insight | 3 of 3 in series

Building back better

09 October 2020

The Government’s immediate response to the economic damage created by COVID-19 – the wage subsidy, the COVID redundancy payment, the cheap (or free) loans to business and the tax relief – were broadly supported by the public and across the political spectrum. But the bigger challenge, as Finance Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged in this year’s Budget speech, was always going to be how to “build back better”.

There is a perception that the pandemic may have created a moment of historic opportunity in New Zealand, and the world. The case for fundamental change has been building over the last ten years as the evidence grows that existing models are not working – increasing and unsustainable social and income inequality, increasing and unsustainable pressure on the natural environment, increasing and unsustainable competition for natural resources within and across borders, and increasing geo-political volatility.

So this election, more than most, we are looking to our politicians for a longer-term perspective of how they will take the country forward into a more sustainable future. We look at the policies on offer to promote economic, environmental and social sustainability.

There is not much fresh thinking on display among the manifesto offerings but it would be unrealistic to expect that at this stage – and dangerous to sit back and rely on the politicians to get it right. Our business leaders, the lead industry organisations, the scientific and academic establishments, iwi and the creative and voluntary sectors will all need to bring their perspectives and learned experience to the rebuild task if we are going to get the best result possible. But this election is a step along the path.

This is the final publication in our 2020 election series. The first two instalments looked at:

  • how to get the books back into black, and
  • the transition to a lower carbon economy.

We have not attempted to list every policy, just those we regard as most significant, and enough to give you a clear insight into the parties’ different priorities and preferences.


Broad position statements

Labour Greens National ACT
Labour will “continue to put people at the centre of our economic plan….The economy exists to serve our people, and we’ll make sure it does”.

The Greens will seek to move “from exploitation of the environment to sustainability, from dependence on commodities to adding value through knowledge and innovation, and from producing more to living better”.

National will “back the private sector, in particular our small businesses, to create jobs and get the economy moving again”.

ACT is advocating “a low tax, low debt, high growth strategy led by private enterprise”.

Promoting innovation

Labour Greens National ACT

Investigate creating a growth fund, establishing a micro-finance company or expanding the Venture Investment Fund

Continue to address unequal access to digital technology in schools

Increase science funding and simplify the grants process

Support low emissions industries, including gaming, wood processing and 3D printing

Support local hi-tech suppliers through government procurement

Government/private sector partnership to invest $600m in tech start-ups

$1b in technology infrastructure upgrades

Relax regulation on the technology sector

Repeal the ban on genetic engineering

Promoting productivity

Labour Greens National ACT

$42b over four years for infrastructure investment

Increased funding to attract overseas investment to New Zealand

$100m regional economic policy

Light rail between Mangere, Auckland Airport and the CBD, between the CBD and Westgate, and across the harbour

Expansion in state house build programme to clear the wait list in five years

Large transport programme, including: 

  • an expressway to link Whangārei, Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, and
  • $4b to address congestion in Wellington

Establish an independent infrastructure corporation

Allow investors from OECD countries to bypass overseas investment approval

Promoting skills and employment

Labour Greens National ACT

Complete the reform of the vocational education sector

Maintain fees-free study for the first year at university, re-direct the remaining funding to apprenticeship training

Continue the 11,000 environmental jobs scheme

Students to receive a guaranteed minimum income and a universal student allowance

Provide training for new clean energy jobs

1000 tertiary scholarships for students from low decile schools toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) degrees

SkillStart, $4,000 to tertiary training providers for each unemployed person who, after training, holds down a job for at least 90 days

Each child to get a bank account at age 2 in which the state would put $12,000 a year until age 18

Increase the proportion of funding per apprentice paid to business owners


Environmental stewardship

Labour Greens National ACT

Replace the RMA with two separate laws

$50m to develop a modular planning tool to cover all on-property requirements for farmers and growers, including environment, labour, biosecurity and H&S standards

Continue 10 year plan to improve the primary sector

Continue funding to help farmers transition to sustainable land use practices

$750m three waters programme

Add the right to a sustainable environment to the Bill of Rights

Increase funding for predator eradication

Focus regional development on environmental and iwi-led activity

Support regenerative and organic agriculture

Establish a sustainability accreditation scheme for agricultural products

Rehabilitate wetlands, riverbanks and estuaries

Replace the RMA with separate laws for environmental standards and urban planning

