Working papers

Stay informed about IGPS research into environmental, social and economic issues, with a practical focus on lifting the quality of public decision making.

The Institute for Governance and Policy Studies charter sets out a broad range of research objectives focused on improving the quality of public decision making and achieving better outcomes—economic, environmental, and social—for all New Zealanders.

Our researchers are empowered to follow the logic of their findings anywhere it takes them, without fear or favour, and you can find a selection of their working papers here.

Designing a new Collective Operating and Funding Model in the New Zealand Public Sector

Ken Warren

The challenge of collaboration has long been considered a New Zealand public sector management issue. Both the Productivity Commission, drawing on collective impact literature, and the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG), posing a challenge to move to ‘whakamana tāngata’ – restoring dignity to people so they can participate meaningfully with their families and communities, have emphasised a more collaborative approach for improving the wellbeing of citizens with complex needs. The experience of Whānau Ora as reported by the Review Panel shows that such a collaborative approach results in positive changes and creates the conditions for those changes to be sustainable. Taken together, these recent reports show the case for change for better outcomes for vulnerable people with complex needs through the use of collaborative methods has been made and proved. They also however highlight that successfully implementing such collaborative approaches in the public sector is hard. This paper focusses on the issue of how the government can best collaborate at the front line with organisations and individuals looking to tackle complex variegated problems at the local level. It applies operating and funding model analysis to provide insights as to why collaboration with such organisations and individuals have been so hard for the New Zealand public sector. The analysis also provides insights for designing institutional change to encourage successful collaborative and collective approaches where they are most needed.

Decarbonising the public sector: Why a night train can be the start of a national public transport network

Paul Callister

There are considerable equity arguments to support the idea that we should stop all unessential flying. Stronger government direction would be required to overcome the inevitable resistance, as political power tends to be held in New Zealand by the demographic who fly and pollute the most. One way to show direction on this issue would be for government to direct the public service to change its practices on travel. While public servants travel throughout New Zealand, a key connection is between the seat of government in Wellington and our largest city, Auckland. This paper offers a case study of a night train between Auckland and Wellington, as one key stepping stone towards reduce our national emissions profile.

Wealth inequality in New Zealand

Max Rashbrooke, Geoff Rashbrooke and Albert Chin

New Zealand has traditionally portrayed itself as an egalitarian country. This paper's analysis suggests that this is not the case when it comes to economic wealth, even leaving aside all the other inequalities – for instance those between ethnicities – that characterise New Zealand. There are striking inequalities of wealth, more so even than in comparable developed countries. These inequalities appear to be even greater once the under-reporting of the largest fortunes is corrected.

How to decarbonise New Zealand's transport sector

Paul Callister and Heidi O’Callahan

Emissions from transport are a major part of New Zealand’s climate challenge, as highlighted by the Climate Change Commission in February 2021. While transport emissions have been rising in most of the world, New Zealand’s increase in road transportation emissions by 101.6% from 1990 to 2018 has been remarkable. New Zealand is also unusual among advanced industrialised economies with farming creating around half of our total greenhouse gas emissions. This has implications for the transport sector. In order to decarbonise transport by 2030 we need to act with urgency and clarity. The solutions are not complex, but they require system change. Achieving this goal will necessitate a wide range of short- and long-term measures. Change needs to occur at many levels. Hopefully, both the Climate Change Commission’s draft report and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s sustainable tourism report will stimulate discussion and, more importantly, action. However, we consider both reports to be too cautious in their suggested changes and, in this paper, have set out a range of transport related actions we consider would speed up the transition to a low carbon economy.

After Christchurch: Counterspeech and civility as everyone's responsibility

David Bromell

This paper summarises the preceding six papers in the series, then discusses counter-speech and online civic interventions, introduces some counter-speech strategies, and identifies opportunities for government investment. In the private sector, advertisers, shareholders and customers have roles to play, as does the Fourth Estate (the press and news media in their role as watchdogs of a free, open and democratic society). Counter-speech and civility are everyone’s responsibility. In the World Wide Web, the party’s over, and we all need to help clean up.

