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Regional Policy in New Zealand: The Journey through Neo-liberalism and Back Again?

  • Year: 2008
  • Author: Willis, Richard
  • Journal Name: British Review of New Zealand Studies
  • Journal Number: 17
  • Country: New Zealand

The election of Helen Clark's centre-left Labour Government in New Zealand in 1999 saw the reemergence of regional development as a key national policy. Prior to this New Zealand had seen 15 years of 'new right' economics and politics where central government intervention in areas such as regional development was not favoured. While it is tempting to view this shift as a fundamental ideological change, the truth is more complex, and needs to be viewed against the theoretical background of thinking about neoliberalism. This paper attempts place the regional policy story in the context of the wider developments of neo-liberalism theory, sketch a brief history of regional policy in New Zealand, and then conclude by examining some of the new regional policies in more detail, to see if the term neo-liberal is still an adequate label. The empirical detail is based on the author's participation in a review of the Government's Regional Partnerships Programme. The paper concludes that while all Governments are constrained by the neoliberalising tendencies within increasing globalisation, New Zealand's post-1999 policies have been sufficiently different to constitute a departure from neo-liberalism.

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