David Hargreaves suggests the way the election is shaping up offers voters the ideal chance to 'cherry pick' various policies - particularly in areas of interest such as housing and immigration

By David Hargreaves

The time is approaching at indecent speed when we will all again be invited to tick names and parties as our contribution toward settling the composition of the next Government.

And yes the choice of wording around ‘settling the composition’ was deliberate, given that arguably we don’t, as such, physically ‘choose’ a Government any more under MMP.

What we do at the ballot box now can be seen as providing a framework for which the politicians then seek to form a Government. Maybe you disagree with that. But essentially, unless someone can emerge with over 50% of the popular vote – and it hasn’t happened yet – then once the votes are in it is up to the pollies to decide among themselves who’s going to be leader of the gang.

Even before Labour’s changing of the guard last week, and the 24% opinion poll support that prompted the change, the fact is National was still looking likely to struggle to form a government without support from outside of its current backers.

And while it is early days, the change in leadership is likely to make support of the major parties tighten up. I have a feeling it will be closer than opinion polls have suggested. At this stage my bet is the election night outcome could be the most inconclusive we’ve had since that very first MMP one back in 1996.

Not factored in?

I’m not sure the potential uncertainty that we may face after this election has been quite factored into economic forecasts and the like as yet. In fairness, it is difficult to factor in such uncertainty. But notwithstanding that, there seems to have been little general consideration of the possibility of, firstly, maybe a delay in the formation of a new government and then secondly, the possibility that new government might not be as stable as we’ve been accustomed to in recent years.

The two months it took to form a Government then was an achingly long time and it is only to be hoped we don’t have a repeat this time around – though frankly I wouldn’t rule it out. And of course there is likely to be at least one, shall we say ‘common element’ (hi Winston!) in the post- election party wrangling when comparing 1996 and now.

Look, I hope I’m wrong and that we do get a conclusive outcome.

However, there’s no doubt that while our MMP system does provide some practical differences, it does offer the voters something the old First Past the Post system didn’t, which is the ability to cherry pick parties with particular policies you like.

Different shades of policy

It gives voters the chance of installing a Government of one colour but containing shades of another. By that I mean we could, for example get a National-led Government but with NZ First influence – thereby meaning that some ‘bottom line’ policies of the junior coalition partner would be introduced.

One obvious example off the top of the head would be the creation of then Alliance Party Leader Jim Anderton’s pet project, a New Zealand ‘People’s Bank’ better known these days as Kiwibank.

Not everybody is thrilled the way Kiwibank has gone but without MMP and a Labour-Alliance coalition, we wouldn’t have had it. And I guess we can have the discussion/debate about whether the country is better for it or not.

Of course National under the extremely shrewd and instinctive leadership of John Key managed to avoid coalitions. I suspect we might not be able to avoid a coalition after this election, for better or for worse, although it is possible that one of or a selection of minor parties might be prepared again to go along with supporting a minority Government if they have a signed in blood agreement that one or more of their pet policies will be implemented.

Cherry picking

Either way, this scenario does provide the canny voter with the opportunity to cherry pick policies they like, have a look at the overall landscape and how support seems to be falling and then vote tactically for specific policies you might want.

Now obviously, if your focus is on general ‘economic’ policies or the like then you will probably be thinking one of the ‘big’ parties in terms of your party vote.

But it occurs to me that some of the traditionally slightly less mainstream issues – but ones that are increasingly nevertheless important to Kiwis - could be looked at in terms more of what the minor party policies are.

Here of course thoughts easily move to housing and the interlinked issue of immigration.

They are both issues getting a lot of traction and as such would be classic issues that could be picked up as ‘pet project’ policies favoured by smaller parties. An obvious example of such a thing could be the picking up of NZ First’s policy limiting net immigration to 10,000.

Arguably the ability of the voter therefore to cherry pick in such a way is a mixed blessing.

What do you want on housing and immigration?

Because if we are to talk specifically about housing and migration, the question of the voter becomes what do you exactly want as a combination of policies?

