The Great Unwinding – but jettisoning distasteful policies is easy; let’s see if a bread-and-butter focus is more palatable

Buzz from the Beehive

Further critical steps in The Great Undoing were announced yesterday as the Labour Government, under new management, strives to claw back the electoral support it had been losing before Jacinda Ardern bailed out as Prime Minister.

The Beehive website recorded Ardern’s resignation announcement on 19 January but it does not record Hipkins succeeding her as Labour’s leader and the country’s Prime Minister.  That was a party matter (although the “news” section of the Labour Party website records neither Hipkins’ elevation to top spot in the pecking order nor Carmel Sepuloni’s becoming Deputy Prime Minister).

The next big step in The Great Unwinding (on January 31) was the naming of Hipkins’ Cabinet along with a pointer to a new policy direction.  The new Cabinet would be focused on core bread-and-butter issues like the cost of living, education, health, housing and keeping communities and businesses safe.

Yesterday came news of the programmes that would be modified, jettisoned or stowed somewhere out of public sight until (or if) Labour wins a third term in government.

Hipkins announced –

  • Work on the TVNZ/RNZ public media entity will stop. Radio NZ and NZ on Air will   receive additional funding
  • The social insurance scheme will not proceed this term
  • The Human Rights (Incitement on Ground of Religious Belief) Amendment Bill will be withdrawn and not progressed this term. The issue is to be referred to the Law Commission for guidance
  • The biofuels mandate will be stopped
  • Government will consider changes to the Three Waters programme “soon”
  • The minimum wage will be increased by the rate of inflation from 1 April

The announcement was made in a press statement headed –

Government takes new direction with policy refocus

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has announced a suite of programmes that are being cancelled or delayed in order to put the Government’s focus on the cost of living. 

Since then two more announcements have been posted on he Beehive website  –

Radhakrishnan to attend international forum tackling people smuggling and trafficking

Associate Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Priyanca Radhakrishnan will lead the New Zealand delegation at the Eighth Bali Process Ministerial Conference tomorrow.

 Carbon positive project to research impact of regenerative farming practices

The Government is backing new research on the potential of regenerative farming practices to boost soil carbon in arable, vegetable and other crop growing systems.

The statement from Hipkins – the most substantial of the three new Beehive posts – was to announce –

“… a suite of programmes that are being cancelled or delayed in order to put the Government’s focus on the cost of living.

“The Government is refocusing its priorities to put the cost of living front and centre of our new direction,” Chris Hipkins said.     

“I said the Government is doing too much too fast, and that we need to focus on the cost of living. Today we deliver on that commitment.”

More accurately, he should have said the Government has been delivering too much that is politically unpalatable.

This includes the Three Waters programme.

The need for reform is unquestionable, Hipkins said.

“The events in Auckland have once again demonstrated the limits of our existing infrastructure and the need for change”.


“But careful consideration is required.”

True, too (or too true).  Here’s hoping former Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is giving careful consideration to whatever she might be doing in India as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Point of Order notes headlines that tell us Hipkins has

Axed Ardern’s projects and taken the wind out of National’s sails

Newsroom says the front bench under Chris Hipkins’ leadership looks almost identical to that of his predecessor’s, but on Wednesday the Prime Minister took an axe to a bunch of policies that had been defended at length by Jacinda Ardern as recently as December last year.

Hipkins has kicked hate speech legislation and the social insurance scheme to at least next term, and the RNZ/TVNZ merger and biofuels mandate are gone for good.     

Lit a policy bonfire

In the New Zealand Herald, Dr Bryce Edwards says Chris Hipkins’ policy bonfire yesterday is exactly what the Labour Government needed to do.

“It sends the most powerful signal yet that with Jacinda Ardern’s departure, a new direction is being embarked upon – one that is less concerned with ideological pet projects, and more with delivering the things that matter to the public.

“Ditching or kicking down the road policies that seemed half-baked around media mergers, hate speech laws, biofuel mandates and social insurance was the right thing to do politically. These are policies very few voters care about, so they won’t be missed by many. The big question is what Hipkins will replace the jettisoned policies with.”

