Key Points:

New Zealand Institute chief executive David Skilling is to step down later this year.

Skilling said the exact date of the handover to his yet to be appointed successor had not been decided but was likely to be some time in September. He will remain on the institute's board after that time.

Former Treasury official Skilling was the privately funded think-tank's inaugural chief executive. He spent about a year in "below the radar" work before the institute entered the public domain in 2004.

"The longer you stay in place, the more the organisation moulds itself to you, your interests and ways of doing things and after 5 years it's time for someone else with new ideas, new perspectives."

Skilling said he was in the process of talking with various New Zealand and overseas organisations about what he would do next.

"There's no great sense of urgency but ... you're not going to see me going into politics or going back to the bureaucracy. One of the reasons I left the Treasury was because I wanted to contribute to public debate. You're obviously constrained as a bureaucrat in terms of what you can say."

The establishment of the institute was "motivated by the desire to see more of a debate around longer-term issues such as how we reposition ourselves to climate change, how we invest in broadband, and savings and capital markets, where we didn't believe the market was well served.

"These are big and important issues for New Zealand and I think you need as many intelligent and constructive voices as you can get."

While he believes the standard of public debate around such issues has improved over the past five years there remained potential for a greater contribution from academia, media, "and certainly more of a long-term focus from politicians".

GREATEST HITS

* Some of David Skilling (pictured) and the New Zealand Institute's achievements:

* National savings: "Success has a thousand fathers but we certainly made a contribution in getting what turned out to be KiwiSaver across the line."

* New Zealand firms going global: Skilling says the institute helped encourage New Zealand firms to think about making outward direct investment. That has born fruit with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise increasing assistance for firms investing offshore and changes in the international tax regime to make foreign investment more attractive.

* The institute's current projects include work around broadband investment and its advocacy of a "fast follower" approach to New Zealand's economic response to climate change.