A bunch of can’ts holding us back

Like Boris Johnson in the UKSteven Joyce has explained in an op-ed piece about why we are struggling in New Zealand, basically because a bunch of can’ts keep stopping us:

The people who say “we want jobs” but then in the next breath say “but you can’t do that … you can’t build that there … you can’t expand that … you can’t explore for that there … you can’t live here … you can’t invest in property here – you just can’t do that!”

And very quickly we start limiting our options. Through the 2000s, as a country, we progressively boxed ourselves in more and more to depend on fewer and fewer industries based on what the “can’ts” said. At the end of it the government of the day was pretty much down to talking only about two of the ingredients – skills training and subsidising entrepreneurs that don’t use resources (the so-called clean-tech sector) – as the bits the “can’ts” were most comfortable with. The rest was off the table.

Lots of Can’ts.

The irony is a lot of the “can’t” behaviour is designed to protect a Kiwi way of life that wouldn’t be here if those who say “you can’t” had applied their rules 50 or 100 years ago.

The reality is you don’t build an economy by lopping off an arm and both legs before you start. A small country like New Zealand has to make the best of all its natural advantages to lift incomes and give more people more chances to make it while staying right here.

We therefore need to stop the endless debate about which industry will save us and focus on all industries where New Zealand has a natural advantage. That’s why the Government is implementing and further developing its 120-point action plan that will help build a stronger, more competitive economy.

That doesn’t mean you don’t take care. Big developments need to have the right environmental protections and mitigations, industry needs good health and safety law, and foreign investment should be sought where it adds value. Ensuring those safeguards are in place is a far healthier approach than just saying no.

We live in a world increasingly without borders – at least not as our grandparents knew them. People these days can base their skills, their capital and their ideas just about anywhere. They don’t have to be in New Zealand.

So when we think about the “you can’ts” we need to think about the mobility of people and money. Each time we say “you can’t” carries a cost. That doesn’t mean we should always say “yes”, but we do need to carefully weigh up the consequences of saying no.

And we should learn to stop listening to people who in the one breath chant “more jobs, more jobs” and then in the next breath say “but don’t do that, or that, or that”.

We need to encourage the development of all of our opportunities if we are to prosper.

I have long held the view that when people say “you can’t” what they really mean is they can’t.


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Pete George

    I have long held the view that when people say “you can’t” what they really mean is they can’t.

    It doesn’t always mean they can’t, it can also mean they don’t want to or can’t be bothered so “stuff you”.

  • NotLen

    I like what Joyce says.  If only his governement would implement what he is advocating.

    Then they put the damned ETS in place just to put another handbrake on our country moving forward.

    How about removing corporate welfare (Working for Families) as well.

  • Auto_immune

    Bold rhetoric from Steven Joyce, but I can’t help but feel it’s simply lip-service to those who demand “strong government” – not a statement of action.  Time will tell.

  • Nick K

    Like I explained at No Minister a couple of weeks ago regarding Auckland, it is now “New Zealand, a country of can’ts.”

  • Adsup

    Well Joyceee stop moaning and whining like a big girl like you have for the last wasted three years and get on with it. 90% of us want a bit of mining and drilling but you folded after a bit of angst from a b grade tv star. Back yourself and get on with it.

  • The attitude holding New Zealand back is illustrated perfectly in the Boris Johnson piece. You see it in sharper relief when in contact with other cultures. 
    Re industry drivers:You are never going to get away from Farming. It really is the backbone of the country, we have diverged into tech, which is great; we have a solid future in luxury goods, education and digging that gosh darn oil up. Go Joyce. From someone still grieving over the loss of the cans:http://nowoccupy.blogspot.com/2012/02/thoughts-on-actual-day-from-expat.htmlI rection we need to become a republic to return to a nation of Cans

  • Alex

    Now that is good writing.  So too is Boris Johnson’s piece. 

    But it frustrates me that the centre right have not been A-R-T-I-C-U-L-A-T-I-N-G this stuff earlier and loudly and clear.  

    We are swimming in an ocean of Leftist b/s, happily broadcasted by the media.  The Leftist are good at “controlling the message”.  The Occupy’s movement’s  99% and 1% motto is a great example of that (utter crap I know but it is powerful due to being instantly catchy and memorable).

    Too often the right wing lurches into angry grumpy rhetoric that just puts people off, particularly women and young people. 

    We need to be put our message across in punchy powerful prose that is aspirational and rallies people to action. 

    Go watch Thatcher or Regan at their prime to see how it’s done.  Or more recently Chris Christie. 

    And, of course, I hope Joyces’ words translates into tangible action.  


    Looking at the groups of people(unions,maoris,protesters,etc) causing all the shit lately.Guess a bunch of cants are holding us back,or is that c-nts,Same result me thinks.