The new government has now been appointed and confirmed and PM Christopher Luxon can, at last, get on with his plan. To date it has appeared from the outside that the two tails have been wagging the dog as the focus has been largely what both ACT and NZ First have been able to extract from the negotiations.
This has given the impression, due to the lack of National’s input or perhaps output, that it is ACT’s and NZ First’s agendas that are going to drive this government. There have been more reactionary announcements about social rollbacks rather than a focus on the positive changes that presumably voters thought they were voting for.
However, on a more positive note, it appears that agriculture, that often had reason to feel it was an after-thought with the previous minister, now has an abundance of eyes looking at it. And all with a solid background in the discipline.
Todd McClay (National) is ‘the’ Minister for Agriculture but with Forestry, Minister for Hunting and Fishing, Minister for Trade and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs he will be busy enough looking after trade et al. (As was, in my view, Damien O’Connor in the previous government.) So, with Nicola Grigg (N), Andrew Hoggard (A) and Mark Patterson (NZF) as Associate Ministers there should be plenty of back-up to provide scrutiny on past and future regulations.
National promised to roll back a number of the regulations Labour had or was going to bring in. These included the Three Waters programme, the overhaul of the RMA (National actually agreed to this at the time so it remains to be seen what or how it is to be changed if at all in the future) and delaying pulling agriculture into any ETS for some years.
Rolling back or repealing by and large can be achieved with far less time taken than it does (or should) take to roll out new legislation. So it is possible that despite a protracted start to the political year considerable catching up to the 100 day programme can be achieved.
One area that will be interesting to watch is the conversations around the reduction in the tax paid by the electorate, remembering that on September 14th Minister Finance-in-waiting Nicola Willis said; “If we didn't deliver tax reduction, yes, I would resign, because we are making a commitment to the New Zealand people, and we intend to keep it”.
Given the ‘losses’ of the tax on new housing by overseas owners, the Christmas present given to rental home owners which is to be back dated to April (if all rumours are correct) and the reduction of the “bright line test” for house selling, there will be a considerable hole in future income which was likely to be used to offset tax reductions. Add to this the removal of the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax with no statement yet as to how the transport changes will be funded, several potential incomes streams have now gone. Despite this and possibly what will keep Nicola Willis in her job some tax experts have ‘predicted’ tax adjustments below.
Fiscal drag (inflation pushing taxpayers into higher brackets) is an insidious process and the adjustments are way overdue. But given the government's income losses elsewhere, if the books are to be improved (as National have been loud in proclaiming they are better economy managers) there will need to be some severe cuts in government spending ahead.
Getting back to a more agricultural focus; some of the other changes that we may expect to see in the near future as a result of the tri-party agreement are: repealing the Natural and Built Environment Act and the Spatial Planning Act, and introducing amendments to the Resource Management Act, all designed to make it easier to consent new infrastructure.
The ute tax going is a certainty and the ban on live animal exports, and implementation of the Significant Natural Areas policy also look likely to go.
The National Policy Statement on Freshwater (NPS-FW) and environmental standards for freshwater will be replaced, and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee amended.
There will be a review of the NPS-Indigenous Biodiversity and the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) regulations to place a duty upon timber harvesters to contain and remove post-harvest slash. This will be another one to watch given the feeling expressed by many rural communities over the issue of slash and timber waste. Most appeared to have welcomed the regulations that were brought shortly before the elections by the previous government.
There is also a review of the Emissions Trading Scheme ahead. One area that many will welcome is a review next year of Methane targets. This is to assess if there is additional warming from agricultural methane emissions. Hopefully up to date science will be brought to this and the matter can be settled one way or the other.
So, a busy time ahead for the government and it will be interesting to see what emerges out of the demolition dust. Hopefully something better.