Past Public Policy Seminars

Here you'll find all the information about our past public policy seminars, including audio downloads, copies of the slides and papers by the authors.

2020   2019    2018   2017   2016   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 and earlier


Thoughts on Climate change in a post covid world 


Speaker: Suzi Kerr is the Chief Economist at Environmental Defense Fund. She was, until May 2019, a Senior Fellow, and from 1998 - 2009 Founding Director, at Motu Research in New Zealand.

The Panel:
Dr Judy Lawrence - Senior Research Fellow at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington, Director of PS Consulting Ltd and Climate Change Commissioner.

Anna Broadhurst - MFAT - veteran climate negotiator, survivor of the Paris negotiations.

Jake Roos - is an expert in carbon reduction strategy, particularly in local government. He operates as an independent consultant.

Tom Pettit -  is the Sustainability Manager at Wellington City Council.

Kelly Forster - Programme Director of He Waka Eke Noa – Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership 

Ben Gleisner - left Treasury in 2012 to found a tech start-up, CoGo

You can find the slides here. (2MB)

Watch the Video presentation here.


Exploring Preconditions for Effective Global Responses to Climate Change.

Speaker: Jeremy Webb, a Kiwi in the process of completing his PhD at University College London (UCL) Held via Zoom on Thursday 23 April 2020.

When Jeremy started his research, he was looking for options that might help solve climate change. He quickly realised the problem wasn’t a lack of options and shifted focus to exploring who would implement those options and under what conditions. Jeremy has developed an insightful approach to framing scenarios in which the world succeeds or fails at addressing climate change and related impacts.

Background: Jeremy Webb has 20 years of experience working on global issues. This includes building international institutions, and leading interdisciplinary projects on climate change, minerals, energy, water and development. Roles have included establishing the African Climate Policy Centre, preparing integrated environmental-economic accounts, and developing international statistical standards. Most recently, Jeremy has been working on a doctorate at University College London while also leading a Solar Energy Subgroup developing solar resource classification standards under the United Nations.

You can find the slides here. (2MB)
Watch the Video presentation here.



Improving Estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon, and the Status of State and Federal Climate Policy in the United States

Speaker: Kevin Rennert, Fellow and Director, Social Cost of Carbon Initiative, Resources for the Future, United States 12.30-2pm, Thursday 13 February, Adam Auditorium, City Art Gallery, Civic Square, Wellington.

Kevin's slides for this seminar can be downloaded here (9MB).

RFF’s Social Cost of Carbon Initiative is a multi-year, multidisciplinary research initiative that is advancing recommendations of the US National Academies of Sciences to update the methodology for estimating the social cost of carbon, enhance transparency, and ensure that the updated figures reflect the best available science. The initiative will provide an updated set of estimates of the social cost of carbon that are grounded in the most current science as well as facilitate a more flexible and regular process for updating the social cost of carbon going forward. These improvements will enhance the capabilities of decision makers and analysts worldwide who use the social cost of carbon estimates to measure the benefits of emissions reductions, now and in the future. In this talk I will discuss the research efforts being taken as part of the initiative, including the provision of scientific updates across each of the four core steps of estimating the social cost of carbon and their implementation in a new open source computing platform for Integrated Assessment Modeling. In addition to the social cost of carbon, I will also discuss the status of and context for ongoing policy efforts at the US federal and state levels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with a net-zero US economy by 2050.

Seminar sponsored by Statistics New Zealand.


Triumph of the high-amenity city? Analysing urban development in New Zealand

Speaker: Stuart Donovan, Researcher, Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge
Details: 5-6.30pm, Thursday 3 October, Room 105-029, Clock Tower Building, University of Auckland, 22 Princes St, Auckland CBD

Stuart's slides for this seminar can be downloaded here (9MB).

Around the world urbanisation continues apace, giving rise to new policy opportunities and challenges. In this talk, Stuart will present the results of ongoing Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities research into urban development in New Zealand. This research is overseen by Arthur Grimes and Dave Maré from Motu. By adapting and applying spatial economic models of location choice, Stuart will discuss how urban development benefits both firms and households in New Zealand using a unique data set that tracks economic outcomes in 130 cities and towns over almost 40 years. Preliminary results suggest firms and households both benefit from strong urban agglomeration economies. For firms, these benefits appear to be linked to the local pool of highly-skilled workers, whereas local and regional scale offers benefits to households. Evidence indicates that New Zealand households place a high value on natural amenities, such as climate and recreation. To finish, Stuart will reflect on implications for policy settings and opportunities for further research.

Seminar sponsored by Te Pūnaha Matatini and Veitch Lister Consulting.

Bio: Stuart is currently studying towards a PhD at the Department of Spatial Economics at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, where he is supervised by Henri L. F. de Groot. Stuart's research interests include spatial, transport, and urban economics; transport and land use policy; and urban agglomeration economies. When not travelling for work or study, Stuart resides in Brisbane with his family and a motley collection of animals.


Ideas for Improving World Order—The SERF Index and what it reveals

Speaker: Dr Susan Randolph, Co-Director of the Research Program on Economic & Social Rights at the University of Connecticut’s Human Rights Institute.
Details: 12.30pm-2pm, Thursday 29 August, Aronui Lecture Theatre, Royal Society of New Zealand, Turnbull Street, Wellington.

