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The great policy bonfire

Written By: - Date published: 10:44 am, March 14th, 2023 - 45 comments
Categories: act, chris hipkins, climate change, Environment, labour, michael wood, national, public transport, science, transport - Tags:

Chris Hipkins continues with his shock and awe campaign and has torched a number of policies that National and Act were using to foment unrest.

Among the torched policies are the following:

  • $1 billion in savings which will be reallocated to support New Zealanders with the cost of living
  • A range of transport programmes deferred so Waka Kotahi can focus on post Cyclone road recovery
  • Speed limit reduction programme significantly narrowed to focus on the most dangerous one per cent of state highways
  • Second part of alcohol reform that relates to issues such as sponsorship, advertising and pricing deferred
  • Not introducing legislation to lower the voting age to 16 for general elections. Instead, we will shift focus to lowering the age for voting in local body elections, which has stronger support in Parliament
  • Auckland transport solutions to reduce emissions and congestion will be rolled out in stages

There is lots to unpick.

Auckland’s light rail project is going to be staged rather than built as one project.  They could save money by opting for a surface option rather than tunnelling and there is also the option of a route along Manukau Road.  But both should be proceeded with.  And with the need to urgently get people out of cars to address greenhouse gas emissions continuation of the project should not be delayed.

The limitation of speed limit reductions is clearly to take away right wing talking points.  There is an environmental and also a safety aspect to the projects but the temptation for the right of making it a campaign rallying issue is now blunted.  Just remember light bulbs and shower heads from 2008 to get a sense of what was possible.  Totally rational and justifiable policies can get blasted in talkback radio land.

Scrapping the clean car upgrade scheme will save $568 million but will also mean that the transitioning of the vehicle fleet in a more sustainable way will be hampered.  Admittedly there may be better options.  For instance I have thought the Government could purchase and hand out ebikes with the funds.  Money in the car upgrade scheme could afford 200,000 ebikes.  This would have a significant and immediate effect on green house gas emissions.

And comments this morning on Radio New Zealand by Chris Hipkins were not helpful.  He did not rule out as part of the repriortisation that the funds would not be used for purposes not related to climate change.  The money is part of the Climate Emergency Response Fund that, according to Treasury, is only to be used for climate spending.  The money is from revenue collected by the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Stopping the introduction of legislation designed to test support for lowering the voting age is disappointing.  I believe that 16 year olds should be able to vote.  They are bright enough and they have more at stake in the future than the rest of us.  The right would hate it of course because having a new voting block focussed on the long term and wanting to address environmental degradation would run counter to their interests.

The changes primarily affect Michael Wood (Transport, Workplace Relations and Auckland Issues) and Kiritapu Allen (Justice and Associate Transport).

In a Blairite third way sense the changes are good politics.  But at this stage of the climate crisis you have to wonder if these decisions are in our best interests.

45 comments on “The great policy bonfire ”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    To paraphrase George Clemenceau (French president during WW1):

    What is my domestic policy? To win reelection! What is my foreign policy? To win reelection! All the time I seek reelection!

    • bwaghorn 1.1

      Anything that keeps act out of government is OK with me, the greens are supposedly the eco warriors of government so getting them as big as possible should be any one unhappy with chippies work focus

      • Muttonbird 1.1.1

        Anything that keeps act out of government is OK with me.

        x100. Pulling back a little on bold reform in order to save NZ from certain regression is the prudent thing to do.

        Let's get through the post pandemic and post cyclone era intact and restart reform later.

  2. tsmithfield 2

    It seems to me that a lot of those policies been put into the freezer for later use rather than onto a bonfire. A point which should not be lost on the electorate.

  3. Corey 3

    These changes seem extremely reasonable.

    None of these policies seemed like anything more than expensive window dressing and nice to haves that wouldn't make a much of a difference.

    I actually think it's brilliant and total common sense that they are focusing on changing the voting age only for local elections, noone outside of the most tragic of political tragics cares about local government elections, so changing the voting age for local elections won't cause much of a fuss, if the sixth labour govt changes local elections to 16 years and older and the sky doesn't fall, the seventh labour government will be able to change the voting age to 16 in general elections.

