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As the September 19 election looms, against the backdrop of COVID-19, right here is the place for some key public policy debates

As the September 19 election looms, against the backdrop of COVID-19, right here is the place for some key public policy debates

We go into the September 19 election, now just 43 days away, against the overwhelming backdrop of a global pandemic and all that entails.

It is thus completely understandable and reasonable that COVID-19, and all the ways it has, is, and might impact our lives is far and away the dominant issue.

COVID-19 has, however, provided an opportunity for reflection. And whether looking at New Zealand through a COVID-19 lens or a post COVID-19 lens, the country faces many challenges. Yet to date this election season has not featured much in the way of good quality public policy debate. There are not many areas where it could be argued that there's much of a contest of ideas going on.

And, with a significant amount of media attention focused on personalities and/or reporting on politics like it's a sport, we at have decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak.

We have asked a range of people to contribute an article, or articles on issues of relevance, interest and importance to our readers. To this end we chose four topics and put together guidance on them, which you can see below. Over coming days and weeks we will be running these articles.

Anyone we haven't contacted who is interested in making a contribution, please feel free to get in touch. We're certainly open to considering additional contributors. And, if you feel there's another topic we should include, we're open to considering that too. The four topics below were selected because we know they are of strong interest to our readers.

1) Immigration and population.

Immigration has been a topic of much discussion in New Zealand over recent years. Now, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, it has effectively been halted. Against this backdrop it seems a good time to have a debate about future immigration and population settings. For example, should we set an annual quota of how many people can immigrate to NZ? Do we wish to attract people with certain qualifications? Where do refugees fit in? And do we want to have a specific population target, if so what should it be?

2) Housing affordability and availability.

House prices in New Zealand have risen well out of kilter with wage growth over the past couple of decades. The types of houses and style of living people want have also evolved as prices have risen and our cities and population have grown. What should be the Government's priorities, post election, to ensure the affordability and availability of the types of housing New Zealanders want, and how should it go about achieving this?

3) Economy.

New Zealand's health response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been successful to date. However, the economic impact is still significant. Our borders are closed for the time being and many of our key trading partners and major global economies are in a very bad way. Unemployment may reach double digits for the first time since the early 1990s. What should the Government's priorities be post the September 19 election, why, and how should it go about achieving them?

4) Tax.

As we battle the COVID-19 crisis and other 21st century challenges, does New Zealand have its tax settings right? What areas, if any, should be the focus for change post the September 19 election? How should any changes be achieved, and what is the desired outcome of any changes you recommend?

*Note: You can also see's Election 2020 policy comparison pages here.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to 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.


Why should there be combat of ideas?
From the Government point of view, they should just remind voters "We are doing what we are doing and will continue to do so. There's fine-tuning in the pipeline, sure, but the basics are already being undertaken" - otherwise the obvious question is "Well, why aren't you doing things differently already?"
It's for the opposition parties to present alternative ideas (call them bribes if you like) to challenge the incumbent's status quo, and quite frankly I don't think they are up to formulating anything earthshattering - otherwise, we'd have heard by now. ( raises an eyebrow!)

While I get somewhat despondent at the current state of the major parties I do try my best to hope that Milton Friedman's quote to "make it politically profitable for wrong people to do right thing" holds some truth and "we, the people" can have influence. If not I may as well give up and go fishing while still can.

Please ask Michael Reddell to contribute an article on any of the above. Matthew Tukaki would also be interesting too. Both relatively non-partisan and come from different angles.

Reddell is an economist.

Why would you ask one of them? Nice folk they may be, but taught about physical realities they are not.


for me its simple this time,
I need to vote in a way that the greens don't get the balance of power
I don't want CGT personally , and its the wrong policy for controlling growth in house prices if that is what they are trying to sell,
national (no mates) and ACT wont get there this time, they need a new leader and new policies
NZ first are gone burger finally so he can not be the hand brake
not much choice either waste my vote and can moan for three years or vote so one party governs alone and moan for three years.
either way not much choice for me this time

That's an interesting way of looking at it. So labour becomes the lesser of two evils

Not a lesser evil but one that you can live or tolerate with!

unless the polls change a couple of weeks out, then I might have more choice

Think that is a pretty solid description of the state of play, and I identify with it too. However if in the next government, Labour has to depend on the Greens to govern, to the point they enter cabinet, then that will present a very different aspect in that it will be more than a significant lurch to the left. Firstly because the hardened socialist left of the Greens outweigh and outrank the environmental elements of policy. Secondly because the trade union bodies have been and still are, expectant of Labour delivering up their agenda. It is no coincidence that announcements of desired wealth taxes, asset taxes, death duties have been forthcoming recently from both these two directions.

It seems your are confused. The Greens are not advocating for a CGT.
Looks like a labour or Labour/Green gov. will suit you just fine.

maybe you should look it up, CGT has always been greens policy it was stopped this time by NZ first and JA said she wont bring it in (not that i believe her) Ms Ardern on 17 April abandoned any plans to implement the tax - not just under this government, but for as long as she's in charge.
Taxes should discourage speculative investment in non-productive assets. A capital gains tax should be applied to property investment, excluding family homes.

Where is the logic in excluding the family home? It will just drive more money into housing and away from productive investment

What is productive investment?

Buying a share off someone? who bought it off someone else? who bought it off someone else......

May the glaziers smash windows. Economic productivity for all!

