National rejuvenation

National did a reasonable job of rejuvenation last term, with a number of MPs resigning, most of whom had minimal political futures. National have also turned over some ministers too, like Simon Power from the first term and Tony Ryal last year.

Andrea Vance has a look through the current ranks to see who might exit this term and who might be on the rise in Reshuffle likely as Nats rejuvenate.

Wellington’s worst-kept secret is that Trade Minister Tim Groser is shortly off to relieve Mike Moore as New Zealand’s ambassador in Washington.

Also likely to be waving goodbye to Parliament in 2017 is Assistant Speaker Lindsay Tisch, whether he likes it or not.

Murray McCully was talked about as a potential retiree before the last election and is a possible but it looks like he remains unwilling to indicate what his intentions are.

Bill English must also be considering his future. He gave up his Clutha-Southland electorate last year and is now a list MP, making it easy to retire without disruption this term.

And who will be looking to rise? As far as rising to the top goes this depends on how long John Key wants to stay, and there’s no sign yet that he wants to give up the top spot.

Amid the wreckage of the Northland by-election, there was conjecture about the damage it would do to the career prospects of Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett, who led the campaign.

After Judith Collins‘ sacking during the Dirty Politics saga, it became accepted Joyce and Bennett were front-runners to replace John Key as leader.

Bennett is probably fairly unscathed but Joyce was the face and the ‘mastermind’ of National’s Northland disaster and following his handling of the Sky City embarrassment he must have damaged his future chances.

Collins has been quietly rebuilding her career and is expected to be reinstated to Cabinet at the next reshuffle, presumably later this year (unless forced by an earlier resignation). She will have support but the Whale Oil taint might be hard to forget,

Vance also lists four up and comers, although three are rookies so may have to wait for promotion.

Alfred Ngaro, Parliament’s first Cook Islander and a thoughtful community worker, is almost certainly next cab off the rank into Cabinet. His campaign to win Te Atatu off Labour’s Phil Twyford has already begun.

I met him early in his first term at a National Party event. He seemed nice but was not very outgoing.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller (a former Zespri and Fonterra high-flier) is not new to politics: he was a staffer to Prime Minister Jim Bolger and has served on National’s list-ranking committee.

Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, like other female backbenchers, has kept a low profile.

Chris Bishop (list MP), a protege of Joyce and a former tobacco lobbyist, was tipped to rise through the ranks even before he entered Parliament.

So there looks to be scope for rejuvenation in National this term, but the latter three would have to leapfrog quite a few other longer serving MPs.

A big issue for an overall perception of rejuvenation could be whether Key can look revitalised or at least interested. Being Prime Minister is a hard grind. More and more often he looks frustrated or annoyed at what he has to deal with.

Especially if English retires I think it’s likely Key will try and stay on to try for a fourth term.

Re Joyce – not over the Steven stumbles

One of the strengths of the current National Government has been the strength of John key’s support team.

Bill English has been solid and dependable. Dour is fine for a Finance Minister, resolute monetary control and no surprises is good for crisis recovery and the markets like it.

Steven Joyce has also been a significant factor. He hasn’t had electorate commitments so Key has been able to use Joyce as his roving fixit man. That seemed to work well enough during the first two terms.

But Joyce has had two significant stumbles since last September’s election – the Sky City debacle when they tried to extort money out of the Government, and the Northland by-election disaster (or series of disasters).

The Northland embarrassment has piled problems on top of Key’s mismanagement of the Mike Sabin issue. Presumably Key wants to carry on as leader and Prime Minister, so how do National look like they have listened and learned?

Reducing Joyce’s responsibilities and profile is an obvious option for National to be seen to have responded to their weaknesses.

Key had the convenience of the cricket world cup to avoid having to front up after the Northland result. That was Joyce’s job. Fair enough, he mismanaged the campaign.

But what now? Bill English is great with business as usual.

