Greens not standing candidate in Ohariu

There have been reports and claims for months that the Greens would do a deal with Labour in the Ohariu electorate to improve Labour’s chances of winning the electorate.

A few days ago Labour confirmed that Greg O’Connor would stand for them – something also predicted months ago. Now the Greens say they won’t stand a candidate in Ohariu to try to increase the chances of changing the government, but they say they will still campaign for their party vote in Ohariu without a candidate.

One News from 29 November 2016

Good morning, @avancenz joins us soon with exclusive details of backroom deals between Labour and the Greens ahead of next year’s election

‘In Nelson the Greens feel like they can pick up a lot of votes’ @avancenz on backroom deals between Labour and Greens.

Green’s won’t stand a candidate in Ohariu, paving the way for a Labour candidate to battle with United Future’s Peter Dunne.

Green’s co-leader Metiria Turei will run in Te Tai Tonga, Labour candidate Rino Tirikatene told by party not to run.

See also: Exclusive: The backroom deals that Labour and the Greens are working on ahead of 2017 election

This has now been confirmed as an election strategy by the Greens.

Stuff: Greens step aside in Ohariu to help Labour’s O’Connor – despite misgivings

The Greens have dropped any plans to run a candidate in the Ohariu seat in a move aimed at giving Labour’s Greg O’Connor a better chance of winning the marginal seat – despite Green misgivings about his past views.

Green co-leader James Shaw said the decision was taken in the interests of changing the Government, which was the party’s  priority.

“We have been very clear with our supporters and the public about that since we signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Labour last year,” he said.

“Not standing in Ohariu increases the chances that we will be in a position to change the Government in September – it’s as simple as that.’

But in a statement released to Stuff confirming the decision Shaw made no comment about O’Connor himself.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has said in the past she does not agree with many of his stances.

Principles can become flexible when politicians and parties seek power.

The call was made “after many discussions” in the party, which would still campaign strongly for the party vote in Ohariu.

Greens have operated on the basis of using electorate candidates to campaign for their party vote. Without a candidate they will still be able to advertise for their party and put up party billboards, but they won’t have a candidate at campaign meetings or feature in candidate based media coverage.

The 2014 Green candidate Tane Woodley won 2764 votes compared to 13,569 for Dunne and 12,859 for Labour’s Virginia Andersen. National’s Brett Hudson won 6120 votes, with many National supporters swinging in behind Dunne.

National won 50.4 per cent of the party vote in Ohariu against 23.5 per cent for Labour, 15.07 per cent for the Greens and just 0.73 per cent for Dunne’s United Future.

It will be interesting to see how National deals with Ohariu now.

O’Connor for Labour for Ohariu

 

Greg O’Connor has been confirmed as Labour candidate for Ohariu.

He could start by getting a better photo.

He will stand against Peter Dunne, who won the seat by a meagre 800 votes in 2014 from ‘the very impressive Ginny Andersen’ who was regarded as ‘a rising star’ by ex party secretary Mike Smith. Andersen has switched to Hutt South, hoping to replace Trevor Mallard who won by a close margin last election.

The outcome may depend a lot on what National and Greens do, but will also be an interesting contest between O’Connor and Dunne, who may appeal to similar demographics.

Minor tweak to medicinal cannabis approvals

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has announced a minor change to procedure for approval of medicinal cannabis, removing the need for the minister to do final approval. In practice this will make virtually no difference apart from removing a step in the procedure as Dunne had approved all applications that had come through the Ministry of Health.

Dunne has also criticised doctors for their reluctance to seek medicinal products for patients. He said that some medical professionals were too afraid of being labelled “Doctor Dope”

Ministry of Health to Decide on Cannabis-based Products

Following his decision on 1 December last year to remove the requirement for Ministry of Health approval to prescribe Sativex for Multiple Sclerosis, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has today delegated decision-making for the prescribing of all cannabis-based products to the Ministry of Health.

“Last week I wrote to the Director-General of Health, advising him that as of 8 February 2017, applications from specialists to the Ministry to prescribe non-pharmaceutical cannabis-based products will no longer need Ministerial approval. Approval for pharmaceutical grade cannabis products was similarly delegated some years ago” says Mr Dunne.

“As I stated in my delegation letter to the Director-General, when applications first began to be received it was my view that the final decision appropriately lay at Ministerial level, rather than exposing officials to risk, given the complicated and contentious nature of the issue – that is to say the buck stopped with me”.

“I have approved every application that has come before me with a positive recommendation – within a matter of minutes once the application came across my desk.

“Since the first application was approved, guidelines have been developed, consulted on and simplified to allow specialists who are interested in accessing such products for their patients a clear, straight-forward and unobstructed pathway to acquiring the appropriate products.

