We have reached the mid way mark in the first term of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. In 18 months full of challenges, babies, feminism as one of the youngest female leaders in the world takes to the stage, Ms Ardern has certainly been kept busy. Some tough challenges not foreseen have had to be met head on, such as the mosque terrorist attack on 15 March 2019. Other issues have included the climate emergency, housing crisis, mental health, a middling economy, the need for education reform after nine years of destructive National Standards and a skyrocketing road toll. Most or all of these issues will need to see some major progress in the next 15-16 months.
EDUCATION: Bold moves are afoot by Minister of Education Chris Hipkins following the National Standards experiment and growing questions about National Certificate of Educational Achievement (N.C.E.A.) to realign the system. Tomorrow’s Schools, the blueprint for New Zealand education released in 1989 is 30 years old. Is it still current today?
HEALTH: As always concern continues to bubble up around where to find all of the funding that is necessary for New Zealand to maintain a 1st world health system – if we look at how much damage alcohol and drugs cause, we see clear cases can be argued for changing legislation around both. Also concerns about making sure mental health patients are adequately cared for without compromising nursing or other staff safety
HOUSING: Probably the single biggest issue for the Government and the most damaging one. Housing has so far not been the game changer that the Government had hoped for. The initial Minister of Housing, Phil Twyford has been removed the portfolio. Whilst not yet admitted, the Government is probably going to have to completely restart Kiwi Build or kill it.
CRIME: A deterioration of conditions in jails is leading to a generation of harden criminals who will come out with a monumental grudge against society; the failure to have police ascertain how many military grade semi-automatic and automatic weapons existed before the Christchurch mosque attacks; the explosion of synthetic cannabis and fentanyl has lead to an ongoing problem with armed hold ups – these are just a few of the problems. Progress needed before the election to stop this becoming a D.
SOCIAL WELFARE: The best way for this to be improved is to have the Social Welfare Act completely rewritten. Staff at Work and Income and Ministry of Social Development are struggling to provide the best solutions for their clients under a straight jacket framework that is simply not designed to do what we expect of it. But I do not think that the Minister responsible Jenny Salesa has figured this out yet. She needs to soon.
ENVIRONMENT: Whilst some good things around climate change and conservation have been announced by the Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage, there is a profoundly disturbing lack of urgency in tackling waste, fresh water quality, among others. Some of the potential solutions do not need reviews or inquiries to make them work – they are already existing and just need the Minister of one of her Associates to give the order.
ECONOMY: Before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took office, the economy was slowing. It was and possibly still is a bit too soon to see the effects of new policies, but signals from the Reserve Bank suggest further cuts in the interest rate are coming soon. Given the moves to get oil and gas out of our economy, one might have expected funding announcements for potential green jobs to be created, but that does not appear to have materialised. Policy implementation announcements are going to be necessary before the election to stop this being given a D.
TRANSPORT: One of the few bright spots in a very ordinary report card mid way through this Government’s first term. The reopening of the railway line to Wairoa and the announcement of improved investment in railways across New Zealand, will provide good alternative transport for freight and help get big rigs off our most delicate roads. Also welcome is news of a proposed tax on older vehicles that have reached a certain age.