Are Labour and NZ First Partners in Populism – Or Not?

By   /   March 23, 2018  /   39 Comments

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POPULISM VERSUS RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT. The Regions versus Metropolitan New Zealand. NZ First versus Labour. Shane Jones versus Grant Robertson. “Oh yes, Ladies and gentlemen, there’s Trouble: Trouble with a capital ‘T’; and it’s brewing right here in Political City!”

POPULISM VERSUS RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT. The Regions versus Metropolitan New Zealand. NZ First versus Labour. Shane Jones versus Grant Robertson. “Oh yes, Ladies and gentlemen, there’s Trouble: Trouble with a capital ‘T’; and it’s brewing right here in Political City!”

The only way the coalition between Labour and NZ First can ever be made to work is if Jacinda Ardern, beneath the necessary veneer of “responsible government”, is actually every bit as populist as Winston Peters.

No other political modus vivendi offers the slightest chance of success. In no time at all, a genuinely “responsible” Labour-led government would be placing a whole platter-full of dead rats before its coalition partners and expecting them to smack their lips with delight. How many of these delicacies NZ First could consume before its remaining followers threw up their hands in horror and disgust is uncertain – but it’s highly unlikely to be a lot.

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if Labour’s junior coalition partner possessed a solid buffer of popular support to keep it well above the 5 percent MMP threshold. Enough to sanction a little tactical erosion. But that is not the case. By opting to put Labour on the Treasury Benches, Winston Peters instantly burned-off that part of his electoral base which had been expecting him to turn right. The 7.2 percent support NZ First attracted at the General Election was halved in the first of the big post-election opinion polls. A steady diet of dead rats is hardly likely to improve the party’s position!

The biggest of those rats – the CPTPP – was, perhaps, unavoidable. To take on the combined forces of MFAT, MPI, Treasury, Business NZ and Federated Farmers in the first crucial weeks of the coalition’s life was simply too big an ask. Even the most radical of NZ First’s populist followers could see that. Likewise, the need to cry ‘Tai Hoa!’ on the free-trade agreement with the Russian Federation. If Teresa May’s “sexed-up” accusations are proved to be as false as Tony Blair’s WMDs – as a great many of NZ First’s members expect – then Albion’s perfidy will soon be made clear and negotiations can resume with gusto.

The consumption of rat carcases must, however, end right there. Labour cannot afford to set any more before Winston Peters and his caucus colleagues. They have allowed Jacinda to take what she absolutely had to have – now it’s her turn to give NZ First what it needs.

But can she? Will her “Kitchen Cabinet” – David Parker, Grant Robertson, Phil Twyford – let her? The answer would appear to be ‘No’. Not if the Labour Party leadership’s reaction to Shane Jones’ full-scale populist assault on Air New Zealand’s treatment of the provinces is anything to go by.

Jones’ attack was perfectly pitched to the pissed-off provincial voters NZ First needs to win back. It was excoriatingly anti-corporate and anti-elitist: directed with pin-point populist accuracy at the Big End of Town. All that Labour had to do in response was avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as a reproof of Jones’ rhetorical axe-swinging.

After the arrogant telling-off directed at Finance Minister Robertson by Air New Zealand’s management, saying nothing should have been a no-brainer. No government can afford to let itself be lectured to by a corporation in which the people of New Zealand hold a 51 percent stake.  Certainly, a brief media release from Robertson (confirming that would be carefully considering the composition of the Air New Zealand board in September) would have popped a cherry on the top of Jones’ populist sundae – but it wasn’t essential. Labour’s silence would have spoken loudly enough.

Significantly, neither Jacinda Ardern nor Grant Robertson was willing to keep silent on the subject of Jones’ populist broadside against the management of Air New Zealand. The Prime Minister felt compelled to tell the news media that: “Calling for the sacking of any board member is a step too far and I have told Shane Jones that.” Robertson, according to the NZ Herald, “said he disagreed with Jones and the board and chief executive were doing a good job.”

It is impossible to argue that Robertson’s comment was not also directed with pin-point accuracy at the Big End of Town. The problem being that, instead of informing the corporate elite that Labour was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with its coalition partner, it let them know, in terms that could not possibly be misconstrued: “We’re with you guys.”

All of which leaves Winston Peters with some very serious thinking to do. Because the party in which he opted to place his trust in October 2017: the party he still believed capable of singing that same old “Hallelujah Song” belted out by Mickey Savage and Norman Kirk; is steadily demonstrating, both to NZ First and the New Zealand electorate, that the only songs it remembers how to sing are the ones it learned from Roger Douglas back in the 1980s.

And that won’t do – not at all. Thirty-nine working-parties and policy reviews are no substitute for NZ First’s plain and simple promises to put things right. Those promises were a big part of the reason why Labour, NZ First and the Greens won enough seats to form a government.  If they are not kept or, worse still, they are shown – by Labour – to be “just the sort of thing you say when you’re in Opposition and then forget about when you’re in Government”, then NZ First will simply have to say “fuck it” – and walk away.


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  1. GreenBus says:

    Totally agree. Labour is a big disappointment so far. I wish I’d voted for Winnie.

  2. Sam Sam says:

    Looking at alternative organizational models may at times be warranted.