But Key and National won’t want any more Steven stumbles. Or of they want to get their third term on track they should be doing something significant to avoid them.

Two strikes in six months for Joyce. Can Key afford to risk any more?


(slightly amended)

National’s survival may depend on being seen to get over the Steven stumbles, but there’s no sign of stepping over that yet.

Is some super redundancy in order?

Slater’s new-found respect for boxing

Cameron Slater seems to have changed his view substantially on participating in and losing a boxing bout.

In January:


I still find it amusing that Jesse Ryder has never heard of me.

When I heard he said that, I thought great it seems I’m up against a deaf and blind guy…shouldn’t be too hard.

Training has commenced…I have some weight to shed, and aerobic fitness to improve, along with my punching power.

He has just written up My Boxing Journey: From Fat to Fit where he now states admiration for those who get in the ring.

How hard could it be I thought to myself.

Well it turns out that boxing is very hard. It is technically difficult, and requires a significant effort just to get to the ring.

I have learned a great deal from this experience, but mostly I have learned that fighters deserve an awful lot of respect.

No one should ever diss a fighter who has gone through those ropes and stood in the loneliest of places…a ring 20 feet x 20 feet with nowhere to hide.

Tiberius asks in comments:

Cam, having now been in a charity boxing event, do you have any more respect for Bill English?

This was alluded to by David Farrar when it was announced that Slater was going to try boxing in January:

Good to see Cameron following his political hero, Bill English, into the celebrity boxing arena!

Slater on English in January 2009:

All Bill English has managed to do with his life is father 6 children, lose a boxing match and get the lowest ever party vote for the National party ever.


And I tell you what…sitting in the dressing room at a tournament like the Super 8 and seeing the winners and the losers come back after their bouts is an incredible thing to witness. Those guys are tough,  win or lose they are tough.

I have learned a great deal from this experience, but mostly I have learned that fighters deserve an awful lot of respect. I feel privileged to have shared a changing room, the despair of losing and the ecstasy of winning with a bunch of guys who gave it their all.

Slater on English in October 2011:

Bill English’s shockingly bad campaign in 2002 included 72 policies on all sorts of stuff that no one cared about, no real leadership with anyone who wanted to releasing policy and Bill doing some stupid photo ops like getting the shit beaten out of him in a boxing ring.


And I tell you what…sitting in the dressing room at a tournament like the Super 8 and seeing the winners and the losers come back after their bouts is an incredible thing to witness. Those guys are tough,  win or lose they are tough.

I have learned a great deal from this experience, but mostly I have learned that fighters deserve an awful lot of respect. I feel privileged to have shared a changing room, the despair of losing and the ecstasy of winning with a bunch of guys who gave it their all.

Which includes “some stupid photo ops like getting the shit beaten out of him in a boxing ring”


Here’s English’s bout in 2002, perhaps Slater will now respect him for it:

English looked much fitter then than Slater was on Saturday and managed to last the distance (three rounds) but was also outclassed.

The New Zealand electorate didn’t respect English for it though, National led by him was thrashed in the general election that year.

Gutless Government and Parliament avoiding euthanasia issue

Stuff reports that Politicians shy away from ‘risky’ euthanasia issue.

It’s more than being shy of a controversial issue. Parties and politicians are gutlessly avoiding addressing a serious issue that literally impacts on people’s lives and their right to choose when and how the may end their own lives.

It’s not an easy issue to debate but that isn’t a reasonable excuse for shying away from dealing with it.

Politicians are lagging a long way behind public opinion on euthanasia but refuse to debate the issue because of the political risk, says a Green Party MP.

…the Government and Labour were steering well clear of any policy around the legalisation of euthanasia, but Green Party MP Kevin Hague said their position came down to the issue being too controversial and divisive.

Greens don’t seem to be doling much about it either. Nor any of the other parties.

This has come to attention again because…

A prominent Wellington lawyer is looking to set a legal precedent by asking the High Court to allow her to die on her own terms.