The prestigious Grawemeyer Award for “Ideas Improving World Order” was won by Susan Randolph, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Terra Lawson Remer this year for their book: Fulfilling Social and Economic Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). Susan Randolph will share the main concepts introduced in the book, as well as key findings about the global state of economic and social rights (the rights to food, education, health, housing, work, and social security) and what matters for strong performance. She will then discuss how the ideas are currently being adapted by the Human Rights Measurement Initiative to meet the needs of human rights advocates, practitioners, journalists and everyday people worldwide,including via an examination of New Zealand's economic and social rights performance and its policy implications.

Bio: Susan’s life-long interest in people’s wellbeing and economic development has led her to push the frontiers of our knowledge and help develop a ground-breaking approach for measuring the fulfillment of Economic and Social Rights. Her recent book describing this approach, Fulfilling Social and Economic Rights with Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Terra Lawson-Remer (Oxford University Press, 2015), won the 2016 best book of the year award from the American Political Science Association’s Human Rights Section, and the three authors were awarded the 2019 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.

One of the co-founders of the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, Susan is leading the design and development of HRMI's Economic and Social Rights metrics. Susan is Co-Director of the Economic and Social Rights Empowerment Initiative, and Co-Director of the Research Program on Economic & Social Rights at the University of Connecticut’s Human Rights Institute. She is an emerita associate professor of economics at the University of Connecticut. She has a PhD in economics from Cornell University.


Emissions Budgeting: A UK Perspective On Zero Carbon

Speaker: Mike Thompson, UK Committee on Climate Change
Details: 2.30-3.30pm, Tuesday 27 August, Aronui Lecture Theatre, Royal Society of New Zealand, Turnbull Street, Wellington.

Mike Thompson from the UK Committee on Climate Change (UK CCC) is currently on secondment to the Interim Climate Change Committee.  Mike has been involved with the UK CCC since the very beginning, and helped the UK set its first carbon budgets. We wanted to give you an opportunity to hear from Mike about how the UK approached emissions budgeting, and what they’ve learnt. This may be of interest to you because of the emissions budgeting process being proposed in the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill. Mikes presentation will cover:

  • The general need for national climate legislation and the UK Act as an example of that
  • Net-zero ambition and what that means for the UK
  • The UK story so far

Bio: Mike Thompson is Head of Carbon Budgets at the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the independent statutory adviser to the UK Government on its climate targets and carbon policy, created under the Climate Change Act. Mike was one of the CCC’s first staff members in 2007 and leads the Committee’s work on mitigation – how fast the UK should cut emissions and how that can be done.  Most recently he led the work for the Committee’s report on ‘Net Zero’, setting out how and why the UK should end its impact on global warming within 30 years.

Improving Lives with Global Human Rights Data: Past, Present, & Promise

Speaker: Dr K Chad Clay, Director, Center for the Study of Global Issues (GLOBIS), Associate Professor, International Affairs, University of Georgia.
Details: 12.30pm-2pm, Thursday 22 August, Aronui Lecture Theatre, Royal Society of New Zealand, Turnbull Street, Wellington.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 70 years old on December 10, 2018. While much progress has been made in the time since the Universal Declaration’s writing, we still fall far short on most of its provisions. One reason for this shortfall is the lack of accepted human rights data that allow us to determine where states are living up to international human rights standards and where they are failing to do so. In this seminar, we will discuss the history of human rights measurement, the difficulties associated with producing accurate and reliable human rights data, and the ways in which the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) is working to overcome those problems. Finally, we will close with a discussion of the future prospects of using human rights data and education to push for change internationally and, ultimately, improve people's lives worldwide.

Bio: Chad is a political scientist with a deep interest in furthering our understanding of human rights practices, political violence, organised dissent, and economic development. Chad teaches classes on human rights, international relations, and political economy in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) at the University of Georgia, where he will soon serve as the Director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues (GLOBIS), and has published widely in leading journals. One of the co-founders of the Human Rights Measurement Initiative, Chad is leading the design and development of HRMI's Civil and Political Rights metrics. He brings with him more than a decade of experience in the area of measuring human rights, including as co-director of the (now archived) CIRI Human Rights Data Project. Chad received his PhD in political science from Binghamton University in 2012.

Are the Parents Alright? Parenting and Well-Being in the U.S. Context

Speaker: Dr Ann Meier, Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota​
12.30pm - 2.00pm, Tuesday 21 May, Rutherford House, Bunny Street, Wellington

This Public Policy Seminar was held in conjunction with the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families and Children at Victoria University of Wellington

The shift to more time-intensive and child-centered parenting in the United States is widely assumed to be linked to healthy child development, but its implications for adult well-being are less clear. Using American Time Use Data, Dr. Meier explores modern American parenting and how it is experienced differently for mothers and fathers and across the arch of child development. Then, she zooms in to examine mothering in the context of several “new normals” for many American mothers: single parenthood and market work. Findings indicate that parents fare surprisingly well in this new era of intensive parenting, but mothers experience more stress and fatigue and less happiness than fathers, in part because of the different (and less fun) types of activities mothers do with children. Second, despite the hands-on and intensive attention required by infants, parents report higher well-being with the youngest children relative to school aged and especially adolescent children. Here too, mothers shoulder more of the stress of parenting adolescents. Finally, single mothers report the lowest levels of well-being in parenting, but employment seems to buoy their well-being. However, even in the case of reduced well-being, non-employed single mothers are better off when parenting than when engaged in other activities.