After Christchurch: Striking a fair balance when regulating harmful communication

David Bromell

This paper encourages policy makers to strike a fair balance when regulating harmful communication. It discusses some important distinctions between public and private communication, harm and offence, and persons and groups. Any proposal to regulate private communication, or to protect social groups and their beliefs, values and practices from criticism and offence, exacts too high a price because of the extent to which this restricts freedom of expression. Policy makers need to refrain from using the coercive power of the state to enforce a ‘heckler’s veto’—or a ‘mourner’s veto.’ In a free, open and democratic society, agonistic respect and toleration, including and especially toleration of ideas, beliefs, attitudes and practices which we dislike, are preferable to ‘calling out’, ‘cancel culture’ and de-platforming.

After Christchurch: Arguments for and against restricting freedom of expression

David Bromell

This is paper five in a series of seven working papers, After Christchurch: Hate, harm and the limits of censorship. Public policy decisions about whether, when and how to regulate harmful communication in a free, open and democratic society necessarily involve values and moral principles. Political philosophy can shed light on these, to inform and guide decision making about the right thing to do, or not do. This paper presents arguments both for and against the state restricting freedom of expression. Arguments against restricting freedom of expression involve considerations of individual autonomy, human agency and legal responsibility, reason and ‘the marketplace of ideas’, political legitimacy and representative democracy, restraining the state, a dilemma regulation can create for human rights law, and legal efficacy.

After Christchurch: Regulating harmful communication - current legal frameworks

David Bromell

This is paper four in a series of seven working papers, After Christchurch: Hate, harm and the limits of censorship. This paper summarises provisions in international human rights standards, and in New Zealand law, that protect and qualify the right to freedom of expression. It also notes relevant recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques. The paper then summarises regulation of harmful communication and some recent developments in the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the European Union.

After Christchurch: Challenges in regulating online content

David Bromell

This is paper three in a series of seven working papers, After Christchurch: Hate, harm and the limits of censorship. In light of the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques in March 2019 and the subsequent Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online (Working paper 21/02), this paper argues that social media and other digital intermediaries are too big and have too much influence not to be subject to government regulation. Harmful digital communication is, however, exceptionally difficult to regulate for reasons that relate to the nature of the internet and digital communications, and to the business models and algorithms used by Big Tech companies.

After Christchurch: Hate speech definitions and key terms

David Bromell

This is paper two in a series of seven working papers, After Christchurch: Hate, harm and the limits of censorship. Following the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques in March 2019, the Government pledged to review New Zealand’s regulation of ‘hate speech’ and 'hate crime’. The Royal Commission of Inquiry that reported in November 2020 made four recommendations on ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crime’, to which the Government has agreed in principle. A democratic state can justifiably use its coercive powers to protect its citizens from harmful public communication that incites discrimination, hostility or violence against them. A democratic state cannot justifiably restrict freedom of opinion and expression by criminalising criticism, satire, disapproval, dislike, ‘hurtful’ remarks—or even hatred. Regulation should provide protection not from the emotions of ‘hate’ or offence, but from the effect of harm.

After Christchurch: The terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques and the Christchurch Call

David Bromell

This is paper one in a series of seven working papers, After Christchurch: Hate, harm and the limits of censorship. It summarises the voluntary (non-binding) commitments made by governments and online service providers that have signed up to the Christchurch Call and other initiatives, and reviews progress in implementing it since May 2019. While the Christchurch Call is aspirational and well-intentioned, the goal of ‘eliminating’ terrorist and violent extremist content online is impossible—unless governments employ draconian measures of censorship that would severely restrict freedom of expression and commitment to a free, open and secure internet. Impossibility is not, however, an excuse for policy makers to do nothing.

A Statistical Window for the Justice System

Len Cook

This is an analysis of the statistical record of the experiences of Māori with the justice system. It is based on the official statistics of the time since 1858 and what they reveal about Māori connection with the Justice and Child Welfare system. The statistical picture highlights that lawmakers and institutions inadequately account for the distinct characteristics of Māori, despite the extraordinary demographic dynamism of Māori and their contribution to the vitality of the New Zealand population. Māori have been particularly affected whenever politics and attitudes have selectively used anecdotal evidence and untested theory to introduce laws and institutional practices involving State custody.

