Simon Bridges and National on the Christchurch mosque massacres

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been the primary political focus in response to the Christchurch mosque massacres. She has done a very good job in many respects. She has been very good at communicating with the public generally in her media conferences, and she shows obvious empathy and rapport when dealing with those affected by the killings.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has been far less visible, understandably.

He and other politicians travelled with Ardern on a visit to Christchurch on Saturday, in a show of political solidarity.

There have been two official National party statements.

Friday:  Opposition Leader condemns Christchurch attack

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has condemned the Christchurch attacks and expresses condolences to the people of Canterbury.

“Details are still emerging but the attacks are shocking.

“We stand with and support the New Zealand Islamic community.  No one in this country should live in fear, no matter their race or religion, their politics or their beliefs.

“My thoughts, and the thoughts of the National Party are with the victims of today’s attacks, along with their families and friends. My heart goes out to all of you.”

Saturday:  Opposition Leader visits Christchurch

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today visited Christchurch alongside the Prime Minister and other Party Leaders and met with the Islamic community, some of the affected families and emergency responders.

“Now is not a time for politics. The National Party stands in solidarity with the Prime Minister and the Government in condemning the horrific and violent terrorist attack in Christchurch yesterday.

“My deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go to all those directly affected by yesterday’s events, but also to the wider Canterbury community.

“This is not something that has happened to just the Islamic community, or just to Christchurch. It has happened to all New Zealanders.

“It is foreign to everything that makes us Kiwis, our beliefs, our values, our tolerance, how we live and get along with one another.

“We offer our support in any way we can. We are with you today and tomorrow.”

Monday: Simon Bridges on RNZ on firearm laws

Change is needed, I understand that.

I am open to any and all changes.

Be very clear, I am up for change.

The National Party will be constructive.

Do you want military style semi-automatic weapons available?

He kept responding in general terms, that he is up for any and all change.

There is a Prime Minister and a Government we are supporting on this.

He says he is now waiting until the Prime Minister comes back with proposals on law changes. It sounds like bridges may have some sort of understanding with Ardern about how to proceed on this.

He could be more definitive, but in general I think it’s fair enough to see what the Government proposes. Once that is announced, Bridges will need to be more clear.

 

 

UMR and other polls – Labour and National even

Note – at best polls are just an approximate indicator of a snapshot of political support, especially individual polls.

Here is some anecdotal and it appears actual poll information.

Matthew Hooton in Capital Gains Tax debate shows Jacinda Ardern’s weakness

National insiders say their polling has NZ First consistently below the 5 per cent threshold, the Greens dicing with death by bouncing around it, and Labour and National locked in a tight battle, both above 40 per cent and within the margin of error of each other.

Care has to be taken with ‘insiders say’ anecdotes, but this is much the same as the last two published polls:

  • Reid Research 24 January-2 February: Labour 47.5%, National 41.6%, Greens 5.1%, NZ First 2.9%
  • Colmar Brunton 9-13 February: Labour 45%, National 42%, Greens 6%, NZ First 3%

The Reid Research poll was very early in the year, before politics cranked up, so favouring Labour is not surprising.

James Last yesterday on Twitter – The latest UMR poll for its corporate clients:

  • National up 5 to 45%
  • Labour down 1 to 44%
  • Greens down 2 to 5%
  • NZ First no change on 4%

While unpublished and verified this looks quite believable, with National back virtually level pegging with Labour.

National haven’t been particularly impressive but Labour have handled the Tax Working Group and CGT poorly so may have eased a bit because of that – but it could be too son to take much from it. If we get polls in the next month they may add too the picture, unless other major issues or events take over influence.

What this means is that hal way through the term (18 months before the next election) there is little in it between Labour and National. I think we can expect ebbs and flows in their support somewhere in the forties depending on timing of polls and margins of error.

