New Zealand technology market’s semi-independence

This is a reworked version of an opinion piece in New Zealand Reseller News. I wrote the original in response to suggestions that New Zealand’s technology market is economically indistinguishable from Australia’s.

Australian companies account for a major slice of our market. There’s no question trans-Tasman trade is important. Wisely or not, many multinationals run their New Zealand operations from Sydney. And tech support hours are often geared to Eastern Australian Time.

Yet this doesn’t tell the full story.

For a start, despite what many people think, our neighbour is not a single, unified market.

Mark Twain’s experience illustrates the point perfectly. When, more than a hundred years ago, the American author travelled between Melbourne and Sydney he had to change trains at the Victoria-New South Wales border because the two colonies ran different railway gauges.

He wrote, “one or two reasons are given for this curious state of things. One is, that it represents the jealousy existing between the colonies. What the other is, I have forgotten.”

This railway gauge mess isn’t ancient history. Until 1995, Australia was the only first world country whose main cities were not linked by standard gauge railway tracks. Even now trains in different states run on different gauges.

Another example is the confusion in on the Gold Coast when New South Wales moves to daylight saving, but Queensland does not. Next time you’re invited to an industry knees up on the Gold Coast, try catching a flight to Brisbane and returning from Coolangatta – at certain times of the year the experience is, well, interesting.

Train tracks and time zones are the thin end of the wedge. Australia has many regional economies, inter-state rivalries and local tribalisms. They can’t even agree on a single football code. About the only thing that unites Australians is that all they support one national cricket team and even then supporters disparage out-of-state players.

So while you’d be right if you thought that senior executives sitting in glass tower overlooking Sydney Harbour often fail to give much thought to the wants and needs of their partners, resellers and customers in New Zealand, remind yourself the same people also disregard business partners, resellers and customers elsewhere in Australia.

What does this mean for us? Well, curiously enough, we sometimes get a better deal than our counterparts in rural and regional Australia. Being a distinctly separate market helps. Having a different currency and tax system means they have to sit up and take more notice than they would of, say, Tasmania.

Our four million population  tiny compared to Australia’s 20 million, but for many major IT vendors the New Zealand market is somewhere between 25 percent and 30 percent of the Australian market. That’s not to be sneezed at.

So while a vendor might be persuaded to open support lines early to accommodate New Zealanders – Perth customers don’t have a hope.

Over the long-term, companies and brands investing and hiring in New Zealand tend to punch above their weight in this market. Companies and brands who fail to invest here can expect to under-perform.

This isn’t rocket science, but a simple fact of life that eludes some bean counters clicking mice over Excel spreadsheets in distant offices. Their mistake is your opportunity.