By Alex Tarrant
Labour is targeting an overhaul of tenancy rules, National returned to the old chestnut of targeting gangs and drug dealers, while the Greens touted a leached nitrates levy aimed squarely at dairy farmers, announced at a candidate's sheep & beef farm.
A busy weekend with some rather meaty policies. Oh, Gareth Morgan also hit out at Labour's tax policy again - the bit about capital gains tax not including the family home (see end of article). This was all topped off with another poll Sunday night indicating the momentum is with Labour.
Let’s start with that. Sunday’s Newshub Reid Research poll showed National down a point from a couple of weeks ago to 43.3%, Labour up six to 39.4%, NZ First down three at 6.6%, the Greens down two at 6.1%, TOP down slightly at 1.9%, the Maori Party down half a point to 1% and ACT steady on 0.6%.
The momentum is the same as indicated as the first poll of this ‘round’ – last week’s 1 News Colmar Brunton. The Reid poll has New Zealand First remaining as ‘Kingmaker’ although people are now starting to talk about the Maori party as an alternative – something we’ve been discussing on this forum for some months now. The Reid poll indicates the Labour/Green/Maori bloc would need to find two more seats to be able to form a government.
Now, the Maori Party’s support has been trending down, which is a problem for the scenario. At 1% they’d only be allowed one MP in if they win an electorate seat (ie, that electorate MP). At the moment it is looking like winning two electorates though. The party would need about 2.1% to get a third (list MP) in, and 2.9% to get a fourth, which could be a stretch. Watch this space though, especially if NZ First continues to decline.
To the policies. Labour was said to be targeting the "generational vote" with its announcement of a policy to overhaul tenancy laws. The basics are here (and you can read more in their press release below, or read the policy document here):
- Limiting rent increases to once per year (the law currently limits it to once every six months) and require the formula for rental increases to be specified in the rental agreement
- Extending notice periods to 90 days
- Abolishing no-clause rental agreement terminations
- Better resources for the tenancy tribunal so landlords can access hearings more quickly if an agreement is breached by the tenant.
- Introducing ability for tenants to pay a higher bond in exchange for being able to make minor alterations, as long as a property is returned to its original state when they leave if requested
- Passing the Healthy Homes Bill; offering landlords government subsidies of up to $2,000 to install insulation and heating
Gangs and drugs
No guesses needed for which party decided to announce a policy to get even tougher on gangs and drugs over the weekend. (Well, maybe one – it could possibly have been New Zealand First, but then that’s National’s target at the moment.)
Paula “National is the party of law and order” Bennett was fronting this one for National, announcing $82 million for tackling meth “with a range of tough measures to clamp down hard on organised crime and drug dealers.” These include:
- Giving police new search powers
- Doubling the number of dog teams – introducing them to domestic airports as well as international
- Tougher penalties for manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabis
- Introducing a new charge of ‘willful contamination’ for people who contaminate rental properties
- Compulsory police vetting for everyone who works at ports, mail centres or airport baggage centres, including contractors
Update - 08:30 Monday: Bill English was forced onto the back foot Monday morning, defending the policy while being questioned over a comment from Bennett on the policy that "some have fewer human rights than others".
The poor old Greens have been feeling a bit left out in recent weeks as Labour took the mantle on environmental issues – Jacinda Ardern grabbing freshwater headlines. This weekend was James Shaw’s chance to try and grab some of the environmental vote back. One thing Labour missed when discussing how to clean up waterways was talking about nitrogen and nitrate leaching. So, the Greens had a go.
A 'leached nitrate levy', which could shave 5% a year from the average dairy farm’s profitability, is expected by the Greens to raise $136.5 million from year one. The suggested levy is $2 per kg of nitrate which is termed as leaching each year per hectare. Revenue will go towards funding sustainable farming programmes and the clean-up of our waterways.
Just like Labour’s policy, the Greens’ freshwater plan doesn't seem to encourage urban water users – or settlements which discharge sewerage into our rivers – to clean up their acts. In fact, only dairy farmers will be hit for the first three years; sheep and beef, other agriculture and horticulture farmers will be given three years to work out how to absorb any financial hit and/or change land use.