Perhaps of more significance is NZ First remaining stuck under the threshold. When NZ First was last in government from 2005-2008 they polled mostly under the threshold and ended up getting 4.07 in the 2008 election, getting them dumped from Parliament.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2008_New_Zealand_general_election

Greens look a bit safer staying just above the threshold, but are still at risk. They will be keen to be seen to be achieving significant gains on climate, environmental and social issues. They have time for that, but need to start delivering.

 

 

Can the Green door be opened to GE debate?

Greens look like remaining staunchly opposed to genetic engineering, but the national party is trying to push against this.

Last week from Newshub:  Govt blocking breakthrough technology that could make New Zealand predator-free

There’s a major roadblock within the Beehive over the role genetic engineering (GE) could play in a predator-free New Zealand by 2050.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has stopped any and all work being done to use GE technology, despite official advice suggesting it could be used to help rid New Zealand of predators.

But Ms Sage told Newshub she is not interested in going down the GE “rabbit hole”.

“We want to focus on existing tools, making them better and finding new tools without being diverted down the potential rabbit hole of GE research.”

In one email, she wrote: “Please be assured that the department is clear about my expectations regarding genetic technologies. It has informed me that there is no mammalian gene drive technology research currently occurring in New Zealand.

“I have also required Predator Free 2050 Ltd to carry out appropriate due diligence on any co-funded projects before agreeing on any contracts, and have explicitly required them not to be involved in any research with genetically modified organisms and technologies such as CRISPR or gene editing.”

In another email, the minister made a similar comment: “I have been clear about my expectations regarding such technologies.”

Official advice also said the technology has the potential to control pests “in a humane and efficient manner without inadvertently harming other species like native birds”.

But Ms Sage told Newshub the Government isn’t blocking work in the area, there’s just been no decision to advance any discussion in the area.

“There’s no public mandate to do any work in that space – it would be a major change in Government policy.”

Alex Braae (The Spinoff):  Door opened to GE Free debate

It has been one of the cornerstone policies of New Zealand environmentalism for the past two decades. New Zealand’s GE Free status has been maintained throughout our primary sector, meaning horticulture and agricultural products can be sold under the label. But it looks likely a thorny debate is about to get underway over whether that should be continued.

Why? The National Party is pushing for that debate to start, and they’re being backed by former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, reports Politik.

Sir Peter says we should be looking at relaxing rules gene editing – not quite the same thing as genetic modification, but not a million miles away either – here’s an excellent explainer that outlines the differences further down the page. It’s perhaps a bit disingenuous to describe it as a call for a debate too – intelligent people don’t call for debates on topics if they don’t intend to then win the argument.

In particular, the topic in question is a type of ryegrass currently being trialled in the USA, which when eaten by cows could reduce their methane emissions by up to 25%. New Zealand’s output of methane is a significant contributor to our total emissions, and the argument goes that finding ways to reduce that is the best contribution we could make to reducing global emissions.

It’s also entirely in line with National’s approach to climate change policy, which they want to have minimal economic impact, and be primarily driven by science and technology, rather than cutting production.

But would it actually have minimal economic impact? 

This piece on Pure Advantage’s website (an organisation that promotes cohesion between business and environmentalism) argues that any changes to policy in New Zealand could be incredibly damaging to our global brand.

It’s fair to say that the science isn’t fully settled on the full potential benefits and risks of gene editing and other related techniques. However, as the experts collated by the Science Media Centre last year pointed out, that’s because more research needs to happen, and they largely support that research taking place.

In this Stuff story, Minister Sage said there wasn’t a push from New Zealanders for the GE policy to be changed. But if a flashpoint issue were to emerge, that could change very quickly.

I doubt it will change much at all while the Greens are in Government.

National response to Tax Working group final report

Simon Bridges set the National tone to the Tax Working Group final report prior to it’s release.

NZ Herald:  National Leader Simon Bridges says a capital gains tax would lead to Kiwis leaving NZ for Australia

Speaking to media this morning, Bridges came out swinging and said such a tax would come at the detriment to middle New Zealand.