Bio: Ann Meier is Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and Director of Graduate Training at the Minnesota Population Center. Her research examines inequalities in and between contemporary families, often refuting conventional wisdom about families. Her work on parent-child conflict complicates long-held notions about the benefits of two-parent families. Her research on family dinners deflates popular notions about their unique and universal status as a context of family unity. Her studies on parental well-being suggest that even in the context of ever-increasing parenting expectations, parents derive great emotional benefit from most parenting activities, with advantages for fathers and partnered mothers. In recent work funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Dr. Meier explores trends in couples’ allocation of market work after the birth of a child since 1970 and their role in contributing to aggregate inequality in the U.S. With a group of interdisciplinary collaborators and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, she works to make the world’s population data accessible, usable and free through the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series which has integrated and harmonized census and survey data from 94 countries, 365 censuses, and over 1 billion person records to date. Dr. Meier earned her Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The slides for this presentation are here.

Developments in EU Climate Policy 

Jos Delbeke, Director-General for Climate Action, European Commission
12.30pm - 2.00pm, Monday 4 February, RHLT2, Rutherford House, Bunny Street, Wellington

Jos Delbeke (1954, Belgium) is Senior Adviser at the European Political Strategy Centre, European Commission, and Professor at the European University Institute in Florence and at the KU Leuven in Belgium. He has been the Director-General of the European Commission's DG Climate Action since its creation in 2010 until 2018. He holds a PhD in economics (Leuven) and joined the European Commission in 1986. He was very involved in setting the EU’s climate and energy targets for 2020 and 2030, and was a key player in developing EU legislation on cars and fuels, the Emissions Trading System (ETS), air quality, emissions from big industrial installations and chemicals (REACH). As an economist, he always underlined the role of market-based instruments and of cost-benefit analysis in the field of the environment.  Mr Delbeke has been responsible for developing Europe's International Climate Change strategy and was for several years the European Commission's chief negotiator at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties. In that capacity he played a key role on the EU's implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and in the negotiations on the Paris Agreement.

The slides for this presentation are here.



Brexit: the end game

Speaker: Dr Richard Harris, Professor of Economics, Durham University.
12:30-2:00pm, Wednesday 5 December 2018, RHLT1, Rutherford House, Bunny St, Wellington

The Article 50 negotiations for Brexit, whereby Britain and the EU agree a ‘divorce’ settlement in advance of the UK leaving on 29th March 2019, have not gone well. The Northern Ireland border has proved to be the major barrier, with the EU not willing to agree to frictionless trade in goods (where the UK would also collect tariffs on the EU’s behalf for goods bound for continental Europe), and the UK not willing to allow customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK (Prime Minister May’s ‘coalition’ with the Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland could collapse if that happens). This talk will discuss developments over the last 12 months – and especially the rationale behind the Chequers agreement – and speculate on how and why the current impasse has occurred, and what happens now. This includes mounting support for a second referendum (the so-called Peoples Vote), where the UK electorate could be asked to choose from: (1) accepting the UK Government’s ‘deal’, assuming there is one; (2) rejecting the deal and starting again; and (3) not leaving the EU.

The slides for this presentation are here.

Bio: Professor Harris is a professor of economics and Deputy-Dean of Durham University Business School. Before joining Durham in September 2012, Richard held the positions of Alec Cairncross Professor of Applied Economics and Director of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions at Glasgow University. He previously worked at Queen’s University, Belfast, and the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham and Portsmouth in the UK and Waikato in New Zealand. He holds degrees from the Universities of Queen’s Belfast, Lancaster and Kent. He has published some 158 journal articles, book chapters, and books and undertaken a significant amount of public policy research, including extensive work for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) involving acting as an External Advisor on Trade Development Activities and the Asia Task Force project. In 2012-13 he was a member of the BIS/Foresight Lead Expert Group that reported in October 2013 on ‘The Future of Manufacturing in the UK’; and a Special Advisor to the UK Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. Currently he is a co-investigator on two projects funded by the Economic & Social Research Council to do with productivity in the UK.

Parenthood and the labour market

Speakers: Dr Isabelle Sin, Motu Fellow, Professor Gail Pacheco from AUT and Director of the NZ Work Research Institute and Bridget Snodgrass from StatsNZ.

2:00-3:30pm, Tuesday 29 May 2018, Ministry of Social Development, Level 1, Aurora Centre, The Terrace

Join us for the release of new research: Parenthood and the labour market. This research, commissioned by the Ministry for Women, has been undertaken by Auckland University of Technology and Motu Economic and Public Policy Research. The research examines how parenthood contributes to New Zealand's gender pay gap, penalising high-earning women the most, and setting them on a trajectory of lower lifetime earnings relative to their male peers. 

Speakers at the forum:

  • Dr Isabelle Sin, Motu Fellow, Principal Investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence, and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington
  • Professor Gail Pacheco from AUT and Director of the NZ Work Research Institute.
  • Bridget Snograss from StatsNZ, speaking on fertility trends in New Zealand.

Housing market outcomes and macro prudential policy settings

Speakers – Ian Mitchell, Director, Livingston and Associates and David Brosnan, Chief Advisor for Housing New Zealand Corporation
12.30 - 2.00pm, Tuesday 8 May 2018, Aonui Lecture Theatre, Royal Society of New Zealand, 11 Turnbull St, Thorndon

Housing market conditions have been the subject of public interest and debate for some time, with:

  • High house values relative to incomes;
  • Construction of new houses lagging behind population growth (in some centres);
  • Household debt to income ratios rising and at an all-time high
  • The rate of home ownership in New Zealand dropping.

