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What happened to National’s policy machine?

Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, November 16th, 2022 - 70 comments
Categories: Christopher Luxon, david parker, local government, national, same old national - Tags:

Remember when a few leaders ago then National Leader Simon Bridges promised that National would be a 56 MP policy machine?

Judging by its response to the Government’s release of two bills at the centre of RMA reform the machine has major problems.

From Russell Palmer at RNZ:

Party leader Christopher Luxon this afternoon said they were still digesting Labour’s more than 800-page proposal, but had already identified three big problems.

“The first is around … adding another layer of bureaucracy; the second piece is really around rising levels of uncertainty and complexity that I think will lead to more interpretation from bureaucrats and also courts; the final thing is it’s taking 10 years to get implemented and that’s just way too long,” he said.

“There’s elements that will be positive I’m sure and that we’ll agree with and like – I think some of the things I initially saw around fast-tracking, and embedding that’s a good thing – but at this point we want to digest it further.”

“It’s gonna cause huge amounts of debate and discussion for the next three years and nothing fundamentally will change. We don’t have time for that – we’re in a turnaround mode for this country and we need to get things done.”

National is acting like the release of the bill has caught them by surprise.  Which of itself is surprising because the development of these bills has been more public than any other piece of legislation I can think of.

First up there was the Randerson Review where an independent panel analysed the existing law and provided recommendations in a 531 page report.

In response to the proposal then National leader Judith Collins said this:

We will replace it with two new pieces of law: an Environment Standards Act, setting our environmental bottom lines; and an Urban Planning and Development Act, giving clarity and consistency. We will begin this work in our first 100 days.

“We will introduce new legislation by the end of next year,” she said earlier this month.

I do not know if she was reading the tea leaves and wanted to preempt the Government’s next steps or if it took up her offer but this is what the Government has done.  And her suggestion that National would have a bill ready in a short period of time appears to be hopelessly optimistic.

Then there was the release of an initial draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act and a select committee inquiry into the draft.  I presume National MPs were present and actually did their job of coming to grips with the draft.

There have been regular newsletters, a Local Government steering group, a number of speeches by Minister David Parker, and a slew of information on Ministry for the Environment’s website.  The development of these bills has been a very public process.

Which is why Luxon’s response is so bizarre.  Complaining about too many bureaucrats and then saying implementation will take too long, ironically highlighting the need for more not less bureaucrats, is cheap lazy point scoring on an issue that needs to be taken seriously.

56 MP policy machine?  At a time when there needs to be a principled discussion about a complex reform proposal National is missing in action.

70 comments on “What happened to National’s policy machine? ”

  1. Ad 1

    The entire construction and development industry has been tracking and inputting into this for months and months. Also Infrastructure NZ, Productivity Commission, MBIE, and most other entities chock full with Nat sympathisers.

    They have made good solid changes since the released discussion draft.

    So the National vacuum is pretty inexcusable.

    Now all we need to see is the detail on the Energy Zones.

  2. roy cartland 2

    Don't forget they don't have to convince the whole country, or even half of it. And those left don't really need 'convincing' of anything, just a place to throw their vote against RedCiNDa.

  3. left for dead 3

    Look too my mind that party (national) are fundamentally lazy.as most right wingers are,just look how they bemoan Labour and even Green policy then go along with the fundamentals. Can you still here that cat call"communism by stealth". As so aptly portrayed by John Clarke and Bryan Dawe of the liberal party in stralia,"the Annual report"wasn't it John Hewson and even Jeff Kennett,Maatae.

    • georgecom 3.1

      well called. they like long summer holidays rather than doing some hard mahi coming up with policies. the latest today, bruch off some expired boot camp policies and pretend it's something new. overlook the fact that boot camps were expensive at $400,000 plus kid and had a reoffending rate around 85%. The Key govt was lazy and rightly got a reputation as a do nothing government. A Luxon govt would be pretty much the same by the looks. Not address any of the big issues NZ has, repeal a few of Labours policies but put nothing meaningful in it's place and just sit on other Labour initiatives but do nothing to enhance them. Climate change for example, National just sat on it's hands for 9 years based on what Labour had put in place but did nothing meaningful to address the issue. A ton of carbon pretty much stayed $20 for 9 years and no move on agriculture emissions. Expect more of the same from Luxon.