“[It would be] a recipe for more people buggering off to Australia.”

Interest.co.nz:  Bridges says a capital gains tax would cause people to leave for Australia (where there is a capital gains tax)

That point was hammered on Twitter as well.

Bridges’ initial response to the release of the report yesterday:

That has also been widely ridiculed.

A Labour friendly report that is likely to be watered down substantially by Winston Peters is not exactly an all out assault.

A prior tweet is closer to the mark:

One distinct possibility is Peters demanding a farm exemption. And possibly a small business exemption. And a hobbled CGT quickly becomes a crippled CGT, if it gets NZ First approval at all.

Regardless of this, National have been hammering the report.

Simon Bridges: More costs as tax monster unleashed

The Tax Working Group has gone much further than a Capital Gains Tax with a raft of new taxes targeting hard-working New Zealanders, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

There are eight new taxes including; an agriculture tax, a tax on empty residential land, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, a waste levy and a Capital Gains Tax.

“This is an attack on the Kiwi way of life. This would hit every New Zealander with a Kiwi Saver, shares, investment property, a small business, a lifestyle block, a bach or even an empty section,” Mr Bridges says.

“For farmers, who are the backbone of our economy, this is a declaration of war on their businesses and way of life. They would pay to water their stock, feed their crops and even when they sell up for retirement.

“Labour claims this is about fairness, but that’s rubbish. The CGT would apply to small business owners like the local plumber, but not to investors with a multi-million dollar art collection or a super yacht who won’t pay a cent more.

“The TWG has recommended one of the highest rates of Capital Gains Tax in the world. The Government would reap $8.3 billion extra in its first five years from ordinary Kiwis – small business owners, farmers, investors, bach and lifestyle block owners. After 10 years it would be taking $6 billion a year from Kiwis.

“It will lead to boom times for tax lawyers and accountants and even Iwi advisers, given recommendations for exclusions that include Māori land in multiple ownership.

“We believe New Zealanders already pay enough tax and the Government should be looking at tax relief, not taking even more out of the pockets of New Zealand families.

“National says no to new taxes. We would repeal a Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to the cost of living and let Kiwis keep more of what they earn.”

Amy Adams: Massive tax grab will hammer NZ economy

New Zealand might have been expecting a capital gains tax to be announced today but the full suite of taxes proposed by the Tax Working Group would threaten the very viability of large swathes of the NZ economy, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“The new taxes proposed today will create a compliance mine field, massive distortions in the market and weaken our international competiveness at the very time the Government acknowledges the international economic risks are growing,

The proposal from the Government’s handpicked Tax Working Group doesn’t line us up with other countries as has been claimed, instead it would impose one of the most onerous capital taxation regimes in the world with 100% of the gain taxed at full marginal rates, limited relief for capital losses, no inflation adjustment and limited rollover relief.

“The Capital Gains Tax proposed by Sir Michael Cullen and the Tax Working Group will hit every small business owner, KiwiSaver account, farm, family bach, lifestyle block and investment in New Zealand. It will act as a massive disincentive to save, invest or build a productive business.

“There is nothing fair about saying owners of baches and lifestyle blocks will face a tougher CGT than corporates.

“It would add significant complexity to our relatively simple tax system, likely exempt Iwi assets, require all eligible assets to be re-valued within five years and further drain New Zealand’s already shallow capital markets.

“New Zealand doesn’t need a Capital Gains Tax and the Government has to date failed to confirm this would be a revenue neutral package. The CGT alone would raise an additional $32 billion over ten years and there is no evidence any offset will be of the same magnitude.

“On top of the Capital Gains Tax, other new and increased taxes, include a vacant residential land tax, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, extending the waste tax.

“It is quite simple, a country can’t tax itself to prosperity.

“New Zealanders already pay enough tax and National believes if you want New Zealanders to succeed on the world stage the tax burden should be reduced, not increased.

“National has promised to repeal the Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to inflation, repeal the Regional Fuel Tax and not introduce any new taxes in our first term. Our full tax package will be released closer to next year’s election.

