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Local Bodies: NZ Politics, a rocky road ahead.

Written By: - Date published: 6:25 am, March 27th, 2018 - 29 comments
Categories: greens, labour, national, nz first, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

Cross posted from localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz

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After almost a decade under a National government we are now experiencing the inevitable adjustment period as a new government begins to assert itself and shape its work plan.

All those who received preferential treatment from the previous Government will be suffering from withdrawal symptoms. National’s “old boy” networks have been well established throughout business communities and the individuals it placed on various influential boards and committees. It had an open door approach to big business lobbyists and investors with money and it’s willingness to limit or remove regulation was appreciated by them. Even right wing commentators like Matthew Hooton voiced concern at the level of corporate welfare that was naively supported by Key and Joyce. The changing of the guard and dismantling National’s human infrastructure will be a messy business as many will object to losing their past influence and business opportunities. These people have the resources and media clout to make a lot of noise.

The Labour led government has some huge challenges in progressing its agenda and to deal with multiple crises caused by years of underfunding. National had promised to downsize the civil service and attacked many ministries and department with some gusto. Educationconservation and state housing were hit especially hard when massive cuts to funding saw essential institutional knowledge and expertise disappear. It takes a long time to replace human resources and rebuild capacity.

National had also discouraged the “free and frank” advice from civil servants and pushed its own ideological views and projects, despite little evidence to support them. For example, National Standards in Eduction ran roughshod over the new curriculum (that had taken years of collaborative work between the Ministry and the profession to construct) and Charter Schools were a flawed vanity project that had no voter mandate.  New Zealand’s rapid drop in international education rankings has been a clear example of what happens when you refuse to listen to the profession and use bureaucrats with limited educational knowledge to lead change.

This government is being criticised for the 39 reviews, working groups, advisory groups and investigations it is setting up, but I would be very concerned if this didn’t occur. What we have experienced recently is an erosion of democratic process and proper consultation. Donald Trump is displaying what the extreme of this looks like and it isn’t pretty. Getting expert advice and actually implementing recommendations is what responsible governance looks like and it can’t be rushed.

All those civil servants with the knowledge and expertise necessary to turn things around again will have retired or given up in disgust. Those who have survived, or were employed during the last nine years, will have little idea of how things could be done differently. Rebuilding civil service capacity will need to occur before embarking on major projects that will need strong leadership and comprehensive monitoring (we don’t want another Christchurch).

We also lack capacity in our workforce. We don’t have enough skilled workers in the construction industry (51,000 needed) to build the numbers of houses we need in the short term and our largest construction firm is in a fragile state. We also lack the qualified teachers, medical staff and mental health and social workers to fill some caping employment holes.

The government will be under a good deal of pressure from the public to fix things quickly. The 40,000 homeless need houses and much of the country’s crumbling, leaking infrastructure needs urgent attention. National, in opposition, will be gleefully highlighting lack of progress and perceived failures as if they had no part in creating the problem (and hoping voters have short memories).

Another challenge will be how the three parties in government will manage their relationship and maintain their identity. The larger party in any government is inclined to take credit for any successes achieved by one of their smaller partners, but also blame them for any failures.

New Zealand First takes a popular approach to politics, so Shane Jone’s grandstanding against Air New Zealand’s withdrawal from the regions will win support and ruffle feathers at the same time. Shane is likely to be eying up Winston’s job and needs to make his mark.

The Green Party scraped into Parliament with only 1.3 percentage points to spare. Although it has gained some valuable ministerial positions, it too needs to establish points of difference. It will take time to establish the competency of its Ministers, so following through on policies around democratic and transparent governance has been at the forefront. Opening Ministerial diaries, refusing perks and giving questions to the opposition show a determination to adhere to principles.  At the same time the Party may be forced to swallow some inevitable dead rats with the Government’s support of the CPTTP and NZ First’s Party Hopping Bill.

It is interesting to follow where the retiring National Ministers go after stepping down from state service. Most are transitioning fairly quickly to plumb private sector positions where they can use their inside knowledge of government to advance private profit and personal incomes.

John Key will be the chair of the New Zealand ANZ board and will working for one of the Australian owned banks (NZ’s largest). The bank has long treated local customers and our IRD with contempt, and was forced to pay back almost half a billion in tax fraud in 2009.  With the inside knowledge Key will provide, their $1.78 net profit recorded last last year in NZ is likely to increase further.