    The chief ones for the US would probably be
    1. emulating Ansett (Everything is joint).
    2. emulating Mt Cook Airways (separate services, joint support)
    3. NZDF drops VIP role and outsources it to Air New Zealand who can then lease a fleet of smaller King Airs or other such aircraft for 12 passengers or less.

    Of course, compelling arguments for abandoning the current status quo is lacking.

    Or something.

    Politicians will sound rational because they avoid specifics and is typically in interview format. It’d fall apart if someone was challenging them on points and making them enumerate expected improvements. For example, talking about the cultural gulf, putting all the pilots in long haul in decent sized business jets won’t do anything to make them culturally closer to any one; being in the same airline service doesn’t result in aviators and shareholders sharing a common culture and they’re kept together as much as humanly possible through their pay packet with mandatory cross-over for the pilots who want to stay in for the full duration with bonuses payed in shares.

    Like, my reading of NZDF would be that integration is important because each branch has a specific goal and vision they operate. Some elements may overlap – the Navy has some aircraft in order to facilitate its ability to project power across the seas – but it is not doing the same task as the airforce either. That specialization keeps each branch focused on its specific goal and its resources focused on doing that goal as best as they can. The Air New Zealand board, however, seems to believe the ideal is one branch, one service, should have everything organically and ignores the specialty – basically thats why to them high volume long haul routes are perfect whereas the Army and Air less frequented routes aren’t.

  3. Observer Tokoroa says:

    Now we Fly – now we Don’t – lets Cancel eh ? Yippee

    Well done Shane Jones. The Regions Matter. You are streets ahead of the Beehive when it comes to Air New Zealand’s Itsy Bitsy flight coverage.

    It is noble of you Shane not to respond sharply to the undeserved criticism you received from the PM and Grant Robertson.

  4. David Stone says:

    I was sad when Jacinda seemed to immediately move to obey Air NZ’s director’s direction. It seems Shane Jones expressing his opinion is “going too far”.
    I fear it looks as if Jacinda does not have a clear philosophy , or much of a mind of her own. I think it’s looking like she is content to be a mascot and a mouthpiece for her senior colleagues and is not really a leader of anything.
    I wonder if James Shaw is anticipating a rift and the question time deal was about positioning for a showdown that might leave them in coalition with national.
    That would be a Waka Jump.
    D J S

  5. The Masked Moa says:

    So Trotters last article was on how the Greens need to get real and shut up and be Labours lipsticked poodle. This article on how Labour needs to accommodate NZ First to ensure its survival. The dye appears to have been cast with Chris in that he wants the Greens dead and buried and the coalition to be of just 2 parties after the next election L+NZF. Green party members beware Labour has always wanted to destroy the Greens and nearly succeeded last time and following Trotters ideas it will do so next time. This time it appears they have a willing executioner on the inside in the form of James Shaw and an incompetent leadership group that will oblige to roll over and let the Greens die.

  6. Peter Bradley says:

    How does NZ first propose to “put things right”. The one thing about populism you forgot to mention is that a focus on popular grievance is rarely followed up with significant or serious policy implementation.
    What is Jones on about? Air New Zealand is a business operating in a global economy and it’s only obligation is to maximize profit for it’s investors and shareholders – many of whom will be overseas. It has absolutely no obligation to NZ citizens or the regions. That’s just a simple fact about the type of economy we have.
    If Jones was serious about changing that situation he would be proposing nationalization of Air NZ – but, of course, he isn’t doing that and NZ is a long, long way from the type of economic transformation being proposed by the UK Labour Party’s economic thinkers.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Boycott Air NZ we should.

      That’s how my mum did it to supermarkets back in 1960’s.

      Power of the consumer holds all the power not the fucking self interest overpaid board.

  7. William Smith says:

    Give me a break! Here comes the excuse wagon. If Trump surrounded by globalists who even drafted the TPP don’t tell me Labour and co could not follow suit. Total BS….

  8. countryboy says:

    Yeah, well. The chickens are coming home to roost on the bones of the dead rats spat out by all parties in every corner of NZ.
    My dubious concern is that a combo of peters, adern, shaw and bridges will use the tpp to on-sell our agrarian goods to those we pissed off historically in preference for CER with AU for God awful Holden cars. My concern is that I may not see the comeuppance the crooks who ripped us off deserve.
    Go into any antiques shop and find nik naks made in England, the USA, Europe etc, because they were our trading partners. But by the early 1960’s as the swindle started to gear up to create the mega riche who plague us to this day, holdens, falcons and valiants, all made in protectionist focused Australia ( To keep Kiwi agrarian goods out) came flooding in to the stupid Kiwi buyer and the dumb and dumber farmer who took to being politically subjugated like a catholic priest begging to be flailed harder, praise the baby jesus… all I need’s three feeds a day and you, friends of corrupt politicians! Keep my money. I have no need for it, for I have suffering. That’s like the rich and fat selling weight loss programs to starving, street dwellers.

    There is not one single living politician who is on our side exclusively. No one. We, us Kiwis, are entirely leaderless and consequently ripe for the picking.

    • Afewknowthetruth says:

      We are not ‘leaderless’. We are being misled, as has been the case for decades.

      It has to be that way because governments are agents and facilitators for banks, corporations and opportunists. Don’t look for anything different because the system is not capable of delivering anything different.