“The longer the Government dithers over its response to this report, the more our economy will be hurt by the fear and uncertainty these recommendations will rightly cause.”

Labour will likely have predicted and prepared for this sort of over reaction.

And what Labour ends up getting NZ First to agree to is likely to take much of the sting out of these attacks.

National’s relationship with China also under fire

A lot has been said over the last week about apparent difficulties the Government is having in it’s relationship with China, in part because of the relationship between Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters. Ardern is the first Prime Minister for decades who hasn’t been on a visit to China in her first year, and that trip seems to be on indefinite hold.

But National’s relationship with China is also being criticised.

Michael Reddell (Newsroom): National’s craven deference to China?

But over the past couple of decades, New Zealand political figures, and the National Party ones in particular, seem to have binned any sense of decency, integrity, or values when it comes to Chinese Communist Party-ruled China. I don’t suppose individually most of them have much sympathy for PRC policies and practices, but they just show no sign of caring any longer. Deals, donations, and indifference seem to be the order of the day.

Over the past couple of years the depths the party, its leaders and MPs, have been plumbing have become more visible. In 2017, in government, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the PRC on the Belt and Road Initiative. In that document they – Simon Bridges as signatory – committed to “promote” the “fusion of civilisations”.

Plenty of people will probably dismiss such statements as “meaningless”, the stuff of official communiques. But decent people – under no duress whatever – don’t sign up to things suggesting that today’s equivalent of Nazi-ruled Germany is a normal and decent regime. Of course, they would probably dispute the parallel, but that’s just willed deliberate blindness.

Later that same year we learned the National Party had had a former PLA intelligence officer, Communist Party member, sitting in its parliamentary caucus. It seems to be generally accepted that Jian Yang, of such a questionable background, is one of the party’s largest fundraisers. Presumably the leaders (John Key and Peter Goodfellow) were aware of his past, but let’s be generous and assume that most of the caucus was as unaware as the public. But for the past 18 months, everyone has known.

But what the National Party – leader, president, MPs, and all those holding office in the party – is responsible for is the fact that Jian Yang still sits in Parliament, still sits in the National caucus, is still National’s spokesman (on a couple of minor portfolios), with the express support of successive leaders, and (apparently) in ongoing business relationships with the party president (he who trots of to Beijing to praise the regime and its leader).

A few months ago we had the egregious former Minister of Trade, and foreign affairs spokesperson, Todd McClay plumbing new depths. In an interview with Stuff, he championed the PRC regime interpretation of the mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, noting that “the existence and purpose of vocational training centres is a domestic matter for the Chinese government.”

He was spinning for the CCP regime in Beijing.

No sense at all in anything Bridges – or any other National Party figure – says that the PRC itself has changed: bad as the regime always was, it has now become worse.

In his Beijing-deferential interview on the Herald website the other day, David Mahon tried to frame the current PRC upset with New Zealand as “the Chinese see it as akin to infidelity”.

New Zealand “leaders ” have been the most sycophantic and compliant, perhaps there is a sense that China can’t afford to let us get away with some renewed self-respect. That, after all, might encourage others to think and act for themselves, for the values of their peoples. Better to foster the illusion – assisted by local politicians and academics – that the PRC hold our prosperity in its hand.

It simply doesn’t. It never did.

But that’s New Zealand politics, that seems to be today’s National Party. It is sickening.

Strong words – and I have effectively toned it down with editing.

It is difficult when a major trading partner is a dictatorship with a poor human rights record.

It could be alarming if Reddell is anywhere near right about the degree of financial subservience of National to China.

And of course article this won’t help with the New Zealand-China relationship.

Greens versus NZ First and Labour conservatism

Does Labour use NZ First as an excuse to be conservative on economic and other policies to avoid being linked to Green radicalism? They do use the Budget Responsibility Rules to be conservative. They are an agreement with the Green Party to allay fears of a swing too far left in the last election campaign, but there is disagreement over having the Rules within the Green Party.