Patterns of political donations in New Zealand under MMP: 1996-2019

Thomas Anderson and Simon Chapple

The purpose of this study is to establish, as far as possible given data limitations, the patterns behind political donations in New Zealand over the period of Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP). These facts are primarily examined using publicly available administrative information from 1996 to 2019, collected from political parties and candidates under electoral regulations post-1993 and publicly provided by the Electoral Commission.

Results from the IGPS March 2020 Trust Survey

Doan Nguyen, Kate Prickett and Simon Chapple

This working paper reports the results from the 2020 Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) public trust survey. The IGPS had previously surveyed public trust in 2016, 2018, 2019 (twice, once before and once after the Christchurch mosque shootings). The 2020 data collection repeated most of the same questions as the earlier surveys. However, because 2020 is an election year, a special module was incorporated addressing issues surrounding the health of democracy in New Zealand. The IGPS intends a general publication in this area to encourage New Zealanders to think, discuss and debate these issues during an election year.

Life in lockdown: The economic and social effect of lockdown during Alert Level 4 in New Zealand

Kate C. Prickett, Michael Fletcher, Simon Chapple, Nguyen Doan, and Conal Smith

On March 25th 2020 New Zealand completed a 48 hour transition to an Alert Level 4 lockdown, a state which severely restricted people’s movement and their social interactions in an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19. To examine the effects of lockdown on economic and social wellbeing in New Zealand, the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families and Children and the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies conducted a survey between Wednesday April 15th and Saturday April 18th. This period was particularly salient for examining wellbeing as it was the third week of lockdown and a time when no official announcement had been made on how long lockdown would continue. Taken together, this report highlights that close to half of all New Zealanders experienced an economic loss during Alert Level 4 lockdown. It confirms that the wellbeing losses among those who experienced job or income loss are also likely to have been substantial. Essential workers reported slightly more stress during this time. Those who remained employed but could not work—a sizeable proportion who were likely being supported by the government wage subsidy programme—reported better wellbeing than other workers during lockdown and much better wellbeing than those who lost their jobs, demonstrating the positive impact of job security despite being unable to work. In terms of family functioning, families as a whole were considerably less stressed by fears that lockdown would strain relationships. Balancing work and family demands under lockdown, however, created time pressure and stress among working parents, in particular working mothers of young children. Overall, these findings can inform policy responses in the labour market that are aimed at both economic and wellbeing recovery, and in the event of potential future lockdowns.

Is the Commerce Act 1986 fit for purpose?

Geoff Bertram

As New Zealand’s experiment with deregulation limps unsteadily into its fourth decade, documented cases of regulatory failure accumulate. A common theme running through these failures is that the weakening of regulatory legal requirements in the 1980s and 1990s, under the rubric “light-handed regulation”, was accompanied by a hollowing-out of the public sector’s regulatory capability. That was never a necessary combination.

Official statistics in the search for solutions for living with COVID-19 and its consequences

Len Cook

The prolonged existence of COVID-19 and the consequential actions to manage it both nationally, regionally and internationally will provide national statistical offices with the greatest challenges that they might ever expect. There is much in common across statistical systems in the breadth of the expectations that are coming to be placed on them. Few countries will have the capacity to meet all these needs, or even plan for meeting them as they become recognised. This paper presents some personal views on how official statistics will need to change and foreshadows the range of influences on the context for which official statistical offices and international organisations need to plan for. The paper draws on experiences in New Zealand and focuses on aspects which have general applicability in other countries. All countries have some advantages and disadvantages that are unique to them, and those that have relevance to a study anchored in experiences in New Zealand are made clear. The central thrust of the paper is that national statistical offices need to be thinking now about the huge medium- and long-term influences that will shape what they need to change in their work.

