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.

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: Prelimiinary report providing updated data from SOPHIE

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.