Yes, some very valid points.
However, remember Labour almost brought in CGT and the uproar from the majority of New Zealand and pressure from NZ First made them back out of that.
That was a fairly embarrassing show for Labour there.
The biggest failure so far is the lack of progress in Kiwibuild, that gets a D from most voters.

CGT might not stem house inflation but it would be an avenue to raise some much needed tax revenues in our Covid world .

Is National still the party of free enterprise and is it faithful to the heritage/values of this country?
Do they seek donations from people connected to non-NZ sources who seek to influence policy and loyalty to the sovereignty of NZ?
Where can a voter go now?
Maybe each party should be given a set amount for electioneering and be banned from seeking external money.

If parties can't convince their own members to front up the cash for an election campaign then why should taxpayers underwrite them? If I wanted to financially support a political party, I'd donate. It's immoral to use taxpayer money to fund political views that they do not agree with - at least any more than we already do through broadcasting allocations.

Problem is very few members and donations.
So then all Parties go looking for big donors who may want some form of Pay for Play, so potential for corruption.

Let's try no anonymous donations/natural persons only first before we write off donations altogether.

Sure, & stop the clever tricks of dividing up the $200,000 donations from wealthy invisible men into $10,000 lots to get around the rules.

Easily solved. A $20 voucher redeemable by registered parties only handed to each voter with sufficient enthusiasm to attend a polling station. Personally I might vote for a large party so my vote is not wasted but donate my voucher to a small no-hoper party which expouses policies I like.
The trouble with your traditional donation method is the millionaire has more disposable money than the average parents of small children but it is the later who desperately need political changes to for example housing prices, taxes & benefits, education, etc.

That's a good idea you have there Lapun. Something needs to change if we are to hold onto the democracy that so many have fought and died for.

The environment needs to be included as included as one of the key public policies. I'm sure that you could argue for all government areas like health & education, but to me they are not key areas of differentiation and/or areas of policy vacuum.

national at it again now dirty politics internally, this election looks like a disaster for them.
they need some fantastic new policy we can get behind or something to blow up for labour.
they have their cheerleaders on 1zb and now magic talk but without something to sell its not going to help

Well even though we are still 6 weeks out I will kick off with a prediction for entertainment purposes. Swing and ex NZF voters will back Labour to keep Greens away from the balance of power.

Seats in the house:
Labour 73
National 35
Act 6
Greens 6

Up until now such a scenario would have ridiculed as sheer fantasy. But it is not improbable, not at all. Trust little ol’ NZ to vote in MMP and then develop cause to defeat its principles.

Labour 63

National 45

Act 6

Greens 2

Maori 4
Then sit back and watch what happens to Aotearoa

COL - Lab, Greens, Maori. The leadership of big parties like coalitions because it gives them an excuse to selectively ignore the policies of the boisterous crazy fringes of their own party.

True except, they can also hide behind said junior partner. Case in point the Clark/Cullen government using Jim Anderton to front income tax increases. This is what we have to do to make a coalition work, don’t you know.

The greens won't get 2 seats. They either get nothing (very unlikely) , or they get 6+. Two would mean they won two seats and got less than 1.5% party vote.

Gareth you missed both 'the emvironment' and more specifically 'The Limits to Growth'.

Until you address the latter, all else is discussions on a sloping deck. The economy one is about deckchairs on said sloping deck.

This stuff is happening NOW - yet you still don't rank it. Why?

So many comments about the Greens. They must be pretty powerful to engender the fear of them holding some sort of balance of power. The fact is they've never been close to any sort of control and never will be.
But then I'm inclined to vote for them just to see them add some moderation to the other parties.

Very telling when the Labour mp said the Greens were the conscience of Labour. Labour in its populism has become very centrist, true lefties hate it. Surprised greens arent polling higher as a result, but maybe the lefties are hoping labour will dig in at some point.

#1. Population target. I suggest an upper limit of five million - but I would prefer if we got New Zealand back down to two million. It would be a better place.

I agree with you. But it is much easier to manage growth than decline. Imagine trying to sell your Auckland house if the population was declining rapidly.

Funny isn't it? Democracy I mean... You see, my vote is worth just as much as yours and I would prefer to see NZ's population at 35 to 40 millions.


Why wait for the population to increase in NZ, if you just emigrate to any number of densely populated countries we will both have what we want. Win win.

NZ's biggest asset is our lack of people.

Wheels are in motion as we speak! One less rental house in the pool, another to follow soon.

If you solve immigration then you solve housing affordability.

You vastly improve it but not solve it. Even with no immigration there is a rapid move to the big cities from rural and small town NZ. The typical young Kiwi mother is single so we need more properties but maybe smaller. It is the immigrants who have two parents and more children. However if you define the immigration problem as one of lack of policy which leaves Auckland growing much faster than the highest predictions then you are right. It is the unplanned rapid growth that is resulting in lack of infrastructure.

I don't think that's correct, unless things have changed in the last couple of years. Native born Aucklanders are leaving in droves (in fact I personally know a dozen or more, who cashed up their Auckland property and scarpered to the regions). Reddell wrote about it:

"There was a slight move into Auckland from elsewhere in New Zealand in 2011, but otherwise the net flow of New Zealanders has been away from Auckland [From 2009 to 2016]. In fact, in the final year of the chart, the net outflow of New Zealanders (this is a NZ-born measure) was larger than the natural increase, so that the entire increase in Auckland’s population is (estimated to have been) due to international migration.

Good on any small party for having a go, but when I read "we need to apologize to Israel" I wrote them off as some form of nut jobs. Who else on the other side of the world would you have us apologizing to next?