Lecretia Seales, 41, a public law specialist, is dying of an inoperable brain tumour and is petitioning to uphold her right to die at the time of her choosing.

It’s a real shame someone who is dying and has little chance of any legal assistance in time is left having trying to promote debate.

The chances of the Government addressing it were greater if an organisation, such as the Law Commission, led public consultation on euthanasia, [Hague] said.

“That would kind of relieve some of the political risk that I know governments are scared of.”

Not just governments. All of Parliament is scared of dealing with important issues. Gutless. But not always.

Former New Zealand First MP Peter Brown, who watched his wife die of cancer, drafted a Death with Dignity Bill in 2003.

It was voted down by 60 votes to 57.

That was a close vote, twelve years ago.

Former Labour MP Maryan Street proposed and championed the End-of-Life Choice Bill, which was taken over by her Labour colleague, Iain Lees-Galloway, the MP for Palmerston North, when Street failed to return to Parliament.


However, Labour leader Andrew Little told him to drop it as the party had more pressing issues to attend to.

Yesterday, Little said the party’s priorities were unchanged but it wasn’t up to opposition parties and if public opinion was strong, it was for the Government to respond.

So what are opposition parties for. To put priority on their own self interest and ignore important public issues?  Gutless.

During the election campaign in New Plymouth last year, Little said he heard from a prominent doctor who claimed medical professionals made the decision to increase medication where necessary and in the appropriate situations.

“If we take that at face value, doctors are saying they manage the situation regardless.”

However, Little said that didn’t provide a solution to the gap in the law.

The law serves the rights of dying people – and doctors – very poorly. But Little has chosen to avoid any responsibility for trying to act for those constituents.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said he had a personal interest in Seales’ progress in the High Court but legalising euthanasia was a “notoriously divisive issue” and wasn’t a priority for the Government.

The suffering of dying people and the denial of their rights to choose for themselves is ‘not a priority’ for a gutless Government.

While Hague said his Green colleagues would like to see a debate, the party hadn’t reached an agreement on a euthanasia policy.

“We haven’t worked out how to create a regime that doesn’t have the risk of being abused.”

Another example of Greens talking the talk but not being prepared to walk the walk. They claim to be principled but that looks selective and self-interested.

By avoiding dealing with the issue, by making excuses, by refusing to even discuss possible options for dealing with people suffering as they die, New Zealand’s Parliament, it’s MPs and all the parties are being not just weak. They’re gutless.

I wonder if there are any doctors who would be prepared to assist Lecretia Seales and openly defy the law, and expose the inaction of Parliament?

Seymour highlights tax bracket creep

ACT MP David Seymour has highlighted the problem for taxpayers caused by bracket creep. If PAYE brackets aren’t adjusted then inflation means taxpayers gradually pay more tax relative to their income.

Michael Cullen failing to address bracket creep for nearly all of the three terms under Helen Clark was a significant factor in voters getting fed up with Labour.

Stuff reports in Politics briefs: March 20, 2015

ACT revives ‘bracket creep’ campaign

They were last seen in Michael Cullen’s “chewing gum tax cut” Budget – and later dumped – but ACT has revived calls for tax thresholds to be indexed to inflation. Leader David Seymour says average households are more than $1000 worse off in tax payments since 2010 because of “bracket creep”. Had thresholds been linked to inflation, the top 33 cent rate would now cut in at $73,571, not $70,000.

If Bill English ignores bracket creep voters may get fed up with his tax grabbing too.

Seymour’s press release: Time to end stealth tax increases

ACT Leader David Seymour has today called for an end to the stealth increase of tax rates through bracket creep.

“Each year, inflation pushes a larger proportion of New Zealanders’ incomes into higher tax brackets, regardless of whether they’ve had an increase in real earnings,” said Mr Seymour.

“Tax brackets should be adjusted for inflation.

“Even with low inflation this stealth tax of ‘bracket creep’ means that the average household is $1036 worse off since the tax changes of October 2010. An individual taxpayer on the average income is $648 worse off.