The policy was announced at the farm of a Green Party candidate who is a sheep & beef farmer. The ‘average’ dairy farm will be hit by an estimated cost of $11,000 per year from the policy, according to the Greens' policy document.
Yes, nitrogen leached from soil from dairy cattle is greater than other sources, but sheep aren’t far behind, and they are higher than leaching that the Ministry for the Environment reckons comes straight from 'nitrogen fertiliser'.
The Greens’ plan to clean up waterways also contained a number of other elements. These include:
- a moratorium on dairy farm conversions,
- Raising funding for the Sustainable Farming Fund (encouraging land use change) from $9 million now by an extra $60 million over three years
- Creating a Transformational Farming Partnership Fund focussing on sustainability and “farming with the environment”
- Setting up an organic advisory programme to encourage organic farming
- Setting up Good Food Aotearoa New Zealand – a programme to develop sustainability targets for dairy, horticulture, meat, wool and other sectors
- Allowing accelerated depreciation on agricultural equipment such as dairy sheds, irrigators and effluent ponds. But only if farmers sign up to become certified organic or sign up to that Good Food scheme.
- Getting rid of the government’s irrigation fund
- Phasing out imports of palm kernel extract from 2018
Read Labour’s press release on rental laws below:
Labour will move to make renting a more stable and healthy experience for families, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.
“Labour is committed to restoring the Kiwi dream of owning your own place. We also recognise that long-term renting has become a reality for more families, but the current law creates instability and insecurity for many.
“It is not uncommon for renters to be forced to move as often as once a year. Families are living with a level of stress and anxiety, with often very little notice that they have to move on and find a home in a tough rental market.
“Cold, damp homes are also a huge problem. It’s vital we improve the quality of rentals so our children no longer get sick or die from living in cold, damp and mouldy houses.
“We’re going to fix this. We want our rental system to be fair, and take away stress for both tenants, and landlords.
Labour will extend notice periods to 90 days so that renters have the time they need to move their lives. We will also abolish “no-cause” terminations. Rent increases will be limited to once a year instead of the current six months, and the formula for increases will need to be set in tenancy agreements so that tenants know what to expect. Letting fees will also be abolished.
“Landlords should also feel secure knowing that their property is in good hands. If a tenancy agreement is breached, landlords should be able to access the tenancy tribunal and have action taken straight away. We’ll make sure the tribunal is resourced to take act quickly when they need to.
“Many landlords and renters are looking for secure longer term fixed tenancies. In these cases, we’ll change the law so there is the option of paying higher bond in exchange for the ability to make a house a home by making minor alternations, like painting a wall or hanging a picture, as long as the tenant returns the property to the state it was in at the start of the tenancy.
“Labour will pass the Healthy Homes Bill into law, ensuring that all rentals are warm, dry, and healthy to live in. We’ll help with this by offering landlords $2,000 grants for insulation and heating. These measures will help stop our kids getting sick and dying of preventable diseases that have no place in a country like New Zealand.
“This package has been designed, based on international examples, to get the balance between tenants and landlords right.
“It’s time to make renting a stable, healthy option for families. Let’s do this,” says Jacinda Ardern.
Read Paula Bennett’s press release on a new crackdown on drugs and gangs below:
A re-elected National Government will invest $82 million over four years to tackle methamphetamine with a range of tough measures to clamp down hard on organised crime and drug dealers, Police spokesperson Paula Bennett says.
It will also fund more treatment places for those addicted to methamphetamine and other drugs.
“Gangs are increasingly pushing dangerous drugs into our communities and we are committed to stopping them, locking them up and seizing their ill-gotten gains,” Mrs Bennett says.
“National will redouble its efforts to stop drugs getting into the country, stamp out meth labs and disrupt the supply networks as part of a refreshed Methamphetamine Action Plan.
“We’ll also increase Police powers to stop gang members from committing crimes in the first place, backing up our investment in more Police officers and smarter policing and our tougher sentencing of offenders.”
