COMMENT: It's 2017. The mood in the country is gloomy with a chance of hope.
The general election happens. Just over 55 per cent do not vote for National. It seems that people are looking for someone else to take control. We had record numbers of people living in cars, people on welfare were being bashed instead of helped, and for those not lucky enough to already own a home the chances of that occurring were diminishing.
And so Labour was able to form a Government, led by Jacinda Ardern. The burden of expectation was huge.
For years Labour had been touting its KiwiBuild policy as a cure-all for the housing crisis:
100,000 homes in 10 years were going to be built! They would be more affordable than the million-dollar villas that were de rigeur in Auckland.
People who were locked out of the housing market by our low-wage, high-cost economy would finally be able to get a look in. Not only that, but beneficiaries would be treated not with disdain, but with support, respect, and decency.
No more would Work and Income bully people out of money they were entitled to. No
more would sanctions be applied for spurious reasons, sanctions that would hurt the children of those beneficiaries in a way that Ardern would never allow happen. After all, she believed the children are our future.
People perceived the stark difference between a Labour-led government and a National-led government to be compassion for those in need. And while that may be the case, there's a yawning chasm between having compassion and actually fixing the problems.
For much of National's nine years in government, the party didn't really achieve policies so much as it behaved like a chief financial officer for the nation. It had a dual focus. One, giving the perception of being excellent stewards of New Zealand's money. And two, building roads.
Except you're not really an excellent steward of money if you spend your time gleefully pursuing a meaningless surplus when that extra money should perhaps have been spent on the people who were starving and homeless, the hospitals and schools that were decaying and a health system that was barely papering over some massive cracks.
So we get to Labour with its big commitment to affordable housing and better treatment for poorer people and we wait and hope that change is going to come.
Except the affordable housing component of KiwiBuild has been a complete and utter
trainwreck. And it's impressive the Government was able to muster up a trainwreck given its commitment to rail via the City Rail Link and light rail in Auckland has also not really started.
Last Wednesday, Megan Woods came out with the anticipated KiwiBuild "reset" and the
centrepiece of that reset was the removal of the target of 100,000 homes in 10 years. Commentators from all over the political spectrum rushed out some incredible hyperbole that Wednesday was a day of shame for the Government. It wasn't. The policy as a whole was already a shame, this was just cauterising a festering wound.
A better way to have handled last week's announcement would have been to come out and say 'we have not achieved what we aimed to. We are removing the 100,000 target because it's unachievable and ultimately meaningless. Our new target is to just build more homes'.
This Labour Government is definitely well-meaning, but it's considerably crapper at building houses than it thought it would be. This extends to a number of things voters hoped would be changed.
Pointless sanctions are still applied to beneficiaries, homelessness is still a huge problem, Work and Income still treat people appallingly.
But as weak as this Government has been on the things it was assumed it would be a force for good in, Labour is still viewed as a more compassionate party than National.
The alternative is still probably worse for those in need. And Labour is actually trying to build more houses. But when your bar is "at least we're doing better than National", then you're not a Government for the people, you're a CFO that's also running a lacklustre social club.