The objectives of macro-prudential interventions are to both increase the resilience (reduce the risk) of the banking sector and to dampen extremes in capital market flows – to lean against housing market exuberance.

This presentation looks at how central bank monetary and macro-prudential policies and interventions have affected the housing market. It advances the argument that the Reserve Bank’s current macro-prudential approach to housing market intervention is not, and cannot be, effective in moderating high prices. That is, it argues that the Reserve Bank’s current macro-prudential interventions are only effective in supporting some of its objectives and that a more nuanced and integrated set of policy interventions may be required.

Ian Mitchell - Ian Mitchell leads the property advisory division of Livingston and Associates and has over 25 years’ experience in property related consultancy and research. Prior to setting up Livingston and Associates’ property consultancy services he was the national director of Consulting and Research at DTZ. Ian is also a director of the New Zealand Housing Foundation one of New Zealand’s largest community housing providers. Ian has also advised Ministers on a number of housing related issues. His most recent appointment was to a technical advisory group on shared equity reporting to the Minister of Housing and Finance under the previous National led Government. Ian has presented research papers at a number of international conferences and published articles based on his research in industry and refereed journals.

David Brosnan - David has worked in the housing and public policy space for more than thirty years. During that period he has worked across a number of agencies – including Housing New Zealand (in its various iterations), the Department of Building and Housing and MBIE, the Treasury, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. He is currently employed as the Chief Advisor for Housing New Zealand Corporation and has a particular interest in the ability to use its land holdings to achieve both an increased volume of housing development and using that scale to reduce development costs and achieve improved community outcomes and places where people want to live. David has a BA Hons (combined) in Philosophy and Politics and an MBA.

The slides for this presentation are here.

The effect of transport outcomes on location choice in Australian cities.

Speaker: Stuart Donovan, Principal Consultant, Veitch Lister Consulting Ltd, PhD student at Vrije Univesiteit, Amsterdam.
12.30-2.00pm, Thursday 15 March 2018, Aonui Lecture Theatre, Royal Society of New Zealand, 11 Turnbull St, Thorndon

Stuart will present the results of ongoing research into how transport outcomes, such as travel-time and travel-distance, affect where people choose to live and work. The intuition underlying his analysis is that commuting data reveals information on people's preferences for home and work locations, and the perceived costs of travelling between the two. Using commuting and transport data from three Australian cities, he finds robust evidence that transport outcomes affect location choice. While the magnitude of the effects vary by city and model specification, they are almost always statistically and economically significant. Whereas existing transport models focus on predicting mode and route choice, Stuart argues that one's choice of location is more fundamental and largely determines other transport choices. To finish, he will devote considerable attention to the implications of his research for transport and land use policy, especially with regards to major transport investments and road pricing.

Bio: Stuart is an engineer and economist with over 10 years' experience working as a consultant in the transport industry in New Zealand and Australia. He holds masters degrees in engineering and economics, and is currently studying towards a PhD in Economics at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, where he is being supervised by Henri L. F. de Groot and Jan Rouwendal. Stuart's research interests include spatial, transport, and urban economics; transport and land use policy; and agglomeration economies. When he is not travelling for work or study, Stuart resides in Brisbane with his partner Emma, a motley collection of animals, and their young daughter.

Presented in association with the Building better homes, towns and cities national science challenge.

Stuart's slides are here.



Minimum Wage Developments and Debate

Dr Kerry Papps, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Bath
12.30pm-2pm, Thursday 7 December, RHLT3, Rutherford House, 33 Bunny Street, Wellington (NOTE CHANGE IN VENUE)

There has been a resurgence in the popularity and acceptance of the minimum wage as a labour market policy tool in Europe in recent years. The UK introduced a new “National Living Wage” for those aged 25 and over in 2016 and Germany established a national minimum wage for the first time in 2015. Kerry will talk about recent developments regarding minimum wages in Europe and the ongoing policy debate on the topic. He will also talk about the empirical evidence that he and other researchers have uncovered on the effects of minimum wages on employment, profits, prices and other aspects of how the labour market functions.

BIO: Kerry Papps joined the University of Bath in 2011 and became a senior lecturer in 2013.  He undertook his undergraduate education in New Zealand and worked for the New Zealand Department of Labour before completing a PhD at Cornell University, where he held a Fulbright Scholarship. From 2007-2010 he was a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford and in 2011 was a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University.  He has held short-term research posts at Motu Economics and Public Policy and Imperial College London. Kerry is a research fellow of the IZA, Bonn and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and he is an associate member of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy at Bath.  He has been commissioned to provide research for the World Bank and the Low Pay Commission.

Kerry's slides are here.


The Determinants of Creativity and Innovation

Speaker: Professor Petra Moser, Associate Professor of Economics, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University
12.30pm-2pm, Tuesday 28 November, GBLT2, VUW Pipitea Campus, Behind Old Government House, Lambton Quay

Bio: Petra Moser is an Associate Professor of Economics at NYU Stern. Her research combines methods from economic history and applied microeconomics to examine the determinants of creativity and innovation. She studies the behaviour of inventors, artists, and writers from the 19th century to today to figure out what makes people creative, what encourages firms to take the risks that are inherent in innovation, and what types of institutions encourage people to do their best work. Prior to joining NYU Stern, Professor Moser taught at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was an undergraduate student at the University of Tübingen in Germany and a Fulbright Student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received her M.A. in International Relations from Yale University and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Petra's slides are here.


