18 Aug Inside the Beehive: NZ Election Insights
Election hoardings have donned fences and roadsides up and down the country this week with less than two months until New Zealanders know the outcome of our 54th General Election.
Here is a breakdown of the week that was, and the important things you should consider in the lead up to October 14.
Two public opinion polls have been released in the last week, both of which have the centre-right coalition of National and ACT taking power. The Taxpayers Union/Curia poll released last Thursday had National (35%) and ACT (11%) take 61 seats – the exact number you need to form a government. The New Zealand Herald/Talbot Mills poll also gave a similar result.
Meanwhile, if you put Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori in a coalition they amass 59 seats, only two shy of forming a government. That goes to show just how close things still are.
However, the most important thing about polls is never to take each one as gospel, and certainly not as absolute. Polls tell a longer story and if we dive a little deeper into some of the trends in the polls over the last four months, some clear patterns begin to emerge:
- Isaac Newton once said: “what goes up, must also come down”, and when Labour had a landslide victory in 2020, it was always going to be hard to defend. Since a lengthy lockdown for Auckland and a change of leadership for the blue team, they have slowly dipped in the polls to sit where they are now, at around 30%. That slow bleed in support over a long period of time shows the mood for something different, and the drip of support in each poll is cause for concern.
- The Green Party are holding steady. Recent climate events in New Zealand, namely Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle, alongside floods in Marlborough and the West Coast, means climate change is at the forefront of many minds. Climate Change Minister and party co-leader James Shaw is clearly having cut through, despite internal party troubles and threats of leadership spills. They have consistently polled around the 10 percent mark for the last two years and will likely sit close to that come election day.
- Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Winston Peters has made a timely return, and in his words, will “take New Zealand back”. The New Zealand First leader is seen as the middleman – someone who can bring some pragmatism and nationalism into government. New Zealand First are polling above that 5% threshold in the last three polls and while he has entered the scene late, we’re not writing the phoenix of New Zealand politics off, and neither should you.
GST off fresh fruit and veg – must be good, right?
The week started off with Labour announcing they would slash 15% off the cost of fruit and vegetables by axing the GST off fresh produce. Unfortunately for Chris Hipkins, it was more of a re-announcement, as National got an early heads up and leaked it two weeks earlier.
On face value, GST off fresh fruit and vegetables sounds like it would be a win for struggling Kiwis doing it tough at the checkout, easing some of the pain during a difficult economic time for many.
But economists had a different view, with many saying the policy does little for those who need it most, and many of the savings would go towards supermarkets rather than consumers. On the other hand, many have criticised what difference this would actually make to supermarket bills, with some saying that it would only make the average Kiwi 57 cents better off every week.
Labour’s dwindling poll results mean they need to come up with bold and popular policies which win over a whole variety of New Zealanders, not just their base, and this was likely their attempt at doing this. Watch this space: this won’t be the end of the cost-of-living boosters from Labour, and it’s likely that other major parties will jump on the cost-of-living relief policy bandwagon.
Out with the old; in with the new
Following more than a decade of calls to reform the Resource Management Act (1991), the current Government have acted, replacing it with the Natural and Built Environment Act, Spatial Planning Act and Climate Adaptation Bill. The outdated Resource Management Act was failing to protect the environment as well as being a lengthy and costly process. The idea of the reform was to streamline the consents process, reduce the amount of time in Environment Court and combat challenges like climate change.
There is broad consensus that the Act needed changing, but it seems Opposition MPs aren’t happy with the replacement. Neither ACT nor National have said what they will repeal or replace – but National’s RMA Reform spokesperson Chris Bishop was adamant it would be gone by Christmas, should National lead the next government.
This provides a serious amount of uncertainty for planners and for developers – in fact it does so for anyone who wants to build. These reforms took six years to develop and to consult to get to a stage where they could be passed and soon enforced. Now there is a substantial amount of risk that a new National/ACT Government will replace it before it has even had a chance to succeed.
More roads on the way
Labour has just recently announced a series of new major roads and highways which they call “nation-building transport projects”. They have outlined 14 new routes, which include mass public transport infrastructure across New Zealand. National recently did the same, and announced a $24 billion transport plan, which included thirteen “roads of national significance”.
Labour has said that they will add an additional tax to petrol to pay for these roads on top of already creeping up prices, while National has not indicated specifically how they will fund the roads.
There are two more weeks of Parliamentary business left before the House will be vacated. All MPs, and candidates vying to become an MP, will blaze the campaign trail hard in the lead up to October 14.
Never count your chickens before they hatch, and never forget that anything can happen in politics. Eight weeks before the 2017 election, then Labour Party Leader Andrew Little stepped aside to set up ‘Jacindamania’, and she ended up being Prime Minister against all odds.
At this stage in the campaign, momentum is everything, and the politicians know this. This is the time when New Zealanders start to survey their options, who and what they like, and why.
Hoardings, radio ads and social media can only do so much, in the end you must walk the talk. That’s going to take solid policy announcements that will change the lives of New Zealanders.
We’ll be watching the campaign very closely, and we’ll be here every Friday to talk about what’s happening and why it matters.