Review the fresh water regulations

Aim to make New Zealand predator free by 2050

Establish two new national parks and work to progress the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary

Prepare a new organics bill

Replace the RMA with a new Urban Development Act

Fund research into the development of 1080 alternatives

Require councils to commit to water quality objectives and upgrade water infrastructure

Reverse agricultural methane and freshwater reforms

Managing limited resources

Labour Greens National ACT

Restrict the conversion of productive farmland into forestry

Set aside 10% of ocean ecosystems as reserves

Put at least 30% of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone under protection by 2030

Review the fisheries quota system, ban set netting and phase out other destructive fishing methods

Speed up camera installation on commercial fishing vessels

Resource rental on the commercial use of water

Install cameras on all fishing boats

Consider establishing more marine reserves


Waste and pollution

Labour Greens National ACT

A range of incentives to encourage the uptake of “clean” vehicles, improve efficiency standards and reduce emissions

Phase out single use and hard to recycle plastics by 2025

A range of initiatives to encourage business to transition to lower carbon alternatives

A range of incentives to encourage the uptake of “clean” vehicles, improve fuel efficiency standards and reduce emissions

Develop local recycling capability

Reform waste laws and policy with the aim of zero waste

Create sector wide product stewardship schemes for problem products

Exempt electric vehicles from FBT and allow them to use bus lanes Allow waste to be burned for electricity generation


Access to opportunity

Labour Greens National ACT

Replace the decile system with an Equity Index

Expand the lunches in schools programme

Reinstate Training Incentive Allowance for sole parents and disabled people to do tertiary study

Allow people to earn more before benefits abate

Expand subsidies for employing people at risk of long-term unemployment

$320m over four years for most disadvantaged schools

Students to receive a guaranteed minimum income of $325 a week and a universal student allowance

Establish workforce re-entry programmes for sole parents

$9.3b upgrade to public transport infrastructure, with a national ‘Go Anywhere’ card with fares free for under 18s and over 65s and a 50% discount to students and apprentices

Non-disclosure of child abuse would become an offence

B4 School check at age three to identify developmental concerns

Parents allocated $3000 per child to spend on a range of needs

$630m over four years for more teacher aides and to support children with extra needs

90 day rule

90 day rule

Reduction to, and freeze on minimum wage

Income support

Labour Greens National ACT

Progressively extend Living Wage guarantees to low income contractors in the public sector (cleaners, security guards, caterers)

Legislate for fair pay agreements

Establish a minimum income of $325 a week for people not in full time work, $435 for sole parents

Replace Working for Families with $190 a week for the first child and $120 for subsequent children


Employment insurance scheme under which people can claim 55% of weekly average earnings to $60,000 a year


Labour Greens National ACT

Mental health services to all primary and intermediate children within five years

Expand suicide prevention efforts

Expand healthy homes initiative


Free mental health counselling to everyone under 25

Levy on sugary drinks

Free dental care to students, beneficiaries and superannuitants

Introduce a national stepped care approach to mental health services

Develop a national suicide prevention strategy

Establish a new entity to fund and commission mental health and addiction services

Reduce DHBs from 20 to six


Labour Greens National ACT

Build 8,000 new public and transitional homes

Fund insulation and heating in low income homes

Limit rent increases to once a year

Create a Rental Warrant of Fitness to ensure rental properties are warm

Rent to buy or shared equity scheme for existing tenants to buy their state house

Continue building state houses

Require councils through emergency legislation to immediately open up land for 30 years of population growth

Allow councils to use targeted rates to pay for new housing development infrastructure


Labour Greens National ACT

Matariki a public holiday

Integrate te reo Māori into schools and early learning by 2025

Establish a Māori Health Agency

Make Matariki a public holiday

Make te reo Māori and Māori history core curriculum subjects to Year 10

Establish a Māori Health Agency and fund primary healthcare through Maori providers

Continue to support Māori-medium education and the development of curriculum resources for NZ history

Make te reo Māori a “priority” language

Improve access to Whānau Ora

Maintain funding to Māori media outlets

Abolish the Māori seats

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