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Clark: Launch of Wealthmakers Book

Thursday 27 April 2006

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Launch of Wealthmakers:
A History of the Northern Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association

EMA Conference Centre
159 Khyber Pass Road, Grafton, Auckland

6.00 pm

Thursday 27 April 2006

One hundred and twenty years ago the Auckland business community formed the Auckland Manufacturers’ Association, the forerunner of today’s Northern Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association.

The New Zealand into which the Association was born was a self governing colony. Sir Robert Stout was New Zealand’s Premier, William Gladstone was Britain’s Prime Minister, and Grover Cleveland was President of the United States.

It was the year of the Tarawera eruption, destroying the famous pink and white terraces, and in the United States the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York harbour. It was also the year in which oil was discovered in Taranaki, rugby was becoming a popular game throughout the land, and frozen meat shipments to Britain had commenced a couple of years earlier.

Wealthmakers tells the story of Auckland’s business communities from those times, and of its contribution to the growth of the city, the region, and the country. It also documents views of the business community on many of the issues of the past 120 years.

Thus we learn of business perspectives on seminal events in New Zealand history, from the Liberal Government’s reforms in the 1890s to the growing industrial turmoil of the early 1900s, World War One, the great depression, World War Two, the economic boom of the 1950s and 60s, the Muldoon years, the 1980s, and up to present times.

New Zealand has often been at the forefront of radical change – from both ends of the political spectrum - from women’s suffrage, to industrial law, to the creation of the welfare state, and the restructuring of the 1980s and 1990s. We know much of the views of the politicians involved in these events. This book tells us of business views on these changes.

It may well be that the focus of reviews of this book will be on its accounts of times of conflict between employers and workers, – the 1913 Waihi strike and the 1951 waterfront lock-out, for example. But the book also reminds us of the contribution business makes to New Zealand, and that business and government can and generally do work together in the country’s interest.

During the Second World War, for example, the Auckland business community contributed to the war effort as did businesses all over New Zealand. This book records that Auckland’s industries ‘flung themselves’ into producing what was needed. It says their war effort was seen as a ‘patriotic endeavour and the results were astonishing’.

Rubber was one commodity in short supply. It was needed for military vehicles, lifebelts, gas masks, aircraft, and other wartime applications. Farmers were the only people permitted to buy gumboots, and when they wore out they had to wear ordinary shoes in the paddock.

Of course history is not just about events; it is also about people. This book tells the stories of colourful figures in Auckland’s business community over the past hundred years and more: names like Fletcher, Hellaby, Winstone, Nathan, and Horton, and Albert Spencer, Jack Allum, and Bruce Goldsworthy.

Accounts of the relationship between business and governments over the years are fascinating aspects of the book. Perhaps what this book illustrates is that while there will always be areas of tension and debate between government and business, there is also always a lot to work on together. Neither of us have all the answers, and it is through discussion and open minds that ways through controversial issues can be found.

I congratulate Selwyn Parker on completion of this book, and the Northern Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association on its publication. It gives me great pleasure now to launch formally Wealthmakers: A History of the Northern Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association.


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