Policy briefings

Our summaries of selected issues facing New Zealand, the policy options to deal with them, and some recommendations on the best option.

Building a just research system together

To build a thriving research system that benefits all of Aotearoa New Zealand, we need transformative whole-system change. We apply complex systems thinking to demonstrate how.

Understanding Perceptions of Cycling Infrastructure Provision and its Role in Cycling Equity

Cycling is a mode of transport that provides various health, environmental, and societal benefits. However, different population groups and communities can face unique barriers to cycling related to individual identities. While socioeconomic status is an important factor concerning equitable access to cycling infrastructure, these factors are largely ignored in cycling equity planning.

The realities and aspirations of people experiencing food insecurity in Tāmaki Makaurau

Food insecurity continues to affect significant numbers of people in New Zealand, threatening physical and mental health and the ability to thrive or fulfil wellbeing. Following a survey engaging with over 600 food-insecure people, this study presents the analyses of open-ended survey responses about participants’ food insecurity experiences and their future goals and dreams.

Costs of Going to University in Aotearoa New Zealand

This research project compared the cost of undertaking study at a New Zealand university using data collected over six months during 2021. The research undertakes statistical analyses of 730 students' income, hours worked, spending on housing and transport and study-related costs, as well as student debts, to examine variations in the cost of study for different demographic groups, levels of study and different types of enrolment and study (for example, by distance, international students and fields of study). The analysis shows there are differences in the cost of studying for different demographics, including a range of ethnicities and gender. This briefing uses the initial summary of findings from this data. Future research exploring different demographic experiences with the costs of going to university will be released in due course.

Ko wai te Māori “o waenga”? Te whakaehu ā-mātāwaka, me te mana rite-kore puta noa i ngā uri, te mātāwaka, me te mātauranga ā-iwi

Who are the Māori “In-Between”? Indigenous diversity and inequity across descent, ethnicity, and iwi knowledge

Inā rā te whakaehu o roto i ngā tuakiri Māori e hāngai ana ki te mātauranga mō te whakapapa, ngā uri rānei. Me uaua ka tūhonoa te ao Pākehā me te ao Māori e ērā tē mōhio ki te whakapapa, takitahi mai, takitini mai rānei. Me te aha anō, mā te taukaea ahurea kaha o te tuakiri e tautiaki ai te Māori i ngā pānga o te toihara, e ārai ai hoki rātou i ngā pānga o te ao kua whakapākehā.

There is considerable diversity within Māori identities concerning knowledge of whakapapa or descent. Those without knowledge of their whakapapa can have difficulty connecting to both te ao Pākehā and te ao Māori, simultaneously or individually. At the same time, a stronger cultural connection to identity can protect Māori against the impacts of discrimination and buffer against the effects of living in a colonised world.

Are they paying attention, or are they shoe-shopping?

Online learning platforms offer flexibility in the delivery of instruction at all levels of education. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many schools worldwide made an abrupt transition to teaching online as governments instituted stay-at-home measures.

In light of the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, distance learning has definite benefits for ensuring teaching and learning can continue. Understanding the impact of how instructors choose to engage with various online delivery formats to maximise attentiveness is important for engagement in learning.

The New Zealand Financial Cycle

The global financial crisis has renewed interest in understanding financial cycles and their implications for the real economy. The resulting international debate has had important consequences for policy design in financial stability policy – for example, policymakers have increasingly sought to implement macroprudential instruments in an effort to ‘fine-tune’ the financial cycle.

Cycling Amongst Māori: Patterns, Influences, and Opportunities

Investment in cycling infrastructure and promotion may be a potentially beneficial intervention for Māori. Previous research on Māori transport priorities has identified increasing active transport use, amongst tamariki (children) in particular, as a potentially important contribution to improving hauora Māori. Active transport projects are likely to be most valuable to Māori where they are designed in ways that enable Māori to maintain a cultural and spiritual connection to the urban physical environment.

Belonging at School in New Zealand : Do Gender and Ethnic Racial Identity Matter?

Attitudes toward ethnic and racial identity have been linked to both wellbeing and maladaptive outcomes that affect belonging at school. Affirmative feelings towards school have resulted in positive subjective wellbeing and more optimistic thoughts of the future. Further, improved academic achievement and fewer negative behaviours, such as discipline issues, truancy, and dropping out, have been associated with students’ liking for school.

Pathway modelling to optimise long term policy impact in New Zealand

Wicked problems are described as “inherently intractable late-industrial problems associated with modern social planning” (Farrell, 2011). They include many of the problems faced by New Zealand society today, including how to reduce homelessness and inequity, and ways to mitigate the impact of damp social housing. To tackle wicked problems, transdisciplinary approaches that provide evidence-informed cross-sector policy are needed.

