As with one of your recent correspondents, I've also seen National's billboards "Delivering for New Zealanders", and doing some reflecting on that, perhaps more so on what National has delivered over the last 9 years they've been in government. A number of points come to mind.
Firstly, they've delivered a steadily declining number of Kiwis owning their own home. As both Labour and New Zealand First have highlighted, it's the lowest in 60 years, and raises the question, why? Applying a bit of logic to this makes it clear - because of National's unchecked immigration policy, far more migrants than what our infrastructure and economy can cope with have been allowed to enter and settle here.
This has created huge demand for housing, both for purchasing and for rental, far outstripping supply. Result - ballooning prices, significantly exceeding wage growth. Consequence - unaffordable houses for first-home buyers, and unaffordable rents for renters, especially those on the minimum wage.
Hence we currently have in excess of 40,000 functionally homeless people in New Zealand, of whom 24,000 are in Auckland alone. If only the minimum wage, the benefit and super were linked to an accommodation cost index instead of just inflation or the average wage, as it's obvious to anyone with half a brain that there's a huge disconnect between these and reality.
Secondly it's not hard to deduce from this that National's crowing about economic growth and a reduction in unemployment has been fuelled mostly by a) their immigration policy, b) natural disasters in the form of the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, c) property speculation and development, and d) booming tourism. Little to do with improving productivity, or adding value.
Not hard to deliver a growing economy with these tools at hand, is it? National has also delivered the highest net Government debt ever, at $ 61.88 billion in 2016, up from $10.258 billion in 2008 - an almost six-fold increase in the space of 8 years.
Thirdly, they've delivered an increasingly polluted environment, primarily through their pushing of industrial-scale irrigation on farms through the $480 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund, and through Crown Irrigation Investment Ltd, both of which are used to fund and subsidise environmentally destructive irrigation schemes like the Ruataniwha Dam, Canterbury's Central Plains Irrigation scheme, Wairarapa Water, and others.
Let's also tack on to the environmental side National's woefully inadequate provisions for climate change, the failed Emissions Trading Scheme, and the abject lack of funding for agricultural and other research which could have significant beneficial impacts on New Zealand's performance in terms of the Paris Climate Accord targets for 2050. With this kind of record, what will our kids and grandkids inherit from us in 10, 20 or 30 years time?
Fourthly, they've delivered a seriously depleted and hollowed-out Department of Conservation, whose main focus appears to have changed from a core conservation role to supplying and managing tourism infrastructure on our Great Walks.
Not to mention assisting commercial enterprises to access, damage and destroy specially protected conservation land for the purposes of constructing irrigation dams, hydro power stations, and coal and gold mines on the Buller and Denniston plateaus, and the Coromandel peninsula. With around 3000 species of native fauna and flora currently threatened or in danger of extinction, what on earth are they up to?
If it wasn't for the many dedicated and extremely hard working (and unpaid) volunteer groups and NGOs that have taken over much of what should be DOC's core conservation work, our environment would be in much more serious trouble by now.
And then there's Bill English and Maggie Barry promising to change the Conservation Act to actually enable, encourage and promote further destruction of Conservation Park land for commercial exploitation, should they be re-elected on 23 September.
And let's not forget the profligate waste of $26 million on the flag referendum which National delivered, which could have paid for around 1200 hip replacements.
It's become evident that National has lost sight of what's really important for all New Zealanders and for the country as a whole, hence the mother of all reactionary lolly-scrambles and policy releases over the last months and weeks.
There's much, much more that could be said, but it's become crystal clear to me that National can no longer be trusted to do the right thing, and that's why it's time for change.
Dan Elderkamp is a CHB environmental advocate and conservationist. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: email@example.com