NZ votes: party leaders outline their vision to bluenotes

New Zealand’s next general election is rapidly approaching and the September 23 vote dominates discussion. The result is looking like going down to the wire.

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We asked the leaders of all the parties to make their case to voters. Below is the responses we received. 

" New Zealand’s economy is now the fifth-fastest growing in the developed world." Bill English, Leader of the National Party

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Bill English, Leader of the National Party

An economic plan that’s delivering - Bill English, Leader of the National Party

In politics, as in life, it is always wise to test your assumptions before making big commitments. This applies doubly in an election year, when each party gets to look at the Government’s books to see what policy promises they can make.

Voters looking to cast their vote wisely in September may want to check these assumptions for themselves - particularly at what underpins the Government’s finances.

The answer is a stable growing economy. New Zealand’s economy is now the fifth-fastest growing in the developed world, having grown for 24 out of the last 25 quarters. The dividends of this growth have flowed into the Government’s books, which are back in surplus.

This growth is no accident, but the result of a strong economic plan. Since 2009, the National-led Government has worked tirelessly to improve the efficiency of the economy, whether it is cutting red tape or opening new markets for Kiwi exporters through our trade strategy.

Budget 2017 reaffirms our goal to keep the economy growing over the next four years, committing $NZ32.5 billion to infrastructure investments, $NZ7 billion to improve public services, $NZ6.5 billion to lift the earnings of low and middle income families, and reducing public debt as a share of GDP.

The reason is simple: It is only through a strong and growing economy that we will continue to grow job numbers, lift the after-tax wages, and provide a safety net for those in need. It is in effect a virtuous cycle.

This is what sets National apart. The 2017 campaign has been notable for the absence of economic policy from opposition parties, who seem to be assuming economic growth just happens. We know it takes hard work and careful management.

That is why a vote for National on September 23 is a vote for three-more years of sound economic plans delivering for Kiwis.

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Jacinda Ardern, Leader of the Labour Party

 Labour’s Productivity Commitment - Jacinda Ardern, Leader of the Labour Party

Often, when people ask me about how Labour will manage the economy, I’ll counter respond with a few facts – like the nine consecutive surpluses that the last Labour Government delivered.

How it reduced net debt close to zero, while having the OECD’s second lowest unemployment and delivering Working For Families, 20 hours free early childhood education and Kiwisaver.

But what really tells the story of Labour’s commitment to a sound, sustainable and inclusive economy is our commitment to lifting productivity.

I want New Zealand’s economic success to feel real for all New Zealanders and that means we need to lift our GDP per hour worked – so instead of too many Kiwis feeling they’re just working longer just to keep up, they’re getting real benefits from a growing economy and can enjoy better quality of life.

New Zealand’s low productivity is shorthand for relying on people working longer to prop up the economy. It’s shorthand for low wages, and for fewer hours enjoying life, with your family and friends. It’s shorthand for a country that’s dropped the ball on skills and innovation.

Labour is determined to address our productivity challenge. That means investing in people and revolutionising our education system.

Across four years, Labour will invest an additional $NZ4 billion in education, with three years of post-secondary education free. Combined with a sharper focus on careers guidance in schools we’ll enable a better educated workforce, equipped to handle the challenges of dynamic workplaces.

Labour will also bring back the R&D tax credit, providing companies with security to undertake long term research projects, to develop new technologies and services.

We’ll work closely with exporters to move up the value chain and support our medium-sized companies to grasp international opportunities.

Labour has a strong vision for our economy, and we’re determined to lift productivity and improve the quality of life for all New Zealanders. 

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Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-leader of the Māori Party

A new economic powerhouse is starting to flex its muscle in New Zealand - Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-leader of the Māori Party

The Māori economy is thriving. A recent report estimated its value at $NZ50 billion.

Not only that, it is tipped to grow at a faster rate than the country’s economy as a whole – more than double in fact.

By 2030 the value of Māori assets is projected be $100 billion.

Māori already hold significant assets in our primary industries:

  • 50 per cent of fishing quota
  • 40 per cent for forestry
  • 30 per cent of lamb production
  • 30 per cent of sheep and beef production
  • 10 per cent of dairy production
  • 10 per cent of kiwifruit industry

But the asset-holding is diversifying into other areas – tourism, education, housing, geothermal, digital and services.

Much of that is being driven by Māori entrepreneurs who are guiding some of 8,500 Māori-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

One of the goals of the recently refreshed He kai kei aku ringa, the Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership and national Māori economic development strategy, is to lift the number of Māori SMEs by 30 per cent over the next five years.

Another of its targets is to lift Māori exports by 9 per cent year on year. A key export market is Asia and I’ve seen the point of difference Māori exporters can offer on recent trade missions to Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

That unique selling point can open doors that may otherwise have been closed.

The future is bright for Māori business, but to ensure those economic returns are maximised I’d like to see more young Māori equipped with the right skills, and encouraged, to make the most of the wealth of opportunities that are around.

By doing so not only Māori but the broader New Zealand economy stands to benefit.

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James Shaw, Leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Tackling challenges head on - James Shaw, Leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

I have a personal belief that government should seek, not just to tinker with but to tackle head on, the big, hard, long-term challenges facing the country: climate change, endemic poverty and restoring our natural world, particularly our rivers.

The Green Party has a track record, built up over 18 years in Parliament, of being the only party that has consistently championed these issues.

No matter who our leaders have been, no matter what our political fortunes have been, and no matter how popular or trendy the issues themselves have been.  

Climate change is the number one challenge we have to deal with over the coming two decades. Businesses all over the country are already doing the right thing and taking action - but they need a government that provides leadership and a stable and predictable policy environment for them to make long-term investment decisions.

The Green Party will provide that leadership, setting in law a target of becoming a Net-Zero Carbon Economy by the year 2050. We can lead the world in showing what this looks like; a high value, productive economy, with booming businesses providing well-paying jobs, fuelled by clean energy.

New Zealanders sleeping in warm, energy-efficient and healthy homes, connected by modern public transport.

We have a credible plan to clean up our rivers and guarantee access to clean, safe water. We will charge water bottlers, who make enormous profits from our water, fairly and redistribute the funding back to iwi and local government. The money will be used by them to clean up our polluted rivers and guarantee clean, safe drinking water.

And we have a poverty-busting plan which will ensure that people who need income support get lifted out of the poverty trap and into greater opportunity.

A decent government does not use the threat of poverty as a weapon against its own people, and with the Greens at the heart of a progressive government we will reform our social safety net so that it actually delivers on its promise.

The Green Party stands ready to provide a green heart and a green backbone in the next progressive government. Together we will take real climate action, end poverty in New Zealand and clean up our rivers.” 

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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