Mt Albert by-election reveals extent to which Labour and the Greens see eye-to-eye, as they set their sights on National

Mt Albert by-election reveals extent to which Labour and the Greens see eye-to-eye, as they set their sights on National

By Jenée Tibshraeny

Two of the Opposition's rising stars are striving to illustrate how a Labour/Greens government may work, ironically as they go head-to-head in the Mt Albert by-election.

There is more discussion than there is argument between Labour’s Jacinda Ardern and the Greens’ Julie Anne Genter.

They are using the February 25 by-election to show they’re committed to their memorandum of understanding to work towards replacing National as government.

From there, they have similar end goals. The question is whether they can agree on a pathway to achieving these.

THE POLITICS:

National’s absence in Mt Albert won’t highlight divisions on the left

Ardern isn’t concerned about National’s absence in the by-election drawing unwelcome attention to rifts between Labour and the Greens, who are due to hold a joint State of the Nation briefing on January 29.

“I suspect that they [National] made a call that either they take the hit at the beginning for choosing not to run, or take it on election night,” she says, speaking to interest.co.nz in a Triple Shot Interview.

“I take the view that by-elections are an opportunity for all political parties to really demonstrate what their platform is, what their vision is for not just the area, but for New Zealand...

“So there’s nothing strange about the Greens and Labour choosing to do that. There’s something quite odd though about National choosing to not do that.

“I’m not concerned about the focus being on the differences. I think we’ll model what a vision for a future Labour/Green government would look like.”

Genter is in a similar boat, saying: “It’s important for people in Mt Albert, I think, to have the choice about who they’re going to vote for.”

Genter to run for Mt Albert in general election, regardless of by-election result  

Genter had her eye on the electorate before the opening came up when Labour’s David Shearer resigned from parliament at the end of last year to take up a job at the United Nations.

“That’s why I’ve ended up as the candidate for the by-election,” she says.

In the 2014 General Election, Genter got walloped by ACT’s David Seymour when she ran in the National stronghold of Epsom. Ardern missed out on the Auckland Central seat by 600 votes to National’s Nikki Kaye.

Genter has committed to running for the Mt Albert seat in this year’s general election, regardless of the by-election result.

In the 2014 General Election, Shearer won the seat by a resounding majority. While National narrowly secured the party vote, the Greens lagged Labour by 25%.

Yet Labour has always had a firm grip on the seat, with former Prime Minister Helen Clark holding it before Shearer.

“I’m going to be very sad to break the tradition of Labour leaders in the Mt Albert seat, but what is absolutely true is that they [Mt Albert MPs] have always had strong positions within their opposition parties or government,” Ardern says.  

“As a front bench member I can absolutely bring to the table that voice for the seat, at a senior level.”

THE TRACK RECORD:

Ardern big on social issues, Genter big on transport  

Asked what her biggest achievement is, Ardern is proud of the work she’s done on Labour’s Dole for Apprenticeships policy, which if implemented, would see the government subsidise employers to take on apprenticeships.

She’s also happy with her Best Start package, which seeks to reduce poverty and improve child wellbeing.

“They are things I want to implement. At the moment they’re all on paper, and I think you really get your proud moments when you’re in government,” she says.

Genter maintains her greatest achievements have been around the work she’s done on transport - both with the Green Party and before joining when she worked as a consultant.

“We’ve successfully campaigned for the electrification of Auckland’s rail network and since then we’ve had - finally - the government agreeing to the City Rail Link,” she says.

“We’ve had the National Government increase the amount of money for urban cycleways 10-fold, and I think in a large part that was due to successful campaigning by the Green Party on our Safe to School policy, and just showing how illogical National’s approach towards transport spending has been.

“I think we’re really starting to win the debate. But even though we’ve pushed them this far, we’ll be able to achieve so much more in government.”

THE POLICIES:

Greens commit to fully funding light rail, Labour to funding half

Genter and Ardern want rail to be prioritised over roads, yet have differing views on how much money central government should stump up to pay for it.

Genter wants the Government to fully fund a proposed light rail network from the North Shore to Auckland Airport that would run via Dominion Road.

A NZ Transport Agency briefing shows the Government is considering this, yet the Transport Minister is hesitant about light rail.

However Labour Leader Andrew Little in last year’s Mt Roskill by-election only went as far as to saying a Labour Government would fast-track the project, and fund half of the proposed first phase between the CBD and Mt Roskill.

