This website began hosting a series of Briefing Papers from early in 2014. The papers are focussed on assessing the state of the country as the basis for public discussion and debate. A group of writers has been assembled to write short briefing papers based on extensive research programmes and presented in a form that can be easily understood by the public at large.

The Briefing papers are aimed at providing the public with an overview of critical issues facing New Zealand society in the 21st century. The goal is to promote informed discussion and debate, so crucial to economic and social development, with the central question being:

how is the public

interest being served?

The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government. It is a key factor in assessing jobs and the cost of living, educational opportunities, housing options and the way in which the policy makers of today are protecting the interests of future generations.

In order to address these questions, the Briefing Papers are designed to examine the underlying assumptions on which policy options are based and what interests, public or private, are being served. As Herbert Gans once suggested, this means both understanding and assessing, who benefits?


The Papers

Will tertiary fee changes in Australia increase Trans-Tasman study?

Pii-Tuulia Nikula

Tertiary fees in New Zealand versus Australia: Fees Are Important, but not as Important as Financing In Australia, the Education Minister Dan Tehan has proposed an overhaul of the existing higher education funding system to offer 39,000 additional study places by 2023 and 100,000 by 2030. The proposal has been

Circling vultures: Why MediaWorks TV is really in trouble

Peter Thompson

MediaWorks announced in October 2019 that it intended to sell off its struggling television business and cancel or cut back on several popular local programmes, including New Zealand Today, Married at First Sight New Zealand and 7 Days. Its radio and outdoor advertising arms are currently performing well, but MediaWorks’

Why isn’t it one person, one vote? Abolish the ratepayer roll

Julienne Molineaux

The principle of one person, one vote doesn’t apply for local elections. In fact, you don’t even need to be a person to have voting rights. Welcome to the ratepayer roll. While the ratepayer roll accounts for less than 1% of votes cast, it is significant because it is in

Budget 2019: How do we know transformation when we see it?

David Hall

  NZ has dethroned GDP as a measure of success, but will Ardern’s government be transformational? When you’re in politics, words are a high-stakes game. Voters and journalists hold you to them and there is a risk in using words that are hard to live up to. This is particularly

Not the transformation we were promised

Amanda Reid & Ganesh Nana

The Wellbeing Budget opens with, “What is wellbeing?”, a question that has been widely posed and little understood. Treasury says “Wellbeing is when people are able to lead fulfilling lives with purpose, balance and meaning to them.” Long-term challenges facing Aotearoa New Zealand include child poverty, mental health, domestic violence,

Behind the scenes at Te Papa

Lionel Carter & Mike Rudge

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, has been in the news over the past year for its proposals to restructure the number and roles of staff managing its collections. Scientists, both local and overseas, voiced their opposition, and one specialist demanded that his name be removed from one

Dumbing down polytechnics

David Cooke

The Coalition Government is reshaping vocational education in New Zealand, under the banner of a proposed New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology. Presentations by the Minister and the Tertiary Education Commission focus on major points like the following: meeting the needs of business and industry preparing graduates to be

Online voting FAQ

Julienne Molineaux

The trial of online voting for the October 2019 local government elections was called off last December, for cost reasons. The online voting working party, which had been organising the trial, is now calling on central government to fund online voting for the 2022 local government elections. The Local Electoral

Local government role and autonomy

David Shand

This paper is prompted by To enshrine and define local government once and for all, a Briefing Paper by Christine Rose, which presents a useful analysis of central-local government responsibilities. Localism – empowering local government and communities to make more of the decisions currently made by central government – is

The Future of Archives New Zealand and the National Library of New Zealand

Don Gilling

The National Archival and Library Institutions Ministerial Group (NALI) is beginning to reveal some of its thinking about the future of Archives New Zealand and the National Library of New Zealand. In an email released just before Christmas the two Ministers in charge of the NALI Review process said amongst

A day at Waitangi, and at the beach

Keri Mills

The Prime Minister says she hopes every New Zealander, at least once in their lifetimes, gets a chance to go to Waitangi for Waitangi Day. Firstly, because it’s a special place to be, and secondly so they can see how it differs from “what you might see from time to

