Editorial: Let's go to four years

Are we really back there already?

Sadly, from all the posturing and pontificating going on, I'm forced to conclude we must be.

Of all the arguments that could be advanced for extending the term each New Zealand government serves - barring something untoward - from three years to four, the fact that much of the third year seems to be taken up in jockeying for position at the forthcoming election has to be among the most convincing. Not that extending the term would prevent that, but it would hopefully mean three of every four years would be spent focused largely on issues that really matter, instead of two of three.

I'm simplifying the situation hugely, I'll happily confess before anyone points it out. But I get this sense at some early stage in every election year, that the primary focus of our politicians is on what will happen one Saturday late in that year, when we go to the polls.

Although the official campaigning period is relatively short, the quest to influence voters starts to intensify early in the year, based on my own experience - this is my fourth election year in New Zealand - and never really seems to let up.

Combine that with the time it often takes for the leading major party to form a government, and it seems to me we're lucky to get two years in each term in which the focus is firmly on moving the country forward. Again, I'm simplifying, but is anybody honestly going to tell me there's not jostling for position going on already?

Colin Craig's Conservative Party, and his seemingly quirky takes on some subjects - notably whether or not man has walked on the moon - have been in the spotlight for a while, as the public waits to see whether or not John Key and National will look for an agreement with Craig and his party, should they have the chance to form a government this year.

And yesterday we had the man seemingly destined always to attract some controversy around election time, Winston Peters, declare on Twitter that "the time for talking about forming governments should be immediately after the election and not before".

Whether or not that means he's set to remain obscure about his and New Zealand First's intentions, it's clearly a reaction to the other talk going on; about ACT, about United Future, with Peter Dunne yesterday called in from the cold, and, significantly, about NZ First. Key has now refused to rule out a coalition arrangement with Peters' party, having earlier been clear it wouldn't happen.

Yes, it may not be official but the build-up's on.

To me it just seems far too soon for that. Here's to extending the term to four years.

The Timaru Herald