Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

OPINIONPoliticsJanuary 10, 2022

NZ politics in 2022: The big issues on which the year will hinge

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

To complete our series looking back at 2021 and gazing ahead to 2022, we asked our big political commentary brains to nominate the three issues that will loom large in the year to come. 

Read more from our political year in review here.

Gabrielle Baker

  1. Government (in)action to honour te Tiriti o Waitangi. 
  2. Getting the health system reforms right.
  3. Housing/getting social housing right.

Alex Braae

  1. I said it last year and I’ll say it again – supply chains. None of this shit is fixed, in fact mostly everything got worse.
  2. Whether the rural protesters of 2021 can convert that energy into local election success. 
  3. Similarly, the battles over how cities should develop will be intense, and likely not just in the main centres.

Linda Clark

  1. ​​The transition to so-called “living with Covid” – it’s going to continue to be unpredictable, uncomfortable and hard, and voters are already tired and fractious.
  2. National’s fight to win back centre voters – Luxon had a great start but the real test will come next year.
  3. Addressing Māori inequality – Covid has shown how poorly traditional public services reach Māori communities and how much better those communities can deliver to their own. The government will be under pressure to apply the lessons learnt to all areas of policy, to speed up devolution and allow Māori greater access to resources fast.

Andrew Geddis

  1. Industrial relations. Unemployment at a tick above 3% while inflation heads over 5% is going to make for some pretty intense wage demands. 
  2. Co-governance. Across health, three waters, implementing UNDRIP, conservation law reform, RMA changes – the question of what article two of the Treaty requires in today’s Aotearoa will only become more pointed.
  3. Criminal justice. It’s a wedge issue that National and Act can deploy as moves like repeal of the three strikes law go forward.

Lara Greaves

  1. A struggle of framing and rhetoric: politics as business and the economy (Luxon and National) versus politics as a collective good and kindness (Ardern and Labour).
  2. Health reforms – these will emerge as one of the sixth Labour government’s flagship policies. In particular, I expect that opponents will try to target Māori spending in some unfair way (the Winston Peters playbook).
  3. A large amount of attention will be placed on the Conversion Practices Bill – but not to focus on how NZ can better support Rainbow communities. Instead, attention will fall on Luxon’s social conservatism, whether National allow their caucus to conscience vote, and debating whether someone with Luxon’s views can be PM.

 Leonie Hayden

  1. Omicron.
  2. Whatever comes after omicron.
  3. Figuring out if new leader of the opposition Chris “Mata-you know-rangi” Luxon’s attitudes to Māori and women will be a small problem or a massive problem.

Liam Hehir

  1. House prices. Will the government deliver on its bold vows to achieve a decrease in the rate of increase to something more sustainable – like a 15% increase.
  2. Covid. Where will we rank in the OECD for boosters? What exciting new system will replace the traffic lights? What policies will Chris Bishop call for that the government rubbishes before quietly adopting two months on?
  3. Three waters. New Zealanders don’t know much about these proposals other than that they hate them. Will the government have the courage of its convictions or will the proposals fall to the side like so many capital gains taxes and child poverty eliminations.

Annabelle Lee-Mather

  1. There’s only one issue the team of five million actually cares about and that is of course the great sausage roll crisis.

Toby Manhire

  1. Omicron and the one after that.
  2. Climate change, the reality of which is made inescapable by horrific weather events in NZ and the Pacific.
  3. Three waters and local vs central government. 

Danyl Mclachlan

  1. The science fiction author Neal Stephenson coined the term “Facebooked” to describe societies that have had their traditional media ecosystems destroyed by social media tech companies, so that there’s no consensus about what is and isn’t real any more. We can see this happening in real time with the creation of a cohort of people who think that Covid vaccines are an attempt to poison them. That seems like it’s only going to get a lot worse next year. 
  2. Housing again, and Covid again. That’s two things, but they’re really tightly bundled together now. 
  3. Inflation and wages, maybe? 

Craig Renney

  1. I am legally obliged to say the economy, but I also think that it is true. National believes that it has its mojo back, and it wants to make headway by trying to blame the government for all sorts of economic ills, including the housing market. The government has a strong hand to play in this space, having successfully managed the economic Covid-19 response to date, and with a strong set of economic forecasts. The outcome of this battle could be much more important than we think – and could set the direction of New Zealand’s economic policy for a very long time.
  2. Reopening the borders. Unemployment is low in New Zealand, but wages for many are not so good. For some, heading to Australia will become very attractive. Similarly, for many around the world New Zealand has been a beacon of sense and hope during Covid and is seen as an attractive place to live. How we manage the reopening, and how we manage the economic and social impacts, will be a hot political debate.
  3. Climate change will dominate the budget, and the publication of the emissions reduction plan will be a very important time. It needs to show the who, how and when climate change will be paid for, and how this is both equitable and deliverable. That will create winners and losers, and by definition will create real political debate about New Zealand’s future.

Brooke Stanley Pao

  1. Covid – it’s already become an extremely politicised issue.
  2. Poverty – because we’re about to ramp it all the way up. 
  3. The rise of Act – because WTF. 

Shane Te Pou

  1. Covid – will it revisit us? Are we out of the woods yet?
  2. Housing – no political party is bold enough to do anything meaningful.
  3. Climate change – all predictions are we are not doing enough.
Keep going!