Let's measure what matters

Governments tend to measure the ‘health’ of their country by their economic growth through GDP (gross domestic product).

GDP is the market value of the final goods and services we produce, minus the costs to make/export them, and after deducting what we’ve spent on imports from other countries — all in a specific time period.

New Zealand is considered to be a highly developed free market economy with a large GDP for our small population. In other words, wealthy, in comparison to many other countries.

While it is true that a higher GDP tends to be associated with longer lives and better health for a country’s citizens, it doesn’t mean that everyone is better off.

Under the last National Government, led by Bill English, we talked about taking a ‘social investment approach’ to focus on well-being, rather than only using GDP.

We weren’t able to take the conversation any further, after 2017’s election result, but governments and organisations around the world are trying out new ways of measuring well-being.

Our Treasury has a Living Standards Framework, the UK has WELLBYs, the UN has Sustainable Development Goals.

All these things reflect a growing understanding that it is more than dollars that count. 

I’ve recently launched a well-being survey in Te Kuiti, asking residents how they are, and a series of questions used to identify barriers and enablers to achieving a good life.

The Huber framework I am using understands ‘well-being’ to be the ability to a live a life of value, in this way it lasts longer than fleeting feelings of happiness and is entirely subjective.

Because this isn’t the usual way MPs survey their communities, I’m starting with Te Kuiti as a pilot. If it works well, I’ll be interested in surveying a larger area of my electorate.

We can all see things like housing, mental health and access to transport are major concerns.

But how these needs inter-relate with one another, and good data to back up what people see on the ground, is valuable for decision- makers.

If enough people complete the anonymous survey, it should reveal trends and gaps in services, along with highlighting what is working well.

I will be sharing the aggregated data and a report, with the Waitomo District Council as well as other local services, because it makes sense for us to work together.

It is thanks to many in the community who were part of conversations about what to include in the survey that I have got this far. I will also make the information publicly available.

Measuring things that matter, rather than assuming a growing GDP means we are all doing well, is what this survey is all about.

Taking part ensures that you are represented.

To do so, go here — www.barbarakuriger.national.org.nz/tekuiti