I have seen dismay expressed from the the left that the Government is nowwhere near progressive enough,.

Henry Cooke (Stuff):  The Greens are looking forward to 2020 already, and the possibility of a world without Winston

At their annual conference last year, a prominent Green Party member gave a speech which called for the party to tear up a central tenet of their partnership with Labour.

He received a standing ovation. Most of the Green MPs present, who had signed off the policy, were in the room. Several agreed with him.

The policy was the Budget Responsibility Rules a set of tight government spending guidelines Labour and the Greens agreed to ahead of the 2017 election. They have gone on to play a huge role in how the parties have governed.

The idea was to blunt the attacks from the right that a Labour-Green government would blow up the surplus and destroy the economy.

Ever since Green supporters and some MPs have been agitating for the party to get rid of the rules. In the last week this began. A “review” of those budgetary constraints has been launched, but this is just a procedural step on the way to either scrapping them or modifying them before the 2020 election.

There always seemed a likelihood that Labour and the Greens would need NZ First to give them any chance of getting into Government last election, and so it turned out.

It’s a long way from the election but there appears to be a greater chance that NZ First won’t make the threshold next year. This would give the Greens more influence over Labour, depending on how many seats they get. If Greens recovered back up to ten to fifteen seats, and were in Cabinet with Labour, they should get significantly more say and sway.

In the same week, co-leader James Shaw made the most forceful argument for a capital gains tax anyone has in years, saying the Government wouldn’t deserve to be re-elected if they didn’t implement one.

That was a big play from Shaw, mostly to his party wanting more reform from Government.

​The election is next year, and the Greens are getting ready by staking out positions on the left. At the same time, some in the party are daring to look forward to a world without Winston Peters.

Fixing this requires not just talking up wins in Government but very clearly pushing left on tax – an issue likely to dominate through this year and into the next thanks to the tax working group – as well as balancing the books. These might seem like small bore issues but they are very important to that core of committed supporters.

NZ First are likely to try to distance themselves from relying on Labour next year to try to fool voters and Labour negotiators into thinking they could go either way.

So Labour+Green will be an important consideration for voters.

Many Greens see Peters and NZ First as the reactionary laggard keeping this Government from truly transforming the country. But it has long been useful for centrist Labour MPs to blame NZ First for their own conservatism. Labour will be extremely conscious of how scared the wider public might feel about a radical Labour-Green government in 2020.

Keeping the budget deal in place might well be Ardern’s plan to placate those fears.

For Labour, yes. And possibly for Shaw. But what about green supporters disappointed with the lack of progress leftwards this term, and impatient for more radical reforms?

Possibly one of the most significant decisions for the next election will be what the Green party decides to do about the Rules, that some see as a brick wall in front of progress and real progressivism.

One thing that may make it easier for Greens pulling Labour left is the conservatism of Simon Bridges pulling National further right.

Unless the Sustainability Party gets some support in the centre.

Making mountains out of malehills over advert but little defence of KiwiBuild

National enraged a bunch of people who seem to be perpetually looking for things to get enraged about with an advertisement criticising KiwiBuild that has received a huge amount of promotion from media reporting the enragement.

I do think there are a number of people active in social media who seem intent on making mountains out of malehills.

What is glaringly absent in this is a lack of defence of KiwiBuild. It is all ‘attack the messenger’ diversion.

Outrage over men holding a beer talking to women, blonds and the use of sausage quips in political clips seems like over the top attempts to sanitise everything.

Perhaps it has driven some people to tears – but how do you say anything publicly without risking annoying, enraging or devastating someone?

I’m betting tired of those arguments and attempts to PC everything – and using outrage as a way of trying to attack and discredit and divert in politics.

But there are some interesting associated issues. Did National deliberately provoke ‘progressives’ to get a sort of Streisand effect?

And, this has been all attack of National and no defence of KiwiBuild.

