The New Zealand Institute is a new, privately funded think-tank that is committed to generating debate, ideas, and solutions that contribute to building a better and more prosperous New Zealand for all New Zealanders. The Institute will produce creative, provocative and independent thinking, focusing on key issues that will have a major impact on New Zealand’s economic and social future, and will engage with New Zealanders in order to develop solutions to address these issues.
The Institute’s members are leaders in business, education, and community service who have come together with the shared aim of creating a better and more prosperous New Zealand. Our members come from a variety of backgrounds and bring many different perspectives and a richness of experience.
We believe that New Zealand is a country with vast potential and opportunity ahead of it. But we have to overcome a number of challenges if New Zealand is to achieve its full potential. Those challenges won’t be met by recycling the same old solutions. We need new solutions and new ideas. We need a new generation of thinking.
Our work will include undertaking independent research on important issues, engaging with groups throughout the community on these issues, and working with the private and public sectors to identify and implement practical solutions. By developing new, creative, non-partisan, and world-class ideas and solutions, we believe we can contribute to improved prosperity and social outcomes for all New Zealanders.
To that end, we will draw on the best ideas and practice from around the world and feed these into the New Zealand debate. And we are committed to political neutrality and evidence-based analysis. We recognise that great ideas can come from anywhere on the political spectrum – left, right or centre. We are interested in ideas that work in the real world, not just ideas that have a certain political pedigree. And so we expect to surprise rather than run a predictable party line.
The New Zealand Institute is a private, not for profit organisation, funded entirely by our members largely through an annual membership fee. The Institute is governed by an Executive Board, which is drawn from the Institute’s members.
Much of the Institute’s work will be organised into research programs on issues of importance to New Zealand’s economic and social future, and where we believe that we have something new and insightful to contribute. Our first research program will investigate ‘Creating an Ownership Society in New Zealand’.
Creating an Ownership Society
Asset ownership is increasingly important for meaningful participation in society and the economy. Ownership enhances the ability of people to access opportunities and to invest in the future – by buying a house, financing education, and so on – and allows people to cope with shocks. Assets provide greater security, control, and independence. A broad distribution of ownership also generates enhanced social cohesion at a national level, and ensures that more New Zealanders obtain the benefits of economic growth. So creating a nation of asset owners is of fundamental importance to New Zealand’s economic and social future.
In recognition of the increasing importance of asset ownership, many countries are introducing and expanding ‘asset based policies’ that assist and encourage people to accumulate wealth. Creating an ownership society, in which ownership of assets is broadly distributed through the population and all people are able to accumulate wealth over their lifetimes, is a policy priority across many countries. And such policies are advocated by governments and political parties from across the political spectrum; it is not a policy solely of the left or of the right.
However, many New Zealanders do not have any real wealth holdings. And many New Zealanders – particularly young New Zealanders – are finding it increasingly difficult to advance financially and build an ownership stake; rising house prices and declining home ownership rates, student loan debt, and an emerging debt culture, all make wealth accumulation harder. Further, New Zealand’s overall level of household wealth is substantially lower than in most other countries, and this is likely to constrain domestic investment, productivity and growth.
Although New Zealand has historically had asset based policies that assisted people to get ahead – like assisted home ownership – these have been removed over the past two decades, and there are no deliberate policies that assist New Zealanders to build an ownership stake. This sets New Zealand apart from the international policy mainstream, and increasingly so as countries pursue asset based policies to encourage ownership.
We have chosen ‘Creating an Ownership Society’ as our initial work program because increasing the number of New Zealanders with an ownership stake – and increasing the overall level of asset ownership in New Zealand – will have a profound effect on New Zealand’s economic and social future. We also believe that New Zealand policy settings in this area are increasingly out of date and that we can contribute new and creative thinking to the New Zealand debate, drawing on developments in international policy and thinking.
So over the next several months, we will be releasing a series of papers examining different aspects of this issue, discussing these issues with New Zealanders, and developing recommendations as to how government, business, and community organisations can assist many more New Zealanders to build an ownership stake. The structure of the work program is detailed on the Ownership Society Papers page.