And then, there was a Government...
27 November 2023
A month on from the 2023 General Election and New Zealand has its 54th Government.
What we see is a coalition in its purest form. National, ACT and New Zealand First will all be represented at Cabinet. This should be a stronger agreement than confidence and supply.
This will be why negotiations took so long to broker – a cross-party policy programme takes time and compromise. No one party has got everything that it wanted. Policy has been tweaked, some of it has been left entirely on the editing suite floor.
The new Cabinet has 14 National ministers, three Act ministers and three New Zealand First ministers.
The Ministers we need to know
The portfolios impacting us have been divvied up to those with varying levels of experience.
Chris Bishop, who you will recognise as a regular at our events, has been appointed the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing portfolios. He has always been very engaged with Master Builders and has a good understanding of our sector and the challenges we face.
Chris Penk will take on the Building and Construction portfolio – but in a position outside of Cabinet. Penk is no stranger to Parliament having been an MP since 2017, but this will be his first time in a ministerial position. We look forward to being able to meet with him once his feet are under the desk.
Shane Jones, who is a political veteran for New Zealand First has taken on the Regional Development portfolio once again. This could have some positive implications for progressing infrastructure and development in the regions.
Penny Simmonds will take on responsibility for the tertiary sector with a ministerial position outside Cabinet. She has been vocal in her criticism of Te Pūkenga whilst in opposition and will now have the mandate to make change in this area. What may eventuate is anybody’s guess at this point.
What can we expect from this Government?
Change is in the air – especially when it comes to RMA reform. The Government has made commitments to reversing the reforms put in place by the previous government in the first 100 days of office. Whilst to many it will be a relief seeing the back of the overly complex Natural and Built Environment Act 2023 and the Spatial Planning Act 2023 – what we had prior hasn’t worked for the past two decades. So, we’re stuck in a holding pattern for the time being and we know tweaking around the edges of policy simply won’t be enough.
Work started by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on building consents will continue its trajectory. There is also a suggestion the Government will explore whether those building homes should be able to avoid obtaining consent provided they have long-term insurance for the building work. This will be interesting to watch, and Master Builders will keep close to this as and when it develops.
Whilst the coalition parties campaigned on cutting Government spending, they are committing to mechanisms which allow for infrastructure spending. This includes exploring financial incentives for councils through GST-sharing to enable better housing and infrastructure growth. They are also establishing a National Infrastructure Agency which will look at better procurement, including how to use private sector funding.
New Zealand First’s Shane Jones has also secured a Regional Infrastructure Fund, and it will be fascinating to see what direction and level of funding this receives over the parliamentary term.
In terms of vocational education, the Apprentice Boost Scheme will remain in place – which comes as a great relief. We know this scheme has been particularly successful, with over half of the respondents in this year’s State of the Sector survey saying it had been a major factor in their decision to take on apprentices. Master Builders had lobbied for the maintenance of this programme through the 2023 Election Manifesto – so we’re delighted to see bipartisan support of such an important mechanism.
On the other end of the spectrum, the fate of Te Pūkenga remains to be worked through. This is likely to be a complicated and messy process as there doesn’t appear to be consensus on what needs to happen next. Penny Simmonds, the minister at the helm of Tertiary Education has a real job on her hands – but she has pedigree in this space having previously run the Southern Institute of Technology.
What happens next?
The building and construction sector’s issues are well known and well documented. Whilst the new government has signalled positive commitments, there is a lot of water to pass under the bridge before we see tangible change.
We look forward to discussing our 2023 Election Manifesto
with appropriate ministers now that they have been sworn in.