We are at a critical crossroads as we begin to emerge from the global pandemic

OPINION: What do you think are the main problems facing the country this year and what needs to be done to solve them?

A deputy on each side of the house gives his point of view.

Arena Williams, Labor MP for Manurewa.

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Arena Williams, Labor MP for Manurewa.

Arena Williams, Labor MP Manurewa

The government remains focused on protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19, securing our economic recovery and building back better by tackling long-term challenges such as housing affordability, child poverty and climate change.

I am proud of how New Zealanders have supported the government’s response to Covid-19. Our collective efforts have enabled New Zealand to maintain the lowest number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths per capita in the OECD.

A strong public health response has also proven to be our best economic response. New Zealand’s economic recovery is outpacing that of Australia, Canada and Japan, export forecasts are at a record high, unemployment is at a record high and net debt is lower than expected, which means a faster return to surplus.

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Before Christmas, the Minister of Finance gave us an overview of this year’s budget. He said the 2022 budget will give a boost to the government’s health sector reforms and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Covid-19 has highlighted how essential a prepared health system is to protect New Zealanders and support their wellbeing.

This year’s budget makes significant investments in establishing the entities that will replace the DHBs, including Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority. Managing rising healthcare costs will be a major challenge in the coming decades, so we will ensure that new entities have a solid foundation to deal with it.

Climate change is one of the most pressing long-term challenges facing New Zealand. To respond effectively, we need to invest heavily across multiple budgets.

The government will soon publish our emissions reduction plan, setting the direction for climate action in New Zealand over the next 15 years. We will need to reduce carbon pollution from almost everything we do – how we grow our food, move around our cities and towns, and generate energy to heat our homes.

Proceeds from the emissions trading system will be spent on emissions reduction programs through the creation of the Climate Emergency Response Fund. This will provide approximately $4.5 billion over the next four years to help us meet our climate goals.

Honoring these commitments requires careful prioritization; find a balance between the critical projects that need to be launched and the ongoing need for fiscal sustainability.

This year will present new challenges, but I trust the Labor Government to guide us steadily, as it has done so far; ensure the safety of people, while watching over future generations.

MP for Kaikoura Stuart Smith

Ricky Wilson / Stuff

MP for Kaikoura Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith, National MP Kaikoura

I think a lot of people will be happy to see the 2021 backend and hopefully the backend of the lockdowns and restrictions we’ve had to live with for the past 20 months.

But I am optimistic that 2022 can be a year when New Zealand can reset and together we can create a post-pandemic New Zealand in which we can all thrive and succeed.

New Zealand is currently at a critical crossroads as we deal with and begin to emerge from the global pandemic. The decisions this government will make next year are so important because New Zealand has moved in the wrong direction.

Inflation is rising faster than wages, grocery and petrol prices are skyrocketing, and hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders couldn’t go home for Christmas or visit sick relatives or dying.

These are serious issues to which the government has turned a deaf ear.

For four years we have seen great public relations, big announcements and bold promises, but no delivery. Talking about something will make you headlines, but rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done will make a difference in the lives of New Zealanders.

What is also going to be extremely important this year and what interests me particularly, is how the government will respond to climate change. Climate change is undoubtedly a serious issue on which we must act, but we must also be pragmatic about how we approach it.

Our emissions have continued to rise and since the government declared a “climate emergency” at the end of 2020, we have increased our coal consumption.

The government will publish the emission reduction plan in May this year, in line with the budget. Right now, with a skyrocketing national debt and shoddy spending, we can’t afford to waste money unnecessarily when we have an emissions trading system that can reduce emissions more cost-effectively than any government policy.

The beauty of the ETS is that it works behind the scenes. While there are situations that warrant a policy response, when they do, we should ask ourselves by how much will this reduce emissions and at what cost?

The Clean Car Discount is an example of bad policy, firstly because it will not reduce emissions by a single gram, because our ETS is capped, which means emissions will be captured elsewhere in the economy.

Second, it is regressive, which means that it is essentially about the welfare of the middle class, because it is those with the highest incomes who buy new electric vehicles and therefore benefit from the rebate. While those on low incomes who cannot afford low-emission vehicles essentially subsidize the better-off.

2022 will be a year of opportunity as we strive to live with Covid-19, but as a country we must seize opportunities to raise our standard of living and increase productivity. The national party is focused on that and we will do everything we can in 2022 to make sure Kiwis feel empowered and ready to face whatever the post-pandemic world throws at us.

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