Jonathan Coleman is credited with leading the running down of our health system to crisis level and will be necessitating an early by-election (a costly process for tax payers) so that he can lead a private health care business that will profit from his inside knowledge. Coleman’s attitude to his role as Health Minister was exemplified by his Radio NZ interview when he hung up rather than defend his performance. His claim that he had no knowledge of Middlemore Hospital’s building issues defies belief.

It is also worth noting (in comparison) where ex Green MPs end up when leaving Parliament. Jeanette Fitzsimons continues to support the Green Party in different voluntary roles while also having a leadership role in Coal Action Network Aotearoa.  Russel Norman heads Green Peace New Zealand and Kevin Hague is Forest and Bird’s CEO. Catherine Delahunty continues to fight for human rights and social justice. All had altruistic motivations to be involved in politics and have proven that with their activities since. This is clearly not the case for many in National.

It will be good to remember when things become difficult and challenges overwhelm, that what we are currently dealing with now came out of nine years under a National Government. Most Ministers in this government genuinely want to make a positive difference for struggling New Zealanders and address our neglected environmental and conservation issues. None of these really moved National’s boats unless a profit could be measured and a business mate supported. The intent of the current government is very different.

It’s going to be a rocky road ahead, but it will be worth hanging on as we travel to a better place.

29 comments on “Local Bodies: NZ Politics, a rocky road ahead.”

  1. Ad 1

    Fine as it goes … except, they wanted the job. They have the job.

    The governments’ policy settings are not revolutionary, there are no economic crises to deal with, they have so much tax money in the bank they are already having a lot of fun, Americas Cup needs building, a billion will be thrown out the window at the regions, people and investment still beg to come here, and their core constraint is not enough people to do the jobs that everyone agrees need doing.

    Very few governments have started under such favourable conditions.

    If Labour-NZF-Greens fuck this one up, they have only themselves to blame.

    There will be fuckups, but it will not be through lack of money, lack of opportunity, or lack of favourable conditions.

    • Anne 1.1

      Jeepers Ad you are one-sided sometimes.

      Very few governments have started under such favourable conditions.

      What?

      They’ve got a massive job ahead of them. Thousands upon thousands living in poverty (using our standard of poverty). 100.000 houses needed now for the homeless and poor. Failing infrastructure which cannot cope with the level of immigration. Rivers and lakes polluted. Run down social and other public amenities – eg. run down Health Service. Education in disarray. Provincial assistance at an all time low. Climate Change measures woeful. The list goes on…

      Favourable conditions indeed.

      • Ad 1.1.1

        Those issues have been there for decades. They are BAU.

        It’s fully on them to make an enduring difference.

        Currently they are not high on coherence, and it never gets better from Term 1 First Quarter.

        They are making it look hard.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Very few governments have started under such favourable conditions.

      That’s an actual lie.

      The last government left such a mess that it’s going to take years to clean it up and then the new government can start on doing thing right.

      And you know that.

      • Ad 1.2.1

        Horseshit compared to first term starts of Muldoon, Lange, Bolger, Clark, or Key.

      • David Mac 1.2.2

        Can you point to any time in our history when an incoming government hasn’t claimed ‘Oh dear they’ve left us a terrible mess to deal with.’

        It’s the excuse pony that gets flogged to death by all politicians regardless of circumstances. It’s a handy ride for at least an entire first term. It’s the go to convienence because it removes all responsibility and slags the opposition at the same time.

        It’s only available to those with their snouts in the trough up to their jowls. If I bought a struggling business and used the same excuse ‘it’s the last owner’s fault’ I’d be in the dole queue inside a month.

        When they said ‘Let’s do this’ I didn’t realise they meant ‘Let’s blame the other guys.’

        • Draco T Bastard 1.2.2.1

          Can you point to any time in our history when an incoming government hasn’t claimed ‘Oh dear they’ve left us a terrible mess to deal with.’

          Well, Bill English did say that the 5th Labour government had left the government in good shape.

          Changed his tune after awhile but that’s just RWNJs for you.

          When they said ‘Let’s do this’ I didn’t realise they meant ‘Let’s blame the other guys.’

          Telling people how it really is is necessary in a democracy. Just because that mess can be sheeted home to the previous government doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done.

          • David Mac 1.2.2.1.1

            Hi Draco, yes I’m fully prepared for years of “Of course nothing is happening after the chronic mess you left us.” 39 reviews are in the process of preparing a plethora of ‘It’s Nationals fault’ excuses right now.

            Almost every response to questions in the house end with a sly ‘it’s your fault’ jibe.

