Category Archives: Governance

Centralisation and the New Zealand Health System

Note written for circulation January 2024 In 2023 the New Zealand Health System was further centralised. As usual, the reasons given for the redisorganisation were unclear, thin and unconvincing. There have been no immediate benefits evident from the new structure; experience suggests that if there are any, they will take time to manifest themselves. Downsides…
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What the hell happened at Waitangi?

Review in ‘Newsroom’ 9 May, 2023 In 1972, The New Zealand Journal of History published the article “Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Texts and Translations” by Ruth Ross (1920-1982). Its impact continues 50 years later, and is likely to remain significant in another 50 years. It’s one of the most influential pieces of work by a…
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Centralising the Public Health System

Centralising the Public Health System The proposed health redisorganisation seeks to markedly centralise the health system. Is this grab for power justified; will it work? The Cabinet paper’s justification of the proposed changes is sevenfold. The first two are about Maori issues. One is constitutional, arguing that the ‘public health system does not meet the…
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The Macroeconomic Implications of the Public Finance Act

Presentation to the Symposium: ‘Wellbeing’, Budget Responsibility Rules, and the Public Finance Act (15 April, 2019, Victoria University of Wellington) [1] Macroeconomic analysis, research, policy and forecasting is based upon two major data bases. One, provided by Statistics New Zealand, is centred on the National Accounts, but there are many additional elements. The other, which…
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Census Mess Can Be Resolved with a New One in 2021

I was commissioned by the ‘Dominion Post’ to write an opinion piece as part of their review of the anniversary of the 2018 Census. This is a slightly revised version of what they published. The main article is ‘365 days and still counting:  Census results still nowhere to be seen’.  An earlier ‘Pundit’ column is ‘The…
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Submission to the National Archives and National Library Ministerial Group

The Issue John Stuart Mill argued it was better to be an unhappy philosopher than a happy pig; that all transactions and assets are not of equal value. However, the New Zealand Government system largely treats heritage assets similarly to other assets. Today’s governance needs to move past the happy-pig approach to one which recognises…
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Bloody Bureaucrats

Are we paying enough attention to bureaucracy? Are the current bureaucratic pressures changing the nature of society — and are they doing so for the public good? David Graeber may be best remembered for coining Occupy Wall Street’s ‘We are the 99 percent’. In the literary world the LSE-based anthropologist is well known for his Debt,…
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Centralisation and Decentralisation.

Do We Need Larger Local Authorities? The Wellington kerfuffle over whether its eight territorial local authorities and the regional council should unite into a single regional entity might at first seem oh-so-Wellington – petty parochialism with small-minded politicians keen to maintain their remuneration. But other regions are struggling with the same problem. Unnoticed is a…
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First, Show Us the Evidence

Policymaking is too often based on what someone thinks is a good idea.   Listener:  5 December, 2013   Keywords: Governance; Growth & Innovation;   The Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, has called for the greater use of evidence-based policy formation. It arises out of his medical background, where there has been…
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Commentary on Treasury’s Living Standards: a Short Guide to ‘Managing Risks”

This is a commentary of a Treasury document available at  http://www.treasury.govt.nz/abouttreasury/higherlivingstandards/hls-ag-risks-jan13.pdf             The living standards framework is at:             http://www.treasury.govt.nz/abouttreasury/higherlivingstandards I was asked to do this comment in a hurry. Some of the thinking is as superficial as that of a university professor (as we say in the trade).   Keywords:…
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Volting in a Vacuum

Wellington’s disdain for local councils makes the present elections almost meaningless.   Listener: 3 October, 2013.   Keywords: Governance;   The abolition of the provinces in 1876 made New Zealand one of the most centralised states in the world. Not completely, however – a second level of regional, city and district councils exists that we…
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State Leadership in New Zealand’s Economic Development

Public Sector Conference: 5-6 September, 2013 Published in Foreign Control Watchdog 134, January 2014: p.46-50   Keywords: Business & Finance; Globalisation & Trade; Governance;  Political Economy & History;   If you look at the top ten companies on the New Zealand share market, you will find that half were once owned by the government or…
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Sky Lark

Managers don’t always do what their shareholders want, which may explain the SkyCity deal oddities.   Listener: 30 March , 2013.   Keywords: Business & Finance;  Governance;   Richina Pacific has hardly reported to its shareholders since 2008, according to NZ Herald business columnist Brian Gaynor. By ignoring them, Richina Pacific gave no information to…
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Leaky Legislation

Listener: 15 September, 2012. Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich coined the expression “iatrogenic medicine” to describe illness generated by the actions of physicians. An example is when the doctors prescribe some medicine, with resultant side effects, which are treated by further medication. The cycle repeats until a specialist reviews the patient’s entire record and stops all…
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The Soe Bonus Scheme

Listener: 18 August, 2012. One of the reasons King Charles I was beheaded in 1649 was that, without Parliament’s approval, he raised taxes and spent the proceeds. Forty years later, after the Glorious Revolution, the English Parliament passed the Bill of Rights, requiring that the Crown tax or spend only with Parliament’s approval. That act…
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