Media Release: Special Economic Zones - an initiative worth trying

Media Release
13 July, 2017

The New Zealand Initiative has welcomed news that Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are still under consideration by the Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges. We also note that government documents released under the Official Information Act show that Ministers Bill English and Steven Joyce were supportive of the proposal.

In 2015, the Initiative released In the Zone: Creating a Toolbox for Regional Prosperity. Our research found that New Zealand’s centralism provides little room for regional policy innovation.

In the Zone called for New Zealand to consider a localist approach to policy-making. This means enabling regions to opt out of national legislation to let them trial novel policy ways.

Central government currently receives most of the tax increases that come from economic growth, and costs are often left for local bodies to deal with. The Initiative recommended giving councils a bigger stake in the economic growth that came from successful implementation of policy innovations in their region.

“This approach would let councils identify barriers to their own growth, and come up with solutions on how to address it. We believe this would result in ideas being discussed that had, potentially, not been thought of before,” says Dr Oliver Hartwich, The New Zealand Initiative’s Executive Director.

We believe trialing policy at a more local level that is suited to local needs lets the country figure out which policies are effective, which policies could suit other regions and abandon, at a lower cost, the policies that do not work.

SEZs are an initiative worth trying. We look forward to hearing more from Minister Bridges in the coming months.

Read, In the Zone: Creating a Toolbox for Regional Prosperity.

For more on our local government research and recommendations, read, Manifesto 2017: What the next New Zealand government should do.


Dr Oliver Hartwich is available for comment. To arrange an interview, please contact:

Media contact
Simone White, Communications Officer
The New Zealand Initiative
Phone: +64 4 494 9109
Mobile: +64 21 2937 250

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates