Peter Dunne suggests recent moves by NZ First and the Greens to promote their brands more vigorously are more significant than this week's opinion poll

Peter Dunne suggests recent moves by NZ First and the Greens to promote their brands more vigorously are more significant than this week's opinion poll
Winston Peters, Jacinda Ardern & James Shaw, by Jacky Carpenter.

By Peter Dunne*

It would be unwise to read to too much into this week's TVNZ Colmar Brunton political poll.

Polls, after all, are but a snapshot in time, and the timing of the poll coincided with one of the most unusual weeks in New Zealand politics in a very long while. It actually showed very little movement - Labour up three points and National down two (quite remarkable in itself given the Nats' last week), while there was barely any movement for the other parties. And it certainly is no guide - either way - to the outcome of the next election in two years' time.

A better guide might be what appears to be an emerging behaviour pattern within the three government parties, and how that will play out over time. Over recent weeks, the government has started to appear a little more organised and focused than it has over the last six to nine chaotic months, although it still has a very long way to go to show genuine progress on its policy agenda. For their parts, both New Zealand First and the Greens have started to focus on promoting some of their own core policies, rather than just focus on being good supportive members of the governing coalition.

That helps explain New Zealand First initiatives like the proposed  "Kiwi Values" legislation to test whether new migrants fit into our country, and the plan to restrict access to New Zealand Superannuation to people with 20 years' residency. Both are consistent with New Zealand First's anti-foreigner stance, and will play well with the party faithful, even if the support of other parties is unlikely.

Similarly, with the Greens. Labour's fumbling over what to do with the Green's recreational cannabis referendum has left the field open for the Greens to take up the drug reform mantra in the way they have always wanted to. Also, the Greens have been able to burnish their anti-free trade credentials by being the only party in Parliament to vote against the Trans Pacific Partnership legislation when it came before the House. 

Both parties have obviously come to realise that just being a good government partner will not be enough for them, come the next election. As well as achieving specific policy wins, they have to give their respective supporters a fresh reason to vote for them next time. So it is not unhelpful for either to be seen to be pursuing policies that no-one else is, while still ensuring stable government carries on.

But it is also not an entirely risk free strategy. In the short term, putting up policies which other parties reject is good branding, but over the next two years, party supporters are likely to tire of seeing their party's pet policies being put up and either ignored or knocked over, and will start to put pressure on both parties to extract more from Labour to be more sympathetic. In turn, that will become a problem for Labour, already clearly struggling to get most of its agenda through before the election, if it is now expected to be even more accommodating to their wants, than it is  already. Labour cannot afford to surrender too much of its brand space to its partners.

The next year will be critical in this regard. The election die is likely to be largely cast by the end of next year, with 2020 being the year of consolidation and battening down the electoral hatches. 

In the grand scheme of things, this week's opinion poll will probably not amount to all that much. More likely to be of lasting impact are the moves by New Zealand First and the Greens to promote their brands a little more vigorously. In the same way Labour cannot be seen to give too much away to its partners, New Zealand First and the Greens cannot either be seen to be too unreasonable in their demands, while not being too acquiescent at the same time. It will be a delicate balancing game for all to play, and will be fascinating to observe. 

Either way, the next twelve months, not one opinion poll, will determine the government's fate.

*Peter Dunne is the former leader of UnitedFuture, an ex-Labour Party MP, and a former cabinet minister. This article first ran here and is used with permission.

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?

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Maybe Labour could learn some electioneering best practices. If they split some of their MPs off as independents in small electorates that could grab them a few seats. I hear it takes just 5,286 votes or 0.22% of the nationwide votes to get a seat right Peter? That's a better discount than a Briscoes sale.


The Greens have a massive opportunity to push for a clean green NZ so long as they don't get side-tracked.
NZF should be pushing their title - it is astonishing they haven't made political capital from foreign donations. Do they have a skeleton they are hiding in their cupboard.
Labour agenda? Do they have one other than to reward the groups who voted for them: students and trade unionists?
My bet is Mr Lees-Galloway is quietly winning the next election for Labour. Reducing permanent immigrants without actually doing anything other than increase the labour inspectorate is crafty - getting the numbers down is helping house prices drop and denting rents.


If you have a leaky boat with 70 holes in it, patching 10 holes isn't going to do anything. If this boat is to keep afloat culturally and financially Galloway needs to patch the holes then bail the dirty water. The only water we should bring onto the boat should be well filtered drinkable water.

If it's true that 1% population growth requires 7% of GDP for infrastructure then we're a laughing stock because a lot of "skilled" immigrants are earning minimum wage at most. And that's just an economic argument - we were not asked if we wanted to live in a little India or little China.

True. While the US has removed "non-specialty" job titles such as system analyst, business analyst and project manager from its H1-B list due to overapplication, INZ looks to add café manager back into its skill shortage list.

Apparently, making $20.65 an hour means you possess "essential skills" and are fit to get a long-term visa to work in NZ.


Said it before: the only definition of skill is the salary.

Even that can and often is fiddled but I'm less worried about a so called experienced system analyst earning $150k and repaying the employer $30k under the table than I am about a 'chef' earning $20.65 who is also paying for his job.

The politicians know what they're doing is damaging in the long term. But they're like drug addicts. They will continue selling the family silverware, tossing the kids out on the street and renting the bedrooms to strangers.

The environment hasn't been the Greens core policy agenda almost since the parties inception. If it was they would be polling at 15%+ easy. Forget the social justice/privilege stack thinking and they could actually get support, have enough sway to actually make a difference.

Sadly there is a zero % chance this happens.

Labour will govern next term because Jacinda has a lovely smile and she is a really good speaker. It may be sad but it's that simple. The majority of voters vote on people, not policies. To prove my point see Labour's support shortly before the last election when Andrew Little was leader and how much it climbed when Jacinda Ardern took charge, the policies didn't change, the face of the leader did.

Yes and no. The last Colmar Brunton poll before the election had Labour at 44%, yet they ended up with 37%.

Labour under Andrew Little was at 30%. Colmar Brunton basically overestimated "The Jacinda Effect" by two-fold.

With such a variance I would be taking their numbers with a degree of skepticism.


Yvil, if it's that simple then why has National's support largely held up from when the very popular John Key was leader to now when Simon Bridges is at 7% in the preferred PM poll?


No mates and there are people who will just tick National no matter what, even if they all turned out to be mass murderers and ate babies

Could be right. Worked for John Key.

100% true.

@ Yvil

I hope you're not suggesting National had good policies, or even had policies for that matter! If so your credibility is shot YvilI. FYI , I voted for TOP and ALCP.

Well there you go you got what you voted for.

Did we? I rather think Winston got what he wanted

ZB, re-read my post, I did not mention National whatsoever


It wasn't Jacinda.

Greens imploded by backing Meteria's benefit fraud, angering a lot of their middle class support base, those Green supporters jumped ship to labour, that happened at the start of August 2017 almost exactly the same time as Jacinda gained leadership of Labour. Greens dropped about 8 points from ~14% to 6% on election night. Labour gained about 10 points going from ~27% to 37% election night. NZF also lost a few percent 10 => 6% election night, and a little of that went to labour so give that to Jacinda>Little. TOP ate up a further 2.5%

National went from about 45-46% through most of 2017 to 44.4% election night. Almost no change. There was almost no swing left/right, but Maori and United Future lost their anchor seats leaving National further behind the coalition.

Well summed up. Now National need to tell voters that they will not work with Winston unless he declares his hand pre election. He won't which leaves him stuck with the current coalition. That will hopefully leave him in a desperate struggle for political survival come 2020 and make the government look even more dysfunctional. Play the long game.

So National can win under MMP with no mates?

On current polling, no. However the election is two years away and there is a strong core support to build on. I personally would prefer to see them take the high ground than work with the master manipulator.

Hooton nailed it here I sense middle NZ is sick of career politicians of both sides. Fresh blood, clear policies favouring the productive and if lady luck gifts a good recession it's a different game than the pundits are working to now.

