Expanding industry support
In the early 2000s government support for industrial development expanded and then contracted. The expansion was not on the scale of the mid-20th century period, remaining a stimulus rather than a control of the market. There were no ‘big’ projects, no return to import licensing or border protection, no export incentives and few tax breaks.
Government involvement in industrial development grew after the election of a Labour administration in 1999. The Ministry of Commerce became the Ministry of Economic Development, signalling a change of emphasis. Industry steering groups were convened, advisory councils met and conferences were held.
Types of support
Government spending on research increased, an apprenticeship scheme was set up, and business incubators were formed. A tax credit was introduced for private-sector research (but was scrapped by the National-led government elected in 2008).
Regional development was encouraged through grants for region-wide plans. Entrepreneurs and small businesses could apply for development grants and access training and assistance when seeking venture capital.
Education for industry continued to be run by industry training organisations, but polytechnics and institutes of technology also became involved.
Throw money away
Even limited government industry-support schemes provoked vehement discussion between politicians. ‘It would be better to go to the top of the Beehive and throw the money off there,’ was one comment.1
The aim of the new programmes was familiar: regional development, encouraging business and creating jobs. For most of this period of expansion, the economy was booming and industry flourished.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
New organisations were set up to provide some of these programmes, and then merged in 2003 into one national economic development agency, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).
NZTE ran many of the government’s industry assistance programmes. Exporting was a major focus. Internationally based staff worked with buyers to source New Zealand products, services and investment opportunities, and assisted New Zealand exporters. Other programmes provided businesses with advice, training, mentoring, funding, and business and market development assistance.
A new National government was elected in 2008, during a recession. The new administration’s industry-development focus included reducing regulation and supporting exporters.
Business support programmes were refocused on investment in firms with high export potential. Infrastructure development included the development of ultra-fast broadband internet, which was expected to enhance export opportunities. A business and entrepreneur migration programme was developed. The government also supported large one-off events like the Rugby World Cup, which included an element of regional support.