Bridges vows to undo Government's changes

Simon Bridges is promising to undo much of what the Labour-NZ First Government is doing, should he become Prime Minister.

The National Party leader, currently the preferred Prime Minister of 9 percent of voters according to the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, told The AM Show on Monday that would include rolling back fuel taxes, resuming the hunt for oil and dismantling the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

Fuel taxes

From next month, Aucklanders can expect to pay about 11.5c more at the pump. The previous National Government refused to let Auckland Council implement the tax, but Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff say it's needed to fix the city's infamously poor transport, without raising rates.

Mr Bridges says the tax will gone "in short order" if National form the next Government.

"They just don't work. They're unnecessary, they're quite unfair," Mr Bridges said, without committing to a timeframe to scrap the tax.

"I don't want to say 100 days and I find it's on the 104th or something, but I can promise you if we are elected, it's gone. There will be no regional fuel taxes, absolutely not."

It's a reversal from his position in April, when he said it would be "too late" to reverse them by 2020.

Simon Bridges
Simon Bridges. Photo credit: The AM Show

He claimed on Monday some people are saying the tax will be "going to $3", but probably meant the overall price. Tax makes up about half the price we pay at the pump, according to the Automobile Association, which says New Zealand currently has the "sixth-lowest fuel tax in the world".

Mr Bridges said the most common complaint he heard whilst campaigning in the recent Northcote by-election was about transport.

"They feel they are effectively going to be paying more for less."

Fossil fuels

Mr Bridges blamed the "stalling" economy on a few things, but singled out the Government's decision to issue no new permits for oil and gas exploration (with a few exceptions).

GDP growth in the December quarter was 0.6 percent, down on the Reserve Bank's expectation of 0.7 percent. For the year it was 2.9 percent, down on the 3.1 percent expected.

But the latest OECD economic report says New Zealand's economy is expected to stick around a "solid" 3 percent through 2018 and 2019, and may go higher if Auckland house prices start rising again.

Unemployment fell to 4.5 percent in February, the lowest it's been in nine years.

There have been no new GDP or unemployment figures released since the Government announced the ban in April, but National energy spokesman Jonathan Young told Newshub he knows people who "can't get mortgages because they have fixed-term contracts with exploration companies".

Housing ministry

Last week, Mr Twyford - as Housing Minister - announced the establishment of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. He said it will have a "ultimately allow us to build more houses, better houses, more quickly" by taking over functions currently spread across numerous ministries and putting them all under one roof.

Phil Twyford.
Phil Twyford. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

"We need an end-to-end approach... to the whole housing system," he told RNZ. "One of the problems in the past is that government, through the public service, has tended to see these things in isolation."

Mr Bridges says it's a "complete waste of time".

"It's not going to build a single new house by just rebranding it and coming up with a new name."


Labour is reviewing the education system, having already made a big change in scrapping the National Standards scheme.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said in December parents and teachers had lost confidence in the "compliance exercise", calling it a "major distraction".

Mr Bridges disagrees.

"I think they've worked, and I think it's all about what's good for parents. I think we would [bring them back]."

 But he wouldn't commit, saying he wants to see how any changes the Government makes work first.