At last – A fundamental shift in social policy

Ian Shirley

The child wellbeing strategy represents the most significant shift in social policy in over four decades because of its focus on children as a population group and its emphasis on addressing structural issues in promoting economic and social wellbeing. This shifts from the four decades long treatment of children as

Strengthening local voices

Jean Drage

Local government is an essential part of New Zealand’s democracy, providing local infrastructure and leadership, facilitating economic and community development along with strategic and financial planning and decision-making (in consultation with communities) on current and future key issues. Today, our local councils deal with critical issues such as protecting our

To enshrine and define local government once and for all

Christine Rose

New Zealand has one of the most centralised political systems in the OECD. Functions and finance are concentrated in the highest level of the two-tier state system, central government, with local government roles allocated at the discretion of legislation determined by central government ideologies, perceptions and preferences. Because local government’s

The Need to Diversify New Zealand’s War Narratives

Richard Jackson

On 11 November 2018, many thousands in countries all around the world stopped to commemorate the end of World War I. In New Zealand, as elsewhere, the date marked the end of a four-year long series of national remembrance activities designed to acknowledge the war’s centenary and its lasting legacy

The costs of choice in the New Zealand history curriculum

Rachel Rafferty

History is not just an account of past events, but an interpretation. Which historical events are taught in schools, and how they are presented, communicates an important message to pupils about national identity. Currently, in New Zealand, these important decisions are left in the hands of individual educators. The 2010

Te Pūtake o Te Riri

Arini Loader

The ‘two-worlds’ analogy retains its stubborn hold. Two worlds mapped onto Niu Tireni, sharing space, differently placed. You say Raowmati, I say Raumati; You say Oohtackie, I say Ōtaki. Or as poet Robert Sullivan put it: You say Treaty and I say Tiriti, You say justice and I say hegemony,

The New Zealand Wars and the School Curriculum

Joanna Kidman and Vincent O'Malley

The New Zealand Wars (1845-72) had a decisive influence over the course of the nation’s history. Yet Pākehā have not always cared to remember them in anything approaching a robust manner, engaging at different times either in elaborate myth-making that painted the wars as chivalrous and noble or, when that

New narratives for discussing child poverty in New Zealand

Jess Berenston-Shaw

There is great enthusiasm these days for using research and science to inform policy across the political spectrum. However, this has not always translated into how we talk about the solutions that are most likely to influence key policy actors. I have written a new report, Telling a new story

Doctoral theses in Māori: Advice for universities

Georgina Stewart

Introduction – writing in te reo Māori at university Standard university policies in Aotearoa-New Zealand allow for any essay or dissertation to be submitted in te reo Māori as an official language, given suitable assessment arrangements are made. Alongside other equity developments in tertiary education for Māori, such as university

Google, Facebook and New Zealand news media

Merja Myllylahti

New Zealand media argue that Facebook and Google have become too dominant in the New Zealand digital media market, harming the sustainability of newsrooms, and hindering the quality and diversity of local journalism. The Commerce Commission and the High Court, meanwhile, have refused to let media companies Fairfax NZ and

Free speech and responsibilities

David Hall

Every morning, on the way to work, I pass Speakers’ Corner, near the eastern entrance to Albert Park. It offers a public platform for people to speak freely. It also has a sign with a code of conduct: “Show courtesy to others. Respect alternative opinions. Be lawful.” And so on.

The Moriori myth and why it’s still with us

Keri Mills

Firstly, the myth. You’ve heard it before. There were a pre-Māori people in New Zealand, called the Moriori. When Māori arrived in the country they set about obliterating these peaceful Moriori inhabitants until not a single Moriori remained alive. This story is completely wrong. But it is astonishingly pervasive. You

Overcoming the pest plant threat

Len Gillman

Biodiversity under threat from exotic plants Biodiversity is defined as the genetic diversity within species, the diversity among species and among ecosystems. Ecosystem diversity means much more than just a count of species; it reflects the importance of the unique nature of species assemblages in different parts of the world.

