Top 10 fixes for loopy rules

September 22, 2015

The Rules Reduction Task Force, co-chaired by Jacqui Dean MP and Michael Barnett has released its report.

In their introduction they say:

New Zealanders are fed up wasting time and money trying to work with loopy rules. We were tasked with identifying rules and regulations which are not fit-for-purpose and which impose unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on property owners and businesses.

Everyone we heard from has had tales to tell of loopy rules – requirements that are out of date, inconsistent, petty, inefficient, pointless or onerous. These are the things that really annoy people, whether they run a business or own their own home.

In the last few months we have travelled around New Zealand listening to people in their communities. We have also met with councils, sector interest groups, and government agencies.

We thank all those who have candidly shared their frustrations and given us their views on how rules could be changed to make more sense.

We did hear of rules that protect people, the environment, infrastructure and our heritage but which still enable individuals, businesses and our economy to prosper and grow. But we are struck by the number of instances where the good intentions of the rule-makers are somehow lost in the translation to the real world. Examples abound of inappropriate interpretation, over-zealous enforcement, and lack of focus on the customer. (My bold).

New Zealanders have told us they are confused and frustrated by frequent changes in the rules. They are exasperated by inconsistency, time-consuming processes and unreasonable costs. It was a surprise to us to find out that a number of the loopy rules are in fact just myths. They are misinterpretations and misunderstandings that have been repeated so often that they have taken on the status of facts. (My bold).

We heard many examples where people are not clear about what they need to do and why. Myths fill the gap when clear information is hard to find. We highlight these myths in this report along with the loopy rules that need to be changed or removed. We discovered that loopy rules are difficult to get rid of because they’re part of a wider system, because a focus on the customer is absent, or because of the interests of experts or the fears of their administrators. What’s clear is they thrive when rule makers fail to take responsibility for them. Most importantly, we identify opportunities to fix many loopy rules and bust the myths. Our top ten fixes are listed on page 7. We call on both central and local government to stop making more loopy rules.

The legislation which causes most problems are the Resource Management and Building Acts – the source of 32% and 27% of complaints respectively.

They give examples of loopy rules which include:

The rule is not practical The owners of a bus depot structure that has no walls are forced to install four exit signs, just in case people can’t find their way out if there is a fire.

The rule makes no sense The Health and Safety mining regulations define a tunnel as ‘what it is not’ rather than ‘what it is’.

Compliance with the rule defeats its very purpose An owner of a rural property had to spend $30,000 putting in a driveway and watertank to meet the fire requirements. The tank was at the back of the house. When the house caught fire, the fire chief would not drive his truck past the house to the tank in case it caught fire too.

A small change is treated the same as a big change: As part of the refurbishment of an earthquake-damaged building, a pharmacy is being added to the front of a 1950s building. The pharmacy is to be 3.5% of the building. The rest is residential. The pharmacy has triggered the need to upgrade the fire rating of the entire building at a cost of $50,000.

The rule sets a standard that can never be achieved: Converting a shop into a two-bedroom residential unit required a reduction in noise levels from 70db to 35db. We tested the required noise levels in our brand new home; the only place that complied was the wardrobe.

The rule is inflexible and imposes costs far in excess of any benefits: Under direction from Wellington, our council enforces clean air standards. For 12 days of the year our town does not meet the standard for PM10 particles. For the other 353 days of the year the air is great. The council has subsidised the replacement of hundreds of fires – often very efficient ones – and replaced them with inferior models for little or no change.

The rule requires permission to fix something the property owner doesn’t want: An owner had two protected trees on his property, listed by the council. One was dying, the other was unsafe and needed trimming. The owner is expected to get resource consent to maintain the trees on behalf of the council.

The rule means I cannot assume to benefit from value I have created from my own efforts: A farmer planted 5,000 kauri trees and asked the council if he could eventually harvest them. The council said it could not guarantee he could harvest them because they were kauri.

A rule can be interpreted in many ways: Having a level entry to showers: Some councils say yes, some say no, and then charge for an opinion or ruling.

There is no mechanism to update legislation as circumstances change: Long ago, hairdressers were once a source of infection – but no more. Even so, councils must register and inspect them yearly.