Ardern says central and local government need to work more closely; together forming a 30-year plan for Auckland transport.

“That would include for instance, relevant to Mt Albert, cross town connections so that you don’t have to go into the city to meet the north-western or southern public transport routes. Those are things we need to plan together and fund together.”

She points out both Labour and Greens since 2011 have been behind central government helping fund the City Rail Link - the underground train line that will run from Britomart, through the CBD to Mt Eden. However it took Transport Minister Simon Bridges until September last year to say the Government would fund half the project.

Mutual support for a regional fuel tax

Both Ardern and Genter support a regional fuel tax, with Genter saying a congestion charge could also be an option further down the track.

“Central government can enable local government [to get] better sources of revenue to invest in their share of transport infrastructure. It doesn’t make sense to be investing in long-term transport infrastructure from property taxes - from rates,” Genter says.

“National is stopping Auckland from raising its own revenue to invest in the transport projects it really needs.”

Genter would also like central government to provide local government and schools with funding to put separated cycle and walkways in place near schools and upgrade intersections, to make it safer for kids to walk or bike to school.  

Genter: House price to income ratio needs to fall to 5:1

Both Ardern and Genter admit house prices in Auckland are unaffordable, with the median in Auckland City at $978,000 according to REINZ.

While Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei mid-last year point blank said prices needed to fall, Genter wouldn’t comment on what she would like the median to be.

Rather she references Auckland Council’s former chief economist who says the house price to income ratio needs to fall from where it is now at 10:1, to 5:1.

Ardern wouldn’t commit to saying house prices need to fall.

“There’s going to be differences in the way that we see some of those challenges. But some of our ideas around addressing them are compatible [with the Greens],” she says.

Ardern: It’s all about making sure we have enough affordable houses

Ardern’s solution is ensuring there’s the right mix of housing available. She says we need to build less big expensive houses on large plots of land, and build more affordable ones.

“Only 5% of our new housing is considered affordable housing, so the mix of build is part of the problem as well. The Unitary Plan is going to do a bit around that, but part of our problem is that we’re not building to scale,” she says.

“If we want houses in the $500,000-$600,000 range in Auckland, then we need someone who is able to build at scale - townhouses, apartments, houses on small parcels of land.”

Labour, through its KiwiBuild policy, has committed to building 50,000 affordable homes for first home buyers in Auckland, in 10 years. The stand-alone homes will be priced at $500,000-$600,000, with apartments and terraced houses under $500,000.

Ardern wouldn’t comment on how many of these homes she believes there’s scope to build in the Mt Albert electorate, yet says: “It’s all about transport nodes.

“Wherever there’s a new development, the planning has to be in place to make sure that we have decent public transport that accesses those new housing developments.”

More coordinated planning needed between public and private sectors

Genter agrees, going further to say: “There’s a really strong role for government to be involved in master planning neighbourhoods and trying to coordinate what’s happening, because if every individual landowner is redeveloping separately, it’s not going to create the best outcome...”

Referencing Australia’s inner city suburbs, she says: “That’s what we want - density done well.”

Ardern would like to see an ‘Urban Design Authority’ formed.

“You look at the some of the developments we’ve had in Auckland, there’s been a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. Build it with multiple car parks, with no public transport, sometimes without even proper roading, water or sewage links,” she says.

Genter notes: “It was important to get the rules right in the Unitary Plan. I don’t know that they’re entirely there, but they’re going in the right direction.

“There are still a lot of rules that prevent the kind of high quality apartments that we used to get... rules [that] unintentionally create really ugly design.”

These include: parking requirements, rules that limit ceiling and site to boundary ratios.

Greens crack down harder than Labour on property speculators  

Ardern supports Little withdrawing Labour’s support for a capital gains tax, after he came into leadership.

Labour wants to extend the current bright line test from two to five years, meaning property investors who sell a house within five years of buying it, have to treat any net gain on the sale as income and pay tax on it.

The Greens support a full capital gains tax that exempts the family home.

Both Labour and the Greens also want to ban non-resident foreign speculators from buying existing New Zealand houses.

Different policies, together better protecting renters   

Genter highlights the fact renting needs to be made more affordable and secure.

She points to the Greens’ Residential Tenancies (Safe and Secure Rentals) Amendment Bill, which seeks to set a default of three years for fixed-term tenancies, lengthen notice period landlords have to give tenants before asking them to leave, and limit rent increases to no more than once a year, among other protections.

