The Herald's annual "Mood of the Boardroom" survey is designed to tap the views of some of our business leaders on questions they are normally content to leave to politicians and public interest groups.

This year's edition, published on Tuesday, found more concern about the housing market than might have been expected from those who are in a position to ride rising prices.

They were concerned not only about the difficulty Auckland housing costs create for recruiting staff from outside the city, but also for the kind of society New Zealand will be if too many are shut out of the "Kiwi dream".

The great majority of them felt the Government had not done enough to contain house prices, the chief executive of Kiwi Property, Chris Gudgeon, calling its response "lazy, naive and negligent".


His concern, like many, was not only for the social consequences but for the effect on the economy. Gudgeon called it, "a tax-effective investment that has only served to enrich investors at the expense of the next generation of talent we need to attract and retain".

The Government's insistence that the problem was purely one of supply was "disingenuous" and its constant blaming of the Auckland Council "pure politics". He advocates restricting non-resident investors and imposing a stamp duty on domestic investors to discourage speculation and to raise revenue for infrastructure.

It is probably ineffectual housing policies that have taken some of the gloss off John Key's Government in the outlook from executive suites. Finance Minister Bill English got top marks for his fiscal discipline but more direction is wanted from Key. Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce also slid in the ratings, as has Paula Bennett, a rising star at the last election.

This may be a harsh judgment when the economy is attracting high immigration and growing strongly, unemployment is dropping and housing affordability is the only cloud on the landscape. But the Government could be doing more to point the way to higher incomes through better productivity and finished products.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon, whose airline has just reported a record profit, cites the flag change proposal as a failure to think strategically. "We can be a bit enthusiastic, amateurish and a bit tactical," he said. With interest rates so low, he suggests, this is the time to expand infrastructure, "fire up" and "do some one-off projects that fundamentally enhance our medium-term economic wealth".

A philosophy of "steady as she goes" may have worked for Keith Holyoake, the last Prime Minister to be elected for four terms, but that government did not have the economy well prepared for the trading shocks and inflation that hit the country not long after its demise.

Public opinion in Britain, Europe and the US is threatening the global trading environment, and prolonged monetary stimulants, should they ever succeed in reviving growth, could unleash inflation at the same time. We do not want to look back on the Key years as a lost opportunity.