Saturday, June 29, 2024


Last weekend, the ferry Aratere that links the north and south islands of New Zealand ran aground about 3 kilometres out of Picton, the port at the southern end of its journey. The Maori name of the ferry means “quick path”. The loaded ferry was travelling slowly at about 3 knots when it unexpectedly turned sharply to the right and ploughed straight into the steep bank on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound. I wondered if this event was a sign to the people of New Zealand about the state of our economy.

In an election a year ago, New Zealand turned to the right, by replacing a centre-left government with one from the centre-right. The new government promised that the changes they would bring would put the nation on a “quick path” to economic prosperity. However, since the election, the economy has stumbled along, not getting much worse, but not improving either.

The Aratere ran into the steep bank of the sound. The bank that is holding back the growth of the New Zealand economy is the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, our central bank. It has consistently held interest rates high (currently the official cash rate is 5.5 percent, and businesses are paying even higher rates). The bank has not committed to reducing these steep rates soon, despite the economy struggling and unemployment increasing.

I wonder if the actions of the Reserve Bank will become an obstacle causing the economy to grind to a halt, despite the turn to the right, and the promise of the quick path to prosperity.

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