The Informer hosted economist, Cameron Bagrie, in a “rustic” hangar at the Whitianga airfi eld on Wednesday last week. Before embarking on a career as an independent consultant, he was the chief economist at ANZ Bank for 11 years.
Over the course of two breakfast and lunch presentations, attended by more than 100 people, Cameron touched on several topics that not only affect many local business and property owners, but every New Zealander. He started off by saying education is the indicator of how the New Zealand economy will look in the future. Falling short of saying the education sector is in a crisis, he said truancy is a real problem and the sector is in need of major investment, far more at primary school than tertiary education level.
Cameron also held the audience’s attention by explaining the effects of inflationary pressure, supply chain constraints, COVID-19, rising interest rates, reopening of New Zealand’s border and the dramatic increase in house prices on everyday New Zealanders. “If you eat like an elephant, don’t expect to break wind like a mouse,” was one of the phrases he used in his explanation. He pointed out that many people forget that when they are “having too good of a time spending”, there are two sides to a transaction and “what goes up must come down.”
“Inflation, along with living costs, is New Zealand’s biggest economic concern at the moment,” Cameron said. “Currently New Zealand’s inflation rate is over six percent, whereas the average rate of inflation is usually two percent. To avoid inflation, we should not be printing money, but the government printed $50 billion for its COVID-19 response. Welcome to economic reality.”
Another phrase Cameron used was, “When it comes to paying the piper, it’s always costly.”
He said that too much money is chasing too few things at the moment.” “We’re seeing food and living costs skyrocketing across New Zealand and now mortgage rates have doubled,” he said. “This is happening because our country has been too successful for the past 12 to 24 months and now we are paying the piper.”
A third phrase Cameron used in his explanation was, “Remember the bucket list.” He pointed out that New Zealand’s ageing Baby Boomer population has seen an unprecedented rise in wealth over the past few years, primarily driven by a 40 percent rise in property values. This, alongside many people reassessing life’s priorities in the aftermath of COVID-19 and not being able to travel off shore, has motivated people to tick off bucket list items they otherwise may not have fulfilled.
Cameron specifically referred to the significant “cashing up of the marketplace” with Auckland depopulating and its residents relocating to areas like Mercury Bay. Significant additional spending on things like new vehicles, spa pools and motorhomes has also taken place. “What people seem to forget is that Kiwis still like to travel,” he said. “We didn’t spend our money overseas for the past two years, hence it was spent locally. The statistics clearly showed a ‘live it up’ attitude, which was money reinvested back into the New Zealand economy.”
To curb inflation, Cameron said a three pronged approach should be followed, the consequences of which would not be pain free. “The Reserve Bank should unfortunately continue to raise interest rates, the government should ease back on spending and no extra costs should be loaded onto businesses,” he said.
The audience were eager to ask questions following both presentations, covering a wide variety of topics.
Cameron commented afterwards that he thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Whitianga. “The questions especially were very good,” he said. “What impressed me was that those who asked questions were not thinking of their own circumstances only, they looked at the wider picture as well. This was my fi rst time to Whitianga, but certainly not my last. I’ll be back.”
Pictured is economist, Cameron Bagrie, addressing the breakfast audience at the Whitianga airfield on Wednesday last week.