A rule has a compliance regime that does not allow for the fact nothing may change: Rigging loops have to be put in to a specified standard but then must be re-certified each year. If a year is missed, they must be abandoned and new ones inserted into the concrete, which would weaken the concrete.

The rule arises from officials’ zealousness and has no material effect: A council advised a farmer it was going to classify his land as a significant natural area under the Resource Management Act. Such a classification would limit his ability to use the land in certain ways, including turning his car lights on at night in case it disrupted the flight of Westland Petrels. The council acknowledged the birds never landed, swam, nested or mated there. It was simply on their flight path.

The report lists its top 10 fixes for loopy rules:

1. Make it easier to get building consents

 Speed up the development of risk-based consenting and investigate other ways to simplify the consenting of minor structures.

 Promote the use of building consent exemptions under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004.

 Complete the fix-up of the building fire upgrade regulations this year. Ensure additional requirements imposed reflect the extra costs imposed and the benefits to be gained.

 Use progressive building consents so work can begin sooner, with nonstructural details confirmed later.

 Streamline the determinations process for applicants.

2. Get serious about lifting the skills of building sector

 Develop an industry-wide strategy to lift the professional practices of builders.

 Work towards builders certifying their own work so as to deal with joint and several liability pressures on councils.

3. Make it easier to get resource consents

 Establish an end-to-end relationship management approach for all resource (and building) consenting within councils.

 Require councils to report publicly on their actual performance in meeting the statutory 20-day deadline (for building and resource consents), as well as the total time (including all delays resulting from information requests and so on).

 As part of the planned Resource Management Act 1991 reforms, eliminate the need for resource consents for minor and technical breaches.

 Introduce a faster, more flexible process for changing plans under the Resource Management Act 1991 reforms.

4. Reduce the cost of consenting fees

 Cap government building levies. 5. Sort out what “work safety” means and how to do it  Define what is meant by “all practicable steps” in the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1991 and any replacement term in the Health and Safety Reform Bill.

 WorkSafe should do more about mythbusting, correcting misunderstandings and providing consistent information.

 Develop clear and accessible guidelines and codes of practice once the Health and Safety Reform Bill becomes law, working with all other agencies involved.

6. Make it clear what the rules are

 Define what is meant by “as nearly as is reasonably practicable” in the Building Act 2004.

 Require the Ministry for the Environment to work more closely with the other agencies to provide more timely and comprehensive guidance when developing and issuing national directives.  Make government agencies accept their responsibility to correct misunderstandings about their policies and regulations, particularly in the building and resource management areas, and as noted in health and safety.

7. Establish a new customer focus the public sector  The State Sector Act 1988 and the Local Government Act 2002 should include customer service responsibilities for chief executives.

 All Local Government Chief Executives should have a customer focus component in their Key Performance Indicators. They should consider utilising the Customer Champion and Fast Fix approaches.

 To maintain a permanent focus on loopy rules, establish a website for people to report loopy rules, which are then referred to the responsible agency to put right.

8. Departments should introduce a stakeholder engagement approach to developing local government policies and regulations

 Require all government departments to adopt a stakeholder approach, such as that used by the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry signals policy changes in advance, involves stakeholders early on and is open to critical feedback.

 Require central government to develop a project-specific engagement approach when developing policies and regulations that local government must implement. This approach could be useful for example, in the development of proposed changes to amended shop trading hours (Easter Sunday trading) and the implementation of the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Act.

 Amend the guidelines for Cabinet papers so they include “consultation with the Minister of Local Government” when a proposal will affect local government.

9. Reform the Local Government Act 1974 and the Reserves Act 1977

 Update the remaining provisions of the Local Government Act 1974 Act.  Review and update the Reserves Act 1977. And, most importantly:

10. Stop making loopy rules

 Develop a coordinated pipeline approach to regulation.  Include a cost-benefit analysis prior to development.

 Create a mechanism to actively review central and local government regulations.

 Extend Treasury’s annual review of departmental regulations, and incorporate an assessment of local government regulations.

