Former Green MP Nándor Tánczos takes aim at Jacinda Ardern over Government commitment to addressing 'growing inequality'

A former Green Party MP has slated Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Government's commitment to addressing "growing inequality", particularly in housing, saying he believes Labour is wasting its electoral mandate.

Nándor Tánczos is a former Green Party MP between 1999 and 2008 who describes himself on Twitter as a "Rastafarian social ecologist with anarchic tendencies". He currently serves as a councillor for the Whakatāne District Council.

In a Twitter thread on Tuesday, the former MP took aim at the Prime Minister and her Government, saying he can't see any evidence they are implementing policies that "might have a serious impact". The thread has received a lot of attention, with hundreds of people liking and sharing it online.

"It's hard to find the right words to express my disgust at Jacinda Ardern and this Government.

"Labour was elected with a huge mandate to do something serious about growing inequality, including the housing crisis," Tánczos wrote.

"I know it takes time to make change but I can't see any evidence that they are even considering actions that might have a serious impact. In fact she indicated on election night that she was ruling out anything that would impact the wealthy."

He also questioned whether Labour is wanting to position itself as the "centre" party "for ever". 

Ardern's party achieved a historic election result in 2020, securing a majority of seats in the House. It was the first time any party has done so in the MMP era, with Ardern's leadership during the COVID-19 crisis seen as being one of the key reasons she was able to pull voters away from other parties.

"Is that the extent of Labour's aspirations now? To rule without upsetting the wealthy?" Tánczos said.

He noted that Ardern is "dropping in the polls", with "media blaming COVID", something he disagrees with. The 1News Kantar Public poll last week had Labour down 1 point to 40 - still above National's 32 percent - and Ardern down 4 points to 35 percent in the preferred Prime Minister rankings. That was her worst result since 2017.

"[In my opinion], people are beginning to think beyond covid & remembering why they voted for her in the 1st place. I'd say despite the constant undermining by RW commentators and a vocal buy (sic) very small group of anti-vaxxers, the vast majority of NZers are very happy with our covid response.

"You just have to look at the death rates overseas to see we are doing very well."

Tánczos said he believes the reason Labour hasn't fallen further is "because a National / Act government would be worse in every respect".

"What worries me is that instead of becoming MORE progressive to woo back the people that voted Labour to get change, they may misread what is happening and become even more conservative. What a waste of a parliamentary majority."

Former Green MP Nándor Tánczos takes aim at Jacinda Ardern over Government commitment to addressing 'growing inequality'
Photo credit: Getty Images / Whakatane District Council.

In her 2020 election victory speech, Ardern addressed the fact that some people who voted Labour may not have done so before.

"Thank you to the many people who gave us their vote, who trusted us to continue with leading New Zealand's recovery, who backed the plan we are already rolling out, and to those amongst you who may not have supported Labour before. And the results tell me there were a few of you," she said.

She promised Labour would "be a party which governs for every New Zealander".

On housing, prices have skyrocketed in the last two years, something that has been put down to a large number of Kiwis returning to escape the pandemic overseas, changes to loan-to-value ratios, record-low interest rates and a lack of supply. It's made it even harder for first home buyers to purchase a home. 

The latest figures from CoreLogic show that the average property is now valued at $1.028 million, a jump of 27.5 percent in just the last year. At the same time, rents have also increased. The national median rent according to Trade Me data rose $40 a week in 2021 to $560 - an extra $2000 a year. 

One report last year from a panel convened by the Royal Society said that in 2019 - so even before the massive jump in house prices - nearly a third of Kiwi households spent 30 percent of their income on housing costs, with a quarter of renters spending 40 percent or more.

The report said this level of expenditure was affecting wellbeing by cutting into food budgets and people's ability to pay for electricity.

While the Government's initial attempt to increase housing supply with KiwiBuild wasn't the success it would have hoped, leading to a housing reset, it has introduced a number of measures over the last year in an attempt to swing the market back in favour of first home buyers and away from investors. That includes the extension of the brightline test to 10 years as well as the removal of interest deductibility. 

The Government's working on changes to urban density, which it says will allow more homes to be built "that are attractive to first home buyers."

It's also trying to stop vulnerable borrowers being caught out by loan sharks. Changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act which came into effect in December mean lenders need to take a forensic lens to any prospective borrower's spending habits to check affordability before they can approve any home loan. 

However, an inquiry is underway into potential unintended consequences of those changes leading to some people being denied mortgage approvals due to getting takeaways or having streaming services.

One action the Government has ruled out taking is a Capital Gains Tax. Ardern said last term that the coalition Government - Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens - could not reach consensus. She ruled out implementing the tax "under my leadership in the future", saying many Kiwis aren't in support of it. 

While housing issues continue to rumble away, the cost of living is also soaring.  Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures released last week show annual inflation hit 5.9 percent, the biggest increase since the June 1990 quarter. Housing and household utilities, and transport were the biggest drivers of annual price rises, StatsNZ said.

Government spending was blamed by National and ACT for the jump, but the Prime Minister pointed to overseas factors, such as rising oil prices and international tensions. Supply chains around the world have also been significantly disrupted by the pandemic. 

On Wednesday, the Government tried to show it was looking beyond the COVID-19 crisis by unveiling a proposed income insurance scheme that would assist workers if they were laid off or had an illness which stopped them working. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said such a scheme would protect people and the economy after job losses. It would mean the Government wouldn't need to resort to support packages like the COVID-19 wage subsidy in times of massive need.

The Greens, however, have said the scheme won't be equitable and "risks embedding a two-tier system".