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From inquiries to a productivity agenda

Aotearoa New Zealand’s productivity performance matters for all New Zealanders. Improved productivity increases the nation’s incomes and our ability to produce and afford the goods and services that underpin a happy, healthy life.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s productivity performance remains low relative to many of its OECD peers, and some known barriers are impairing improvement – ranging from low levels of investment in research and development, and in physical infrastructure, through to weak management practices and continued depletion of natural resources (New Zealand Productivity Commission, 2023c). Improving productivity therefore depends on action across a wide range of interconnected factors, while also requiring sustained focus over the long term. Aotearoa New Zealand also needs to look to the future, to understand how global issues could impact on its productivity performance, and anticipate the kind of investment required.

In late 2023, the Productivity Commission undertook some work to identify the key productivity challenges that would benefit from deep exploration as part of the Commission’s inquiry programme. This work was originally intended to form advice to Ministers, to shape the Commission’s future inquiries work programme. Since the Commission is now to be disestablished, we have repurposed this work to set out an enduring productivity policy and research agenda. 

This work involved three stages:

  • Initial desk-based analysis – to synthesise the broader work of the Commission and its research and evidence base alongside exploring global megatrends and their implications for Aotearoa New Zealand’s future productivity, supported by input from an expert panel of futurists.[1] These findings are set out on pages 11-20 of this report.
  • Targeted stakeholder engagement workshops – to inform identification of productivity challenges and opportunities, and which took place in October 2023 in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Key themes from these workshops are set out on page 21, with further details in Appendix A.
  • Shaping potential “inquiry topics” – drawing from the inputs provided by workshop participants, additional engagement with key stakeholders and supported by the expert panel and our Commissioners. High-value topics identified through this process are set out in Appendix B, and informed the opportunity areas set out on pages 22–28 of this report.

This report sets out the key findings of the work, with a focus on the overall insights and themes that will have universal application for the government’s future focus on improving productivity. Where useful, we have identified more specific topics or issues which might be investigated, drawing from the work undertaken.

Productivity is of utmost importance, and the issues raised in this report are likely to become increasingly more urgent. This report is offered to inform the ongoing research and analysis on policy issues that matter for productivity and to support public debate, given the ongoing importance of productivity to New Zealand's future.

[1] The expert panel members were Andrew Jackson (Director of Strategic Projects at Victoria University of Wellington); Martin Grant (facilitator, sense-maker, and designer); Wendy McGuinness (founder and chief executive of the McGuinness Institute); and Eruera Tarena-Prendergast (Kaihautū at Tokona te Raki).