On NZQ&A, David Parker suggested during the Labour Leadership debate that when we secure middle NZ we protect the vulnerable. However, it seems rather odd comment to make and I explain why I think that below by way of an example.
RNZ reported that house valuations in Point England and Glenn Innes increased at 62% and 55% respectively and that:
“Properties with increases significantly higher than the regional average of 34 percent will face larger than average rates rises from mid-next year”
These two suburbs have been home to some of the poorest families in New Zealand and residents having been treated as second-class citizens for decades. The surrounding/nearby suburbs include the wealthy Remuera, Ellerslie, Meadowlands, St Heliers, St Johns Park (or Stonefields?) (a new executive housing subdivision), Mission Bay and Kohimarama.
As most will know, house prices across Auckland are stupid high. However, houses in periphery suburbs like Point England, Glenn Innes, Mount Wellington, and Onehunga have provided an alternatives to buying in first preference central suburbs. These second preference areas have undergone some incredible infrastructure improvements – the intention to assist those locked out of the city to improve their economic positions by providing transport networks to address mobility issues.
But middle NZ are setting their sights on those areas. Emulating their baby booming forebears and snatching up homes in second preference areas, they still enjoy relatively close proximity to the central suburbs and city, excellent access to public transport, cheaper house prices and homes in family-centric areas.
The increase in valuations suggests there are supply demand issues. which we know is a problem across all of Auckland and in other places across NZ. This increase in valuation is great for rent seeking middle NZ but it is bad for the vulnerable. Sure, they too enjoy increases in the value of their asset, but many of those living in the area are asset rich, cash poor families so increases in rates make it difficult for them to afford other necessities. In many cases, this will result in the sale of their properties to fix the neo-boomer fetish, resulting in relocations to marginalised spaces further out on the peripheries of the city.
My point is that Parker’s assertion that securing middle NZ will protect the vulnerable makes little sense and instead signals a definite realignment to the centre should he win the Labour leadership.
Even if what Parker was suggesting was securing the votes of middle NZ, the same still holds true. In the transition from a two party to multi-party system, it’s unsurprising that over time Labour and National would converge at the centre with their support parties helping to determine policy directions. I imagine Labour need to decide who they represent because on occasion the interest groups they say they represent are often in conflict with each other, which makes it difficult for voters to trust the party. The working poor and unemployed are pitted against the centre voter, and despite the former providing their ongoing support to Labour, the policy tends to cater to the latter. That is a clear signal about whose vote the party values. And before anyone suggests Labour represent a broadchurch, I’m just not convinced thats a sufficient answer and given our party political framework, it seems neither are a good proportion of New Zealand.
There is nothing wrong with realignments, formation of new parties out of old, or forming new coalitions and alliances. In fact, I’d suggest Labour members and supporters think very hard about whether the Labour brand matters more to them than the policy it produces.