Welcome to the August newsletter from The Policy Observatory for 2017.


Join The Policy Observatory this Thursday evening for a lively discussion on big data and the future of New Zealand public policy. Chaired by business journalist Rod Oram, our panel includes:

  • Professor Rhema Vaithianathan of the Centre for Social Data Analytics at Auckland University of Technology, which is pioneering research into social investment;
  • Professor Tahu Kukutai of the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, who recently edited the first ever book on indigenous data sovereignty;
  • David Leach, CEO of Qrious, a data analytics firm backed by Spark; and
  • Keith Ng, an independent data journalist and data visualisations expert.

When: Thursday 3rd August, 5.30-7pm

Where: WG308, Sir Paul reeves Building, AUT city campus

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 worst, whether in government, business and society?

Further details are on our website via the following link:

Briefing Papers 2017

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

A New Zealand Community Living Standards Review? By Simon Chapple

There has been comment in the news recently about whether welfare benefit levels are adequate to live on. In this paper Simon Chapple visits the question of how various income support methods in New Zealand are set and reviewed, an exercise that reveals huge disparities between the different kinds of support. He recommends a more systematic approach to reviewing income support:


House Prices Relative to Inflation by Brian Easton

An extract from Brian Easton’s longer report for The Policy Observatory on house price rises and how they compare to increases in the CPI, forms this Briefing Paper. Easton concludes that:

If the long-run relativity that existed between 1962 and 2002 had persisted through the following 14 years, house prices today would be half the level they actually are. It could be argued that this is a measure of the degree by which housing is overpriced.


Introducing a Universal Basic income in New Zealand – Insights from the Finnish Trial? By Pii-Tuulia Nikula

Finland is trialling a universal basic income (UBI) but design flaws mean the trial won’t provide good insight into some important questions about how UBIs might impact on behaviour. Nonetheless, can we assume the outcomes from a trial in Finland are transferable to New Zealand?


New report: no more business as usual

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 by The Policy Observatory brings together thirteen authors who have written thirteen very different essay on the future of trade. The contributors in this volume don’t agree on the answers but none are wholly against trade, nor are any contributors wholly complacent towards business-as-usual. Contributors include:

  • Robert Wade (LSE)
  • Stephen Hoadley (University of Auckland)
  • Hosuk Lee-Makiyama & Hanna Deringer (European Centre for International Political Economy)
  • Bill Rosenberg (CTU)
  • Lida Ayoubi, Amy Baker Benjamin, Pheh Hoon Lim, Carol Neill  and Rahul Sen (AUT)
  • Jordan Carter (InternetNZ)
  • Dan Bidois
  • Adrian Macey (VUW)
  • Toby Moore (VUW)

Ian Shirley interview

On the eve of his retirement last November, Policy Observatory founder Emeritus Professor Ian Shirley was interviewed by AUT’s Alison Sykora. Text and audio from that interview are now on the Policy Observatory website:


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