Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council

A future that works


Harnessing automation for a more productive and skilled New Zealand. 

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
What is the most important thing in the world?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

Foreword by Chair of BAC

At the first meeting of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council in November last year, a focus on people, their working future and skills took priority. This reflects our shared understanding and experience from our own organisations. That people are the most valuable asset any business, or indeed any nation, has.

As business leaders, we are acutely aware of the need to innovate and change to compete and thrive. We are also aware of major global forces influencing the world economy, especially automation and its impact on the future of work. This wave of automation, which is increasingly known as the fourth industrial revolution, will unleash unimaginable change on our society and working lives – where we work, what we work on and the way we work are all set to transform.

The Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council believes Aotearoa New Zealand faces unprecedented opportunities and challenges as automation and innovation change our working lives. This demands that the three big actors – government, business and community – collaborate like never before. Collaboration is key as each actor plays a different role and has unique skills and advantages to deliver a better, stronger society. However, existing information, many government systems and agencies and many business models are not currently geared-up for this future.

The country requires a deliberate strategy with bold initiatives between government and business to harness the opportunity and to ensure that large parts of our society are not left behind in the global wave of transformation.

It is also clear that any national strategy must be long-term and be supported by all parts of the political spectrum. Systems level reform, at times radical and challenging to our current ‘business as usual’ approach, needs to occur if we are to take automation seriously. Knowing what we know, we cannot have the businesses or country we deserve without taking action. It is simply not a choice.

It is therefore my privilege, on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, to deliver this report, making it available as a public good for all Kiwis. Its analyses and recommendations provoke new conversations, encourage a greater sense of urgency and provide practical and tangible suggestions to capture benefits and protect the vulnerable.

It is critical that business, community, public sector and political leaders raise our collective literacy, engage and wrestle with the issues around automation transformation. Doing so is the only way we will happen to our future rather than it happen to us.

I wish to thank McKinsey & Company, with whom we have partnered in creating this report and who have gifted New Zealand a great step forward in the automation conversation through this work. I also wish to acknowledge the business leaders who are members of the Council, and others whose skills we draw on, who give their time and insights freely to serve our wider national interest. Finally, our thanks to the Government for asking these hard questions and being open to our advice.

A significant opportunity lies ahead of us. If we make the right decisions, we will capture the benefits of that opportunity confidently, while ensuring we look after each other in the process.

New Zealand has demonstrated kaitiaki many times in our past as we have attempted to solve our economic, social and environmental challenges.  Automation presents us with another moment to lead the world in our response to significant global change.

Our hope is that this work contributes to Aotearoa confidently grasping that opportunity.

Nā tōu rourou, nā tōku rourou ka ora te iwi
Through collaboration we can all thrive

Christopher Luxon
Chair, Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council
Chief Executive Officer, Air New Zealand