Taking a blind dating approach to the election

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In preparation for writing a second political piece in the lead-up to the general election, I was contemplating which big issues residents in the Queenstown Lakes would be most concerned with.

Rather than spouting anecdotes, I went to the findings from the Queenstown Lakes District Council quality-of-life surveys from 2018 and 2019.

Those, based on what you told QLDC, identified several big issues.

They included a need to take climate action, a provision for more active transport options, addressing a short-fall in healthcare, affordability of living here, over-tourism and over-development.

Since Covid-19, some of these issues remain a key priority, while others are on the backburner.

With key industries struggling from lockdown and border closures, economic recovery from the pandemic is a major election issue.

Parties can talk about a ‘stronger economy’, but we can’t simply recover what we had pre-Covid.

The world economic forum understands the need for a paradigm shift, and has created ‘the great reset’ initiative.

It recognises that leaders find themselves at an historic crossroads of dealing to short-term economic collapse versus long-term uncertainties which are certain to happen.

The current government has increased spending on infrastructure and employment programmes to create more jobs, but critics say private enterprise is the key to economic
recovery.

Should we be developing clean energy which creates the opportunity for thousands of new jobs?

Perhaps we should focus on a different approach on export-led economic development to add value to NZ’s resources?

We could provide tax incentives for exporters to grow the economy and create jobs.

Or we could provide more support to help businesses turn research and development into new or improved products and services, and increase funding for initiatives that help businesses complete the full innovation cycle and can access the funding they need to grow.

These may all sound worthy policies, but they are all from different parties.

So how do we cast our party vote and electorate vote?

There are many challenges for us as voters.

First we must acknowledge our implicit bias to specific parties or leaders as a way of expressing ourselves or identifying ourselves.

Then we must reflect on whether we are voting for selfish or selfless reasons.

Is it ‘people like us’ we’re looking out for, or are we voting for longer-term, equitable societal outcomes for all?

I challenged myself with these questions by going to the online resource, www.policy.nz
I then clicked into ‘policies’, and chose to hide the party names to test which policies I most agreed with.

Due to the number of policies, it’s a little overwhelming, and I cheated a couple of times to see which party the policy belonged to, so I could confirm my bias either way.

Occasionally, I was surprised I really liked policies that belonged to parties I wouldn’t usually identify with.

On the whole it was a great exercise in informing and engaging me at a deeper level across party policies and, frankly, I would never have read some parties’ policies otherwise.

For me, it strengthened the choices I have made on my party vote and my electorate vote too.

I’ve chosen alignment of my values to include a minor party which I believe can form part of a larger government.

This, to me, gives a better allocation of power, and it takes tactical deliberation because minor parties require 5% of the party votes to enter parliament.

That’s the challenge of MMP.

In 2002, six minor parties took a third of the seats in parliament.

Later elections have seen a decline in minor parties with the last election being the lowest for minor parties yet.

You have a right to cast a vote any way you choose.

You choose your parliament but you don’t directly choose your government.

That’s decided post-election day.

The resource above is well worth a visit — though it’s missing referendum information, it’s great on party information and electorate information.

Good luck!

Esther Whitehead is an advocate, adviser and writer on issues like social justice, diversity and inclusion, and circular economy