    Golly, how long is that light rail gonna take, Ill be eligible for the pension in 2060 and I feel like I'll be using a gold card by the time it's opened for use.

    The speed limit reductions screamed light bulb and shower heads, labour actually does extremely well with the bogan/car enthusiast vote and getting rid of this is just good politics because the right would use it as proof of the "nanny state"

    With the pensions/benefit rises I bloody hope labour have changed thresholds so people don't lose money from other benefits everytime the main goes up through msd's heartless clawbacks. There's no excuses for not doing it since the deputy pm is minister of MSD and knows full well this is what happens.

    Getting reelected and stopping a national/act govt taking us back to ruthenasia era economic hell is priority number one.

    • Ad 3.1

      New light rail or motorway projects aren't targeted at old people, because they are multigenerational projects.

      From start of City Rail Link construction to completion is 10 years. Plus about 80 years of planning and argument.

      Waikato Expressway was started in mid 1990s and completed in 30 years.

      Whangarei to Marsden Point rail has been in planning for 10 years and will take easily 10 to complete.

      Auckland Airport second runway and integrated terminal has taken 20 years of planning, 2 false starts, and will take a further 15 years.

      Old people need to respect that these are multi-term, multi-generation country-altering projects and just step back for the next generation to complete.

    • Yes, in pruning terms this is crown raising.

      Removing lower limbs to clearly see the structure.

      The structure is enough left leaning vote to stymie the Nat/Act knives.

      Then we do under planting.

  4. Johnny on the Spot 4

    One "tick" he needs to do is sort out the Banks, weak of Labour to say the Commerce Commission "might" do something

  5. Pretty much commonsense politics.

    He has to be seen to be doing something about the cost of living. Without creating more debt and pumping too much money into the economy, and fuelling inflation. And right wing memes.

    As commentators above have said, most are on ice rather than out the window. Anything to stop Luxon? and Seymour getting their hands on govt.

  6. AB 6

    Needing the money for cyclone recovery is convenient cover for axing things that the Tories can make mischief over. As you say – if they could make effective mischief in 2008 over something as inoffensive as energy-efficient light bulbs, then just about anything is possible on this score. That is – until the electorate has moved on to a more balanced sense of individual rights during an environmental crisis. This has to happen much more quickly than is really likely, so the dilemma and the resulting inaction will will continue while the climate deteriorates. That's not to say that the fiscal pressures on the government aren't real though.

  7. Ad 7

    Treasury must be going insane preparing Budget 2023.

    Mickey don't forget we are going to get more and more of these policy firing squads as different Ministries and Departments report their savings up to Ministers, then to Cabinet for the PM to announce. These are now line-by-line reviews straight out of the Bill English playbook.

    The health CAPEX for new builds will be obvious targets, to shift more resource to frontline staff constraints.

    Holding the line on further teacher pay increases is also obvious.

    I'll be impressed if NZBattery detailed business case survives for Transpower.

    But surely the biggest gravy train around is the egregious capital subsidies to local government for their water supply and wastewater work, through the 3 Waters debate. Hipkins has got to call time on those ungrateful fools and pull the cash back.

    In that vein the Hutt Valley RiverLink programme will be defending hard for itself as flood mitigation.

    The public servants who burnt 5 years thinking they had another term to get their rollouts complete and contracts signed are in for a real shock. It's too late.

    • James Simpson 7.1

      "These are now line-by-line reviews straight out of the Bill English playbook"

      Indeed. Which makes this very depressing. I understand the politics behind it. National must be kept out at all costs. But it seems to me that we have a Prime Minister conceding to the right on so much of what we have battled for over the past 5 years.

      Remember Labour currently has an absolute majority and can pass any piece of legislation it damn well pleases. That is unlikely to ever be the case again. But rather than taking advantage of that we see them essentially dancing to National's agenda.

      Is the only point of a Labour government to keep National out?

      • Maurice 7.1.1

        “Remember Labour currently has an absolute majority and can pass any piece of legislation it damn well pleases”

        Still has to 'please' the electorate. 100,000 voters opposed here and a few more 100,000 opposed there soon add up to lost seats and lost party vote. I doubt that Labour see a drift to Green as a plus as that dilutes their party and increases leverage for a future needed coalition/supply partners. Bleeding to National is very counter productive.

