Like most of you, I suspect, I’m worn out after a long year and looking forward to the summer break – the beach, time with the family and plenty of serious eating – to recharge the batteries for a big year in 2020.
It’s been a roller-coaster of a year politically: moments when the Ardern/Peters government have appeared to sit at the apex of power and popularity; other times, like after the shambolic capital gains tax retreat or the PM’s admission of total failure over Kiwibuild, when we’ve been riding high. Simon Bridges and our team have battled away and we’ve given it our all to hold the Government to account. To end the year comfortably ahead of Labour in the final One News poll of the year positions us well for a good contest next year.
And the country needs a good contest next year, because 2019 has been a year of missed opportunities for this country.
New Zealand has a lot going for it. The world wants our goods, and our terms of trade (the prices that we are getting for our exports) are still at very high levels. The economy had gathered enormous momentum since the Global Financial Crisis and the Ardern/Peters government inherited huge surpluses at a time of very low interest rates. We should be doing well.
Instead, we’re sputtering along with growth per person barely above zero.
In two short years Ardern and Peters have taken an economy that was growing strongly, with government surpluses as far as the eye could see, and transformed that into a rapidly slowing economy in deficit.
It’s a shocking turn around. And there’s very little to see for all the money being spent. Fewer operations in our hospitals, fewer kids going to tertiary education despite the free fees, a handful of jobs from the $3 billion Shane Jones slush fund, a handful of houses from the $2 billion Kiwibuild project. Lots of big announcements; little follow through.
The year of delivery, meantime, has been a fizzer. The big talk just before Christmas of a large infrastructure package ‘in the future’ will impress few people, given that they’ve wasted two years.
On transport in this city, where congestion blights our lives, they’ve cancelled several major projects that were ready to go and replaced them with projects, such as the slow tram down Dominion Road, that make little sense and are still years away from starting.
So, having stopped a whole lot of infrastructure projects at the start of the term, because Julie Ann Genter refuses to give into ‘car fascists’ who want roads, they have now realised they need to do something, and will restart some of the roads next year.
But it’s like my old lawn mower: it’s very easy to turn it off, but it’s a hell of a job to start it again.
After three years of this government we will have started no new major infrastructure projects.
For us, you’ll see us next year absolutely focused on reducing costs for Kiwi households; we’ll deliver quality infrastructure to boost productivity and growth, and we’ll restore confidence so that more businesses invest and create more opportunities for everyone to get ahead.
All the very best for a safe and merry Christmas.