On the first day of his last week in Christchurch, economist Eric Crampton perches on a stool at Black Betty cafe, orders two espressos and passes one over to his interviewer. Then he starts to explain why he is leaving.Is it the push of Christchurch or the pull of Wellington? Crampton arrived here in November 2003 to take up a position at the University of Canterbury. Nearly 11 years later, he and his young family are leaving.It is not the weather. As a Canadian, he thinks Christchurch has “the world’s perfect climate”.On Monday he starts as the head of research at the New Zealand Initiative think tank, which evolved out of two earlier free-market groups, the Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute. He has put in an offer on a house in Khandallah. His only just repaired home in South Brighton is ready to go on the market.He will lead a research team of five. His presence will allow executive director Oliver Hartwich to get out of the office, lift the initiative’s low profile and raise funds.Hartwich must also shake off some history. The Business Roundtable was a vehicle for Roger Kerr but it was limited by an adherence to 1980s free-market reforms and close links with the ACT party.Crampton has not seen any party affiliation at the New Zealand Initiative.“They’re trying damn hard to not have any,” he says. “They’re trying to go where the data takes them and I will be keeping a hard line on that.”As examples of evenhandedness, he says that both Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Labour leader David Cunliffe have been invited to speak. And when Crampton was a guest speaker at last year’s ACT conference at wealthy backer Alan Gibbs’ farm?“I gave them heck for not focusing enough on civil liberties. I talked about the mess in the Christchurch rebuild. How moving away from the state-directed planning that ACT supported could have been useful.”
I think I’d there said “that the ACT-supported government supported”; I don’t think that ACT was pushing the command-and-control route. It still would have been nice to have had somebody in there fighting the Brownlee faction a bit more vocally.
Christchurch couldn’t have picked better weekend send-off weather. And now to work, and to nail down the house so that the family can move up. Anybody want to buy a gorgeous character 1930s weatherboard 4 bedroom (3 double, 1 single), 2 bath place in South Brighton with a solar-heated pool?