Business History as a Platform for Progress

Business and Labour History Group symposium

Programme availabe here.

Friday, 11 August at 9am
Level 7, WF Building
56 Wakefield Street
AUT City Campus

This was a half-day symposium hosted by the Business and Labour History Group. The event was in two parts, the first being the presentation of four papers in progress, and the second being a discussion on history at AUT.

The first paper presented by Geoffrey T. F. Brooke (AUT Economics) and written with co-authors Anthony M. Endres (Economics, University of Auckland), and Alan J. Rogers (Economics, University of Auckland) was entitled “The Economists and New Zealand Population: Problems and Policies 1900–1980s” and charted shifting policy advice on population over the period. In particular the paper examined the shift to population expansion and the promotion of immigration coextensive with the policy of planned industrialization prior to liberalisation in the early 1980s, at which point planned policy lapsed. As immigration and population remain central to contemporary debates the papers offers lessons that may inform modern debate on population policy.

Themes of population and economic policy were continued as Fiona Hurd (AUT International Business) presented “Perfect Storm, Serendipity or a Brief Reprieve: The localised impacts of a decline in coal mining, global oil crisis, "Think Big", and the development of New Zealand’s largest power station.” This paper reviewed the ‘Think Big’ political agenda of the mid 1970s to early 1980s, focusing on the development of New Zealand’s largest power station, the Huntly Power Station. Exploring the links between national macro-economic agenda, industry policy and localised workforces from the 1970s to the present, the paper add context to the view that these projects assessments as failures, resulting only in an increase in government debt. As National publicly-funded such as the large scale infrastructure developments proposed in China and by the Trump Administration in the United States are back in vogue, this paper offered valuable insights to New Zealand’s record and potential future actions in this area.

David Williams (AUT Hospitality & Tourism; Management) also re-evaluated a precursor to the ‘think big’ agenda with a review of the New Zealand tourist hotels in “From Cinderella to Nigella: A short history of employment relations and food in New Zealand tourist hotels.” Whilst the formation of this group has often been assessed as an example of government’s inability to run business profitably, Williams shows the far-reaching benefits that emerged over time from the project. Also keying into immigration and labour the paper explored how the foreign-trained chefs and staff changed the food culture and hospitality industries, not only forming a core part of the shift to a high-value tourism economy, but also laying the foundations of our current food culture. In particular the labour unions desire to block immigrants from certain areas led to a different developmental path from Melbourne for example. Lively debate linked all the papers which shared key themes, contemporary relevance and historical periods and demonstrated that in understanding current debates history can indeed offer a platform for progress.

Contributions to theory were offered in the final paper from Simon Mowatt (AUT B&LHG), which asked if “the development of relational marketing was a post-war phenomenon? Evidence from history”. This paper shifted the focus to the trans-Atlantic development of relational marketing by publishing firms in the first half of the twentieth century. With strategies such as forming the Good Housekeeping Institute companies such as Hearst developed mechanisms which provided deep links to both consumer and advertising customers, showing evidence of deep relational marketing at the core of the firm’s activities, which were quickly internationalised to the British market, and then beyond.

The second part of the event looked a how history can be a platform for progress for how a business school offers value to students and society. Attendees from several faculties attended and joined a guided discussion to consider the role of history at AUT. Professor Rob Allen updated the group on the History@AUT project and the History Minor. Simon Mowatt outlined curriculum developments internationally, and the session closed with an open discussion.