In releasing the report, Local Government Minister Paula Bennett findings from the Rules Reduction Taskforce show real opportunities for both central and local government to make life easier for New Zealanders.

‘The loopy rules report: New Zealanders tell their stories’ is being released by the Government today following 50 public meetings and close to 2,000 submissions.

“We have listened to New Zealanders and the message is clear: there are too many frustrating rules and regulations, and too many are being applied inconsistently, and it is holding our communities back,” Mrs Bennett says. 

“The Report outlines practical opportunities for Government departments and local councils to improve the level of customer service they offer, and give that clarity people need. We will be embracing these opportunities finding practical solutions.”

The range of submissions cover 11 Ministers’ portfolios, with the majority relating to the Resource Management Act and the Building Act.

“Over the next few weeks, Ministers will be working with their departments and agencies to progress the quick fixes and what will take a bit longer to tackle. We’ll continue to update and make announcements as this work progresses,” Mrs Bennett says.

“The Government will also be working with local government to ensure they are providing the right advice to their residents about what rules and regulations mean and how they apply in their communities.

“The members of the Taskforce also heard loud and clear that there are several myths about rules and regulations that don’t actually exist. This includes the misconception that lolly scrambles have been banned, and that people can’t use three-step ladders.

“By breaking through this misinformation, New Zealanders will be better placed to focus on the serious rules designed to keep people safe and our economy growing.”

Several common ‘myths’ can be found on the Rules Reduction Taskforce website New Zealanders can continue to share their experiences by sending a message through the Rules Reduction Taskforce’s social media pages.

“I’d like to thank everyone that took the time to share their experience with the Taskforce. I would also like to acknowledge the dedication of co-chairs Jacqui Dean MP and Michael Barnett, as well as the other members of the Taskforce,” says Mrs Bennett.

A lot of these problems  would not have arisen if regard for property rights and common sense were both at the basis of legislation.

If this report is acted on, loopy rules fixed in existing legislation and not added new legislation it will make a significant and positive difference to the country.


Ministers say no to Lochinver sale

September 17, 2015

Ministers have declined an application by a foreign company to buy Lochinver Station:

An overseas company’s application to purchase Lochinver Station has been declined because the benefits to New Zealand are not substantial and identifiable, Ministers Paula Bennett and Louise Upston say.

Pure 100 Farm Ltd, a subsidiary of China-based Shanghai Pengxin, applied to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) last year to buy the 13,800 ha farm near Taupo for $88 million.

“Because Lochinver Station is classified by law as sensitive land, Ministers must consider whether the application meets the requirements set out in the Overseas Investment Act,” Associate Finance Minister Paula Bennett says.

“While we recognise and support the importance of overseas investment, the Overseas Investment Act states it is a privilege for overseas people to own sensitive New Zealand assets and therefore requires such investments to meet statutory criteria for consent.

“After detailed and careful individual consideration, we are not satisfied there will be, or is likely to be, a substantial benefit to New Zealand – a key requirement for applications of sensitive land of this size.”

While the OIO said the question of whether the benefits of the potential investment to New Zealand are or could be substantial and identifiable was finely balanced, it recommended approving the application.

“We agreed parts of the proposed investment could benefit New Zealand but in our judgement on the overall balance of evidence, the benefits are not likely to be substantial and identifiable,” Land Information Minister Louise Upston says.

“This proposed sale didn’t pass a test we are required to exercise Ministerial judgement on.

“This is an example of our system working well.  The OIO conducted a thorough investigation before making a finely balanced recommendation.  Ministers carefully assessed the evidence and ultimately came to different view.”

A summary of the reasons for the Ministers’ decision can be found here.

This decision shows the bar for overseas ownership of farm land is set very high.

It is very difficult for a would-be foreign buyer to prove that it would provide more benefits than a local one, even if the local is hypothetical.


Quote of the day

August 5, 2015

New Zealand National Party's photo.

We have always been more ambitious for our youth. Ensuring they have a roof over their heads means we can more effectively dig in and ensure they’re getting access to education, employment and wer are supporting them back to independence. – Paula Bennett

She was announcing more housing support for vulnerable young people.

