Home > A Little Blue Marble Called Earth, Dollars & Sense, Social Issues, The Body Politic > Silly Idea # 341,907,775 – increasing our population

Silly Idea # 341,907,775 – increasing our population



From the Silly Ideas files comes this local story from the NZ Herald, regarding a proposition from  ExportNZ and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER),


Full story


ExportNZ  executive director, Catherine Beard, has suggested,

One of the obvious ways to overcome these problems is to make New Zealand a bigger country with bigger companies. We need a national debate on population policy and how big we should be by 2060.

Once grown, the challenge is then keeping these companies in New Zealand so the country benefits from them. The alternative is selling out to other countries and losing talent overseas for better jobs and better pay.”

The NZIER suggested  a population of 15 million for New Zealand, by 2060 .

NZIER deputy chief executive, John Ballingall, stated (with a straight face I assume),

We need to ensure existing capability-enhancing policies are delivering value for money. Our immigration, tax, welfare and foreign investment policies need to enhance rather than restrict the ability of New Zealand firms to gain scale.

On-going efforts to cut less vital spending like Working for Families and interest-free student loans will ease the pressure on the kiwi dollar. Public spending has acted like a tax on the export sector.”

Leaving aside the issue of migration for a moment, the question that  demands an answer is:  do these people actually think through issues before making public pronouncements?

Because reading their comments and thinking through the issues to inevitable conclusions leads this blogger to conclude that NZEIR and ExportNZ indulge in superficial thinking and short-term, easy “solutions”.

For starters, what would be the consequences of a population of 15 million people?

This country already suffers from the following;

  • 175,000 unemployed.

How does adding ten and a half million people help address those already jobless?

  • More pollution.

I think most of us know by now that our “100% Pure” and “Clean and Green” reputation is now mostly a fiction to rival that of elves, goblins, hobbits, pixies, Easter bunny, Little Red Riding Hood, Mickey Mouse, et al.

With 52% of our rivers having water quality at poor or very poor, what would tripling our population do to our environment?

Think of 15 million people needing clean water to drink; cook with; shower in; and wash laundry in… and then think of 15 million toilets flushing…

How does adding ten and a half million people help our “100% Pure” image?

Do we downgrade to “75 Pure”?

“50% Pure”?

Or wait for those 15 million toilets to flush simultaneously  and call ourselves “100% Pure Manure“?

  • Housing

We already have a pressing,  critical housing shortage. The cost of housing is spiralling further and further out of reach from New Zealanders.




As our population has increased, so has housing affordability and availability worsened. Housing was more affordable fourty years ago and young New Zealanders are having to migrate to Australia to buy a home of their own.

The ‘market’ has been spectacularly inept at meeting demand. And when we do build houses, they tend to “dissolve in the rain”, as Bernard Hickey said with disturbing accuracy on 28 October.

How does adding ten and a half million people help address our critical housing problems?

  • Transport

Something for every Aucklander to ponder: think of your roads now, clogged with cars, with a city of over 1.5 million  people.

Now treble it.

Point made, I think?



Perhaps the most laughable aspect to NZIER’s comments was when John Ballingall, said,

On-going efforts to cut less vital spending like Working for Families and interest-free student loans will ease the pressure on the kiwi dollar.

It may “ease the pressure on the kiwi dollar” – but how much extra pressure will be put on New Zealanders; their families; and students?

And what might possibly be the consequences of putting more pressure on Kiwi families and students? Clue: Australia.

There are six  countries on this planet with populations ranging from 14,478,000 to 15,883,000;


     Malawi   –  15,883,000
Burkina Faso   –  15,730,977
Guatemala  –   14,713,763
Mali  –   14,528,662
Ecuador  –   14,483,499
Cambodia  –   14,478,000


Source: List of countries by population

None of the above nations have a GDP, per capita, higher than ours. So can we deduce that tripling our population is no guarantee of increasing our exports and thereby our wealth?

I believe that would be the first safe conclusion.

The second safe  contention might be the impact on our environment, with 15 million souls living within our shores, would result in environmental degradation  that would seriously harm our Destination New Zealand tourism  – a NZ$9.6 billion industry according to March 2012 figures.

The damage caused to our expanding tourism industry would most likely outweigh any benefits accrued from an increase in exports.

Third and last contention;  trebling our population seems a simplistic and hopelessly lazy “solution” to a problem that appears more rooted in other factors such as National’s blind obedience to neo-liberal policies, and it’s refusal to address the high value of our dollar.

It seems bizarre that ExportNZ has wandered off on some weird  tangeant, and ignored the real problems affecting exporters. It’s almost as if Ms Beard; her colleagues; and NZIER, have experienced a collective – dare I say it – brain fade.

If this is the best that our business leaders can come up with, then I despair for our country.