“I am satisfied that with the development of these guidelines, and with a number of successful applications having been subsequently completed, any risk associated with the early processes has largely abated and I have confidence in the Ministry of Health to handle the process in its entirety from now on.

“It is my intention to write to the New Zealand Medical Association and the Pharmacy Society of New Zealand outlining my decision and my ongoing expectation that medical professionals consider the prescribing of cannabis-based products with an open mind.

“I also intend to include a list of internationally available cannabis-based products that are either pharmaceutical grade or Good Manufacturing Practice certified, to provide additional clarity on the issue”, Mr Dunne said.

For further information go to http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/regulation-health-and-disability-system/medicines-control/prescribing-cannabis-based-products

Dunne has said more to media. NZ Herald: NZ doctors too prejudiced about medical cannabis, Government says

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has accused New Zealand doctors of being too conservative about prescribing medical cannabis, saying some of them are rejecting their patients’ applications because of their “downright prejudice” about the drug.

Some medical professionals were too afraid of being labelled “Doctor Dope” and needed to be more open-minded about medical cannabis, Dunne said.

He plans to write to organisations representing doctors and pharmacies to urge their members to take a more evidence-based approach.

“What I want to see from them is an open approach, not one where I think to date has been based a little on their wariness and in some cases downright prejudices,” he said this afternoon.

“And I want to see an end put to those things.”

Small steps, but at least they are in the right direction.

O’Connor confirms Ohariu bid

This has been well signalled but now Greg O’Connor has confirmed he is seeking the nomination to stand for Labour in Ohariu.

NZ Herald: Former police association boss Greg O’Connor seeks Labour Party nomination

The former head of the police association is seeking the Labour Party nomination for Ohariu, a seat held by Peter Dunne for more than 30 years.

Greg O’Connor today confirmed he wanted to be the Labour candidate for the Wellington electorate in this year’s general election.

He said as a long-time resident and active community member standing as a political representative was a natural fit.

“I have a strong sense of social responsibility, and the ideals and ethos of the Labour Party, which demand a fair go and opportunities for all New Zealanders, made the decision to join them a natural one.”

O’Connor has said that he was approached by Labour to stand, and Andrew Little has indicated he supports O’Connor’s bid.

Something being arranged in Ohariu was hinted at when Labour’s candidate in 2014 switched to the Hutt South electorate where she was selected.

Greens have tried to help Labour beat Dunne (who has been helped by National) in past elections but if O’Connor is selected that could get interesting. Metiria Turei is not a fan and may have trouble giving him too much help.

Labour and Greens have also announced they won’t make electorate arrangements to help each other this year. Greens use electorate campaigns to get party votes so will presumably stand a candidate in Ohariu again. It will be interesting to see what sort of candidate that is.

Going by reactions to O’Connor at The Standard he may not be widely supported within Labour either.

Dunne at Ratana

One of the unknowns so far this election year is what Prime Minister Bill English’s relationship will be like with Peter Dunne, and what National will do in the Ohariu electorate – support Dunne’s re-election bid, or try to take the electorate for themselves.

A shot from Ratana this year (2017) may give an indication…

dunneenglishratana

…or it may simply reflect a seating arrangement that was out of the politician’s hands.

Actually Dunne was also snapped last year (2016) at Ratana with English – and with Andrew Little:

dunneratana2016

Dunne’s relationship with Labour is also of interest.

So far this year Little has attacked the Maori Party, the Mana Party and NZ First (as well as National of course) – will he also have a crack at Dunne at some stage?

Or will he just leave that to Labour’s approach to Ohariu?

Dunne to stand again

Peter Dunne has confirmed his intention to stand in Ohariu again this year.

NZ Herald: Peter Dunne will contest 2017 election

Dunne today confirmed his intention to stand again in the Ohariu electorate in Wellington in this year’s general election.

“It is certainly my intention to stand again based on the many strong messages of encouragement and support I have been receiving from my constituents over recent months,” he told the Herald.

It will be interesting to see how this is dealt with by other parties:

  • Will National contest the seat or effectively support Dunne’s re-election? This term (since National lost the Northland by-election) Dunne’s support has maintained a government majority along with ACT as an alternative to the Maori Party.
  • Will Greens stand aside in a deal to help Labour try to win the seat?
  • Who will stand for Labour?

Labour’s Ohariu candidate at the 2014 election, Virginia Andersen, lost to Dunne by 710 votes and has since been confirmed as the party’s Hutt South candidate for 2017.

After coming close in 2014 this was a curious shift for Anderson to what may be a more winnable seat, but she is by no means assured of success against Chris Bishop.