Govt report card on BPS

July 7, 2015

The government has released a report card on its Better Public Service targets:

More young people are achieving higher qualifications, welfare dependency continues to fall and Kiwis are doing more of their government transactions digitally, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Paula Bennett say.

The Government today published the latest update of progress against the ten challenging targets set three years ago by the Prime Minister.

“There are now 42,000 fewer children living in a benefit dependent household than there were three years ago. That’s more than the combined populations of Masterton and Levin,” Mr English says.

“Today’s results confirm the Government is making continued improvements to some of the really difficult issues that affect our communities and families, however progress in other areas is slower.

“We are getting a better understanding of the most vulnerable New Zealanders, and we’re willing to pay a bit more upfront to change their lives, because what works for the community also works for the Government’s books.”

Mrs Bennett says the BPS results targets were designed to drive a positive change in the public service and signal a willingness to try new things and work across agencies to have more of an impact in people’s lives.

“Significant progress has been made since the Prime Minister first set the targets in 2012,” Mrs Bennett says.

Since the targets were introduced:

  • participation in Early Childhood Education has increased from 94.7 per cent to 96.1 per cent
  • the proportion of immunised 8-month olds has increased from 84 per cent to 92.9 per cent
  • there has been a 14 per cent decrease in people being hospitalised for the first time with rheumatic fever
  • the trend in the number of children and young people experiencing substantiated physical abuse has flattened, after previously being on an upward trajectory
  • the proportion of 18-year olds who achieve a NCEA Level 2 qualification has increased from 74.3 per cent to about 81.1 per cent
  • the proportion of 25 to 34 year olds with a qualification at Level 4 or above has increased from 51.4 per cent to 54.2 per cent
  • total crime, violent crime and youth crime have dropped 17.6 per cent, 9.1 per cent and 37.3 per cent respectively
  • the rate of reoffending has dropped 9.6 per cent
  • there has been a net reduction of 16 percent in business effort when dealing with government agencies
  • 45.8 per cent of government service transactions are now completed digitally, up from 30.4 per cent in 2012.

“We set these targets to stretch the public services to get better results from the more than $70 billion we spend each year,” Mrs Bennett says. “We have always said that some of them will be challenging.

“For example, reducing rheumatic fever remains difficult, but progress has been made. The previously increasing trend for assaults on children has been successfully flattened, but more needs to be done to achieve the target.

“We are making progress in many cases by working with individuals and families to develop services better suited to their needs,” she says.

The government deserves credit for setting targets against which progress can be measured, for working for the most vulnerable and being prepared to spend more upfront to solve long-standing problems.

But these targets aren’t just about the government, they’re about people served by public servants and those public servants who are working to meet the targets.

Education minister Hekia Parata gives credit where it’s due:

Today’s Better Public Service (BPS) update showing the Government is on track to achieve its goal of lifting the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA  Level 2 is a tribute to the hard work and professionalism of teachers and principals, says Education Minister Hekia Parata. . .

These targets aren’t necessarily destinations, many are staging posts in a journey towards better public services and better outcomes for the people who use them.

The  report is here.
John Key's photo.

April 9 in history

April 9, 2015

32 Jesus Christ ascended into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday.

193 Septimius Severus was proclaimed Roman Emperor by the army in Illyricum.

475 Byzantine Emperor Basiliscus issued a circular letter (Enkyklikon) to the bishops of his empire, supporting the Monophysite christological position.

1241  Battle of Liegnitz: Mongol forces defeated the Polish and German armies.

1413  Henry V was crowned King of England.

1440 Christopher of Bavaria was appointed King of Denmark.

1682 Robert Cavelier de La Salle discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River, claimed it for France and namesdit Louisiana.

1860 The oldest audible sound recording of a human voice was made.

1865 American Civil War: Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia (26,765 troops) to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, effectively ending the war.

1865 Birth of Charles Proteus Steinmetz, German-American mathematician and electrical engineer (d. 1923).

1867 Chris Watson, third Prime Minister of Australia, was born (d. 1941).

1867  Alaska purchase: Passing by a single vote, the United States Senate ratified a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska.

