Sessions at full capacity

Dennis Wesselbaum.
Dennis Wesselbaum.
A focus on critical economic issues relevant to an uncertain world has been hailed as the reason for the packed house all weekend at the University of Otago Foreign Policy School.

The 54th annual school, focused on the challenges and opportunities of economic policy in the 21st century, came to a close yesterday.

School director and University of Otago economics senior lecturer Dennis Wesselbaum said the school reached full capacity of 160 people for the first time he could remember.

In his view, the focus on economics not seen at the school for 20 years, along with an effort to make it more visible to the entire diplomatic corps, was behind the better attendance.

"We have covered a lot of topics that are very timely - climate change, energy, inequality, trade.

"All those aspects are somewhere out there in the media, whether it's Trump versus China or the next heatwave rolling through Europe."

Among the attendees were representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the National Assessments Bureau, along with diplomats from the Australian High Commission, the Dutch Embassy and the American Embassy, plus many more foreign affairs luminaries.

Dr Wesselbaum heaped special praise on a talk by Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien, titled "Communication Breakdown: Collapsing Trust in Government and Media".

"We need trust, because otherwise how can we implement policies? How can you communicate? Why would you believe what someone else is saying?

"I think that is something we overlook in the field of economics ... that communication is paramount."

Other talks ranged from discussions of macroprudential policy in New Zealand to addressing climate change impacts in the Pacific.

"All those speeches ... shared at their core that they address a problem that cannot be solved in isolation."

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