      Politicians will just keep doing what they do (protecting the short-term interests of banks etc. whilst promoting the use of fossil fuels and despoiling of the environment) until that cant. And everything will be made progressively worse until collapse occurs.

      • countryboy says:

        Ba ha!
        You just described a lack of political leadership.

        A ‘leader’ would, if we had one, unite us as a people to drive out the one or two who tyrannise us and traitorously betray us to off-shore banksters and those foreign ‘investors’ significantly richer than we are who are here to buy our homes, farms and infrastructure.

        We have, instead, flouncing, Machiavellian nob end peters and adern, the prancing show pony with the mane of hair and teeth to match who are same-same but different. A leader, would throw open the doors of our parliament to invite us into OUR parliament to see how fast THEY could run.
        Instead? We get to watch aunty john campbell bemoan and hand ring to cleave a tear from our eye as horror after horror beset us to glean faux angst from the well-to-do who use that as an emotional pass port to blithely walk past the homeless in their particular wretched state.
        None of that, is evidence to me at least, of a ‘leader’. None of the worthless fuckers have the guts to make a stand. Before there can be one Chinese or other foreign national drive down Queen Street in a Lamborghini there must first be not one single homeless person, nor poverty, or hardship in Aotearoa /NZ.
        Instead? We have wank coming out of wankers at us and we should feel aggrieved and enraged at their arrogance, that they assume we’ll take it like little wenches.
        And jones, bonafide wanker, is the biggest wanker of them all. Having a go at Air NZ is like shooting fish in a barrel, and who gives a fuck anyway, if Air NZ doesn’t fly into the empty hinterlands. Is that old Maori man bedding down on Ponsonby Rd going to suddenly want to fly south to Westport for a day on the beach? ( Or is it to jet in yet more foreign ‘investors’ to snatch up bargain agricultural lands for the starving world just around the corner? )
        Jones is, amongst other things, career-building to justify his salary plus entitlements and he’s beating up on something that can’t fight back for the theatrics of it all. What a wanker.

        • CLEANGREEN says:


          Brilliantly the best set of words in sync to purvey the picture of despair and anger we all feel that is justified.

          If the leader does not repair this deep hurt we are all left with we will turn to anyone who will offer a decisive change we all need.

  9. XRAY says:

    Jones is absolutely correct to point out Air NZ’s poor attitude to domestic travel vs profits at all cost but there are far superior ways and means of bringing about change then going off like a blunderbuss in public.

    Its the highly unprofessional, boof headed, tough guy shit that quickly undermines the very government he is part of.

    He’s like a cop with plenty of powers to quietly resolve a situation but who prefers to start shooting and beating instead.

    Fuck it, if Air NZ doesnt comply then set about getting people who will, behind the scenes, establish another NAC if it comes to it but the cowboy shit like I have observed is just plain cringe-worthy!

  10. Gadfly's Dad says:

    The quicker NZ First walk away the better. Labour has not changed from the Neo-Liberal Party it has been since 1984. The Greens need to change their leaders in a big hurray and get a strong Socialist in.

  11. CLEANGREEN says:

    So bloody right you are CB, 1000% correct.

    We are slowly being skinned alive, just like an early colonial surveyor captured in the Zambezi valley by natives then being boiled in a vat.

    it’s going to end up being a revolution of the oppressed one day I am afraid.

  12. Andrea says:

    We are missing the voice of Damian O’Connor, I believe. He’s supposed to look out for rural communities.

    Perhaps the two metros who grew up with what remained after the Fourth Labour Government should ‘lay low and say nuffin’. So ‘correct’. So ‘sensitive’. So downright unsure about working with private enterprise people – just like John Key the wannabe.

    Now – what will the wily Mr Peters do?

  13. Helena says:

    I wouldn’t vote for or trust anyone who worked with/for Blair. I did vote for Winston. I’m sorry I voted at all.

  14. CLEANGREEN says:

    When Labour signed that toxic TPPP agreement they signed your death warrant and mine as NZ will in time be hollowed out after the big corporate and rich take large tracks of low quality hill country land cheaply to carry out dirty “intensive farming using barren and to move stock around all there holdings as fattening units using cheap sourced overseas feed and local feed and if you think this is a fallacy just come to the hills of HB/Gisborne and see this for yourself as it is happening here right now, as hundreds of feed and storck trucks are now indading our dirt roads carrying stock around with trucks and trailers of feed such as hay, silage, and other products.

    Finishing blocks are now bought cheap and are utilised to make a profit using road freight of feed lots which is effectively subsidised by us all as road freight vehicles only opay 54% of their cost of wear of our roads say IPENZ and these large trucks rip our roads to bits while they get cheap freight.

    As I write this note we have counted forty two stock feed trucks pass our farm on our rural dirt road in the Gisborne Hills and that was in 6 hrs of today, so double it to about 80 trucks every day that they are moving around our valley as one of many.

    Council told us they have no money to seal our roads so we are stuffed.

    NZ in 10 yr will look like Nigeria with their land polluted by oil fields spilling into their rivers ours will be killed by “intensive farming practices”

  15. CLEANGREEN says:

    When Labour signed that toxic TPPP agreement they signed your death warrant and mine as NZ will in time be hollowed out after the big corporate and rich take large tracks of low quality hill country land cheaply to carry out dirty “intensive farming using barren and to move stock around all there holdings as fattening units using cheap sourced overseas feed and local feed and if you think this is a fallacy just come to the hills of HB/Gisborne and see this for yourself as it is happening here right now, as hundreds of feed and stock trucks are now invading our dirt roads carrying stock around with trucks and trailers of feed such as hay, silage, and other products.

