New BT columnist Ross Middleton: An election builds — but industry does the work

Building Today columnist Ross Middleton.

The glad-handing, the promises, the baby kissing, the skydiving, the produce purchasing. Ross Middleton puts a light-hearted dropsaw through our politicians’ electoral promises and asks: where will it all end?

By the time this issue of Building Today begins circulating we will be a few (mercifully) brief days away from a new government.

The 2020 New Zealand general election, held on Saturday, October 17, will determine the membership of the 53rd New Zealand Parliament.

In the democratic dramatics that preceded the election, it would be nice to say a fun time was had by all.

But any sense of humour pales after seeing semi-sane politicians prostrate themselves before a bemused proletariat; the latter rapidly lose any will to live as the electioneering drags . . . and drags.

Worse, all this cynical vote-grabbing takes focus away from the real world, where we just want to get on with the work at hand.

To this end, health and safety mandates should stipulate that contemplation of the effects of sky diving on David Seymour’s pouting upper lip of privilege should not be undertaken while hammering nails or manoeuvring the drop saw.

Maybe smoko is the time for that, although any discussion of that musty manifest called “KiwiBuild” should be avoided at all costs. It will sour the milk and curl the crust on the corned beef sandwiches.

The Kiwibuild ethic has reared its ugly head from time to time during this election, usually as a blunt tool for National to beat Labour over the head with.

Phil Twyford, widely known by local media as “the minister of embarrassing failures”, emulated New Zealand’s MMA middleweight legend Israel Adesanya when he originally attacked National’s record on housing; his “stock-take” uncovering a 71,000 home shortfall.

A devastating swing-kick to the temple he dubbed “KiwiBuild” took out the opposition. 

Such was the hubris in his next championship bout, he took on himself and won hands-down with a vicious open-palm blow to the nose.

He still hasn’t recovered, and will almost certainly be seen competing on the undercard in the next parliament.

Megan Woods got out the cotton wool swabs and took over the repair work, while Jenny Salesa did the heavy lifting of removing the carcass from the cage.

There is one area of contention impacting on the construction sector that all parties seem to have some sort of agreement on though.

The Resource Management Act is a clapped out old dunga, broken down by the side of the road, deemed unfit for purpose and waiting for a tow truck.

While Labour and the Greens have got their heads under the bonnet and are ever-hopefully tinkering with the carburettor, National has decided to remove the whole engine block and drop in one of those racy electric motors.

ACT is going to replace it with a concrete pad stretching from Cape Reinga to Bluff with a drain across the middle somewhere. And Winston has decided to go fishing off the Whananaki wharf.

So what of the various parties’ actual policies on housing and construction? The inquisitive voter naturally gravitates to the attendant web sites to learn and understand.

For National, its unintuitive web site tells us very little about its hammer’n’nails rhetoric.

In fact, a couple of media projects covering the election take you to a page on the National site stating: “We are in the process of updating our web site, so some previously available content may no longer appear. We are working to ensure all relevant content is updated in a timely manner.” Not a good look at all.

Labour’s page discusses the funding of 8000 new public and “transitional” homes to boost the construction sector and the wider economy.

At the top of the page are the words “warm, dry and safe”. We get big reminders about the Covid crisis, but not a dickybird on KiwiBuild.

“Safe and warm” join good old “affordable” on the Greens web site, which is also full of words like sustainable, inclusive and ecologically-responsible. They even have a nice PDF you can download for the kids.

ACT is big on sharing “revenue”, particularly the cost of infrastructure, in what could be described as a very socialist manner.

Bringing in the “private developers”? — maybe not so much. As expected, the RMA gets a right bollocking.

You won’t learn much at all about construction sector policy on the NZ First web site, apart from the regular flogging of the Provincial Growth Fund.

The one thing you won’t miss on any of the above web sites is the prominent top-right display of the “donate” button.

The glad-handing, the promises, the baby kissing, the skydiving, the produce purchasing — where will it all end?

Still, things could be a whole lot worse. Imagine being an American.

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