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

Social housing?

Philippa Howden-Chapman

There has been a steady fall in the number of state houses since the change of government at the end of 2008, both in absolute numbers and in relation to our rapidly growing population. Like state schools, the state housing stock is a critical part of our social infrastructure. State

Think Big: Auckland, immigration, and the absence of income growth

Michael Reddell

Of the biggest cities in each advanced economy, Auckland has been one of the fastest growing. Just in the last 15 years, Auckland’s population has grown by 30 per cent, while the population in the rest of the country has risen by 13 per cent. Many argue that big cities


Arthur Grimes

This article first appeared in The Spinoff on 4 July 2016.   In March 2016, the REINZ Auckland median house price reached $820,000. Four years previously, it was $495,000 – that’s a 66% increase in 4 years. What’s more alarming is that in 2012, many people considered that house prices

Filling the land tax void

Ranjana Gupta

The tax system plays multiple roles. In addition to being a fundamental instrument to raise revenues that finances government expenditure, it also acts as an instrument to achieve the economic and social aims of government, and redistributes income on a socially acceptable basis.   Classical economist Adam Smith developed the

COP21 and the race to stay below 1.5°C

Julie Anne Genter

The outcome of the COP21 climate talks in Paris last December was important and encouraging. It was the 21st annual United Nations meeting to discuss climate change and agree on what countries will do to avert the worst. A great deal of work went into preparing this meeting, as did

Trade unions and the climate change fight

Julie Douglas & Peter McGhee

We [unions] have to stop running away from the climate crisis, stop leaving it to the environmentalist, and look at it. Let ourselves absorb the fact that the industrial revolution that led to our society’s prosperity is now destabilizing the natural systems on which all of life depends – Naomi

Squandering New Zealand’s water

Dame Anne Salmond

Across New Zealand, people from many different backgrounds have a deep and passionate connection with their waterways. From children who grow up swimming and playing in and beside streams, rivers and lakes, to those who fish for whitebait, eels or trout; from iwi with powerful connections with ancestral waterways, to

Hooked: Race for South Pacific tuna

Michael Field

Amidst the romance of creating one of the world’s largest marine protected area – New Zealand’s 620,000 square kilometre Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary – there is an overlooked unpleasant fact. Te Ohu Kaimoana chairman Jamie Tuuta pointed to it on a chart showing the sanctuary surrounded on three sides by heavy

Expanding ACC to cover sickness

Grant Duncan

In December 2017, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission report Compensation for Personal Injury in New Zealand, commonly known as the Woodhouse Report after its chair, the late Sir Owen. This pioneering report led to New Zealand’s unique universal 24-hour accident compensation and rehabilitation scheme, the

Love, honour and provoke

Sally Simmonds

 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. St. Paul in Ephesians 5:22   My mother has long maintained that women provoke men to violence against them in the home by not honouring the ‘obey’ portion of their vows. Most people,

Recent Trends in Public Spending

Brian Easton

Despite the public’s desire for more government spending there has been little increase in the aggregate level of government spending relative to GDP over the last 20 years. There was a slight rise immediately after the GFC, because GDP stagnated. Government spending as a percent of GDP is now lower

Timing is Everything

Cameron Preston

I was asked give a Canterbury perspective on whether I expected government services to be cut to fund tax cuts in 2017. The answer is not as straight forward as the question. In May 2011, only three months after the Christchurch Earthquake – our biggest natural disaster – the government announced

Spend and Tax

Brian Easton

As a general rule, New Zealanders want more public spending. Surveys (such as the 2014 Election Survey) show consistent support for increases in spending, particularly in the areas of health, education, housing, law enforcement, public transport and the environment (in that descending order) as well as favouring reduced income inequality.