A choice of master

Paul G. Buchanan

Two decades ago New Zealand uncoupled the security and trade strands in its foreign policy. The decision stemmed from the removal of New Zealand’s preferential trade status with the UK in the early 1970s and the fallout to the embrace of a non-nuclear status in 1985, which led to the

The 2018 budget: Politics & economics

Geoff Bertram

The first feature of the 2018 Budget is the allocation of $100 million to the America’s Cup.  The politics of this are not hard to understand, but the myth of prioritising within an economically-binding fiscal constraint is exploded. Explicitly prioritising the America’s Cup above mental health and Maori development leaves

Accounting for the government

Brian Easton

The 1989 Public Finance Act adopted a new approach to the presentation of the government’s accounts. Its purpose was to enhance the government’s management of financial flows by combining them all into a single set of accounts. But as so typically happens, a measurement system for one purpose is used

Is the government Austerian?

Brian Easton

The neologism ‘Austerian’ is a portmanteau of ‘austerity’ and ‘Austrian’ (School of Economics). It became extensively used after the Global Financial Crisis. It describes the policies of those countries which had to restrain public and private spending because lenders were unwilling to provide the funds for their budget deficits. Their

War remembrance: Acting out or working through?

Nicholas Haig

The way we go about remembering the past matters. Trump’s pledge to “Make America Great Again,” and the pro-Brexit visions of Imperial Britain are urgent reminders that our narratives about the past can have a strong effect on the present. The convulsions currently sweeping the globe are rooted in economic

What is the new Crown-Māori Relations portfolio?

Keri Mills

Not sure what the new Crown-Māori Relations portfolio is all about? Don’t worry – neither is the Minister. This may well be a good thing. Kelvin Davis has pledged to listen rather than charging ahead with a government-knows-best strategy for “fixing” race relations – a method that hasn’t worked in

Where modern macroeconomics is going wrong

Brian Easton

There is a slowly but steadily accumulating body of criticism of the dominant economic paradigm which constitutes today’s conventional wisdom. A recent Oxford Review of Economic Policy devoted an entire issue to critiquing ‘Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium’ (DSGE) models, a workhorse of econometric forecasting based on much of the current

Design for well-being

Gayle Souter-Brown

The issue It is widely accepted that prevention is more cost efficient than treatment of disease, crime, and climate change. Recent increased urbanisation and urban densification, coupled with corporate agriculture and horticulture, have changed the environment. Concurrently, digital lifestyles have disconnected people from nature. Stress levels are rising. The housing

From Universal Basic Income to Public Equity Dividends

Keith Rankin

In 1991 I wrote advocating ‘a universal tax credit available to every adult – the Universal Basic Income (UBI) – and a moderately high flat tax rate’. In 1996 I started to develop these ideas into a “social accounting framework”. It was only after my 1996 presentation – in Vienna,

Food for Thought – Free of charge school lunches

Pii-Tuulia Nikula

Few would disagree with the contention that all children deserve healthy, nutritious meals before, during, and after their school days, yet there is plenty of evidence showing how food insecurity and malnourishment are prevalent issues among many New Zealand school children. However, there is less consensus on whether the government

Saving local democracy: An agenda for the new government

Mike Reid

Local government is inhibited and enabled by central government legislation, policies, and relationships. As such, the election of a new (central) government is a good time to review policy settings for local government. The previous government (2008-2017) systematically stripped back local government in New Zealand, reducing local democracy and treating

Who owns the wai?

Keri Mills

Our political parties emphatically disagree on who owns freshwater in New Zealand. The National Party maintain no one owns the water. The Labour and New Zealand First parties say everyone owns it. The Māori, Green and Opportunities parties all emphasise that there are outstanding Māori rights in freshwater that need

Rebooting biculturalism in Aotearoa-New Zealand

Georgina Stewart

The idea of biculturalism gets a lot of airtime in Aotearoa-New Zealand, but it hardly seems popular. Some argue biculturalism should be replaced by multiculturalism, as a more accurate reflection of the national situation today. Others see biculturalism as ‘not Māori enough’ and would prefer to talk about Kaupapa Māori.

