Election 2023: ERA reforms, gang talk, moving ports, animal rights on the table as campaigns heat up

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

ACT wants to speed up the ERA, National continues to target gangs, NZ First look to move Auckland's port north and a new political party championing the rights of animals could be up and running in time for October's election, as the 2023 election campaign trail continues to heat up.

ACT targets ERA process

The ACT Party plans to tweak the personal grievance process by making changes to the powers and deadlines of the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

It said its workplace relations policy would make the process fairer and faster for all parties.

The ERA tribunal process attempts to resolve disputes between an employer and employee on a case-by-case basis, without the matter having to be escalated to the more formal Employment Court.

Legislation currently requires the ERA to deliver its determinations within three months of an investigation hearing concluding. But ACT's policy would force the ERA to deliver its decisions within a month, and it would fire ERA members who fail to meet the deadline.

ACT leader David Seymour said the current process was slow, costly and open to abuse.

"Waiting on an ERA decision is damaging for all parties involved. It stops both employers and employees being able to move on with their lives and creates massive uncertainty," he said.

ACT said the personal grievance process led to headaches for small businesses, which did not have the human resource advisors or legal teams larger organisations could afford.

ACT's policy would also prevent the ERA from unilaterally reinstating an employee. It would still be able to award lost wages and compensation, but the decision to reinstate would be left with the employer.

Seymour said if a matter had made it to the ERA, then the relationship was likely irreparable.

"Forcing the employer to retain an aggrieved employee is almost certainly not in the best interests of the employer, nor is it necessarily healthy for wider workplace relations."

ACT also proposed removing the eligibility for remedies if the employee's behaviour contributed to the personal grievance for unjustifiable dismissal or unjustifiable disadvantage.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

National's gang talk

Meanwhile, National is continuing to focus on gang issues, with the party claiming today that the number of gang members will soon outnumber police officers.

In a statement, Police spokesman Mark Mitchell says the National Gang List has grown to a record 9100 members.

He said there were already nine gang members to every 10 police officers but gangs were recruiting twice as fast.

Mitchell said National law and order policies would clamp down on gangs that contribute nothing to society and peddle misery in communities.

"National's message is clear: If you choose to align yourself with a criminal gang and engage in criminal activities, you will face more severe consequences."

Mark Mitchell.
Mark Mitchell. Photo credit: Getty Images

NZ First's plans for Northport/Marsden Point

New Zealand First has also made some policy announcements today, with party leader Winston Peters saying the party want to establish a dry-dock in Northport and move Ports of Auckland, while also moving the RNZ Navy to Northport from Devonport.

NZ First also wants to build a railway to Marsden Point from the Northern Main Trunk Line and a new four-lane alternative highway through the Brynderwyns.

The party is also pledging to establish a "full scale Covid inquiry", which would look at how the pandemic has been handled in New Zealand.

Winston Peters.
Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty Images

Animal Justice party plans to run in October election

And a political party championing the rights of animals could be up and running in time for October's election.

Animal Justice Party Aotearoa New Zealand, which has 550 members, has applied to the Electoral Commission for registration.

Executive president Rob McNeil said the party was still working out its policies but planned to put up several list candidates and hoped to have up to five electorate candidates.

The party's values include non-violence towards animals, sustainability, and a move away from animal agriculture.

New Zealand last had a political party dedicated to animal welfare in the 1990s, when Animals First ran in two elections.