Danyl Mclachlan (The Spinoff):  Notes towards a grand unified theory of the terrible National Party sausage ad

Here’s my grand conspiracy theory. Progressives are actually the primary target for this ad and it is designed to offend them. Offense and controversy makes things newsworthy and earns you coverage in the mainstream media, thus potentially reaching a far greater number of viewers than National would get through making a non-controversial, non-mansplaining ad.

The way you communicate the KiwiBuild critique to the wider public – who are never going to watch a political ad in their feed, even if you boost it – is by breaching progressive rules of etiquette and provoking a controversy.

Presumably there will be more: maybe the next shocking thing will be the next National Party ad, giving online progressives the chance to spend the whole year furiously amplifying National’s talking points.

Whether National inadvertently bumbled or deliberately provoked, they got far more attention than they would have for most attempted political hits.

While are ‘progressives’ so easily riled? Concern about a fairly impotent Opposition party? Or despair that the Government has made a mess of KiwiBuild with no solution in sight?

Bradbury has a good point. On eof those claiming sexism rather than defending KiwiBuild was Phil Twyford.

Newshub: No one entered KiwiBuild ballot for Waikato development

Newshub can reveal how unpopular KiwiBuild has become: absolutely no one entered the ballot to buy any of the homes in one of the developments.

The Government’s flagship housing scheme is now at the stage where developers are offering up bribes to get people interested.

But KiwiBuild isn’t just backfiring for the Government – it’s backfiring for National too.

The party’s latest taxpayer-funded attack ad has drawn widespread criticism for showing a man explaining KiwiBuild to a woman.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said it was “clearly sexist”.

“I would think a lot of people find it offensive.”

I would think a lot more people would find Twyford’s failure with KiwiBuild of rather more concern.

There was one person reported as defending KiwiBuild:

“We as a Government are building more houses than any Government has built since the 1970s, which I have to say feels roughly about the era of that ad,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Don’t dare suggest that is sizzle without, ah, substance.

 

Bridges trying to look like “Prime Minister in waiting”

Henry Cook (Stuff):  Simon Bridges doesn’t look like a Prime Minister in waiting yet, but he’s trying

It’s hard to describe, but there is an energy that surrounds prime ministers, and people on their way to becoming prime ministers. Even as you shake their hand and have a chat, you can feel the weight and power of something much larger than their physical form surrounding them.

John Key had it. Bill English learnt it in a hurry. And Jacinda Ardern seemed to command it the moment she took on the leadership, even when it seemed likely she would have to bide her time in Opposition for another three years.

Bridges’ problems:

Last year was a credibility problem. And…

…there remains a tendency to chase every passing car, possibly because there are so many National MPs without power.

National MP Barbara Kuriger put out a ridiculous press release attacking a “red-meat tax” last month, something the Government had very clearly not proposed.

And late last year National engaged in a bad-faith populist campaign against a United Nations migration pact it would have happily signed up to in Government.

Bridges has put Paula Bennett into the drug reform role ahead of the cannabis referendum, replacing the extremely reasonable and knowledgeable Shane Reti with someone much more likely to stoke simplistic scaremongering.

These are things thirsty opposition parties do, not ones ready for Government.

He put Bennett in charge of stoking simplistic scaremongering on drug reform just last month.

If Bridges wants to continue his transformation and start looking like a Prime Minister for everyone, not just the National Party base, these swings to the hard right should be put behind him. Just like his annus horribilis.

Feedback from the Kuriger and Bennett misfires may have contributed to a change in approach.

There is a palpable sense that National is attempting to move on from rowdy opposition to Government-in-waiting.

The most obvious example of this is National’s plans to release eight big policy documents over this year, with the line being that they “don’t want to wait for the Government”. The first of these on  tax thresholds will contrast nicely with whatever the Government’s Tax Working Group suggest. Indeed, National would be pleased if it could just talk about tax all year.

Bridges himself is attempting to shift his image from blustery former crown prosecutor to Prime-Minister-in-waiting.