    Finishing blocks are now bought cheap and are utilised to make a profit using road freight of feed lots which is effectively subsidised by us all as road freight vehicles only opay 54% of their cost of wear of our roads say IPENZ and these large trucks rip our roads to bits while they get cheap freight.

    As I write this note we have counted forty two stock feed trucks pass our farm on our rural dirt road in the Gisborne Hills and that was in 6 hrs of today, so double it to about 80 trucks every day that they are moving around our valley as one of many.

    Council told us they have no money to seal our roads so we are stuffed.

    NZ in 10 yr will look like Nigeria with their land polluted by oil fields spilling into their rivers ours will be killed by “unregulated intensive farming practices”

    • I'm right says:

      Why don’t you move then Cleangreen, all you seem to do is moan and groan about the trucks and moan that the railway under national was not upgraded, and now your Labour and NZ1st won’t do anything either it seems (even when you actually believed the campaign promises heehee) ….so move house to something you can afford if it so bad for your life\mental health as well as physical health where you currently live. SORTED 🙂

      • and now your Labour and NZ1st won’t do anything either it seems (even when you actually believed the campaign promises heehee)

        You’re expecting Labour/NZ First to fix nine years of National’s mis-management in only four months?

        National under-funded and degraded services (whether healthcare or rail) to such a degree that it actually ended up destroying one SOE, Solid Energy. The rapacious demands for dividends, on top of taxes, meant the company had no reserves when it came under financial stress:

        The fact that you expect Cleangreen to ” move house to something you can afford if it so bad for your life\mental health as well as physical health where you currently live” suggests you understand and accept the nature of the problem but are unwilling to sheet home responsibility where it belongs: an incompetent National “government”.

        • XRAY says:

          Exactly Frank.

          The depression from some here that the earthquake like damage National left behind, not to mention 30 plus years give or take some relief in between of neo liberal policies can somehow be reversed and countered since the last week in October last year is ridiculous, and infantile.

          Is Labour just to wave a fucking magic wand? Far from the great economy the liars in National sold us things are nowhere near as rosy and it does not surprise me there is a holding pattern of sorts to get a good handle on the REAL state of play.

          And who the hell knows what the Greens will do next. As far as a political force goes they are terminal.

          Jacinda is walking many a tightrope daily just to function as a government. It is a coalition and that has meaning!

          • CLEANGREEN says:

            Yes Xray,

            Especially when we now see hoards of behind the scenes groups of sleeper cells in positions of influence like the Gisborne Port and council and their “advisory committees” that labour goes directly to for advice so labour do need to distance itself from the National party “gwangos” that the Nats have setup to push their agenda as effectively as if they were in Government.
            In 1984 your Labour Party under David Lange went on “the great gwango hunt” that national had left for you then?

            Why have you not began this again starting with national party HQ nerve centre MBIE?

            Wake up Labour and dont be taken as slaves of the national party to push their agendas try pushing your own promises of “real changes’ please.

        • CLEANGREEN says:

          Yes that is correct frank, we live in hope Labour Will honour all their pledges including rail to Gisborne, as pledged in 2016.

          But when Jacinda came to Gisborne with hane jones and her team she witnessed the anti rail lobby group that “hi-jacked” him as was said by attending witnesses that saw the whisking away of Shen jones by a goon squad of National anti rail lobbyists into a side room and then 10 minutes came out and no longer said a word about positive plans for rail, so it was a setup by the Gisborne port private owners who have been against rail since 2007 and don’t want rain as they see it as a threat to their business of sending logs for export and they were worried for years that rail to napier port would take some business off them.

          Read all about this in the Rail Actions Chair Woman Gillian Ward’s press release here and give copies to all labour NZ First MP’s to set the record straight.

          February 27, 2018

          COLUMN – Shafted by Eastland Group lobbyists
          by Gillian Ward Published: February 27, 2018 2:14PM
          Gillian Ward is Chairwoman of the Gisborne Rail Action Group

          Re: Mixed Signals — Minister yet to receive strong case for Wairoa to Gisborne rail line, February 24 story.

          The Minister actually has received a strong business case for reinstating the rail line between Wairoa and Gisborne. In response to his request in November, a proposal was delivered to him two weeks ago.

          So, it is very disappointing that in the national launch of the Provincial Growth Fund on Friday neither restoration, nor a feasibility study, was announced for the Wairoa-Gisborne railway line.

          Rather than being let down because of the lack of a “strong case”, the Gisborne residents who have marched and signed a petition requesting that the government restore the rail line, and businesses who need rail to move their fresh produce to Napier’s export container port, have been shafted by a small handful of Gisborne business leaders.

          These few people who should be representing the best interests of the region are instead conflicted. They are focused solely on the expansion plans of Eastland Port, and planning for large profits, and they have the ear of the politicians.

          Rail freight of containers of fresh chilled produce destined for export from Napier’s container port will provide flexibility, be competitive, and offer security of freight transport with an additional land transport option for our isolated region. Huge container ships and multiple container cranes handle enormous stacks of containers at Napier Port’s deep-water port.

