Welcome to the September newsletter from The Policy Observatory for 2017. We offer some links in this newsletter to our reports relating to election 2017 policy issues, to new Briefing Papers, and video available from our recent Big Data event.

Election 2017

The Policy Observatory’s Reports & Projects page contains a number of backgrounders on a range of social and economic issues, by experts in the field. Many are particularly relevant to 2017 election issues, including the following:


Public health policy researcher Philippa Howden-Chapman calls for the New Zealand government to be bold and innovate to address stubborn and damaging social problems:

Home again: Rehabilitating state policy experiments

The economy

We have a trio of reports by economists Bill Rosenberg and Ganesh Nana and exporter John Walley on underlying or structural problems with the New Zealand economy. Why does New Zealand suffer from low wages, low productivity, and low levels of complexity in manufacturing?

New Zealand’s low value economy By Bill Rosenberg

The state of the New Zealand economy By Ganesh Nana

Observations on the real economy in New Zealand By John Walley

Social policy

The term ‘social investment’ has made an appearance on the campaign trail, but what, exactly, does it mean?

Budget 2017: What does ‘social investment’ really mean? By Simon Chapple


We have two reports from 2017 on aspects of the housing crisis, covering supply and price:

The mess we’re in: Auckland’s housing bubble from a construction sector perspective By John Tookey

Housing prices relative to consumer prices By Brian Easton

Kim Hill interviews Ian Shirley

Founder of The Policy Observatory, Emeritus Professor Ian Shirley, was interviewed by Kim Hill on RNZ National on the 2nd of September. Ian discusses his career from community development to academia. He makes the case for grassroots input into social and development policies, and for more nuanced measures of quality of life than macroeconomic indicators.


Briefing Papers

The Briefing Papers website was begun in 2014 by Emeritus Professor Ian Shirley and continues with a new paper most weeks.

MMP has come of age  By Peter Aimer

Political scientist Peter Aimer was active in campaigning for the introduction of MMP. In this Briefing Paper, he looks back at 21 years of elections under the system. Public acceptance of MMP was neither immediate nor straightforward. 21 years on, calls to replace it have (mostly) died away - but does it need further improvement?


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

New welfare sanctions came into force in 2013, but despite its commitment to evidence-based policy in the social welfare arena, the government has chosen not to investigate the impacts of sanctions on welfare recipients – even in households that include children. Alicia Sudden looks at what we do know about the new sanctions regime, and concludes it represents both a withdrawal of state care and an increase in state policing of beneficiaries.


Power imbalances in local vs central government  By Christine Rose

The most important relationship Auckland Council has is with central government, but it is not an equal relationship. Christine Rose writes about the subservient relationship of local to central government in New Zealand.


Transforming to a prison-free society  By John Buttle

New Zealand has high and increasing incarceration levels, despite a steady drop in crime levels since the 1990s. Given there is evidence that prisons do not work, could we ever move to a prison-free society? AUT criminologist John Buttle makes the case.


New video: risks and opportunities of big data

Video is now available from the Policy Observatory’s panel discussion on the risks and opportunities of big data, an event held in August:


The page includes a video of the whole session, as well as some excerpts from our speakers.

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