Stuff-Me: The newspaper gobble-up

Julienne Molineaux

The proposed merger between NZME and Fairfax New Zealand is the latest instalment in the increasing concentration of ownership in New Zealand’s newspaper industry. There is much commentary about the merger; the purpose of this paper is to provide some history.   In New Zealand, concentration of newspaper ownership via

Valuable information? Decision-making tools for students

Hannah August

The decision about which course of study to follow is an increasingly important one for tertiary students. Their choice will affect both their future and the future shape of tertiary institutions whose course offerings are enabled by student demand. Yet the information being provided to students to aid their decision-making

It’s Not Just The Economy, Stupid

Richard Shaw

What’s the problem? The humanities and social sciences – collectively described here as the Arts – have been under sustained assault in Aotearoa New Zealand for years, too often derided by policy-makers, parents and pundits as irrelevant, frivolous and indulgent. The primary purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the

Whanau as first teachers

Dr Kathie Irwin

The hundred year journey from Nuhaka to Harvard   The Story In May, 2014, a Harvard University graduation booklet included the tribal names of Ngati Porou, Rakaipaaka, and Ngati Kahungunu. It was a Harvard Law Graduation and a young Māori woman was graduating Master of Laws, one of only a

Schooling in an era of economic inequality

Liz Gordon

In mid-2015 I published an article revealing the effects of 25 years of ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ on the schooling system in New Zealand. It showed that, as a result of families choosing ‘up’, socially and economically, the schools serving New Zealand’s poorest communities were now, on average, 2.5 times smaller than

Working conditions in the early childhood education sector

Andrew Gibbons, Sandy Farquhar & Marek Tesar

Introduction In April 2015 New Zealand Herald reporter Kirsty Johnston ran a week-long series of reports on the status of early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. The key matter for public concern was the quality of education and care provided for children up to the age of five. A

The Precariat and the Future of Work

Guy Standing

For many foreign observers, New Zealand seems like an oasis, while the rest of the world economy plunges from crisis to crisis. But no country can escape the forces of globalisation, the ongoing technological revolution and the slow fuse impact of several decades of neo-liberal policies that have transformed the

Universal Basic Income and Income Tax Reform

Keith Rankin

Meanings and Process The New Zealand Labour Party is investigating, among other things, the adoption of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a means of ensuring reduced economic insecurity in the face of an increasingly precarious labour market. It is an essential and long-overdue step, appreciating that increases in productivity

Poverty in teacher education?

Vicki Carpenter

High educational outcomes are unevenly spread amongst New Zealand’s school population. Most measures show correlations: the higher or lower the decile of a New Zealand school, the higher or lower are any student’s likely levels of academic achievement. This is evident at all levels of the system where achievement is

What’s Wrong With ‘Special’ Education?

Hilary Stace

Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee is currently holding an Inquiry into the identification and support for students with the significant challenges of dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders in primary and secondary schools. The public took the opportunity to make over 500 submissions dealing with concerns relating to what

How Do We Determine Programme Effectiveness?

Pat Bullen, Kane Meissel & Kelsey Deane

Over the last decade, there has been increasing discussion at the government, policy and funder level in favour of requiring educational, social and community programmes and interventions to provide evidence of their effectiveness. This evidence is then used to determine whether the programme is deemed worthy of future or continued

Outputs Or Outcomes; The Difference Matters

Brian Easton

The 1989 Public Finance Act distinguished ‘outputs’ from ‘outcomes’. Outputs are what a department (or, more generally, an agent) can deliver while outcomes are what the minister (or, more generally, the principal) actually wants. Thus a minister may want, on behalf of the country, a high level of education in

How Can We Measure Our Schooling System?

Bali Haque

How do we make judgments about how well our schooling system is performing? Domestically, the most common methods use NCEA and National Standards results. In addition, the Education Review Office(ERO) reports on school performance. For international benchmarking the current favourite method is the Programme for International Testing (PISA). All of these

AgResearch: The Poisoned Chalice

Dick Wilkins

It is tempting to assume that the current funding problems in agricultural research only date back to the creation of AgResearch 20 years ago. They actually have their origins in the 1930s when Ernest Marsden set up the Department of Scientific Research (DSIR) and attempted to take over all agricultural

Intellectual Property And The TPPA. Does It Affect Us?

