Who are the most influential in Wellington now?

Written By: - Date published: 11:37 am, October 26th, 2017 - 28 comments
Categories: election 2017 - Tags: , , ,

If you wanted to get stuff done, who would get it done for you? I’m not going to cover them all of course, but here’s a few highlights in both winners and losers.

RISING

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

In this first half of the term, it has a heavy burden supporting the Prime Minister’s agenda and coordinating departments. Top of its list will be child poverty reduction targets, review of the Reserve Bank Act with Treasury, and housing construction and financing policies.

Chen Palmer

Of all the legal firms to pick from particularly of Simpson Grierson, Buddle Findlay, Kensington Swan, Russell McVeigh with strong public and administrative law teams, it’s Mai Chen who has most assiduously lobbied with punchy phrasing and fresh legal reasoning for many years. Her firm is usefully positioned across Auckland and Wellington. She has reputedly great insider tracking with Ardern.

Deloittes, PWC, NZSuperFund, ACC, top 4 Aussie banks, Cameron Partners, Morrison/Infratil, Cranleigh, Rockpoint, Crown Infrastructure Partners, et al
Expect the offices of Twyford and Grant Robertson to be assiduously courted by the above. With much new infrastructure likely to be funded through bonds serviced off the housing and commercial buildings that developments build, the local financing industry is in for a testing time of adjustment. Most will be seeking to shape the frameworks, all will be seeking rich fees and percentages, all are now vital to the massive public works programmes ahead.

Generation Zero/Greater Auckland

Few since the vast restructures of the late 1980s have seen their pre-drafted plans simply adopted wholesale into the policies of parties, and then had them implemented in such short order. They have shifted the politics of transport and of housing further and faster than the combined efforts of the Ministry of Transport, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, and NZTA. But with no Wellington presence, and run by volunteers, whether they can sustain this influence is questionable.

Climate Commission, Forest and Bird, Greenpeace, and the Sustainable Business Council

Previously largely oppositional networks, they are the biggest sectional winner. Whether this turns into a love-fest for lobbyists like an inverted Business New Zealand, or tilts the entire commercial culture of New Zealand away from bulk low cost production to anything better, will rely on the Zero Carbon legislation and persuading more and more shareholders including the declining New Zealand Sharemarket. The task is massive.

More of the smaller influence-brokers who have had trusted relationships with Labour, NZF, or Greens insiders will do well. LECG needs a mention for consistently good work. Governmental change requires capacity, so headhunting will be a major sport with Sheffield and Momentum executive searches striding across The Terrace and Shortland Street netting at will. The circle of corporate and quango board appointment luvvies will of course change a little, but we can figure those out over the next year.

IN FLUX

New Zealand Transport Agency

At near-standstill through internal restructure, sick with “customer focussed” ideologues and my-way-is-the-highway, they are nevertheless being signalled to be reborn as a road-and-rail super entity. Their near-monopoly command of the heavy construction and engineering industry will likely make them even more powerful this term.

Fonterra

With the demolition of MPI, their remaining influence is focussed on MFAT. They are New Zealand’s most powerful diplomatic presence across the world, and our largest company by a long, long way. This near monopoly holds the future of New Zealand’s water quality and much of its export potential. Whether they can pack down with the new Ministers is largely up to them.

Fletcher Building

Historically they have done exceedingly well working with Labour governments, but they are in really bad corporate shape. On the day the fresh government was sworn in and announced the largest civil works programme since World War Two, our second largest company announced that it was in complete chaos. Fletcher Building could go either down the road of complete breakup, or capitalise handsomely on the planned mass-building housing programmes.

Business New Zealand, EMA

The entrypoints into this new government for business have yet to clarify. Their top points for the new government are pretty closely aligned. But the Sustainable Business Network is currently better aligned and networked into this kind of government. The likes of Kim Campbell will continue to rise in stature compared to the ever-ideological Dr Hartwich.

FALLING

Ministry of Primary Industries

Chopped into Forestry, Farming, and Fisheries. Expect fisheries to be gutted and filleted after years of colluding with industry.

Housing New Zealand Corporation

Likely not to exist in short order.

Federated Farmers

By no means count them out. As we saw with the tractor being driven up Parliament’s steps a decade ago, they can organise, they fight to win and win they do (no more farmer water pricing being their latest success), and still have a lot to gain through the successful conclusion of an amended TPPA round and other pending trade deals. But they are diminished.

Infrastructure New Zealand (New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development)

Really just a front for secondary financing for infrastructure for tolled motorways and prisons, they are having the entire rug pulled out from under them with Labour’s Twyford relying on funding for his projects from everywhere he can get it. Long a glove-puppet for the roading lobby, they have no chance with this new government.

Bayleys, Barfoot and Thompson, and the property lobby

Donated for the wrong team, and that always gets noticed. Anyone representing the interests of landlords will find it very hard to have the access they used to.

Saunders Unsworth/Senate Communications/professional lobbyists

Ever-reliable door openers, but are often mere palimpsests and not always adding in value. Some of their best customers will be forming the attack profiles from a well-funded National Party, in turn funnelling industry lobby attacks.

There are a constellation of generally useless quangos in Wellington we won’t bother with. Most can be classed as simply hanging in there keeping their head down – natural positioning when there’s ideological change.

None of this implies corruption in the plain sense. As Mai Chen once said. “Presume that everything done under the cover of darkness will be yelled from the mountain tips. If it’s going to embarrass the politicians, just don’t ask them to do it.”

28 comments on “Who are the most influential in Wellington now?”