Mr Seymour’s focus on bracket creep comes after the Minister of Finance stated low inflation ‘makes it more challenging for the Government because higher inflation pushes up the tax base and enables us to collect more tax in a growing economy’.

“If the government wants to increase taxes, it should do so openly. This is a basic principle of transparency, and honesty in taxation.

“I propose tying tax brackets to the Consumer Price Index, meaning tax brackets would rise with inflation, stopping stealth tax increases and ensuring government revenue collection is open and transparent.

“The best time to act is now – current low inflation means a switch to inflation adjusted tax brackets would have relatively little effect on government forecasts.”

Public opinion pulls Key back from reaching for the Sky scam

Strongly expressed public opinion in opposition to a suggestion that the Government hand out money to Sky so they can pretty up their pokie attraction has got through to John Key.

He gambled on Sky and has quickly realised it was no dice. Yesterday he rapidly backed off reaching for the State chequebook.

Vernon Small writes John Key in retreat on SkyCity convention centre.

Prime Minister John Key has toughened up his opposition to putting taxpayer cash into the planned SkyCity convention centre.

In a further retreat from his earlier stance that a cash top up would be necessary to prevent “an eyesore” being built, Key today said he would take a lot of persuading to top up the $402m SkyCity had pledged.

“We structured the deal in such a way that the taxpayer didn’t have to put in money and that’s what I would prefer to see and I’d need a lot of convincing if any other position was going to be adopted,” he said.

‘In the world we live in … in the perfect world  … we would like to see them build a convention centre for $402m.”

Bill English’s prudence seems to have been more convincing than Steven Joyce’s corporate generoasity, along with most of New Zealand. The day before yesterday Govt at odds over SkyCity convention centre.

Finance Minister Bill English today appeared to distance himself from signals the Government will put money into the planned SkyCity convention centre to avoid it being an “eyesore”.

English said more taxpayer cash was the least-preferred option in the convention centre issue and so it was “logical” that walking away would be better option.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday all but confirmed the Government will stump up cash for the project, which was now “flasher” than originally proposed.

In the wake of English’s comments, Key today said he agreed with his finance minister’s view.

“It’s our least-preferred option to put in more money,” Key said.

“He’s confirmed that and I’d agree with him.”

‘Least preferred’ was repeated a number of times yesterday as the ‘not preferred at all’ message got through.

Belatedly a Dominion Post editorial  has slammed the handout scam in Pokies paradise a folly Nats should let go.

The SkyCity pokie deal with the Government was never a good one. Now it goes from bad to worse.

This is a shambles and it has clearly caused a schism in the Cabinet at the highest levels. Finance Minister Bill English says hitting the taxpayers for more cash is “the least preferred option”.

The deal was badly managed from the start. The tender process was not open and transparent. Cost control has been woeful. And it is truly astonishing that John Key is now suggesting that the $400m centre would be “an eyesore”. So now it seems the choice is between a “free” centre that is an eyesore or a non-eyesore costing the taxpayers as much as $100m or so.

What sort of choice is this? And why was the original deal so loose and vague that the cost could rocket and SkyCity could say that unless it got the extra money it would pull out?

They point out Steven Joyce’s folly has become his embarrassment.

The minister in charge, Steven Joyce, should also feel deeply embarrassed. He has been scathing about projects which require taxpayer subsidies, such as the proposed extension of Wellington Airport.

And an NZ Herald editorial says $402 million enough to buy us the centre we need.

If as Mr Key suggested this week, the added cost arises mainly for aesthetic reasons, SkyCity should be told not to worry. Some people are going to say the centre is an eyesore no matter how flash the building may be.

The design of the existing casino is not universally admired. A big convention centre adjoining it need not be an architectural stunner. Indeed, the artist’s impression made public by SkyCity suggests it will not be.

