Reserve Bank Governor ’embattled’

Michael Reddell isn’t a fan of the performance of Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr.

Croaking Cassandra: An embattled Orr

And then there was the press conference.   I’ve seen some pretty poor performances from Governors over the years –  early ones by Alan Bollard were often awkward, and as Graeme Wheeler became more embattled the defensive introvert, never comfortable with the media, took over.     But this one was the worst I’ve seen, and from someone who has many talents in communications.  But just not, so it is confirmed again, in coping with challenge, disagreement, or finding himself on the back foot.  I doubt a senior politician would have got away with it, and it isn’t obvious why an unelected bureaucrat, uncomfortable at facing serious scrutiny, should do so.

The Governor and Deputy Governor faced several questions about the possible impact of the Bank’s capital proposals on farm lending –  various commentators have suggested such borrowers will be among the hardest hit.  The Bank attempted to push back claiming that any sectoral impacts were nothing to do with them, and all about banks’ own choices.  But they seemed blind to the fact that banks will have more ability to pass on the additional costs of the higher capital requirements to some sectors, some borrowers, than others.  And that is because of a point the Bank never addresses: their capital requirements don’t apply to all lenders.

The Governor came across as embattled from start to finish –  embattled at best, at times prickly, rude, and behaving in a manner quite inappropriate for a senior unelected public official exercising a great deal of discretionary power, with few formal checks and balances.   BusinessDesk’s Jenny Ruth – who often asks particularly pointed questions about the exercise of the Bank’s regulatory powers, and the lack of transparency around its use of those powers – was the particular target of his ire, and at one point he tried to refuse to take further questions from her.

The press conference deterioriated further as it got towards the end.  Without specific further prompting, the Governor noted a certain frostiness in the room, and then launched off again in his own defence.

A couple of articles in the Herald in recent days tells us some more of the story.   The first was from Liam Dann, who has in the past provided a trusty outlet for the views of successive Governors, and the second was a column from Pattrick Smellie, under the heading “Bunker mentality returns to the RBNZ?”, evoking unwelcome memories of the Wheeler governorship.

Orr very much needs to be pulled into line, for his own sake and that of the country (as single decisionmaker he still wields huge untrammelled power).

At present, he is displaying none of the qualities that we should expect to find in powerful unelected official –  nothing calm, nothing judicious, nothing open and engaging, just embattled, defensive, aggressive, playing the man rather than the ball, all around troubles of his own making (poor process around radical proposals made without any robust shared analysis, all while he is prosecutor, judge, and jury in his own case).

He also notes something odd – “when we have no idea who will even be Secretary to the Treasury –  lead economic adviser to the government –  three weeks from now”. That’s if Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf stays in the job that long.

Is there really no replacement for him yet?

Reserve Bank Governor refuses to answer questions

Michael Reddell at Croaking Cassandra writes about yesterday’s news conference with Graeme Wheeler, Governor of the Reserve Bank:

…the outgoing Governor of the Reserve Bank today both refused to accept that he’d made any mistakes, while refusing any comment at all on some of the more searching questions.

The news conference was on the occasion of the release of his statutory monetary policy accountability document, the Monetary Policy Statement.    It was the last opportunity journalists will get to question him.

And yet faced with questions about the Toplis affair (his use of public resources, including his senior managers, to attempt to close down critical commentary from an employee of an organisation the Bank regulates), he simply refused to comment.

I’m sure he is now feeling quite embattled and defensive, but surely it should be unacceptable for a powerful public official to simply refuse all comment on such a chilling example of abuse of executive office?

I hope members of Parliament use their opportunity this afternoon to ask questions on this matter, and to insist on answers.


The Governor also tried to avoid most questions about his term in office (but was happy to provide a long answer to a curious question about risks around North Korea, on which he has (a) no accountability, and (b) no more knowledge than the rest of us).  Apparently there is a speech coming –  which may be interesting, but it provides no opportunity for follow-up challenge or scrutiny.   Asked if his critics have been fair, and if at times their criticism may have clouded his judgement in decisionmaking, he claimed he will cover that in his speech.  If so, that should be interesting.      Asked also about:

  • what surprised him about the economy in the last five years,
  • about his inflation record in the last five years, and
  • what his successor should worry about

he refused to provide any answers, and simply referred everyone to the forthcoming speech.

Odd that Wheeler had a media conference before giving his speech.

A lot more about the failure to answer questions and about Reserve Bank matters in: Consistent to the end…..sadly

“The defining conflict of New Zealand history”

I don’t remember hearing anything about Maori wars when i was at school. I don’t remember learning much at all about anything to do with Maori, apart from singing Pokarekare Ana.

I have gradually learnt more since.

Today is the anniversary of what has been referred to as “The defining conflict of New Zealand history”.

NZ Herald:  154 years since Governor George Grey’s troops invaded Waikato

The colonial Waikato War began 154 years ago today, when Governor George Grey’s troops marched into the territory of the Maori King Tawhiao.

Newspapers of the time tell of around 250 soldiers crossing the border, the Mangatawhiri Stream, near Pokeno and taking control. The stream runs beside today’s State Highway 1 at the Mercer straights.

They were a precursor to an invasion by thousands of troops.

July 15, 1863. Source: the National Library

That invasion – “the defining conflict of New Zealand history” – and the other battles and events of the wars between the British/colonial forces and Maori have received relatively little attention. However, they are now set to become more familiar to New Zealanders, with the establishment of a national day of commemoration, October 28.

The first commemoration will be held this year.

Conflict, from fatal skirmishes to wars, occurred in Wairau, Northland, Taranaki, Waikato, Te Urewera, Tauranga, Opotiki and the East Coast, mainly in the 1840s and 1860s.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell has said: “These battles shaped our country and its people. We lost more than 2750 lives during the wars and it’s time we honour them in a similar way that we honour those who died overseas.”

The Waikato invasion, Grey’s attempt to force submission of the Kingitanga and its allies to the sovereignty of Queen Victoria, followed several years of tension after the Taranaki War earlier in the 1860s.

Grey pursued peace, while planning for war, constructing the Great South Rd to the border and building up troops and warships.

The trigger for the invasion, led by Lieutenant-General Sir Duncan Cameron, was the Maori King Movement’s rejection of the Governor’s ultimatum demanding allegiance.

After a series of battles in 1863 and 1864, the Kingitanga tribes retreated into what became known as the King Country. Cameron withdrew.

The Crown confiscated some 486,000ha of land, of which around a quarter had been returned before Royal Commission hearings in the mid-1920s.

In a $170 million settlement, including more than 15,000ha of land, the Crown in 1995 apologised to Waikato-Tainui for the unjust invasion of their lands.

Historian Vincent O’Malley’s book, The Great War for New Zealand, Waikato 1800-2000, published last year, says, “The Waikato War was the defining conflict in New Zealand history: a time when the government began to assert extensive control over the country, with devastating impacts not only for the Tainui people but for iwi everywhere.”

More from New Zealand History: War in Waikato

From Te Ara: