Chris Hipkins officially took over the reigns from Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday 25th January. I read somewhere that the middle of last year would be a good time for Jacinda to retire and come December, ten months from the election, it was going to be too late. The general consensus in January 2023 was that it was too late, however Jacinda retired anyway and the fallout has been as expected.
With the labour polls heading south and the amalgamation of the Act-National party coalition gaining ground, it kind of looks like a hospital pass to the boy from the Hutt. From this close vantage point, only nine months to the election, our lady General could clearly see the opposing forces gathering on the horizon. Some might argue that this was the reason behind the decision to stand down prior to the likely impending bloody beating and fall which was coming her way. Lieutenant Colonel Custer would have turned his back in disgust while expecting nothing less than ‘Ardern’s last stand’.
A recent Taxpayer’s-Union Curia poll (1) showed a 49 versus 41 seat win to National if a snap election would have been held about now, as the writing is on the wall and Chris is ‘oh so good’ at taking the fall.
Chris now has 9 months to increase the polls and try to wrestle back public opinion that the Labour party is all talk with little result. Let’s see what Chris is up against..
In the 2017 election Labour made the following promises (2):
- Housing – To build 100,000 more state homes (kiwibuild) for the growing list of those that need it.
This goal was changed after people voted in this policy at the last election. Kiwibuild will go down in history as one of the biggest flops of all time. Although ambitious and positive at the time, the quantum of the goal highlighted how ignorant the incoming government was of the consent process, supply chains and available workers. With the drastically reduced goal of 1000 homes per year, Labour claimed a win.
- Crime – 1800 Police Officers
This may or may not have been achieved as no one knew whether the promise was a net total of 1800 or an increase of 1800 over the three years. i.e. if 1800 new recruits came on board and 1900 left over the last three years, then we have a net loss. As it turned out, the promise was a gross increase of 1800 and it is unfortunate fact that on average about 400 police offices leave the force every year. Labour claimed a win with this goal been achieved.
- The poor – 70,000 children out of poverty
The Child Poverty report(6) written by the Ministry for Social Development in October 2022, refers to statistics two years prior to the report and does not show the effects/fall-out of the covid pandemic. Depending on how you measure this statistic, if poverty is measured before housing costs, then the government have achieved about half the goal. Labour has said they have beaten the goal as they have used a statistic after housing costs were deducted.
The next report is due mid-2023 so we will see if this report does any favours for this government a few months out from the election.
- Minimum wage – Raise the minimum wage to $20/hr
Labour has achieved this and the minimum wage has increased further to reach $21.20/hr.
- Plant 100 million trees per year
This is on target, although the efforts were not all through the government.
- Budget $200 million for medicine
Labour has budgeted at least this with a recent top up of $71 million.
So, there you have it, Labour’s task is to now justify why some of their promises did not come to fruition and will sing from the hilltops with the policies that did.
A few other important policies are bound to be addressed pre-election:
The three-waters bill was proposed to put all the water services (drinking, wastewater, stormwater) from the 67 Councils into four regional holders of the assets. The idea is to centralise the management of the services into a central structure which will be able to attract funding to maintain everything.
The problem with this is its predecessor, being the Super City which was founded on a similar principal promising lower land rates and more efficiency through economies of scale. A few years down the track after this had been implemented, we saw rising land rates and the councils of suburbs outside the central cities complaining of being under-funded. Roads and services deteriorated and many councils cannot afford new infrastructure. It’s no wonder so many people are skeptical with Three-Waters.
The other reason is the governance of three-waters (7). Half of the voting board will be elected council members and the other half of the board will be IWI representatives.
Despite the opposition, the Three-waters bill was passed anyway, faster that than the anti-smacking legislation that was passed because someone put their kid in a dryer.
It is believed by political forecasters that Chris Hipkins will put this Bill on hold until after the election, not because it is a bad idea in Labours point of view but because they want to run the country in 2024.
It might be opportune to mention here that elections in NZ might be better to run on a five year cycle so progress can be made. It seems that successive governments run the country on how they see fit for two years and then change their mind in the third year when their job may be at stake.
The trouble with giving the government such free reign for such a long time might be stemmed by finding a cheaper way to run referendums. Let the people decide on all the major issues.
Another important policy is immigration.
Aims Global, an Immigration Agency in NZ have gone through the new policies post covid. They summarised in December 2022:
‘There’s been too much change and it’s been chaotic. The technology (ADEPT platform) leaves much to be desired. Policies are announced to go live on a certain date, and then either postponed as we get closer to that time, or changed. The industry is forever playing catch up! ‘
This comment reminds me of a blog I wrote in November 2021, Six strikes, you’re out (9). The blog outlines several policies in order to stop the housing market from rising and none of them worked.
A new investment visa category called ‘Active Investor Plus visa’ allows migrants to come in if they invest $15M in Indirect investments, an upgrade from the $12M requirement. The particular investments that these people have to invest in has not been adequately qualified apart from not being able to invest in bonds or property. lane neave, a NZ legal firm mention this about the new policy:
‘We believe the lack of sufficient due diligence on the existing programme was a mistake and ultimately could lead to an initial hard landing.’
lane neave did mention that it had good bones but that the change in policy is also a gamble.
In January 2023, RNZ has reported that the news of the uptake for this visa has been overwhelming. Wait for it..three people have applied (10).
In summary, the above outlines that the Labour government has certainly been working hard over the last term. I don’t believe anyone can accuse this Labour government of sitting on their hands and doing nothing. The problem is that in many areas it seems that there has been a lack of being in touch with reality, due diligence (homework) and sometimes common sense. The main theme of the complaints of people in NZ is that this Labour government didn’t get the job done, however I believe that they tried they just didn’t know what they were doing, so it didn’t work.
In this new ‘woke’ world where every team member gets a prize for effort as opposed to results, doesn’t wash with me. We can thank the stars that the majority of the voting population still belong to the previous generation.