New Zealand Initiative

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The New Zealand Initiative
Formation April 1, 2012; 5 years ago (2012-04-01)
Type Think tank
Legal status New Zealand limited company
Executive Director
Oliver Hartwich
Roger Partridge

The New Zealand Initiative is a thinktank and business membership organisation in Wellington, New Zealand. It was formed in 2012 out of the merger of the New Zealand Business Roundtable (NZBR) and the New Zealand Institute.[1] Its executive director is Oliver Hartwich, who joined The New Zealand Initiative from the Australian Centre for Independent Studies.


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.[2] To this end, the organisation produced a wide range of publications (books, reports, submissions) and undertook other activities that informed and influenced public debate.[3]

In 2004, the New Zealand Institute was established in Auckland. Just like the NZBR, the New Zealand Institute was a business membership organisation that operated as a think tank, albeit with a more centrist political direction. 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 had lacked scale. Carter approached NZBR chairman Roger Partridge and the two organisations merged in April 2012, appointing Oliver Hartwich as their first executive director.[4]


The New Zealand Initiative is based in Wellington. It is a New Zealand Limited Company, governed by a Board of Directors under a constitution.[5][6]

The membership of The New Zealand Initiative comprises about 70 members, mainly large New Zealand companies.[7] According to its Annual Report 2016, the combined revenues of its members equals a quarter of the New Zealand economy.[8]


According to its website, The New Zealand Initiative describes its mission "to help create a competitive, open and dynamic economy and a free, prosperous, fair, and cohesive society."[9] It describes itself as "strictly non-partisan" and pledges to make the results of its research available to the public, free of charge.

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.[10] Among the speakers hosted at these functions listed on its website have been 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.

In May 2017, The New Zealand Initiative organised a study tour of Switzerland, which was joined by more than 30 senior New Zealand business leaders.[11]

Research areas[edit]

The New Zealand Initiative names as its research areas:[12]

  • Economic policy
  • Education
  • Government & politics
  • Housing
  • Local governemtn & 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 under the title Manifesto 2017: What the next New Zealand Government Should Do.[13]

Policy positions and public reception[edit]

Education: The New Zealand Initiative has called for the introduction of performance measurement and management in New Zealand schools, a proposal which was cautiously welcomed by education minister Nikki Kaye while rejected by the teachers' union PPTA.[14] In an earlier report, the Initiative had criticised the New Zealand government for the introduction of new teaching methods in mathematics, blaming them for worsening numeracy of students.[15]

Housing and Local Government: According to business columnist Pattrick Smellie, The New Zealand Initiative's contribution to the housing debate was pointing out the various factors which limit 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."[16]

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 arguing for the abolition of height and density controls, infrastriucture bonds and an end to the rural urban boundary.[17] Their article was interpreted as a shift from traditional Labour positions on land-use planning[18] and regarded by international commentators as a sign of a new emerging consensus on housing policy.[19]

The New Zealand Initiative also proposed to establish Special Economic Zones across New Zealand, which was supported by Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and Malcolm Alexander, chief executive of Local Government New Zealand.[20] Government papers released under the Official Information Act revealed that cabinet ministers were considering the Initiative's proposals.[21]

In a 2013 Initiative report, co-authored by former cabinet minister Michael Bassett, the Initiative proposed to fund residential infrastructure through targeted rates in special purpose vehicles.[22] The New Zealand government introduced such a scheme in July 2017 when it charged Crown Infrastructure Partners with this task.[23]

Foreign Direct Investment: The New Zealand Initiative promotes the deregulation of New Zealand's restrictions on overseas investors[24], a position which attracted fierce criticism from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.[25]

Fisheries management: Based on comparative research, the Initiative proposed to establish a new organisation to represent recreational fishing interests, modelled on the Western Australian body Recfishwest.[26] The proposal was rejected by fishing advocay group LegaSea.[27]

