A pantheon of New Zealand politics watchers were asked to cast their minds over 2015, select their champs and their flops, their ups and their downs, and the issue or story to look out for in 2016. Today, Part Four: The Big Issue for 2016.
We asked our glittering academy to gaze into their crystal balls and predict the big issue or story in NZ politics for 2016. Below, their individual picks, but first …
The Big Themes
1. Labour’s fortunes / tightening polls (7 picked this)
2. The economy (6)
3. Housing (5)
4. Auckland local elections (3)
To quote a US president: it’s the economy, stupid – it always is.
Michelle Boag is a former National Party President and PR practitioner
Almost certainly it will be something that nobody has yet thought of! But on the basis of what we know now, it could be either of two issues:
First, the price of Auckland housing – if the bubble bursts, there will be a lot of very unhappy people with homes worth less than their mortgages; if it doesn’t burst, there will be a lot of very unhappy people who can’t afford a roof over their heads.
Second, the continued building into law of legal preferences for those with a Māori ancestor, as is being openly proposed in the amendments to the RMA and is apparently being planned by the Government in the allocation of rights over water.
Don Brash is a former leader of the National and ACT parties
Poverty, inequality, and climate change – and the question: can the Government position itself on these in a way that reassures voters and can Labour do it better?
Jennifer Curtin is an Associate Professor in Politics at the University of Auckland
Auckland. The local body elections will draw intense focus on NZ’s largest and fastest growing city, which is in shambles. Housing and transport need fixing urgently. A mayoral bid by Phil Goff and councillor grab by National affiliated Future Auckland will mean a much higher calibre of policy discussion than previously. Getting the national politics apparatus and media behind the Auckland elections could make for the most exciting local government election since the super city was formed.
Shamubeel Eaqub is an economist
Events. Always events. The big political stories of 2016 will almost certainly be things we haven’t thought of. Who would have predicted Saudi sheep, Australian deportations, or Serco fight clubs would be where the news was in 2015? I would be a fool to think I could predict the events that will shape politics next year, although the stories that shape the front cover of The Listener will be health and houses, as ever.
Graeme Edgeler is a lawyer and Public Address blogger
Gender and ethnicity politics (although the effects of the economy and Isis could overshadow these from time to time; and a major party leadership change in November will excite some).
Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago
Gender equity and ending gender-based violence (a girl can dream). More realistically though, I’m guessing we’ll be stuck on the Auckland housing crisis for another year.
Marianne Elliott is National Director for ActionStation
David Farrar is a pollster and Kiwiblogger
Morgan Godfery is a writer and activist
The Serco debacle signalled a major vulnerability for the Government in its creeping privatisation of social services. If it pursues a combination of signalled initiatives – such as social investment bonds and the transfer of state housing to the private sector – and if the community sector and opposition parties can create a much more coherent critique and action plan around this, then it could be a major issue.
Another contender is the possible rejection of the TPPA by the US Congress (although unfortunately neither the Greens nor Labour have done enough to capitalise on what would be a defeat for National).
Equal pay in the state and state-funded sector is also looming as a major. Big issues, like house prices, rising unemployment, and stagnant wages can be woven into a strong new narrative with some radical new policies that utilise the apparatus and regulatory power of the state to make life fair. After all, that’s is what it’s meant to be. Happy new year y’all. See you at Ika sometime x x x.
Laila Harré is a restaurateur and former Alliance MP
Rising unemployment, more Auckland housing pain and tightening polls.
Bernard Hickey is the publisher of Hive News
Obviously, the Government will do no more in 2016 than in 2015, so the big question is whether or not Labour can make itself look, by the end of 2016, remotely likely to win the 2017 election. While unemployment may creep up a little, the overall outlook for the economy is positive, at least according to the ANZ.
Matthew Hooton is a public affairs strategist
The economy. A Labour-Green deal. Speculation over how long John Key will stick around. And a shortage in a beloved New Zealand food product.
Toby Manhire is Spinoff Politics Editor and a columnist for NZ Herald and RNZ.
I’ll eat my words if things are much different: An Economist columnist recently wrote of a widening gulf between ”instrumental” politics, which seeks to win elections to make the world better, and “expressive” politics, which is about signalling your worthiness to belong to the left – so you seek personal fulfilment through symbols (Red Peak?), attending events (more people have marched against the TPP than IS murderers), and declaring positions. Those who do not share the symbols and politics are evicted as others (why don’t you join National then?) rather than being seen as potential allies to be persuaded, and still less potential contributors of new ideas.
While the Government’s political management is deft and mainly consists of not doing much, Labour has been guided more by the politics of expression, and unable to move beyond the paradigms that have caused increasingly severe defeats. It’s like they’ve given up on changing the world and just want to complain about it. Therefore in the coming year Labour will complete ten years since it has been ahead of National in any published poll and will still be unable to confront the reasons for this. I hope they prove me wrong.
Josie Pagani is a communications consultant and former Labour candidate
The growing pressure within National to restructure the Supercity model so that it actually can work properly in time for the 2016 local body elections. That and the other big issue (insert next Nicky Hager story here).
Bill Ralston is a former political editor, communications adviser and prospective Auckland Council candidate
The second flag referendum will loom large in first third of the year.
But the big political issue has to be the relationship between Labour and the Greens. They have to form a coalition by mid next year if they are to get into power in 2017. Irrespective of new policies, it is the one thing they could both do that will guarantee their return to government.
Claire Robinson is Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Creative Arts, Massey University
The Auckland mayoral race.
Rob Salmond is a political analyst whose clients include the Labour Party
House prices. Again. People can care or not care about the rights of prisoners, sheep, bobby calves, and private citizens but they will always care about making a pile of money for nothing off property and they will always fret about the affordability of a house for the young ones.
David Slack is a speechwriter and author
The economy, housing and jobs, with a new issue seeming every month as if it’s really the big story.
Ben Thomas is a public affairs strategist and former political adviser
The formal announcement, at Labour’s centenary annual conference, of a firm commitment by Labour and the Greens to campaign together for the 2017 General Election as a coalition-government-in-waiting.
The big issue, domestically, will be the steady worsening of New Zealand’s economic situation.
Internationally, the on-the-ground war against Islamic State in Syria – spearheaded by a Russian expeditionary force.
Chris Trotter is a political commentator
I’d love to say the housing crisis, a meaningful solution to climate change and a healthy debate on surveillance and Syria/Iraq.
But it’s gonna be David Seymour as the Bachelor, Are Pineapple Lumps Getting Smaller? and You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Max Key on Holiday.
Andrea Vance is a political reporter for One News
Serious answer: inequality. Even if it’s not changing it’s the most logical buzz word for the opposition to use to attack the government.
Joke answer: low turnout at the flag referendum means the flag changes to that terrible blue and black fern and this causes a very low-key civil war as the rowers refuse to face the flag at the rowing.
Guy Williams is a comedian
In the Beltway: will John Key retire or won’t he?
In the country: drought. And Andrew Little‘s performance.
Simon Wilson is editor-at-large, Metro magazine
Residential property development.
Jamie Whyte is a writer and former leader of the ACT Party
Many thanks to all our experts for taking part.