Kiwis hostile to business risk-takers

Last updated 15:20 20/11/2012

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New Zealanders have an "appalling" attitude to business risk-takers, sitting on the fence and gloating when they fail, says Ministry of Foreign Affairs chief executive and secretary John Allen.

Speaking at a launch function for the Waikato Export Awards in Hamilton, Allen said New Zealand needed to change and challenge some of its attitudes in order to build a country in which people want to live and work.

The former NZ Post chief executive said he had first-hand experience with the national attitude to risk-taking when that company launched Kiwibank.

"We took an enormous risk, backing our own hunch and analysis in the face of enormous hostility. It took guts but we built a business of substance which is continuing to contribute to New Zealand's future."

Allen, who joined Mfat three years ago and whose strategy for restructuring the ministry bought him a fight with diplomats and senior staff, said New Zealand needed more people who took risks.

"When they fail we will just stand them up and point them in the right direction."

Until New Zealanders changed their attitude to wealth and until New Zealand companies had stronger balance sheets and the capacity to invest in markets like Asia and the US, this country would not deliver its potential for success.

"We have to change our attitudes to business itself. We have to ensure we are sticking up for people ... far too often we see people taken down and taken down in a very overt and difficult way," Allen said.

"Too often we are timid and stand on the sidelines. The reality is it's up to us to stand up and talk about this. I believe absolutely that exporters have the drive to deliver that success."

Allen said the ministry and the Government were "really committed" to creating better access for New Zealand exporters to international markets and to delivering export businesses better margins.

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