[As published in September/October BayBuzz magazine.]

The current edition of BayBuzz spans most of the national election window, and will still be read after the verdict of 15 October.

Our main ‘substantive’ articles try to furnish insight on a few national issues that have special relevance to Hawke’s Bay – crime, transportation, and the role of our farmers in addressing global warming.

Regarding crime, the most politically appealing default position is to stridently advocate jailing the bastards. It doesn’t really matter whether ‘crime’ is actually increasing in Hawke’s Bay, if you say it is enough, it must be. Hands down, National and ACT have the default position locked up. Forget about the underlying social issues and the universal data on the futility of draconian measures. Abby Beswick looks into these issues in her True Crime article.

On regional transportation, the political equivalent of ‘jail the bastards’ is ‘four-lane the Expressway’. But likewise, as Martin Williams discusses in Time to get radical, HB’s transport issues are more complex and require a more holistic, nuanced approach.

With respect to farmers needing to address climate change, Tess Redgrave’s article – ‘Good for the farmer, good for the planet’ – sums up the reality of the situation. She writes,

“Farmers and growers can respond to market expectations regarding emissions reductions or whinge about government regulators, but either way our farming practices will need to change … quickly.”

The smartest leaders in NZ farming get this, because they have a global view of the marketplace in which we must compete. And the smartest farmers get it, as across New Zealand they are showing that they can reduce their environmental footprint and become more profitable at the same time. National and ACT seem oblivious to this reality and its positive potential. Labour seems aware, but as a party is acting too timidly. Only the Greens are nailing this issue and setting out a resilient future path.

Regarding the pace of addressing climate change, timidity rules. The Greens want to lead (and see that as both morally and pragmatically urgent). Labour’s a cautious fast follower. National prefers slow motion (mark time until technology comes to the rescue with painless solutions). ACT lives on another cooling planet.

Regardless of one’s views on issues, one has to agree that at least the Greens, ACT and Winston speak from conviction. They have a worldview and advocate unabashedly for it. National and Labour are racing to a vague bottom. One pundit has said the Labour Party is actually just the National Party with Chris Hipkins as leader.

National audaciously claiming it can best fix our decaying health system after denuding it during its previous tenure. Saving the nation from potholes after freezing road maintenance spending. Dusting off social and educational policies that have failed already here and abroad. Implying that every needy problem that Labour has ‘ignored’ or ‘stuffed up’ will soon be rescued by National, but without a funding plan or suitable tax base. If that’s what “Getting our country back on track” means … no thanks.

Labour for its part squandered any claim on the moral high ground by substituting a comically trivial fruit & veggie GST cut for meaningful tax equity reform. If Labour has indeed delivered material benefit to teachers, frontline health personnel, and budget-pinched, middle-class wage-earners, it has failed to communicate that. “In it for you” … show us how, where, when.

And then there’s the matter of National guaranteeing MP seats to Katie Nimon and Catherine Wedd via high list rankings, appealing gender balancing, but neither with any appreciable history of public service. For them, the democratic process ended in mid-August and bag-packing began. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one experienced MP for our region, with a proven record of busting their chops for the betterment of our region? That would be Anna Lorck. Remember, voters, you do get two ticks.

In our last edition, columnist Paul Paynter urged readers to vote for minor parties. There’s integrity to voting your convictions, especially this year. Labour’s chances of governing again will not be diminished by mass defection to the Greens. Similarly National’s chances of governing will not be diminished by mass defection to ACT.

But in both scenarios, hugely important signals will be sent about the kind of New Zealand we wish to become. 

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