Lance Jenkins: Look on bright side - NZ also is a land of opportunity

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There are many reasons why Kiwis have to work overseas - opportunities, career progression and so forth - and doing so should never be demonised. Photo / Thinkstock
There are many reasons why Kiwis have to work overseas - opportunities, career progression and so forth - and doing so should never be demonised. Photo / Thinkstock

Like most of you, I have read often about the movement of New Zealanders across the Tasman to Australia and how poorly that reflects on us as a nation.

I think we're missing the point.

Australia, like any larger country, can provide opportunities that may be in short supply in New Zealand, but the other side of that coin is that there are terrific opportunities and reasons to be here.

Our present leadership in government, our renewable soft commodities industries, and the simplified way of being able to do business here, for example tax, are all reasons that make New Zealand work.

By way of disclosure, I've spent a good deal of my working life overseas and for the past four years have been working in Sydney.

Though Australia was a great experience and a good place to work, I can't help but feel that we spend too much time focusing on the negative contrasts instead of the positive.

There are many reasons why Kiwis have to work overseas - opportunities, career progression and so forth - and doing so should never be demonised.

There are some great examples where people have spent time overseas, gained invaluable experience and are back in some manner investing in New Zealand's future - think Sir Ralph Norris and his time now reinvested in NZ through the Fonterra and Origin boards.

As Kiwis, we're constantly looking for opportunities and as our closest neighbour, it's only natural that Australia sometimes provides those.

Australia has and does provide us benchmarking opportunities for our people and our companies, but that's all it should be, a benchmark.

Australia is not the only land of opportunity, New Zealand is also.

Importantly, there are some great things that we have done in NZ to make this a fostering environment for business and working people.

Not only is the marginal rate extremely high in Australia, 46.5 per cent in Australia versus 33 per cent here, there are all sorts of nasty surprises like stamp duty - whenever you buy a house you pay your local council about 1.5 per cent to 3 per cent of the purchase price - capital gains taxes and land taxes.

I found filing tax returns a lesson in complexity and confusion and couldn't help but feel there was waste in a system where both federal and state government taxed you.

Many Australians complained to me that the bureaucracy created by this two-tiered government was tremendous.

I never thought I would write this, but I'm looking forward to the simplicity of filing my tax returns next year with the IRD.

Though Australia is often in the news because of its huge natural hard commodity wealth: think coal, iron ore and so on, we have our soft commodities of dairy, meat, timber - all of which we attempt to add value to, and in the case of most of these soft commodities, ensure that we're selling a renewable resource.

That's clearly not the case with commodities like coal or iron ore in Australia.

I applaud companies like Fonterra as a great example of being world's best practice in an industry that has provided many opportunities for New Zealanders and one that is the envy of many dairy companies and co-operatives throughout Australia.

Comparing leadership at a government level is another exercise of contrast in New Zealand's favour.

The John Key-led Government has continued to shape our society to be an aspirational one and one that enhances what we can do as a nation.

I didn't get a sense from Australians that Australia's Government generated the same level of goodwill from its constituents.

In fact many Australians lamented the lack of leadership across a number of issues. Whatever your political persuasion, we should be thankful that we have a comparatively simple, focused, able Government.

There are plenty of great things about Australians and we're fortunate to have them as neighbours, but what I love about NZ is that we have the uniqueness of being a nation of 4.4 million people.

We can make our own rules as to how we live and we can all feel part of that decision-making process.

Given the layers of government in Australia, I can't say I got that same sense from most Australians I met.

Add to that the terrific environment we have to live in, and great people to live alongside, New Zealand is my place of choice.

We too are a lucky country.

Having spent almost 15 of the past 20 years working outside NZ, in New York and Sydney, I'm excited to be back because I see great opportunity here.

I'm joining a business, Waterman Capital, that has been a great enabler of getting capital to our New Zealand capital constrained growth companies.

It's a business that has partnered with small to mid-sized New Zealand companies very successfully for the past eight years and now with the backing of the likes of the NZ Superannuation Fund and the Accident Compensation Corporation, the opportunity is just that much larger.

*Lance Jenkins spent 15 years with Goldman Sachs JBWere in New York and New Zealand

- NZ Herald

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