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Insights 13: 20 April 2018
Upcoming event: Dinner lecture with Katharine Birbalsingh
Latest report: Who Guards the Guards? Regulatory Governance in New Zealand
Upcoming event: researchED Auckland conference

Foreign advice on foreign buyers
Dr Eric Crampton | Chief Economist |
The International Monetary Fund has concluded its 2018 visit to New Zealand, checking with a broad range of stakeholders on how things are going here. Executive Director Oliver Hartwich and I were happy to share our views with them last week.

We argued that the most pressing issue facing New Zealand is housing. In addition to the obvious problems caused by housing shortages, they also fuel xenophobia. Policy elsewhere is largely decent by international standards – though we are always looking for ways to make it even better. But housing markets remain a mess and restrictions on foreign investment do not help.

The two problems mesh horribly when we look at the government’s proposed ban on foreign home buyers. The IMF could not see the policy as doing anything to improve housing affordability – and neither can we.

New Zealand generally eschews terrible policy. The proposed foreign buyer ban crosses that line.

The legislation classifies all residential land as sensitive. Restrictions will apply not only to ‘foreign speculators’, but also to foreign investors who help fund residential development. Infrastructure companies from electricity distribution networks to telecommunication providers to land developers will face additional hurdles in trying to put up critical infrastructure. All of those together will make it harder, not easier, to get more housing built.

And it will also affect people living in New Zealand, from those here on work visas to permanent residents. If you have lived here for two decades as a permanent resident, then have to spend half a year back with your elderly parents abroad, you will be banned from the housing market for the next year.

It is unjust. It will make it harder to get more houses built. And it will not make housing more affordable for native-born Kiwis.  

But it is sadly in keeping with New Zealand’s general take on foreign investment – the seventh most restrictive in the OECD’s league tables. And it is sadly in keeping with the tone of the last election.

The IMF’s initial statement on its visit applauded the government’s intention to address the regulatory, planning, and infrastructure problems that have prevented new housing construction. We do too. We look forward to the IMF’s final report.

And we question whether the election mandate to address perceived foreign housing speculation can possibly justify what the government is proposing to do under the foreign buyer ban.

A festival of education
Briar Lipson | Research Fellow |
As recently as in the 1920s, cyclists in the Tour de France would take ‘smoking breaks’, assisting team-mates to light-up while still cycling.

Since then, scientific research and evidence has well and truly debunked the myth that smoking is good for athletic performance.
In some ways, education today is like medicine was before science. It is vulnerable to emotions, ideologies and our individual beliefs: the prisms through which we view the world.
At one end of this prism sits enlightenment science: the notion that everything can be resolved through measuring outcomes and assessing cold hard facts. At the other end of this prism sits romanticism. Borne originally from an eighteenth-century backlash against the extremes of the scientific Enlightenment, educational romantics espouse spontaneity and the natural order.
And it is perhaps inevitable that in a country as beautiful, wild and free as New Zealand romantic ideas should flourish. But such tendencies can also lead us to dismiss the science too quickly.
Ultimately, the joy and adventure of life lies in how we navigate and balance competing beliefs and values. And education abounds with conundrums. For example, when, and to what extent should we rely on:
  • the natural goodness of the child, or imposed discipline?
  • student-led learning, or teacher-led instruction?
  • a prescribed national curriculum, or one determined by local contexts?
  • the natural order, or concerted efforts towards equity?
These are just some of the topics that will be explored at researchED Auckland on 2nd June.
A truly unique, teacher-led phenomenon, researchED bridges the gap between evidence and practice. Having begun in the UK in 2013, researchED has since spread to Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, America, Canada and now - through partnership with The New Zealand Initiative – New Zealand.
researchED brings people together from all areas of education for an exhilarating day of myth-busting, learning and debate.
So, if you or a friend are a teacher, parent, grandparent, school trustee, policymaker or researcher, we hope you will join us at Auckland Grammar School on Saturday 2nd June.

For more information about our incredible line-up of 20+ Kiwi and international, evidence-informed speakers, and to buy tickets (just $40 including lunch) please visit the researchED website.

On a Dutch desert highway...
Richard Baker | Research Director |
The BBC recently reported that Dutch authorities had removed singing road lines one day after their installation.

Special strips in the asphalt played the anthem of the Friesland province if motorists drove over them at the correct speed of 60 kph.

The move was designed to promote safe driving at correct speeds. However, the noise drove neighbouring villagers to distraction. Some enterprising motorists drove over the strips at high speeds trying to play the music at double speed.

One wonders if other motorists reversed over the strips trying to get the music to play backwards.

Road safety is top of mind in New Zealand right now. There are useful lessons here for the NZTA.

First, all safety devices are tested by road users for their entertainment value. Those radar activated speed panels that display your speed as you drive past are excellent free devices to assess your car’s acceleration.

It was disappointing when the displays were changed to show only two digits of speed. It became harder to judge top end speed.

Secondly, why not extend the concept. A scanner can read your registration plate and if you are speeding Winston Peter’s voice will order the car owner to slow down or face deportation. Alternatively, Julie Anne Genter can exhort you to start riding a bicycle.

Thirdly, the choice of music could be highly significant. How about Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries if you exceed the limit by more than 5 kph? Or Wipeout by the Beach Boys for 10kph? Mandel and Altman’s Suicide is Painless is the perfect fit for speeders above 130 kph. Hail to the Chief would be suitably celebratory for the law abiding among us who chug along happily at the speed limit.

Finally, why limit it to road strips? GPS technology is now so advanced that the car itself can calculate when limits are exceeded. In such cases the radio could be locked to play old parliamentary debates on local body reform and only able to be turned off with reduced speed.

The possibilities are endless and all thanks to those inventive Dutch. After all they did invent the speed camera.

On The Record
All Things Considered
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  • Just walk out of bad meetings, says Elon Musk.
  • A wine fountain in central Blenheim. What could go wrong?
  • How aging aircraft may dictate Kim-Trump venue.
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