Bridges and National have quite a bit to do yet to look like PM and Government in waiting. They have plenty of time – eighteen months – but do they have the people who can achieve it?

 

Bridges urges RMA reform now, but National blew it while in Government

Simon Bridges has joined the chorus singing for RMA reform, but Peter Dunne has given a timely reminder that National were off key and blew their chances of reform while in Government.

RNZ: National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced that the government’s Provincial Growth Fund would spend $100 million on supporting Māori landowners to make better use of their land.

Today Mr Bridges told Morning Report the government was just throwing money at the issue and although $100 million sounded like a lot of money it would just “scratch the surface” for a select few.

“It may be a bit harsh but I think it’s a waste of money. You’re throwing it at a select few but you’re not actually going to help Māori.”

Mr Bridges said he would instead help Māori land ownership through law reform.

At yesterday’s announcement Ms Ardern said 80 percent of Māori freehold land was under-utilised and unproductive because the special status of some land made getting loans difficult.

Mr Bridges said the government was making the same mistake as it had with KiwiBuild.

“The one thing that is required is Te Ture Whenua Māori land reform. That’s what’s got to happen because the complex legal intricacies of multiple owners mean it’s always going to be incredibly difficult to do this unless you get that law reform. It’s not a question of the financing.”

“They think if they splash some cash at something there’s good politics in it. But just as with Kiwibuild what you actually have to do is hard law reform around the Resource Management Act,” he said.

Fair point. It is widely known that the Resource Management Act generally is stifling development.

Last month Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand, said RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

The current Government is trying to work around the RMA with new Urban Development Authority (UDA), responsible for delivering on the Government’s KiwiBuild programme.

The Government is also going try to fix the RMA: Two-step RMA reform to start by fixing the previous government’s blunders

The changes are separate from the legislation to set up an Urban Development Authority to fast-track housing and urban development projects.

“The Resource Management Act is underperforming in some critical areas and needs fixing,” David Parker said.

Stage One will reverse some objectionable changes made by the previous government in 2017 that were widely criticised.

For example, the Bill would repeal measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications.

Another change, recommended by Regional Councils, is the ability to upgrade groups of consents in line with updated standards. This will help speed the cleaning up of our rivers, which otherwise can be delayed for decades.

A Bill addressing changes that can be made straight away will be introduced to Parliament early next year.

It will address particular issues with resource consenting, and monitoring and enforcement processes in the RMA.

Stage Two will be a more comprehensive review of the resource management system. It will build on current Government work priorities across urban development, climate change, and freshwater, and wider projects being led by various external groups. Stage Two is currently being scoped and is expected to start in 2019.

Good luck with getting agreement with both the Greens and NZ First on meaningful reform. This could take some time.

National tried to reform the RMA while in Government, but failed. Now National blames MMP, minor parties for housing crisis

A National MP has blamed the former Government’s partners for his party’s failure to stop house prices rising beyond the reach of many Kiwis.

“We did a lot in housing – we did a lot of work around the Resource Management Act (RMA). The problem with MMP is we had a partner that actually wouldn’t allow us to make the changes that we wanted to make.”

National actually did poorly in addressing the growing housing problem. This was a significant reason why they failed to retain power in 2017.

RMA changes passed into law in April 2017 after changes were made to satisfy minor partner the Māori Party, while United Future and ACT voted against.

Bridges has also blamed ACT and United Future for National’s failure to reform the RMA

David Seymour has been scathing – ‘Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise’: David Seymour rips into National’s ‘failure’ in Government

On Thursday, National Party leader Simon Bridges expressed regret at his party’s failure to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA), and said it was getting a new RMA reform bill ready.

“The reality is, we should have [reformed the RMA] in the first term,” Mr Bridges said, blaming later support partners for failing to allow changes to be passed.

“The reality is though, by second and third terms we were reliant on partners whether it was the Māori Party, whether it was Peter Dunne – they weren’t up for changes there.”