Realising Urban Sustainability? A collective case study of slippages between principles, policies, and practices in masterplanning

In both urban research and urban development practice there is a growing interest in the incorporation of principles of environmental sustainability in urban design. This is the case for masterplanning practice, or the strategic framework and process for developing or regenerating a (typically urban) site. Masterplanning has been identified as a critical tool for both private and public sector-led housing delivery, but recent analysis suggests that the quality of design achieved varies considerably from place to place.

Gaming New Zealand’s Targets for ‘Shorter Stays in Emergency Departments’

Governments often use performance targets for health sector organisations as a way of holding organisations accountable. However, staff in organisations can ‘game’ targets, making performance appear better when it is not.

ACEs and Cultural Considerations in Aotearoa New Zealand

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) checklist was first conceptualised as the result of an attempt to understand links between childhood experiences and long-term health outcomes.

It is important to understand that this initial research was undertaken with a US-based population sample consisting of mostly white, average to well-off, insured patients within a medical setting, and that the questions developed for the checklist were not the result of a rigorous review to select those variables most likely to predict health outcomes. 

Mind the Gender Gap: Energy Employment Trends in Aotearoa New Zealand

Scant attention is paid to the gendered nature of energy sector employment internationally, but this analytical gap is particularly pronounced in New Zealand. Energy systems globally are in the midst of significant restructuring, from pressures to decarbonize, decentralise, diversify and decolonise. An opportunity exists at this crucial juncture for COVID recovery spending and for climate action to look closely at the data on New Zealand’s energy sector.

Transformative Housing Policy for Aotearoa New Zealand

Housing is essential to the health and wellbeing of everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand. We need a  paradigm shift which reimagines what our housing system can look like. We advocate moving  from our current system where housing is commodified – a source of private wealth for some and insecurity for others – to a system where housing is available for the wellbeing of all.

The Social Consequences of Assisted Dying: A Case Study

The End-of-Life Choice Bill has now passed its third reading in the New Zealand Parliament, which takes the final decision on this legislation to a referendum on the End of Life Choice Act. The overriding discourse in countries where assisted dying (AD) is legal or under consideration concerns individual emancipation from the perspective of human suffering. Although the use of AD legislation may liberate individuals from suffering, it is also necessary to consider the impact embracing a new means of dying may have on families, healthcare practitioners and the wider community.

Comparing Space Sectors Down Under

Many governments are establishing space agencies to develop their national space sectors. Governments are intervening to ensure their national space sectors secure niches in the growing global space economy. New Zealand and Australia are two countries whose governments have recently established space agencies. How are the governments developing their national space sectors and what are the implications of their approaches?

Setting Targets to Reduce New Zealand Children’s Sugar Intakes through Food Reformulation

An international review found total sugars currently comprise up to one quarter (14–25%) of total energy (TE) consumed by populations. Because of their contribution to the overall energy density of diets, their association with tooth decay in children, and the 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) sugars intake guideline, reducing total sugar intakes has become a key focus of dietary interventions and policies.  

This policy briefing outlines the methods for development of targets that would reduce, by 20%, the total sugar content of packaged foods and beverages commonly consumed by New Zealand children, using either or both of: 1) reformulation (i.e. healthier recipe) 2) reductions in portion size.

Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Nationwide Lockdown on Trust, Attitudes towards Government, and Wellbeing

In countries where citizen surveillance and control is limited, the success of lockdown to reduce COVID-19 depends on a complicated voluntary process of information processing and institutional compliance. Specifically, individuals and communities need to trust and adhere to advice from scientists, politicians, and law enforcement, while ignoring disinformation and conspiracy theories. It is possible, however, that the pandemic itself (and subsequent lockdown) not only relies on, but may change, the extent to which people trust institutions.

Aggregate Road Passenger Travel Demand in New Zealand

Are disturbances in demand for the four major road passenger transport choices correlated?

What are the factors that affect the demand for each mode of road passenger travel in NZ?

How much will these factors impact on the demand for road passenger travel in NZ?

Disaster Preparedness and Resilience among Auckland’s Pacific Peoples

This policy brief considers disaster risk reduction (DRR) messaging and policy with Pacific peoples living in Auckland communities. Pacific peoples account for a large portion of the city’s population, and are underserved in current disaster awareness efforts.

Air Pollution Exposure in Walking School Bus Routes: A New Zealand Case Study

Walking School Buses, organized groups for children to walk to school under the supervision of adults, help reduce traffic congestion and contribute towards exercise. Exposure to air pollution is not generally considered, but this research suggest that pedestrians travelling on the footpath next to the less congested side of the road in the morning avoid experiencing significantly lower exposure.