            I think a government dedicated to making a genuine difference would be spending less time presenting Indepth reports on labour pains and handing us some babies.

            My bank manager doesn’t care how many unsaleable CDs I have in my warehouse or how lazy my sales team are. He only cares about me repaying the money I’ve borrowed from him. He only cares about results and if I don’t deliver in a timely manner I’m off to the glue factory.

            I know you agree with me, you’ve proven you do. When the census was copping a slagging you could of easily resorted to a “of course it’s a mess, National have been in charge for 9 years” response.

            You didn’t. You responded with “they are aware of those issues and this is what they’re doing RIGHT NOW to address them’.

            I think our government could do with a bit of Draco attitude.

            • Draco T Bastard 1.2.2.1.1.1

              My bank manager doesn’t care how many unsaleable CDs I have in my warehouse or how lazy my sales team are. He only cares about me repaying the money I’ve borrowed from him.

              Makes you wonder why they demand a business plan from prospective business borrowers then. Perhaps they want to know that the business can actually do it?

              Same applies in this case. Government sets out the present position and their plans for achieving what they promised.

              Because of the nature of government and the fact that not everything is fully reported (As it actually should be) it does mean that the new government will have to spend time to get to grips with it – especially after the previous government fucked things up so badly.

              Also, the complexity and size of government means that simply getting stuck in and doing stuff doesn’t actually work. Need to have a look at the laws and see how they impact the desired action, need to look at availability of resources, and need to have a look at how one part of government interacts with another. Once that’s been done need to plan the course of action.

              People demanding action without looking at the present position and a plan to get to get to the desired position are the type of people that cause even more damage rather than fix things.

              • David Mac

                Yeah ok Draco, I think you’d rustle up a debate to have with me regardless of the circumstances. Which is fine, sycophants bring about zero change.

                I still feel the right time to change accepting “I’m not telling you anything” as a reasonable response to questions regarding a bruised and battered baby is right now.

  2. Michelle 2

    What a load of bull ad there are huge social problems in our country have you been living under a rock. Government services are in a mess and our country is more divided than it ever was. And we have too many nasty b…d living in our country some forget where their ancestors came from and what they came here for and they don’t know our history. Some a very racist, divisive, judgemental, and greedy we don’t need people like this here.

    • Ad 2.1

      This government is like that saying:
      “I see a lot of froth, but no-one’s washing the dishes”.

      The problems are obvious, as are the opportunities. Have been for years.

      The government plans, at best, are uneven.

      At worst they are simply throwing money with no coherence at all.

      • Michelle 2.1.1

        Throwing money like the 25 million flag fiasco and the 11.5 million Saudi sheep deal that never eventuated

        • Ad 2.1.1.1

          $1b at regions with no business case.

          $200m at Am Cup with no business case.

          It’s only March.

      • Dave Kennedy 2.1.2

        Ad, National spent it’s whole 9 years throwing huge dollars at stuff with no real business case or cost benefit analysis ($12 billion on motorways that rarely passed a business case). From tax to education this government is putting in place good process to ensure decision are well thought through. Over the short time they have been in power there has only really been time to properly open the books and see the mess they will have to manage, set up offices, employ staff and begin work on the initial priorities and first budget.

        It looks hard because it is hard, we have never been this bad before in relation to other OECD countries. Worst housing, worst education inequality, highest child poverty, worst mental health statistics and the highest numbers of threatened species.

        Your criticisms imply that you know how things could have been done faster and better. I was talking to Eugenie Sage the other day (one of the most knowledgeable regarding her portfolio) and she told me she hadn’t fully appreciated how long it will take to set things right.

        It is probably like trying to run a race in thick mud while there are people on the sidelines throwing more mud at you (all very messy, hard to move, and difficult to find hard ground to get a firm foothold). The finish line will appear a good distance away for some time.

      • patricia bremner 2.1.3

        Ad, this is mean. You know this Government has hit the ground running.
        Did you get out of bed on the wrong side?

  3. Dorothy Bulling 3

    Add to the comments above, a transport network, road, rail, air transport, where all of these have major shortcomings. Roads closed due to storm damage, where there is no detour, hurt communities in the provinces, air fares from provincial airports, and rail that doesn’t have enough capital to repair, let alone develop. All these failures just to balance a budget. When will people understand that when central and local govts spend money it percolates right through the community?

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      When will people understand that when central and local govts spend money it percolates right through the community?

      When they’re taught that.

      Unfortunately, for the last 40 years or more we’ve all been taught the lie that all wealth flows from the private sector.

