New Zealand News

Sign WEAll Aotearoa’s open letter

Published on September 19, 2023

Please visit our special open letter website to add your name and see organisations who have added their support.


Open letter text

We write this open letter as a diverse group of organisations and individuals united in our belief that Aotearoa New Zealand has exciting opportunities for designing economic policies that invest in the public good to promote greater wellbeing for people and nature. Where we step away from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as our measure of success and instead look around us, to our mokopuna and the whenua.

There is a decent basis to build from – in Aotearoa we see the enterprise of communities, Iwi, workers and businesses that are ensuring prosperity within planetary boundaries. We want to support and strengthen these sorts of enterprises and enable more communities to live fulfilling lives connected to nature.

However we hear the cries of people and nature in distress. Despite rising levels of GDP people are caught in cycles of poverty and despair, unable to find warm and safe housing or to buy sufficient food for the whole family. Nature is groaning under the weight of human exploitation and wasteful behaviour.

We hear the voices of future generations asking us to be good ancestors. We hear the urgency of our responsibility to address the climate crisis, so that we don’t pass on climate debt, but instead pass on fair opportunities for our grandchildren to create good lives.

We know that our economy is a product of decisions and design. Our elected representatives have the power to redesign our economic systems and policies to meet our aspirations for people and nature. We therefore endorse five principles of a wellbeing economy:

  • Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety, and happiness.

  • Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life.

  • Purpose: Institutions serve the common good and create real value.

  • Fairness: Justice is at the heart of the economy.

  • Participation: Citizens are actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies.

In this election year, let us listen carefully to how Aotearoa New Zealand can design economic policies to eliminate poverty, reduce inequality, support workers, see justice and fairness, restore nature, and increase connection and social cohesion. Let us refer to these long-term, critically important goals as our ‘bread and butter issues’.

Let us this year draw inspiration from our history. Te Tiriti o Waitangi is our foundational document empowering movements of decolonisation, social justice and environmental care. New Zealand led the world when women won the right to vote and workers accepted a levy to fund social security.

More recently, New Zealand has been a leader in the Pacific for a nuclear-free future. We have been at the forefront of implementing new measures to monitor living standards and trialling new policies based on Social Investment and Wellbeing Budgets.

We can build on our history, and so we ask political leaders in this election year to commit to practical ideas such as the following six ideas.

1. Listen to and follow Indigenous wisdom

Placing Te Tiriti o Waitangi at the heart of decision-making, and creating space for mātauranga Māori, can help all people in Aotearoa New Zealand create good lives in a flourishing natural world. The five principles of the He Ara Waiora wellbeing framework – Kotahitanga, Whanaungatanga, Manaakitanga, Tikanga and Tiakitanga – set out how systems can support individuals, families, whānau and communities enhance mauri ora and wellbeing.

2. Embed and strengthen a wellbeing approach within government that encourages long-term thinking

Aotearoa New Zealand has taken important steps in moving beyond a short-term focus on GDP, but much more needs to be done urgently to ensure all decisions made by central and local Government prioritise the wellbeing of people and nature. We could follow the example of Wales and pass a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, enshrining in law our shared aspirations to be good ancestors and creating a public body that directs all of Government to think long-term.

3. Use tax and budgets to build a meaningful wellbeing economy

Aotearoa New Zealand could do more to prevent problems such as poverty and homelessness before they occur. Our current tax system leads to greater inequality, locks in disadvantage and funds low-quality infrastructure. A crucial way to create a healthy future is to rebalance our tax system including supporting the seriously wealthy to contribute more to our collective wellbeing.

4. Empower citizens and communities

New Zealand citizens are disconnected and distant by design from important decisions impacting on their lives, which contributes to declining trust and social cohesion. We encourage decision makers to refresh our democratic institutions and develop policies that encourage and fund meaningful and deep citizen engagement (through citizen assemblies and participatory budgeting, for example) to make better decisions through the collective wisdom of our citizens. New Zealand’s government can devolve more funding for councils and local communities who know their needs best.

5. Prosperous businesses in a thriving Aotearoa

The business sector is a core foundation of community health and wellbeing. Purposeful and democratic business practices within a circular and regenerative economy, including small family businesses, cooperatives and social enterprises, can create opportunities for people to live fulfilling lives, and can ensure the environment is healthy. Supporting all businesses to have a stated purpose and climate impact disclosures will contribute to a thriving, prosperous Aotearoa.

6. An economy connected to nature

We can protect the places we love and ensure a good life for everyone, today and into the future, by building an economy that works with and for nature. New Zealand is currently living well beyond its share of planetary boundaries. We can use circular design principles and enshrine the rights of nature in law, like we did with the Whanganui River. Through policies such as a Ministry of Green Works, a new Natural Environment Act and driving a decarbonized economy, we can kick-start a just transition.

These should be the focus of every new and returning elected representative elected in October. Let us choose the right track when designing our economy. Let us ensure, with good and ambitious decision making, wellbeing for people and nature. Let us collectively act to be good ancestors for the generations that will come after us.


To sign this letter visit

Want to join
the discussion?
Let us know what
you would like
to write about!