1898 Paul Robeson, American singer and activist, was born  (d. 1976).

1909 The U.S. Congress passed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act.

1916  World War I: The Battle of Verdun – German forces launched their third offensive of the battle.

1917 World War I: The Battle of Arras  started with Canadian Corps executing a massive assault on Vimy Ridge.

1918 World War I: The Battle of the Lys – the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps was crushed by the German forces during the Spring Offensive on the Belgian region of Flanders.

1926 Hugh Hefner, American entrepreneur and publisher, was born.

1932 Unemployed workers in Dunedin reacted angrily to the refusal of the Hospital Board to offer assistance, protesters stoned the mayor’s relief depot and tried to storm the Hospital Board’s offices, before being dispersed by police batons.

Unemployed disturbances in Dunedin

1934 – Bill Birch, New Zealand politician, was born.

1937 The Kamikaze arrived at Croydon Airport – the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly to Europe.

1939 Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial, after being denied the right to sing at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall.

1940 World War II: Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.

1942 World War II: The Battle of Bataan/Bataan Death March – United States forces surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula. The Japanese Navy launched an air raid on Trincomalee; Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and Royal Australian Navy Destroyer HMAS Vampire were sunk off the island’s east coast.

1945 World War II: The German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer was sunk.

1945 – World War II: The Battle of Königsberg, in East Prussia, ended.

1945 – The United States Atomic Energy Commission was formed.

1947 The Glazier-Higgins-Woodward tornadoes killed 181 and injured970 in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

1947 – The Journey of Reconciliation, the first interracial Freedom Ride  started through the upper South in violation of Jim Crow laws. The riders wanted enforcement of the United States Supreme Court’s 1946 Irene Morgan decision that banned racial segregation in interstate travel.

1948 Jorge Eliécer Gaitán’s assassination provoked a violent riot (El Bogotazo) in Bogotá, and a further ten years of violence in Colombia known as La violencia.

1948 – Massacre at Deir Yassin.

1952 Hugo Ballivian’s government was overthrown by the Bolivian National Revolution, starting a period of agrarian reform, universal suffrage and the nationalisation of tin mines.

1957 The Suez Canal in Egypt was cleared and opened to shipping.

1959 Mercury program: NASA announced the selection of the United States’ first seven astronauts,-  the “Mercury Seven“.

1965 Astrodome opened and the first indoor baseball game was played.

1967 The first Boeing 737 (a 100 series) made its maiden flight.

1968 Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral.

1969 – Paula Bennett, National Party Cabinet Minister and Upper Harbour MP, was born.

Paula Bennett.jpg

1969 The “Chicago Eight” pled not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

1969 The first British-built Concorde 002 makes its maiden flight from Filton to RAF Fairford.

1975 The first game of the Philippine Basketball Association, the second oldest professional basketball league in the world.

1978  Rachel Stevens, English singer (S Club), was born.

1989  The April 9 tragedy in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR an anti-Soviet peaceful demonstration and hunger strikes, demanding restoration of Georgian independence was dispersed by the Soviet army, resulting in 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

1991 Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

1992 A U.S. Federal Court found former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega guilty of drug and racketeering charges. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

1992 John Major‘s Conservative Party won an unprecedented fourth general election victory.

1999  Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, President of Niger, was assassinated.

2002 The funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at Westminster Abbey.

2003 2003 invasion of Iraq: Baghdad fell to American forces.

2005 Charles, Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker Bowles.

2009 In Tbilisi, Georgia, up to 60,000 people protested against the government of Mikheil Saakashvili.

2011 – A gunman murdered five people, injured eleven, and committed suicide in a mall in the Netherlands.

2013 – A gunman murdered 13 people in a spree shooting in the village of Velika Ivanča, Serbia.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

Better public services

February 20, 2015

One of National’s goals in government has been to deliver better public services. It set firm targets and it’s making good progress towards achieving them, but it’s not resting on its laurels:

The Government has set itself ambitious new targets including 75,000 fewer New Zealanders being on benefits by June 2018 as part of its Better Public Services drive, Finance Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Paula Bennett say.

