Most chief executives find Key's 'haven' idea attractive

John Key's vision to position New Zealand as an Asia-Pacific Switzerland resonates with most chief executive respondents to the Herald's 2016 Mood of the Boardroom CEOs survey.

Some 79 per cent of CEOs find the Key vision of a "wealthy, desirable and secure haven in a restive world that other people want to live and invest in" to be attractive.

"We would support positioning New Zealand as a desirable and secure haven in this part of the world," said Mainfreight Group managing director Don Braid.

"Calling it the Switzerland of the Pacific is not necessarily the best description -- although there are plenty of lessons that we could take from the Swiss in the management and governance of their country.


"But I am unsure that adopting this vision will secure any long-term economic future for New Zealand without embarking on a number of other initiatives -- like improving the education of our people, particularly in sciences and mathematical categories and addressing the infrastructure needs of the country."

Deloitte CEO Thomas Pippos noted the positioning was not deliberate. "But rather, where we may be ending up as others have moved away from their nirvana."

Though 79 per cent of CEOs find the Key vision attractive, they want the Government to address domestic issues like the working poor, housing, the widening gap between "haves" and "have nots", and environmental issues.

Societal tensions are rising as homes in our largest city now cost 10 times the median household income. "That will eventually lead to serious social unrest, and potentially violence," warns a leading banker. "It only takes one lunatic action to destroy our image as a desirable and secure haven."

" New Zealand is a tremendous place to live, relative to other jurisdictions," said an energy boss. "Fundamental to our success is the ability to attract talent and, in turn, business.

Don Braid, Mainfreight
Don Braid, Mainfreight

"Having a million-dollar average house price in Auckland against local incomes doesn't help us to achieve that. But we need to attract more globally connected businesses to New Zealand."

KiwiRail CEO Peter Reidy cautioned that New Zealand needs to be productive -- " not just a haven for the financially successful.

"Attracting foreign investment to create jobs is appealing."

Cybersecurity was the major international factor affecting business confidence; protectionism ranked second.