Sir Owen Glenn: Getting New Zealand working

Sir Owen Glenn proposes a unique initiative to tackle New Zealand's economic and business woes and set the platform for future success - NZ Inc.

Businessman and philanthropist Sir Owen Glenn believes New Zealand is at a near crisis point and needs to refocus and change direction. Photo / Dean Purcell
Businessman and philanthropist Sir Owen Glenn believes New Zealand is at a near crisis point and needs to refocus and change direction. Photo / Dean Purcell

A new year is upon us. Is 2013 going to be another one where we continue to go down the same paths we have in the past and wake up to the same headaches in 2014? Or is this the opportunity to make a resolution that the time has come for some serious thinking-and doing-in order to put new vigour and zeal into this country?

Rather than be transfixed by the 'same old, same old' way of tackling problems why don't we adopt some fresh approaches to getting stability and energy in our economy. Making it attractive to do business here and also a place where people want to both come and stay.

Whether it be formally structured or even just a rallying cry the time has come for the creation of a New Zealand Inc approach to our economy and the governance of the country overall.

We're not necessarily at the same crisis point Ireland was when it gathered representatives from all walks of life to strike a common accord on the direction their economy should take.

My question is why wait for the worst case scenario to unfold before action is taken.

We have the structures and systems in place to tackle any number of problems but bureaucracy, and lack of coordinated leadership, ham string any meaningful headway. We continue to re-invent the wheel and think that the creation of new commissions, ministries and the like to tackle the big problems means things are getting done.

Rather than integration we have silos operating often to their own agenda. The periphery and side shows seem to get all the attention whereas the essential things needed to run a country get short changed.

Part of the NZ Inc idea is also to have long term mandate and planning parameters that don't grind to a halt and change direction every three years. We need a sense of stability for planning and direction and that can only come with a commitment from our country's leaders to work as one.

The leadership dearth is a real concern as last year those in the Beehive and those hovering on the outside keen to get in, seemed more interested in Dotcom distractions rather than getting on with their real jobs at hand. As a country we should be focused on paying off debt, fast tracking sustainable development, reducing fiscal waste and moving the country forward.

Leadership needs to involve putting people in charge who are capable of motivating and amalgamating rather than depressing and frustrating. The NZ Inc opportunity must involve people with the skill set to manage big ideas and big undertakings.

People able to open minds and possibilities. People who also recognise we're in the backyard of the most exciting economic region in the world and a legitimate 'player' in this mix.

We have to be realistic about the size of our domestic market and make our real focus exporting. NZ Inc has to be built around realistic expectations that play to our strengths. Brains, brawn, investment and the intention to build on our core capabilities must be where we focus. We can't afford the luxury of going down blind alleys, or entertaining flavour of the month side shows, looking for the next big 'thing'.

What is NZ Inc?
A bipartisan group of skilled leaders focused on sparking New Zealand's economic revival

Who?
Sir Owen Glenn wants it to be made up of leaders who possess the skills to manage big ideas

Sir Owen Glenn's view

What we're doing wrong
• Excessive bureaucracy
• Lack of co-ordinated leadership
• Lack of original thinking
• The 'B3 Syndrome' - selling businesses for the boat, bach and Beamer

What we should do
• Pay off debt
• Reduce fiscal waste
• Focus on exporting
• Invest in R&D
• A tertiary system which enables our brightest talents to engage with forward-thinking local industries

Industries we must focus on
• Dairy
• Information technology
• Biotechnology
• Sustainable energy development
• Responsible mining
• Niche manufacturing

Sir Owen Glenn was born in Calcutta and moved to New Zealand with his family at age 12. His success has been in the global freight and transport industry. As well as being knighted for his services to philanthropy in this year's New Year's honours, he was awarded the ONZM for services to business and the community in 2008.

In addition to international philanthropic work through the Glenn Family Foundation, in 2005 he contributed $7.5 million to the University of Auckland Business School. Last year he started a project to combat domestic violence and child abuse in New Zealand.

Sir Owen Glenn has nominated the Glenn Family Foundation to receive a $1000 donation from the NZ Herald in recognition of his contribution to this series.

Why isn't New Zealand working? continues in Wednesday's Career13 when Don Braid shares his views.

- NZ Herald

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