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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Election 2017

As some of you may know I committed to standing for National in the Rimutaka electorate in 2017, following the 2014 election. I've been working towards that goal over the past two and a bit years.

However recent personal events mean that this is no longer possible. Since the 2014 election, Jen and I have started a family and I now need to put my family first.

I realise this puts the Rimutaka electorate National Party in a difficult position in terms of selection, but I believe there are plenty of other worthy candidates for the seat. We are in a healthy position in terms of fundraising and I thank the electorate committee for their fantastic work.

Monday, 6 February 2017

We don't need a New Zealand Day

Over the years I've changed my mind on the whole "New Zealand Day" thing. Originally I was for going back to the pre-1976 name for Waitangi Day, New Zealand Day as created by Norman Kirk (right, at the first New Zealand Day, 1973). I've since become convinced though that going back to New Zealand Day is counter-productive and would take emphasis away from the Treaty of Waitangi. And anyway, should our "national" day be an agreement between Maori and the British Crown, especially when we can't decide what it means.

I then took the view that a different day could be found, possibly 26 September (at one time Dominion Day) but that had its own colonial connotation and would mean another public holiday for a country with already sluggish productivity growth. My suggested alternative was to abolish Queen's Birthday so there was no loss in productivity - and of course get rid of what has to be our most bizarre public holiday (it's not even the Queen's birthday, the date was chosen because it falls when the weather is good - in England).

A New Zealand Day in September? We could have New Zealand Day honours (replacing Queen's birthday honours) while preserving a special day for the Treaty. Sounds like a win-win. I've now come to the view that we don't need a "New Zealand" Day. In the context of an often ugly resurgent nativist nationalism around the world, the worst thing we could do is to stoke that in any way. I'm a civic nationalist, a "New Zealand" Day in itself separate from Waitangi Day will no doubt become a touchstone for the sort of simplistic ethnonationalism I reject. It's pretty obvious that is what has happened with the originally well-meaning Australia Day. Why would we want to copy that?

Instead, we should have a day with more substantive meaning. Instead of recycling old colonial era holidays, a day that draws on Maori, Pakeha and all other Kiwis with our commitment to this country. To my mind, there's an obvious candidate: Republic Day!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

New Zealand's external debt position

A couple of weeks ago I re-tweeted a media release from Steven Joyce on New Zealand's 2016 economic growth numbers, which came in at a solid 3.5% p.a. driven by growth in transport (3.7%), construction (2.1%), business services (2%) and manufacturing (1.2%). One interesting tidbit caught my eye:
The Current Account deficit was unchanged at 2.9 per cent for the year, well below the long-run average. New Zealand’s external debt was 58 per cent of GDP, compared with 83.8 per cent of GDP back before the GFC in 2008.
This of course was immediately disputed - because it looks pretty good for the government. Here's what Statistics New Zealand has:

The important bit is that is the net position, not the gross position which is often quoted.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

CentrePort dredging put on hold

CentrePort has put work for dredging Wellington's harbour on hold following November's earthquake. This appears to be because the business is now in some trouble due to a number of its property developments - such as the BNZ building and Statistics NZ building - either requiring demolition or serious remedial work. There's talk of the port requring a bail-out from ratepayers or taxpayers.

This isn't to be celebrated, but again it raises the question of the Regional Council's ownership of the port company, and the structure of New Zealand's seaports generally. We have a listed (and partially regional council-owned) port company, Port of Tauranga, taking more an more market share off other ports such as CentrePort through inland ports, strategic alliances (NorthPort and PrimePort) and a sharper understanding of the market than its competitors. The Ministry of Transport points to this trend accelerating as more 6,000+ TEU "megaships" start to visit New Zealand and the international shipping lines rationalise their services down to fewer port visits.

The sensible thing for the Regional Council to do would be float CentrePort. If that results in Port of Tauranga or another port operator taking a share, then so be it. We're heading to port consolidation anyway.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Housing: it's supply

Residential housing consents 1970-2015
In launching his party's tax policy, Gareth Morgan claims that increasing the supply of new houses won't help. The above graph shows otherwise - we clearly aren't building as many houses as we did in the 1970s - and there are far more of us (New Zealand's population in 1973 was 2.9m) and we're not building enough houses.