Steven Joyce has emerged as the economic tsar of John Key's Government, arguably a quasi super-minister or treasurer in all but name.

It is Joyce who has had the most important elevation in the Key Cabinet; not Hekia Parata although she will be influential in the longer-term.

He is the Cabinet Minister who will be charged with driving the Government's top line while Finance Minister Bill English's focus will remain strongly directed on the bottom line and getting the Budget back into surplus.

The Joyce appointment is a particularly adroit move by Key. It is one that he himself would have been ideally suited for if he wasn't already Prime Minister.


But Joyce will not be able to create a new New Zealand Story on his own. It is important that Key lends his political leadership to the drive to enhance domestic and international business growth, increase the capabilities of New Zealanders and inspire more Kiwis to build careers from here.

This task is increasingly urgent. As the recent Kea survey indicated many of the talented New Zealanders will quickly boost their salaries once they move offshore. There is a desperate need to create a reason for them to stay.

Joyce's own billing is as a "fix-it man" and politician that likes to quickly cut through the bureaucratic undergrowth so that business and deals get done. By injecting him into the economic space Key has signalled he is determined to "move at pace" in his second term as Prime Minister.

Joyce's wide portfolio brief - economic development, science and innovation, tertiary education, skills and employment - means he will have direct Cabinet leadership for three crucial Government organisations: the Ministry of Economic Development (MED), the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) and NZ Trade and Enterprise.

But Joyce will challenge the Ministry of Economic Development at both a policy and process level. He does not have much patience for measuring departmental performance through outputs. He is outcome focused as transport officials quickly found out when he held that portfolio.

But he should find fellow travellers among NZ Trade and Enterprise CEO Peter Chrisp and Murray Bain, who heads the Ministry of Science and Innovation. Both these CEOs have already strongly refocused their organisations to be business oriented. They will next year house their Auckland operations within the same building on Princes Wharf.

In Wellington, MED and MSI share the same building. The big question is whether the three major Government organisations under Joyce's purview will remain at arms' length from each other or be merged into one headquarters.

Even before the election Joyce was mustering information from the private sector so he could hit the ground running in his new portfolios. He is not a novice to the innovation space having led successful ICT missions offshore where he was a ready hit with the accompanying business people.


Joyce is a decisive politician who is used to getting things done. He likes to be in on the dealing as he was during the Crown Fibre's negotiations over the ultra-fast broadband contract.

Under Joyce's leadership there will be more "creative" deals - not less - to both attract businesses to New Zealand and keep them here. The wheels may come off if he ignores process. But on past performance he is likely to navigate carefully.

English's role is not diminished by Joyce's appointment.

He has a huge job ahead of him ensuring that the Government does keep its finances under control and that other Ministers drive deep to achieve cost savings. His calm imperturbability tends to reassure offshore investors.

But English's Treasury department does not have the cachet of old.

Helen Clark's Government axed the previous Ministry of Commerce and refashioned it as MED which includes some policy functions that used to reside in Treasury. Treasury in recent years has been slow to focus on critical issues like international competitiveness.

It is also important that business concentrates on New Zealand's international competitiveness and takes a stronger leadership role. Business leadership has become too fragmented and too much of an echo chamber.

So it is exciting to note that the NZ Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute are in active merger talks designed to launch a new organisation on April 1.

Business Roundtable chairman Roger Partridge says membership of the new organisation will be drawn from chief executives of NZ companies.

The merger is taking place with the blessing of late Roundtable director Roger Kerr and incumbent NZ Institute executive director Rick Boven.

It will have a new executive director and executive team and will be focused on developing good policies to advance New Zealand. There will be a strong commitment to open and competitive markets.

The merger talks were first canvassed by Partridge and NZ Institute trustee Tony Carter in February. The original intention was to announce the move in the third quarter of 2011, but it was put on hold when Kerr's medical condition worsened.

Virtually all of the initial driving forces of the NZ Institute - apart from Carter and Sir Stephen Tindall - moved offshore years ago. They include McKinsey's Andrew Grant, Fahrenheit Ventures' Bridget Liddell, Chris Liddell, David Skilling and John Hood, who runs New York Julian Robertson's Robertson Foundation, and Deutsche Bank's Scott Perkins.

The Roundtable also has some key members including Alan Gibbs and Douglas Myers who spend most of their time out of New Zealand.

By launching a new organisation, an opportunity will be created for new blood - particularly chief executives who actually live and run companies here - to step up and drive progress.

BusinessNZ moved some way down that track when it established a major companies group that until recently was chaired by former Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier. But there is no chief executives organisation here for instance to match the Business Council of Australia.

Getting a stronger focus on what makes the boat go faster is hugely important.

The signals from Government and business are encouraging.