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Insights 31: 18 August 2017
Next Generation Debates: Wellington grand final
Public Meetings Future of Recreational Fishing
Dr Oliver Hartwich: New Zealandís centralist reflex

Labour is back in the game, but does it have the right answers?
Roger Partridge | Chairman |
Two proposed taxes - on petrol and water - in her first week could have voters believing the new Leader of the Opposition has something against fluids. Any such fears, though, should have been relieved when Jacinda Ardern sent a tweet last week showing the contents of her liquor cabinet rival Winston Peters’.

It was also a relief to hear one of the opposition parties talking about policies rather than personalities. And about policies that matter. Auckland’s congestion problems rival its housing crisis as a constraint on the welfare of its residents.  And New Zealand’s water free-for-all is not serving the country well. Labour is to be commended for tackling these issues.

Unfortunately, though, there are problems with both Labour’s policy proposals. A regional fuel tax is a blunt instrument for solving peak hour congestion. It will tax motorists who do not drive during rush hour or, for that matter, on congested roads. Compared with GPS or camera-based congestion charging systems operating in many modern cities overseas, it is outdated and outmoded.

The water tax – or “royalty” to use the name given to the policy by Labour – is also ill-suited to solving our water problems. While it will raise revenue for the government, it does nothing to ensure our water is put to its most productive use. Instead we will be left with our first-come, first-served system of water consents that neither encourages conservation, nor ensures water is used where it is most valued. For this we need a system of tradable water rights, like those operating in countries like Australia, Chile and South Africa.

At least, though, Labour has got us talking about ideas. And surely this is what we should be doing in an election year: challenging the political parties outside government to serve up alternative solutions to the country’s most pressing problems, and then evaluating what they have to offer against the status quo.

We might disagree with what Labour has proposed. And when the public accounts have rarely looked in such good health, we might lament that its first two “solutions” involve new taxes.

But what we need is a contest of ideas, with the winner taking the reins of government and the loser drowning their sorrows - in a fluid of their choice.

Of fables and fish
Ben Craven | Project Coordinator |
When Aesop told the fable of the Four Oxen and the Lion, and uttered the famous phrase “United we stand, divided we fall,” I doubt he was thinking about the plight of recreational fishers. But, as with any good fable, this lesson nevertheless holds true.

As part of the Initiative’s research into recreational fishing, we are holding twelve public meetings across the country. We want to hear what locals in these communities think of our draft policy recommendations, and learn about their hopes, concerns and challenges going into the future.

Each of these communities have their own distinct circumstances. The first three locations we visited this week were Kaikoura, Blenheim and Nelson.

All three have local challenges and pressures placed upon their fisheries, whether it is the impact of the recent earthquake, changing tourism patterns, or run-off from forestry.

Fishing plays an important role in these communities. For some people, it is a lifestyle. For others, it is a livelihood.

Aesop’s sentiment has been echoed by fishers I have met this week.

Recreational fishers we talked to at these meetings have been frustrated. Without a unified voice, many feel that their concerns have not been heard.

None of those we have talked to could say that the recreational fishing experience had improved in their lifetimes, and there is widespread concern that unless something changes the experience will decline for their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s children.

Our proposal to establish a new representative organisation hit a nerve with the public. Especially once we explained our favoured funding mechanism.

Every time a recreational fisher fuels up their outboard motor with petrol, they are paying excise duty to fund roads.

As a hypothecated tax, the rationale for charging excise on petrol was for motorists to fund road maintenance and construction.

We estimate that recreational boaties are now funding transport infrastructure to the tune of well over $61 million every year.

Harnessing even a small portion of that tax would adequately pay for a professionally staffed organisation to represent the interests of recreational fishers at the highest level.

Ensuring that there is a strong and united voice to represent the interests of recreational fishers is just the beginning to ensure that this great Kiwi pastime remains accessible now and into the future.

If you want to attend one of the public meetings about the future of recreational fisheries, please visit our website.

Boot camps for all
Rachel Hodder | Research Fellow |
I was nearly ready to blame the Government for all the things wrong with the country. But then at the weekend National kindly helped me to figure out which scapegoat deserves to be the target of my ire. It was the troublesome youths all along.

Even when it was the immigrants, deep down I knew it was the youths. The streets would be safer, the economy would be stronger, and houses would probably become affordable, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!

National promises to crack down on youth offending with policies such as a youth curfew – enforced with instant fines for parents and an army boot camp for serious youth offenders. These ideas are about as innovative as the Greens’ relaunched campaign slogan.

When all other parties are falling for the cuddle-a-crim mentality, it is about time National stood up to the scourge of loitering ten-year-olds.

Maybe the typical middle New Zealand voter doesn’t fully understand the difficulties facing those who grow up on struggle street. But I’m sure if I had faced that kind of adversity, a stern talking to would be enough for me to pull myself up by the bootstraps and become a productive member of society.

Some experts have been decrying that tough on crime policies are not backed by evidence. Boot camps especially appear to increase reoffending. But if taking problem youths away from their social support networks and surrounding them with other youth offenders isn’t a recipe for successful rehabilitation, then I don’t know what is. Certainly, none of this namby-pamby restorative justice nonsense.

The social investment approach is all about discarding evidence when it doesn’t support the worldview of the governing party’s voter base, right?

Sure, the statistics say that youth offending has decreased dramatically over the past two decades, but I still see hooded miscreants on almost every street corner. What good is evidence-based policy if it doesn’t take into account the evidence I see with my own two eyes?

The only problem with National’s policy is that it doesn’t go far enough. Perhaps a boot camp for young troublemakers in parliament might make them think twice before illegally recording their colleagues or colluding with foreign political parties.
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