|Formation||April 1, 2012|
|Legal status||New Zealand limited company|
The New Zealand Initiative is a libertarian public policy think tank and business membership organisation. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, this think tank was formed in 2012 from the merger of the New Zealand Business Roundtable (NZBR) and the New Zealand Institute. The Initiative acts as a conduit between the different levels of government, the business sector, and the people of New Zealand. The Initiative’s main areas of focus include economic policy, housing, education, local government, welfare, immigration and fisheries.
Economist Dr Oliver Hartwich is the executive director of The Initiative.
The New Zealand Initiative's predecessor organisations were both business membership organisations. The Wellington-based NZBR, founded by Roger Kerr in 1986, was among the main proponents of New Zealand's liberal economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. To that end, NZBR produced a wide range of publications (books, reports, submissions) and undertook other activities that informed and influenced public debate.
The New Zealand Institute was established in Auckland In 2004. Like the NZBR, the New Zealand Institute was a business membership organisation that operated as a think tank, albeit with a more centrist political tilt. Some members of the NZBR moved their support to the New Zealand Institute.
By 2011, according to New Zealand Institute chairman Tony Carter, both organisations lacked scale. Carter approached NZBR chairman Roger Partridge to merge the two organisations. The New Zealand Initiative was launched in April 2012 and Dr Hartwich was appointed its first executive director.
The New Zealand Initiative is based in Wellington. It is a New Zealand Limited Company, governed by a Board of Directors under a constitution. It is one of the three biggest think tanks in New Zealand, the other two being the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) and Business and Economic Research (BERL).
The membership of The New Zealand Initiative comprises about 70 members, mainly large New Zealand companies. According to the Initiative’s Annual Report 2016, the combined revenue of its members equals a quarter of the New Zealand economy.
On its website, The New Zealand Initiative says its mission is "to help create a competitive, open and dynamic economy and a free, prosperous, fair, and cohesive society" and describes itself as "strictly non-partisan." It takes a more free-market perspective than the NZIER or BERL.
Apart from its research activities, the New Zealand Initiative hosts a range of events. These include public forums, panel discussions, an annual debating tournament for university students, as well as events for its members. In May 2017, The Initiative organised a study tour of Switzerland for more than 30 senior New Zealand business leaders.
Among the speakers hosted by The New Zealand Initiative so far are New Zealand Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English, Leaders of the Labour Party David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, former British Trade Secretary Peter Lilley as well as members of all parties represented in the New Zealand Parliament.
The New Zealand Initiative names as its research areas:
- Economic policy
- Government & politics
- Local government & resource management
- Social policy
- Fisheries management
In April 2017, The New Zealand Initiative released an overview of its research findings and policy recommendations from its first five years titled Manifesto 2017: What the next New Zealand Government Should Do.
Policy positions and public reception
Education: The New Zealand Initiative has called for the performance measurement and management of teachers in New Zealand schools, a proposal that was cautiously welcomed by education minister Nikki Kaye and rejected by the teachers' union PPTA. In an earlier report, the Initiative had criticised the New Zealand government for introducing new teaching methods in mathematics that led to worsening numeracy of students.
Housing and Local Government: According to business columnist Pattrick Smellie, The New Zealand Initiative's main contribution to the housing debate was to point out the various factors that were limiting housing supply: Along with high immigration, a sub-scale building industry, and dysfunctional planning law, the incentives for local councils to discourage rather than compete for new citizens is a big part of why Auckland's housing crisis exists. The NZ Initiative has been pointing out these growth-limiting settings almost since its creation as an amalgamation of the Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute five years ago.
In November 2015, the Initiative's director Oliver Hartwich and the Labour Party's housing spokesperson Phil Twyford published a joint opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald advocating the abolition of height and density controls, infrastructure bonds, and an end to the rural-urban boundary. Their article was interpreted as a shift from traditional Labour positions on land-use planning and regarded by international commentators as a sign of a new emerging consensus on housing policy.
The New Zealand Initiative's proposal to establish Special Economic Zones across New Zealand was supported by Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and Malcolm Alexander, chief executive of Local Government New Zealand. Government papers released under the Official Information Act revealed that cabinet ministers were considering the Initiative's proposals.
In a 2013 Initiative report, co-authored by former cabinet minister Michael Bassett, the Initiative proposed funding residential infrastructure through targeted rates in special purpose vehicles. The New Zealand government introduced such a scheme in July 2017 when it charged Crown Infrastructure Partners with this task.
Foreign Direct Investment: The New Zealand Initiative promotes the deregulation of New Zealand's restrictions on overseas investors, a position which attracted fierce criticism from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
Fisheries management: Based on comparative research, the Initiative proposed to establish a new agency to represent recreational fishing interests, modelled on the Western Australian body Recfishwest. The proposal was rejected by fishing advocacy group LegaSea.
Immigration: In its immigration report, the New Zealand Initiative has defended New Zealand's liberal immigration policy, arguing that migrants contribute positively to the economy and integrate well into New Zealand's society. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters rejected the Initiative's findings as "academic gobbledygook" and attacked the Initiative for being a thinktank run by foreigners. The Labour Party's Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway meanwhile welcomed the report while criticising its alleged ignorance of migrants' infrastructure needs.
Social Policy: The Initiative supported the Key/English government's 'Social Investment Approach,' including the introduction of Social Impact Bonds. It has also argued that concerns about the recent rise of economic inequality were driven by rising house prices while income inequality in New Zealand had remained constant since the 1990s.
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- "Back-to-basics call on maths". NZ Herald. 2015-06-03. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
- "Why councils want to keep a lid on their population growth - Pattrick Smellie". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
- Twyford, Phil (2015-11-29). "Opinion: Planning rules the cause of housing crisis". NZ Herald. ISSN��1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- "Phil Twyford and his surprising enthusiasm for the private sector". Politik | New Zealand politics, inside news and analysis. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- "Land Regulation Making Us Poorer: Emerging Left-Right Consensus | Newgeography.com". www.newgeography.com. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
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- "Take a hint from Texas, report says". Taranaki Property Investors' Association. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
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- "Outdoor issues need to be discussed inside the house". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
- "Licencing a smokescreen for real agenda". LegaSea. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
- "Migrants' benefits to NZ outweigh costs - report". Radio New Zealand. 2017-01-30. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- @LincolnTanNZH, Lincoln Tan Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter lincoln tan@nzherald co nz (2017-01-31). "Do migrants dilute the New Zealand identity?". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- "Immigration report 'nonsensical': Winston Peters". Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- "Q+A: Winston Peters interviewed by Corin Dann | Scoop News". www.scoop.co.nz. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- "Immigration Report Glosses Over Big Issues". New Zealand Labour Party. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- Jeram, Jenesa (2017-05-22). "Jenesa Jeram: Data can tell us when 'social investment' is worthwhile". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
- "Insight: Social Bonds - Funding innovation or risky experiment?". Radio New Zealand. 2016-04-28. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
- "NZ POLITICS DAILY: Anger and debate over inequality". The National Business Review. 2016-10-31. Retrieved 2017-09-21.