= fs =

  1. Green Meadows
    23 November 2012 at 6:06 pm

    If you feel like some crystal ball gazing this has some interesting figures. That’s if there is still life on this planet in 2060. With the resistance to change, it seems highly unlikely.


  2. 23 November 2012 at 6:13 pm

    …Noooo… we don’t need more people! For god’s sake, I’m sixteen and I know that! There’s so many people who don’t have houses or jobs and increasing the population will increase that… good to know that intelligent people are looking after our country… -.-

  3. Mark H
    23 November 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Economically, it’s not that silly. One of the issues for NZ is scale, as in we don’t, very well. Larger population (theoretically) means larger tax revenue equals more cash in the economy and larger niches for industries to thrive in.

    However, we lack the infrastructure at present (and I don’t mean roads necessarily) to get to that point and the dickheads in charge (of all stripes) have no clue about how to get there. That said, the practicality of the suggestion is not high, because, while we could probably accommodate that many people, everyone would want to live in Auckland, so no.

    I think it would be realistic to look at 10M by 2050, as I think we could grow properly that way. But the other side of that is what would they all do?

    • Sassi
      23 November 2012 at 6:56 pm

      One of the biggest con jobs of the past 100 years has been to trick people into believing that human happiness & wellbeing are the same thing as economic growth. Many things we enjoy as kiwis would be lost if there were more than 3x the population.

    • 23 November 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Actually, economically, it’s really stupid. Financially it’s not silly but, then, modern finances are delusional. The country is limited and we don’t know what the limits are. The pollution we already have is indicative that we’ve gone past them though.

  4. 23 November 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Mark, it also means more unempoloyed, it COULD be a way to keep wages down.

  5. Sassi
    23 November 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I think NZ should definitely be having this conversation, though. One of the shocking things about Key’s infamous Hard Talk interview was that the Key govt clearly had never even thought about what would be optimum, much less made policy. No vision.

  6. Mark H
    23 November 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Henk: I think I said that in my last line.
    Sassi: Yes to both comments. I wasn’t advocating 😉

  7. 23 November 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Yep, increasing population in NZ without knowing what the countries carrying capacity is a rather stupid idea but, unfortunately, some of the people at Auckland Transport Blog seem to think it’s a great idea as well.

    The logic for it is actually rather simple: Increase the number of people and thus increase the number of sales which magically through efficiencies of scale makes the country better off.

    Increasing population seems to have been the focus of the ruling class for millennia and it makes sense to the ticket clippers – the more tickets (working people) they get to clip the richer they become. It does have a tendency to trash the environment and bring about collapse though.

  8. 23 November 2012 at 8:29 pm


  9. JS
    23 November 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Jeez…if we had 15mill in NZ imagine how many kiwis there would be living in Oz…

  10. 23 November 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Could they be fed?

    • Mark H
      23 November 2012 at 11:54 pm

      They could, but we probably be exporting primary produce.

  11. Who Gnu
    24 November 2012 at 10:59 am

    Just what we need. More people competing for what few housing and jobs we already are struggling with. Whatever the NZIER half-wits are smoking or snorting is definitely frying what few brain cells they have remaining.

  12. Glenn C
    25 November 2012 at 8:38 pm

    errrmm, they could start by trying to keep the ones already here…

  13. Uncle Scrim
    28 November 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Neo-liberals like Catherine Beard have no idea how much stress capitalism puts on the environment. Our environmental degradation and global warming is a direct coinsequence of more mouths to feed, more consumer demands, more planned obsolescence, and more waste and pollution. Fifteen million people in this country might be good for business but we would kiss goodbye to our clean green image.

  14. Priss
    7 December 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I note that John Ballingall sez,

    “On-going efforts to cut less vital spending like Working for Families and interest-free student loans will ease the pressure on the kiwi dollar. Public spending has acted like a tax on the export sector..”

    Oh, I see. So we bring in millions of extra mouths to feed , clothe, and house and then cut the support they need to live in our low-wage economy? He wants to slash welfare and WFF so his business can make more profits?

    If this is the extent of right wing thinking then he is compounding the problems in our country. Essentially he wants to shift more of the burden onto poor families and students so he can make a buck.

    Mr Ballingall is a selfish oaf.

  15. R Pascoe
    7 December 2012 at 6:47 pm

    15 million people in NZ? The pressures on our housing, education, hospitals, and roads would be phenomenal. Do we ever have enough housing for ten million extra people??

    Catherine Beard obviously hasn’t thought this through.

  16. Jay 9
    12 February 2013 at 10:08 am

    We have a housing shortage in this country and Catherine Beard wants the population to increase even further? The woman is mad.

    Actually, most capitalists are bonkers. They seem to think we have unlimited resources and space on a finite planet. Yup. Certifiably nuts.

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