          Eastland Port on the other hand has a totally different situation, being located in a silty river mouth, which is carefully dredged to attain the depth required for log ships, while minimising disturbance of sensitive marine habitats. There is much less capacity to handle containers.
          Hon Shane Jones is aware of this conflict of interest, and although he has stated that, “There’s political will to back rail”, he would prefer that the community sort out our priorities, rather than the government imposing decisions.

          Mayor Foon has stated that Gisborne needs all the transport modes — roads, rail, coastal shipping and air transport. The residents and business community have indicated, with a march of 2000 people led by Mayor Foon along Grey Street to the Railway Station in April 2012, a petition of 10,480 signatures presented by Mayor Foon to Hon Anne Tolley at Parliament in May 2012, fundraising $11,000 for BERL Economics to review KiwiRail’s May 2012 analysis of the economics of the railway line, public meetings, letters to the Gisborne Herald editor, articles in The Gisborne Herald, presentations to the District Council, as well as business case analyses of the commercial viability of the line, that reopening the railway line would be well-supported by the community and businesses.

          It is a small city characteristic that influential leaders can be conflicted, wearing more than one “hat”, and the aspirations of the Gisborne community to restore our other land transport option have been well and truly undermined by a few people determined to scuttle these aspirations.

          Gisborne had to campaign hard to be included in the Government’s national rail-building effort in the late 1920s. It was a hard-won battle and a challenging line to complete, but the rail line was opened in 1942 amid jubilation from the Gisborne community.

          Now that we have the line, it is a gift from an earlier generation. The cost to repair the storm damage is minimal compared to the value of the asset. Imagine the cost to build a railway line through the Wharerata hills now!
          Please Minister Jones, hear the voice of the Gisborne community and filter out the noise from the Eastland Group lobbyists!

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        I’m right,

        You sound upbeat about the new government policy then?

        Thats a switch isn’t it!!

        I hope you are surprised that this government will awake in time to begin to repair the nine years of rot they set inside these walls of parliament and outside our homes.

        We haven’t given up, just doing what you have been doing for years talking about change, though your kind of change is just injecting more rot into our failing system.

        Don’t worry about my mental health as well as physical health, as I often worry about yours.

        You see I have lived a long life and have seen and enjoyed when our lives were the best they ever could have been and now I spend my life worrying about what life we have left for our offspring now as it looks very grim now after your lot rorting the system and left little behind for anyone else.

  16. CLEANGREEN says:

    Our note to Government today on the sixth anniversary of the washout that closed Gisborne rail.

    Protecting our environment & health.
    In association with other Community Groups, and all Government Agencies since 2001.
    Public COMMUNITY letter; : 6th Anniversary of Gisborne rail washout 24th March 2012.

    24th March 2018; – On this day the sixth anniversary of the rail washout that closed Gisborne rail link to the rest of NZ.

    Dear rail stakeholders,

    Please review these past considerations of NZ Rail for your re-consideration to re-open the Gisborne rail link to the rest of NZ.

    We should curtail trucking as now it is harming the environment and use * General Manager of NZ Rail Trevor Haywood’s plan to use rail for “social benefit” again. 1971.
    Read below, History of rail.
    In 1971, the Government commissioned United States consultancy firm Wilbur Smith & Associates to look at Railways. It also recommended that road transport meet the “resource costs” incurred and social costs such as accidents, pollution and the loss of utility caused by heavy vehicles.

    We must use these considerations also when restoring Gisborne’s rail freight again.

    Our justification is;

    As we say it is justified that rail services must resume, because Gisborne is the most isolated community of its size in NZ without a rail service; – ministers please note.

    • Emergencies 0800 808 400
    About us › History of rail › 150 Years of NZ Rail › Stories › Road Transport Regulation
    Road transport regulation a controversial measure to protect railways
    Preventing trucks from competing with railways, introduced in the 1930s, are interpreted today as a means of protecting the New Zealand Government’s investment in railways.

    The United-Reform Government introduced a form of licensing in 1931. It was extended in 1936 by a Labour Government to include restrictions on how far trucks could travel in competition with railways.

    But as the western world grappled with the impact of the Great Depression, politicians of the time – in New Zealand and in other countries – were concerned to avoid a costly duplication of transport infrastructure.

    Railways had been the great nation-builder in many developed countries. In New Zealand, rail passenger journeys reached a peace-time peak between 1921 and 1924.

    World War I had greatly improved motor vehicles. Trucks were making inroads on freight movement – particularly in New Zealand because of its comparatively low traffic volumes and scattered population.

    Rail freight revenue, which had been steadily increasing up to 1929–30, started to decline.

    New Zealand History Online records that between 1925 and 1930 the number of private motor cars more than doubled, from 71,000 to 155,000. With one car for every nine people, New Zealand had one of the highest car-ownership rates in the world.

    The situation was the same around the world. Politicians scratched their heads and wondered what to do. Many of them – New Zealand included – opted for commissions of enquiry.

    In December 1927 the President of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Charles Bowden wrote in the New Zealand Railways magazine, “It must be apparent to all that the problem of co-ordination or competition of rail and road services is one of the most difficult problems of our day.

