After nine years of a National-led Government, is New Zealand better off?

Ahead of National's annual conference this weekend, the Herald looked at 10 key indicators to see what has improved and what has worsened since 2008.

Check out the Herald Insights interactive here: http://insights.nzherald.co.nz/article/labour-vs-national

Housing and immigration have dominated much of the election-year debate.

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There are now 72,000 more people staying in New Zealand than leaving each year, compared to around 10,000 when Labour left office. National says that is a sign of success, while Labour and others say that trend is stretching key infrastructure and needs to be checked.

However, it appears many migrants do not remain in New Zealand for more than a few years. While net arrivals are rising, the number of people getting residency in New Zealand has not grown under National compared to Labour's time in charge.

In 2016/17, 43,700 people gained residency, compared to 46,100 in 2008/09.

National has been blamed for failing to prevent a housing crisis in its third term in Parliament. But one of the most respected measures paints a more complicated picture. The long-running Massey University housing affordability study shows that nationwide, houses are more affordable in 2017 than in 2008.

That is largely due to the huge drop in interest rates, which were as high as 11 per cent under Labour and have fallen as low as 5 per cent under National. It also does not take into account the fact that many first-home buyers need to raise 20 per cent of a deposit before banks will lend to them for a mortgage.

The story is also completely different in Auckland. In the Labour years, the level of affordability in the city was equivalent to the rest of the country. In 2017, Auckland is far less affordable than the rest of the country.

One of Labour's most persistent criticisms of National's economic record is that wages have stagnated. The data shows household incomes rose at similar levels during Labour and National's leadership - around 15 per cent between 2000 and 2008, and around 16 per cent between 2008 and 2016.

The Helen Clark-led Labour Government cut Government debt from 23 per cent when it came into power to 5 per cent, as the global economy boomed.

Debt has shot up under National, from 5 per cent when it came to power to nearly 25 per cent now. That is mostly a result of factors it inherited or were outside its control - the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes. It arrested the increase in 2013, and it has been falling since.

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The GFC also led to a spike in jobless numbers. And despite gains since 2014, National has not been able to get the unemployment rate down to the 4 per cent mark achieved by Labour.

National came into power in 2008 promising a harder line on law and order, and was successful in cutting the rate of violent crimes after making it one of its top priorities for the public sector. But after a low in 2013, violent crimes have gradually been creeping up again and approaching similar levels to those seen under Labour.


See more on the Herald's Insight page: http://insights.nzherald.co.nz/article/labour-vs-national/