  1. Antoine 1

    Nice post

  2. cleangreen 2

    “Infrastructure New Zealand (New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development)”

    “Really just a front for secondary financing for infrastructure for tolled motorways and prisons, they are having the entire rug pulled out from under them with Labour’s Twyford relying on funding for his projects from everywhere he can get it. Long a glove-puppet for the roading lobby, they have no chance with this new government.

    So beautifullly put ADVANTAGE.

    This was the backbone of Steven Joyce’s policy of tarsealing NZ for hoards of truck fleets to take all the remaining freight off rail and use his Mega (MBIE) ‘Ministry of Bussiness Innovation & Employment, ‘the mother of all agencies’ to control local governments by producing “cherry picked” phoney studies showing rail “was not viable”

    So yes someone in Government needs to dismantle ‘Joyces nerve network’ otherwise he will continue to use this agency to attack the new government.

    Our HB/Gisborne councils all got ‘hoodwinked’ by his bullshit.

    And it almost worked, but Labour/NZF coalition has now saved us from all his schemes.

  3. EE 3

    I hope they will be some staunch regulation against the promotion and sale of sugary crap.
    How do you see the influence of the Food and Grocery Council on this Government?

    • Ad 3.1

      I suspect Rich will be counting on Clark the new Minister playing catch-up with all the issues Coleman has left him in District Health Boards, so he’ll be too busy to bother.

      Ministry of Health are in almost as much disarray as NZTA, particularly in this kind of public health issue.

      Clark could easily class this sugary foods as a “showerhead issue” ie not worth the amount of public grief.

  4. Frida 4

    Mai Chen?! That was a joke right…???! Agree with the rest of the list.

  5. Frida 5

    And just to explain my last comment – there are quite a few traumatised people around Wellington and NZ as a result of working there.

  6. One Anonymous Bloke 6

    Influence is a paradox.

    The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects.

    Lao Tzu.

  7. Jum 7

    If Government aids Auckland Council, or any other Council, in anything, they should demand that the water supply and infrastructure remain in the Council hands, not sold, not contracted out for any period of time, not loaned anywhere.

  8. John Drinnan 8

    Advantage: Identity not supplied. Does he or she work for Chen Palmer?

    • Antoine 8.1

      WHen you cast baseless aspersions you only make yourself look like a fool

      A.

    • Ad 8.2

      No. Not a lawyer.

      Plenty have argued to me that Mai Chen is nowhere near as influential in the courts and in senior legal circles as she is in public and political discourse. But the purpose of the post, as set out in the first line, was not to rank specific industry players, but to answer a specific question about influence in Wellington.

  9. Simon Louisson 9

    Fonterra?
    This is a company that is in faster reversal than Fletcher Building.
    Its flawed policy of ever increasing volume will come under threat from new government policies to protect the environment and as farmers realise the volume game is dumb.
    Take a look at A2 for a pointer about how dairy company should run, by selling branded products instead of commodities. A2 produces less than 5% of NZ’s milk but is now worth north of $6b — around two thirds of Fonterra’s market capitalisation. At one time Fonterra had agreed to buy A2 — probably at a cost of $100m – now the boot is on the other foot, only A2 wouldn’t want a dog like Fonterra.

    • Ad 9.1

      Very sadly agree.

      There’s a great string of growing dairy businesses here. Many of which are now effectively foreign dominated.

      It was pretty sad for me yesterday to hear Lewis Road Creamery get a massive Chinese investor, even though the NZ founder still keeps a really good-sized share.

      Fonterra needs its own post all by itself.

  10. Sigh 10

    Hilariously wrong.

  11. Cemetery Jones 11

    Is Matthew Hooton one of those lobbyists with a swipe card for parliamentary premises? They should deactivate the cards and not tell any of them, just so someone can hide nearby and video them trying to tag in and watch their expressions change as they go from thinking they just held the card at an off angle through to the dawning realisation that they’re out.

  12. Michael 12

    Interesting analysis. I guess we’ll see how it pans out. My suspicion is that Big Business always wins in its dealings with government.

  13. greywarshark 13

    According to some febrile young thing at Spinoff Labour are only influential because they are tricksters having got into government by ‘machinations’ which toppled National unfairly.

    Some perspective is needed here. Labour has demonstrated that with the right leader and right machinations it no longer needs to win elections to take power. And what exactly those forces behind our new prime minister plan to do with that power should not be underestimated.

    The incoming government makes no secret of its regard for capitalism as a “blatant” failure. This is despite nearly one billion people over the last 20 years having been lifted out of poverty because of it. Moreover, the very “neoliberalism” the incoming prime minister criticises, and yet refuses to define, has helped many Kiwis out of a life of welfare dependence and into the dignity of a job.
    https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/26-10-2017/the-party-isnt-over-why-nationals-message-is-needed-now-more-than-ever/

  14. Tanz 14

    Nats are going to dominate question time, being the most popular largest party, also select committees. Good luck at the new govt battling the huge and popular Oppsition, the party that actually won the election and have the moral mandate.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 14.1

      I feel your pain. It’s sad. Never mind, I’m sure a tiny violin is playing your tune.

  15. Tanz 15

    not to worry, one-term govt, then Nats back for twelve years. The electorate like their government and PM to actually have won an election, not to be gifted (or traded?) the win. I would bet money -one term govt, if that..- Richard Prebble thinks so, by the way! He even called it a coup. MMP, Mickey Mouse Politics. Five per cent, seven percent, no electorate seat between them, joke time. Popcorn.

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