Former Police Association president Greg O’Connor is rumoured to be interested in becoming Labour’s Ohariu candidate. Nominations close on February 3.

O’Connor did not respond to a request for comment today.

O’Connor has a public profile so would have to stand a reasonable chance against Dunne, especially if Greens don’t stand a candidate.

However they are both older white dudes – O’Connor is 58, Dunne is 62 – so lack in contrast in some respects.

O’Connor stood down as head of the Police Association last year and a year ago said he had ‘no plan’ for politics: Outgoing Police Association president Greg O’Connor has ‘no plan’ for politics:

Perfect grooming, one might speculate, for a 57-year-old former cop to embark upon a political career – given all that time spent making contacts and grabbing headlines in the shadow of the Beehive.

“It is a reasonably political job that I’m in, but I can give an absolute guarantee that there is no plan.”

O’Connor bats away the very thought of it: “A lot of people don’t believe me – they think there’s a masterplan. But there’s not.”

So if politics isn’t a goer, might his next move be to lend his voice to another section of society?

“Never say never. There is a workforce out there that work with disabled people who work for very little remuneration [out of] absolute devotion. That is just humbling. That is a group of people that are very special.”

But that was a year ago. O’Connor stepped down from the Police Association in October.

Whether O’Connor stands for Labour or not the outcome in Ohariu is likely to depend a lot on what other parties do. The Labour party vote was poor there in 2014, below their low total vote.

ohariu2014

National got better than their country-wide party vote and Labour got less than their’s, but Greens were well above theirs. Many of those who party voted Green tactically voted for the Labour candidate.

If Greens don’t stand a candidate at all they risk  losing party vote. Same for National.

Dunne is the longest serving MP in Parliament. He first became a Labour MP in 1984 so this is his 33rd year as an MP, his eleventh term. He helped set up the United New Zealand Party in 1995 and has retained his seat for what became United Future since then, although the party is now very poorly supported.

He has been a Minister since 2005, first for a Labour led government and since 2008 with a National government.

Dunne’s last term was difficult for him. After some controversy when he refused to hand over emails with a journalist in relation to allegations he had leaked a GCSB report he stood down as a Minister, but was later reinstated. His party was de-registered until it could prove it had sufficient members. This will have impacted on his reduced majority in the election.

This term has been fairly uneventful for Dunne. He is strongly criticised by pro-cannabis activists but has no chance of changing drug laws under a National government. He has been criticised for not allowing easier access to medicinal cannabinoids but he has encouraged applications for use under existing laws and procedures.

He is also strongly criticised by left wingers who don’t like his electorate arrangements with National because it helps keep Labour out of government (and because he deserted Labour).

He is also not liked by some on the right who want one party rule.

As the incumbent MP who does a lot of work in his electorate another Dunne win can’t be ruled out, but it is also far from assured.  Much may depend on what other parties do as much as who ends up standing for Labour.

Dunne on cannabis products

Peter Dunne has given a summary of the slow progress on medicinal cannabis, saying that there has been a lack of proven products available but hopes that will change next year as New Zealand benefits from what is happening in Australia.

Stuff’s Prime Minister Bill English needs a ‘clear stamp’ on his leadership.

With his health hat on Dunne says not a lot of medicinal cannabis products have come onto the market this year, which makes progress more difficult.

“I think the reality is between the wishful thinking and the actuality there is quite a gap. The fundamental problem remains a lack of reputable product.”

“The problem with trials in New Zealand is the perception from the pharmaceutical companies that the market isn’t big enough.”

New Zealand would be a good trial market for new products but the lack of Government will to lead on this probably rules us out as much as market size.

Dunne is working closely with the Australian Health Minister and hopes they’ll approve a couple of new products next year that Kiwis can piggy-back off.

That sounds like slow progress at best.

So far it’s been done on a case-by-case basis, which will continue, and while the “numbers are not large, everyone that has come through has been approved,” he said.

You still have to find a medical specialist who will make your case to the Ministry or Health.

While recreational cannabis remains a “political no-no”, he says, the “willingness to keep looking at medicinal cannabis” won’t stop under English.

“Political no-no” means that National won’t consider going there, and Dunne can’t do anything about that except cop the flak. A convenient cop out for National.

I haven’t seen Peter Dunne state whether he will stand again or not but he implies that he will contest Ohariu again next year:

…he’s well aware that he’s got to win his Ohariu seat to survive next year’s election.

If he survives, and if National stays in government, and if he is appointed Associate Minister of Health (with responsibility for diverting attention from National’s intransigence on cannabis law reform, then progress on medicinal cannabis is likely to remain slow.