Immigration reform spotlight: Fairness, economic development, and the Working Holiday Scheme

Oksana Opara

Historically high net migration to New Zealand — which reached over 70,000 annual arrivals in 2017 — has spurred many social and political concerns, including about how the country’s already-strained public infrastructure will cope in the coming years. In response, the newly-elected Labour-New Zealand First coalition government plans to significantly

New Zealand media ownership: History and obfuscation

Wayne Hope

This year’s New Zealand Media Ownership report written by Merja Myllylahti and published by the Journalism, Media and Democracy research centre (JMAD) recounts how two attempted mergers failed. The Sky TV–Vodafone and NZME–Fairfax mergers were prevented by the Commerce Commission (in the latter case an  appeal is before the High

Changing climate, changing minds

David Hall

New Zealand’s new government – and especially Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – takes climate change very seriously. But the long-term success of this government’s climate policies will still require a broad-based public support, and in particular a continued decline of the climate denialism that has impeded action in the past.

Rethinking the teaching of economics

Girol Karacaoglu & Julienne Molineaux

In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, some students of economics in countries as diverse as Chile, the UK and the US asked why the curriculum they were studying at University did not deal with contemporary issues such as debt and finance, or the shortcomings of markets. Some academic

An unlikely political football

Julienne Molineaux

Economist Alan Maynard coined the term ‘redisorganisation’ for constant restructurings in the British health system; in New Zealand, the public sector gets restructured so often it has been described as ‘almost an addiction’. Often the tension is between specialisation and coordination, that is, between having several smaller, single-focussed agencies versus

Dividing Relationship Property – Time for Change?

Helen McQueen

The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (PRA) tells couples how to divide their property when they separate or if one partner dies. It affects almost every New Zealander over their lifetime. When it first became law in 1976, the PRA challenged and helped redefine the role of women in society. Parliament

The Economic Rationale of Free Trade Agreements 

Robert Wade

On the face of it, the lack of enthusiastic consensus for mega-regional free trade agreements, such as the TPP, is surprising. Trade obviously brings benefits, and more trade should bring more benefits. But the underlying argument for free trade rests on a raft of assumptions so unreal as to make

The challenges ahead for the new government

Ian Shirley

As the 2017 general election graphically illustrated New Zealand society has reached a turning point in its economic, social and political development. Throughout the election campaign the voting population seemed uncertain which way to go and this uncertainty was reflected in a series of opinion polls and in a range

The Future of New Zealand Capitalism?

Brian Easton

‘Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong. That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face.’ Winston Peters.   Announcing that he was going with Labour,

The Zero Carbon Act

John Lang

On 8th of November 2016 the World Meteorological Organization first demonstrated that global temperatures surpassed 1°C above earth’s pre-industrial average for an entire year. Believer in climate change or not, the scale of the job in front of our policy-makers is unprecedented. The good news for New Zealand is that,

Environmental problems? What problems?

Ton Bührs

Environmental problems started to generate widespread concern from the 1960s. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, is often credited with kicking off the modern environmental movement. The book described the effects of the use of human-made chemicals, notably DDT, on wildlife. Ingested by birds, the chemicals caused a thinning

Grand Coalitions: Finland and New Zealand

Pii-Tuulia Nikula

In the aftermath of the 2017 general election, the likely options for a coalition government of New Zealand seem to be narrowed down to only  two main options: a National Party–NZ First or a Labour-Green Party-NZ First governing arrangement. With a more than 20 years history with the Mixed Member

How MMP Works: Freestyle bargaining

Julienne Molineaux

  Understanding that you have two votes, and what each is for, is fairly straightforward. But once the votes are in, what happens? New Zealand is making MMP up as we go along. We have what is called a ‘freestyle bargaining’ approach to government formation. There are no rules about

Limits to growth?

