Wheels come off Steve Joyce’s Northland campaign

“New” jobs which may or may not be full-time jobs; “new” road bridges which are not a priority; “new” promises on the roll-out of broadband which are old promises.

Is there no limit on the lengths to which the National Party will go to pull the wool over voters’ eyes and hope that prevents the seat of Northland from falling into Winston Peters’ clutches?

It would seem not. The prime lesson to be taken from the first week proper of the byelection campaign is to treat every utterance from National with a healthy and hefty degree of scepticism.

Deserving of special scrutiny is the repeated claim by Steven Joyce that 7500 new jobs were created in Northland last year. It certainly sounds impressive. The Economic Development Minister’s assertion is based on Statistics New Zealand’s household labour force survey. That indeed showed an increase of 7500 more people in employment in Northland at the end of last year as against the previous December.

The survey, however, stipulates that anyone who does paid work for as little as one hour a week is classed as being in employment. When people talk about “new” jobs, they usually mean full-time or part-time with a reasonable number of hours. We simply do not know what types of jobs were actually created.

It’s one thing to campaign. ?But campaigning at national level and for a by-election are two different beasts. ? National are “rolling out” the same tired promises: ? roads, jobs, fast broadband. ?But these are already promised, already budgeted for, already underway. ?

Joyce has also seized on regional figures produced by Statistics New Zealand which show Northland’s economy grew by nearly 8 per cent last year – “strong by anyone’s standards”.

Indeed, it is. But what Joyce does not mention is that the surge in growth comes off a very low base. Northland’s economy grew by 14 per cent between 2009 and 2014 – way below the national average of more than 22 per cent. Moreover, much of that growth was driven by agriculture. Sectors like manufacturing – where the jobs should be – actually shrank during that period.

The most telling figure, however, is gross domestic product per capita. At just under $35,000, Northland’s rate is miserable compared to Auckland, which comes close to $54,000.

Joyce, however, is not alone in failing to tell the whole story. Transport Minister Simon Bridges has raised Labour’s ire by repeatedly saying National has spent more than $750 million on upgrading state highways and other roads in Northland. However, figures produced for Labour by the Parliamentary Library reveal that around $240 million of that total was either spent by the previous Labour Government or allocated for spending in that Administration’s final Budget.

Word from the 9th floor is that there is a bit of a panic setting in. ?Internal polling shows that the Northland electorate are giving a serious look at Winston, and National need to use the last two weeks to stop looking complacent.

The brains trust of Joyce and de Joux don’t actually have what it takes to compete. ?Winning on the back of a non-existent opposition has provided results they haven’t personally earned. ?But with Winston Peters in their faces, they think that trotting out the same policies that won it for National during the general election will be enough.


– John Armstrong, NZ Herald