Parts of Auckland have flooded, so the Government shut every school for a week. Only schools are being shut. It’s not good for New Zealand’s future that education is sacrificed first and so easily. Two new polls show a hung parliament, a 60-60 deadlock. Every party is down except ACT and Labour. The Labour Green Māori hydra rears its divisive head again, but it is good news for ACT. Someone has to break the deadlock and make this an election about ideas.


New Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ only policy so far is to dump his own party’s unpopular policies. Whether the union and Māori factions in his caucus will let him, whether he really wants to, and whether he actually thinks we’ll all understand better if he just explains co-governance to us are all open questions.

Here’s another question, what would happen if they did dump unpopular policies?

Let’s say Hipkins winds back three waters, dumps the media merger, cancels so-called fair pay agreements, and puts the skids under the jobs tax Labour calls income insurance.

Let’s say he commits to a conception of the Treaty that treats New Zealanders as adults with equal political rights. Then let’s say he puts victims at the centre of crime policy instead of trying to empty the prisons as Labour has aimed to do so far.

Let’s say he dumps all that (not a complete list), what happens next? Well, Labour would be back to a clean slate. Also known as where they started in 2017, with big problems, big goals, and no solutions to solve and reach them.

The truth is that’s unlikely. It’s not as though Hipkins has been quietly seething in the background of the Ardern Government, opposing everything it does under his breath. In fact, he’s been a fully signed up member of Ardern’s kitchen cabinet all along.

A more likely scenario is that a different Chris as Prime Minister is in a position to dump Labour’s destructive policies in just 257 days’ time. Dependant on a decent contingent of ACT MPs (as in recent polls), the reversals will happen.

Under either Chris, there’s still the same problem. Where do the new ideas come from? Just stopping Labour lunacy doesn’t solve the long term problems left by the Key Government. If either Chris’s scorched earth policy succeeded, New Zealand would still need a lot.

The Treaty still needs to be made sense of in a liberal democratic society. That means a referendum on co-government, so ‘ordinary’ people can finally debate their own country’s political future without being shouted down.

There would still be the problem that too many disadvantaged kids don’t have a place in their community where they can go to learn valuable academic knowledge from an adult they respect. Education is not effective enough to preserve first world status.

It would still be too expensive to build a house (or much else) in one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries. That’s why life is expensive, everyone from homebuilders to ports spend half their time waiting for consent. A whole generation sees little future in a land they can’t afford their own piece of.

Productivity remains low as a result of poor skills and deadening regulation, meaning wages slip against Australia, where too many Kiwis trained here at great expense take their skills.

These issues of national identity, education, regulation, and productivity all connect together. It’s hard to teach when there’s no agreement on what knowledge is, when Mautauranga Māori is put on the same scale as ‘western’ science. It’s hard to develop resources when there are two world views, it’s hard to build a winning culture in the future when you’re hamstrung by the past.

This election year there needs to be honest conversations about these real challenges to the New Zealand project. Being a first world nation in an island paradise is hard. Greece, Jamaica and Cuba have all failed at it. If you don’t want New Zealand to replace Fiji as the largest group of pacific islands near Australia, real change to our current direction is needed.

ACT’s roll in a tight race where the main parties are so similar their leaders have the same name is to bring the real change. Explain why it is needed and how it can be done. ACT’s already started to put out policy solutions for the cost of living, crime, co-government, immigration, truancy, and the Resource Management Act. Each of those links is to a policy paper from the past six months alone.

A tight race is fearsome. Losing, and getting a third term of Labour, this time dependant on the Greens and Māori Party doesn’t bear thinking. But the role of ACT as a circuit breaker just became more important than ever.

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