Shane Jones - Government is chasing its ideological tail

The Prime Minister is on ice somewhere in Antarctica - a cold and inhospitable environment not unlike the political winds bearing down on her in Godzone.

As Waka Kotahi struggles to meet the repair bills, potholes grow larger by the week, an epitome for the failings of this Government: An inability to deliver core services.

Community service sentences are wiped out while teenage ram-raids proliferate. Hospital services fail while Te Whatu Ora fiddles with organisational charts. Firms lose trained staff while the head of Te Pūkenga remains disconnected from the limbs. Numeracy and literacy standards plummet while Shakespeare is cancelled.

The Education Minister would do well to remember the prose of the good Bard: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.”

This is a Government with lots of plates spinning. What drives it to spin so many? Is it a case of imposter syndrome, where there is a gap between the internal persona and the personality the public can see? Perhaps it believes more spinning will mask its inadequacies.

Take as another example the fallacy of “Road to Zero” strategy. This is taking on a whole new meaning as provincial confidence in transport policy is verging toward zero. Without durable infrastructure, the economic productivity of our exporters declines.

While the PM craves climate credentials, she seems hellbent on shrinking our primary sector. A substantial reduction of output is paydirt for James Shaw as he jets off to the next climate change event.

Rural communities are told the protein marketplace will pay a premium when we price agricultural emissions. A recent Otago University study however showed that UK shoppers buy on brand, variety and price. More Wellington plate spin.

Inevitably, the chinstrap penguins who beat the political drum of climate doom would have us change our consumption patterns. No matter that global demand for food is slated to increase by 70 per cent over the next three decades.

Reducing the amount of food produced either here or overseas is not an option. New Zealand is in a sweet spot to fill the global plate and there will be no political consensus for shrinking our food exports.

The agricultural emissions policy is like a mystical article of faith. It needs to be replaced by science and technology; the former being optics and the latter as the recipe our exporters need to reduce emissions and boost productivity.

The $52 billion question is what National will do to secure the future of the rural economy. Labour and the Greens have shown us that sheep and beef country will be the sacrificial lamb.

Before the next election, Christopher Luxon will need to distil his position. Trotting out corporate inanities will not wash. Post-Covid, we need to boost our exports. Our current account deficit is already alarming. Shrinking our international income threatens our creditworthiness.

Perhaps Luxon wants less pastoral production and more horticulture. Given the most valuable soils comprise less than 5 per cent of our land, planning will be critical. How will his ministers fund the water infrastructure to incentivise investors? Tax cuts will limit the capacity to undertake practical initiatives.

Climate change woolly thinking isn’t confined to agriculture. The Minister of Transport’s policy agenda is laid bare by Waka Kotahi data showing new EV vehicle registrations - the $8625 Tesla credit cluster - are predominantly in affluent postcodes.

Remuera, Kohimarama and Herne Bay pockets are now bulging with feel-good subsidies. Pockets in Manurewa, Henderson or Swanson have nothing but moths because they can afford only low-priced vehicles.

Funding is needed to address the weaknesses of our energy transmission infrastructure. Decreasing transport emissions needs to be based on clean energy inputs. Such an outcome requires more solar, wind and hydro storage. Such investment however requires a major upgrade of provincial transmission lines. An opportunity was missed in the last Budget as funds were unwisely deployed for native tree planting and other such pursuits. Build the new energy transmission highway and the investment will follow.

Three Waters is as popular as ditch water. Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has voiced what the public largely feels, too little accountability and dubious fiscal foundations.

According to the Prime Minister, if this reform model does not proceed there will be rate rises. She will not countenance such as outcome. Really? Given the rising cost of Auckland’s current borrowings and the decline in asset values, how will she achieve that?

If the Three Waters model fails in the future, taxpayers will pay to keep the taps running. Not Tainui and Ngāi Tahu. Consequently, the plug should be pulled on iwi involvement.

Auckland light rail is a train wreck with unquantifiable costings. Once Auckland Transport is exorcised of its Periwinkle fairy spirits and common sense prevails, fiscal discipline should return.

Of course, supernatural beings infest other parts of Labour’s agenda. Taniwha once dormant, writhe across the parliamentary landscape as ministers insert the Treaty into more statutes.

They add nothing as is demonstrated in the Oranga Tamariki Act which requires the CEO to commit to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Vulnerable children need protection from warped two-legged taniwha, not cultural cant.

If the outcome of the recent local council elections was an appetiser, the full menu lies ahead in about 12 months. Unless Labour jettisons a host of these spinning plates they’ll fall, dashing its electoral prospects.

The electoral clock is ticking and Labour has overdue decisions to make. Shakespeare actually lays it out for them: “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”