Ardern adds rents have increased by about 40% in Mt Albert since 2008.

“Not only can’t they afford to buy; they can’t afford to save as well, because a huge proportion of their income is spent on renting. And often renting poor quality housing,” she says.

Labour’s Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill sets standards that will require all rental properties to meet standards around insulation, heating, ventilation, draught stopping, and drainage.

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27 Comments

Great to see Labour and the Greens sharing so much common ground. Both Arden and Genter presented intelligent, and articulate arguments around infrastructure. Ardens handling of the politically thorny question of housing affordability in Auckland was excellent. They both deserve to win the by-election, but whatever the outcome they’ll make a cohesive government. Good luck !

While most NZers want to see more protection of the natural, environment, NZers are suspicious of the Green Party, and suspect they may be a Trojan horse for other more radical policies.
For example, Their foreign policy shows more loyalty to the UN than to NZ and the western alliance
https://home.greens.org.nz/policysummary/global-affairs-policy-summary
Their UK equivalent seeks to decriminalise members of Al-QuedA, ISIS etc in their policy.
So it's a 2-edged sword for Labour -

National not fighting shows their confidence. They can delay facing the election and truth but cannot avoid it.

I'd say the opposite, they know they would lose. They can't afford another by-election defeat in terms of image - same reason JK has stuck around in Helensville rather than risk that contest.

I read expert1 comment as showing National's lack of confidence.

National can delay the day of reckoning by not standing a candidate in Mt Albert and delaying the general election to the latest possible date. That National wants to avoid having the conversation about why their policy package is not working for NZ's biggest city -in terms of housing affordability, congestion, security of tenure, creating stable prosperous communities....

If National had a convincing story they would use it in the Mt Albert by-election to tell the electorate and the country as a whole.

That's what I thought expert1 meant by -"they can delay the election and (facing the) truth but (they) cannot avoid it."

Yes Brendon

The biggest 'Truth' that will come out is how much National lied to us about the Overseas Investors figures claiming 4% when we can clearly see now with the falling house sales that it was far higher than that for Auckland - try 40%.

How blatant is it that they can get away with selling off this this wonderful land right under the nose of it citizens pushing them aside, to be left out in the cold.

Well done Interest.co.nz for treating the public intelligently. For fostering the conversation about what to do about thorny problems in our society -especially the thorny problem of unaffordable housing.

It would be easy to succumb to the lowest common denominator of click-bait journalism -by sending out journalists to find and highlight every little difference between Labour and the Greens. This would deprive the public the opportunity of hearing an explanation or a conversation about why particular policies are important.

I think ultimately the click-bait route of not engaging in genuine conversations with the public is a dead end for both the media and politicians -because both lose credibility and trust.

Eventually it leads to the dead end of populist politicians like Trump campaigning and governing by twitter decree......

watch out housing investors if these two get in, they will be coming after you,

They will be coming after everyone, Sharetrader!
NZ shares will drop as they will make it harder to operate with the Greens wacky ideas and Labours protective ways.
Can't actually see them getting in though, as I give the average Kiwi more sense than that.

The-Man-2 I cannot reconcile your comments with what I just heard from Julie-Anne and Jacinda. To me Julie-Anne had reasonable ideas about transport that would be completely mainstream for hundreds of cities around the world, while Jacinda was obviously a person with a moral compass who cares about giving children a good start in life. Her description of the need to increase the range of new houses being supplied to the market came across as excellent advice, not protectionist to me. Quite frankly I cannot see where you are coming from.

I think this interview was excellent journalism because it gave us an unfiltered view of what's on offer by our politicians. It is then up to us to decide whether we like it or not. But you did not want to engage with that -your comment didn't even reflect that you had listened to Julie-Anne or Jacinda at all. All you did was spout of a preconceived point of view....

What is the point of that? Why are you even here?

Brendon, calling Trump a dead end populist politician seemed like a preconceived point of view to me also quite frankly.

Trump is a very clever populist politician. He saw something no one else did -or certainly something that none of the other Republican candidates saw.

By dead end I meant the progression that media has made towards superficiality with social media click bait. Combine that with politicians not being real -just engaging in relentless spin we have ended up in the global political situation we are in -in my opinion.

Perhaps I shouldn't have called it a dead-end. Who knows where global politics goes from here. But I am not particularly happy about it -so I called it a dead-end.

