9 Apr 2011

English confident NZ can compete with Australia

3:51 pm on 9 April 2011

The Finance Minister is confident New Zealand can successfully compete with Australia over the next decade or more, despite Canberra benefiting from its minerals boom.

Bill English told the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum in Auckland on Friday he is more interested in beating the Australians than co-operating with them.

Mr English says New Zealand has a range of factors in its favour, which means it will do better than its trans-Tasman neighbour and he is not intimidated by Australia's vast mineral wealth.

He says the minerals boom is focused very narrowly on the Chinese construction industry, whereas there is much wider demand for high-quality New Zealand food products.

New Zealand's regulations are also better than those in Australia, he says.

"New Zealanders have got very pragmatic about the rules and regulations that apply to the economy - that they should be focused on growth - and we're able to change quite a lot of things to get there.

"Whereas in Australia, they've got a very complicated political process and political balance at the moment - they're not able to do much."

As well, Mr English says workers in New Zealand are cheaper to employ, just as productive, and better educated than in most other countries.

Mr English says while there is trans-Tasman co-operation to create a single economic market, New Zealand is still competing with Australia for capital and export markets.

Also attending the forum were New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, Australia's Trade Minister Craig Emerson and its Attorney-General Robert McClelland.