The election is of course our chance to nail that down a little. And it’s probably not as easy as it sounds at first flush.

In terms of house prices, what do home owners actually want, for example? I think it would be fibbing of the highest order if anybody answered that question by saying they want prices to go DOWN. Oh, no.

Everybody wants to look fair. So outwardly people might tsk-tsk about values shooting up at 20% a year. But are people really bothered about that? Or is it the perceived lack of sustainability of such increases, the fear that rises of that magnitude are followed by thumping falls.

House prices

I think if everybody could just quietly feel that house prices are going to edge up by 5% a year, maybe a bit more, they would be quite happy.

The fear of widespread migration effectively feeds into a lot of the same areas that feeds the fear of 20% house price appreciation – it’s the sustainability thing again. It’s the idea that this is going to force things up and up with a possible bump later – or alternatively that Kiwis will be priced out of their own country, or at least its largest city.

But the flip side is, if the migration tap is absolutely turned off and if Kiwis do start getting itchy feet again, the prospect is that house prices, particularly in Auckland, might falter.

Foreign investment

Same thing with if you do slam restraints on foreign investment in houses. Of course, the taps for both migration and foreign capital, if turned off, could be turned on again. But there are lead times. And the other thing is, any Government here that’s being seen as knee-jerk and changing policies on the hoof likely won’t be trusted. So if you say one year that you absolutely won’t let more than 10,000 people into the country and then turn around the next year and say, ‘okay, how about 50,000’ you won’t necessarily get them.

Then there’s the idea of ramping up construction of homes – which certainly appears to be necessary although somehow or other harder to achieve than it should be.

I’m interested to know what readers see as the best balanced policies for immigration and housing and whether you have cunning plans on strategic voting that will best maximise what you are after.  What are the biggest issues around housing and immigration that should be tackled – and who do you reckon is doing it best and offering the best solutions?

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.

44 Comments

The assumption that stuck out like the proverbial dog's balls is the 5% pa house price increase.
No one in their right mind could believe that is anywhere near the target to get to affordable housing for most.
Straight thinking rather than wishing for easy riches, please.

Yes...This should be a rather concerning read for young Kiwis. It basically seems to be all about what's good for preserving the well-being of those born earlier, early enough to benefit from accessing the housing market at low prices. Seems like little to no regard for the effects on young Kiwis.

The ponzi must be perpetuated...

I saw a calculation by Michael Reddell a while back. If Auckland house prices stopped rising now and stagnated, at current rates of wage inflation it would take 30+ years for them to reach the affordable range. They have to drop.

Well, when you see calculations like this, you realise the current situation is unsustainable and that some point prices will drop significantly and probably rapidly. We don't know when, but it will happen. The idea of a long slow deflation over decades just seems logically and mathematically impossible.

I think he meant decline

It's a quaint notion that voters can, by selecting a cross section of policies and voting accordingly, achieve the kind of world they want. The harsh reality is that minority parties have limited ability to get their pet policies across the line. There are a few notable exceptions, Kiwi bank being (in my view a good) one, but most minor party policies are buried by the weight of numbers.

Peters has no chance of limiting immigration to 10K, the Greens are in cuckoo land on welfare and tax. The best a minor party can hope for is the occasional bit of policy making it across the line but beyond that their role is mostly limited to either vetoing or modifying the primary party policies.

My thinking is that the minor parties come up with quite extreme policies pre-election to give themselves plenty of wriggle-room when it comes to coalition talks. For instance Winston says 10K, but would accept 25K or 35K as part of a coalition deal.

The UK wants to limit migration to 100K and they have 60M'ish.

While I dont know what the magic number is, I know we have to much for a population our size. I think we can realistically halve it.

Residency for students is a rort, knock this on the head, and we must cut quite a bit. Then get people we actually really need, not restaurant workers, fruit pickers and garage attendants.