Youth Service and Money Management in New Zealand

This research fills an important gap in our knowledge about the fundamental assumptions behind the Youth Service and Money Management and whether they are able to ensure the well-being of young people as they are supported in the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Cultural Identity and Mental Health Outcomes for Indigenous Māori Youth in New Zealand

Māori youth mental health is complex and multi-dimensional, with multiple contributing factors embedded in cultural, historical, spiritual, physiological, psychological, structural and social domains. Our findings suggest that public health programmes and services that genuinely seek to address equity for Māori youth, will ensure cultural programming and policies that are culturally and developmentally specific, as core components of any mental health and suicide prevention strategy. 

Competitiveness, sustainability and the environment

How might domestic firms enjoy profitability and international competitiveness with fewer harmful environmental impacts? Private firms that either produce material goods or use physical inputs in supplying services can improve their profitability by increasing their resource productivity. Not only does a positive change in resource productivity mean increased profitability for the individual firm, but it also means a dramatic improvement in the impact of business on the environment, particularly with regards to climate change and the depletion of natural resources.

Challenges in the provision of mental healthcare

Headline-grabbing articles on suicide and self-harm declare that prisons are currently plagued by a 'mental health crisis'. Such a crisis is not new; rather, mental distress, self-harm and suicide have been present since prisons first appeared at the end of the eighteenth century. Even with comprehensive mental health services, prisons are ultimately damaging; a steady simmering of multiple harms and indifference.

The effects of access and accessibility on public transport users' attitudes

With trip-making behaviour in Auckland growing in complexity in terms of purpose and spatial destinations, challenges arise in providing an attractive public transport system. Private vehicle use has been preferred to public transport because of instrumental functions (freedom, comfort and convenience); symbolic functions (social status); and affective functions (driving perceived as pleasurable). Although improvement in service quality is likely to increase ridership, the level of increase can be limited if travellers hold prejudices towards the image of public transport.

Policy strategies for inclusive renewable energy in Aotearoa (New Zealand)

New Zealand faces a range of challenges in reorienting its energy infrastructure to address both climate mitigation and adaptation goals. These include ensuring that the shift to a decarbonised, distributed energy system is economically efficient, meets energy security needs and is socially just.

Climate, housing and health profiling: Promoting housing quality to improve health and wellbeing

The links between poor housing quality and New Zealand’s high incidence of health-related fatality are well recognised. Each year more than 20 children are killed by respiratory diseases linked to unhealthy housing. Mortality is especially high among low-income Māori and Pacific families who live in sub-standard rental properties.

Infant food security in New Zealand

Using the infant food consumption, breastfeeding, and maternal food-related coping data collected at nine months from mothers in the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort, we developed a food security index for New Zealand infants and examined its association with socio-economic and demographic covariates, and health outcomes.

Mātauranga Māori — The ūkaipō of knowledge in New Zealand

Mātauranga Māori spans Māori knowledge, culture, values and world view. Hitherto mostly ignored or disregarded by the science community because it seemed to be myth and legend, fantastic and implausible, mātauranga Māori includes knowledge generated using techniques consistent with the scientific method, but explained according to a Māori world view. Acknowledging this extends the history of scientific endeavour back to when Māori arrived in Aotearoa and Te Wai Pounamu, many centuries ago.

School-based health services and improving students' mental health

Mental health problems are global, and a common burden for adolescents. One avenue for improving access and support for adolescents is through school-based health services (SBHS). These provide comprehensive and appropriate care, which aims to be accessible and low-cost. While SBHS have been shown to improve access to mental health services, evidence of their effectiveness in terms of students' mental health has been limited.

Measuring and managing health system performance in New Zealand

In July 2016, New Zealand introduced a new approach to measuring and monitoring health system performance — the ‘Systems Level Measure Framework’ — designed to stimulate a 'whole of system' approach requiring inter-organisational collaboration for planning and achieving improved health outcomes. This approach demonstrates a policy commitment to effective integration of health services, but there will also be many significant challenges to be addressed if it is to be implemented successfully.

Community energy and climate change: Promising and cautionary tales in Canada

Canada has a long history of co-operative and municipal activity in community energy initiatives, even though it is a resource-rich state with one of the highest per capita greenhouse gas footprints, and political issues, geographic scale and incumbent industries complicate broader community participation.

Managing migration in big cities and the growth of urban peripheries

In recent years, the focus of policing in international migration has increasingly shifted from exclusion and border control to migration management.

Locating methamphetamine manufacture in New Zealand

There are strong regional trends in methamphetamine lab location that cannot be effectively explained by socio-demographic or ecological factors. Social norms in communities also matter, meaning community action groups could become a focus for intervention.

Hot property in New Zealand: Housing bubbles in the metropolitan centres

Housing has become prohibitively expensive in many regions of New Zealand, putting home ownership beyond the reach of a growing number of New Zealand households, particularly those without wider sources of family financial support.