Last night, the economic think tank the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) held a forum in Sydney called ''Flight of the Kiwi to Australia'' to discuss ways of reversing the trans-Tasman brain drain. The former Fairfax chief executive and All Black captain David Kirk, CIS policy analyst Luke Malpass, business broadcaster Andrew Patterson, and Dr Don Turkington from the New Zealand Government's regulatory responsibility taskforce, canvassed issues such as wage disparity, tax structures, streamlining Anzac business, career prospects and social and cultural changes.
The CIS exploits the wounded pride, laying the talent exodus at the feet of lousy economic policy. People wouldn't leave if the homeland prospects were relatively brighter. Tapping brain drain anxiety for political gain is a classic ruse. For another example, see the Empire State Exodus report.
Plugging the brain drain is a snipe hunt. However, catalyzing boomerang migration could work. Trying to attract talent is an even better idea. Some policy innovation from Detroit:
Monika Johnson is 20 and the Midwest Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute. It's a student-run policy organization that put together a two-day event called Midwest Version 2.0. ...... "Detroit has so many great opportunities and potential for change," Johnson said. "In fifty years, this could be a great city. It could rival Chicago. I would consider staying in Michigan if I had an opportunity to participate in Detroit's revitalization."
Detroit is New Zealand and Chicago is Australia. The money is in Chicago, but Detroit offers a unique opportunity. Detroit shouldn't try to catch up with Chicago. Instead, offer a viable alternative experience. Call home all Rust Belt refugees to rebuild the region, starting with Detroit. Ironically, the CIS sets the stage with the following snarky comment:
Maybe New Zealand suffers from the supposed generation Y complex—we want it all, we want it now, and we want it at no cost.
That describes the frontier mentality. The urban pioneer lifestyle appeals to this demographic. Chasing Chicago is foolish. That ship has sailed. But Chicago can't be all things to all people, either.