Last week, you wouldn’t have thought the biggest issue facing the country would be whether MPs do the supermarket shopping. My late wife Nancy did not drive, so I went to the supermarket. The only political advantage of doing the shopping was that at candidate meetings, I knew the price of milk and bread.
Maybe the focus on who does the shopping is because Labour is making so many policy announcements, we cannot process them all.
Here is an explanation of some of Labour’s promises.
The Government promised to spend $20 billion over the next 10 years on transport projects.
Some of the projects are so old they have grown a beard. The pilot tunnel for the second Mount Victoria tunnel was dug in the 1970s. Fifty years later, Labour is promising to build it.
A typical project is extending the Waikato Expressway to Piarere. Today the expressway suddenly stops south of Cambridge, spilling cars and trucks on to a frighteningly treacherous stretch of State Highway 1 notorious for head-on crashes.
In 2018, Labour arbitrarily stopped the extension of the expressway and many other road projects named on the list.
The pledge to build many of the highways of national significance is an admission that in transport a significant portion of the last six years have been wasted on white elephant projects like light rail.
Neither the proposed harbour crossings announced earlier this month nor light rail are listed as one of the 14 strategic investments. Labour is only promising a business case for a harbour crossing. There is no possible business case for three tunnels. For light rail, Labour is only promising to update the cost.
The estimated cost of light rail from the city centre to the airport has gone from $3.7 billion in 2018 up to an estimated $14.6b and adding the proposed extension of light rail over the harbour bridge to Takapuna and Albany is estimated to cost up to $27b, making it one of the world’s most expensive light rail projects per kilometre. Any new estimate will be a shocker.
The omission of both projects from the list of strategic investments indicates officials believe neither project will ever happen.
What will happen, should Labour be re-elected, is the ministers’ promise to increase the tax on petrol over the next three years by 12 cents a litre.
Petrol prices have a greater impact on households than supermarket price increases. Those who live in rural communities or in poorly-served suburbs have no choice but to drive.
Many households are struggling today to pay for the rapidly increasing price of petrol. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is out of touch when he described the fuel tax increases as “affordable”.
Last week, Parliament passed the Natural and Built Environments Bill and the Spatial Planning Bill to replace the Resource Management Act.
The bills make planning even more complex and uncertain. National has pledged to repeal the new laws by Christmas.
Environment Minister David Parker has wasted six years by rejecting the quick option of streamlining the present planning laws in favour of what is a mess.
Last week Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who promised legislation on managed retreat, instead put out an issues paper. Like his report on resilience, it is not a plan, but a report on how to plan. Shaw intends to ask a Parliamentary select committee to hold an inquiry to get consensus. While no MP denies climate change, the world will be boiling before there is a consensus.
The climate is not waiting for James Shaw. There is a de facto retreat policy. After climate events, local government red-stickers properties it retreats from.
After six years, ministers are just talking about the need for the country to be more resilient to climate change.
Over the weekend, the PM announced schools will teach financial literacy. How the approximately 50 per cent of Māori and Pasifika secondary pupils absent from school today will learn how to handle money was not explained.
For too many secondary pupils, the last six years have been the tragedy of a missed education.
When ministers lose office in around 50 days, what many will regret is that they have achieved so little.
There is a lesson for National and Act. The Labour-Green coalition, and for three years with New Zealand First, is how not to govern.
Wasting two years on inquiries. Oscillating between no-consultation captain’s calls, holding endless hui and making no decisions.
Setting aspirational goals is just gesture politics. Good government is implementing practical, workable solutions.
Putting a radical reinterpretation of the Treaty as a partnership at the heart of government made failure certain. It is profoundly undemocratic to co-govern with unaccountable, self-selected, tribal elites. As the new planning laws demonstrate, such a partnership is unworkable.
The Taxpayers’ Union polls indicate even Labour supporters believe basic government services are getting worse.
If a National and Act government does not want a similar poll result, then they must give us good government from day one.
Richard Prebble is a former leader of the Act Party and a former member of the Labour Party.