Charles Crothers

Mounting concern with housing, transport and diversity issues in Auckland point to a consensus that growth trends are exceeding our ability to readily cope. This is aggravated by reports that portions of our wilderness tourism areas are being hammered by very high usage. In earlier elections these concerns have spilled

Transforming to a prison-free society

John Buttle

In 2011 New Zealand had the seventh highest incarceration rate out of 34 countries outstripping those in the European jurisdictions and Australia, making far-fetched the claims that New Zealand’s criminal justice system is soft on crime. New Zealand currently incarcerates around 10,200 people with the cost of keeping each individual

MMP has come of age

Peter Aimer

In 1986 a Royal Commission appointed by the Lange Labour government introduced to a largely incredulous nation a strange new acronym – MMP. What followed was a decade of extraordinary angst, advocacy and activism surrounding the voting system, culminating in the first MMP general election in 1996. Now, 21 years

Restructuring individuals: The use of sanctions in New Zealand’s welfare system

Alicia Sudden

According to Kingfisher (1999), the welfare system in New Zealand is increasingly oriented around the need to restructure individuals, rather than systems. This has become more visible recently through the use of financial sanctions. A new sanctions regime was implemented in July 2013 alongside the overhaul of main benefit types,

Auckland deserves better

Ian Shirley

In his Briefing Paper published in December 2014, John Clarke wrote: “New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world”. If, like me, he had spent time in Auckland he might have singled out this city for special mention too, although I suspect John would have preferred Palmerston North.

Power imbalances in local vs central government

Christine Rose

Local government in New Zealand is a creature of statute, so it’s subservient to powers bestowed upon it by central government. From the creation of its mandate and structure, to the reforms imposed through time, local councils are, and will remain, at the mercy and discretion of the senior agent.

Varieties of Skills Regimes: New Zealand in Comparative Context

Kate Nicholls

One positive recent development in the study of comparative political economy is the increased amount of attention given to skills formation, especially the role that vocational education and training (VET) plays in economic development. One of the key insights drawn from this literature is that there are two main paths

It will take courage to clean up the welfare mess

Ian Shirley

It took courage for Metiria Turei to challenge the welfare mess that has emerged over the past four decades whilst at the same time owning up to the way in which she exploited the welfare system to provide for her daughter. She no doubt anticipated the reaction her declaration would

House prices relative to inflation

Brian Easton

This Briefing Paper is part of a longer report on housing prices, available on The Policy Observatory website, here.     Historically housing prices in New Zealand have risen a little faster than consumer prices, but the increase has been sharper since 2001, except for the period when the Global

A New Zealand Community Living Standards Review?

Simon Chapple

New Zealand’s system of income redistribution is complex. It includes accident compensation, New Zealand Superannuation, minimum wages, tax thresholds, tax credits for families (such as Working for Families and the in-work tax credit), working age welfare benefits, and the Accommodation Supplement. The system lacks coherence. The myriad of income supports

Fair Borders?: Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century

David Hall

Late last year, it struck me as obvious that the issue of immigration would catch fire come election time. The kindling was set; the matchbox within reach. So I decided to publish a book on the subject. Fair Borders?: Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century brings together ten writers (myself

Reflections on the Child Youth and Family Review: On evidence and prevention

Emily Keddell

  This Briefing Paper critiques two aspects of the recent CYFS Review process of child protection services. A wider analysis of the process is in my longer report, an extract from which has also been published as a Briefing Paper here. The prevention policies proposed by the CYF Review are

What is a good outcome? Social investment and child abuse prevention

Emily Keddell

Child protection services are in a process of ongoing reform, including the Vulnerable Child Reforms of 2011-2014 and, more recently, the creation of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children | Oranga Tamariki in April 2017. The collective name for the review process is the CYF (Child, Youth & Family) Review.

Budget 2017: What tax cuts?

Terry Baucher

One of the interesting trends of the National Government’s budgets has been how it has been able to raise tax revenue practically unnoticed. Attention has largely focused on income tax rates and, to a lesser extent, the applicable thresholds. However, away from the spotlight various budgets since 2009 have made

Public Debt: How Low Should It Go?

Brian Easton

I asked him [Keynes] if he would borrow if he were in New Zealand in order to get through the crisis. Keynes replied, ‘Yes, certainly if I were you I would borrow if I could, but if you asked me as a lender I doubt whether I would lend to

New Zealand media futures after #StuffMe

Julienne Molineaux

On May 3, the New Zealand Commerce Commission declined the merger application by Fairfax New Zealand and NZME (colloquially called StuffMe). This merger would have seen New Zealand’s two largest media companies – owners of almost 90% of all daily newspaper readership and the countries’ two largest news websites, plus

Pike River Mine: Bring them home

Felicity Lamm

Most New Zealanders of a certain age will remember the Erebus Disaster. As now, there was also a great deal of discussion around whether or not the recovery of the victims of the 1979 Mt Erebus plane crash was either possible or safe for a recovery team. The National Government

Zero-fee tertiary?

