Dr Liz Gordon – Putting us first

By   /   August 13, 2018  /   29 Comments

TDB recommends Voyager - Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can get

I got to thinking that, while the government is doing a lot of things, I have yet to hear any sign of a ‘buy New Zealand’ strategy emanating from Government.  Aren’t we over neo-liberalism enough yet to know that it is good business to make and buy our own stuff?

The late MP Rod Donald used to begin his talks with a question: what was the single event in our (recent at that time) history that changed the balance of trade between Australia and New Zealand? The answer was simple. By removing the manufacture of Aulsebrooke’s biscuits from New Zealand back to Australia, the trade balance was upset from being slightly in NZ’s favour to significantly in Australia’s.

I’m not sure how widely known that is.  It seemed at the time to be a very defining thing. All we had to do was eschew Australian biscuits and eat Griffins and other NZ brands and we would save the bilateral trading deficit.

The came to mind recently when the Cadbury factory in Dunedin closed and production moved to Australia.  If we eat a lot of biccies, we also eat a lot of chocolate. It is therefore fairly obvious that this move would make Australia richer and New Zealand poorer in trade terms.  Not to mention, of course, the jobs that were lost here.

I got to thinking that, while the government is doing a lot of things, I have yet to hear any sign of a ‘buy New Zealand’ strategy emanating from Government.  Aren’t we over neo-liberalism enough yet to know that it is good business to make and buy our own stuff?

The hint of truth that comes out of Trump’s dirty mouth is that we need to support our own people and products if we are to prosper as a nation.  This does not require us to be racist or xenophobic. It is not about being better than other places, but using our natural resources to benefit our nation economically.

As well as goods, I think we need to do more to promote the use of services that do not extract profits from New Zealand and ship them overseas. Part of the reason NZ is relatively poor is that we create surplus value that is then sucked out of our economy all the time.  The banks are the best example of that. Really, everyone should be doing their banking at Kiwibank, which is a great bank and retains the profits here. Best thing that Jim Anderton did. I mean, why would you not?

Thus New Zealand is good for making profits for Australian business owners and shareholders.  Is there any scope for turning the tide and bringing those profit dollars for use in New Zealand?

The first thing is we could promote goods made here.  And I don’t mean by importing pig meat from Canada then passing it off as ‘kiwi’ bacon (did you know around 80% of our bacon is imported?).  I am talking about stuff which is made here from NZ materials for us and our industries, such as tourism. I am not averse to importing raw materials if certain things cannot be sourced here, however, as long as it is declared (unfortunately it appears we will never be able to grow cocoa, for example). New Zealand makes great things, and we as consumers should be conscious at all times to support our producers.

The second thing is to promote new small and artisan industries, new ownership models (e.g. collective, Treaty partnership, iwi) and new approaches to industry.  Shane Jones’ regional development fund should be used to underpin new kinds of industry for the modern age – carbon neutral or positive, focus on lifestyle industries and, where possible, owned by its communities.

Finally, if this is the first year that climate change is really showing its face, then NZ needs to orient itself towards that future.  The world is stuffed full of people fighting to exist in deteriorating conditions. We are fortunate that we have many of the conditions that others would love.

That includes Australia. Always dry, much of Australia may be uninhabitable in a century as droughts become more frequent (much of the country has been in drought since around 2000).  This year alone appears to be nearly apocalyptical in some areas with starving cows, rampant kangaroos (read about it!) and failing crops.

We face our own difficulties too, with erosion and flood and so on.  All I am saying, really, is that in all the blather about being focused on international trade deals and exports and imports etc, our own people and circumstances must not be forgotten.  We could well do with a focus on supporting our own economy, using our own renewable resources, creating our own jobs, owning our own enterprises and trading in our own best interests.

A government-mandated ‘buy NZ’ campaign would be a good start.  Just sayin’.


Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research.  Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).

Want to support this work? Donate today
Follow us on Twitter & Facebook


  1. Gosman says:

    For a nation that relies heavily of exporting to make money don’t you think it would be the height of hypocrisy to call for a buy NZ made campaign while at same time promoting our exports around the World?