The UK and Brexit: the current position 

Speaker: Professor Richard Harris, Deputy Dean (Research), Professor of Economics in the Business School at Durham University
12.30-2pm, Monday 13 November, RHLT2, Rutherford House, 33 Bunny Street, Wellington

The seminar will provide an update of the current state of the negotiations between the UK and EU on Brexit, some seven months into a two year period of negotiation following the UK’s triggering of Article 50 (intention to leave the EU by March 2019). The main economic issues facing both parties will be outlined with a focus on how the UK can accommodate a likely ‘hard Brexit’. 

Bio: Before joining Durham University Business School in September 2012, Richard held the positions of Alec Cairncross Professor of Applied Economics and Director of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions at Glasgow University. He previously worked at the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham and Portsmouth in the UK and Waikato in New Zealand. He holds degrees from the Universities of Belfast, Lancaster and Kent.

He has published some 151 journal articles, book chapters, and books and undertaken a significant amount of public policy research, including extensive work for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) involving acting as an External Advisor on Trade Development Activities and the Asia Task Force project. In 2012-13 he was a member of the BIS/Foresight Lead Expert Group that reported in October 2013 on ‘The Future of Manufacturing in the UK’; and a Special Advisor to the UK Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. Currently he is a member of the ESRC Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN) Project Approvals Panel.

Prof Harris's slides are available here.

New Zealand’s net foreign liabilities: what lies beneath, and ahead?

Speaker: Geoff Bascand, Deputy Governor and Head of Operations, Reserve Bank of New Zealand
12 – 1.30pm, Monday 17 July, Royal Society of New Zealand, 11 Turnbull St, Thorndon, Wellington

What we owe the rest of the world - New Zealand's net foreign liabilities - reached nearly 85 percent of GDP in 2009. Just eight years later, New Zealand’s net foreign liabilities now sit just below 60 percent - the lowest level since the late 1980s. This speech will address the factors that have driven this stark improvement in our external account, and ask how sustainable it might be given the Bank’s current economic outlook. A copy of Geoff's speech can be found at the RBNZ website.

Bio: Geoff Bascand is Deputy Governor and Head of Operations at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. He has been appointed Head of Financial Stability and Deputy Chief Executive of the Reserve Bank and will take up the role on 27 September.

Prior to joining the Bank in 2013, Geoff was Government Statistician and Chief Executive, Statistics New Zealand. He previously worked in senior management roles in the Department of Labour and the New Zealand Treasury, and was a staff economist at the International Monetary Fund.

Global experiences on managing disaster risk – rethinking NZ's policy approach

Speaker: Elizabeth Longworth, DRR Consultant, former Director of the United Nations Office on Disaster Risk Reduction
Monday 19 June

Over the past year, New Zealand has suffered floods, drought, cyclonic winds, wild fires and recurring earthquakes. As a country heavily exposed to natural hazards, New Zealand’s prognosis is for an ever-increasing tally of disaster loss and damage.

Globally, the accelerating trend in disaster losses poses a critical challenge, undermining the capacity of many countries to make the capital investments and social expenditures necessary for their sustainable development:

  • The expected annual average losses from earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones and river flooding are estimated at USD 314 billion in the built environment (UNISDR).
  • If the impact on people’s wellbeing is measured in terms of consumption loss, the annual cost rises to USD 520 billion (World Bank).
  • If other hazards such as drought, and the rural environment affecting sectors such as agriculture, were included, the figures escalate.
  • If the impact of disasters is measured in terms of human welfare and setbacks to economic development and social progress, then approximately 42 million Human Life Years are lost each year from internationally reported disasters.

Currently, New Zealand is among the many countries that emphasise managing the disaster, rather than reducing the risk. It has been estimated that an annual global investment of USD 6 billion in disaster risk management strategies would generate USD 360 billion worth of benefits in terms of reducing risk. On that basis, New Zealand might expect a return on investment of 60 times for every dollar spent on reducing disaster risk. In terms of creating shared value, investment in disaster risk management has co-benefits of strengthening resilience, competitiveness and sustainability.

The seminar will ask how New Zealand could capitalise on such a value proposition by taking a more prospective approach to disaster risk. This would require a significant and strategic shift in thinking and effort. The state of New Zealand’s ‘risk governance’ will be critical.

BIO: Elizabeth is an expert on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and building resilience to natural hazards, with eleven years in multilateral organisations leading economic and social development programmes, including DRR. From 2012-14, Elizabeth was The Director of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, called UNISDR, in Geneva. UNISDR produces the UN Global Assessment Report on DRR and is an authority on risk assessment, risk management, setting risk indicators, and disaster preparedness and recovery.

She joined UNISDR to manage the multi-stakeholder process of global consultations and preparations for the new fifteen year international agreement on DRR (the 2015 Sendai Framework of Action). This sets the international agenda on how to prevent disaster losses and damage, and serves as a blueprint for regional, national and local resilience strategies and actions. Elizabeth chaired the United Nations High Level Programme Committee on DRR and Resilience, comprising 29 UN agencies. The Committee was responsible for developing the UN Action Plan on building resilience to and preventing loss of life, assets and livelihoods from natural disasters. She was also engaged in the UN process to develop the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on the interaction between DRR and climate change.

