Nicola Willis defends National's tax plan which would benefit richest Kiwis most after questions over how it helps Māori

  • Updated
  • 16/08/2022

National's Deputy Leader has defended the Party's tax plan after questions over how it helps Māori. 

At National's annual conference earlier this month, Nicola Willis confirmed if elected the Party would forge ahead with its plan to index tax thresholds to inflation. 

Willis also reiterated National's promise to scrap Labour's 39 percent top tax rate on income over $180,000, while also removing fuel taxes, dropping the top tax bracket, and the bright-line test changes.

Speaking with the Hui's Mihingarangi Forbes on Monday, Willis was challenged over how National's plan would help Māori. 

While Willis acknowledged the tax changes would benefit people on higher incomes more than lower, she said it would mean everyone holds onto more of their money. 

"National starts from the position that wherever possible people should be able to hold onto their own money, so they can make choices for their own lives and their own whānau."

Willis said inflation has pushed people into higher tax brackets over the past few years and the tax plan would change that. 

"We believe it will benefit whānau Māori and all whānau in New Zealand if they're able to hold onto just a bit more of what they earn."

But Forbes pointed out the changes will benefit the 60,000 New Zealanders who earn more than $180,000 more than the average Kiwi. 

"Who is it really benefiting when you talk about whānau Māori?" Forbes asked. "There's not a lot of whānau Māori included in that [60,000]."

Willis responded by pointing out "the bulk" of the party's policy is not about the top tax rate. 

"It's about inflation adjusting tax brackets for people on lower incomes and that comes with the biggest price ticket… and it's a matter of fairness," she said.  

Willis said someone on $180,000 a year would get around $1043 a year from National's tax plan, or $20 a week. 

She went on to say National's tax changes would also help Māori by making rents more affordable. 

"One of the biggest drivers of living costs for Māori has been increasing cost of rent and I say that because we know a larger proportion of Māori households rent their housing and that for Māori a larger proportion of their income goes on rent. 

"When we look at rents over the past few years they've gone up on average under Labour by $140 a week, $40 a week increase in just the past year alone."

Despite her concerns over the increasing costs of rent, Willis ruled out caps or limits instead saying incentivising building and removing extra costs will have a bigger impact. 

"Studies around the world have shown when Governments try to cap rent, people stop building rental houses, people become reluctant to become landlords and you tend to get both a shortage of rental accommodation on the one hand and on the other hand a black market develops."

Willis said the Party had three solutions: remove the tenant taxes the Government introduced last year, incentivise people to build purpose-built rental homes that are professionally managed, and encourage more houses to be built. 

Watch Nicola Willis' full interview on The Hui above.

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.