A man­date but not a to­tal one

South Waikato News - - OPINION - By CHRIS MCKEN­ZIE

Last month the coun­try went to the polls to elect our lo­cal par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives and to de­cide which party or col­lec­tion of par­ties would form the govern­ment.

The out­come was a pre­dictable one, per­haps with the ex­cep­tion of the strong sup­port for NZ First leader Win­ston Peters who sin­gle­hand­edly steered his party out of the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness.

The elec­tion out­come - of a National-led Govern­ment - while pre­dictable, was tem­pered, and did not re­sult in the National ma­jor­ity of votes which al­most all polls had pre­dicted lead­ing up to elec­tion day.

The fail­ure to win a ma­jor­ity was in my view a good out­come for this re­gion and in fact the coun­try.

The National Party is like most po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties, by and large a col­lec­tion of mixed agen­das.

Some in the party favour a more cen­trist ap­proach to govern­ment, which is guided in part by more al­tru­is­tic kiwi ideals of fair­ness and equal­ity.

The party of course also has those who have hard right agen­das which favours a dog-eat-dog mantra, where the rights of an in­di­vid­ual are dom­i­nant, es­pe­cially if that in­di­vid­ual is rich and has power.

It is my be­lief that had National gained the ma­jor­ity vote, the agenda for the next three years would have been fur­ther to­wards the ex­pec­ta­tions of the hard right (and former ACT mem­bers who de­serted ACT en masse) in the party. Had National won the more than 50 per cent sup­port of all who voted, it would have been seen within the party as a man­date for ma­jor changes in this coun­try, es­pe­cially around state-owned as­sets, wel­fare re­form and em­ploy­ment-re­lated mat­ters.

As it is now, there are moves likely in the short term that will see sig­nif­i­cant changes in wel­fare re­form, the sale of state-owned as­sets, and fur­ther changes in favour of em­ploy­ers in em­ploy­ment law. How­ever I think it will be tem­pered by the more so­cially minded in the party, and per­haps the Maori Party who are ex­pected to again help form the govern­ment.

The South Waikato is a re­gion that has been hit hard by the sale of state as­sets and pol­icy change. As a re­sult of as­set sales and free mar­ket pol­icy changes in the 1980s Toko­roa went from be­ing a boom­ing forestry town to one en­dur­ing busi­ness clo­sures and whole­sale un­em­ploy­ment.

For many of the ‘‘mums and dads’’ in our com­mu­nity, there is no spare cash to in­vest in the shares in state as­sets soon to be put up for sale.

We are a re­gion rav­aged by the re­forms and govern­ment pol­icy changes, and as a re­sult are likely to feel it the hard­est with wel­fare re­form.

Our re­gion needs jobs, and a fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing. For many in our com­mu­nity their bud­get is stretched as it is, with lit­tle room for the cuts and hard line the govern­ment look set to im­pose.

New Zealand is a fair so­ci­ety; I hope those with in­flu­ence within National read be­tween the lines of the vot­ing pub­lic, in that yes, there was enough sup­port to con­tinue your role in Govern­ment, but not for the hard right agenda pre­ferred by some.

The Maori Party also were given enough in­for­ma­tion to be able to read be­tween the lines, and that is that the party has lost sup­port, but main­tains enough to still have three mem­bers elected to par­lia­ment, a sit­u­a­tion that will likely see the party again help form the Govern­ment. Maori vot­ers are pa­tient, but they will be ex­pect­ing sig­nif­i­cant gains in im­prov­ing the lot of Maori this time around, and im­prove­ment in how the Maori Party com­mu­ni­cates with mem­bers, and how the party man­ages its strat­egy and fo­cus in the com­ing three years.

The party is head­ing into its eighth year in ex­is­tence, enough time to have ironed out the grow­ing pains of a new po­lit­i­cal party.

Congratulations to Louise Upston and Tar­i­ana Turia who have both done a good job rep­re­sent­ing our re­gion. I look for­ward to three years where they work hard to con­tinue to ad­vo­cate for the needs of all within our re­gion. The world eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion re­mains un­cer­tain, and it is time for sure but fair hands to guide our coun­try through the com­ing three years.

CHRIS MCKEN­ZIE

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