Pheh Hoon Lim

When New Zealand joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) it had to align its intellectual property protection with the minimum standards stipulated under the provisions of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This was achieved under the Copyright Act 1994 together with amendments under the

The Open Economy And Free Trade Deals

Brian Easton

It is difficult to see any option other than an open economy for New Zealand. But there are many possible open economies although we may not be able to choose some of them. The open economy is an extension of Adam Smith’s principle that specialisation generates higher productivity. That is

Public Views on Privatising Social Policy

Louise Humpage

There has been increasing privatisation of New Zealand’s social policy sector since the National government was elected in 2008. Social bonds will see private investors fund not-for-profit organisations to deliver services, with bonuses paid to investors if agreed outcome results are achieved. Social housing reforms encourage community housing providers to

Uniforms, Uniformity and Meaning

Elaine Webster

Most secondary schools in New Zealand have uniforms, however, the style, approach and attitude to school dress within each school is far from uniform. School uniforms have that curious quality of being everywhere and seeming all same, yet what most people know is confined to their direct experience. Uniforms, like

Our El Niño Summer

James Renwick

We hear a lot in the news about El Niño (and its counterpart La Niña), but what is it? How and why does it affect New Zealand? The El Niño/La Niña cycle is a natural part of how the climate works. After the regular changing of the seasons, it is

‘Critic & Conscience’ of Society

Ian Shirley

In 2010 I participated in an OECD Forum in Paris. The Forum was ostensibly focused on the ‘Road to Recovery’ following the onset of what was called the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. In contrast to previous OECD events the forum was dominated by pessimism. The chief economist of the

Ageing Populations And Regional Decline

Natalie Jackson

Population By comparison with most of its structurally older OECD counterparts, New Zealand’s population has grown strongly over the past two decades with annual growth rates averaging above 1.0 per cent. Auckland accounted for over half of this growth, while the remaining growth was unevenly distributed across the rest of

The Impact Of The Auckland Model On Local Government Reform

Mike Reid

The suggestion that Auckland has an impact beyond its borders is hardly radical. Yet it is not just the city’s economic clout that is having impact, it is also serving as a laboratory for local governance. Despite the widely held view that the Auckland model was designed to address the

Living On The Edge: Rural Views Of The SuperCity

Christine Rose

In 2010 Auckland’s eight regional, city and district councils were amalgamated into one, more or less along the old regional council boundary lines. This was seen as a victory by those seeking a regional view, and a travesty by those who feared a loss of local identity and service. Five

What Is ‘Auckland’ Anyway?

Grant Duncan

What is Auckland anyway? The kernel of what we now call Auckland was a 3,000-acre triangle of land, with Maungawhau (Mt Eden) forming one corner. This was acquired by Governor Hobson in 1840 by a purchase from Ngati Whatua chiefs. Since then, as a place with physical boundaries, ‘Auckland’ has

Encouraging Regional Diversity In Food Production

Dave Kennedy

The sudden drop in the milk price earlier this year has exposed our economic vulnerability after focussing the majority of our agricultural investment into a single commodity market. When profits reached astronomical proportions it distorted how farmers engaged with the environment. Land that was once deemed unsuitable for dairy farming

The Market For Health-Enhancing Foods

Meike Guenther & Caroline Saunders

There is evidence that health-conscious consumer groups are becoming more and more important. This group has increasing expectations that food products carry health enhancing attributes such as additional minerals, vitamins, peptides, fatty acids, dietary fibres etc. Products carrying these attributes are often called functional or fortified foods, and worldwide the

Junk Food Marketing

Amanda Wood

The Health Minister is currently deciding how to best address children’s poor health due to diet-related diseases. It is a good time not only to consider the content of the proposed approaches, but also to reflect on the regulatory frameworks that can be used to support those approaches. To aid

Translation Of Evidence Into Action For The Public Good

Elaine Rush

The relationship between food and health might seem straight forward: with a variety of wholesome foods in sensible quantities, people can grow and function optimally. There is no argument that the food that we eat is intimately associated with health. After all, the molecules that make up our bodies come

Why I Don’t Ask People To Lose Weight

Robyn Toomath

Last week the government launched their childhood obesity plan and it fills me with dismay. Apart from some wishful thinking in regard to industry self-regulation the initiatives are almost all education-based. There are plans to identify overweight children at an early age in the expectation that education and motivation of

Unequal Health In New Zealand: Always Like This?