If Labour lead the next Government then Dunne is unlikely to be in the mix, so it will be up to Labour and Greens and possibly NZ First to push things along, but cannabis is unlikely to be a priority.

Time for a meaningful discussion about Super?

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation in New Zealand is long overdue, but the National Party is adamant that kicking the Super can down the road is the best way of avoiding it.

Stuff: David v Jacinda: Super changes a poison pill that must be swallowed

David Seymour:

“A political hot potato that no party wants to handle.” That’s how The Nation’s Lisa Owen last week described rising superannuation costs, and she’s almost right. Since Andrew Little last year abandoned Labour’s policy of raising the age of eligibility, ACT is the one party campaigning on sustainable super.

Now perhaps that may be sort of correct. In past terms of the current Government Peter Dunne campaigned for changes to Super, promoting ‘flex-super’ which is still a United Future policy.

Politicians across the spectrum, including the Prime Minister, treat changes to super like a poison pill for how it polls with older voters. But if this Government doesn’t make changes, a future one will. By denying this, politicians deny younger Kiwis the chance to even discuss the issue. They are showing contempt for younger voters.

It is often framed as an ‘appeasing older voters’ versus addressing issues that younger peeople will face in the future.

No-one wants to punish today’s retirees or near-retirees. The question is how super should work in the decades ahead. In the long term, policy change appears inevitable – we’re healthier, working and living longer, resulting in a rapidly aging population. This trend won’t stop – half of babies born today are expected to live until the age of 100, and in my lifetime we’ll go from five taxpayers per superannuitant to two taxpayers per superannuitant.

The effects of this huge demographic shift can’t be overstated, with its effect on super alone costing an extra billion dollars each year. It’s reasonable to assume taxpayers won’t tolerate this forever, and fair enough.

When asked about the problem, politicians gloss over the real scale of the cost and instead pivot onto smaller issues. A typical tactic is to focus on immigrants, who can receive the pension after just 10 years of residency. This period should be extended, but that would be just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of super for the existing ageing population.

Another idea mentioned is flexi-super – letting some people take it earlier at a lower rate, or later at a higher rate. It’s a good idea, but ultimately doesn’t affect the policy’s cost. It needs to come with more substantial reform.

Some suggest means-testing – taking super away from retirees with high earnings. But it’s surely both unwise and unfair to punish those who choose to continue working and pay taxes.

So that brings us back to raising the age.

That’s something that National won’t consider, and I presume NZ First won’t either.

Jacinda Ardern:

I agree with you David, on most counts.

Where I disagree is with David’s interpretation of other parties position on this question – namely ours. Labour knows we have a problem and we knew it when Michael Cullen set up the Super fund. We knew it when we campaigned to raise the age of superannuation, not just one election, but two. That may have been rejected by voters, but we can’t give up on the conversation on how to guarantee universal super for everyone. That has to be our bottom line.

So yes, you’re right. The National Government has rejected taking action in this area, and they are wrong.

But Seymour points out:

The Prime Minister promised in 2008 not to make changes under his leadership.

Not only that, Key and Bill English refuse to consider planning for the future affordability of Super.

If they get back in for another term that’s another three years of inaction, unless ACT and/or Dunne hold the deciding votes and force National to do something.

If NZ First hold the balance of power then no change will be locked in, whether Labour or National lead the next government.

Ardern:

Perhaps the courage we are now asking for needs to come from us, but also from voters – we need them to start banging down a few doors too.

It doesn’t seem to be an issue that voters will decide elections on.

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation is needed but is unlikely to happen in this decade.

Dunne: “the decidedly inferior Mr Little”

In his weekly blog post Peter Dunne has made it clear that he doesn’t rate Andrew Little highly.

Dunne is obviously not angling for a memorandum or any sort of understanding with Labour. He may not care, it’s unknown whether he will stand again next year. He may also not care for an alliance involving Greens and NZ First along with Labour.

Dunne’s post takes a historic look at why he thinks Little’s spurning of the centre is likely to be unsuccessful, interspersed with some fairly pointed remarks about Little.

While the Leader of the Opposition is right to talk of “coalitions of interests” he is wrong to assume he alone can put them together without the glue of the centre ground. Fraser, Holyoake, and more latterly Clark and Key fully understood that point.

Mr Little, who is nowhere near their league, appears not to.

Not very complimentary.

So, the Leader of the Opposition thinks elections should not be about who wins the centre ground. He is right, up to a point, especially about bringing together “coalitions of interests” in his bid to win office.

Where he is wrong, however, is that no New Zealand Government – single or multi party, pre or post MMP – has ever been elected without winning over the centre ground of politics. Moreover, for at least one hundred years, New Zealand has had moderately conservative governments, led since the 1930s by either National or Labour.

