Posted by Oliver Meredew on September 21st, 2017.
New Zealand’s election on September 23rd is looking like it could be a closely-contested event.
Earlier in the year, it had been expected that this year’s election would be a non-event, but a pair of leadership changes have left this outlook in tatters.
New Zealand’s two main parties are the National Party and the Labour Party – with fresh hands now at the reins, anything could happen, so we’ll be looking at both parties in depth.
We’ll be looking at each party in turn before offering some predictions, as well as how the outcome could affect New Zealand Dollar exchange rates.
Due to its unique position in the world, as well as the state of economic development in recent years, some issues have precedence over others.
One of the biggest is the environment – New Zealand is famed for its rolling hills, towering mountains and alluring beaches, but needs to balance its protective and productive attitudes.
Tied into this is the focus on tourism; the country’s tourism industry is worth billions, with millions of visitors making the long journey each year.
Again, a balance is needed between commercialisation and environmentalism. This is something that different parties have different approaches to.
Healthcare is also high on the agenda, as the national healthcare system has been subject to a number of high-profile cuts, which some argue is impeding its ability to provide adequate levels of care.
As in countries across the world, immigration is also a hot-button issue in this election, with some clamouring for New Zealand to focus its attentions more upon the residents it already has.
Having enough houses to go around is a nationwide problem, while for those who are settled, providing a decent level of education is also a major concern.
There are two main parties in the 2017 NZ Election; the currently governing National Party and their close rivals, the Labour Party. As might be expected from the names, the Nationals put forward centre-right views, while Labour are conversely aligned with the left.
The Nationals have been in power since 2008, supported by a handful of minor parties to make a majority. Some predict that the near decade-long National rule could finally be coming to an end.
This attitude has been supported by two recent leadership changes, made by both the Nationals and Labour. In the former case, longstanding National Prime Minister John Key unexpectedly resigned in late 2016, to be replaced by Bill English.
For Labour, the change has been more recent. In August this year, then-leader Andrew Little resigned and was quickly replaced by Jacinda Ardern.
These substitutions have effectively upset the field – while English is seen as an unexciting, if stable, candidate, Ardern experienced a wave of support on taking the leadership, pushing Labour up in the polls.
In the lower rungs of the election race are parties like the Greens, New Zealand First and the Maori Party, although recent polls suggest that these contenders may not win a significant amount of seats individually.
Labour’s approach to this area is comprehensive, aiming to marry tourism and the environment with a new infrastructure fund. The party additionally wants to step up recycling across the country while looking in detail at the issue of plastic waste; a worldwide issue for the environmentally-minded.
When it comes to pollution, Labour wants net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as well as the ability to force state-owned companies to pursue low-carbon options. For the government as a whole, Labour recommends a fleet of electric vehicles to replace existing motor pools.
The Nationals are looking to increase funding for the Department of Conservation, as well as step up efforts to remove predators from the island. This policy, announced by John Key last year, is designed to preserve New Zealand’s birds and native fauna by completely eradicating introduced pest species.
Less ambitiously than Labour, the Nationals want a third of government vehicles to be electric by 2021, while on emissions reductions there are mainly plans rather than definite action.
When it comes to electricity generation, the Nationals are aiming at making it 90% renewable as early as 2025.
Although New Zealand takes in billions each year from overseas visitors, Labour believe that this influx of people should be better managed.
This will be partly accomplished by slapping an NZ$25 levy on foreign visitors to the country – this fee will go to the joint tourism-environment fund mentioned above.
Based on Labour’s workings, the party wants 60% of the fund to go into growing national tourism, while the remaining 40% will be used to keep the environment safe for future generations.
The Nationals want an NZ$100m tourism fund to be applied across the country – this will focus on investing in infrastructure improvements where needed.
The party additionally wants to funnel tourists into less-visited areas, but at the same time introduce behavioural laws to ensure visitors do not disrupt local communities.
Similar to Labour’s entry fee, the Nationals want to double the cost of walking on New Zealand’s five most popular walking trails, in addition to bumping up prices on other frequently used trails.
Taking a direct swipe at the Nationals, Labour want to reverse cuts to the healthcare system and pour funds into an area they believe has been suffering.
Labour aims to improve mental health services in the country, as well as implement universal improvements to waiting times, hospital fees and medicine supplies.
Sticking to their less radical plans, the Nationals wish to offer the neediest patients cheaper GP fees. They also want to give low-income families benefit cards for medical services and put a new system in place for managing mental health issues and addiction.
While New Zealand is quite out of the way as a destination for immigrants, the distance does not dissuade the committed. This has led to division, with some parties welcoming international workers and others attempting to turn them away.
Labour want to set up a high-skilled work visa, which will filter out the very best potential workers looking for employment in the country. The party also wants to manage immigration more closely, particularly by creating detailed skill-shortage lists for each region.
The Nationals are taking a much more ‘open door’ approach, with a headline policy being to welcome more young entrepreneurs to set up shop.
The party also seeks to draw in ‘high value tourists’ and business visitors, as well as international students. Keeping the labour market very much open, the Nationals also want employers to have free rein to recruit foreign workers when they are needed.
New Zealand has long been faced with a housing bubble, where the cost of a home is typically far beyond the average income.
To fix this problem, Labour want an Affordable Housing Authority (AHA), which will lead to greater housing construction with less regulation.
The AHA is designed to be a far-reaching body, as Labour intends to give it control of revitalisation projects and surplus land across the country.
Recognising the issue, the Nationals are planning to give households more breathing room with higher accommodation supplement rates.
The party also wants to make a Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will provide essential utilities to the most high-demand areas.
The Nationals are seemingly content to let others handle the issue of actually building houses, by making it easier for local councils and private developers to put up more housing.
A key issue for many households with young children or those of university age, education is another area where Labour and the Nationals take diverging paths.
Labour’s key point is for NZ$4bn to go into the educational system over 4 years, which will provide for more and better teachers, among other things.
The party have also outlined plans to make education more accessible across the country, by making public education ‘genuinely free’ for all.
The Nationals are planning to throw even more money at the issue. The party wants a record figure of NZ$10bn to go into improving early education, along with putting hundreds of millions into better teaching.
If Labour end up taking an outright victory on September then the New Zealand Dollar might decline sharply, which would conversely benefit the Pound to New Zealand Dollar exchange rate.
While Labour have been in charge of the country many times before, the last term was from 1999 to 2008. With policies that diverge sharply from the current government, a Labour leadership would represent an unknown quantity, especially with Ardern’s dynamic energy.
Labour saw a surge in the polls after Jacinda Ardern took over Labour, but recent figures have been wildly contrasting. Some pollsters see Labour losing by over ten points, but others have predicted a significant lead thanks to the youth and female vote.
While the Nationals have seen a slump in popularity under Bill English’s leadership, he still has the draw of being considered a ‘safe pair of hands’.
An average of recent polls puts the Nationals just out in front and a majority victory might be enough to prevent any major New Zealand Dollar fluctuation.
What had been seen as a done deal for the National Party remains all to play for, so keep an eye on the TorFX Currency News section in the coming weeks for any major New Zealand Dollar movement as voting day approaches.
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