I struggle to see anyone being able to govern alone under MMP. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. Key at the height of his popularity and depth of Labour's woes couldn't manage it. 

If there is a recession then it is entirely possible. People vote with their wallets. But otherwise I'd agree with you.


Its catch twenty two for Labour. If they followed through with this weed "reeferendum" and legalised cannabis they would be heading into the next election with a lot of supporters.

The problem is though, half of them will be too stoned and won't end up voting!

Except that it seems likely the cannabis referendum is going to be run at the same time as the election, both to save money and also because it appears they want to have legislation passed (or at least a bill at 3rd reading) so the referendum question can be "do you support the Cannabis Legalisation Bill currently before parliament?" or something like that.

Which means all the stoners are going to turn out in droves at the election in order to vote on the referendum.

Its not just stoners that should be voting to legalise cannabis. I dont smoke the stuff and I am completely in favour. Its a total waste of police time and costs us a fortune as well as making no dent in consumption. Prohibition just doesnt work.

Same, haven't touched it for many a year and even then it was a very occasional thing, but I would not hesitate to crank up the green brownies should I find myself in health situation it could help, legalization or no

Legalising Cannabis will just shift the police's problems on to another Govt Dept. No cost savings more likely huge increase in health costs. (I accept Cannabis could have medical benefits if prescribed by Doctors. Where is the Govt going to fill the financial hole , when smokers switch from heavily taxed Tobacco to tax free Cannibis.

Nicotine addicts have vaping to turn to, they can buy the stuff with nicotine over the net, cannabis does not have to be smoked, at all, by anyone, you can even use it in one of your vaping machine things, I believe. The world is giving up inhaling smoke, it won't be an issue. Govts are going to have a problem with taxes as people give up tobacco smoking anyway.
I don't see why cannabis can't be both sold commercially and allowed to be grown at home, otherwise apartments are going to be used for growing under lights with the added danger of water overflows, unless there is some way to buy your supply. Most would end up buying their supplies, like tomatoes, people will grow a few plants in the garden, but the chance of them turning into male plants or bolting to seed is quite high, people will still want a back up supply. I don't know what you are concerned about tbh, we have alchohol.

I'm confused. Why would there be "likely huge health costs"? There is no evidence to suggest rates of marijuana smoking would increase if legalized, in fact international examples show the opposite. Also, if legalized the drug could be grown very cheaply and taxed to be at a price point still cheaper than it is currently when brought from gangs who pile there funds into other illegal activities. Smokers of nicotine dont turn to cannabis. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug in its own right and those drugs contained in marijuana would not satiate the need for nicotine.

The TV 1 poll didn't even cover the worst of the Ross Saga. The hit to National will be only growing.


Interesting to decide what was the worst of that saga. Was it the infidelity or the sexual harassment or the dubious donations or the fact he had such a high party status or the rank disloyalty? For me it was the third of those five but the media and our party leaders see it differently.


The most vexing issue is that the migrant Zhang Yikun, from the year 2000, was anointed with an NZ honour after 17 years, while I didn't get one and I've lived here all my life. Only difference is I don't have $40 million of questionable origin

You are at a disadvantage since you can understand English.

All except straight out infidelity, is as bad as everything else. However much it might upset your sensibilities two consenting adults having it off is a nunya, oh unless one or the other uses it as blackmail.

The dubious donations will be the lasting one...? What happens if "the dirt" Ross almost positively has much more of goes back deep into the Key era? Wow... Unless Ross completely resigns from public life, or moves overseas, National have an emeny for decades to come. Almost feel sorry for any of the progressive elements to their ranks. Ross is a professional political enemy par excellence.

Ross may become a sort of terrible twin of the author of this article! Quite a prospect!?

Could be possible:

Electoral returns out next week will confirm that a National Party MP received $25,000 from a controversial businessman after Prime Minister John Key had a private dinner with him - at the man's home.