Prior to joining UNISDR in Geneva, from 2003-12 Elizabeth held several senior leadership and management positions at UNESCO in Paris, the United Nations Organisation for Education, Culture, the Sciences and Communication. Before leaving NZ, Elizabeth was the Director of growth and innovation strategies for the ICT Sector at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (formerly Industry New Zealand) and was in-house counsel at The Reserve Bank.

You can download Elizabeth's slides or the slides of the discussant, Illan Noy. You can also see a two-page outline of the issues and a list of links for further reading.

Housing, the ‘Great Income Tax Experiment’ and the intergenerational consequences of the lease

Speaker: Andrew Coleman is an economist who works at Otago University and is an ex Senior Fellow at Motu.
Wednesday 12 April 2017

New Zealand currently has one of the most distortionary tax environments for housing markets of any country in the OECD. Prior to 1989, owner-occupied housing and savings placed in sanctioned retirement funds were taxed on an expenditure basis, whereas other assets were taxed on an income basis. This meant there was a large tax wedge between the taxation of housing and retirement funds, on one hand, and other assets on the other. After 1989, the wedge between retirement assets and other assets was closed but a large wedge between retirement funds and owner-occupied housing was opened. For the last quarter of a century, NZ’s tax environment has imposed costs on current and future generations of young people because of the way it taxes housing and other assets. This presentation will review the way New Zealand’s tax system alters the incentives to purchase property. Its purpose is to provide a wider perspective on the relationships between tax and housing markets.

BIO: Andrew Coleman is an economist who works part-time as a lecturer in the Economics Department at the University of Otago, and part-time as a policy analyst in Wellington, most recently at the New Zealand Treasury and Motu Economic and Public Policy Research. In 2010 he was a member of New Zealand's Saving Working Group. Andrew currently researches inter-generational economic issues, with a particular focus on New Zealand Superannuation, housing, and taxation. In recent work, he develops dynamic heterogeneous agent models to analyse the relationships between taxes, and urban land markets. His current work is focused on how the tax system affects the way transport infrastructure is capitalised into land values. He is also using Otago University's 1000Minds software to investigate what New Zealanders want from government pension programmes.

This seminar is held in association with National Science Challenge 11: Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities

Building better Ribbon horizontal logo

Andrew's slides are here.


Quality, Quantity, and Price: Implications for Taxing Unhealthy Items

Speaker: John Gibson is Professor in the Department of Economics, University of Waikato
12.30-2pm, Thursday 1 December, Lecture Theatre 4, Old Government Buildings, 55 Lambton Quay

Demand studies increasingly use household survey data on budget shares, which vary with quantity, price, and quality. If demand models are estimated without allowing for responses on both the quality and quantity margins, effects of price on the quantity demanded are overstated. Some price rises may be mandated by policy makers so as to lower intake of unhealthy items like sugar-sweetened soft drinks, so a failure to correctly disentangle quality and quantity responses may result in disappointed policy makers.

In this talk, the origins and prevalence of this modelling problem are described and some possible solutions are discussed. While there are implications of these issues for current policy discussions in New Zealand the empirical evidence that is presented is drawn from elsewhere.

John Gibson is Professor in the Department of Economics, University of Waikato. He taught previously at the University of Canterbury, and the Economics Department and Center for Development Economics at Williams College. Since receiving his Ph.D. from Stanford University he has worked in the following countries: Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. His recent publications have appeared in the Economic Journal, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Development Economics, and World Bank Economic Review.

John's slides are here.


All at Sea: The Policy Challenges of Rescue, Interception, and Long-Term Response to Maritime Migration

Speaker: Kathleen Newland, Senior Fellow and Co-Founder of the Migration Policy Institute, USA. 12.30-2pm, Tuesday 8 November, 12.30-2pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Old Government Buildings, 55 Lambton Quay

With migrant maritime arrivals the subject of major policy and public focus in the Mediterranean, Australia, and elsewhere, Ms Newland will review the policy responses to irregular maritime arrivals at regional, national, and international levels. While policy discussions once typically focused on rescue at sea, those today are more likely to be framed in terms of interception designed to address concerns of border protection, national security, and organized crime. The current, central dilemma is how to reconcile these concerns with international legal obligations and regional or global burden-sharing. Ms Newland will examine the state of the policy discussion on these and other salient issues surrounding irregular maritime migration, including case studies of recent developments in the major global hotspots.

Kathleen Newland is co-founder and a Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, where she works on refugee protection issues, the relationship between migration and economic development, and the governance of international migration. She is an Overseer of the International Rescue Committee, and sits on the Boards of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Stimson Center, and USA for UNHCR as well as MPI. She is also a member of the International Organization for Migration’s Migration Advisory Board. She is Chair Emerita of the Women’s Refugee Commission.

Kathleen's slides are here.

Energy Transition and the Exit of Coal

Monday 10 October, 12.30-2pm, Robb Lecture Theatre, University of Auckland (Grafton Campus), 85 Park Rd.

Frank Jotzo (Australian National University) and Andy Philpott (University of Auckland’s Electric Power Optimization Centre) will discuss how the transition away from coal in Australia’s electricity system could be managed and the challenges of getting to a 100% renewable electricity market. 

Frank's slides are here. Andy's slides are here.

Frank Jotzo is Associate Professor at and Deputy Director of the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy and Director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy. His research focuses on policy relevant aspects of climate change, energy, and broader issues of environment, development and economic reform. He is a frequent contributor to Australian and international policy debates. Frank is a Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report, and is an Associate Editor of the journals Climate Policy and Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics. He currently leads a collaborative research program on market mechanisms for China’s climate and energy policy and is a member of advisory bodies on climate change to the governments of South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. 

