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What gets axed under the National-led Government?

Jaime Lyth,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Oct 2023, 9:10PM

What gets axed under the National-led Government?

Jaime Lyth,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Oct 2023, 9:10PM

If campaign promises are to be believed, a slew of the outgoing Labour Government’s reforms and policies are set to be binned under a new Christopher Luxon-led National Government.

The great repeal was a big part of the National Party election campaign, including a 100-day plan to axe many of Labour’s current projects.

Here’s a list of some of the things Kiwis can say goodbye to:

Free prescriptions

National promised to scrap free prescriptions and restore the $5 prescription fee, a policy that has only been in effect since July 1.

National initially opposed Labour scrapping the fees, but later said the fee should only be scrapped for those who can’t afford it.

“We think this is a better use of taxpayers’ money than paying $5 prescription fees for everyone, including those who can afford to pay it themselves. Under National, superannuants and those on low incomes will receive free prescriptions (via the Community Services Card or SuperGold Card).

“For everyone else, the total amount any family will pay for prescriptions in a year will be capped at $100,” Luxon said in August.

Fair Pay Agreements

Labour’s Fair Pay Agreements, which allow unions to strike industry-wide deals that establish a “floor” in terms of pay and conditions, will also be gone.

National wants the legislation establishing them gone within 100 days of taking office.

Also returning in the first 100 days will be 90-Day trials, making it far easier for employers to sack new employees in their first 90 days of work.

Government relationships with gangs

National Party vowed to scrap the government contracts with gangs for community support in August.

“Well, we’re not going to give $2.7 million to gangs to do drug rehabilitation programmes. We wouldn’t give $9000 to gangs to fill in census forms.”

National deputy leader Nicola Willis later clarified how things would change under a National-led Government.

“We’re talking about the Chris Luxon-led National government going forward and we don’t want to be contracting gangs who perpetrate violence, who deal drugs and cause a huge amount of harm in our communities.”

Benefits indexed to wages

Benefits will increase by smaller amounts than they would have under Labour as the National Party has promised to decouple benefit increases from wages.

Since Labour made the change in 2019, benefit increases are indexed to wages, meaning they rise with the incomes of a median household.

National has said it would revert to the old system and benefits, apart from superannuation, will increase at the rate of CPI inflation (minus the inflation in tobacco and alcohol).

By the end of the decade, someone on Jobseeker will be $50 a week worse off under National’s changes, while someone on a disability benefit will be $60 a week worse off. Those figures equate to a cut of $2600 to $3120 a year.

Gang patches and gang gatherings in public places

National promised to crack down on gangs by banning gang patches in public places in June 2022.

Bans of gang patches and insignia in public occur already in government buildings like hospitals and courts. National said it will extend these rules to every public space.

“Patches are about intimidation, and are given only to people who have committed a violent crime to show loyalty to a gang,” Luxon said in a press release in June.

Under National, police will have the power to issue dispersal notices to anyone they reasonably suspect of being a gang member or gang prospect.

“Once issued, gang members would be required to immediately leave a public area and not associate in public with one another for seven days.”

No-cause eviction ban

National has said it will allow landlords to once again evict tenants without cause, alongside scrapping a range of other regulations it argues have decreased rental supply and pushed up prices.

National Party housing spokesman Chris Bishop said they would reverse Labour’s removal of no-cause terminations, and the provisions which see fixed-term tenancies roll into periodic tenancies in most cases. Both were introduced in 2020 under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act.

Other National commitments include restoring interest deductibility for rental properties and restoring the bright-line test - the period in which someone can sell a residential property without paying any tax on gains - to two years, down from 10 years under Labour.

Auckland Light Rail

The previous Government’s $14.6 billion light rail project in Auckland is set to be axed by National as they plan to spend a similar figure on seven highway and public transport projects.

National has a $13.5b package for the Super City, including extending State Highway 1 from Warkworth to Wellsford and building rapid transit from Botany to the airport.

National transport spokesman Simeon Brown said the $2.1b Botany-to-airport link could be used by buses of trackless trams, which are a version of light rail and require heavy foundations.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving

National’s Chris Bishop has called the $7.4b Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) package a “toxic mess of a programme,” and the party plans to cancel the entire project.

Two of LGWM’s most significant projects included the introduction of light rail in Wellington from the city centre to the south coast and the “pedestrianisation” of the Golden Mile precinct.

National’s big promise for Wellington is building a second Mt Victoria tunnel parallel to the existing one at a cost of $2.2b.

The existing tunnel would be used for traffic heading into the city and the new tunnel would be for those heading in the direction of the airport.

Three Waters

National’s 100-day plan includes repealing Labour’s Three Waters reforms (Labour would say Affordable Water Reform has already replaced these).

