All the new government's cuts, repeals and hopes for 'fixing the economy'
Over 30 initiatives, projects and pieces of legislation look set to be torched as the new government moves on from the ceremonial and into its 100-day plan
Mōrena, and welcome to The Bulletin for Tuesday, November 28, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: disappointment no minister for cyclone recovery appointed as Hawkes Bay and Tairāwhiti clean up again; the squeeze on transport spending; Massey to pursue cost-cutting restructure; but first, it won’t be a bonfire, but an inferno as the new government moves to scrub much of the last government’s legacy
One last ‘ceremonial’ occasion
Having set itself a full agenda, much of it time-bound by the campaign accoutrement of the 100-day plan and deadlines within the coalition agreements, the new government doesn’t get much time to bask in the ceremonial. Reporting from yesterday’s swearing-in of new ministers at Government House in Wellington, Joel MacManus notes that even the piano player banged out the national anthem in great haste. Cabinet will meet today for the first time, but that will be the last time it stands on ceremony for a while, pending the “speech from the throne” when parliament sits next week. Today’s cabinet meeting is really just a photo opportunity more than anything. Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says the work to get the 100-day plan approved will begin on Wednesday. Don’t ask me when the clock actually starts on those 100 days, given it was meant to start yesterday. Time is a construct. There are nine scheduled sitting days left until the House rises.
Everything consigned to the scrapheap
Just as we began the year with the bonfire of the policies, so too will we end it. As Toby Manhire details this morning, the new government’s approach to the last government’s legacy is to set it alight, with over 30 pieces of legislation, projects and initiatives set to be torched. Fair pay agreements are set to be gone by Christmas, according to the National-Act coalition deal. Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said it would be a “backward step” to remove the work standards included in the fair pay agreements. Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope said some fair pay agreements had not been put into place and should be ditched. “They're probably not going to help workers in any meaningful way,” he said.
RMA reform gone by Christmas
The National-Act coalition deal also stipulates that the legislation enabling the Resource Management Act reform, the Natural and Built Environment Act 2023 and the Spatial Planning Act 2023 must be repealed by Christmas. As RNZ’s Anneke Smith reports, Environmental Defence Society chief executive Gary Taylor says, “What's been produced can't be 100 percent bad. They're throwing the baby out with the bath water. I would have preferred them to panel beat that law into their preferred shape.” New minister for regulation, David Seymour, has volunteered the services of a new yet-to-be-established government department, partially funded by disestablishing the Productivity Commission, to help with the task. In an assessment of the new government’s “war on woke” (paywalled), the Herald’s Simon Wilson labels Seymour’s new turf, “the ministry of silly regulations”. “Yes, it is Monty Pythonesque,” he writes. As Politik’s Richard Harman notes (paywalled), “Regulations, generally, are the product of a piece of primary legislation which is the property of a particular minister. Ministers may react adversely to Seymour poking his nose into what they might regard as their own business.” Chris Bishop is the minister responsible for RMA reform.
‘Fixing the economy’ is the priority
Christopher Luxon pledged to trim 6.5% of savings from the public service after he was sworn in as prime minister. Finance minister Nicola Willis has already alluded to some “nasty surprises” left by the outgoing Labour government in the form of “pretty significant” fiscal risks. Blaming past governments may hold some sway as a line oft’ repeated in the debating chamber, but when the election was fought along cost of living lines, the blame game will get very tired very quickly. In an excellent assessment and analysis of the arithmetic (paywalled) required to make the promised tax cuts work, the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan writes, “the Herald has found that the post-election changes to National’s fiscal plan will raise additional revenue of about $3b - enough to cover the cost of dumping the foreign buyers’ ban, but not enough to cover whatever the cost of accelerating interest deductions [for residential landlords] might be.” He also notes that the policy that will hit families the hardest is a plan to freeze the Working for Families abatement threshold at $42,700. It’s been at that threshold since 2018. “The real sum of this bleak arithmetic is an impossible choice between more borrowing, more tax, or more broken promises,” he writes.
