For sixty years, Frank Holmes was a colossus of New Zealand's social and economic development.
From a base as an applied economist, Frank influenced a great deal of New Zealand's social and economic development – the formulation and execution of fiscal and monetary policy, the design of social policy, education policy – but central to his achievement was New Zealand's place in the international economy. He was quick to see the implications of economic integration in Europe for the global economy and for New Zealand in particular. Anybody who thought that Britain's 1973 entry to the then-EEC was a surprise development for the New Zealand economy had not read what Frank had been writing for the previous 15 years.
When Kojima in Japan, England in Canada, Patrick in the US, Crawford in Australia, Narongchai in Thailand, Soesastro in Indonesia, among others, began exploring the appropriate Asia-Pacific response to European integration, it was Frank they turned to and who ensured New Zealand was part of the project. He was at the heart of the Pacific Trade and Development Conference, PAFTAD, for many years. Furthermore, Frank never lost the vision of economics as providing common ground between abstract thinking and business strategies. Although most of his career was in the public sector, he was briefly a manager of a pulp & paper company and he was eventually a director several major companies in the finance sector. He was therefore well placed to participate in the business councils that promoted private sector collaboration in the Asia Pacific region including the Pacific Basic Economic Council. At the time of the first efforts to create a governmental network, Frank was chair of the NZ Planning Council and he used that position to lead New Zealand's participation in the Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference which later became a Council, PECC, and which created the climate for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation process. Frank was a long-term member of the New Zealand Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation which eventually evolved into NZPECC.
Frank's heart was always in the university, and PAFTAD was probably the Asia Pacific institution he valued mostly highly. He shared the view of Hadi Soesastro that it was the "heart" of the Asia Pacific movement, the "track 0" from which various other tracks radiated. When PAFTAD met in New Zealand in 1987, it was Frank who chose the then novel area of trade in services as its central focus. Frank wrote a lot about New Zealand's economic diplomacy, much published by the Institute of Policy Studies and concerned with New Zealand's positioning relative to Australia, Europe, and Asia. All of it looked toward the future, and to the benefits of cooperation for all in the region.
Everyone who interacted with Frank will remember him not only for the cogency of his thinking, but for his unfailing good humour. He must have been frustrated at times, but he could always see the other person's point of view as well as his own.
Former NZPECC Chair