The ministers today released the latest results from the Better Public Services programme showing almost 5000 people (-6.6 per cent) came off long-term Jobseeker Support benefit in 2014, the number of children who experienced substantiated physical abuse decreased by almost 200 (-5.6 per cent) over the 12 months to September 2014, infant immunisations are at an all-time high and crime numbers continue to fall. 

“The latest results show that the programme, which measures progress in 10 areas chosen in 2012 to focus on improving the lives of people who most need the Government’s help, is working,” Mr English says.

“All the areas are making progress including improvements in the immunisation rate, a reduction in the incidence of rheumatic fever and we expect that results for NCEA Level 2 will show progress towards the 85 per cent achievement target.

“However, in some of our target areas it is not yet clear whether the positive trends are sustainable.  The challenge now is to find ways to influence those who are harder to reach and who may be in circumstances that make it more difficult for them to respond. This will require a broad search both inside and outside the public service for better solutions, more innovative ideas and   intensification of activity to keep making progress. We will track results and spend our social investment funds where they make the most difference.”

Mrs Bennett said ministers were today announcing they were extending the Better Public Services  welfare targets and, as signalled earlier,  also challenging themselves and the public service to do even better at reducing crime, and improving the workforce skills of young adults.

Mrs Bennett said the new targets are:

Result 1 –  A 25 per cent reduction (from 295,000 people as at June 2014 to 220,000 as at June 2018) in the total number of people receiving main benefits and a $13 billion reduction in the long-term cost of benefit dependence, as measured by an accumulated Actuarial Release, by June 2018.

This replaces the current target of a 30 per cent reduction – 78,000 people to 55,000 people – in the number of working-age recipients of Jobseeker Support who have continually received benefits for more than 12 months.

Result 6 –  60 per cent of 25-34 year olds will have a qualification at Level 4 or above by 2018.

This replaces the current target of 55 per cent of 25-34 year olds holding those qualifications by 2017, which has almost been achieved.

Result 7 – A 20 per cent reduction in total crime by 2018.

This replaces the target of a 15 per cent reduction by 2017, which has already been achieved.

Mrs Bennett said the change to the welfare reduction target recognised that many people who were not on Jobseeker Support also wanted to work and they deserved the same levels of support as jobseekers to do that.

“We know that around 90 per cent of people who went on benefits aged 16 or 17 also lived in benefit-dependent homes as children. This reinforces the urgency and importance of getting people in to work to improve their circumstances, and to help break the cycle of inter-generational welfare dependence.

“We have been making some real progress in this regard and it is good to see from the latest results that people who have been exiting Jobseeker Support have been staying in work for longer.

“There has also been real improvement in helping young people and young sole parents in to work so it makes sense to include them in this expanded new target because they are most at risk of long-term dependence, with a resulting heavy cost to themselves and taxpayers.”

Results on targets set so far are here.
We're already delivering better public services and we've just set ourselves tougher targets so we keep improving.<br /><br />

Key # 1 again

December 11, 2014

TV3 political editor Patrick Gower has named Prime Minister John Key as politician of the year.

Trans Tasman named him politician of the year last week too.

There could simply be no other. John Key was out on his own this year for one simple reason – he won.

Yes, the Prime Minister’s performance ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

In fact, Key went from the crème-de-la-crème to the crème-de-la-crap at times.

But Key won. He got National across the line. It was an incredible victory. It defied the political gravity of a third-term and was against the odds of the campaign. . .

I am not sure that anyone except political tragics were particularly interested in the campaign.

To get that was far from easy for Key. The Dirty Politics scandal could have destroyed other campaigns and finished off other leaders.

The election campaign was weird. It was dark too. And it was incredibly brutal for all those involved.

There is no doubt that Dirty Politics knocked Key over at first – National lost control of its campaign.

Yet Key survived. He stood his ground.  In the words of son Max, he “manned up”.

It was like Key absorbed all of the negativity directed at him, and then, like some kind of comic book character, spewed it all out again as some kind of positive force.

There was unpredictability everywhere: Whaledump, Rawshark, Winston, Colin, rappers, hacker(s), Dotcom, Eminem, Cortex and don’t forget Speargun.