        Remember the old Kiwi adage – governments are voted OUT not IN

      • Obtrectator 7.1.2

        Well, the only point of a National government is to keep Labour out ….

  8. Adrian 8

    They may pass any piece of legislation they like James but with only months to go to the possible loss of the election and the Nats Putinacation of legislation that’s not theirs would have it all invaded and buried in weeks.

    Mickey, I think they realise that maybe the car upgrade scheme isn’t as effective as the hopeful assumed, at a full price assistance it’s only about 11,000 cars or 1/2 price around 22,000 to no doubt swap a shitter for a teenager school run conveyance, or the best part of 200,000 e- bikes lying around in garages with flat batteries all winter gathering cobwebs.
    I’m sure there are more effective options, speeding up Govt and Council vehicle fleet electricification and forcing lease and rental companies to only buy electric, all these options feed the 2nd hand market.

    • SPC 8.1

      I’m sure there are more effective options, speeding up Govt and Council vehicle fleet electricification and forcing lease and rental companies to only buy electric, all these options feed the 2nd hand market.

      Yep. Affordability of an upgrade to a less carbon use vehicle in this way works for both government and public.

      And more E bikes (so more one car families, or flatmates with car and ebike), and low cost train/bus options.

      Maybe have the budget announcement about subsidy for e bikes from 1 September (spring use).

  9. ianmac 9

    Each week I travel about an hour on highway 6 where for over a year the speed limit was brought down to 90kph. The curious effect seems to be that the traffic speed seems to be steadier, and very few overtake. Be interesting to see the accident /injury stats after a year or two.

    • Belladonna 9.1

      Not that I'm thoroughly familiar with SH6 (other end of the country to me) – but this article would indicate that deaths and/or injuries in Southland, at least, have little to do with the official maximum speed. [Speeding in this context, is usually driving at well-above the maximum speed limit – not in the 90-100 km/h range that the downward shift would impact]


      Speeding, failing to wear a seatbelt – causing more serious or fatal injuries, driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol and driver inattention were the four main issues police remain concerned about.

      “[It] appears distraction or inattention is causing drivers to fail to stop at intersections particularly on the open road in rural parts of Southland.”

      While police weren’t noticing more people breaking these rules than normal, the “outcomes [death] were more pronounced recently”, Ure said.

  10. Antonina 10

    From the 'let's stay in power at any cost ' school of politics

  11. observer 11

    The message from the voters is pretty clear. If a climate policy is postponed/deleted, it needs to be replaced with stronger ones.


    Hipkins has hinted that is going to happen ("watch this space" were his words at post-Cab presser yesterday). Until we see that, the Greens will and should be pushing him and picking up support themselves.

    Overall, the prospects for a Lab/Green gov't in October are looking brighter than a few months ago.

  12. Incognito 12

    Climate Change doesn’t operate in stages or 3-year election cycles. Anywho, National wants a bonfire of regulations – it doesn’t have any policies to burn – and Labour is stoking up a bonfire of policies. Who needs major parties like these two? It puts a whole new meaning to the following saying:

    When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers

  13. Thinker 13

    The good thing about all the delays on planning light rail is that technology is improving all the time. There are solutions now that weren't there before, like trackless trams that could reduce the cost and time of an above ground layout.

    I could never see the below ground working because if it is intended to run to the North shore one day, how do you get your lower queen St tunnel below the underground heavy rail tunnels, esp when lower queen Street is semi liquid.

    Then, when you get out to the burbs, how do you cope with the cost of digging enough tram stops to make the service viable?

    I always wondered how many weet Bix Twyford had for breakfast after he went for the below ground option like he'd just found the Lost Dutchman mine..

  14. Jenny are we there yet 14

    The great policy bonfire

    Written By: MICKYSAVAGE

    Chris Hipkins continues with his shock and awe campaign and has torched a number of policies that National and Act were using to foment unrest…..

    Fomenting unrest against these policies when in opposition?

    National and Act will be putting a torch to them when in government.

    So let's do it to ourselves first. Yeah that makes sense.