Announced in February, National’s policy envisages scrapping Labour’s four co-governed mega-entities and returning water assets to direct council ownership.

The party will replace it with a Local Water Done Well plan, which they say will provide stronger government oversight, including requiring councils to put aside money for water infrastructure.

Three Waters will be gone in National's first 100 days. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Three Waters will be gone in National's first 100 days. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Māori Health Authority

Also included in National’s 100-day plan is the introduction of legislation to eliminate the Māori Health Authority, Te Aka Whai Ora.

Te Aka Whai Ora was implemented on July 1, 2022, under the Pae Ora Healthy Futures Act 2022 to improve the healthcare system for all New Zealanders.

Luxon has committed to scrapping the authority and giving its $170m funding to iwi instead.

Health spokesman Dr Shane Reti also said the iwi Māori partnership boards would lose veto power and be relegated to the same level as any other health group.

Health Star Rating for food

Reti said he wants to scrap Health Star Rating for food in September this year.

Reti said he was unsure what the nutrition rating system could be replaced by, but there were better models being developed overseas that New Zealand could adopt.

“It’s not clear to me anymore that it’s fit for purpose,” Reti said.

The Health Star Rating is voluntary and uses a scale of 0.5 to five stars to rank packaged food on its nutrient profile. It was introduced by the National-led Government in 2014 and updated in 2019 to give tougher ratings for foods which were high in salt and sugar.

RMA reforms

National’s RMA reform spokesman Chris Bishop said he would repeal Labour’s Resource Management Act reforms, what National calls the RMA 2.0 legislation and introduce a fast-track consenting regime.

“National will campaign on our own changes to the RMA, some of which we have already announced, including one-year consenting for major infrastructure and renewable energy projects, alongside our Going for Housing Growth plan. If elected, we will legislate for these in our first term.

“We will also begin work on a longer-term programme to repeal and replace the RMA,” Bishop said in August.

Clean Car discount

The Clean Car Scheme, which subsidises the purchase of electric vehicles and hybrid with fees collected on polluting cars, which National calls a “ute tax” will be gone by the end of the year, according to National’s plan.

They have promised to repeal it by December 31, this year. The scheme came into effect in 2021.

National Leader Christopher Luxon announcing a new electric vehicle policy in Christchurch. Photo / George Heard

National Leader Christopher Luxon announcing a new electric vehicle policy in Christchurch. Photo / George Heard

Auckland Regional Fuel Tax

The party will introduce legislation to remove the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax (RFT), which adds 11.5 cents per litre of petrol, or $7.70 for a full standard tank.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said he supported the removal of the RFT but only as part of a plan to replace the revenue with “time-of-use” charging.

Sausage flat law

The Medium-Density Residential Standards (the 3x3 “sausage flat” law) that are designed to prevent urban sprawl, would also be gone in the first 100 days, with work beginning on its replacement.

Luxon has previously said he is “ruthlessly obsessed” with building more houses, but would prefer to see a much greater focus on greenfields developments, which means converting farmland into suburbs.

Cellphones in schools

Cellphone usage in schools will now be banned by the National Government.

Luxon has said he believes it will “help lift achievement”.

“It is important because phones are a major distraction.”

Te Pūkenga Polytech merger

National plans to begin disestablishing the Te Pūkenga polytech mega-merger, which was the centralisation of the polytechnic sector.

Funding for cultural reports

National has pledged to axe taxpayer funding for Section 27 cultural reports that are used in sentencing.

It wants these gone in its first 100 days, so expect to see movement on that soon.

Remove the Reserve Bank’s dual mandate

The decision to add employment to the Reserve Bank’s focus was made by Labour in 2018 - bringing it into line with dual mandate policies in the United States and Australia.

National has campaigned on reversing that decision, which it argues has been one factor behind allowing inflation to rise so far outside the target band of 1-3 per cent.

The move would effectively reinstate the RBNZ’s previous sole mandate on inflation targeting.

Speed limit reductions

National promises to end new speed limit reductions and start work on replacing the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2022.

This includes returning many state highways to 100km/h and local roads to 50km/h, except where it would be unsafe to do so.

National will also look at increasing the speed limit on new highways to 110km/h.

Public transport discounts

National will end funding for Labour’s “Community Connect” programme, meaning many of the public transport discounts that currently exist will be axed.

A 50 per cent concession for Community Services Cardholders was brought in via Budget 2022. Budget 2023 extended the programme to also offer half-price Total Mobility transport, free public transport for under-13s, and half-price for ages 13 to 24.

These discounts will be cancelled.

Jaime Lyth is an Auckland-based reporter who covers crime. She joined the Herald in 2021 and has previously reported for the Northern Advocate.

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