Andy Philpott is Professor of Engineering at the University of Auckland and Director of the Electric Power Optimization Centre. He has a long research career in Operations Research and its application to problems in business and industry. Andy has worked over a broad range of industrial problems, and has particular expertise in modelling and optimising decision making under uncertainty. His most recent work has been applying stochastic optimisation methods to electricity markets. He is Leader of the Smart Services Portfolio of the Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge.

Should New Zealand Mandate Renewable Fuels To Fight Climate Change?

Speaker: Aaron Smith, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis.

12.30-2pm, Friday 19 February, Adam Auditorium, City Gallery, Civic Square, Wellington

Worldwide, the transportation sector burns too much fossil fuel because motorists do not pay for their effects on the environment. In particular, fossil fuels generate carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global climate change. Many countries require that renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel make up a portion of the transportation fuel supply on the grounds that these fuels generate fewer carbon emissions. The largest such policy exists in the United States. This presentation will explain how the US policy is implemented, assess how well it is working, critique government analysis of the costs and benefits of the policy, and draw lessons for New Zealand policy.


Assessing Three of China's Carbon Trading Schemes

Speaker: Richard Morgenstern, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future

12.30-2pm, Thursday 19 November, Adam Auditorium, City Gallery, Civic Square, Wellington

Numerous countries and regions around the globe are using a carbon price to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Many experts believe that such a policy is economically efficient, growth-enhancing, and consistent with long-term mitigation goals.

China recently started seven carbon cap-and-trade pilot programs in order to inform the development of a future national cap-and-trade market. In this seminar, Dr Morgenstern will assess the design of three of the longer-running cap and-trade pilot programs in Guangdong, Shanghai and Shenzhen. He will discuss his recommendations to improve the design of these three pilots. His paper on this topic is here.

You can check out Dick's slides or listen to audio of his talk at youtube.

What Works for Local Economic Growth

Speaker: Dr Max Nathan, Deputy Director, What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, London School of Economics

Monday 27 July, 12.30pm, City Gallery, Civic Square, Wellington

Max will give an overview of the UK’s What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, and talk through the issues, opportunities and challenges the Centre has faced to date.

The What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth (WWG) was set up in October 2013 as one of the seven Centre’s that comprise the UK’s What Works Network. The WWG’s aim is to analyse which policies are most effective in supporting and increasing local economic growth, and to support policymakers to implement and evaluate effective interventions.

Understanding ‘what works’ is a question that continues to both perplex and challenge policy makers and researchers. It is even more important in the UK at the present time as national government is faced with slower growth and tighter budgets, and local decision makers take on new powers and freedoms for economic development. Careful research and evaluation have a crucial role to play in exploring the evidence base, and increasing the effectiveness of policy making meaning that local governments have a deeper understanding of what works.

The Centre’s key activities are:

  • Systematically reviewing the evidence base on policies for local economic growth using a robust methodology.
  • Working with and convening events and workshops for local authorities, LEPs, central government and business to help them understand and make better use of evidence in designing and delivering policy.
  • Improving the quality of the UK evidence base by helping to develop ‘demonstration’ projects, or local policy experiments.

The What Works Centre is a collaboration between the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Centre for Cities think tank and Arup, and is funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, the UK’s Department of Communities and Local Government and the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

You can check out Max's slides or listen to audio of his talk at youtube.

Education and Risk

Speaker: Dr Joop Hartog, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Amsterdam School of Economics

While it is obvious that schooling is an investment with uncertain pay-offs, the relevant literature is scant and ongoing research is modest. Based on his recently published and ongoing work, Dr Hartog will document international evidence on the magnitude of risk, survey theory, and present estimates of risk compensation in market wages for several countries, both for employer risk and employee risk. Dr Hartog will also discuss the link with issues in economic policies.

You can listen to Joop’s talk on youtube or view his slide presentation.

How Much Energy Do Building Energy Codes Really Save? Evidence from California

Speaker: Arik Levinson, Professor, Georgetown University and Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, U.S.A.

Construction codes that regulate the energy-efficiency of new buildings have been a centerpiece of US environmental policy for 40 years. California’s 1970’s-era building codes were projected to reduce residential energy use by 80 percent. Arik Levinson discussed how effective they have been. Arik Levinson is a professor in the Economics Department of Georgetown University in the U.S.A., where he teaches microeconomics, public finance and environmental economics. His recent work has focused on environmental policy, including analysis of energy efficiency regulations, and research into the efficacy of linking international environmental agreements to trade policy. Arik is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and has served as a co-Editor of the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, a member of the EPA’s Environmental Economics Advisory Committee, a Senior Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisors, and a Gilbert White Fellow at Resources for the Future. Arik also appeared on the radioshow Freakanomics on 5 February talking about this issue.

You can listen to Arik’s talk on youtube.

Back from the Dead? Australia’s Climate Policy

Speaker Frank Jotzo, Associate Professor and Public Policy Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Australia’s climate change policy has been through several extreme shifts following changes in government. In this talk Frank Jotzo mapped out political and economic parameters of Australia’s climate policy, discuss key features of those policies, and speculate on how the rollercoaster ride might continue. Frank Jotzo is Associate Professor and Public Policy Fellow at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, where he works on the economics and policy of climate change, energy, and broader issues of environment and development. He was advisor to Australia’s Garnaut Climate Change Review and to Indonesia‘s Ministry of Finance. He currently collaborates with Chinese organisations on research on climate and energy policies, and advises the World Bank on carbon markets. He is also a Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

You can listen to Frank’s talk or download his slides.

