From 11 June to 15 June Wendy was part of a panel of futurists on the TVNZ show What Next? hosted by John Campbell and Nigel Latta. The show included live viewer voting on key questions and issues, with results displayed in real time and post-show interviews streamed on Facebook Live. The other panelists were Derek Handley, Shay Wright, Sacha McMeeking, Frances Valintine. Professor Shaun Hendy joined the panel as an after-show guest. All episodes and Facebook streams of the show are available to watch on the TVNZ website. The voting results from each episode are available on the TVNZ website or in the SlideShare embedded below. 

The show garnered a lot of coverage over its airing time and has been called the most ambitious television project in New Zealand – see Spinoff editor Duncan Greive’s review here.

The show was split over five nights, with each episode examining a different aspect of the possible futures of New Zealand. The first episode explored the future of technology, with Wendy encouraging viewers to embrace change, enjoy the creativity and engage early. The second episode looked at the future of the environment, consumer influence emerging as a key theme in discussions. Wendy recommended that the government undertake public research into the value of our clean green image as something that New Zealand can build on as a shared goal across corporations, small businesses, NGOs, government and communities. The third episode focused on the economy and Wendy shared her vision for an innovative, aligned, healthy and vibrant ecosystem. For the fourth episode Wendy brought optimism to the conversation about the future of lifestyles in New Zealand, asserting that we have the capability to deal with these changes in population: we will have more people but we will also have more technology and more information. In the final episode, tying together the discussions of the previous nights, Wendy talked about the importance of democracy in sharing voices and connections between people and the environment. Her three points of greatest leverage for the future were changing the voting age to 16, extending electoral terms to four years, and building corridors between our national parks as a way of fostering in appreciation of the environment, especially among young people. For example, she recommends making the Pelorus Sound (in the Marlborough Sounds) a national park and then working on ways to connect Pelorus with the existing Abel Tasman and Nelson Lakes national parks. These would be investments in New Zealand’s long-term future. Wendy also recently shared her vision of 2037 for a NZ Herald article:

The one thing I would like to see is a culture that leaves no young person behind. 

This means we must equip all our young people to embrace diversity, adapt to technological change, scrutinise information, test beliefs and have empathy for those that have different beliefs or fewer opportunities. We need to support and guide our young people to be informed and engaged citizens. Using the car as an analogy, we need to move our 18 to 25 year olds out of the back seat and into the passenger seat, and then allow them to put their hands on the steering wheel.

We need move away from individual happiness as our primary goal to goals of character: to live a purposeful life as part of a community. 

This will in turn require our institutions to lead by example, treating all individuals and our environment with respect, providing effective engagement processes, providing information that can be trusted, acknowledging that not all information is complete or certain. Trust is something our institutions will need to work hard to maintain. We need young New Zealanders to trust our system of government or have the confidence to reshape it for their purposes. Democracy should evolve and institutions should be responsive to changes in technology and the needs and wants of the people. 

I imagine New Zealand becoming an ecosystem where all New Zealanders, living in New Zealand or overseas, work together or separately, towards a sustainable and durable future. Our biggest threat is being complacent and our biggest opportunity is being an example to the world. 

Next steps
More of Wendy’s thoughts about the implications of the show will be included in an upcoming think piece with the working title Think Piece 27 – Lessons from ‘What Next?’. The think piece will respond to the voting results from each episode available in the SlideShare embedded above. If you would like to share some of your own thoughts to feed into the think piece, please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing You can also follow What Next? on Twitter or Facebook to continue the conversation. 

Wendy would like to thank Nigel Latta and the team at Ruckus, John Campbell, and the panellists – this was a great opportunity to start an important conversation about the long-term future.