Public housing

Opinion: Public housing, electric rail and “natural” infrastructure – an optimistic vision for the future of Aotearoa in New Zealand


Energy goes green

Electricity production has doubled, with a mix of wind, solar and geothermal energy. There are many other energy storage facilities including pumped hydropower. Distributed energy is commonplace. Many councils have helped their communities set up local solar systems, and dozens of cities are completely independent from the national grid.

Green hydrogen is produced at the converted aluminum smelter at Tiwai Point using hydroelectricity. This is used in heavy industry and transportation and exported from Southport.

In 2027, after New Zealand exploded its first carbon budget, the government replaced the MBIE with a new Ministry of Economic Transition. The ministry oversaw the transition to green jobs through a universal job guarantee system.

It has also supported a dramatic reduction in energy consumption in all sectors of society and the economy. This effort had a greater impact on reducing emissions than replacing energy and fuel with renewable sources.

The earth heals

In 2025, the government created a Natural Infrastructure Commission. The term “natural infrastructure” emerged in the 2020s as a term to include native forests, wetlands, coastal environments, and other ecosystems that store and cleanse water, protect against drought, floods and weathering. storms, enhance biodiversity and absorb carbon.

The Commission has supported massive land restoration for carbon sequestration and biodiversity, with an annual budget of NZ $ 5 billion from emissions revenues. Among other uses, the fund compensates landowners for land use changes that reduce emissions and build resilience.

Under the new Aotearoa Constitution adopted in 2040, ownership of the conservation area was transferred from Crown ownership to its own legal entity status.

International carbon taxes have transformed agriculture. Dairy herds have shrunk in size and New Zealand is known for its low-emission organic feed and fiber. High-quality meat and dairy products, as well as plant-based protein foods, supply international markets.

Seaweed and aquaculture operations flourished. Along with regenerative agriculture, this transition has reduced pollution and emissions. With the regeneration of native ecosystems, tōtara and harakeke can now be sustainably harvested for wood and fiber.

In urban and industrial areas, water consumption has decreased considerably. Every business, house and building stores its own water. Water use is measured and charges are levied for excess water beyond household needs. No water is ever wasted.

A better place

The country feels more stable than 20 years ago. There is hope for the future in a world full of uncertainties following the pandemic that hit the early 2020s.

Many government agencies and councils are now considered useful and relevant, having been provided with the necessary funds to provide housing, social services, environmental restoration and support for economic change and land use.

Moving away from high-emitting exports has been more successful than expected, but it took tough rules to get there. Some in the business sector have opposed more government guidelines and regulations, but it is widely accepted that relying on market forces would not have made for a successful transition.

This approach has brought the country to the brink of failure when it comes to climate, biodiversity and social cohesion. After having been a leader in the field of powdered milk and tourism, the country is now a leader in natural infrastructure and the future of food, wood and energy.

In 2040, Aotearoa is a great place to live.

Thomas Nash is a Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Massey University.

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