If you only click one link today, make it this
As of last night, hundreds of Spinoff readers and supporters had already pledged $25,000 to our fundraising campaign on PledgeMe. Thank you to all those who have already pledged. We still have a way to reach our goal of raising $75,000 to fund our 2024 plans for longform and accessible journalism investigating how food shapes this country. We have some amazing rewards on offer on PledgeMe involving some of the writers you know and love.
Just $5 from a quarter of Bulletin subscribers would get us to our goal. If you are able to support, check out the rewards and make a pledge.
– Anna Rawhiti-Connell, Bulletin editor
Hawkes Bay and Tairāwhiti clean up again
Wairoa Mayor Craig Little says the East Coast region needs urgent government help to “clear all this up” before Christmas after wild weather battered an area still in recovery mode following Cyclone Gabrielle. Communities remain cut off as multiple local roads remain closed due to flooding and landslides. Mark Mitchell has been assigned to the portfolio of minister for emergency management and recovery. Napier MP, Katie Nimon says replacing the cyclone recovery minister with Mitchell’s role was intentional. “It is ignorant of us to think that an emergency is not going to happen again,” she said. Napier mayor Kirsten Wise said she was looking forward to engaging with the new government on the region’s cyclone recovery but was “disappointing that no specific minister has been appointed to respond [solely] to this significant natural disaster, I do trust that the new minister for emergency management and recovery will work closely to assist those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle in Hawke’s Bay as well as elsewhere in the country.”
The squeeze on transport funding
As Newsroom’s Emma Hatton reports, Waka Kotahi has told the government it will not take on any more debt without an underwrite guarantee. New transport minister Simeon Brown essentially faces an ultimatum to secure a longer-term plan to fund the transport system by 2027. As Hatton writes, the feedback came from the transport agency’s response to the Government Policy Statement on land transport released in August. “Taking on any additional debt should only be considered a short-term fix”, the feedback reads. Commenting on the likely state of next month’s 10-year budget in Auckland, Auckland Transport (AT) chief executive Dean Kimpton says (paywalled), the budget will be viable but AT will be deeply constrained. Attention will switch to revenue, especially fares, parking fees and fines.
New Gone by Lunchtime: The Weet-Bix coalition
Christopher Luxon has scaled his Big Rock candy mountain and today the new National, Act and NZ First coalition has its ministers sworn in at Government House. In the latest episode of Gone by Lunchtime Toby Manhire, Ben Thomas and Annabelle Lee-Mather rattle through the two coalition deals and ask: Who scored the big wins? Will there be further changes when the books are opened and a mini-budget is published? What is the message to Māori? And what can we learn from the dynamics at play between Luxon, Winston Peters and David Seymour?
Click and Collect
Massey University moves ahead with cost-cutting restructure, 71 jobs proposed to go
One of Brooke van Velden’s early tasks as new minister for internal affairs will be to appoint a new commissioner to the Covid response inquiry
The Merriam-Webster word of the year for 2023 is “authentic”
Prophet Song by Paul Lynch announced as 2023 Booker prize winner
Feeling clever? Click here to play 1Q, Aotearoa’s newest, shortest daily quiz.
Stewart Sowman-Lund reports on claims callers to the prime minister’s electorate office urging the government to support a ceasefire were told their details would be reported to the police. Madeleine Chapman enjoys caviar and corned beef at a Sāmoan fine-dining restaurant. Mira Karunanidhi explains the definitions of terms like “war crimes” and how judicial institutions can respond to allegations of violations of international law. Haimoana Gray writes that effective philanthropy requires thinking strategically while acting collaboratively.
Great interview with new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson from Scotty Stevenson
Jamie Wall looks at the connection between Auckland’s new A-League football teams and the prospect of a new stadium in the city
Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Get in touch with me at email@example.com.
If you liked what you read today, share The Bulletin with friends, family and colleagues.