October 10th, 2000
An open letter to Ms. Helen Clark, The Prime Minister of New Zealand:
In the past ten days three situations occurred which have left me wondering what is happening in New Zealand under your governance. First, three intelligent, educated, New Zealanders, all in their 30’s approached me for jobs in my U.S.A. businesses. I then had an export opportunity squashed by the Dairy Board and finally, the NZ dollar fell below 40 cents.
As a New Zealand citizen who left God’s Zone in 1980 for academic and employment opportunities in the United States, it pains me to see what is happening to New Zealand, and its economy.
There are many things the country has no control over. Oil prices, and the weather come to mind. However many things are within your control and I feel the country is at a cross roads with the dollar falling below 40 cents to the US dollar for the first time.
New Zealand has so many positive things going for it. None of which, from my perspective have been exploited to their potential:
My investment in New Zealand is varied. I have not abandoned the country but you should understand the depth of my frustration. I am writing this letter to you of my own accord and expense. I have also tried in a small way to repay my country. I support New Zealand sport by sponsoring a full time position for a swim coach in Cromwell. I have property development in Central Otago, and investments in a number of New Zealand public companies. My companies employ a number of New Zealanders directly and indirectly.
Recently I contacted the senior executive of the marketing arm of the New Zealand Dairy Board in the US concerning investment in a cheese factory for export of specialty cheese to the US. I quickly discovered that the Dairy Board was not even interested in meeting me or in any assistance or opportunity for additional sales of specialty cheeses in the US.
The issues that need to be addressed in my mind are as follows:
The changes required are ones of attitude and perspective, not necessarily financial.
The government should be leading the way. Petty bickering and politicking do not improve relations with the international investment community. Capital is mobile. Money doesn’t have to stay in New Zealand, it can find a home in many other economies. And it is doing that right now.
I am not advocating financial incentives, nor handouts for business from the government. Neither do I endorse a totally hands off or laissez-faire approach by government. But business confidence is critical to leading consumer confidence out of the doldrums. The government impacts that confidence.
You have two choices.
You are losing my confidence. But then you may not care. If you do care, which choice will you make?