    “I consider the cost of distribution in New Zealand to be probably the highest factor in our cost of living budget; certainly it is one of the most important. The length and configuration of the country are admittedly a contributory cause, but the fact remains and is worth inquiry.”

    Coincidentally, the Prime Minister of the day, Gordon Coates, announced a commission of enquiry on the day the magazine was published.

    “It seems plain that enormous development may be expected in the use of commercial motor vehicles,” he said. “It is felt by the committee that the proper time to institute the investigation of this branch of the subject is while motor traffic is still in its infancy.” Coates promised “no drastic steps”, but he did deliver an indication of what was to follow. “There may be needless duplication and overlapping of roads and railway all eventuating in huge cost while insufficient figures are available to decide whether or not a road would economically serve all requirements and save the taxpayer the cost of a railway line and its operation,” he said.

    The result was a form of regional transport licensing and freight concessions to encourage use of rail. Then, in 1936, the Labour Transport Minister Bob Semple introduced legislation which preventing trucks from carrying loads more than 30 miles (48km) and restricting new trucking operators to those that could prove a need for their services.

    Restrictions weren’t confined just to freight. Bus companies also had to be licensed, and their vehicles, timetables and fares approved, by the Government.

    Subsequently, the Railways Department expanded its Road Services Branch into one of the country’s largest bus operators. Road transport could still carry passengers and goods over and above the legal restrictions, but to do so, they had to gain approval from quasi-magisterial Transport Licensing Authorities.

    As the century advanced, restrictions were gradually relaxed. The trucking restriction was extended to 40 miles in 1961 and again to 150 kilometres in 1977.

    It was a time when the economic prosperity of the post-war period was beginning to recede. Britain’s determination to join the European union and lower wool prices threatened a dark cloud over the good times the country had enjoyed. By 1967 the export price for wool had fallen 30 percent, pushing up unemployment and inflation.

    In 1969 a National Development Conference was convened which in turn created a number of sector committees. The Transport Committee recommended an examination of transport modes carrying traffic best suited to them without any regulatory intervention. In 1971, the Government commissioned United States consultancy firm Wilbur Smith & Associates to look at Railways.

    Wilbur Smith said something like $40 million a year could be saved with better coordination of transport and it recommended the de-licensing of the road transport industry – with some safeguards in the form of a fee to be paid by road transport operators moving goods more than 64 kilometres.

    The consultants considered that transport efficiency and the quality of service were more important than the financial welfare of Government-owned businesses. However, they also considered that Railways should receive compensation for providing socially desirable services that could not operate commercially.

    “This study recommends that shippers be given maximum choice between modes, and that, to as great an extent as possible, an efficient allocation of traffic should be effected through pricing,” they said.

    “This will involve setting rail rates according to rail’s marginal resource costs and taxing road traffic which is competitive with rail to recover the marginal resource costs of road transport, including social costs.”

    Wilbur Smith noted that rail was most suited to long-distance and bulk commodity transport and recommended it be protected against a sudden reduction in traffic.

    It also recommended that road transport meet the “resource costs” incurred and social costs such as accidents, pollution and the loss of utility caused by heavy vehicles.

    Railways countered by saying the system proposed by Wilbur Smith would lead to wasteful duplication of services and result in an expansion of road transport at the expense of rail.

    In the intervening months, Labour had won the 1972 election and inherited the Wilbur Smith report. It’s response was an October 1974 Green Paper, A new Direction for New Zealand Transport.

    The Green Paper was largely sympathetic to the Wilbur Smith view of what needed to change. It endorsed the principle that users should be able to choose their transport mode and recommended the formation of a Railways Corporation.

    But Labour had also inherited a freeze on freight charges and passenger fares, imposed in 1971. In the mid-1970s, annual deficits began to increase.

    At the same time, freight being carried was expanding beyond railways capacity. Operation ‘Freightroll’ was a joint venture between the Railways and the Road Transport Association which chartered road transport operators regionally to help rail on line-haul work.

    In 1975, the Government changed again. The National Party also endorsed the view that people moving goods should have the choice of the most efficient and economic mode.

    The 1977 abolition of the old 40-mile limit, allowing road transport to compete with rail over a new limit of 150 kilometres, created competition on key routes like Auckland-Hamilton, Hamilton-Tauranga, Wellington-Palmerston North and Christchurch-Ashburton. The Railways response was to highlight it’s “rock and a hard place” position.

    *The General Manager of the time, Trevor Hayward, released the first of a series of booklets entitled Time for Change which took the Railways case to the public.

    But rather than arguing against road transport deregulation, he explained the challenge Railways faced providing loss-making public services.

    He foresaw a future for Railways based on expanding commercial services, *continuing services that provided a social benefit – but in a transparent fashion and cutting those services that couldn’t be justified.

    In December 1980 Railway Minister Colin McLachlan seemed to be “singing from the same hymn sheet”. He issued a media release indicating that Railway Corporation would be formed and Government would retain the 150 km limit as the basis for competition between road and rail.

    “Fuel use alone dictates that the longer-haul freight should be carried by rail. At the same time, the cost of road upkeep continues to climb so that the present level of road user charges is not sufficient to maintain the standard required”.

    But pressure to deregulate was mounting. An example was food company Watties which wanted to use road transport rather than rail to get their canned goods to the Auckland market.