      It’s such a massive logical fallacy that everyone should see it. Our wealth is our resources (which are being exported as fast as the private sector can do so for their own profit) and our people who are being neglected by that same private sector because training people costs and thus cuts down on profits.

      The profit motive: Destroying societies since forever.

      • JO 3.1.1

        A terrific interview this morning touched on all this when Tom Peters spoke to Kathryn Ryan about that giant lie and its many toxic ramifications.

        From the link:
        ‘Tom Peters has variously been described as an influential business thinker, leadership guru and ‘The Red Bull of Management’. He’s the author of more than 30 management books, a former partner with international consultancy McKinsey, his best selling 1982 co-authored title In Search of Excellence is regarded by many as a seminal text. Tom Peters is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Auckland Business School. His latest book is The Excellence Dividend – Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last.’

        http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018637991/tom-peters-thriving-in-the-tech-tide

  4. savenz 4

    Before rushing to build the houses, actually trains locals to do it, so that we don’t have to keep importing people who need the houses… I know Natz says overseas folks do everything better but it didn’t used to be that way.

    Tax employers a lot more for bringing in these so called essential construction workers, many of whom are bogus and taking up houses, driving cars and using public services. If they are that essential they should pay for them and the money used to fund the essential public services they are using while they are here.

    Personally feel NZ is going to experience serious problems very quickly in places like Auckland from the previous bad decisions. Mould at Middlemore is just the start. They also have so many more people in Auckland to service health wise, pollution wise and transport wise as well as housing.

    Even tourism, these days, pretty much just gives money to multinationals while locals supply extra transport capacity, extra wastewater, extra pollution controls (when it rains, diesel and sewerage run off floods the oceans).

    In Venice they ask a tax, it’s about time a much greater tourism tax was imposed at the border. Apparently they had one, but it’s been discontinued?

    The council cries poor while funding 98 million for a boat race… just a sample of where priorities lie and the lack of insight of where the problems are.

    Even right wingers like Hooton probably think Key went too far, our pollution levels of land and water, congestion levels, fairness and so forth. We didn’t used to have this and apart from the paper gains we got if you owned a house if you were lucky enough to have one before the massive price hikes, everything else seems to have been run down…. and it takes hours to get from one side to the other in Auckland and a tax is not going to stop that because in many cases there is no alternative transport options and we are not likely to get any, anytime soon, because like the houses – the growth rate was allowed to balloon under the previous government with no checks or balances and budgeting for the additional services that would be needed.

  5. cleangreen 5

    Very well put TS 1000% to you fro this.

    We in Gisborne are really seeing this first hand as the newspaper owner is already inside the local Government and the local Government are heavily involved with the crooked privatised infrastructure assets that were formerly our community owned Electricity and airport and Port operations are now just money producing trusts and Port interests for the rich to own and control as they are seated on all boards and local Governments now.
    So this deliberate placing of specific people inside these former public owned assets are now owned ‘effectively by national party people so Labour do need to clear these ‘vested interests’ out of control and influence of our futures now as bad is it is it seves to show us wat we will see when TPP comes to town next.

    “All those who received preferential treatment from the previous Government will be suffering from withdrawal symptoms. National’s “old boy” networks have been well established throughout business communities and the individuals it placed on various influential boards and committees.”

    Appendix;

    Here below is the story of this corrupt state occurring in Gisborne explained by one of our rail groups recently shows where the problems really are now, so Shane and Winston need to fix the rotting carcass of national and rid the putrid smell from our regions.

    http://gisborneherald.co.nz/opinion/3251978-135/shafted-by-eastland-group-lobbyists

