Key v Cunliffe: Battle of the soundbites

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 14:04 22/07/2014

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OPINION: National's plan to ask everyone with a gripe about council rules to get in touch, shows the kind of political sense that has it leading in the polls.

This is despite the success of the plan in cutting red tape being far from certain.

Labour's plan, to pump funding into major regional projects, is well meaning and probably logical but will be drowned out in the battle for headlines.

Both parties' plans were presented at the Local Government New Zealand conference in Nelson this morning.

Labour's beleaguered leader, David Cunliffe, arrived with a plan that had at its heart building a government to muck in to try to build the economy.

National is prepared to allow the economy be "hollowed out", Labour says.

Prime Minister John Key brought a plan to show just how intent the Government is on getting out of the way, and letting Kiwis get on with their lives.

How would he do this? By letting every pensioner with a complaint about their rates, every DIY tradesman wanting a new deck and every farmer who simply didn't like their regional council officer to get in touch.

This would be achieved not in a formal way, but through the wildly enthusiastic but extremely unorganised forum that is social media.

What will National do with the results? That is next year's problem.

The submissions are likely to take months to simply unravel, if in fact the submissions are to all be taken seriously.

Be that as it may, National's plan is finely tuned to the gripes of New Zealanders, many of whom come face to face with the red tape involved with owning property every day.

Even Local Government New Zealand says some of the rules are "mind-boggling" so it's unlikely many will complain at being given an avenue to complain.

It also had the advantage of being free, or at least the cost will be nominal in terms of cost.

It wins the war of the headlines, as Labour argues valiantly about the need to partner with local communities.
Meanwhile, National has dismissed Labour's $200-million plan is a "slush fund".

This might be a bit rich given its record on funding economic growth projects.

Remember the Auckland convention centre deal? Treasury officials complained that the Government's approach to the deal, which left other interested parties out of the loop, meant they could not work out what SkyCity's real negotiating position was. They were therefore in the dark about what subsidy they needed to get the deal across the line.

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When lines company Chorus was caught on the wrong side of a Commerce Commission decision over copper pricing the Government made it clear it was willing to legislate to save the ultra fast broadband project.

Key thought out loud that the company "could go broke" as a result, when Chorus' shareholders obviously did not.

And yet Key won the battle of the sound bites today, dismissing Labour's plans.

Their other policies would add costs to the regions, he added, using examples which were more focused on the Green Party.

For that reason alone this morning's announcements mark another decisive victory for National.

- Stuff

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