Bert Brownlie was an early supporter and inaugural member of the New Zealand Association of Economists from its foundation in 1959. He served on the editorial board of its journal, New Zealand Economic Papers, from its first issue in 1966 to1980 and was its editor for four years, succeeding Frank Holmes and Ian McDougall in late 1969.
Bert held the view that the journal warranted support from his fellow economists at Canterbury and led by example with two articles, one jointly with a Canterbury colleague, in the first two issues of NZEP. Even before he became editor, Canterbury economists conspicuously contributed at least one-third of the articles in the journal. This ratio rose to nearly one-half during his editorship. And the share of theoretical and applied econometric material published in NZEP also increased markedly from 34% to 75% during his editorial stint. His own published work was largely in applied econometrics on various aspects of the New Zealand economy.
A very significant contribution of Bert Brownlie to the development of the economics profession in New Zealand lay in his efforts to bring a more mathematical-cum-quantitative pedagogic emphasis to the training of economists in line with overseas trends. Soon after he assumed the second chair in economics at Canterbury in 1965 and succeeded Alan Danks as Head of Department, Bert introduced two very important changes in degree regulations at Canterbury to tap the pool of talented students likely to be attracted by the mathematical and statistical applications of economics.
The first change, commonly known at Canterbury as the ” knight’s move “, enabled non-Commerce graduates with a strong mathematical and statistical background to skip introductory and intermediate second-year economics courses and embark on a two-year Masters programme in economics.
The second change was to introduce economics as a “majoring subject” in the Faculty of Science. This opened the possibility for very bright school-leavers to gain ” direct entry ” to the Honours school and complete a B Sc Honours degree in economics in three instead of four years.
The knight’s move programme began in 1967 with an initial intake of three students and was largely responsible for the large Masters economics classes in the period 1968 to the mid-1970s at Canterbury. Many of the students—-from chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics and statistics and from other New Zealand universities—-were outstanding and went on after graduation to notable careers in academia and the New Zealand public and private sectors.
There is no doubt that the Canterbury Economics Department headed by Bert Brownlie was the largest supplier of economists with quantitative skills in New Zealand in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Bert’s other major contribution as an economist was to serve in a number of national and international committees, including the ECAFE Group of Experts on Programming Techniques (1968-69), NZ Consumer Price Index Revision Committee (1971), Commonwealth Experts Group on a New International Order (1975-77), Wage Hearing Tribunal (1976) and the Commonwealth Experts Group on the World Economic Crises (1980). He was also the Chairman of the New Zealand Monetary and Economic Council (1972-78) as well as the Australia-New Zealand Foundation (1978-83).
Finally, he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canterbury in late 1978 to the great delight of many in the institution and his 20-year stewardship as its academic and administrative head was characterised by a lean, efficient and effective administration.
The Association is pleased to award a life membership to Bert for the important part he played in steering NZEP in its early life and his varied and invaluable contributions as mentor, educator, policy advisor and administrator.