Immigration: The New Zealand Initiative has defended New Zealand's liberal immigration policy[28], arguing that migrants contribute positively to the economy and integrate well into New Zealand's society.[29] New Zealand First leader Winston Peters rejected the Initiative's findings as "academic gobbledygook"[30] and attacked the Initiative for being a thinktank run by foreigners.[31] The Labour Party's Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway meanwhile welcomed the report while criticising its alleged ignorance of migrants' infrastructure needs.[32]

Social Policy: In its publications, the Initiative has supported the Key/English government's 'Social Investment Approach'[33], for example the introduction of Social Impact Bonds.[34] It has also argued that concerns about the rise of economic inequality were driven by rising house prices while income inequality in New Zealand had remained constant since the 1990s.[35]


  1. ^ Pattrick Smellie (2012-04-04). "Roundtable and NZ Institute morph into new libertarian think tank". National Business Review. 
  2. ^ "Fran O'Sullivan: Kerr's courageous stances kept Government honest". NZ Herald. 2011-10-30. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  3. ^ "Kerr receives CNZM for services to business". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  4. ^ Noted. "Oliver Hartwich: New business think-tank head - The Listener". Noted. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  5. ^ "View All Details". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  6. ^ "Constitution of The New Zealand Initiative Limited". 30/03/2012. Retrieved 2017-09-18.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "Our Members | The New Zealand Initiative". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  8. ^ "Annual Report 2016 | The New Zealand Initiative". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  9. ^ "About Us | The New Zealand Initiative". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  10. ^ "Events | The New Zealand Initiative". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  11. ^ @FranOSullivan, Fran O'Sullivan Head of Business, NZME fran o'sullivan@nzherald co nz (2017-06-16). "What's the key to Swiss success? It's the education". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  12. ^ "Research | The New Zealand Initiative". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  13. ^ "House prices a top election priority - NZ Initiative". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  14. ^, Simon Collins Education reporter, NZ Herald (2017-07-05). "Rate teachers on student achievement, advises think tank". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  15. ^ "Back-to-basics call on maths". NZ Herald. 2015-06-03. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  16. ^ "Why councils want to keep a lid on their population growth - Pattrick Smellie". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  17. ^ Twyford, Phil (2015-11-29). "Opinion: Planning rules the cause of housing crisis". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  18. ^ "Phil Twyford and his surprising enthusiasm for the private sector". Politik | New Zealand politics, inside news and analysis. Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  19. ^ "Land Regulation Making Us Poorer: Emerging Left-Right Consensus |". Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  20. ^ "Creating special economic zones could see regions prosper, experts say". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  21. ^ "Special Economic Zones still on the table". Radio New Zealand. 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  22. ^ "Take a hint from Texas, report says". Taranaki Property Investors' Association. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  23. ^ "Government setting up new housing infrastructure company, will invest $600m". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  24. ^ "Editorial: Restrictions put us at a disadvantage". NZ Herald. 2012-09-02. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  25. ^ "SunLive - Initiative more like submissive - The Bay's News First". Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  26. ^ "Outdoor issues need to be discussed inside the house". Stuff. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  27. ^ "Licencing a smokescreen for real agenda". LegaSea. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  28. ^ "Migrants' benefits to NZ outweigh costs - report". Radio New Zealand. 2017-01-30. Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  29. ^ @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. 
  30. ^ "Immigration report 'nonsensical': Winston Peters". Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  31. ^ "Q+A: Winston Peters interviewed by Corin Dann | Scoop News". Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  32. ^ "Immigration Report Glosses Over Big Issues". New Zealand Labour Party. Retrieved 2017-09-21. 
  33. ^ 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. 
  34. ^ "Insight: Social Bonds - Funding innovation or risky experiment?". Radio New Zealand. 2016-04-28. Retrieved 2017-09-20. 
  35. ^ "NZ POLITICS DAILY: Anger and debate over inequality". The National Business Review. 2016-10-31. Retrieved 2017-09-21. 

External links[edit]