The donation was funneled through Jami-Lee Ross instead and then ended up being returned to Donghua Liu following the scandal (Herald's words):

JLR could also team up with Winston. Be his protégé.


Power changes by the hour.


Whereas Dunne says, Both are consistent with New Zealand First's anti-foreigner stance...

I'd prefer the use of "pro-New Zealanders stance..".

All families do it (i.e., look after their own first) so why should any government or political party that has that modus operandi be criticised or portrayed as "anti-foreigner".... and particularly with WP, this is the second time he's requested the MFAT Ministerial portolio (hardly a portfolio for someone who dislikes people from other countries)... AND he secured a massive boost in funding for our Pacific Island neighbours - you would hardly go to bat for these foreigners and expose yourself to the foreign aid criticism if you were an anti-foreigner.

I think we really need our media (and ex politicians!) to sit back and think about what the world is supposed to do with the thousands and thousands of peoples fleeing/marching en masse from their homelands. Of course, increasing foreign aid is the only way to go, such that they prosper living in the place they were born.

These mass migrations need to end - and there is nothing anti-foreigner or xenophobic about that statement.

Tidy the language Peter (go for pro-NZer, as opposed to anti-foreigner), as you are contributing to the false dichotomy - one can be patriotic/nationalistic and globally aware and compassionate at the same time.


I wish I could give that comment more than one thumbs up Kate!

Could not agree anymore!!

As usual Kate well said. However could it be said that previous Foreign aid was the direct result of the thousands of people fleeing/marching from their homelands (ie parts of the African Continent have seen huge population increases in the last 50 years.

A more specific example of what country or countries would be needed. I assume you mean that Country A received a very significant amount of foreign aid funding - and people from other countries not receiving anywhere near the same amount of foreign aid migrated into Country A as a result? Would be interesting to research if you provide some specifics.

great comment. nothing wrong with being pro kiwis.

we need a good hard look at donations and influence from them
when one party is getting three times more than any other party or the total of all the other parties but they are anonymous questions need to be asked, who is supplying large amounts of money and what are they asking or getting in return


I don't want to live in little india or little china either, frankly I would like the plague from both countries to go back home and stay there.

But you're okay with the Poms & South Africans staying?

Well, not Poms.

Thanks flebus, makes me as a Saffer feel better.

Stop writing in English then......or take it all ungrateful ZXNWQR...te he.

Us POMS can take a joke.....but....stop using our language, unless able to pay it back...yer thieving....dorks.

Actually I am quite impressed with the quality of latin american immigrants of late, they can stay!

But, But,But....a change of diet will be good for us....we have lived off the fat of the land for waaawaay too long.

So how do thee Maori feel about the 4 million immigrants ? always love old immigrants unhappy with new ones .

Synthetic drugs have determined Mr. Dunne's fate

A most unfortunate legislative free market experiment on the health of young NZers.

Legal synthetic drugs did harm but killed few whereas illegal synthetic drugs are killing Kiws as quick as motor accidents and somewhere I read 70,000 Americans.

I think the problem is "synthetic" . Perhaps natural is preferable.

The country has been consumed by whole lot of useless incredible amount of time being wasted, vested interests very obvious and obstructive to progress..... a huge neglect of recognising the reality of a debt crisis caused by 10 years of neglect and credit growth, all lost on the populous who are blue, red, green or all black, have bought and sold and made a profit on $12 billion a year added to household debt,,,, what a pickle we have allowed because John Smiled and opened the door and all those that weren't prepared for retirement got a get out of jail free (retirement card) on the bank of foreign cash while the economy starved of productive credit.....and all the while the MSM feeds them their necessary bollocks of an always go up housing drug to keep the ignorant borrowing and uninformed......ignorance is bliss until it bites you on the arse and you get rabies!

I have said it before and I will say it again Nic. You don't know what you are talking about.

Please, enlighten us with your wisdom...

NZ Household debt as proportion of GDP has stayed about the same (~90%) since 2007. Where is the runaway credit growth?
At the same time interest rates have dropped substantially, so overall less spending on interest as proportion of GDP.