Matthew website

Dr Matthew Birchall

Senior Fellow

Matthew is a Senior Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative, focusing on infrastructure and the housing market.

A historian by training, Matthew's writing on the British Empire has been published in the Journal of Global History and Global Intellectual History. He was awarded the Royal Historical Society's prestigious Alexander Prize in 2021 for the best scholarly article based upon original historical research.

Matthew holds an MA (Hons) in International Relations & Modern History from the University of St Andrews, an M.Phil. in Political Thought & Intellectual History from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in history, also from the University of Cambridge.

Phone: 04 499 0790


Recent Work

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Media Release: Historical insights into the Labour government's cyclical overspending

Wellington (Thursday, 5 October 2023) - As New Zealand has already begun to vote in the 2023 election, The New Zealand Initiative releases this timely research note which takes a deep examination of our country’s government spending patterns over the last century. This research note, written by Dr Bryce Wilkinson, analyses the six-year spending spree of the current Labour government in the context of historical precedents. Read more

Dr Matthew Birchall
5 October, 2023
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Where’s the funding plan for big spending transport policies?

Transport policy in New Zealand increasingly resembles an episode of Utopia, the Australian comedy series that lampoons a government agency responsible for large infrastructure projects. In one memorable episode, the hapless bureaucrats in the Nation Building Authority are instructed by a political staffer to investigate the feasibility of a “very fast train” connecting Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane despite reams of evidence suggesting it is a terrible idea. Read more

Dr Matthew Birchall
NZ Herald
24 August, 2023
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Prescription For Prosperity: 2023 Briefing to the Incoming Government

As the nation prepares to vote on 14 October, the sentiment across New Zealand is one of frustration and concern. Skyrocketing living costs, unaffordable housing, strained healthcare, and a growing educational gap are the voices of a country looking for change. Read more

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Dr Eric Crampton
Roger Partridge
Dr Bryce Wilkinson
Dr Michael Johnston
Dr Matthew Birchall
Briar Lipson
Emeritus Professor Des Gorman
Dr Murray Horn
Research Report
24 August, 2023

Tunnel Vision

Another week, another transport policy announcement. On Sunday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and freshly-minted Transport Minister David Parker released the Government’s preferred option for a second Auckland harbour crossing. Read more

Dr Matthew Birchall
Insights Newsletter
11 August, 2023
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Pothole Paradise

New Zealand’s roads are in the political headlights, as opposing camps clash over the delicate balance between road safety and road efficiency – think of it as the policy equivalent of Ford vs Holden. Advocates of greater efficiency point out that potholes have turned our state highway network into a lunar landscape, a phenomenon I had the opportunity to acquaint myself intimately with during a road trip to Gisborne over Matariki. Read more

Dr Matthew Birchall
Insights Newsletter
21 July, 2023
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Once were builders

While it is easy to lament the current state of New Zealand’s infrastructure, it is important to remind ourselves that we were once builders. On Wednesday, we launched a new report, Paving the Way: Learning from New Zealand’s Past to Build a Better Future. Read more

Dr Matthew Birchall
Insights Newsletter
16 June, 2023
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Report highlights NZ's over-reliance on public debt to fund infrastructure deficit

A new report into our infrastructure is highlighting New Zealand's over-reliance on public debt to fund our infrastructure deficit - which currently is at $210 billion. It warns of two issues - government being too involved in deciding what infrastructure should be built where, and borrowing excessively to fund new infrastructure. Read more

Dr Matthew Birchall
Newstalk ZB
15 June, 2023
History webinar V2

Webinar recording: Paving the Way

Webinar: Learning from New Zealand's past to build a better future Join us for a webinar as we launch “Paving The Way: Learning from New Zealand’s Past to Build a Better Future.” Everyone is talking about New Zealand's infrastructure deficit. But few people know how successful we once were at delivering big-ticket items like roads, rails and bridges. Read more

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Dr Matthew Birchall
Nick Leggett
14 June, 2023

Media Release: New report explores New Zealand’s infrastructure history and offers valuable lessons for the future

Wellington (Wednesday, 14 June 2023) – The New Zealand Initiative is set to release a stimulating report this Wednesday, shedding new light on New Zealand’s infrastructure history and providing crucial insights for the future. Authored by Dr Matthew Birchall, Paving the Way: Learning from New Zealand’s Past to Build a Better Future explores the country’s triumphant infrastructure projects of the past and presents a compelling case for replicating those successes. Read more

Dr Matthew Birchall
Media Release
14 June, 2023

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