Pii-Tuulia Nikula

A zero-fee scheme – suitable and realistic for the New Zealand higher education system? The Labour Party announced its plan for a zero-fee system in January 2016. The ‘Working Futures Plan’ promises a life-time entitlement of three years of post-school education. This plan is predominantly targeted for new school leavers

What have future generations ever done for me?

David Hall

His stake is in the ground. Prime Minister Bill English is progressively raising superannuation age of eligibility from 65 to 67. The change will be complete by 2040, but won’t start until 1st July 2037, twenty whole years away. No one born before 30th June 1972 will be affected. Many

School competiton vs cooperation

John Laurenson

I have been a principal of a secondary school for more than 20 years. In that time just about every principal I have come across will privately acknowledge that the way the country’s school network functions has to change. However until the central government recognises that legislation is required to

School governance overhaul

Bernardine Vester

Why removing decile and creating communities of schools is not enough to transform learning in South Auckland   Jane and Cory send their children to Stonefields School, a Decile 9 primary school within walking distance of their home. This fits perfectly with the family’s aspirations for free, compulsory, quality, public

How are the children doing?

Keryn O'Neill & Sue Younger

A literature review on young children in childcare Over a two-year period, the Brainwave Trust conducted a literature review to see what is known and what is not known about the impact of childcare on children – things such as their development, behaviour, stress levels, relationships and school outcomes. Are

New Zealand’s Refugee Report Card (Spoiler: History Won’t Be Kind)

Tracey Barnett

Prime Minister Bill English was roundly criticised last week for mumbling into his sleeve when asked if President Trump’s new Muslim ban was racist. But his response wasn’t far off from the hands-off, it’s-not-our-problem approach he inherited. Indeed, what was the most notable thing about New Zealand’s response to the greatest refugee

The digital classroom revolution

Pii-Tuulia Nikula

Many parents are faced with the new digital practices used in their children’s schooling. ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policies and increased use of technology in classroom are becoming daily realities in most schools. The New Zealand Ministry of Education supports this digitisation process and provides significant resources for related initiatives,

Media ownership matters

Merja Myllylahti

Media ownership matters, so 2016 has certainly been meaningful for New Zealand media companies and consumers. As I describe in my newly released media ownership report for AUT’s Journalism, Media and Democracy Research Centre (JMAD), three  events stand out as the most important. The first two received considerable attention: first,

And so this is Christmas…

Alicia Sudden

Christmas time comes with many certainties in New Zealand. There won’t be any snow. Every mall becomes home to a Santa Claus. There will be a variety of fake and real Christmas trees in workplaces and homes, decorated with lights that take too long to untangle and tinsel that has

Providing security for our reputation in an insecure time?

Kaden Wilson

With the close of 2016 comes the end of New Zealand’s tenure on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Considering the campaign to be elected to this position by other countries began in 2004, our two-year term on the most powerful body within the United Nations has seemed relatively brief.

Failing to make a difference? New Zealand on the UN Security Council

Grant Duncan

In October 2014 New Zealand was preparing for its two-year term on the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key was making an unconvincing case for sending soldiers to Iraq in a training capacity to assist with the fight against the Islamic State. And unarmed civilians were being killed

The Waste Levy, a waste of time?