    Policy is not the only thing going on the bonfire.

  15. Darien Fenton 15

    GST has been removed from e bike purchases – just yesterday in Tax Bill.

    • Maurice 15.1

      Note to self: Must get the stock and station agency to record ALL my purchases as …

      E Bike – no GST

      and only list any Invoice as an E Bike purchase!

    • Darien Fenton 15.2

      Sorry not quite right ; Here's the tweet from the Greens : "Thrilled the Govt has just picked up my proposal to exempt bikes/scooters (including electric) from fringe benefit tax. This means employers can offer subsidies for e-bikes/scooters for commuting tax-free. When employers support active and public transport, it makes it easier and more affordable for people to get around in lower-emissions ways, resulting in cleaner air, a stable climate, health benefits, and less traffic. A win for people & the climate! Thanks to the hundreds of ppl and organisations who submitted to select committee!"

  16. Mike the Lefty 16

    For the next election the main choices will be National or National-lite. It will be the two support parties The Greens and ACT that will dictate whether the country moves forward – very slowly – or regresses.

  17. Alan 17

    All he has to do now is reinstate tax deductibility on rental properties and he will win

  18. Ad 18

    Just in case we're wondering how Auckland Council got itself into such a financial hole and proposes to slash budgets so hard:


    This is a 51-49% cost share between central and local government, so Auckland Council are in a world of financial pain on it.

    And also makes more sense to why Treasury made such a wide variation of costs for light rail: if it blows out in 3 short years on a smaller project, the risk of it blowing out on a much longer and larger project is even higher.

    Can't imagine any future government wanting to take on major urban rail jobs for a while after the late-2025 opening of CRL.

  19. adam 19

    nats = bullshit economics gone mad

    act = bullshit economics going totally bat shit

    labour = economics now a bit of them both, act and nats.

    What a great time we live in, have to feel for the greens, getting stabbed in the back over this policy shift. Mind you, the greens should be use to it by now from labour.

    • Clive Macann 19.1

      adam. You have got tunnel vision on GREEN and everything else is bad. That is a sad thing to read considering we should ALL be open-minded enough to not trash so much of that around us.

      • adam 19.1.1

        Clive Macann no idea what your talking about.

        You get that labour is the one doing the trashing right?

        All under the guies of far right liberal economics, oh wait there's no guies – they really are now far right economic carpetbaggers.

        • SPC

          You had noticed that many were in no position to buy motor vehicles given their living cost issues? And the government had some unexpected costs after floods etc?

          Bikes, electric bikes and scooters will be added to the types of transport exempted from fringe benefit tax under changes proposed today.

          Revenue Minister David Parker said the change would allow bicycles, electric bicycles, scooters, electric scooters, and micro-mobility share services to be exempt from fringe benefit tax where they are being used for commuting to and from work.


          • adam

            Oh noes, a crisis, lets blame that so we can move even further to the right economically.

            Yeah a bit sick of that dumb ass argument, got anything better?

  20. Hunter Thompson II 20

    A great policy bonfire? Oh, I get it now, it's the bonfire that is referred to as great, not the policies, so they can be dumped.

    Expect some very fancy footwork soon from the PM over Three Waters. The late John Armstrong had it right; it's all about power.

  21. Jenny are we there yet 21

    Wayne Hope writing at the Daily Blog gives a balanced appraisal, hi-liting the PM's success in crisis management, but writing that climate mitigation is not an add on, but a must have.

    ….Our Prime Minister grasps the short-term imperatives as Christopher Luxon flounders. But, ruthless short-term pragmatism is only a palliative; joined-up thinking is required. Playing off the cost-of-living crisis against the expense of global warming countermeasures is myopic. Already we have seen that climate crisis effects worsen our cost-of-living crisis. This causal linkage will tighten, regardless of who wins the 2023 general election. A low-carbon future is not a nice-to-have.


  22. Jenny are we there yet 22

    Another climate change disaster.

    Mass fish die off in Darling river due to warm water temperatures and flooding deoxygenating the water.

    Let's hope the Australian government doesn't take it's cue from Chris Hipkins. And postpone all climate change mitigation to concentrate on the clean up.

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