    • Mike the Lefty says:

      What a load of rubbish!
      The hypocrisy is in promoting our exports around the world whilst continuing to buy imports ourselves!
      Honestly Gosman, I know its a Monday but where is your head man!?

      • Sam Sam says:

        For the mentally challenged types. Exports make middle class welfare more likely in the same way lowering the minimum wage makes middle class welfare more likely – the middle class and government would have less money to pay for stuff.

        This is not an argument against special needs programmes.

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        Gosman most of the time wants to sell NZ to the lowest bidder without a care.

        Liz is so right and we need to begin producing wolllen carpets again as we lost ournmillls to China and India during the gosmans own liberalist Ntional government selloff.

        Woolen carpets do not cause global pollution as the plastic carpets we only make here now so when we throw the plastic carpets away guess where they go and how long it takes to break those plastic carpets down again?

        250 years at least we are told it takes to break down the ‘nylon’ carpets and no-one has even considered this as the new threat to our environment, as all plastic and nylon must be stopped now before we are all screwed.


        The Toxic Dangers of Carpeting:Are the Carpets in Your Home or Office a Health Hazard?
        by SixWise.com

        Walking across your soft, wall-to-wall carpet with bare feet may seem pleasant enough, and we won’t deny that it does feel cozy, but there are some unpleasant and downright dangerous things about carpeting that deserve attention.

        In America, we love wall-to-wall carpeting–in fact, according to the Carpet and Rug Institute more than two-thirds of American floors have them–despite the fact that they contain toxic byproducts that are released into our homes and even inhaled and absorbed into our bodies.

        Carpet Samples

        It looks innocent enough, but carpets are made from synthetic fibers that have been treated with toxic chemicals that outgas into your home.

        Carpets Emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Your Home

        Almost all carpet is made from synthetic fibers and those fibers have been treated with synthetic chemicals that “outgas” into your home. Here’s a list of some carpet “ingredients”:

        Petroleum byproducts and synthetics (polypropylene, nylon, acrylic)
        Soil and stain repellents
        Vinyl or latex
        Antistatic sprays
        Artificial dyes
        Antimicrobial treatments
        After being exposed to these chemicals and breathing them in or absorbing them through the skin, some people may feel symptoms such as headache, dizziness or nausea right away.

        But often times, no symptoms are felt. In the long-term, however, no one knows for certain what the effects of these chemicals may be. The EPA has said that no cause-and-effect relationship between carpet emissions and health problems has been proven. However, says Mark Gold from Holistic Healing, “Please pay attention to this warning: Sucking down toxic chemicals may seem okay now, but you may pay a very heavy price in the future.”

        For instance, carpets may contain:

        Known carcinogens such as p-Dichlorobenzene. These chemicals may also cause hallucinations, nerve damage and respiratory illness in humans.

        4-PC, the chemical that gives carpets their distinctive “new carpet smell” and is associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems.

        Mothproofing chemicals, which contain naphthalene.

        Fire retardants with PBDEs, which may cause damage to thyroid, immune system and brain development functions in humans.

      • Gosman says:

        Do you understand the purpose of trade ?

      • Gosman says:

        Importing is the point of Foreign trade. Exporting is only necessary because people want to import.

    • Not at all, Gosman. If other countries can produce the goods they need, cheaper than us, and with less carbon-emissions in transport, then that is free market logic and environmentalism, at work, right?

    • Draco T Bastard says:

      We could always stop exporting.

  2. RosieLee says:

    I’d love to be more proactive about buying NZ made. So how about we have more visible country of origin labeling? On everything. Went to buy some wine the other day. Makaraka on special. Sounds NZ and has a picture of a pohutukawa flower on the label. Guess what – “Wine of Australia” in fine print.

  3. UpsideDown says:

    Sounds good on the face of it but it’s a recipe for paupery.

    Our market is too small for us to compete with the more efficient competition from overseas. So what you’re really saying is that we would have to raise tariff walls to compensate.

