Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Professor Robert MacCulloch: NZ Treasury Mis-sells Wellington

NZ Treasury Mis-sells Wellington to Job Applicants using outdated Lonely Planet Data. After re-locating, they may not appreciate it.

What's gone wrong with our public institutions? The University of Otago falsely claims on the front of its website that it is "ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world" on the QS rankings. That's called mis-selling.

Now we have the NZ Treasury playing the same games. It is telling potential job recruits that Wellington is "referred to" as "the coolest little capital in the world”. Only thing is, their claim, which appears to be based on a Lonely Planet Guide quote, is now nearly 15 years old. Is our Treasury next going to start using outdated data to tell us that NZ is the 3rd richest nation in the world, on the basis of GDP per capita (which it was once, before plummeting down the income rankings)?

A more recent comment from Lonely Planet, though still about 7 years old, says Wellington was, back then, “one of the coolest little capitals in the world” - different from the official statement made on Treasury's website that stakes out the number one position. The latest Lonely Planet in 2024 changes tack completely, warning readers, "Wellington is up there with the best of them", but only "On a sunny, windless day". How often does that happen, given Wellington is officially ranked by numerous surveys as the world's windiest city? Given lots of "little capitals", like Canberra in Australia, Ottawa in Canada, & Reykjavik in Iceland, are known for being especially boring, Wellington's competition is not strong. Lonely Planet advises readers that if you want to visit a capital city (big or small), then the best ones include the likes of Paris, London, Rome & Amsterdam. Wellington is not included.

On a deeper note, it's clear from the desperate Treasury advert that attracting quality staff has become hard, especially ones fitting its desired psychometric profile, so it is trying other tactics, like selling the virtues of Wellington. But the city has fallen into decay, beset by transport problems, leaky water supplies & run-down housing. Most bureaucrats aren't venturing into central Wellington, preferring to "work" from home. It's not okay for Otago University & NZ Treasury to use false advertising to attract students & staff when protecting consumers from mis-selling products is a major public policy concern. They should be championing ethics & truthfulness in advertising, not undermining them.


Professor Robert MacCulloch holds the Matthew S. Abel Chair of Macroeconomics at Auckland University. He has previously worked at the Reserve Bank, Oxford University, and the London School of Economics. He runs the blog Down to Earth Kiwi from where this article was sourced.


Robert Arthur said...

I recall a radio programme some years ago in which returned Wellington expats were interviewed. One had spent time in California, found the weather infinitely boring, and welcomed the vast varied range experienced in Wellington!

CXH said...

Robert, I presume that they came back to work in the public service and found it so boring they got to appreciate the abysmal, but changeable weather.