Alistair Woodward & Tony Blakely

There are large inequalities in health in New Zealand. This much is well-known, as is the fact that health care interventions and public health efforts often fail to make things better, and indeed may entrench disadvantage. Was it always like this? In fact, no. We are not suggesting there was

Age And Inequality

Philip Morrison

Introduction In a recent issue of Policy Quarterly I expressed some surprise over where New Zealanders positioned themselves on a scale between 1, ‘Incomes should be made more equal’ and 10, ‘We need large income differences as incentives for individual effort’. Not only were we less inclined to favour greater

Perceptions Of Inequality

Peter Skilling

In the last decade or so, the issue of economic inequality has achieved a high level of academic, media and public awareness. One notable theme in this recent attention has been the repeated representation of current high levels of inequality as bad for everyone. (There are notable exceptions of course:

Wealth Inequality: Who Owns How Much?

Max Rashbrooke

When it comes to economic inequality, most of the discussion focuses on income: how much money people get every year (usually after tax), and how the difference between incomes for rich and poor people has widened in the last 30 years. But there is another related inequality that is also

An Egalitarian Society?

Brian Easton

Once upon a time New Zealand identified itself as egalitarian. Phrases like ‘a classless society’, ‘jack’s as good as his master; ‘a working man’s democracy’ were bandied around, often without much critical thought. A distinction was made between ‘egalitarian’ and ‘equalitarian’. Certainly the aim was that New Zealanders were equal

Advancing Refugee Protection In The Asia-Pacific Region – A Role For New Zealand?

Carsten Bockemuehl

In May 2015, the world witnessed appalling scenes of fishing boats crammed with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh being pushed back to sea by Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Desperate men, women and children were left without food and medical care for a week, before the Philippines

Refugee Policy Holds A Mirror Up To Ourselves

Tracey Barnett

What happens when New Zealand holds a mirror up to its refugee policies and a blotchy reflection stares back? On the world stage, New Zealand has always seen itself as fair brokers when it comes to its treatment of refugees. For the most part, we have deserved that respect. Worldwide,

The Global Refugee Crisis

Love Chile

The world is witnessing the most dramatic and distressing refugee crisis in many generations. The current crisis of Syrian refugees is part of the global refugee crisis that cuts across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. The causes are complex and must be understood within the context

Laudato Si’: On Care Of Our Common Home

Neil Darragh

A recent international voice that feeds into current debate in New Zealand about the environment, energy sources, climate change and water quality as well as economic inequality is the June 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis, entitled Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. This document addresses the current ecological

Challenges In Auckland’s Residential Construction Sector

Chris Parker

There are a number of challenges facing the building industry in Auckland, around scale, quality, efficiency and price. Scaling up the building sector raises questions: What are the crowd-out risks for other sectors in Auckland, as the building sector tries to outbid them for labour and materials? How can public

The Housing We’d Choose

Alison Reid

Auckland is at a turning point in how it must think about and deliver housing solutions. According to Statistics New Zealand’s medium projections, Auckland’s population is anticipated to grow by a further 517,000 people in the next 20 years. This growth will be driven by natural increase (births minus deaths)

Housing And Transport: Proximity Matters

Peter Nunns

The decisions that individuals and societies make about housing are deeply linked to decisions about transport. The ways in which people get around are affected by where they live and how their neighbourhoods are designed. And transport, in turn, has a host of broader effects. It affects our happiness and

Real Estate Debt And The Balance Of Trade

John Walley

Auckland has a housing problem but this is not just a problem for Aucklanders, or new home buyers. Out of control asset inflation – as seen in the Auckland housing market – is toxic to the real economy, destroying our ability to deliver a long-run neutral balance of trade. High

