Cara Tipping Smith

They say you can find the answer you want if you ask the right question.

Apparently, the “average income” in New Zealand is around the mid $60,000s. I can’t be more specific than that because I can’t find an average from any of the usual sources: Statistics NZ, MBIE, Business.govt or Infometrics.

That’s because most income comparisons around the world, including here, typically use the more accurate summary measure of “median income”.

Tomayto, tomahto?


The median income in New Zealand is $31,800, according to Statistics NZ, based on the 2018 census. That’s roughly half the “average” that’s currently being bandied about.

Before you run screaming from this maths chat consider this: nationally, 17.2% of people in New Zealand earn more than $70,000 per year.

That’s less than one in five “hard working” Kiwis.

You’re not a dummy if you think “average” sounds like it should mean more than one, in every four or five.

You’re especially not a dummy if you’re wondering how come your income doesn’t add up to that. Most people’s don’t and by a long shot – the mean income in the Waitaki is $27,700 and just 11.1% earn more than $70,000.

We have to change that.

It’s election time, so every party is speaking for “the business community”.

Business people don’t actually sit around thinking “economy, economy, economy” as some have suggested.

We think about sales, costs and people. We think our mortgages and our kids at school. For us, it’s much more real, personal and motivating than the national GDP.

That’s why it’s great to see government support for people who want to start a business.

That’s why it’s been great to see our council treat economic development as integral to every part of community wellbeing.

That’s why Safer Waitaki and the council’s economic development team are working together with local businesses to generate new ideas.

That’s why the Oamaru Business Collective is championing small business success with actionable initiatives like Shoptober.

That’s why Rotary’s Youth Employment Success project is vital to get young people involved with businesses and local opportunities.

That’s why reimagining what learning, career transitioning and training could look like here in the Waitaki matters.

That’s why as a business community, we have to let each other know what’s happening and be prepared to get involved.

That’s why as a broader community we have to support local businesses to keep new and better opportunities alive.

  • Cara Tipping Smith is a director of The Business Hive

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