Labour and NZ First are quite aligned with their immigration policy so I don't see any problem with them working together in that regard. According to their websites they are both quite strong on environmental issues , NZ first particularly with regard to the current disastrous management of our precious inshore fish stocks and environment. Those are my two major issues.
For a proper alternative right government ACT and the Nats have pretty much shot themselves in the foot with their immigration and globalist/corporatist policies. That pretty much leaves NZ First but it really does need more of the growing number of young alt right to get involved directly to raise its influence in goverment.

If people vote on housing and immigration policies than national should get less than 40% vote.

A pity voters can't vote for policies. I agree with some policies of most parties. But I don't agree with some policies of all parties as well.

Thank you david, nice article -

It is hard to satisfy all sections of society with all the differences in interest, wealth,.. etc.
Main parties have the ability to comprehensively cover most of the required policies or reforms - the small ones have just a handful and focus on specific issues.. their supporters would be narrowly focused and driven mostly by emotions , hence these votes could just be lost - all they do is creating noises to start a debate on that particular issue -
I cannot understand how would someone vote on a major problem like housing without tying that with at least 6-8 other major ones including, immigration, Capital investments, labour growth, financial stability and foreign and trade policies and laws to name just few.

So when people vote for NZF's immigration or housing they just have no view of how NZF could be successful in implementing this when it has vague views on many other related policies ? or promising what clearly sounds wishful and impossible to implement.

Good, Bad, or Ugly ... National's comprehensive policies around housing and immigration as well as infrastructure, future growth, Taxation, employment, Trade and investment are largely transparent and pulling to the same direction ( Obviously, every Gov has an undisclosed agenda) ... but I think that business in general are happy with the direction this Gov is taking with tweaks and adjustments along the way to correct and adjust as they go .. Business confidence needs stability and clarity and does not like Volatility --- Unlike Labour, Nats do listen and work with people instead of forcing issues to make things happen - that is a major difference! .

Labour's problems are numerous, voters today do not have the same confidence in getting what they voted for because there are a lot of half-cooked policies dished out in the last minute without proper feasibility studies and sound like tit for tat ... the lack of transparency demonstrated in the last few days , avoidance of direct questions about taxation and coalitions etc is unhelpful and sends shivers in swinging voters' confidence - They started on the wrong foot with two taxes - these might eventually be the necessary evil but they surely marketed and Sold them quite badly ....

Labour's major problem is it's leader's experience ( or the lack of it) .. she could be energetic and positive but she remains an untried and untrained hand - Smiles and good looks aside, no one knows how would she cope under pressure and how will she be taking major decisions like war and peace or foreign policy decisions which are essential parts of a PM's job - Wisdom comes with Age -- this position is Not a community board membership, local council, or president of a youth organization of which a candidate can be heavily promoted in the press and TV like a pop star ( as it is being done now) - She lacks Substance and experience for such a big job .... So contrary to common belief, She is Labour's weakest link despite being cheered as the breakthrough that Labour needed ( or another Helen Clark) this late in the piece. She will learn a lot by being the leader ( or one ) of the opposition for a term or two - she is not ready yet. I do Not have any confidence in her team either - there is very much lack of Substance there too!
At this stage, Labour is highly unpredictable and give me no assurance that they would not raise more taxes or ruin parts of our growth and economy because of their extreme social priorities which do not necessarily sit well with the majority of the voters ! ( 44% vs 33% so far)

I would vote for National this round and would watch how Labour leader and her "Team" will perform and evolve in the next 3 years to see if they can make me change my mind and done their homework properly to be worthy of my vote .

I agree, National does listen to big business and high income individuals. Unfortunately they ignore everybody else. They still believe in Roger Douglas's trickle down theory. ie look after and reward the wealthy and everyone else will benefit.
This theory has been completely discredited.

Dream on, ecobird
The Nats are just ugly. They have no idea where we are going or how to get there. They have never changed in any way from the sole purpose of their existence which is to hold on to power at almost any cost to our future.
They are totally poll driven and always will be.
Keep dreaming.

Wake me up when they WIN so I can join your "celebration" !