However ACT Party leader David Seymour says he’s heard similar promises before – but National has always failed to deliver.

“They promise action in Opposition, win Government, fail to do what they said they would, and then apologise after New Zealanders boot them out.

“The four stages of the National Party political cycle are: Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise.”

Mr Seymour says part of the blame of that cycle is down to National’s governance style, which he claims operates “from the left” despite the party “campaigning from the right”.

“Only ACT has been consistent on fundamental RMA reform. The next Government will need a stronger ACT to get National back on track,” he said.

Peter Dunne has explained why National failed to get the support of United Future and ACT in Peter Dunne looks at the challenges for a possible ‘blue-green’ party and the National Party’s quest to get the numbers to allow it to govern:

There is also the delicious irony of National‘s excitement at the prospect of such a party emerging occurring the same week that it blamed previous support partners, UnitedFuture and Act, for the current housing crisis because they would let it gut the Resource Management Act the way it wanted.

National’s approach then was all or nothing – I well recall their Minister telling me he was only prepared to negotiate about the RMA if I gave him an assurance in advance that we would reach an agreement. On another occasion, that same Minister told me he was unwilling to talk further because he suspected (correctly) that I was also consulting with Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the architect of the RMA, and he did not want that.

I think that minister was Nick Smith. He was probably National’s biggest problem with failing RMA reform and letting the housing problems escalate.

Yet, all the while, right up to the eleventh hour, UnitedFuture and Act were putting up separate proposals to the Government for possible changes to streamline the way the RMA operated, and to remove perceived procedural roadblocks. UnitedFuture even suggested bringing the provision of affordable housing into the objectives of the RMA but that was rejected because we would not agree to National’s planned watering down of the RMA’s principles and objectives.

Ideally with something as important as the RMA both Labour and National should work together to sort out it’s weaknesses while retaining important environmental protections.

But National, with a near majority Government, could not work out decent RMA reform with two one MP parties, and still blames them for their own failure.

The Government is trying to throw money at Maori land development, and it’s fair for National to question that approach. They can’t undo their reform blunder while in Government, but they could put petty politics aside and work with Labour on lasting RMA reform.

 

The bracket creep ‘stealth tax’

Increasing tax through inflation and a creep up the tax brackets has long been a bone of contention, with successive governments largely letting it happen to presumably get more tax without having to announce tax increases, It hasn’t just happened.

This week National pledged to adjust the brackets for inflation every three years – see National announces policy to address tax bracket creep.

How much more tax do we pay? Tax brackets were last adjusted in 2010 – so according to a NZ Herald calculator:

  • if you earn $30,000 bracket creep would have cost you about $86 per year
  • if you earn $50,000 bracket creep would have cost you about $336 per year
  • if you earn $70,000 bracket creep would have cost you about $614 per year
  • if you earn $70,000 bracket creep would have cost you about $799 per year

NZ Herald:  The $1.7bn ‘stealth’ tax grab – work out how much ‘extra’ tax you have been paying?

Wage and salary earners paid out $1.7 billion in “stealth” tax last year after inflation increases pushed workers and their pay packets into higher tax brackets, according to advice to the Tax Working Group.

Officials have warned the public could see the money as having come through a stealth tax and Government may want to change it as a “value judgment”.

They have also said if the Government did change tax rates it would increase transparency and account for inflation but money would need to be found to pay for public services.

The extra tax was scooped up after the former government left tax brackets largely unchanged during its time in office, with the highest tax bracket fixed to kick in at $70,000.

I have seen criticism of this Herald article as a promotion of National’s policy, but bracket creep has been grizzled about for a long time – Michael Cullen was slammed for allowing it and that contributed to Labour losing the 2008 election.

National under John Key allowed it while they ran Government but they did adjust thresholds in 2010 and also legislated to adjust them again in 2018, but those were overturned before they happened by the incoming Labour led government.

Tax, especially increasing tax, is always a contentious issue.