But Dunne also opines that Little is nowhere near the quality or popularity of Labour’s successful leaders, like Norm Kirk, David Lange and Helen Clark.

It is no coincidence that along the way, Kirk, Lange and Clark had all moderated their message to win the public confidence, and that Labour only won office when they did so.

Yet the far less impressive Mr Little apparently believes he can eschew those lessons.

And again:

But again, the decidedly inferior Mr Little knows better.  

Dunne is yet another ex-Labourite who is not on good terms with the current Labour leadership.

 

 

Thinking more broadly on housing

There has been a lot of attempted political point scoring on housing , often on quite narrow issues that try to ignore the complexities of the situation.

The melee has looked messy, especially for National and Labour.

The Government (National) look like they are in reactive, almost panic mode announcing what appears to be policy on the fly, and they have also looked disjointed amongst themselves.

Labour’s double barrelled attack is to claim that we are now in crisis, but announcing policy that won’t even be considered in Government for over a year at least, and that is dependent on them forming the next government and going by current support indicators, will need agreement by both Greens and NZ First.

Peter Dunne has proposed a national conference on housing involving all affected parties – not political parties, local bodies in particular are a vital part of any possible solutions.

Lawrence Yule, President of Local Government New Zealand, via Stuff, says that Thinking more broadly on housing the only way to make a difference and agrees with Dunne:

LGNZ has long advocated for a ‘joined up’ approach to addressing housing provision and affordability. UnitedFuture leader Hon Peter Dunne recently called for a national conference with all affected parties. We agree. Such an approach could be a springboard for developing a shared national strategy to address housing supply.

We advocate that a shared plan should address the many complex factors driving the housing shortage – and that needs to be agreed between central and local government and key players in the construction industry as a matter of urgency.

He says “it is clear we need to think more broadly to make a difference” and suggests six things in particular that need to be focussed on:

  1. Funding and financing of infrastructure;
  2. Addressing land-banking;
  3. Allowing for Urban Development Authorities controlled by local government to speed up development;
  4. Putting in place tax regimes that de-incentivise speculation in residential property;
  5. Addressing a skills shortage in the construction industry; and finally
  6. Addressing an uncompetitive market for building supplies.

Funding

One of the most important priorities for local government is to address the question of why residential-zoned, serviced land is not being released to market at the rate sufficient to meet market demand.

There are two main reasons for this:

  • first the challenge of financing and so providing the essential trunk infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewerage, to ensure that land is ‘ready to go’;
  • and second the practice of so-called ‘land banking’.

Mayors whose districts are experiencing high growth have said publicly they are already doing what the proposed National Policy Statement will require them to do and it is not just a land supply problem.

LGNZ’s funding review highlighted the need for funding options that will incentivise councils and communities to invest in infrastructure to enable more growth.

One way of achieving this would be to allow councils to retain a share of any value uplift arising from a change in economic activity, including a change of zoning from rural to residential – the value uplift potentially being used to fund new infrastructure.

Currently, that gain goes directly to landholders (hence the incentive to landbank).

Land banking

Land banking occurs where developers hold onto land, releasing it only gradually in response to increases in land prices. The problem is acute in some fast-growing areas and councils currently lack the tools to incentivise land-bankers to release land for housing development.

We need tools that act as incentives to release the land. We should look to the overseas jurisdictions that have the same issues as New Zealand to consider what other powers might be needed.

The most obvious is to change the law to allow a targeted rate to be applied to land in these circumstances, currently not allowed by law. The approach taken by this Government is to require additional supply of serviced land with the intention of creating a competitive land and development market.

Development and zoning of ‘brownfield’ commercial sites, well suited to infill housing, is also often hampered by land being in small titles, with multiple owners. The United Kingdom is addressing this problem through Urban Development Authorities.

Both National and Labour have proposed something similar to the Urban Development Authorities. Now would be a good time to have one.

UDAs have the power to compulsorily purchase land, particularly useful when an area is under many small titles (often found in commercial or inner city areas) in order to offer developers a consolidated area where economies of scale can be achieved.

We will want to work with the Government on what the powers and governance arrangements for UDAs in New Zealand could be. 

Future tense is not a good sign, the Government should have already been working with local government on this.

While National insists there is no crisis and Labour insists there is and they keep hitting each other with political handbags the housing market burns.

If there was ever a time that our Members of parliament should be working together – in this case with local governments – it is now.

Rapidly escalating prices are a major problem, and if the bubble bursts and prices collapse it will get worse.

An urgent realistic and cooperative approach is needed.