Eco Bird good points & agree the new Labour leader is neither vested nor tested at the requisite level & given that it is difficult, impossible even, to expect that she could control, even contain, NZF in a coalition. Bolger couldn't, Clark only just. But that will not sway the voters. For a start the short period to the election actually works in her favour somewhat as the shortcomings and foibles will not have much time to percolate through. And what is going on here at the moment and looks likely to maintain its momentum up until the election is,for want of a better description, pure sentimentalism laced with anti-ism of the current establishment and state of affairs. Time for change etc etc. This nature of voting resulted in Brexit and Trump and new Labour leader has arrived just in time to catalyse the momentum. Afraid to say it looks like a Labour/NZF coalition. And from indications to date, we are going to be taxed back into the Stone Age.

I am disappointed that none of our political parties see the NZ militaries involvement in the USA's invasions as an issue.
The USA doesn't need our weapons they just like to have us on board as it helps legitimize their behavior.
No one can actually still think the reason to invade these countries was because of terrorism. The FBI said the 9/11 terrorists mostly came from Saudi Arabia so why weren't they attacked or invaded? Because the wars we have been involved in never had anything to do with terrorism.

The USA has been fighting to defend its enviable and yet parasitic position of having the US dollar used as the reserve currency of trade. The biggest financial scam in history. Prior to WW2 the pound was the reserve currency used in trade but it was backed by gold. The US currency is backed by good will and they have been printing it by the trillion.

Bring our troops home now! We have been involved in the US invasion of two countries where more than a million people have been killed to defend the US free ride, printing money. The blood of these subjugated nations is on our hands. Shame on us and shame on our media for feeding us with ongoing US propaganda.

If it wasn't for the USA you would be speaking Japanese. Think about that.

Fair point. Nor will the decline of the USA see an end of imperialism in human history.

What's wrong with Japanese exactly?

If you mean today, probably not too much. If you mean say 1942, that is another story.

There been a lot of history take place in the 70 yrs since WW2 moaman. NZ has been complicit with the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and arguably South Vietnam.
By helping them in these invasions we also legitimize their behavior every where else. They are a rogue nation that feeds the main stream media with a constant flow of propaganda.

There weren't any plans to include New Zealand within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

National are now against the ropes and are coming out with all these amazing policies to improve things.
My question is (and the news media are not asking ) is obvious;
National have been in power 9 years and why has it taken them 9 years to work out what has to be done to improve NZ. Maybe it is because an election is just around the corner and it will be closer than their spin doctors have calculated.

I think that's a key point - you simply can't expect to sit for 9 years and deny a housing crisis exists when you campaigned on that same housing crisis, and instead only continue to foster higher prices - especially at the same time as importing lots of cheap labour. It takes away your credibility.

Of course those who benefit from this abandonment of young Kiwis will find they get good times, but at some point Kiwis who aren't benefiting from this status quo will realise there are reasons for things getting harder.

Unfortunately Rick the people who rent are now the majority so could have a powerful vote but they are also less likely to understand what causes their poverty.
Offer them $20 and a box of candy and they will continue to vote for the policies and govt that has exasperated their suffering for the last 9 yrs.

Yeah, that's why it'll be a constant process of educating them on NZ's history of policy around affordable houses. There were reasons of policy for NZ's once high rate of home ownership, and there are reasons of policy for the way it has plunged and enriched the folk born at the right time.

"Nationwide 63.2 per cent of people today live in their own home - the lowest rate since the 61.2 per cent recorded at the 1951 Census - whereas 33 per cent live in a rental."

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=1177...

So even at all historic lows owners outnumber rentals by almost 2:1.

Ralph you are sadly misinformed.

It's not my information Cowpat, it's Statistic NZ. You be sure to let them know.

Ralph ,Percentages of tenure and the number of people ascribed to each are two entirely different statistics. You be sure to let the journalist know.

Hahahaha, good one.

Actually Ralph, without delving too deeply into semantics, that's actually not what statistics said. That's what the NZ Herald "journalist" Corazon Miller said.

http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/population/estimates_and_proje...