    The company claimed only half the goods sent by rail from Hawke’s Bay reached Auckland within the desired two-day period. The Transport Licensing Authority refused an application to use road transport. Watties and transport company Freightways went to court and won.

    In 1982, the Ministry of Transport released a discussion paper which mooted deregulation of the transport industry, reducing freight costs by $37 million a year.

    Trevor Hayward, suggested the paper should: “go the way of all the Secretary of Transport’s previous papers on the subject – into the wastepaper basket”.

    But Railways objections were dismissed and the road transport distance restriction was abolished completely in 1983. The impact gradually became apparent. Trucks had carried almost 50 percent of land transport freight in 1972. By 1993, this had risen to 81 percent.
    The international consultancy firm, Booze Allen Hamilton, subsequently engaged by Railways to make recommendations on improving the business’s efficiency, estimated deregulation would cost rail 15 percent of rail volumes and up to 25 percent of revenue.
    The estimates of volume loss were subsequently proved to be accurate but revenue loss was less dramatic. Deregulation was however to lead to dramatic change in the staffing, organisation and in the fullness of time, ownership of Railways.
    Sources: New Zealand Railways, the First 125 Years, David Leitch and Bob Stott, 1988; New Zealand History Online. New Zealand Railways Magazine, Electronic Text Collection

  17. Observer Tokoroa says:

    To: CleanGreen

    I have the feeling that in the not too distant future Shane Jones will be the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

    Having been wrongly called to order by Jacinda and her shadow Grant Robertson, Shane Jones in full flight, showed up across the Nation the over paid, lazy, gutless, and manipulative Board of Air New Zealand with just a few telling truths.

    For Air NZ has abandoned any commitment to greater Aotearoa. And in doing so they have danced a misleading PR Fandango to us all.

    No one can safely believe their Flight Schedules. They are meaningless. They cancel anything and everything – any time they want. Provided it makes make more profit. Stuff the Public.

    Their Airline is rotten to the core.

    The Board jumped on Jacinda. She immediately gave into the sleazy male Board. I have to say that no normal confident woman would give way to a Board of slipshod males.

    Support your Politicians – Labour. Or Chuck the game away. Remember that no Board flies an Aircraft. Pilots do that – thank heavens.

    Boards just fatten the pockets of shareholders. They are not of any real importance as far as I can see Jacinda. Passengers keep the Money rolling in.

    It would be helpful Jacinda if you spoke to the Pilots and told them where and when New Zealanders want them to fly.

    Get on to it Jacinda.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Tokoroa Observer, I agree entirely,

      Like him or hate him he is like Winston whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in Gisborne and talking to him on rail both men are straight shooters and what you hear is what you get so we know instinctively that shane is as good as WEinston on laying out his heart on his sleeve so it is better the friend you know than the foe you don’t.

      We are all comfortable with Shane, but we do need to meet him firstly now about our 19yr battle our NGO has conducted from Napier and now Gisborne for the return of our beloved rail service.

      As we are now in dire need of it being given back as our first Labour government under Michael Joseph Savage and Bob Semple fought hard all the way from 1937 to 1942 to get the link established from Wairoa, to gisborne where on a sunny day in February 1942 over 500 people locally greeted the first train from Napier via Auckland/Wellington and it is for their memory and the 32 workers that died in its construction we owe it to them to get our rail service back.

      • Observer Tokoroa says:


        The Truckies have climbed up the backsides of every roadway they can find. Lobbied and lobbied and lobbied, They have done untold damage and are still doing it to roads and civilian drivers.

        Our roads are simply too narrow and too tight for the diesel monsters making millions for the wealthy. The situation is so bad that our speed limits should be set no higher than 70 kms phr – for any truck or utility. Even that is too high.

        They trundle their rigs through towns and suburbs as if they were invited. Lethal stuff.

        Why cannot the new Government set a date for commencing the replacement of the EastCoast Rail – Gisborne South ?

        Is it only bleeding slothful Auckland and the Pacific Islands that are getting any attention ? Plus all the Foreign Immigrants streaming in. No problem eh.

        • Afewknowthetruth says:

          NZ governments have been repeatedly warned since the early 2000s that the supply of oil was precarious, and following the peak of extraction would go into terminal decline.

          The peak of extraction of conventional oil occurred in 2007, and since then global supply has been propped up by expensive unconventional oil -that made from Canadian tars sands at great financial and environmental expense, oil extracted by fracking (shattering rocks) at great financial and environmental expense and oil obtained by deep-sea drilling at great financial and environmental expense etc.

          Just when global oil supply will fail to meet demand is uncertain but the best analysis indicates around 2020!

          The decline in availability as we slide down the Hubbert curve will have enormous ramifications….effectively taking down the world economy: once serious depletion sets in every year will see the supply being less than the previous year.

          Would one think the government might be interested in planning for the biggest discontinuity in human history?

          Not at all!

          Government after government has totally ignored the issue! As has every city, district and regional council! (despite being given the same information).

          In addition to the depletion predicament, there is, of course the planetary overheating predicament: every day that the petroleum economy does continue to function is another day of exacerbating the overheating predicament via CO2 emissions.

          Hence, Artic ice is at an extraordinarily low level and is falling fast.

          (Antarctic ice is also at a record low level but is temporarily increasing in area simply because of the time of the year).