Fiscal History, Fiscal Policy

Dennis Rose

This paper is based on a presentation to a Symposium, "Well-being, budget responsibility rules and the Public Finance Act", hosted on 15 April 2019 by the Institute of Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, and on a follow-up presentation to the Fabian Society at Conolly Hall Wellington on April 23. It falls into two parts: an examination of trends in public revenue and spending in the post-war years and a suggested re-focusing of the Public Finance Act fiscal policy framework, that includes the possible use of fiat money creation in support of macroeconomic objectives, particularly full employment. The historic analysis updates work undertaken earlier this decade, with the primary objective of deriving annual time series data summarizing trends in public revenue and spending, suitable for use in econometric analysis.

Can We Keep Flying? Decarbonising New Zealand’s Domestic and International Aviation

Wallace Rae and Paul Callister

There is a recognition in New Zealand of an urgent need to decarbonise our economy. Two of our largest export industries are dairying and tourism. Together they earn valuable income that supports New Zealand’s relatively high standard of living. But both are significant contributors to greenhouse emissions. Dairy is already receiving significant regulatory attention on this front. What about tourism? If we decarbonise our aviation industry, will we still have one, and can tourism survive without it?

Economic policy in the public sphere: a perspective from New Zealand

Gabriel Makhlouf and Udayan Mukherjee

In this essay, our aim is to reflect on the uses of economics in policy in New Zealand, and offer a view on where it may need to develop in coming years. Our intention is to speak primarily to policy practitioners, by which we mean those involved in providing analysis and advice that contributes to debate about the direction of public policy. The motivation for this essay has been our passion for economics, its intellectual underpinnings and their historical development, its tools, techniques and rigour, its analytical insights and the contribution they’ve made to our understanding of the world we live in. Economics matters. It is foundational for public policy and as public policy practitioners we want to promote the discipline, support its development into new applications and strengthen its use across all public policy domains.

Does an empirical Heckman curve exist?

David Rea and Tony Burton

The Heckman Curve suggests that the rate of return to public investments in human capital declines across the life course. This paper assesses the empirical evidence for the Heckman Curve, using estimates of program benefit cost ratios from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. We find no support for the claim of an inverse relationship between rates of return and the age of the person who receives the intervention. The paper concludes by discussing the various features of human capital and interventions that might explain why the predictions of the Heckman Curve are not consistent with the empirical evidence.

How effective are 2018 policy settings for the worst-off children?

Susan St John and Yun So

Over ten years ago, the Ministry of Social Development identified “pockets of significant hardship” where some families were falling below the “very stringent 40% after housing costs poverty line where there is nothing in reserve”. This working paper provides a technical analysis to show how much is needed to address the poverty of these 140,000 children in a significant way. The finding is that current policy settings in the Families Package to be implemented from 1 July 2018 are seriously inadequate for the task.

From Complexity to Collaboration: Creating the New Zealand we want for ourselves

Elizabeth Eppel, Donna Provoost and Girol Karacaoglu

The ultimate objective of public policy is to improve people’s lives and wellbeing, now and into the future. Traditional environmental, social and economic policies are clearly failing to generate the changes needed to address the persistent and increasing disadvantage facing many people and the communities they live in. This is unacceptable in a country as rich in human and natural resources as Aotearoa New Zealand. We propose a principles-based policy framework for complex social problems such as the New Zealand government’s current focus on reducing child poverty.

The Case for New Climate Change Adaptation Funding Instruments

Jonathan Boston and Judy Lawrence

Adapting to climate change during the 21st century and beyond poses unprecedented technical, administrative and political challenges for which new governance arrangements, planning frameworks and funding instruments will be required.1 In effect, humanity faces a slow-motion disaster which will grow in scope and scale progressively, yet sometimes abruptly.

Bridges Both Ways

Max Rashbrooke

One of New Zealand’s great strengths is its easy-going, ‘she’ll be right’ attitude; but every strength can become a weakness.

Review of New Zealand police's progress in response to the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct

Mike Rowe and Michael Macaulay

In 2007 the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into Police Conduct made 60 recommendations for change; New Zealand Police (NZ Police) had responsibility for 47 of those.