The actual statistic is NUMBER of dwellings that are Owner Occupied / Owned by a Family trust vs those that are not. It does not mean necessarily that 6 out of 10 people are owners. It means that 6 out of 10 dwellings are Owner Occupied. You'd need to assume same residency in each, and I am not sure of dat on that, but feels like there would be more voters to a house that's rented v OO.

So let's take a house owned by a mum and dad - that's 2 voters in it, vs a house rented by 4 flatmates, that's four voters in it.

I get it, there are limits to what the raw data shows, but the semantics may well have very little material impact on the point, that no evidence has been presented that more than 50% of voters are renters. What evidence is resented suggest this is not the case.

Ralph,

Even if that figure is right and like others here,I doubt it,can you not observe a trend? If you were to look,you would find the trend line is down and I would submit,is likely to continue on that path,without sdignificant changes to our housing and taxation settings.

Maybe that's what the the future holds, I don't pretend to know. My point was simply there is raw data that suggest his claim (that 50% of voters are renters) is not true.

Hi itsme, Most of us enjoy selective memory to justify a point ...

The answer to that question is simple really - they did not have the money to do that !! while the country loan was on the rise every week ....
In the last nine years we had the following : GFC, heavy borrowing to prevent us sliding down the tubes ... CrCh earthquake and the following ones sucking tons of resources and billions of $$s .. Dairy export decline, world economy slowdown ....etc etc
The only time within the last 9 years where NZ economy is taking a breather and turning some surplus is in the last 12 months or so ... Nat gov had to navigate through all the above and brought NZ out of the storm in a pretty good shape envied by most OECD countries...

Now that money is there - every man and his dog are smelling blood and want part of it and coming up with all sort of funny policies on how to spend and distribute the heritage. !.... which is fair enough if done wisely without radicalisation and stupidity.

Two disagreements with the article before answering your question. First, I am a homeowner who would sincerely like prices to go down because (a) I am also a parent (and general concerned citizen); and (b) when I move if my house has gone down in price so will all other houses, so since my home is not my retirement plan, it doesn't really matter. Second, when you say "we" would like quiet price rises, you do realise you are only talking about the sixty-some percentage of homeowners (and not all of us)?

Housing and immigration are certainly the main issues I am voting on this year. Personally, at this point I'm going Green. They want to build lots of houses and have "sustainable" immigration - not drastic cuts that will crash the economy but a decrease from the current unsustainable levels. I did an online poll and actually TOP lines up the most with my policy preferences (with Greens second) but at this point it feels like a throw-away vote. I have voted National in the past but I think their doing nothing on housing and immigration is unforgivable. The recent Greens furore hasn't put me off because I vote for policies not people. My 2c.

Well put. Not sure why he presumes home owners (who are occupiers( definitely don't want prices to go down. Buying and selling in the same market make this an irrelevant measure - you havent made $1m when you have to buy the replacement house for the same or more. All you've done is made it a shuffling game between the same home owners until at some point it all falls over.

Now people who have over-extended and bought recently, plus "investors" whose entire investment rests not on yield but on capital gains (but they cant say that because then they have to pay tax)... this group of people care. But that's not a majority.

Agree. I would like to see prices in the range where the average house is reasonably affordable to the average salary earner, growth is in aggregate linked to wage growth and not simply changes in leverage, equalisation of tax treatment between owner occupied and tenanted homes (ie imputed rent is taxed as a benefit). Currently the market is a toxic mix of a tax shelter and a casino that sooner or later will blow up in our faces.

I dont care what the immigration number is .

It MUST however be :-

Reasonable
Justifiable
Considered ( w.r.t to our infrastructure and limitations )
Within our needs (i.t.o. specific skills and labour shortages )
and most importantly COMMUNICATED WELL IN ADVANCE so we can plan

You tell Bill - get him on your speed dial - we inferior personages down here already know

I suspect it is just a bit late to tell Bill.

Boatman,

I'm worried now-I agree with you Again.