Wool to Weta: Transforming New Zealand’s Culture and Economy

Paul Callaghan

‘One of the things I say to our crew is, “why shouldn’t it be us? If it can be a company in the heart of Burbank in California, why couldn’t it be a company in the heart of Wellington, New Zealand?" ‘ – Richard Taylor, CEO, Weta Workshop


New Zealand has built its economy around natural resources – exporting wool, wood, meat and dairy and importing tourists. But can that economy sustain us in the twenty-first century? From the second most prosperous country on earth fifty years ago, New Zealand has slipped to the bottom half of the OECD rankings in everything from wealth to life expectancy. Whether to London or Los Angeles, nearly a million New Zealanders have moved abroad in search of better opportunities. If we are to turn around those trends, what is the alternative?

In this book, physicist Paul Callaghan talks to leading New Zealanders involved in science and business to find the answer. Tackling difficult issues, from the tyranny of distance to our aversion to risk, Callaghan finds a vision for the future built on shifting from Wool to Weta – from relying on agriculture and tourism to investing in a new economy based on science, technology and intellectual property, exemplified by companies such as Weta Workshop, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Tait Electronics.



Sir Paul Callaghan (1947-2012) was born in Wanganui, New Zealand and was an expert in low temperature nuclear physics and on the applications of magnetic resonance to the study of soft matter. In 2001, he was appointed Alan MacDiarmid Professor of Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where he also headed for many years the multi-university MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. He is a founding director of Magritek, a small Wellington-based company that sells NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) instruments. Callaghan has published around 220 articles in scientific journals, as well as Principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (Oxford University Press, 1994). In 2001 he became the 36th New Zealander to be made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and in 2011 he was named ‘New Zealander of the Year’.

The book includes conversations with some of the country’s leading innovators: Murray Broom, Michael Chick, Andrew Coy, Mike Daniell, Sally Davenport, Bill Denny, Peri Drysdale, Neville Jordan, Di McCarthy, Ocean Mercier, Wayne Mulligan, Rod Oram, Craig Rofe, David Skilling, Richard Taylor, Stephen Tindall, Hans van der Voorn and Andrew Wilson.


January 2009, 210 x 140 mm, 176 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869404383, $34.99