High House Prices: A Blunder Of Our Governments

Michael Reddell

There has been a strong sense this year that “something must be done” about high house prices, especially those in Auckland. To date, however, the policy responses display little awareness of how previous policy choices have made New Zealand housing increasingly unaffordable over the last couple of decades. Blaming investors

The Problem With Migration

Bernard Hickey

We’re now having a fractious debate about foreign buying of houses, but the more important and tougher debate we should be having is about migration. Does it actually generate the right type of long term economic growth, or does it just pump up house prices and interest rates, suppress wages

Rental Standards

Philippa Howden-Chapman

Every year people die prematurely in winter in New Zealand, a phenomenon unheard of in the coldest parts of Europe and North America, where houses are built and heated to protect people from winter cold. People are more likely to die in winter in New Zealand if they live in

Where’s The Plan?

Alison Cadman

I remember the event but can’t quite remember where it took place. I remember the atmosphere – a sense of relief and excitement that at last there was a plan to address New Zealand’s increasing housing problems. And I remember that the then Minister of Housing was at the event,

Bubble Trouble

Ryan Greenaway-McGrevy

As of May 2015, the average house price in the greater Auckland region was $828,502. In May 2012, it was only $562,454. That is nearly a 50% increase over only three years. Can anything justify this incredible growth in prices, or is it all a bubble? Peter C.B. Phillips and

Understanding Housing Affordability

Arthur Grimes

Housing affordability is a multi-faceted, complex issue. Concentration on just one aspect of the issue – be it housing supply, land supply, interest rates, construction costs or migration – will miss important aspects of why house prices vary in different locations at different times. In this briefing paper, we illustrate

Generation Rent

Shamubeel & Selena Equab

Home ownership is a defining characteristic of being a Kiwi. It had been an attainable aspiration for more in each generation, but it ended with the baby boomers. After rising for nearly a century, home ownership has been falling since 1991 and is now at the lowest level since 1951.

Europe’s Attack on Greek Democracy

Joseph Stiglitz

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is

The Death of Campbell Live

Wayne Hope

The last episode of Campbell Live on May 31 was more than a sad departure; it signalled the end of prime time current affairs on television. Infotainment content prevails, regardless of viewer concerns. Even Māori TV, once a bastion of public service broadcasting values, has had its integrity rocked by

Bottom Line for Mental Health Services

Dita De Boni

In the United States, about $2 billion each year is shaved off community mental healthcare funding and funnelled straight into the pockets of the private sector, one way or another. That’s the model New Zealand wants to emulate, as revealed by Government with a tiny taster in the shape of

The Budget 2015 ‘Child Hardship’ Package

Michael Fletcher

The Government deserves credit for increasing financial assistance to many families in its ‘child hardship package’. Those families will welcome the extra cash in hand. However, the package is rather less generous than it first appears. It will provide little for many low-income families, including many in the greatest hardship

A Short Term Budget?

Brian Easton

Third term governments always look tired. Policies developed in opposition have been implemented (usually with more difficulty and less effect than expected), ambitions – such as exporting 40 percent of GDP – are nowhere near deliverable (and in truth, never were), unexpected issues prove tiresome and intractable and whenever you

Prevention: The Best Way To Address Child Poverty

Mike O'Brien

The government has signalled that its main approach to child poverty is to concentrate on a small subset of poor children who live in ‘complex’ families with multiple needs. By contrast, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) believes that a comprehensive preventative approach is needed, not one that concentrates on

Housing New Zealand’s Children

Alan Johnson

Access to adequate housing is at the heart of ensuring a healthy environment in which children can thrive. Other briefings have talked about health, incomes and child protection issues. Each of these, along with educational outcomes, are influenced positively if housing for families is stable, secure, and of good quality.

