Reports & Projects

The Policy Observatory produces a range of outputs, from reports on public policy issues to wider projects that span a variety of media formats. Some of these publications are commissioned by external agencies – others are drawn from the research programmes conducted by leading researchers and scholars, aligned with the Policy Observatory.

Briefing Papers

The Briefing Papers is a Policy Observatory project which provides backgrounders and opinion pieces on critical issues facing New Zealand society – written by experts to inform public debate.


The Briefing Papers Website

All Economy Politics Society
BY The Policy Observatory
03 Aug 2017
Economy, Society
Big Data creates enormous opportunities for better understanding the impacts and effectiveness of economic and public policy, such as social investment. But our newfound capacity for collecting data and targeting intervention creates risks as well as opportunities. How can we get the best out of big data without enabling the...
BY The Policy Observatory
20 Jul 2017
Economy
Money is moving in, out and around New Zealand, governed by people’s spending and investment choices. But how do investment decisions shape the world we live in? And how can we ensure that our investments sow the seeds of future prosperity, rather than blow financial bubbles in markets like land...
BY David Hall
13 Jul 2017
Economy
#single-post .post-thumb{ display: none; } What is the future of international trade in a world of re-emergent national populism and voter scepticism of big trade deals?This new report brings together thirteen authors who have written thirteen very different essays on the future of trade. What does the Paris Climate Agreement...
BY Emily Keddell
01 Jun 2017
Society
In this report, social work academic Dr. Emily Keddell critiques one aspect of the recent child protection services reforms: the prevention of child abuse and neglect. She highlights the points of tension between the way that child abuse is defined throughout the review process, the details of the proposed reforms,...
BY Simon Chapple
25 May 2017
Economy
Simon Chapple has been studying the rhetoric and policy implementation of what Bill English calls ‘the social investment approach’. Expecting social spending in Budget 2017 to be framed with this concept, Julienne Molineaux interviewed Simon about the term.A short version of this interview was published on The Spinoff website:Julienne: ‘Social...
BY Brian Easton
02 May 2017
Economy
In this short report, economist Brian Easton looks at whether housing is, indeed, less affordable than previously. Using Reserve Bank of New Zealand data from 1962 until 2016, he compares house price changes to changes in the Consumer Price Index, a measure of general inflation that does not include house...
BY Professor John E. Tookey
01 May 2017
Politics
A lot has been written on the crisis of housing affordability in New Zealand, but not a lot from the perspective of those who build houses. Professor John Tookey is an expert on the construction industry, familiar with the economic and regulatory drivers for building and construction. In this report,...
BY Alison Sykora
01 Nov 2016
Economy, Politics, Society
After 16 years at AUT and a career spent working in the ‘human laboratory’ Professor Ian Shirley is moving into a new role as an Emeritus Professor of the University.In contrast to the traditional laboratories of the physical sciences he describes his ‘laboratory’ as those populations and groups that are...
BY Innes Asher and Susan St. John
01 Oct 2016
Society
In New Zealand there is a triple jeopardy for poor health: poverty, unhealthy housing and inadequate basic health care. Each alone puts health at risk but when the three are combined, poor mental and physical health is almost inevitable. Yet we know what to do to solve these problems, writes...
BY The Policy Observatory
21 Sep 2016
Economy
In September 2016 UK economist Ann Pettifor was hosted in New Zealand as a distinguished visitor of The Policy Observatory and the Auckland University of Technology. Her busy schedule included public seminars in Auckland and Wellington, discussions with groups such as Treasury, Auckland Council and the Law and Economics Association...
BY David Hall
02 Sep 2016
Economy
Ann Pettifor is an author and analyst of the global financial system, and co-author of A Green New Deal (2008). She predicted an Anglo-American debt-deflationary crisis back in 2003, and wrote The Coming First World Debt Crisis in 2006. She is renowned for her work on sovereign debt and her...
BY John L. Walley
01 Sep 2016
Economy
For the last 30 years, New Zealand exporters have been exposed to policies that inflate the exchange rate. These policies, and the inflated exchange rate, have led to a loss in economic complexity in the New Zealand economy, in which wealth now comes from asset appreciation, not production. Exporter John...
BY Max Rashbrooke
01 Aug 2016
Society
When it comes to social development, New Zealand is, overall, a successful country. On a range of indicators we achieve high levels of well-being, opportunity and access to basic needs. But the word ‘overall’ is crucial for it obscures New Zealand’s high levels of poverty, and inequality of income and...
BY Bill Rosenberg
01 Aug 2016
Economy
In 2003 the OECD described New Zealand as suffering from ‘a productivity paradox’: we adopted best practise economic policies that were meant to deliver growth, yet our productivity levels are low. In this short report Bill Rosenberg analyses the drivers of our low value, low wage economy, including the role...
BY Ganesh Nana
01 Aug 2016
Economy
Ganesh Nana writes about the growing disconnect in the New Zealand economy: New Zealand implemented all the ‘right’ macroeconomic policies such as targeting inflation and exercising prudent fiscal management. Yet productivity problems remain and outcome indicators such as homelessness, child poverty, and housing affordability are getting worse. While these policies...
