Remembering Jim Anderton

Former leader of the Alliance and Progressive Parties, and businessman, Jim Anderton (James Patrick Anderton, born James Patrick Byrne)passed away on Sunday 07 January 2018.

There were plenty of times when I disagreed with Jim Anderton. The more socialist policies, with the exception of Kiwi Bank and Kiwi Saver, I found too left-leaning for my liking. The failure of his party to support minor gold mining operation on the West Coast by individuals who had obtained resource consents and were only operating for themselves I found off putting in a region where opportunities for economic development were – and still are – few and far between.

Disillusioned with the market economics that Labour was starting to support and in trouble for explicitly refusing to back selling the Bank of New Zealand, Mr Anderton left the Labour Party. He formed the New Labour Party on 01 May 1989 and used it to challenge Labour at the General Election the following year, where Mr Anderton became the first to form a new party and retain his seat.

In 1991, New Labour became the Alliance when it combined with the Mana Motuhake, Democratic and Green parties. In 1996, the Greens left to become an independent party once more. They would provide supply and confidence to the Labour-Alliance minority Government.

Mr Anderton took some significant risks with his decision to support the Labour Government decision to deploy the S.A.S. in Afghanistan. Most of his party were desperately opposed to it and factions began to form in the party. One was led by Laila Harre and and consisted of much of the Alliance Party, which little did it know, was in the early stages of electoral oblivion. Mr Anderton and his deputy Sandra Lee who also had the Conservation portfolio in the first term of the Labour-Alliance minority Government plus a couple of loyal backers made up the rest.

However, before the Alliance disintegrated, Mr Anderton had notable successes including the formation of Kiwi Saver, a sovereign fund to partially fund superannuation and Kiwi Bank, a Government controlled bank. Mr Anderton also claimed success in abolishing market rates for rental housing and lifting the minimum wage for ordinary New Zealanders.

It was the type of infighting that destroys a party, and when it broke out, combined with a swing to the centre that benefitted New Zealand First and United Future, this is what killed the pary in the 2002 election.

Mr Anderton retired from politics in 2011. He endorsed Labour candidate Megan Woods to stand in the electorate. Mrs Wood is now Minister for Earthquake recovery.

Following his retirement, Mr Anderton and a former National Party Member of Parliament, Philip Burdon decided to push for the rebuild of Christchurch Cathedral. In 2017 Mr Anderton was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

In his private life, Mr Anderton and his wife Carol had three sons and two daughters, who survive him. He was 79.

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