The National Business Review (NBR) just posted a remarkable survey, following up its story of last month, Guns For Hire.

Here is the question it posed to its readers … who hardly represent the radical vanguard of New Zealand:

Are you confident about the validity of reports commissioned from NZ’s economic research institutes?

The response:

Yes, they maintain a rigorous independence from their funders — 17% agree

No, they’re influenced by the outcome desired by their commissioning clients — 83% agree

NBR reported the comments of Dr Eric Crampton, director of research for the New Zealand Initiative, a think tank representing several dozen of  NZ’s major corporates. He said:

“The commissioning agency in some cases might not want to know the real number.” … “They might just want to have a number that can show up on the headlines for a few days and put it into the public debate around the time some policy is being decided upon.”

Golly, consultants dancing to the piper’s tune?!

The fact is, in tiny New Zealand, there are very few paying customers for ‘independent analyses’ and, my favourite, ‘peer reviews’.

Councils are one of the most significant and reliable sources of $$ for consultants’ studies. But how much repeat work do you suppose a consultant or consulting firm (or university researcher) gets if they report back to a council … “Your proposition sucks and would be an insulting waste of ratepayer dollars!”

Does that happen in Hawke’s Bay — ie, consultants rubber stamping council wishes? You can bet $250 an hour or more on it!

Tom Belford

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