Government's 100-day plan report card: 15 items' completion up for debate

Russell Palmer for RNZ

Analysis - The government is confident its 100-day plan will have been completed by the end of the day, but close examination of its 49 actions reveals several grey areas.

Four of the government's laws were also passed through all stages with no public input, despite the plan only promising to introduce them to the House.

These included the Reserve Bank's dual mandate, the 90-day trial periods, the Three Waters repeal, and the disestablishment of the Māori Health Authority.

Unlike the 2017 Labour government's 100-day plan, the coalition's counted weekends. Starting from the day the plan was announced - the day of the Coalition's first proper Cabinet meeting - gave a deadline of 8 March.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon on Thursday celebrated the coalition's achievements: "We came here and we said, we told you what we're gonna do, we've done it, and now we're telling you what we've done."

"I think we've done a lot. I think we've got everything done."

Some 24 of the 49 actions - about 49 percent - were to repeal, stop or reverse previous government legislation. However, one of these - the promise to repeal the Resource Management Act replacements - also included some new policy: the government's proposed fast-track consenting regime.

Some of the actions were completed but were not accompanied by an announcement. The Prime Minister's Office confirmed the relevant ministers had received confirmation work on the income insurance scheme and industry transformation plans had been stopped.

One item remains clearly uncompleted - the introduction of health targets - but Luxon this week signalled a Friday announcement with Health Minister Shane Reti would "mark the end of this coalition government's 100-day plan". In anticipation, this has been marked complete.

The completion of several others, however - 15, as counted in this analysis - is up for debate.

Getting started

Many of the commitments in the plan - 21 of them, about 43 percent - promised to begin work on a project, rather than complete it. Those words "begin work" do a lot of heavy lifting in some of the items.

Commitments on doubling renewable energy production, and on a National Infrastructure Agency, were both completed by the minister having "sought and received advice from officials", with policy decisions expected "in the coming months", according to the Prime Minister's Office.

Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee has directed officials to begin work to repeal and replace Part 6 of the Arms Act, and has been provided briefings. Decisions are - again - expected in the coming months.

The Prime Minister's Office also argued that a minister taking a paper to Cabinet was enough to mark "begin work to repeal the Therapeutic Products Act" as complete.

The promise to implement a housing growth policy and make density standards optional could, then, be said to have begun work - given Housing Minister Chris Bishop made a speech and took a paper to Cabinet about it. Further action beyond that remains unclear.

Biosecurity and Associate Agriculture Minister Andrew Hoggard answered a pasty question on Thursday, day 99 of 100, about his most immediate priority saying this was to deliver on the 100-day plan by beginning to stop the implementation of Significant Natural Areas. He said he had worked with officials and intended to "take a plan to Cabinet on the most effective way to do that".

Vague wording may come to the rescue of "start work to improve the quality of regulation" and "begin work on delivering better public services and strengthening democracy". The Prime Minister's Office pointed RNZ towards the establishment of a Ministry of Regulation for the first. The latter was dealt with through "several actions including asking for savings from agencies and commencing work on setting public sector targets".

"There will be a range of activities over the term of this Parliament," the office said.

Making progress?

While vague wording has saved some items, completion seems dubious for the more concrete promise to "give" police greater search powers and "make" gang membership an aggravating factor at sentencing, with the bill also having just gone to select committee on Thursday.

Parliament went under urgency again on Thursday night, passing - among other things - a bill to enable more virtual court proceedings. The legislation only went through its first reading, however, so whether that meets the definition of "enable" is a little suspect.

The bill to get medicines with pseudoephedrine back in pharmacies is also still before select committee, so it seems a stretch to say the government can tick off "allow the sale" just yet.

The priority category for getting families with children who have been in emergency housing for 12 weeks or more into social housing - confirmed on Wednesday - has, it seems, been set up. Given it will not be in effect until April, however, this is also marked as a questionable completion.

The promise to "make any additional Orders in Council needed to speed up cyclone and flood recovery efforts" could conceivably have needed no action at all to complete it, but ministers did announce something on Tuesday. The proposal, however, remains open for public engagement until 18 March, so whether the order has been "made" is up for debate.

Done and done

The government crowed about abolishing the prisoner reduction target in a post-Cabinet briefing last month, but the target had already been abandoned.

Another target smashed out of the park was stopping work on He Puapua. The report itself was completed in 2019. The previous Labour government did later seek feedback on how to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) - which is what He Puapua explored - but put that work on hold ahead of the 2023 election year.

Another item clearly completed was the introduction of legislation to increase remand prisoners' eligibility for rehabilitation programmes. Worth noting it does somewhat resemble changes put forward by Labour's Kelvin Davis in the middle of last year.

A handy-dandy chart

The chart below provides a tally of whether the government was aiming to stop or reverse previous policy, proposing a significant new policy, or taking action of a lower level with each of its 100-day actions.

It details whether the promise was merely to begin work on a project, or to complete it.

And it shows whether the item was achieved - or if question marks, detailed above, may still hang over it.

Government's 100-day plan report card: 15 items' completion up for debate
Government's 100-day plan report card: 15 items' completion up for debate