Poverty Of Spirit – A Pacific View

Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop

Child -poverty is hard to define, measure or address. This has not been helped by the ‘siloed’ focus of many discussions, which has resulted in less attention to the relationship between influencing factors (and which should be factored into interventions), while the ‘one size fits all’ approach has highlighted quite

Legislating To Reduce Child Poverty

Office of the Children’s Commissioner and John Hancock

Reproduced by kind permission of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. Around 285,000 New Zealand children (27%) live in households where family income falls below the poverty linei, a figure that has remained relatively flat since 2009. By contrast, in the early-to-mid 1980s the level of child poverty was below 15%, before

A Step Change For Children: Fix Working For Families.

Susan St.John

New Zealand now has two classes of low income children; the worthy who can be supported to the full extent of social security legislation, and the unworthy who are consigned to remain in poverty. This shameful disparity is between the treatment of children in families who can find paid work

More Income Is Required To Improve The Health Of Poor Children

Innes Asher

The future is what we choose to develop as well as what we choose to ignore. It is in our decisions and actions, our values and relationships, our language and mind-sets. There is no accidental future for our society. Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith     Many New Zealanders are concerned

Children: The Nation’s Greatest Asset

Ian Shirley

As we approach the annual Budget in May it is an appropriate time to review our public policy priorities and especially investments that need to be made to advance this nation’s greatest asset, its children. Writing at the end of the 1950’s J.B. Condliffe suggested that “a baby born in

The Over-Valued New Zealand Dollar – Part Two

John Walley

In a previous Briefing Paper, I discussed what is meant by an over-valued dollar and argued that the New Zealand dollar has been over-valued for much of the past decade. This has fewer benefits than assumed for consumer prices, and has costs for exporters. The graph below shows us the

The Over-Valued New Zealand Dollar – Part One

John Walley

Since 1985 New Zealand has operated with a floating exchange rate. Our currency is traded on the market, responding to changes in economic conditions here and around the world: subject to global events, interest rates, prices, and a range of other factors that affect the demand for our currency. In

Gambling On The Dollar

Brian Easton

Sharp movements in exchange rates often reflect sophisticated speculation. Is there much we can do about it? While the near parity of the Australian and New Zealand dollars got a lot of breathless attention recently, there was little analysis of why it was happening. Explaining the exchange rate depends upon the

Reality TV

Sharon Murdoch

The cartoon by Sharon Murdoch is a penetrating critique of current affairs in this country and the sub-standard quality of investigative journalism. While it is clearly inspired by the Mediaworks decision to ‘review’ Campbell Live, it speaks to the overall standard of current affairs in this country and indeed our

Housing Economy Played Like a Monopoly Game

Christine Rose

The housing crisis is the issue of the moment but is at risk of being appropriated by a multitude of interests, many of them vested, each who frame the debate – and the solutions, in their own ways. There are at least two important elements – a housing affordability problem,

The Agony of Vanuatu and the New Climate Colonialism

Dave Hansford

We used to detonate atomic bombs among the Pacific peoples – now we drop weather bombs. Vanuatu lies in ruins. Aid workers arriving in Port Vila have already described the death toll and damage as catastrophic, and Vanuatu’s lands minister, Ralph Regenvanu, expects that much of the population – 266,000

Doing Something About Low Incomes: Wages And Benefits

Bill Rosenberg

The Government says it is putting poverty on the agenda. That’s good, but what does it mean in practice? The signs are worrying. Announcements so far show it will be limited tightly to those in the harshest poverty, cover only housing, transport, childcare costs and loan-shark debt, and rather than

Temporary vs. Permanent Employment: Is There a Wage Penalty?

Gail Pacheco & Bill Cochrane

Over recent years there has been an upsurge in the number of workers ending up in temporary employment (see for example De Cuyper et al., 2008). There are a number of reasons for the upsurge ranging from free choice whereby workers choose temporary work because of inherent and preferable charateristics

Why A Free Market Wage System Doesn’t Work

Michael Sharp

The general decline in collective bargaining coverage across western economies in the 1980s and 1990s was driven by the belief of governments and employers that freer labour markets would work more efficiently. New Zealand lead the way with collective bargaining coverage rates declining from some 60% to 17% (Creighton and

How Are We Measuring Up?

