OPINION: On a Saturday night in Stratford less than a year after an election, 80 people came along to the Senior Citizens Hall to take part in our good old fashioned town hall meeting as part of our Honest Conversations tour.
It was a Saturday night in a relatively small provincial town, for what people call a minor political party. We were overwhelmed with the turnout. People had come from Stratford, Hāwera and New Plymouth.
On a Saturday morning in Nelson more than 100 people came along to see ACT MP Chris Baillie. It was bucketing down that weekend, there was flooding in Nelson/Marlborough, but the turnout was huge. The same day in Blenheim at a meeting hosted by ACT MP Simon Court around 80 showed up. Last week, on a Wednesday night more than 200 came along to our Hastings meeting.
It’s unusual for people to be this engaged in politics so far out from the next election, usually there is a cycle where things build up and then people relax about politics for a while. But it’s different this term. I’ve been listening to the concerns of the hundreds of people who’ve come along to our 45-stop nationwide tour.
The list of things that have the average Kiwi battler is worried about is long and varied. They feel like the Labour Government is wrapping its tentacles around every aspect of their lives. The Government is making people quite irritated.
Mostly it comes down to fairness and people feel like they’re not getting a fair go.
The ute tax has come up time and time again. Rural New Zealanders don’t think it’s fair that they get taxed to subside electric vehicles, and they’re right, it’s not.
They’re facing an avalanche of regulations that are punitive and often hold them in contempt. If you’re sitting in Wellington you think, why does anyone need a ute? Well people in the country can give you 100 reasons.
The Government had the option of exempting farmers to buy utes, but still want to put a $3500 tax on each one they buy. But that’s really the tip of the iceberg.
Nearly everyone put their hand up to talk about Significant Natural Areas (SNAs). When a new activity is proposed on an SNA, the landowner would need to apply for consent.
Councils are basically paying a couple of graduates to sit on Google Maps and look and say, ‘That’s a bit of biodiversity, we’re going to freeze that. You can’t use that, but you have to pay rates.’
It’s modern-day land grab and it’s not fair.
We’ve heard from people worried about the so-called Fair-Pay Agreements, rocketing house prices, inflation, out of control crime and cancel culture.
Parliament has just ended a three-week recess, a break from Question Time and caucus meetings.
But a break from Wellington hasn’t meant a holiday for the ACT caucus. As well as our tour where all 10 MPs got out and listened to New Zealanders, we’ve also released three policy discussion documents. They focussed on housing, law and order and the economic recovery from COVID-19.
A good opposition proposes as well as opposes. I’m incredibly proud of the work our MPs put into coming up with new ideas on how to solve the issues facing New Zealand.
We’ll continue to have honest conversations with New Zealanders and we’ll continue to deliver the debate. Next week we’ll take what we’ve heard from New Zealanders all around the country back to Wellington to get answers on their behalf.