But hey -this is a tangent. The main topic is Julie Anne Genter and Jacinda Adern have presented their view of the challenges of Mt Albert/Auckland and how to resolve them. I think they did a good job. I only mentioned the deadend nature of American politics/Donald Trump in relation to discussing this main point.

Mr Trump has never been shy about stating his policy.
You can't ask for more than that.

Really? What about asking for decency -not abusing others...

And do as well as Jeb Bush?

Therein lies the difference. Trump is beholden to no one.
Green MPs in NZ will be beholden to the Green Party NZ, which is influenced by the European Green ideas, which have a largely UN loyalty, and socialist-social engineering philosophy. For example, The Swedish Greens are now influenced and infiltrated by those opposed to a free secular democratic society.
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/sweden-green-party-infiltrated-isl...

trump zeroed in on the feeling that Obama is a do nothing president, and people want action on a range of issues, watching his supporters complain of eight years of no progress and a do nothing leader sounds very familiar to me
I have a feeling we have a very interesting election coming up and will be watching what goodies national promise to try to hold power.
it would have been a shoo in for labour if they had a more popular leader. or if jacenta was deputy leader.
the greens are starting to weed out the more extreme people and move towards the centre and do have some policies that resonate.
they just need to drop some of the extreme policy and they will capture more votes

Obama did make some quite fundamental changes, particularly for Healthcare which Trump is in the progress of ripping up.

Remember in American if you don't have private health insurance, you don't have a right to live! How savage is that!

Populist politics is a dead end for the suckers sucked in by alternative facts.

Populism is rising worldwide & long may it continue. Establishment politicians,celebrities have suckered in people for too long.

Labour as of late has been showing some signs of populist talk. NZ First is expected by many to gain more traction as a populist party in this years NZ election.

Yes,too right!! Winston has the evidence,he'll show you the papers,just you wait till after the election, he won't be drawn into it now; you are scaremongering, he will see you in court over these allegations and That is the Bottom Line!!! Everyone knows what "Bottom Line" means ;It's Common Sense, We're not going to take it anymore!! You are being mischevious(sic) etc etc
(And he will probably promise to deport you Aussie_Dude if there is a vote in it)

It's much more fun than any other kind of politics though. Especially for my demographic who have been very restrained and sober up until recently. But you see, it wasn't appreciated...'stale' I think was the term they used.

Not much fun after the impulsive megalomaniac pumpkinhead has pushed the nuclear button when China won't buy Chevrolets any more.
And would another European war not be fun while it lasted?

It's hard to take you seriously when you mock someone because of physical appearance. What would we have thought of someone who did that with Obama? Yet it's perfectly okay with Trump? His look turned out to be very good for creating caricatures that were epic and heroic and helped him enormously. A lot of the anti Trump emotional bleating such as yours is just driven by hatred and jealousy of rich white men, especially those who exhibit alpha-male attributes. Maybe even especially those that champion white, working class, middle America. Unfortunately for the anti-Trumpers it just makes Trump more popular.
In the last couple of decades men, who are often accused of having white privilege, have been very patient and even supportive of making society fairer and more inclusive however it dawned on us that it would never be enough. The nicer we became the worse the attacks got. For people to be truly happy we would have to be practically destroyed. This is obviously unacceptable.

Perhaps if Trump had not indulged in so much of it himself, even going so far as to mock a disabled person when on a podium with the world's news cameras on him, if he weren't so judgmental about how women looked, then maybe, just maybe he would not be getting so much of it BACK. Seriously, bud, you need to get yourself another eye.
What people who have a modicum of understanding of human nature see, is a narcissistic, sociopath who seems to have never read a book in his life, probably never goes into the wilderness, plays no sport, likely doesn't even swim, can't dance a lick, clearly has no interest in the arts, in other words is utterly one dimensional. He is so thin-skinned he will not be able to tolerate the inevitable criticism he will get, and that makes him dangerous as he acts IRRATIONALLY, don't try and fob that off.
I wonder if another presidential candidate will play for all its worth something like, oh I don't know, calling into question whether or not he was born in the USA, or maybe keep stating that he will reveal his tax returns, soon, soon, soon then once he has his backside on the presidential seat its all "No, sod off".
Zachary, the guy has lied and lied and lied his way to this. And by the way, he is NOT more popular, watch and wait, his popularity will go through the floor as more and more promises are broken, as people have little or no health care and that one sinks in.
Alpha male? Oh come on, the guy is a germ-o-phobe, what a joke?