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October 15, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Political Porn With Hamish

It’s All Down Hill From here: Where To For The Nats?

As this issue goes to print, National are down to 41.5 per cent in the polls, their lowest level of support since 2008.

Don’t count this as a sign of a likely change of government just yet—the Nats can come back—but it will take careful management and a steady 2 years of government to get there. Another 2012 performance in 2013 could see their polling dip into the thirties.

The biggest issue for National still remains their lack of support parties. When Labour drops in the polls, a lot of their support switches allegiance to the Greens. When National dips in the polls, supporters have no seemingly worthwhile parties to turn
to. Dunne seemingly has no intention of rebuilding United Future to their comparative glory days of 2002—he was apparently lining up the role of speaker—while ACT’s supporters are flirting with the idea of ditching their “Association” to create a new, limited-government party with members of LibertariaNZ and possibly Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis.

While I was formerly of the opinion that Banks could rebuild the party, my belief was based around a successful trial of charter schools resulting in regained support for the party. The results of the trial won’t be out for around another two years though, and his supporter base is leaving him and ACT behind now. A co-leadership with Catherine Isaac would have potentially secured some of the dissents from leaving. It could have allowed Banks to step down as “ACT Leader” over the Dotcom donations saga. That opportunity has been and gone though—doing it now would strike of desperation.

Colin Craig is toxic and any association with him would be the political equivalent of drinking from a poisoned chalice.

Essentially, when National’s support drops, it is likely this decrease is contributing as votes to the ‘bloc’ of left-leaning parties—they simply have nowhere else to go.

Handling of the sale of state assets will continue to be an issue for this term of government. The delay has shifted the timeline back enough that at least one of the floats will occur in 2014. That delay has been forced upon Key, which allows him and his party the opportunity to abandon the sales if need be (read: “polling”) and save face by saying his hand was forced. While the Waitangi Tribunal has created an issue for the Government, it’s also provided a political get-out-of-jail-free card.

Navigation of further local body amalgamations and amendments to the Local Government Act will encounter stronger opposition next year. Our local body politicians are up for re-election in less than a year, providing a platform to draw the public eye to the reforms which the sector is overwhelmingly opposed to. The argument is that it is not the role of councils to be setting goals around NCEA pass rates, however this oft-cited example was the result of the central government-designed spatial plan for Auckland. Eliminating overlap between central and local government is a fine goal, but this Bill goes too far.

Liabilities for leaky homes have formed a significant part of council debt in recent years, yet the reforms seem to ignore this
as a causative reason for increases in rates and borrowings. The situation looks set to get worse following last week’s Supreme Court decision in Body Corporate No. 207624 v North Shore City Council. Previously, councils were only liable for compensation to residential owners of leaky homes, but Body Corporate has paved the way for non- residential owners to seek payouts. The most ironic aspect of the leaky home situation was that the Building Act 1991 permitted the ongoing saga, a piece of legislation passed when National were in power.

In National’s favour is their relationship in the Maori Party and that the “problems” of this year occurred following re-election, rather than prior to. The public forgets about most scandals, as Nick Smith will now realise but, a large German man with the persona to match is not as easily forgotten. Dotcom is probably a right-wing kind-of-guy, but he’s causing enough trouble whether through his own work or state sector mishaps to continue to be a thorn in National’s side. Perhaps overcoming Dotcom is the Nats’ biggest obstacle.

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