Don is one of New Zealand's leading economic and financial policy advisers.
He has a wide background in public policy. Most recently, he chaired the New Zealand Government's 2025 Taskforce until it was wound up in May 2011. The Taskforce was charged with investigating the reasons for the recent decline in New Zealand's productivity performance, identifying superior institutions and policies in Australia and other more successful countries, and making recommendations on the steps needed for New Zealand to achieve Australian living standards by 2025.
Earlier, Don was a Member of Parliament, having resigned as Governor of the Reserve Bank on 26 April 2002 in order to enter Parliament, with the stated motivation of reducing the gap in living standards between New Zealand and Australia. In 2003, he was elected Leader of the Opposition and used this position to move public debate forward on a number of key issues. He received considerable public support, successfully raising the National Party's share of the party vote from 20.9 % in the 2002 election to 39.1 % in the 2005 general election. He also led political party ACT New Zealand in the 2011 election.
Before entering Parliament, Don was Governor of the Reserve Bank for almost 14 years. During his tenure running New Zealand's central bank, inflation in New Zealand was reduced to its lowest level for several decades. Don also led the Bank through the passage of the Reserve Bank Act 1989, a pioneering piece of legislation which both established a relationship between government and central bank which was internationally unique at that time and made the objective of monetary policy unambiguously clear.
Prior to his time as Governor, Don's career spanned a wide range of organisations. He spent five years in Washington working for the World Bank Group, including a year spent on the staff of the Pearson Commission on International Development, before returning to New Zealand to head up the investment bank Broadbank Corporation. In the eighties, he was managing director of the New Zealand Kiwifruit Authority and later managing director of Trust Bank. Also in the eighties, Don was appointed to chair the Advisory Panel on the Goods and Services Tax - the committee which designed New Zealand's GST - and four subsequent consultative committees set up to advise the Government on various aspects of taxation reform.
Don has also been a member of the New Zealand Monetary and Economic Council (1974 - 1978); a member of the Committee of Inquiry into Inflation Accounting (1976); and chairman of the Economic Monitoring Group (1978 - 1980). He was a foundation member of the New Zealand Planning Council (1976 - 1980).
Don has been a director of a number of companies, including Westpac Merchant Finance and Cavalier Corporation in the seventies and eighties, and ANZ National Bank and Transpower more recently. He has served as an Adjunct Professor of Banking in the Business School at AUT University in Auckland and as an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law and Management at La Trobe University in Melbourne. He has recently been made an honorary professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
He has a PhD in Economics from the Australian National University, with his thesis on American investment in Australian industry being published in 1966 by both Harvard University Press and the ANU Press. He holds a Master of Arts degree with First Class Honours in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Economics and History, both from the University of Canterbury.
Don won the NZIER-Qantas Economics Award in 1999 and in the same year was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Canterbury. He was inducted into the "Business Hall of Fame" in 2002 in recognition of his role in "guaranteeing the independence and integrity of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand", and in 2007 was made a distinguished fellow of the New Zealand Association of Economists "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the profession".
He began his adult life on the left of the political spectrum, opting out of school military cadets as a conscientious objector at the age of 15, and voting for the Labour party in a number of general elections. But he gradually came to recognise the benefits of the market economy - perhaps exemplifying the old adage that if you're not a socialist at 20 you have no heart; if you're not a conservative at 40 you have no head.
Don helped establish Amnesty International's Freedom Foundation in New Zealand in the early nineties. He is also a former director of one of New Zealand's largest social service agencies - Presbyterian Support Services (Northern) - and a former trustee of the Plunket Foundation.
He has three children - Ruth, Alan and Thomas - and his main recreational activity is tending the family kiwifruit orchard.
In early 2005, Penguin Books published Brash: A Biography, by Paul Goldsmith.