The Treasury

Global Navigation

Personal tools

You are here: Home > About Treasury > University Challenge 2016 > The Task


The Task

Page updated 8 Jun 2016

Write us an essay on one of the following four topics. Your essay should be no longer than 2,000 words (excluding footnotes and references).

Government debt

The government has set itself a long-term fiscal objective to reduce net debt to within a range of 0 – 20 per cent of GDP. To what extent do you think that’s an appropriate target?  Other than debt, what other targets should the government have to encourage fiscal sustainability?

Your answer could include discussion of factors like:

  • the nature and likelihood of future shocks that might face the New Zealand economy,
  • changing demographics,
  • New Zealand’s saving behaviour and its reliance on foreign savings,
  • the efficiency of the financial sector,
  • the ability for future governments to enact social and economic policies.

Freshwater ownership, allocation and pricing

Considering the challenges facing the demand for freshwater across economic social and environmental needs, should New Zealand introduce a national pricing system for freshwater use? The essay would also need to address the pre-requisites for an efficient pricing system and identify any barriers in the New Zealand context.

Multicultural society

Last year New Zealand celebrated 175 years since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  This provides an opportunity to think about what the future of the relationship between the Crown and Maori will look like.  Good progress continues to be made on Treaty settlements, the asset base of the Maori economy is growing, and the Crown and Maori share similar long-term investment objectives to promote the long-term economic and social wellbeing of their people.  Given this:

  • Where are the opportunities for the Crown and Maori to work together to promote a prosperous, sustainable and inclusive New Zealand and what are the implications for institutions and policy making?
  • As policy makers, how should we think about this Crown and Maori relationship alongside the trend towards an increasingly multicultural society?

Innovation, productivity and growth

The labour market, and the skills required to participate and contribute to it, is continuously evolving. Forty years ago occupations like bank clerks, secretaries and factory supervisors were considered quite stable and well paid. Demand for these services has declined, often due to improvements in technology, while there is an increasing proportion of jobs requiring higher qualifications (e.g. managerial, professional and technical roles).

  • What implications (either risks or opportunities) of this transitioning labour market do you see for the New Zealand economy? Your answer should discuss economic, social and sustainability implications.
  • How should the New Zealand Government be responding to these future trends across a range of policy areas?


One of the tools that we use at The Treasury to help us give policy advice is the Living Standards Framework, which includes a broad range of factors that affect the well-being of both the individual and society. This framework may help you to identify the range of effects that a policy may have.

To find out more about the Treasury's Living Standards Framework visit

Essays will be judged on the basis of:

  • Depth and breadth of analysis of the policy issues;
  • Appropriate use of evidence to justify any recommendations; and
  • Assessment from a broad range of perspectives/impact of the policy across different dimensions of the Treasury's Living Standards Framework.

All essays are due on Monday 25 July 2016 at 12 noon.

Page top