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


‘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,
Orange digger at housing construction site

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
Auckland Council logo on door

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
green ped light b+w pic

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


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