For those of us who like to think of ourselves as Christians, Easter is the most important time of the year because it is the annual reassurance of certainty in our lives in the here and hereafter.
Would that it could be the same for those of us who are also politically aware!
Easter 2021 has brought us little, other than more uncertainty, doubt and worry, under a government doing its best (worst?) to resemble a possum caught in the headlights, uncertain which way to jump, or whether to jump at all.
Where I live on Auckland’s North Shore, it’s tempting to point to the inability of local supermarkets to carry sufficient stocks of Easter eggs; there was an unexplained shortage for the first time in living memory. Was it under-stocking or over-buying by customers seeking solace from lockdown?
Messages are one thing we have not been short of from our government this Easter, indeed, so far this year. The problem is, however, that’s all they are – messages – at a time when what we crave is ACTION!
Looking objectively at the situation, in 2017 we acquired a government by accident when the grumpy, utu-driven leader of New Zealand First ignored the verdict of voters who had given a plurality of party votes to National. He installed Labour under its new leader Jacinda Ardern. Originally from Morrinsville, with a degree in Communication Studies, Ardern had worked in the offices of Phil Goff and Helen Clark as a researcher, then later in London as part of UK PM Tony Blair’s team. In 2008 she had been elected president of the International Union of Socialist Youth.
Placed 20th on the Labour List for the 2008 General Election, she became a List MP until 2017 when she won nomination for the safe Labour seat of Mt Albert, vacated by former party leader David Shearer. When the Hon. Annette King resigned after announcing her pending retirement, Ms Ardern became Deputy Leader.
Just seven weeks before the 2017 election, then-leader Andrew Little stood down to be replaced by Ms Ardern who became Prime Minister on the whim of Winston Peters.
There is no argument that Ms Ardern’s communication skills shone in the aftermath of the mosque massacre in Christchurch and through the Covid-19 pandemic, which pushed her professed intentions to deal with the housing crisis, child poverty and inequality into the background.
The 2017-2020 coalition government was hamstrung by the need to secure NZ First’s agreement to many policy proposals, notably a capital gains tax, but that barrier was removed in last year’s election that ousted NZ First completely leaving Labour with a huge majority in its own right.
Covid-19 dominated the run-up to the 2020 election, and Ms Ardern took full advantage with daily TV appearances about lockdowns and financial help to stricken businesses and disenfranchised employees – appearances which ceased immediately after the election. Funny, that!
Since then, messaging has taken priority over action, culminating in the PM’s recent announcement of a date for an announcement of the timing for opening the travel bubble with Australia. Not content with referring policy to advisory groups as a substitute for actions, we have now moved to announcements of announcements!
This sterile action vacuum ought to be grist for the National Party’s policy mill, a mill that must start grinding forthwith and with fine, tangible detail. And they can’t start soon enough, for there are so many policy areas requiring their attention.
Assuming that the standstill over travel bubbles with Australia and the Pacific Islands will have been settled by the time this column appears, there remains the mess over vaccinations, and National’s policy should be to avoid a repeat of the current fiasco in the unhappy and perhaps inevitable likelihood of another pandemic.
National needs to ensure that by the time it regains the reins of government in 2023, united and resolute under the leadership of a well-experienced Judith Collins, they have not wasted their time in opposition, as did Labour between 2008 and 2017. They must be primed to give New Zealand the changes in government policy and style demanded by an environment changed for better or worse by Covid-19.
First priority will be repeal of the Resource Management Act, and its replacement by appropriate laws covering the separate areas of environmental protection and implement sensible town and country planning regulations which will, in turn, release the land needed for new housing developments to overcome the twin scourges of homelessness and over-pricing of residential dwellings.
Simultaneously, we need:
- Reform and reorganisation of our immigration system to ensure we have the workforce needed for the surge in building.
- Establishment of a stand-alone Ministry of Construction and re-introduction of old-style apprenticeship schemes, to ensure high quality standards (do it right, first time).
- Reform of our confused and underperforming education system.
- Much improved co-ordination of our public health services.
Meantime, National must also make it clear that there will be no waste of money on “pie in the sky” pipe dreams about fruitless attempts to control the cyclical climate changes that nature and the sun confront us with, and tell this government’s ill-conceived Climate Change Commission and its employees: “Sorry, but it’s all over. Find something useful to do with yourselves.”
And for those of us in Greater Auckland, a thorough review of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 with a view to unravelling the dysfunctional monstrosity it has become. It is time to transform our largest metro city into the economically better, administratively more efficient system we were promised in the original vision for the “super city”.
So what we now need from National is not more messaging, but firm commitment to well-thought-out, practical new policies, to put New Zealand back on track to the progress and prosperity we want and deserve, to get us out of the present Labour-led rut of “kindness and transparency” which sound nice enough in the messaging but are empty and opaque when it comes to action.
Get cracking, Nats, the clock is ticking!
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