  4. AB 4

    Complaining about too many bureaucrats and then saying implementation will take too long, ironically highlighting the need for more not less bureaucrats…

    Unless their instinct is just to throw most of the thing into the bin and let people do pretty much what they want. That would be quick, low effort – and an eventual mess. But behind the cheery "Good mornings" and layers of comical corporate blather, Luxy is more from the libertarian right than any National leader we've seen in a while.

  5. alwyn 5

    It's a shame they don't follow the lead of the current Government isn't it?

    Promise a policy and then implement it quickly. Just do it in the speedy manner of the Labour Party. Look at how they promised free dental care for adults back in 2018, at the Annual Conference, if my memory is accurate. Promised it, got it implemented and it has been a wonderful success hasn't it?

    I'm sure Micky can remember all about it. He was possibly at the Conference and can remember how the delegates welcomed the announcement.

    Alternatively he may be able to tell me that I was just dreaming and that such a policy has never been proposed by the Labour Party and that this is just wishful thinking on my part. Which is it Micky?

  6. observer 6

    Richard Harman has some background on how National's (i.e. Luxon's) empty "I'm against it, whatever it is" response contrasts with more engaged voices in the sector.


    He links it to Luxon's polling, which is as good an explanation as any.

    • Sacha 6.1

      Interesting. Bishop and Luxon are vice-signalling to their public ('govt bad, business good'), not responding in any substantive way about the proposals.

  7. A pandemic changes priorities Alwyn. But you know that.

  8. Mike the Lefty 8

    National 's default policies:

    Tax cuts for the already wealthy

    Build more roads

    Build more prisons.

    That's about it.

    • Barfly 8.1

      Benefit cuts

      Freeze minimum wage

      Asset sales

      Beneficiary sanctions

      • alwyn 8.1.1

        "Freeze minimum wage".

        When was the last time that a National Government did that?

        • Barfly

          You have no disagreement with the other 6 then Alwyn?

          • alwyn

            I thought that struggling to justify one of them would be hard enough for you.

            Actually I see that it was too hard even to justify one of your claims. I guess we must treat everything you say as fantasy.

            • Barfly

              You're troll mate – a bad faith commentator – I am not spending time explaining stuff to you because you have an emotional need to be a hard arse RW prick – no explanation or cogent argument will ever change the way you approach things you are simply trying to waste my time. Meh I would love a few beers!

              • alwyn

                "no explanation or cogent argument will ever change the way you approach things".

                Try me. When people have shown me facts that disprove things I thought to be true I am only to willing to correct my opinions. I assure you though that I don't just withdraw because people like you make claims which they then refuse to back up with facts.

                • Louis

                  "When people have shown me facts that disprove things I thought to be true I am only to willing to correct my opinions"

                  That does not appear to be true.

                  See your post @ 5 and the responses.

                  What happened to National’s policy machine?

                • Alwyn… Look up Muldoon wage price freeze.

                  • alwyn

                    Yes, I remember that. It was the final lashing out of one of the worst Prime Ministers of my lifetime.

                    It was also 40 years ago Patricia. It was even earlier than Roger Douglas's time, which all the true lefties contributing to this site try to forget, or at least deny that he was the brains behind the Labour Government of the time.

                    Muldoon was an idiot. New Zealand was well rid of him.

                    • Sacha

                      Maybe seeing Muldoon's shennanigans turned Douglas to the dark side?

                    • alwyn

                      Well I can visualise Muldoon as a mini-me version of Darth Vader, although he was a bit diminutive to be the real thing.

                      On that basis I suppose you could imagine him persuading someone over to the dark side.

                      I wouldn't regard Roger as having been on the dark side though. He was what New Zealand needed and you will have observed that no succeeding Government has changed his actions in any significant way. Apart from Robertson with his creed of tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax.