National and Key’s defence was simple – they had a plan, and they stuck to it.

“The plan” is a grinding, relentless strategy based on simple messaging and a self-belief that the Key juggernaut can eventually ride out almost anything.

It has been proven time and time again, and this time was proven on the biggest stage (an entire election campaign) facing the greatest degree of difficulty (an entire book of scandal).

Helped in no small part by a dismal and divided opposition which wasn’t looking like a government in waiting.

Key’s politics this year was a potent combination of on the “macro” level, stubbornly sticking to strategy, and on the “micro” level, being what’s called a “clutch hitter” or “big game player” who rises to the occasion.

Key made big moves at a strategic level and stuck to them, and he made big calls in day-to-politics that worked for him too.

On the macro level, one part of the plan that worked well this year was Key’s semi-upfront declaration of his potential coalition partners at the start of the year.

Looking back, it really was a masterstroke – it gave voters a clear picture of how a National Government would work.

Key also gave himself the space with the decision about giving Colin Craig a electorate seat deal and even more space when it came to working with Winston Peters.

In the end, he ruled out a seat deal for Craig because he looked too crazy and wanted him at arms-length. It was a big call but a good call – imagine if Key had been apologising for Craig on the campaign trail as well as dealing with Dirty Politics.

With Winston, Key kept him at arms’ length. But by not ruling Peters out, he always kept himself in the game, it always looked like National could form a Government no matter how bad the polls got.

The PM had the courage and sense to let voters know what they would and would not get with a National-led government.

That provided another stark contrast with then-Labour leader David Cunliffe who stupidly copied Winston Peters’ line that he’d let the voters choose without giving them all the information they’d need to choose wisely.

Key’s and National’s strategy included a bedrock of policies tailored for the centre voter, and conservative political management. They then turbo-charged this with an overload of “Brand Key” marketing.

Key used these to keep his vice-like grip on the centre-ground, and if he has that – National wins. . .

But there was nothing certain about that win.

Steven Joyce’s recent admission that National was polling at 44 percent in the final week and might have needed Winston to govern shows just how different it could have been. . .

Gower’s other awards:

Runner-up politician of the year: Andrew Little.

Back-bencher Kelvin Davis.

Runner-up political non-politician: Kim Dotcom, Whale Oil and Nicky Hager.

Radio Live’s Duncan Garner lists the year’s political winners and losers:


For all the obvious reasons. He is still the PM and he is still widely popular according to the polls. He had the kitchen sink thrown at him and he almost won the election outright. He’ll have to watch it doesn’t go to his head.


Couldn’t win a fight in a kindergarten but ends the year on top. His caucus didn’t want him, his party didn’t want him, his electorate didn’t want him. Yet he ends the year looking strong and competent as Labour’s new leader.


He beat Hone Harawira and therefore beat Kim Dotcom – do I have to say anymore?


She knew Dotcom and Harawira were in an unholy alliance and she put her principles before it all. She called it right – she has values and principles that are beyond reproach whether you agree with her politics or not.


Yes he’s a dirt-bag, muck-raking, scum-bag attack blogger, but he likes it that way. He doesn’t play by any rule book yet he’s been judged a journalist by the courts. Despite having his dirty laundry aired for the world to see he remains talked about, his blog gets more hits than ever, he breaks stories and the PM returns his texts. Oh and he wins mainstream media awards.

(Close mention: Paula Bennett, now talked about as the next National Party Leader)

His losers are:


Threw millions at trying to rig an election, but the public weren’t fooled. He’s now fighting to stay out of jail. Rest my case.


He picked the wrong rich friends. Should have stayed poor. At least he’d still be in Parliament. Woeful judgement.


See above.


Was on track to be the next National Party Leader – now she’s struggling to be heard from the backbenchers. Huge fall from grace. Career in tatters.


Came across as a fake and then apologised for being a man. Do we have to say anything more? Awful defeat.

(Close mention: Grant Robertson, rejected twice as Labour’s future leader. That will hurt and in politics if winning if everything, Robertson has twice failed. Ouch. Still, he has huge chance to recover well.)




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