A new National Government will spend $40 million over four years on drug treatment and education services including:
· 1500 additional in patient drug treatment places
· Community based treatment, prevention and education services provided by NGOs and Iwi
National will also invest $42 million over four years on a crackdown on gangs and the supply of serious drugs by:
· Giving Police new power to search the cars and houses of the most serious criminal gang members at any time to ensure they don’t have firearms through new Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs)
· Doubling the number of drug dog teams and introducing them in domestic airports, ferries and mail centres to clamp down on trafficking
· Increasing penalties for manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabis from a maximum of two years imprisonment to eight years, but no changes to charges for possession
· Imposing new obligations on gang members on a benefit so that if they can’t justify expensive assets, they can have their benefit cancelled or be declined a benefit
· Introducing a new charge of ‘willful contamination’ for people who contaminate rental properties
· Introducing compulsory police vetting for anyone working at ports, mail centres or airport baggage centres (this includes contractors)
“These measures come on top of the $503 million announced earlier this year for 1125 more Police Staff, which included 80 police to target organised crime and drugs.
“Serious drugs like methamphetamine and the gangs who peddle them are a scourge on our society,” Mrs Bennett says.
“These drug dealers are destroying lives for profit and greed and these drugs have no place in our country.
“We need to help those that are already addicted and find ways of stopping new victims of this drug and the gangs who peddle them.
“Our investment in strengthening our borders will also help reduce harm because we know the most effective way to tackle this problem is to stop drugs reaching our shores in the first place.
“National is the party of law and order – we take the safety of all New Zealanders seriously. Police’s mission is for New Zealand to be the safest country in the world, and National wholeheartedly supports this goal,” Mrs Bennett says.
The $82 million over four years will be made up of $40 million from the proceeds of crime and $42 million of new funding.
Read the Greens’ release below:
The Green Party is today launching a game-changing plan to protect our waterways https://www.greens.org.nz/great-farming-cleaner-water, which includes $136.5 million to help farmers move to less polluting, more sustainable and more profitable ways of operating.
“Unlike the National Party, we want to stop the causes of water pollution to ensure our rivers are clean, rather than just treat the symptoms. There’s no point spending money cleaning up rivers if you don’t look at what’s making them dirty in the first place,” said Green Party leader James Shaw.
“Scientists and environmentalists have told us that we need to reduce the number of cows we farm in this country in order to protect our rivers. But by doing that we’re asking indebted farmers to take a leap of faith.
“We will invest in the Sustainable Farming Fund, create a Transformational Farming Partnership Fund, support organic farming and growing, and establish a ‘Good Food Aotearoa NZ’ national sustainability accreditation scheme so that farmers aren’t left high and dry.
“Revenue for those ventures will come from a nitrate pollution levy charged on dairy farmers who continue to pollute our soils and water.
“We’ll also accelerate depreciation on the infrastructure that has left so many dairy farmers up to their eyeballs in debt, so that they have breathing room to pay down debt and free up capital to move away from intensive farming.
“The National Party’s mistaken belief that growth relies on high production, and its unrealistic goal of doubling exports by 2025, have put us in this position.
“Government-owned farmer Landcorp is leading the way by looking at sheep milk as an alternative to dairy, transitioning away from palm kernel extract as a feed, and reducing milkings to once a day because it recognises the importance of environmentally sustainable farming.
“World markets are crying out for sustainably-produced food, fibre and wood, and our dirty rivers undermine the clean, green brand that 80 percent of our exports rely on.
“Many farmers already know that we can have both healthy rivers and a healthy economy, so we’re helping them achieve that,” said Mr Shaw.
Read Gareth Morgan below:
If the latest predictions from flustered pundits come true, New Zealand faces the dystopian prospect of a Government without policy, being propped up by a party without principles.
That’s why The Opportunities Party is again asking Labour to abandon its “We’ll have a tax working group” approach to tax reform, and adopt TOP’s Fair Tax policies before polling day.
“I’ve been involved in the last two government tax reviews,” says Party Leader Dr Gareth Morgan. “Neither were adopted because they both made the same honest assessment that a CGT or a wealth Tax that doesn’t include the family home simply will not change a thing.”
“As a party based on policy, we cannot stand by and let the public of New Zealand be hoodwinked by a kick for touch policy from the party most believe will be at the centre of the next government”, continued Dr Morgan.“If Labour don’t have a tax policy to solve the housing crisis and reduce inequality they can have ours. Waiting for a review that will deliver the same answers will simply mean our current problems get worse.”