From Government to Governance: Small and Medium Enterprise Policy Development in New Zealand 1978 to 2008 : A thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management at Massey University Wellington, New Zealand

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Widespread recognition of the importance of SMEs and their contribution to the economy means that successive New Zealand governments, between 1978 and 2008, placed increasing emphasis on SME policy. SME policy developed over time from being an incidental outcome of general economic policy to targeting particular SME sectors and engaging stakeholders and SMEs themselves in this process. Few studies have examined how this policy process evolved, and this research addresses the deficit by providing a critical overview of New Zealand SME policy development between 1978 and 2008. It examines how SME policy in New Zealand developed over the thirty-year period, identifying the main influences (or inputs) in SME policy development, and what policy outputs were set in place. The approach draws on business history methods and utilises primary sources, such as archival documentation, media reports, contemporary SME research and interviews with participants who played key roles in the development of SME policy. Historical analysis facilitates the examination of the range and diversity of SME policies used over the period under review. The research provides an overview of the external domestic and international influences that shaped and informed SME policymaking processes, and the challenges of meeting the often contradictory nature of government objectives in the socio-economic domain. It shows how over time the social cohesion policy objective, although still underplayed, became more pronounced. Principal inputs into SME policy are found to be the economic and stakeholder contexts, both set in an overall institutional environment. Whereas in the early period the economic context was the primary input into SME policy, by 2008 the input of stakeholders (researchers, academics, industry associations, chambers of commerce, among others) was more significant. The research concludes that, as attitudes and economic thinking changed, so too did SME policy and the way policy developed. A shift to the entrepreneurship paradigm contributed to a fundamental recalibration of approaches – from direct SME support such as the Small Business Agency, to predominantly indirect contextual support. SMEs were no longer considered ‘little big businesses’ but complex and heterogeneous enterprises and the role of stakeholders became more noticeable. Understanding how SME policy has altered over three decades assists researchers, policymakers and other SME stakeholders by contextualizing the evolution of thinking and approaches. As an outcome of this study, stakeholders will have additional clarity to help them contribute to the ongoing development of New Zealand SME policy.
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES::Business and economics::Business studies