OVERSEAS-BASED Kiwis hold the key to unlocking New Zealand’s potential, a leading New Zealand economist says.
Tony Alexander, chief economist at the BNZ, was speaking at a KEA – New Zealand’s Global Network – function at New Zealand House in London earlier this month.
In a wide-ranging talk, he discussed how New Zealand weathered the global financial crisis, the impact of the Euro zone crisis, the growth of China, and how New Zealand is placed heading into the future.
A key message for those in attendance – those who have left home and found success overseas – was that they are the link that will help New Zealand grow into the future, especially when they eventually return home.
“Where we struggle is internationalising and developing the good business models, and that’s where the likes of yourselves, who have got a bit of get up go and who have got up and gone, as it were, you are meshed in these networks overseas,” Alexander said.
“You know that when you decide to go back to New Zealand, you are sort of settling down.
“You’re pulling back, but my idea is that everyone single one of you, when you hit the shores, we should get you in a room and lock you up for a week and debrief you, find out what you know and what are your networks that we could use.
“We still need this layer of people to form the connectivity between the Kiwis and all our creative ideas and design and Weta Workshop, and computer gaming, the audio visual, all that sort of stuff, and those who can actually use it overseas, to realise the little thing I invented over here, is actually going to be worth billions to Apple or Google or whatever over here.
Alexander encouraged those returning home to maintain their momentum, use their networks, and make a splash.
Alexander also said New Zealand also needed to take advantage of what it did better than anyone else – growing grass – and build on its reputation as a farming expert.
“We’re looking at an economy with an economic structure which we think sets us up really really well for growing emerging economies in the middle income groupings around the planet.
“I mention that explicitly as it feeds into this feeling that there is no need for radical reform in New Zealand.
“The Chinese want everything… so there is no feeling that anything radical needs to be done in New Zealand, we’re set for the next 100 years.”
In particular, New Zealand should not focus on producing more, but taking all its intellectual property in farm systems and food technology and licencing it to the rest of the world.
“China is going to be producing more of the food that China will consume in the future, it always has, we’ll only ever supply a very small bit.
“But we have all this IP that we don’t recognise in New Zealand, we don’t know that it’s intellectual property and there is money to be made out of it.”