PM's policy bonfire: Voting age bill, transport schemes 'reprioritsed'

Mon, Mar 13
Chris Hipkins in 2021 (file image).

Changes to the voting age, alcohol reforms, and several transport programmes have fallen to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins' "bread and butter" policy bonfire amid cost of living challenges and an election year.

The slashing of reform programmes comes as Hipkins announces a decision to increase benefits in line with inflation – which would see a 7.3% rise in payments for beneficiaries.

"I want New Zealanders to know the Government is doing its bit and is cutting its cloth to suit the times we are in," Hipkins said.

"Some of these things we’re delaying or stopping mean a lot to us. But we’re taking the hard decisions because we know Kiwis are also making some tough calls.

"It will give ministers and wider government more bandwidth to deal with cost of living issues and the cyclone recovery.

He said the two lots of reprioritisation so far will save about $1 billion, "which will be reallocated to support New Zealanders with the cost of living".

"Today’s announcement doesn’t mean there won’t be more areas we will look at.

"My expectation is that ministers will continue to prioritise their own work programmes, including by re-scoping plans and amending policy where necessary."

Round two of a policy bonfire

Voting age legislation scrapped: Legislation to lower the voting age to 16 for general elections will not be introduced. Instead, "the Government will shift focus to lowering the age for voting in local body elections".

Speed limit reductions scrapped: "Significantly narrowing" the speed reduction programme to focus on the most dangerous 1% of state highways. Read more

Clean car upgrade scrapped: A $568 million programme where households can scrap their old cars in return for a grant for a cleaner vehicle or to pay for public transport.

Social leasing car scheme scrapped: "The scheme was to provide leasing arrangements to low-income families for clean cars "but was proving difficult to implement".

Alcohol reforms deferred: "Deferring advice on the second part of legislation looking at alcohol reform that relate to pricing, sponsorship and advertising. This will now be pushed back to April 2024, rather than come to ministers in March this year."

Public transport refocus: Improving public transport will be scaled back to be prioritised in five main centres "where there is the scale for decent" alternatives to driving.

Container return scheme deferred: "The scheme would see small refunds for returning containers. It’s estimated it will add a small cost to the average household and we don’t want to be imposing additional costs on families at this time."

Advice on contractors deferred: Public consultation on "a new test to determine who is a contractor and who is an employee" will be deferred until all appeals are heard in a recent Employment Court case on the issue.

Auckland light rail to proceed in stages: Work will continue on the $14 billion project but in stages. More details will be confirmed later this year.