Sustainable Business Network & Andy Kenworthy

The $10-per-tonne Waste Levy was created eight years ago to fund waste management innovation and cut landfill. Some say it must increase to be effective. Others claim good progress in the sector amid economic turbulence.   So who’s right? The Waste Minimisation Act was a Green Party Private Members’ Bill led by MP

Minimising waste

Jeff Seadon

Whenever a waste issue arises a common response is, “The government should legislate…”. While legislation is useful to either start a process or fill gaps, it is not the panacea for all problems. Think of how many people always drive below the speed limit on the road. New Zealand has

A Run on the Bank

Dave Hansford

In September 2008, the sprawling global bank, Lehman Brothers, collapsed. As it toppled, it struck dominoes all about, triggering a fission that rippled along Wall St then mushroomed over the world’s financial system. Around the globe, Governments announced rescue spending in the tens of billions. Here in New Zealand, the

Pale, male and middle-aged: Auckland Council’s lack of diversity

Karen Webster

We’ve all heard the adage describing the traditional local councillor as “pale, male and middle-aged”. So, just how true is this for the Auckland Council? Research undertaken at AUT following the 2013 and the recent 2016 local government election compared the gender, ethnicity and age (2013 only) of local candidates

Subjective Assessments of the Super City

Charles Crothers

Auckland continues to be New Zealand’s bold experiment in local government reform. Is the Super City a success, a disappointment or something in between? In 2013 researchers in the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy at AUT set up and ‘populated’ a monitoring framework based on one developed by

Young People, Civics, and Political Literacy

Andrew Chen

There is an intergenerational democratic deficit, most obvious in voting statistics. The Electoral Commission reports that only 62.7% of enrolled voters aged 18-24 voted in 2014, in comparison to 86.3% of enrolled voters aged 60 or older. This situation looks even worse when we include the fact that only 66.4%

‘Mental disorder’, autism and human rights

Hilary Stace

  There is a well-known saying that a society can be judged by how it looks after its most vulnerable citizens. People with impairments are not inherently vulnerable but are at particular risk of negative interactions with the State for a range of reasons, such as a lack of strong

No silver bullet: Online voting and local elections

Julienne Molineaux

Local body election time is over for another three years, and even before polls closed, there were laments over low turnout. A low turnout undermines the legitimacy of the winners and can point to wider problems: disillusionment with democratic processes, institutions and actors. It is also problematic because some groups

The future for precarious and vulnerable workers

Chloe King

Why are vulnerable workers, vulnerable? This is a complex and heart wrenching question. Every day, I speak with people who are young and not so young, who have no economic stability and feel their futures have been stolen from them. So much of their grief and hopelessness for their futures

The plight of the beneficiary

Alicia Sudden

To be a beneficiary in New Zealand is to be innately separate from the rest of the population. It comes with connotations about who you are as a person, your motivations, your worth. This is the result of decades of homogenising and dehumanising discourses. And these have very real impacts

New Zealand’s tax system: Internal coherence is not enough

Deborah Russell

The New Zealand tax system is largely robust.  It taxes most forms of income and consumption at rates that are by and large perceived as fair. The overall tax take sits at about 30% of GDP, a rate that compares well with other OECD nations. Most people pay their taxes,

Cost is not Price: The impact of Productivity and Design in Housing Affordability

John Tookey

Circa 2005-2006 the Auckland housing market was dubbed ‘unsustainable’ and a ‘dangerous bubble’. Six years post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) we are in a very different place – in many ways a worse place. The government response to GFC was pressure on interest rates downwards, making expensive mortgages significantly cheaper, thus

The South Auckland Experience under the Super City

Ben Ross

With the Super City approaching its sixth year and Aucklanders about to go through their third elections for the unitary Auckland Council, how is South Auckland faring? The new Auckland Council earmarked two areas for regeneration: the central city; and Manukau, in a project called the Southern Initiative (TSI). The

Too big, too often? Mergers and competition in New Zealand

Donal Curtin

The proposed merger between NZME (formerly Wilson & Horton) and Fairfax’s New Zealand media operations has brought us squarely into the middle of a growing international issue: are industries getting too concentrated, with too few competitors? Are consumers being offered too little choice?  Have competition authorities been too lax in

Over-investing in housing

Brian Easton

While housing obviously fills a need – people need somewhere to live – it also has an investment aspect. How this investment is treated by the tax system influences the housing market, and the investment available for other purposes, such as business ventures.   There is an implicit tax-subsidy to

Social versus state housing

Alan Johnson

‘It’s why we talk about “social housing” rather than “state housing”, because you no longer have to live in a state house to get a high level of government housing support. It’s an important change.’ – John Key, State of the nation speech to Auckland Rotary Club, January 2015.  


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