Felicity Lamm

For more than a hundred years most aspects of occupational health and safety (OHS) in New Zealand and elsewhere have been treated as a matter for state intervention. Traditionally there has been an expectation shared by workers, employers, and the general community that in matters concerning the health and safety

Insecure Work

Max Rashbrooke

The debate now raging in New Zealand over zero-hours contracts – in which an employer does not give its contractors any guarantee of hours, but, in many cases, forbids them from working for anyone else – is just the latest symptom of the rise of insecure work. Also known as

Work & Wages

Ian Shirley

The Briefing Papers were launched in 2014 with the aim of providing the public with an overview of critical issues facing New Zealand society in the 21st century. Drawing on long established traditions of scientific advice the briefing paper series has sought to build a platform of expertise in public

Disability Policy in New Zealand

Hilary Stace

The Disability Survey following the 2013 Census revealed that 24% of the population living in New Zealand or 1,062,000 people identified as disabled. They ‒ or someone on their behalf ‒ reported a long term impairment which affected their ability to carry out everyday activities. Over 59% of people over

Je Suis Eleanor

Dame Anne Salmond

In the wake of the shooting of cartoonists and journalists in Paris, political leaders in New Zealand have expressed shock and horror, and their support for those who uphold freedom of expression in other countries. What about freedom of speech and thought at home, however? Over the past decade or

Paris Is A Warning: There Is No Insulation From Our Wars

Seumas Milne

The official response to every jihadist-inspired terrorist attack in the west since 2001 has been to pour petrol on the flames. That was true after 9/11 when George Bush launched his war on terror, laying waste to countries and spreading terror on a global scale. It was true in Britain

New Zealand: A User’s Guide

John Clarke

New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world, as is clearly stated in the UN Charter. (I think it’s in Article 17). The land is nourished by warm sunshine each morning and receives the benediction of good rainfall around lunchtime. It is an egalitarian nation made up of

Inequality: OECD Report

Max Rashbrooke

For years now, one of the main reasons given for dismissing inequality as an issue has been about economics: you need income gaps to generate growth. Without a wide gap between rich and poor, who would have the incentive to work harder and do the things that generate income for

Boarding Houses – Breaking the Cycle

David Zussman

Once again the spotlight falls on the never ending merry-go-round of families living in boarding houses. It’s not just boarding houses – there are families living in caravan parks, overcrowded houses and garages and some are even sleeping overnight in cars and tents. Back in 2008, boarding houses were described

The Links Between Bad Labour Laws and Poor Safety Practices

Gordon Campbell

By co-incidence, one of the prime dangers of the government’s new employment relations law has been underlined by the release of the death and injury statistics among workers at New Zealand ports. These are highly profitable enterprises for the port owners. The Port of Tauranga for instance, is expecting its

Two Years to Demonstrate Our Independent Status

Grant Duncan

The last time New Zealand held a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the Rwandan genocide happened. During March and April 1994, the Security Council failed to heed warnings of what became “one of the darkest chapters in human history,” as UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson recently called it.

Lack of Action on Tech Company Tax Evasion

Bernard Hickey

It’s the topic every tax official and finance minister in the developed world is talking about and acting on, yet we hear very little about it in New Zealand. Cracking down on tax avoidance by the world’s biggest technology companies — among them Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft — is

Electricity Supply and Poverty in New Zealand

Geoff Bertram

The electricity industry in New Zealand provides a good case study of how a neoliberal ideological agenda plays out when harnessed to the attitudes and practice of modern big business. At the beginning of the neoliberal period, the industry was a publicly-owned, democratically accountable provider of an essential public service.

It’s Not OK

Dame Anne Salmond

The three Briefing Papers posted today were written by Professor Anne Salmond of the University of Auckland in response to what she describes as the Slippery Slope of Democracy in New Zealand. The first paper was written in the wake of Dirty Politics, the book released by Nicky Hager that


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