This election, we’re looking at the key issues affecting young voters, breaking down stats on the reality of the situation, what young voters think about it, and later, once they’re all announced, the policies from different parties on the issue.
First up: stats on the cost of living.
Polls show the election issue people are most concerned about is the cost of living - and rightly so.
The cost of living has skyrocketed since the pandemic began, and it’s now almost 20% more expensive to live than it was four years ago.
But who’s to blame?
The obvious answer is Covid-19, but also other factors like the war in Ukraine.
Because of these events, almost every country in the world is experiencing a spike in inflation.
Compared to nations with similar economies to ours, we are actually doing better than many.
Last year our inflation rate was 7.2%, and the average in the OECD was 9.6%.
So there are some things that are out of the Government’s control, but let’s look at what is.
National and ACT say high government spending under Labour is driving the cost of living crisis, and have made reducing spending a key feature of their campaign.
Government spending has increased 64% since Labour was elected in 2017.
But until 2019 their spending was largely in line with the increases seen by the previous National Government.
It was only when the pandemic hit in 2020 that the Government started spending more than the country makes.
And that is not unprecedented in a crisis. The Government’s balance sheet hit a similar low in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis under the National Government.
The housing squeeze
An area where New Zealanders’ wallets are being pinched tighter than many other countries is housing.
New Zealand currently ranks as the sixth-least affordable country in the world to own a home, and has some of the least affordable rentals.
For housing to be considered affordable it needs to cost less than 30% of your income, but one in four renters in New Zealand spend more than 40%.
A primary cause of this is there just aren’t enough houses - an issue that has been decades in the making, and successive governments have failed to deal with.
Labour made this a key pillar of their 2017 election campaign, promising to build 100,000 new homes by 2028 through their KiwiBuild scheme.
As of last year, only 1,380 KiwiBuild homes had been built, with 1,223 more under construction.
Labour also attempted to deal with the housing crisis through a proposed Capital Gains Tax in 2019, which was meant to discourage people from treating housing like an investment and make it more affordable for people to buy their first home.
However, they abandoned the proposal saying there wasn’t enough public support. Then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the tax was off the table while she was leader, and current Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has ruled it out if they are re-elected.
What has been done to tackle cost of living?
The two other major costs New Zealanders are struggling with are food and transport.
The price of food is largely being driven up by the war in Ukraine, however, New Zealand already had a long-running issue with high food prices due to a lack of competition between supermarkets.
Labour’s response to this was to introduce a Grocery Commissioner to encourage our two main supermarket chains to improve competition or face regulation.
However, a recent report from industry analysts said that the changes implemented as part of this would be unlikely to improve prices and that further regulation is needed.
As for transport, Labour tackled this with the short-term removal of the fuel excise tax and a subsidy on public transport in March 2022.
These benefits ended in June this year, but the Government has made public transport free for tamariki under 13 and half-price for people under 25, Community Service Card Holders, and Total Mobility Users.
Ultimately, New Zealand had little control over this cost of living crisis, but we did have control over how we handled it.
The question for you in the election this October is who do you think will handle it best going forward?
Keep an eye on Re: News in the weeks before the election - we’ll wrap up all of the party's policies on how they propose to deal with this cost of living crisis.
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