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Reserve Bank governor dominates the show in first appearance

4:22 pm on 11 May 2018
Patrick O'Meara, Economics Correspondent

Analysis - The new governor of the Reserve Bank, Adrian Orr, looked slightly disheveled at the podium.

In his first appearance to discuss interest rate levels, the new governor of the Reserve Bank Adrian Orr dominated the show, equally informing and entertaining his audience. Photo: RNZ / Patrick Omeara

"The only text I've got from anyone I know is 'you still can't do that shirt up'," Mr Orr joked.

But Mr Orr didn't let his air of untidiness fool anyone. In his first appearance to discuss interest rate levels on Thursday morning, Mr Orr dominated the show, equally informing and entertaining his audience.

He followed his recent predecessors by leaving the official cash rate unchanged at 1.75 percent, and reiterated it would stay there for some time yet.

Audio: - Patrick O'Meara discusses Reserve Bank's new governor
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As Led Zeppelin put it, the song remains the same.

But there was clearly a new lead vocalist and new arrangement of the tune.

Firstly, his delivery was more clear and direct.

"The direction of our next move is equally balanced, up or down. Only time and events will tell," Mr Orr said.

That caused a minor flap among some long time market watchers, prompting the dollar to fall sharply initially.

But for Bank of New Zealand head of market research Stephen Toplis the new style was welcomed.

"Instead of having to flounder through screeds of mumblings to find out what the bank really thinks, the message is up front," Mr Toplis said.

It helped that Mr Orr was articulate with a sense of humour.

When asked whether his approach might be misinterpreted by those in financial markets, he drew on a classroom anecdote: "Sorry, my essay was so long Sir, I didn't have time to write a short one."

That humour also came to the fore as he neatly sidestepped a question about whether he was relieved by the fall in the dollar following his announcement.

"Relieved would be an emotion and I don't have emotions about currency," he said. "There was probably more sellers than buyers at the previous price."

But Mr Orr was also keen to play to a wider audience.

"Our challenge is to speak in plain english as opposed to a hi-tech scientific language around which only a half a dozen people understand and even less are interested in," Mr Orr said.

"The vast majority of the public had no idea who we are. That's a good thing on Saturday at the football ground, but not necessarily a good thing if we're trying to raise financial literacy and make people think harder about all the things that are important to us. Soundness and efficiency of the financial system."

Mr Orr has got off to to good start, receiving mostly favourable reviews from the critics.

A harder challenge will be convincing the public he is worth listening to.

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