              • Barfly devil "Change what you can" Alwyn is not one of those things!!

        • Ad

          National have railed against all minimum wage increases of this government.

          You can look up the media releases and statements yourself.

          • Incognito

            It doesn’t matter what National or Luxon say or refuse to say about freezing the minimum wage because they are likely to hide behind ACT and give in to ACT’s demands in an ACT-led NACT government, policy-wise speaking. ACT is on record for wanting to freeze the minimum wage for the next three years. Luxon is just a red herring and ACT/Seymour is the gorilla in the room.

            • X Socialist

              Well done. You are right. Seymour will decide how race relations proceed after the election. He will influence many major issues currently besieging our once great nation. In fact, while you had me on executive leave, I decided I will be voting for him at election time. Big call for me, but I see no one else touting democracy. The question is: will Seymour be able to front and handle the odium and hate that comes his way?? We may see protests from Maori that make the Foreshore and Seabed protests look like a quaint church picnic.

          • alwyn

            I tend to take most media releases by opposition parties with a grain of salt. It is only when they get into Government that one can really judge their actions rather than their words.

            Remember how Labour were going to build 100,000 homes with Kiwibuild? Then how they failed dismally and pretended they had never meant to do it?

            Or how they were going to change the flag? It was part of their policy in 2014. Then when John Key tried to implement the policy a couple of years later they beat their breasts and opposed the idea. Not Invented Here, of course.

            Then they had a CGT in their policy for a couple of elections. Once they got into Government they dropped the whole thing. I think they suddenly realised that it was going to apply to them.

            No. Experience tells me that what politicians say in Opposition does always carry over into office as a Government.

      • Mike the Lefty 8.1.2

        Those are probably more ACT than National, but I'm sure National wouldn't object too much because it would be ACT calling the shots under a ACT/National coalition.

    • Incognito 8.2


    • Tony Veitch 8.3

      Ah, but Nicola Willis outlined, in a series of worn-out cliches (oxymoron!) what Natz policies are, including 'personal responsibility,' 'success' and 'ambition!' Oh, and cutting all the bureaucrats, like extra teacher and health support, I suppose!

      She frightens me, another Ruth Richardson!

      She was, rightly, torn into little bits by Megan Woods (General Debate).

  9. observer 9

    More from National's policy machine. They support the Clean Car Discount … or don't. Or might.

    Luxon should really just stop talking.


    “A spokesperson for Christopher Luxon says he meant to say the Clean Car Standard, not Discount.”

    meant to say … another day, another walk back.

  10. tWeggie [stick to one username here and this is not the one] 10

    My guesses:

    • immediately raise retirement age to 67
    • privatise ACC
    • reimplement charter school policy to strengthen a two tier education system, as in UK and Australia

    [stick to the one and only approved username here, thanks – Incognito]

  11. Sacha 11

    Policy, you say? https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/politics/christopher-luxon-u-turns-on-u-turn-acknowledging-he-misspoke/G4LEMNH2MNHV7M2VAR453Z4NRE/

    Christopher Luxon drove himself into a policy traffic jam on Wednesday morning, after he said National would U-turn on a policy it vociferously opposed – the clean car discount or “ute tax”.

    National later U-turned on that remark, clarifying that Luxon misspoke and had not intended to U-turn on that particular policy. He was in fact talking about the clean car standard, an emissions standard for vehicle importers.

    National opposed that policy too, meaning Luxon has still U-turned on a policy today – just not the policy he said he was U-turning on.

    • Alan 12.1

      So mb, what would you do with them?

      Because the current situation regarding youth crime in Hamilton/Rotorua etc. is not acceptable to the electorate.

    • roblogic 12.2

      Nats showing their true colours: hate, fear, and cruelty to the poor

  12. the nationals party has decomposed into a gang of whiners whingers moaners and criticisers. anyone listening to queston time will see (and hear) that that party is bereft of ideas and their scattershot questions makes them look like they have some form of bi-polar disorder.

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