    As soon as we put up walls other countries return the favour and before you know it our formerly successful exporters get forced out.

    The bottom line is the NZ market is too small and to get wealthy with high wage levels we need to access overseas markets. Stuff that up and we all get poorer.

    The one caveat that may change this is if the price of transport in the form of carbon pricing makes it prohibitively expensive to ship goods. Still a complete disaster for NZ exporters and general wealthy levels but it might allow for more import substitution businesses take root.

  4. Katie says:

    Yes, the majority of us would like to buy NZ made (or majority sourced) products but it boils down to 2 things.

    1) The cost. Face it, NZ food stuffs are nearly always dearer than imported, especially things like tinned fruit and frozen veg. Why buy Watties peaches when the Australian, Chinese or South African are way cheaper? Kiwis are known to be the most price sensitive shoppers in the world and we have to be, given how ripped off we are by supermarkets. NZ non-food items are nearly always dearer than imported items as well. And I’ve been able to find NZ books cheaper on Bookdepository cheaper than buying locally. Most of us just don’t have the financial means to routinely support local goods even though we want to.

    2) The ongoing refusal of cowardly governments NOT to let us know country of origin of what we’re eating. This “packaged in NZ from local and imported ingredients” tells us nothing. And when “Kiwi Bacon” isn’t NZ pig at all, well… it’s easier just to boycott pork products altogether (they’re too expensive anyway, especially freerange). Plus, there’s the ethics. While Talleys frozen veg are 100% NZ veg, the way they treat their workers is appaling, so do we really want to support an unethical business?

    Face it, we’re screwed whatever choice we make.
    But go Whittickers chocolate 🙂

  5. Katie says:

    A bit of trivia as well, I’m related to Esther James who was the original “Buy NZ Made” advocate in the early 1930s, walking the length of NZ, and also from Melbourne to Sydney to promote the cause (google her for more info if you’re interested). She was a bit mad but she had a point, and her locally made shoes did pretty well!

    I also still own an NZ made skirt bought 30 years ago (still fits!) which is in excellent condition despite years of washing, storage etc. Quality and made to last. There’s no way I could afford locally made clothing these days.

  6. Rickoshay says:

    cant afford local made goods, is a condemnation of our previous governments, kiwis are wage slaves to foreign ownership, what about a 70% tax on profits leaving NZ, force reinvestment on the foreign owned banks, what about the banking cartels Tax haven bullshit here?
    Are we happy to be the drug barons, corrupt politician and super richs offshore hidy hole?
    You know if Key set it up its a nest of corruption

  7. Richard says:

    Spot on Liz. We’ve made so many bad trade deals. We’ve let so many countries take advantage of us.

    Make NZ Great Again!

  8. Johnnybg says:

    To be effective this will need to be done in conjunction with moves too; reduce unneeded & environmentally degrading imports (those freaky tariffs the liberal elite hate); drastically boost our manufacturing industries (talking subsidies here folks); stop sending all the best & most healthy produce overseas for wealthy foreigners to benefit from (e.g. Manuka honey); focus on becoming less export orientated & dependent on the rest world for our survival; progress economic & land reforms that would make cooperative enterprise more attractive; create, develop, implement & evolve ideas & practices for a more sustainable, localised & self sufficient way of life for all. Sound good? Sure does to me.

  9. Liz Gordon says:

    Great responses everyone. See, we have almost held a gummint summit on trade and goods without having to go through all the bureaucracy. Go Daily Blog!!!

  10. David G. says:

    Kiwi made whenever I can. Natural products whenever I can, second hand goods I say yes. I think most of us get into the habit of fast and cheap, over items that are a little expensive but last alot longer. It takes time to choose these things over mass produced overseas things but they are there. Just make the effort, or make it yourself with local ingredients.
    What we need is a ‘kiwi made’ directory in stores. Colour coded price stickers in the supermarkets. We need an online register of made in nz products and links to those company websites.
    Ironically here’s something the Australians have one over us too…

    Shout out to McKinley shoes of Dunedin. Great service and product!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.