New Zealand in 2050

New Zealand in 2050

Have you ever thought what New Zealand would be like in the year 2050, twenty-eight years from now?

I can hear you say, “Not interested.” “Doesn’t worry me.” “I probably won’t be around then.” But aren’t you just a little curious?

I wonder what it will be like for our grown-up children and our grandchildren, because they will have to cope with a world quite different from the one we have now. What have we been creating for them?

Things are changing so fast these days. Only twenty-eight years ago, in the early 1990s, we hadn’t even thought of cell phones. There was no internet, digital cameras or Facebook. And who thought cheques would disappear, or that men and women could marry other men or women?

My new book, New Zealand 2050, investigates what New Zealand society will be like in another twenty-eight years. My thoughts and research are based on present trends, but they also touch on a number of variables that may distort those trends. What will happen to us, for example, if there’s a World War 3, a nuclear holocaust or if we can’t stop the ill effects of climate change?

If we keep moving forward from where we are now, however, what sort of society will we create? What values will we hold? How will we live? Will we indeed live in a sustainable society?

One thing is clear. Kiwis will become more and more dependent on the world around them, because new technologies will ensure countries are more interconnected.

By 2050 our population will have increased by over one million which will put more pressure on housing, the use of land, and infrastructures – and it will be very multicultural. For example, by 2050, people of European descent will be outnumbered by other ethnicities, and Asians will predominate. There will be increasing pressure to absorb more and more refugees.

The traditional values we held so dear after World War 2 will be replaced by a greater emphasis on individualism and an emphasis on one’s rights. This is already happening.

Despite the Government’s attempts to reduce poverty, the rich-poor gap will increase, because of our failure to deal with the real causes of poverty.

Robots and sensors of all kinds will revolutionise households and businesses. Even today my new Mazda can do things I never dreamed about for my old VW. It talks to me and beeps at me all the time, warning me of surrounding dangers.

Wearable devices will enable us to monitor our own health at home, with our doctor treating us from a distance. New treatments and medicines will be found for key ailments and diseases. I have no doubt there will be a cure for most cancers by 2050.

Education will be more personalized with programs customized to individual student needs and interests. This will involve not only distance learning but revamped campuses complete with ‘learning lounges’ and coffee machines.

Not everything in our future will be rosy and positive. There are some worrying trends. For example, Orwell’s ‘big brother’ might well control our lives, through political correctness and the increasing use of surveillance techniques.  Privacy will be no more.

Our precious democratic way of life might be challenged. Indeed, even now some experts are speaking of a crisis in democracy as we watch a world trend towards autocracy. On the other hand, with visionary leadership, we could find ourselves with a more direct democracy, voting on key decisions by pressing buttons on our laptops.

No doubt we will be co-governed by both Maori and tauiwi (foreigners). However, I foresee some tension as other ethnic groups play greater roles in government.

New Zealand 2050 also explores the future of farming, communication, crime and punishment – police will carry guns ‒ and religion. The present trend towards a more secular society seems destined to grow. Those who call themselves Christian will number only a quarter of the population by 2050, and Hinduism and Islam will increase. Most of the population (70%) however, will be non-religious, or develop their own spiritualities.

There will be no petrol in 2050 but maybe hydrogen and plant fuel. Most cars will be electric anyway. New plant-based foods and synthetic milk will be common. Cash will have disappeared.

Cities will be more enjoyable and pleasant to live in – pollution free, serviced by rapid transit, driverless buses and flying cars, with plenty of walkways and cycleways. Yes, flying cars. They’re already being tested overseas.

New Zealanders of the future, or will they be Aotearoans, will have a physically comfortable existence but will they be more caring? How will the ‘Kiwi’ be identified? The good, keen bloke or girl from down on the farm will have morphed into something quite different.

We may or may not like where we are headed but, whatever our age or status, we collectively need to think about, and discuss, what is needed to ensure our future society is an improvement on this one.

Everyone can do something today our future selves will thank us for.


Article by George Bryant

New Zealand 2050 will be available from bookshops or directly from George:   $26.95 plus postage.