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New year begins with optimism

Opinion Piece

The year 2018 starts with many New Zealanders in an optimistic mood thanks to expectations a new, young Prime Minister will bring a greater level of social justice.

The Government’s families package will kick in about the middle of the year and see 340,000 families benefit by an average $75 a week. For those in need but without children, there is more accommodation support and the winter energy payment to look forward to. And that is on top of rises in the minimum wage that will see it reach $20 an hour by 2021.

Labour is paying for these increases by dropping National’s tax cuts, which probably means it will not get any new recruits from National supporters — who will be watching how their party performs as the strongest ever Opposition.

Many of the more affluent, who traditionally are more likely to vote Blue, will be watching the housing market which has finally shown some signs of slowing . . . something that could be accelerated by Labour’s ban on foreign investors. Those who bought at the height of the market will be nervous, particularly the ones on big mortgages.

But it was social issues that carried Labour to victory last year, albeit with the help of two disparate partners in New Zealand First and the Greens. Images of people living out of cars, a crisis in mental health and the large number of children living in poverty definitely had an effect on the final outcome.

How Jacinda Ardern is able to make good on her promises in the social sphere will define her reign as Prime Minister and while there may be some nervousness in the commercial world, those regarded as the “have nots” are starting 2018 with renewed hope.

Here in Gisborne, even though there are a large number of people who will benefit from the families package and minimum wage hikes, it is the new Government’s regional development policies that potentially offer the greatest benefits. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has plans to spend up to $1 billion a year in the regions and has already said some of this money will come to this district. We do need to make our case strongly, though.