          So here we are, melting the planet at an unprecedented rate and causing extreme weather events, just so we can maintain unsustainable economic arrangements just a little longer.

          I have no doubt that the Adern government will continue to sabotage the next generation’s future in much the same way that every previous government has….until the Adern government collapses, or the global economic system collapses, or the environment collapses. It has to be that way because the people whom make the decisions that affect us all are scientifically and financially illiterate and only concern themselves with preserving and expanding the dysfunctional economic system.

          We are governed by cowards, idiots and liars, I’m afraid. An by the time the general populace recognizes that fact it will be far too late to do anything to mitigate the catastrophes that are headed our way.

  18. Andrew says:

    You are of course 100% correct Chris.

    This coalition was a deal made in hell – the conflicts were obvious to all at the time. This gives National ample ammunition to eviscerate Labour in the next couple of years.

    Quoting Andrew Geddis on the Air New Zealand fiasco:

    “Air New Zealand is a company, governed by the Companies Act 1993. Despite the Crown’s bare majority shareholding, Air New Zealand is not a SOE or even a MOM. As such, the board of Air New Zealand – its directors – have legal duties under the Companies Act. Primary amongst these are that “when exercising powers or performing duties, [they] must act in good faith and in what the director believes to be the best interests of the company.”

    If Robertson is stupid enough to put some lackeys on the board at the next AGM in order to force them to operate non-profitable routes, there will be a collapse in its share price.

    • CLEANGREEN says:


      You are right in one thing; – you will be in hell sooner than you can imagine sunshine!!

      Not because of your point of it being because of the Labour coalition, but because of others who have pointed out here, that we are reaching the point of no return of climate “meltdown”.

      So we sincerely you are now preparing for that day when you can no longer get food or petrol or power for your fridge, as it will happen sooner than you think.

      Here is a taste;

      last year in february a crop duster plane hit our power line between Gisborne and Wairoa, and took the power out all over the region, as we were art the beach camping.

      We went to Gisborne for petrol to go to the farm 80kms up in the hills but the petrol stations were closed because there was no electricity to pump fuel so we empied the petrol from all our portable power generators at the beach.

      Then we tried to get food for a week, but the supermarkets were closed because there was no power for sales transactions either or internet services.

      So we drove 2 hrs back to the farm with little petrol left in the tank.

      The we run a generator for three days and lived on our stored food in cans and waited three days for power to come back.

      Remember this was a simple power line cut by a crop duster so you need to smarten up and prepare for when the power supply go down nationally as it will happen.

      Most likely it will first happen by a freak weather event like a large tornado or cyclone be rest assured as we all rush to the tipping point of climate meltdown.

      • Afewknowthetruth says:

        In addition to the increasing climate chaos you have highlighted, there are the factors of the increasing precariousness of the global petro-economy and the unravelling of the Ponzi global financial system.

        ‘Now It Begins—America’s State Wreck Gathers Steam, Part 1’

        But here’s the thing. This is not happening in a splendid vacuum with no import for the other end of the Acela Corridor. In fact, the entire state-driven economic and financial fantasy that has been building for more than 30 years is now squarely in harm’s way.
        The former always depended upon Washington based stimulus, subventions, bailouts and booty. But now having attained an asymptotic high, the Great Bubble is stranded with no Washington fixers to keep it going; instead, it is fixing to slide into a long night of deflation, disorder and decay.
        That is to say, we printed 2870 on the S&P 500, $19.7 trillion of GDP and $97 trillion of household net worth, but those stats weren’t the embodiment of sustainable capitalist prosperity; they were the fruit of a $68 trillion national LBO, a central bank-driven financial asset bubble that has no historical antecedent and the rise of an Imperial Deep State in Washington that is a mortal threat to both democracy and national solvency.
        We ruminate on these large matters because in the last day or two signs of a new phase of crisis have proliferated.
        Not the least of these is last night’s unseemly passage of a $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill which encompassed 2,232 pages of fiscal largesse. While it funded every single agency of government at startlingly higher levels, not a single member of Congress had actually read it during the 24 hours between when it was printed and when it was enacted.
        More on the measure’s mountains of domestic pork in next weeks postings—except to note that the Tea Party fiscal opposition has now been crushed once and for all. In fact, the action last night elevated the entire appropriated side of the Federal budget to a level that will add $4.2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
        Still, the heart of the bill—a $695 billion defense appropriation for the current fiscal year—is the real tell. That represents a staggering $80 billion annual increase over the previous DOD spending caps—meaning that the Warfare State has busted loose from any vestige of restraint and rationality.

  19. Johnnybg says:

    Balderdash, who really cares what these shameful, self serving clowns are up too. NO SOLIDARITY FOLKS none of here there or anywhere. The only way we’ll turn our waka around is; out with the lame old tried & true & in with the new; A TRULY REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT who won’t be pushed around by banks, big business & foreign interests.

  20. Robert Atack says:

    by Derek J.Wilson
    He also added a DVD that I supplied him, (can’t find the titles at the moment) from memory one was Albert Bartlett’s lecture on growth.

    Derek self published this essay, and had 500 copies printed, he then gave them away, posting a copy to every politician, and council, and library in New Zealand. Starting with John Key, the Governor General, and most leading public servants and heads of departments.
    More time wasting, @ 86 ish Derek still had a little hope …