A $402 million centre, as agreed between the company and the Government two years ago, will do just fine

$402 million may not be enough but that’s Sky’s problem. They sold the deal at that price. They must have known that prices would rise (it was priced two years ago).

They gambled that Joyce and Key would roll over and hand out cash. They misjudged the potential reaction badly.

Key is a close follower of public opinion. He got a resounding message of opposition quickly.

An ugly convention centre now doesn’t seem so bad.

Key now seems to think the least preferred option is to be dragged down into the pokie pits this early in his third term.

The winner here is public opinion expressed strongly. It can make a difference.

(Note to opposition parties – while you did your bit on this it was genuine widespread disapproval rather than manufactured mayhem that turned the tide on this).

Metiria Turei versus John Key (Ratana speech)

Metiria Turei continued a tradiotion of “the Māngai spent his life confronting politicians” in her prepared speech for Ratana yesterday.

In fact due to time constraints she didn’t get to make her speech but she distributed her speech notes.

Here is the part of Turei’s speech that referred to John Key.

I want to speak today about one aspect of that legacy, and that is the Māngai’s efforts to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Māngai spent his life confronting politicians and Pākehā society about the need to provide redress for past injustices and to move forward as a true partnership.

Even now, in 2015, we are still struggling to truly honour the agreement that lies at the foundation of our nation.

This came to a head last month, with the release of stage one of the Waitangi Tribunal’s inquiry into the Treaty claims of Te Paparahi o Te Raki. The decision reflected decades of scholarship and affirms what we, as tangata whenua, have always known: that the Māori text of Te Tiriti o Waitangi never ceded the tino rangatiratanga of Māori over our lands, peoples and resources.

To have this stated, once and for all, was huge. It was an enormous step forward. But the Prime Minister’s response was to knock us several steps back.

John Key had the gall to claim that NZ was settled “peacefully,” as if all Māori grievances evaporated into irrelevance on his command.

But he didn’t finish there. In an attempt to really put us in our place, John Key said Māori would have been grateful for the injection of capital early Pākehā brought with them when they settled in Aotearoa.

Māori would have been grateful. For the capital.

The Prime Minister’s warped and outrageous view of history is deeply offensive to Māori but it also undermines decades of effort by Māori and Pākehā, including even by his own Government, to address some of the historic wrongs and to encourage an understanding of Aotearoa’s true history, both the good and the bad.

While in recent times Governments have made significant progress in completing historical settlements, all too often these are undermined as Ministers resort to cynical dog-whistle tactics that play to the widespread ignorance of Te Tiriti and, in so doing, shore up their Government’s short term political goals.

Sadly, this has long term consequences for all of us, Māori and non-Māori, by entrenching prejudice and wedging us further apart.

We saw this when John Key allowed Pita Sharples to sign the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples in New York, giving the Māori Party a token win and then immediately undermining that by telling journalists the declaration would have “no practical effect.”

And therein lies the rub. John Key can’t actually abide by that declaration because that would mean acknowledging that the Māori text of Te Tiriti is the only legitimate and legally binding text. That would mean conceding that tangata whenua never ceded tino rangatiratanga. That the Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson, was so quick to dismiss the Tribunal’s ruling and assert the Crown’s sovereignty, prove that National won’t do this.

I am proud that the Green Party has, for many years, held the Māori text of Te Tiriti as a core part of our party’s constitutional arrangements.

I was honoured, today, to walk on to this marae alongside Labour’s new leader Andrew Little. I am very much looking forward to working with, and getting to know Andrew better.

Our respective parties are focussed on changing the Government in 2017. The Greens are committed to creating a new Government which will be better for Māori and better for Aotearoa New Zealand.

That alternative stands in stark contrast to the current Government that believes New Zealand was settled peacefully and that our people were somehow grateful – grateful for the bloodshed, the loss of millions of hectares of land.

Grateful. For the capital.

From Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei’s Rātana speech

Interesting to see that Turei (with Greens ap;proval presumably) has chosen to start the year in attack mode.

