t. 96, Various Authors, The Big Questions: What is New Zealand’s Future?

The Big Questions: What is New Zealand’s Future by
Various Authors
Auckland: Random House NZ (2018)
RRP: $38. Pb, 304pp,
ISBN: 9780143772378
Reviewed by SJ Mannion

This book is a studied and stylish collection, an haute couture selection of essays, on specifically New Zealand concerns. Contemporary social, political and economic issues, and the neoteric ideas and strategies around them. A varied and intelligent production with a stellar cast. The essays are erudite and often propitious. A relevant and oddly reassuring read.

Rod Oram opens:

‘This is truly the Anthropocene, the geological epoch in which humankind is the greatest driver of planetary change …’

(1. What Will Climate Change Do To Our Economy? p. 20.)


Then Leonie Freeman:

‘It is not about doing an old thing in a new way, but about creating a new way to do something new, …’

(2. Can We Solve The Housing Crisis? P. 59.)


Felicity Goodyear-Smith:

‘More resources need to be focused at primary health to improve access to care, … ‘

(4. Can The Healthcare System Be Mended?  p 99.)


Judge Andrew Becroft:

‘We need to shift what we value in our society. We need to strengthen the institutions that prioritise the collective good.’

(5. ‘Is New Zealand The Best Place In The World To Be A Child?’ p. 110.)


Followed by Peter O’Connor, passionate and eloquent, on the arts:

‘We might say the arts are of value because they remind us of infinite possibilities.’

(6. Are The Arts Fundamental To Our Society? p. 132.)


Stuart McNaughton:

‘Self-control skills, as well as social skills of empathy and perspective-taking, are important for both individual and societal well-being.’

(7. What Skills Will Our Children Need In The Digital Future? p. 153)


Golriz Gharaman on cultural identity, its association with ‘whiteness’ … and further matters of import to immigrants of colour, and otherwise:

‘For as long as the national identity excludes racial and cultural diversity, it also actively hinders successful integration by new and old migrant communities.’

(8. Who Looks Like A ‘Kiwi’?; Who Sounds Like A ‘Kiwi’?, p. 172 & p. 174.)

David Brougham, Jarrod Haar & Yumiko Olliver-Gray:

‘We might also question the purpose of automation: is it to replace humans, to enhance production, or to augment our way of life?’

(9. Will My Job Be Taken By A Robot? P. 192.)


Jacinta Ruru talks of Māori law and its place in modern society:

‘Something was stolen, lies were told, and they have never been made right.’

(10. Can Recognition Of Māori Law Achieve Greater National Unity? p. 202.)

A vigorous and robust case for restitution and a salutary read.


Theresa Gattung on ‘the glass ceiling’:

‘We have evolved; but our ideas of gender have not evolved very much…’

(11. Why Are Women Still Waiting 100 Years On?  P. 226.)

Jarrod Gilbert:

‘When prisoners are faceless, it’s easy to turn the screws.’

(12. Do We Need More Prisons? P. 246.)

Patrick Reynolds on future city living:

‘… one form of mobility that’s making a huge comeback is proximity: …’

(13. Is This The Future For Our City Streets? p. 255.)

and lastly Dame Anne Salmond writes wisely and warmly on perhaps what is the most important endeavour of all – what it is to live well and kindly, within our world.

‘…We need ways of thinking in which the planet is our guardian, at least as much as the other way around, and in which people are seen as part of natural ecosystems.’

(14. Can We Learn To Live With Our World? p. 291.)


Each and every essay earns its place, and one may feel a little less ignorant and a little more informed on reading them. I’m glad to have done so.

Sile J Mannion is a published poet. She comments: ‘I’m an Irish writer transplanted to Christchurch. When I can, I write and when I can’t, I read.’


[i] Writers are: Dame Anne Salmond, Judge Andrew Becroft; Rod Oram; Jacinta Ruru; Felicity Goodyear-Smith; Tim Watkin; Patrick Reynolds; Jarrod Gilbert; Stuart McNaughton; David Brougham, Jarrod Haar & Yumiko Olliver-Gray; Golriz Ghahraman; Theresa Gattung; Peter O’Connor; and Leonie Freeman.