations across the nation.

And... before someone says "but only the rich can afford EVs" I would say that perhaps right *now* only the rich can afford them... but in four or five years' time, those EVs purchased today will start appearing on the second-hand market at significantly reduced prices so the benefits will trickle-down pretty quickly.

Given that the vast majority of Kms driven by Kiwis are urban/suburban commute Kms, switching even those short but regular trips to EV could save us a fortune in fuel imports and carbon emissions.

Of course we'll also need to ramp up our generation capabilities. To date we've been able to get along quite nicely without adding much extra capacity to the grid because we've been enjoying the efficiency benefits that improving technology has provided. Incandescent bulbs have been replaced by LEDs to massively reduce the amount of electricity required for lighting and heatpumps have replaced radiant electric heaters to do the same. However, most of the gains have been made here so I'm not so sure we're totally prepared for the transition to EVs.

Now might be the perfect time to invest by creating the infrastructure for an all-electric New Zealand, as it will likely be in just a decade or two's time. This sort of visionary approach to the spending of money at a time when it has never been cheaper to borrow and when job-creation will be high on the government's list of priorities just makes sense.

However, given that most politians are not in the "have not" category and it is almost certain that they all own their own homes and perhaps an investment property or two so it's far more likely that we'll see yet another surge in borrowing to fund property investments and the follow-on from that will be that housing will become even less affordable in Godzone.

Pitty the poor for they no longer count for much.

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