BY Hilary Stace
01 Aug 2016
Society
New Zealand is a signatory to many human rights standards. So why are vulnerable autistic people like Ashley Peacock, who have committed no crimes, detained against their will in mental health facilities?
BY Deborah Russell
01 Aug 2016
Economy
New Zealand’s tax system is largely robust and fair, with a high degree of trust in the system. Tax professionals and bureaucrats have worked hard to minimise tax concessions and maximise the coherence of the system. Deborah Russell argues that for all its internal coherency, there is evidence the tax...
BY Philippa Howden-Chapman
01 Aug 2016
Politics
Public health policy researcher Philippa Howden-Chapman calls on the New Zealand government to be an active state, embarking on a programme of bold social policy experiments to address stubborn and damaging social problems. Recalling past governments’ willingness to innovate, she criticises the current government’s passivity in the face of seemingly...
BY JULIENNE MOLINEAUX
26 Jul 2016
Economy
New Zealand’s two largest newspaper companies – also the owners of many other media products – have applied to the Commerce Commission for permission to merge. This will create a company that owns almost 90% of all daily newspaper circulation and the two largest news website in New Zealand. A...
BY BRIAN EASTON | ECONOMIC POLICY NETWORK
26 May 2016
Economy, Politics
Survey evidence suggests the public want more government spending in a number of policy areas: health, education, housing, law enforcement, public transport and the environment. Yet there has been little increase in the aggregate level of government spending relative to GDP over the last 20 years. What are the spending...
BY THE POLICY OBSERVATORY
11 May 2016
Politics
A new report by The Policy Observatory, The Governance of Auckland: 5 years on, looks at the reasons for creating the unitary Auckland Council, and asks whether it has solved the problems of the old local government structure. The report notes mixed results, with one key goal being met while...
BY Paul Dalziel, Meike Guenther and Caroline Saunders
01 Apr 2016
Economy
New Zealand’s agri-foods sector is much wider than production from the land or harvesting from the sea. Enterprises in every part of the economy are involved in creating value from these products. Almost all raw produce needs processing; primary and processing activities draw on goods and services produced across the...
BY The Policy Observatory
03 Aug 2017
Economy, Society
Big Data creates enormous opportunities for better understanding the impacts and effectiveness of economic and public policy, such as social investment. But our newfound capacity for collecting data and targeting intervention creates risks as well as opportunities. How can we get the best out of big data without enabling the...
BY The Policy Observatory
20 Jul 2017
Economy
Money is moving in, out and around New Zealand, governed by people’s spending and investment choices. But how do investment decisions shape the world we live in? And how can we ensure that our investments sow the seeds of future prosperity, rather than blow financial bubbles in markets like land...
BY David Hall
13 Jul 2017
Economy
#single-post .post-thumb{ display: none; } What is the future of international trade in a world of re-emergent national populism and voter scepticism of big trade deals?This new report brings together thirteen authors who have written thirteen very different essays on the future of trade. What does the Paris Climate Agreement...
BY Simon Chapple
25 May 2017
Economy
Simon Chapple has been studying the rhetoric and policy implementation of what Bill English calls ‘the social investment approach’. Expecting social spending in Budget 2017 to be framed with this concept, Julienne Molineaux interviewed Simon about the term.A short version of this interview was published on The Spinoff website:Julienne: ‘Social...
BY Brian Easton
02 May 2017
Economy
In this short report, economist Brian Easton looks at whether housing is, indeed, less affordable than previously. Using Reserve Bank of New Zealand data from 1962 until 2016, he compares house price changes to changes in the Consumer Price Index, a measure of general inflation that does not include house...
BY Alison Sykora
01 Nov 2016
Economy, Politics, Society
After 16 years at AUT and a career spent working in the ‘human laboratory’ Professor Ian Shirley is moving into a new role as an Emeritus Professor of the University.In contrast to the traditional laboratories of the physical sciences he describes his ‘laboratory’ as those populations and groups that are...
BY The Policy Observatory
21 Sep 2016
Economy
In September 2016 UK economist Ann Pettifor was hosted in New Zealand as a distinguished visitor of The Policy Observatory and the Auckland University of Technology. Her busy schedule included public seminars in Auckland and Wellington, discussions with groups such as Treasury, Auckland Council and the Law and Economics Association...
BY David Hall
02 Sep 2016
Economy
Ann Pettifor is an author and analyst of the global financial system, and co-author of A Green New Deal (2008). She predicted an Anglo-American debt-deflationary crisis back in 2003, and wrote The Coming First World Debt Crisis in 2006. She is renowned for her work on sovereign debt and her...
BY John L. Walley
01 Sep 2016
Economy
For the last 30 years, New Zealand exporters have been exposed to policies that inflate the exchange rate. These policies, and the inflated exchange rate, have led to a loss in economic complexity in the New Zealand economy, in which wealth now comes from asset appreciation, not production. Exporter John...
BY Deborah Russell
01 Aug 2016
Economy