    February 27, 2018
    gisborneherald.co.nz
    COLUMN – Shafted by Eastland Group lobbyists
    by Gillian Ward Published: February 27, 2018 2:14PM
    Gillian Ward is Chairwoman of the Gisborne Rail Action Group
    Re: Mixed Signals — Minister yet to receive strong case for Wairoa to Gisborne rail line, February 24 story.
    The Minister actually has received a strong business case for reinstating the rail line between Wairoa and Gisborne. In response to his request in November, a proposal was delivered to him two weeks ago. So, it is very disappointing that in the national launch of the Provincial Growth Fund on Friday neither restoration, nor a feasibility study, was announced for the Wairoa-Gisborne railway line.
    Rather than being let down because of the lack of a “strong case”, the Gisborne residents who have marched and signed a petition requesting that the government restore the rail line, and businesses who need rail to move their fresh produce to Napier’s export container port, have been shafted by a small handful of Gisborne business leaders.
    These few people who should be representing the best interests of the region are instead conflicted. They are focused solely on the expansion plans of Eastland Port, and planning for large profits, and they have the ear of the politicians.
    Rail freight of containers of fresh chilled produce destined for export from Napier’s container port will provide flexibility, be competitive, and offer security of freight transport with an additional land transport option for our isolated region. Huge container ships and multiple container cranes handle enormous stacks of containers at Napier Port’s deep-water port.
    Eastland Port on the other hand has a totally different situation, being located in a silty river mouth, which is carefully dredged to attain the depth required for log ships, while minimising disturbance of sensitive marine habitats. There is much less capacity to handle containers.
    Hon Shane Jones is aware of this conflict of interest, and although he has stated that, “There’s political will to back rail”, he would prefer that the community sort out our priorities, rather than the government imposing decisions.
    Mayor Foon has stated that Gisborne needs all the transport modes — roads, rail, coastal shipping and air transport. The residents and business community have indicated, with a march of 2000 people led by Mayor Foon along Grey Street to the Railway Station in April 2012, a petition of 10,480 signatures presented by Mayor Foon to Hon Anne Tolley at Parliament in May 2012, fundraising $11,000 for BERL Economics to review KiwiRail’s May 2012 analysis of the economics of the railway line, public meetings, letters to the Gisborne Herald editor, articles in The Gisborne Herald, presentations to the District Council, as well as business case analyses of the commercial viability of the line, that reopening the railway line would be well-supported by the community and businesses.
    It is a small city characteristic that influential leaders can be conflicted, wearing more than one “hat”, and the aspirations of the Gisborne community to restore our other land transport option have been well and truly undermined by a few people determined to scuttle these aspirations.
    Gisborne had to campaign hard to be included in the Government’s national rail-building effort in the late 1920s. It was a hard-won battle and a challenging line to complete, but the rail line was opened in 1942 amid jubilation from the Gisborne community.
    Now that we have the line, it is a gift from an earlier generation. The cost to repair the storm damage is minimal compared to the value of the asset. Imagine the cost to build a railway line through the Wharerata hills now!
    Please Minister Jones, hear the voice of the Gisborne community and filter out the noise from the Eastland Group lobbyists!

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    From 51000 link:

    NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell acknowledged that getting regulatory cost down in housing was a “struggle” for the last Government and “this new Government has got a challenge with it”.

    This is assuming that regulatory cost is the problem. It usually isn’t. What the problem is is that NZ managers are a bunch of amateurs that don’t actually know how to run a business.

    We also lack the qualified teachers, medical staff and mental health and social workers to fill some caping employment holes.

    Which requires a) a better education system and b) businesses and government agencies to be willing to train on the job. This has been true for years as the government lets in ‘skilled’ personnel rather than encouraging local business to train up local people.

    National, in opposition, will be gleefully highlighting lack of progress and perceived failures as if they had no part in creating the problem (and hoping voters have short memories).

    And I do hope that whenever National makes such noises the government points out that it was National that caused the problem – with the figures to back it up.

    • ropata 6.1

      Claims of red tape are the typical bullshit of the greedy class, land bankers, speculators and landlords who want less regulation. The incentives are all wrong, we urgently need comprehensive capital gains taxes and land value taxes to punish those sitting on prime sites and not developing them. Also an inquiry into insider trading as there have been a fuckload of millionaires created overnight from land banking on Auckland city fringes when the zoning changed.

      The property market under National was turned into an orgy of greed and gambling and money laundering. The new government needs to enforce the law, deport some of the rich foreigners, and jail others who have profited from corrupting our housing market.

  7. I am reminded of the lyrics in the Beatles’ song “Blackbird”

    “Take these broken wings and learn to fly”

    This Government has to pick up a broken systems and try to fly with them.

    Meanwhile National’s army of grey head men in suits are already in attack mode (as Julie Anne Genter discovered). Their lucrative retirement positions on various boards are under threat and they won’t give them up lightly.

  8. timeforacupoftea 8

    The Nurses require $80 million, pittance compared to filling in a harbour to have wee boat race.

  9. Lucy 9

    Love the fact that you think John Key will be an asset with lots of insider information about NZ law for ANZ. The guy only sells one thing John Key – he knows when to fold and find another gig. His management of the Obama visit proves that he has a tin ear and was used by National team to be the smile and wave guy not the ideas guy.

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