NZ Herald reported Ratana: Turei launches stinging attack on Key

Ratana elders usually frown upon using the occasion for a political speech, but Ms Turei was unrepentant.

“This is a political event. We need to come here and front up to Maori about our Maori policy, our Treaty policy and explain ourselves. And that’s what I’m doing.”

She said Mr Key had to be taken to task for a “disgraceful way to describe New Zealand’s history”.

Green gloves are off.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English is filling in for Mr Key and it was left to him to defend the PM.

Mr English said the Greens were “nasty” on occasion and it didn’t serve them well.

“John Key has developed a very positive relationship with Maori even though there isn’t very strong political support among Maori for National. He has focused on a lot of areas they want him to focus on. So I don’t think the audience will be too impressed by it.”

Time will tell whether this is blast at the past from Turei or whether it signals an intention for an aggressive approach by Greens this year.

The elusive surplus threatens poverty measures

It looks like the Government won’t make their promised surplus next year due to reduced tax take and pressure from reducing milk prices.

NZ Herald reported No surplus this year – Treasury

Treasury this morning delivered a body blow to the Government’s hopes of returning to surplus, saying it now expects a deficit of over half a billion dollars for the June financial year.

At this morning’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, Acting Treasury Secretary Vicky Robertson said despite solid growth in the economy, the Crown’s finances would take a hit from lower than previously forecast tax take.

That had seen Treasury change its forecast operating balance before gains and losses (Obegal) for the 2014-15 year from a slim surplus of $297 million to a deficit of $572 million.

Treasury said softer outlook for economic drivers of the tax such as lower dairy prices and interest rates had seen the expected tax take for the year fall by $600 million.

The changed forecast isn’t a big deal on it’s own, changing economic conditions and revisions are to be expected.

Unless there’s a significant turn around and the surplus is achieved this is embarrassing for National and Bill English who have put a lot of emphasis on reaching a surplus after some very difficult years since the Global Financial Crisis.

Generally English deserves a lot of credit for managing the country’s finances prudently, this played a significant part in National doing so well in the election.

But English has not been so prudent on two counts – staking so much of his reputation on reaching a surplus by 2015, and leaving no room for mistakes or unexpected changes in his last budget.

English cut the surplus too fine, leaving virtually no margin for a negative change. Mr Reliable gambled and looks like losing this bet.

It isn’t a major problem for National at this stage of the electoral cycle. But it will make their promise to address poverty in next year’s budget challenging.

Bill English on dirty politics

There’s a number of tweets reporting comments from Bill English about dirty politics.

Bill English visibly uncomfortable today answering questions allegations, partic those regarding Judith Collins.

English [on Collins giving Simon Pleasants’ name to WO]: “That’s a style of politics, it’s not a style I like and I don’t participate in it”.

Bill English says it is not the sort of politics he engages in.

Bill English does not condone attack politics outlined in Nicky Hager’s book but won’t be drawn on whether Judith Collins should face consequences.

It’s not English’s call (in public at least) on the possible fate of another Minister.

It’s good to see someone in National speaking up against dirty politics, albeit seemingly reluctantly.

UPDATE: Radio NZ Report:

English critical of colleague’s behaviour

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has criticised the behaviour of Justice Minister Judith Collins, as outlined in the book Dirty Politics, saying it is not how he operates.

The Nicky Hager book outlines how Ms Collins passed the name of public servant Simon Pleasants to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, believing Mr Pleasants had leaked information in 2009 about Mr English double-dipping on his housing allowance.

Mr Pleasants had not leaked any information but was subject to abuse on Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog and also received death threats.

Mr English said today he had nothing to do with it and did not condone blog attacks on public servants.

However, he would not be drawn on whether Ms Collins should be reprimanded.

“The Prime Minister (John Key) has expressed confidence in her. She’s a minister, you know. We’re all answerable for how we deal with things, just like I was over the housing issue,” he said.