New Zealand’s tax system is largely robust and fair, with a high degree of trust in the system. Tax professionals and bureaucrats have worked hard to minimise tax concessions and maximise the coherence of the system. Deborah Russell argues that for all its internal coherency, there is evidence the tax...
BY Ganesh Nana
01 Aug 2016
Economy
Ganesh Nana writes about the growing disconnect in the New Zealand economy: New Zealand implemented all the ‘right’ macroeconomic policies such as targeting inflation and exercising prudent fiscal management. Yet productivity problems remain and outcome indicators such as homelessness, child poverty, and housing affordability are getting worse. While these policies...
BY Bill Rosenberg
01 Aug 2016
Economy
In 2003 the OECD described New Zealand as suffering from ‘a productivity paradox’: we adopted best practise economic policies that were meant to deliver growth, yet our productivity levels are low. In this short report Bill Rosenberg analyses the drivers of our low value, low wage economy, including the role...
BY JULIENNE MOLINEAUX
26 Jul 2016
Economy
New Zealand’s two largest newspaper companies – also the owners of many other media products – have applied to the Commerce Commission for permission to merge. This will create a company that owns almost 90% of all daily newspaper circulation and the two largest news website in New Zealand. A...
BY BRIAN EASTON | ECONOMIC POLICY NETWORK
26 May 2016
Economy, Politics
Survey evidence suggests the public want more government spending in a number of policy areas: health, education, housing, law enforcement, public transport and the environment. Yet there has been little increase in the aggregate level of government spending relative to GDP over the last 20 years. What are the spending...
BY Paul Dalziel, Meike Guenther and Caroline Saunders
01 Apr 2016
Economy
New Zealand’s agri-foods sector is much wider than production from the land or harvesting from the sea. Enterprises in every part of the economy are involved in creating value from these products. Almost all raw produce needs processing; primary and processing activities draw on goods and services produced across the...
BY Professor John E. Tookey
01 May 2017
Politics
A lot has been written on the crisis of housing affordability in New Zealand, but not a lot from the perspective of those who build houses. Professor John Tookey is an expert on the construction industry, familiar with the economic and regulatory drivers for building and construction. In this report,...
BY Alison Sykora
01 Nov 2016
Economy, Politics, Society
After 16 years at AUT and a career spent working in the ‘human laboratory’ Professor Ian Shirley is moving into a new role as an Emeritus Professor of the University.In contrast to the traditional laboratories of the physical sciences he describes his ‘laboratory’ as those populations and groups that are...
BY Philippa Howden-Chapman
01 Aug 2016
Politics
Public health policy researcher Philippa Howden-Chapman calls on the New Zealand government to be an active state, embarking on a programme of bold social policy experiments to address stubborn and damaging social problems. Recalling past governments’ willingness to innovate, she criticises the current government’s passivity in the face of seemingly...
BY BRIAN EASTON | ECONOMIC POLICY NETWORK
26 May 2016
Economy, Politics
Survey evidence suggests the public want more government spending in a number of policy areas: health, education, housing, law enforcement, public transport and the environment. Yet there has been little increase in the aggregate level of government spending relative to GDP over the last 20 years. What are the spending...
BY THE POLICY OBSERVATORY
11 May 2016
Politics
A new report by The Policy Observatory, The Governance of Auckland: 5 years on, looks at the reasons for creating the unitary Auckland Council, and asks whether it has solved the problems of the old local government structure. The report notes mixed results, with one key goal being met while...
BY The Policy Observatory
03 Aug 2017
Economy, Society
Big Data creates enormous opportunities for better understanding the impacts and effectiveness of economic and public policy, such as social investment. But our newfound capacity for collecting data and targeting intervention creates risks as well as opportunities. How can we get the best out of big data without enabling the...
BY Emily Keddell
01 Jun 2017
Society
In this report, social work academic Dr. Emily Keddell critiques one aspect of the recent child protection services reforms: the prevention of child abuse and neglect. She highlights the points of tension between the way that child abuse is defined throughout the review process, the details of the proposed reforms,...
BY Alison Sykora
01 Nov 2016
Economy, Politics, Society
After 16 years at AUT and a career spent working in the ‘human laboratory’ Professor Ian Shirley is moving into a new role as an Emeritus Professor of the University.In contrast to the traditional laboratories of the physical sciences he describes his ‘laboratory’ as those populations and groups that are...
BY Innes Asher and Susan St. John
01 Oct 2016
Society
In New Zealand there is a triple jeopardy for poor health: poverty, unhealthy housing and inadequate basic health care. Each alone puts health at risk but when the three are combined, poor mental and physical health is almost inevitable. Yet we know what to do to solve these problems, writes...
BY Hilary Stace
01 Aug 2016
Society
New Zealand is a signatory to many human rights standards. So why are vulnerable autistic people like Ashley Peacock, who have committed no crimes, detained against their will in mental health facilities?
BY Max Rashbrooke
01 Aug 2016
Society
When it comes to social development, New Zealand is, overall, a successful country. On a range of indicators we achieve high levels of well-being, opportunity and access to basic needs. But the word ‘overall’ is crucial for it obscures New Zealand’s high levels of poverty, and inequality of income and...