National Leader Christopher Luxon

National has plummeted in a poll published last night to the lowest point since Christopher Luxon became leader at the end of 2021.

The Roy Morgan poll, whose last pre-election poll in 2020 had National and Labour within the margin of error of the election result reported that National had fallen four per cent during October.

National is still ahead on 32 per cent, while Labour is on 29 per cent.

But with the Greens on a record 15.5 per cent and ACT stable on 12.5, the centre-left has 44.5 per cent, and the centre-right has the same number.

Both National and Labour are now in election campaign mode and polling regularly, so these numbers are not likely to be a surprise.

They may explain why National has started to take a much more “oppositionist” stance against Labour on a number of issues.

This was evident yesterday with its opposition to the Government’s resource management reforms.

Ironically some National MPs, particularly environment spokesperson Scott Simpson, had worked with business and environment groups on proposals for reform during the six-year gestation of yesterday’s unveiling.

But even though the business community yesterday was largely silent on Labour’s proposed resource management reforms, National went on the front foot.

National’s acting environment spokesperson, Chris Bishop, said the reforms would likely be worse than what we have now.

Advertisment

This was in stark contrast to a statement from InfrastructureNZ, whose spokesperson said: “Today’s introduction of two Bills to Parliament to replace the Resource Management Act marks a long-awaited milestone that can be celebrated.

“Infrastructure New Zealand, on behalf of its members, has long advocated for a change to our current overly-complicated, expensive and time-consuming planning system.

“The two Bills introduced Today, the Natural and Built Environment Act and the Spatial Planning Act, promise to provide more certainty for the delivery of infrastructure.

“Both Bills represent a significant shift in focus to prioritise the front end of the planning process, rather than relying on the current individual project consenting battleground, which results in expensive and delay-ridden bespoke solutions.”

Ironically, National’s Environment spokesperson, Scott Simpson, was involved in discussions over the past six years which led to yesterday’s unveiling.

The whole process was begun by the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association, who put up the money in 2016 for the Environmental Defence Society to review the Resource Management Act to see whether it was achieving any environmental outcomes.

The EDS concluded it wasn’t.

The EMA was supported in the process by the Property Council and InfrastructureNZ; in short, the key members of the review groups were natural allies of the National Party.

The consultation was broad and lengthy to develop the legislation, a point noted yesterday by EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“These have been long in the making and a result of a large and impressive collective effort in government,” he said.

But it seems National believes the RMA reforms will be another Three Waters, with rural and provincial Councils opposing their diminished role in the proposed planning process.

There are also suggestions National may be trying to find surrogate voices to oppose the reforms, including the proposal for a new National Māori Entity, which will be an Independent Statutory Authority.

It will have input into the National Planning Framework and have the ability to provide advice to anyone working in the system.

It will monitor Te Tiriti performance in the system to assess whether the new system is giving effect to the principles of Te Tiriti.

But what National ignored yesterday was a big win for business in the Spatial Planning Act, where its requests to be considered in the process have been written into the act.

Whether National was aware of this is unclear.

The poll shows that National’s core constituency is male, whereas Labour’s is women over 50.

The Roy Morgan CEO, Michele Levine, believes the big loser in the poll was Luxon.

“As we close in on an election year, it’s clear the ‘honeymoon’ is over for Luxon,” she said.

“Before now, support for National had never dipped below 35% so far this year, but now questions are sure to be raised over whether Luxon is the leader to return National to Government later next year.

“National’s impressive Deputy Leader Nicola Willis certainly presents as a strong candidate for leadership should faith in Luxon’s capabilities as a leader begin to wane.

“Although the results from October aren’t good for National, they also aren’t positive for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party, which dropped 0.5% points to 29% – the lowest level of support for Labour since the Ardern-led Government took office in October 2017.

“The fall in support for Labour was to some extent covered up by the rising level of support for the Greens, up 3% points to 15.5%.”

What National’s position on the resource management legislation shows is that the election campaign has begun; that because the two sides are so close, National believes it can no longer give Labour any ground, no matter how much its own supporters might want it to.