“I was publicly answerable for that. It wasn’t a matter of legality or otherwise, it was a matter of judgement, and people make up their minds about it.”

The Prime Minister has also since reprimanded Collins.

National on immigration – no change

On The Nation yesterday Bill English said projected significant increases in net migration were due to less New Zealanders going overseas and more New Zealanders coming back, plus the normal about 50,000 new immigrants, slightly under maximums allowed.

English acknowledged pressure on schools and hospitals from the increase in net migration, but said National  had no plans to tighten the rules.

Lisa Owen: Good morning Mr English. I want to start with immigration. Treasury is predicting that by December net migration will be about 38,000. So that means more growth, more taxes, more people and more skills coming into the country. Do you welcome that?

Bill English: Well the turnaround is a reduction, a sharp reduction in the number of New Zealanders leaving New Zealand. And that’s what gives you the shift in the net figure. The number of people coming in has been pretty steady now for a number of years in New Zealand and that does bring skills that we need, it brings family members for existing migrants. And that number hasn’t altered. In fact most years we don’t quite meet the limits that have been set.

But it has been steadily high-

It has been. It’s around 50,000, 60,000 and it’s been steady for a long time. But look it’s part of a growing economy. It’s a measure of success with the economy that more New Zealanders decide to stay home.

But even you would accept that brings challenges. Just this week you were saying that you were seeing pressure on schools. Tell us about that –

Well we see because people aren’t leaving, there are schools where is there’s roll growth pressure and the Ministry of Education is working on that. There are other challenges. I mean a lot of people have mentioned that it puts a bit more pressure on the housing market and that’s why it’s so important that we continue with our measures to improve the supply of housing as quickly as possible.

Presumably on things like hospitals as well too when you have a growing population?

That’s right. And there’s always been pressure on our hospitals with migrants turning up with people who may or may not qualify for free care. There’s nothing particularly new about that.

But in saying that we have had this steady flow of people coming into the country, what planning have you done to prepare for that?

Well there’s always planning to prepare for it, particularly around government infrastructure, to make sure there are enough hospital beds, that there is growth in school classrooms.

But specifics here, you’ve said that there is pressure on the school roll. So what specific planning have you done in relation to schools? Can we expect more schools? Whereabouts do we need them?

Ah yes. The answer to that is yes. The Ministry of Education has working on that. In any case in our growth population areas there has been pressure on schools for years and they are doing a better job now of getting ahead of that growth. Although the turnaround in the number of new – the reduction in the number of New Zealanders leaving has been fairly sharp and so the Ministry of Education is running pretty hard to keep ahead of it.

So how are you in the short term going to keep pace with that?

Oh just more classrooms. There’s money allocated in the Budget as part of an overall programme for the year to get more classrooms to the schools where the children are turning up.

So do you have a number for how many more schools we might need?

Look I couldn’t give you the number off the top of head. There is an ongoing growth programme and the Ministry of Education and the Government have agreed that rather than wait until growth turns up and there’s a problem, they are trying to get ahead of that. Money is not a constraint to that. Often it’s a simple as finding the land and getting the classrooms to the right schools.

So in light of all of this, do you think it’s time to start considering a cap on immigration?

Well there is a cap on the number of people coming in. What we don’t have rules about is how many are leaving. And in fact we like them staying, it’s a good thing. We don’t regard that as a problem. But it is a challenge for the economy.

To counter that, should we be taking less other people? Fewer other people coming in?

Well in our view we don’t see a strong case for changing that right now. A steady inflow that allows us to get the skills that we need, also bringing close family members for people who are already here, has been a steady successful policy for New Zealand. It’s helped grow our economy.

But if you don’t see a need right now to do that, that leaves the door open to the fact that you can see in the not too distant future, that may be something you have to address?

No we don’t see a case for that because what is happening is less New Zealanders going overseas. That’s a development we welcome.

From Lisa Owen interviews Bill English


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