As the election draws near, it’s difficult to write an up-to-date commentary in a magazine with a three week print deadline. Events are unfolding so quickly with opposition leaders coming and going.
However, this doesn’t alter our basic message, which is to say that New Zealand continues to do very well. The most recent official figures show unemployment falling to its lowest level since 2008, at 4.8 per cent and trending downwards. We see the jobs creation boom continuing, with the economy creating 180,000 new jobs in the past two years. We see confidence and investment levels high. We see the Government’s books well managed and back into surplus, giving us options about where to invest, as we have on a massive scale to upgrade Auckland’s transport infrastructure, which was previously neglected. We can invest in upgrading our school buildings and the way we teach in a digital age; we can afford better quality healthcare and extend the many efforts underway to help those currently disadvantaged.
None of this should be taken for granted, nor should we underestimate the contribution made to it by competent and stable government these past nine years.
In the past few weeks we’ve seen the likely nature of the alternative – political chaos and dysfunction. The co-leader of the Greens, a lawmaker, advocating that laws should be broken and defiantly revelling in her own breaking of those laws.
Over the next few weeks opposition parties will promise the world; our task will be to demonstrate to New Zealanders the real progress we are making as a country – most clearly and simply expressed by decisions of thousands of Kiwis every year to stay or to return to their home, when a decade ago they were leaving in droves.
I firmly believe New Zealand’s best years are still ahead of us, and I feel privileged to be part of a Cabinet and a Government that combines real experience and new blood, and who are determined to do our best for the country that we love. I hope we’ll have the opportunity to carry on the work.
Finally, I wanted to mention Sir John Graham, former headmaster of Auckland Grammar, All Black captain and inspiration to many, who passed away recently. He was headmaster when I was at the school in the 1980s and a great influence on my generation, demanding and insisting on courtesy and effort in everything we did, and encouraging us all to strive for excellence. It was truly moving to stand in the winter sun outside the cathedral in Parnell and feel the ground shake as 2,500 boys bade him farewell with a rousing haka. Our young New Zealanders have everything to live for, and John Graham played an outsized role in building that strong community that they inherit.