Wealth Disparities in New Zealand: Final report

Geoff Rashbrooke, Max Rashbrooke and Wilma Molano

Over the period 2002 to 2010, Statistics New Zealand carried out a longitudinal survey known as the Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE). Some eight waves of data were collected. In every second wave (2003/2004, 2005/2006, 2007/2008 and 2009/2010), respondents were asked questions about their wealth holdings.

Permanent Forest Bonds: A pioneering environmental impact bond for Aotearoa New Zealand

David Hall, Sam Lindsay, and Sam Judd

The challenge is to establish permanent forest on vulnerable land throughout New Zealand, especially erosion-prone land and waterway margins (see Boxes 1 & 2). Leaving this land unforested hinders the nation’s long-term prosperity by degrading national environmental assets and increasing future carbon liabilities, which together, undermine New Zealand’s highly valued green reputation.

Wealth Disparity in New Zealand: Preliminary report providing updated data from SoFIE

Geoff Rashbrooke, Max Rashbrooke and Wilma Molano

Over the period 2002 to 2010, Statistics New Zealand carried out a longitudinal survey known as the Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE). Some eight waves of data were collected. Every second wave (2003/2004, 2005/2006, 2007/2008, and 2009/2010), respondents were asked questions about their wealth holdings.

The 'Investment Approach' - liabilities or assets?

Colin James

In 2011 the government adopted from the Accident Compensation Corporation via the Welfare Working Group a programme of actuarially estimating the cost of someone staying long-term on a benefit and using that as the basis for defining the return from "investing" in action that deflected that person from a benefit into long-term work.

The TINZ National Integrity System assessment 2013 and the Open Government Partnership

Murray Petrie

The 2013 National Integrity System Assessment conducted by Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) has been attracting increased attention recently with the inclusion by the government of a commitment in NZ's first Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan to consider and respond to the recommendations in the NIS assessment.

Connectedness and Canterbury

Catrin Parish

The Canterbury earthquake sequence of 2010 and 2011 presented the government with unprecedented challenges, not least of which was to ensure consistency and connectedness across each of its agencies who had a role in the response.

Vested Interests

Colin James

In 2010-11 three government policy initiatives aroused controversy and accusations of special treatment for "vested interests": a change in workplace relations law to meet the demand of a film company; special treatment for a company in the ultra-fast broadband roll-out; and a gambling-licences-for-convention-centre deal (details section 5b). Were the accusations justified? And what is a "vested interest" and where does it fit in a democracy?

Governance of a Complex System: Water

Elizabeth Eppel

Fresh water is a life-enabling resource as well as the source of spiritual, social and economic wellbeing and development. It is continuously renewed by the Earth’s natural recycling systems using heat from the sun to evaporate and purify, and then rain to replenish supplies.

Collaborative Governance Case Studies: The Land and Water Forum

Elizabeth Eppel

Looking at collaborative processes in retrospect is always easier than it was at the time they were first happening. They tend to look more designed, orderly, and less messy than they actually were. In the Land and Water Forum case, a number of strands of activity/inactivity and actors came together to construct the beginning.

Flexi-Super: Not really such a great idea

Geoff Rashbrooke

Flexi-super is a proposal to allow people to begin receiving New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) between the ages of 60 and 70, instead of at age 65 as at present. The intention is that the rate at which NZS was paid commencing at these ages would be adjusted relative to age 65 years.

Assessing 'Good Governance' and Corruption in New Zealand

Robert Gregory

Assessing 'Good Governance' and Corruption in New Zealand: 'Scientific' measurement, political discourse, and historical narrative. New Zealand is ranked highly on the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), which asses performance on six dimensions of governance: voice and accountability. political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption.

Partnering and the Ideal State: Limits to collaboration

Mark Prebble

Networks, collaboration and partnerships between the government and community groups offer prospects for stronger governance and improved public value. Many authors have reported on processes that enhance the prospects for successful collaborations, especially in handling intractable issues, but few have examined the limits to partnerships.