Blue hive thinking

In November 2023, Gavin Myers, Magazine Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersNovember 2, 2023

New Zealand has said farewell to Labour with a (yellowed) wave of blue – though by the time you read this, there may be a black tint in the mix. The country, frustrated by an era of red tape (no pun intended), popularism, ideology, less-than-favourable economic conditions and higher living costs, has opted for change.

I’ve always thought it could make sense for countries to be run like companies – the successful ones. It wouldn’t be uncommon for everyone at every level of a modern-day business to have some degree of suggestion in what the company does or maybe how it does it (blue-sky thinking and all that). But the ship will always be steered by one or two individuals with a vision of what the company stands for, a goal to achieve, and through it all a desire to make it as financially profitable and sustainable as possible. If they get this right, supported by a dedicated team, they may create something of a legacy in their wake.

Given his previous business career, including 18 years with multinational Unilever and seven years at the helm of Air New Zealand, Christopher Luxon would understand this idea and the mechanics behind it. In the company/country analogy, the common denominator is the bottom line: financial profitability for a company and economic prosperity for the country. It might make sense that an astute businessperson can create that in the seat of government. And maybe, in some distant world, it is as simple as that.

However, there are obvious differences between Parliament and the boardroom – companies and countries are different beasts with different challenges. There’s no opposition in the boardroom for one, and while Luxon would have been accountable to the shareholders of Unilever and Air New Zealand, he’s now accountable to the Team of Five Million.

And that must be a whole different type of pressure. National’s campaign was largely built on the failings that the outgoing Labour government served up on a silver platter. Now Luxon and Co need to make good on their promises to right the ship.

Many of National’s campaign promises would directly affect the transport industry, including tax changes, amendments to the conditions governing the labour market and driving investment in roading infrastructure. While the government will have to hit the ground running to make good on as many of its goals as possible, it’s early days yet. No doubt, the pool of topics to fill editorial space will only grow as the wheels start turning in the months ahead.

For now, though, I hope my theory is right. If Luxon (supported by his coalition partners) can successfully translate his years in the CEO’s office to his term in the Beehive – and stand for a good vision, achieve some important goals and sustainably improve the economic prosperity of the country and its people – his legacy in three or six years may well be greater than the one his blue bus has just overtaken.