Achieving the Depopulation Dividend: Evidence and Experience from Japan’s Shrinking Regions

Speaker Peter Matanle, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield

Peter Matanle is a lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s School of East Asian Studies. Dr. Matanle’s research interests focus on the economic sociology and cultural geography of work in Japan and the United Kingdom. He is the author of several publications in these fields, including Japanese Capitalism and Modernity in a Global Era: Refabricating Lifetime Employment Relations (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003); Perspectives on Work, Employment, and Society in Japan (Palgrave, 2006; co-edited with Wim Lunsing); and “Coming to a City Near You: Learning to Live Beyond Growth in Japan’s Shrinking Regions” (Social Science Japan 13:2, 2010). He is also the founder and general editor of the Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies.

You can download Peter’s presentation, visit his website or listen to audio of his talk.


Climate Policy – Can Small Countries Make a Difference?, Wellington, 14 April 2014

Speaker Frank Convery, Senior Fellow, University College Dublin, and Chairman,

This presentation will review recent developments in European climate policy, notably the European Commission’s proposals for new legally binding emissions targets for greenhouse gas emissions and for renewables, followed by a discussion on how Ireland designed and implemented a carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions from the non-traded sectors. The presentation will conclude with an assessment of the prospects for implementation of the Commission’s proposals, and the role of small countries in leading some areas of climate policy.

Download Frank’s presentation.

Measuring Sustainable Development, Wellington, 10 April 2014

Speaker Nick Hanley, Professor of Economics, University of Stirling

The World Bank uses a measure known as Genuine Savings (comprehensive investment, adjusted net savings) to measure the sustainability of a country’s growth path. However, there is very little empirical testing of this measure. In this presentation, I report results from a unique study which uses data from a 250 time period to test genuine savings as an indicator of future well-being for the UK, the USA and Germany. This work is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Download Nick’s slides. Hear audio of Nick’s presentation at youtube.


Recessions and Recoveries in New Zealand’s Post-War Business Cycle Wellington, 23 October 2013

Speaker Viv Hall, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Victoria University of Wellington, and Motu Affiliate

Has New Zealand’s recent recession been its most severe? Does calling a recession based on two successive quarters of negative real GDP growth provide potentially misleading signals to policy and other decision makers? Have New Zealand’s real GDP and employment cycles been closely associated, and should employment peaks and troughs additionally be taken into account when calling the beginning and end of a recession? How different has the recovery path from New Zealand’s most recent recession been? Evidence relating to these and other questions will be presented from recent work co-authored with Dr John McDermott (RBNZ).

Download Viv’s slides.

Developments in Cultural Economics Wellington, 25 September 2013

Speaker Ruth Towse, Professor of Economics of Creative Industries and Co-Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, Bournemouth University; Erskine Fellow 2013.

For a long time in its 50-year history, cultural economics was concerned almost exclusively with the subsidised arts and heritage and issues around their finance, demand and participation. Another topic that relates to their costs was the study of the labour markets and employment of creators. Later on, the notion of creative industries and the creative economy has come to the fore, with the emphasis shifting towards a much broader spectrum of cultural activities and the role of copyright law in these industries. Recently, digitization has altered a number of these industries, and cultural economics is coming to terms with that.

Science and Innovation Policy for New Zealand Wellington, 4 September 2013

Speaker Adam Jaffe, Director, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research; Fred C. Hecht Professor in Economics, Brandeis University.

A country’s ability to develop and use new technologies is a major determinant of its long-run ability to improve its standard of living and confront health, environmental and other social challenges. Maximizing New Zealand’s technological progress requires a coordinated set of policies regarding strategic investment in scientific research, appropriate institutions to facilitate commercial exploitation of public research, and policies that facilitate commercial development and use of new technology. Devising the right policy mix for New Zealand requires learning from successful and unsuccessful policies in other countries, but adapting those lessons to the specifics of New Zealand’s strengths and challenges.

Download Adam’s slides; hear audio of Adam's presentation at youtube.

Comprehensive and Multi-Modal Urban Transport Planning. Wellington, 22 May 2013

Speaker: Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Transport planning is experiencing a paradigm shift; that is, a change in the way that problems are defined and solutions evaluated. The old paradigm is mobility-based. It assumes that the planning objective is to maximize travel speed, and evaluates transport system performance based primarily on automobile travel conditions. A new paradigm recognizes that the ultimate goal of most transport activity is accessibility, which refers to people’s overall ability to reach desired services and activities. This new paradigm expands the range of modes objectives, impacts and options considered in the planning process. It recognizes additional costs from increased motorized transport and more benefits from walking, cycling and public transport. More comprehensive and multi-modal planning is particularly important to respond to structural changes such as aging population, rising fuel prices, increasing health and environmental concerns, and changing consumer preferences.

Download Todd’s slides; or listen to Todd's presentation at youtube.

Life after Kyoto: How New Zealand Can Effectively Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Developing Countries. Wellington, 20 February 2013.

Speaker: Dr. Suzi Kerr, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research. For more detail, and audiovisual material, see Suzi’s 2012 seminar.

Cities: the need to understand better before we mess about with them. W