Precipitated a big strategic retreat

The Guardian says this strategic retreat is a serious one, and an indicator of just how much the government has lost control of the narrative in recent years.

These policies might have been unpopular in some quarters, but they were well progressed and pushed by some of Labour’s most senior MPs. Already a lot of political capital and actual capital has been spent on them, and now they are either history or doomed to the too-hard basket.

Opened a hole in the carbon budget

Stuff says Hipkins has canned a biofuel mandate, and opened up a hole in the country’s carbon budget.

Hipkins on Wednesday announced the “first tranche” of the Government’s policy purge, including the culling of a biofuel mandate that he said was set to increase the price of fuel.

But the mandate – which would have required supposedly carbon-neutral biofuels to be added to petrol – was accounted for in the carbon budget, a series of three plans that map out how New Zealand will head towards its 2050 net-zero emissions target.




2 thoughts on “The Great Unwinding – but jettisoning distasteful policies is easy; let’s see if a bread-and-butter focus is more palatable

  1. Scrapping Three Waters will be the icing on the cake given that up until Christmas Labour refused to make any concessions whatever and Mahuta was allowed to run amok. Is she really in India or have they locked her in a closet somewhere?

    There’s plenty more to be disposed of (or is it merely being parked until after the election?). The replacement RMA legislation for instance is unworkable and is loaded with nebulous race-based elements that will be incorporated into law.

    Everything Labour touched has turned to the proverbial. Five years and vast sums of money have been squandered. And voters know that if Labour are re-elected it could all come back to haunt them again, with a vengeance.


  2. This election will be very tight and as things are at the moment , I would bet on Labour getting in for a third term. I went to a meeting this morning of Senior Citizens and raised politics to see what the response was. These were all well-educated people from good professions etc, but reliant on the media for information. Every single one of them praised the direction this government was going under difficult circumstances and railed with pure vitriol against the few people that spoke against them on talk back or interviews. I have also spoken with many people at one of the Clubs to which I belong, and the response has been the same, so do NOT be complacent and dream that the majority can see that the mess we are in is the fault of mismanagement by the present lot – it is covid, it is Ukraine, it is the USA …….

    If they do get back, it will be CG, 5-Waters, Hate Speech, Farmers’ taxes and restrictions, Mandates with another scamdemic, digital central bank currency all on at full steam ahead. The WEF-driven UN Agenda 2030 and He Puapua will be fully implemented ASP – and that is NOT conspiracy theory for 2030 is all on line at the WEF and UN sites.
    The media are on side with the present government, so it is up to us to look for ways of spreading the word with stark specifics – and that is difficult outside our own limited circles.

    I would plump for the hiring of a good publicity/marketing firm to list succinctly the major problem points (the few words being the main thing) for a leaflet letterbox drop throughout the whole nation a couple of months before the election. Hipkins may be ahead of us here and move to an early election before we can get opposition organised.
    I know that it would be on the wrong side of a million dollars – possibly nearer two mil to reach every voter, but that pales into insignificance compared to what our economy would lose if they get in again. Even as a pensioner, I would gladly put in a thousand, and I would not be alone in that.

    Reference the recent poll – “Hipkins 19.6% is followed by National’s Christopher Luxon on 18.8%”
    Luxon has been there for some time and Hipkins has only just appeared, yet Hipkins leads Luxon – – THAT tells a story on who is getting their story out to the voters (media marketing bias again).

    Air time for Winston and David – easily manipulated by choice of questions and shutting them down by posing another question whilst they are still talking when they get “uncomfortable for the government” – skilled interviewers can get whatever impression they want for the basic masses who are not familiar with the nuances of interviews. Labour will be pulling out all the stops on this one, and they are not averse to spending many millions of YOUR money on experts to direct the scenes of the campaigns and find appealing pre-election carrots to show how nice they are – – “Look – they gave us $Xm for this or that” forgetting that they have taken $(X+1)m from you in taxes to pay for it and its administration.


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