Image result for Wool to Weta: Transforming New Zealand's Culture & EconomyPaul Callaghan

Auckland University Press, Paperback, $30

“We should discard the myth that because we are good at farming, our best high-technology future lies necessarily in biotechnology. Our best high-technology future will lie  where our skills, our talents and our enterprise are apparent.” (p. 20)

In his engaging new book, Wool to Weta, Paul Callaghan explores the future of New Zealand’s economy. Building on his 2007 public lecture series ‘Beyond the farm and the theme park’, Callaghan looks at sustainable wealth generation in an economy still firmly rooted in the primary industry. He argues that our problems lie deeper than issues with our economy, and puts forward that the issues are increasingly at a cultural level. To attempt to get back our former prosperity (2nd most prosperous country on earth 50 years ago) Callaghan suggests that as a country we need to change not only our attitudes toward science, but our investment in it as well. Rather than relying on our pastures to continue to provide for us, Callaghan is interested in encouraging ‘a marriage of physical sciences and engineering’, in other words, strengthening the relationship between science and entrepreneurship. This relationship will ensure that our economy makes full use of our brightest minds, and will be a vital factor in encouraging successful ex-pats back to our shores.

The book utilises a series of interviews with ‘New Zealanders involved in wealth generation through science-based business, in economic thinking and leadership, in investment and in education and philanthropy’ to offer examples of New Zealand success stories. Videos of the interviews are available on the MacDiarmid Institute website.

Reviewed by Willow Henderson, April 2009