10 Apr 2012

New think tank head hopes for non-partisan body

7:21 am on 10 April 2012

The head of a new economic think tank says he wants to create an unbiased body that will tackle some of the country's biggest economic issues, such as housing affordability, education and Auckland's growth.

The New Zealand Initiative has been created from the merger of the Business Round Table and the New Zealand Institute.

Co-chairs Roger Patridge and Tony Carter say it will be an independent, non-partisian public policy think tank.

German-born economist Dr Oliver Hartwich will become the new body's first executive director next month.

However, critics say there are big ideological and academic gaps between the Business Round Table and the New Zealand Institute, and question how they can merge, or even be non-partisan.

Business commentator Rod Oram says he believes the Business Round Table will dominate the agenda.

He says it has a longer history and stronger ideological position amongst its members.

Mr Oram says the appointment of Dr Hartwich raises some interesting questions.

"He's coming from the Centre of Independent Studies in Sydney, which is intellectually a very close cousin to the Business Round Table," says Mr Oram.

Dr Hartwich admits the New Zealand Initiative has been created from two very different bodies, but he hopes people will not prejudice its work because of its links to the former Business Round Table.

He says he has no "party political baggage" or previous affiliations to either organisation.

Dr Hartwich says he will try to bring a fresh perspective based on his experiences working in other countries.

Dr Hartwich is well known as a business commentator in Australia and was previously the chief executive of the right-wing British think tank, the Policy Exchange.