Free Press, 8 May 2018


 

Two Nice Guys Offering More of the Same

 

Labour and National are offering Northcote voters near identical candidates for next month’s byelection.  We have known Shanan Halbert and Dan Bidois for fifteen years. Both are 35, academic, and middle of the road ideologically. Faced with each other on TV this weekend, neither could explain what was wrong with the other. They are two nice guys offering more of the same.

 

What If I’m from New Zealand?

 

This is an Auckland-focused Free Press, if you are from New Zealand, please read on, the national implications are at the end.

 

Radical History

 

Byelections north of the Harbour Bridge are funny things. The North Shore Electorate of East Coast Bays delivered a maverick in the form of Social Credit’s Gary Knapp in a 1980 byelection. More recently the people of Northland elected Winston Peters to ‘send the Government a message.’ In both cases, the electorate in question was awarded with a much higher profile MP than if they voted for more of the same.

 

Come the Hour

 

Stephen Berry is a maverick. He has finished third contesting the Auckland mayoralty, led the Len Brown Stand Down that marked the effective end of Brown’s mayoralty. He left school at 16 to work at a supermarket. Now he is one of the chain’s top troubleshooters and managers. Contrast that with his opponent who graduated Harvard but thinks that average household income in Northcote is $32,000 –less than the minimum wage!

 

Trading a Front Bencher for a Back Bencher

 

Former Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman nearly became Prime Minister after John Key resigned. There are different accounts of how many votes he had but we know he was the runner up. By contrast, either Halbert or Bidois will be taking Holyoake’s advice and breathing through their ears at the bottom of their party’s pecking order.

 

ACT for Action

 

The first thing MP Stephen Berry will do is submit a private members bill that gives the Government the means and the obligation to complete the Auckland Motorway network within a decade. The Chinese would laugh a such a tardy timeframe, but when you realise the big transport idea for Northcote right now is to hang a bike track off the Harbour Bridge, it’s actually quite ambitious.

 

What Does Completing the Motorway Network Mean?

 

The original Auckland Motorway Network Plan had not two, but three harbor crossings, creating an effective ring road around the city instead of forcing everyone through Spaghetti Junction despite only 17 per cent of people actually working in the CBD. Auckland has simply underfunded infrastructure for too long and Aucklanders pay a daily price.

 

How Would ACT Do It?

 

Stephen Berry’s Private Members Bill will require the Government of the day to follow a simple law. They must complete the original plan by 2028 (the current Government’s goal for building a tram to jam up Dominion Road). They will do it through a combination of raising the age of Superannuation and permitting Electronic Road Pricing, as used in London, Stockholm, and Singapore, on the motorway network. If other parties want to vote this bill down, they’ll have to explain why they oppose progress.

 

The Up Shot

 

Northcote voters who want a centre right Government have a simple choice: a) vote for the National candidate and get more of the same with facile local representation. b) vote Stephen Berry to help kickstart ACT as part of a centre right coalition and get a local MP who’ll actually stand up for you from day one.

 

The National Picture

 

Right now the left are set up for two to three terms. Jacinda is better than National are prepared to give credit for, and they have only one MP for a coalition partner. Like East Coast Bays in 1980 and Northland in 2015, nobody could change the direction of New Zealand politics like the voters of Northcote.