Former Alliance Party leader Jim Anderton believed it would still take years to rebuild public trust in governments after the free-market reforms that began in 1984.

In his last political interview, conducted last March for a forthcoming documentary on his life, Anderton said New Zealand had never fully recovered from the upheaval of the reforms named "Rogernomics" after the Finance Minister in the 1984-90 Labour Government, Sir Roger Douglas.

"The cost was enormous, and it wasn't just in economic terms, it was in social terms - mental health, a massive rise in suicides in New Zealand, and a kind of disillusionment with the Government as being on your side," he told film makers Sally Griffin and Gerd Pohlmann.

"We went through a long period when governments were not trusted, and with good reason to be honest. So that trust will have to be rebuilt."


Pohlmann, a German-born film maker who worked with his former partner Merata Mita on films such as Bastion Point and Patu, filmed about seven hours of interviews with Anderton over two days last March.

Anderton, who died today, was already frail with heart problems.

"I didn't know how to do the film for a while because he came across as very slow and worrisome," Pohlmann said.

But he and Griffin eventually decided to use the interview as the basis of a 60- to 70-minute documentary which will include interviews with former staffers and other people who were close to Anderton.

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, the founding chair of Kiwibank, was interviewed, and current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went ahead with an interview on the day she was elected Labour Party leader last August.

Former Alliance MP Matt Robson is co-producing the film on Jim Anderton with former New Labour Party general secretary Sally Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell
Former Alliance MP Matt Robson is co-producing the film on Jim Anderton with former New Labour Party general secretary Sally Griffin. Photo / Dean Purcell

Griffin and former Alliance MP Matt Robson have raised $60,000 from individual donors and aim to raise $100,000 altogether to complete the film through a company they have founded for the purpose, Progressive Productions.

Anderton said in the interview that Rogernomics would be seen in history as "only a very small blip on the screen".

"Thirty, 50, 100 years time, it's not going to make much difference really because I think things will change, but they will need time and we have lost that time," he said.


"I have the confidence that sooner or later things will turn around. It's going to take some hard work."

The extended interview covers Anderton's life story, including his discovery of an Irish half-brother after a visit to Ireland on a trade mission when he was Deputy Prime Minister.

Anderton knew that his birth father, Matthew Byrne, came from Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland, and he arranged to meet the mayor of the town during his visit.

His half-brother Terry Byrne read a news report about the visit and contacted Anderton in New Zealand.

Matthew Byrne and Anderton's mother Joyce Savage separated and Joyce later married Victor Anderton, who legally adopted Jim Anderton after Matthew Byrne died in a train accident in Petone in 1942-43.

Anderton arranged to meet the Byrne family in England after he retired from Parliament in 2011, but was too ill to go and his wife Carole met the family instead.

Jim Anderton said the cost of Rogernomics was enormous but the policies would be
Jim Anderton said the cost of Rogernomics was enormous but the policies would be "a blip" in history. Photo / File

"She stayed with them and they were very good, so we have communicated since and there is a chance that they might come here, possibly next year," Anderton told the film makers. "It was a bit of a shock to find I had a family in England."

Anderton, while talking about his family also reflected upon the discovery of his stepfather's Maori heritage and how back then it seemed as if "racism didn't figure in anyone's thinking".

"I think all in all you make your own way, and that's the lesson of it all and most of the people I [was] with in one way, shape or form, did remarkably well in their lives actually.

"Really you could do anything you wanted to. The only precursor stopping you was you and that wasn't a bad lesson to learn."

In another part of the interview, Anderton described how he won support from Labour Party ministers to establish Kiwibank in 2002, despite "scepticism" acknowledged today by both Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, who were then Prime Minister and Finance Minister.

He said he did not make the bank a condition of his coalition agreement with Labour after the 1999 election because Labour would have agreed to it "very grudgingly, and they would give us as little help as they could and they would almost want it to fail".


Instead, he worked with "a lot of very young bankers" to prepare a business case for the bank, which he took to Cabinet. He still faced stiff opposition.

"Finally there was this final meeting where the idea was they were evidently all going to come for me, evidently to put me to the sword basically, with everyone coming at me with questions," he said.

"But I had a business case by that time and so I just nailed every argument."

He said Annette King, who was then Minister of Health, finally swung the argument.

"Annette King to her eternal credit said: 'Look, we've gone through all this, Jim's answered every bloody question, he's got all the answers, none of us were able to knock anything over, he's put up a brilliant business case for this, even though we may not agree with it, you have to admit they deserve a chance so for God's sake Michael, give him the bloody bank!'" Anderton said.

"And Cullen suddenly said: 'Oh alright.'"


• Fundraising for the film is being coordinated by Robson's partner Petronella Townsend and accountant Ralph Taylor:,