Opinion: Biggest challenge facing National Party's eventual new leader will be the Jacinda Ardern political juggernaut

The leadership vote to be conducted by National's caucus within the next two weeks may well turn out to be the ballot that those who end up contesting the party's top job might well prefer to lose.

Source: 1 NEWS

That may seem a rather bizarre thing to say. And none of those trampling over one another in unseemly haste to get their names on the ballot paper are likely to have given much thought to the argument that victory may not turn out to be quite the triumph they are assuming will be the case.

More than likely, however, whomever wakes up on the day after the vote as the victor may also find themselves waking up to the far from pleasant realisation that he or she has inherited a bona fide poisoned chalice.

The PM’s message came during Parliament’s Question Time. Source: 1 NEWS

That should give serious food for thought for one Simon Bridges. The Tauranga MP is not everyone's cup of tea. He has made no effort to hide his ambitions in the wake of National's removal from power last October.

Bridges can be overly abrasive. His voice can peel paint. It can often sound like whining of skill-saw proportions.

But no-one else who is likely to seek election as leader has the competence, experience, freshness or drive necessary to stop the political juggernaut that is Jacinda Ardern from cleaning up at the 2020 election.

Mr English says he’s “very happy” with his decision to step down as National Party leader. Source: Seven Sharp

And that is National's dilemma. New Zealand's political history is littered with highly-promising Opposition party leaders who ended up finding their futures being crushed under the wheels of a new government embarked on its first term in office.

However good they might have been when it came to running the country, defeat at the election following their installation as leader saw them being subsequently dumped.

When it comes to leadership aspirants, National does not lack for quantity. It does lack for quality - especially the kind that can shine in Opposition.

The National Party leader and former PM stepped down today after entering Parliament in 1990. Source: 1 NEWS

The capacity to enthuse, excite and inspire the punters is not something in Steven Joyce's armoury or vocabulary.

Paula Bennett was promoted above the level of her competence, she is devoid of gravitas. She was called on to deliver on state housing in Auckland. She failed. Judith Collins has tried her hardest to put her chequered record behind her. But in the eyes of colleagues, she is "RISK" writ large.

Jonathan Coleman could make for a very good deputy once the droppings from the albatross which is the Health portfolio are finally cleaned away.

1 NEWS’ Political editor gives his analysis after Bill English stepped down today. Source: 1 NEWS

The other possibilities for deputy are Amy Adams who is rock solid in terms of competence, while Nikki Kaye would dovetail neatly with Bridges' strengths.

National's worry is that picking Bridges ends up putting him on the fast road to the political scrapheap.

English's relaxed and disarming demeanour meant the pressures which come with the role of Leader of the Opposition have been well hidden since his being forced to relinquish the prime ministership little more than three months ago.

Having achieved what had long been deemed impossible in preserving National's vote at last September's general election at well above the 40 per cent mark for the fourth such consecutive time and consequently maintaining National's dominance in Parliament in terms of being the party holding the most seats in the chamber, English was thus under no pressure to deliver.

The latter's successor will enjoy none of those ameliorating factors which disguised the oft-quoted wisdom that being the Leader of the Opposition is the worst job in politics, but one that the ambitious are far more often than not obliged to do in order to secure the best job in politics, namely becoming prime minister.

If you have any doubts about the veracity of that observation, just note the examples of Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little.

English might have been biting back tears while making his announcement that he was standing down as leader.

When those aforementioned one-time Labour leaders were relieved of the post, you could have been excused thinking they were about to shed tears of joy such was their almost palpable relief.

Labour's circumstances during those leaders' respective tenures in charge during the party's most recent spell in Opposition were far more dire than National's currently are.

There are significant similarities, however.

The most obvious one — and the one that will be the biggest challenge facing the new leader — will be Ardern herself.

The Prime Minister is a Sir John Key in drag — but wth vision.

Like English's predecessor, Ardern has shown no qualms in putting the pragmatic ahead of principle when circumstances so demand.

English benefited hugely from being seen as, if not the creator of the rock-star economy, then at least as its highly responsible minder.

Ardern enjoys rock-star status. The only hit that anyone has landed on her — Labour's on-again, off-again stance on the introduction of a capital gains tax — was self-inflicted.

In contrast, National's new leader will start Day One from Square One.

The Jacinda-effect claims another victim with Mr English deciding he’s not the man to lead National forward. Source: 1 NEWS

Government moves to make pay equity claims easier - 'We must continue to close gap'

The Government want to make it easier for workers to lodge pay equity claims, introducing a proposed law on the 125th anniversary women first got the vote in New Zealand. 

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees Galloway said today he was proud to take "the next step to address historic inequities in pay for women". 

He said The Equal Pay Amendment Bill was intended to make the process of making pay equity claims simplified and more accessible.

Acting Women's Minister Eugenie Sage said the bill was "one piece of the puzzle" in striving to close the gender pay gap. 

"Discrimination has led to lower pay for many female-dominated industries, despite having similar working conditions and skill requirements to comparable male-dominated occupations."

Earlier this year, National MP Denise Lee's Members' Bill on pay equity was voted down.

It intended to "eliminate and prevent discrimination on the basis of sex" in employment pay, and to also "promote enduring settlement of claims relating to sex discrimination on pay equity grounds". 

Labour MP Megan Woods saying there were "some very simple mechanistic reasons contained within this legislation why that would not occur", and fellow MP Jan Tinetti saying "this bill does put things backwards for pay equity". Labour, National and NZ First voted against it. 

Shot of New Zealand twenty dollars.
New Zealand $20 notes (file picture). Source: istock.com


Rural relief teacher shortage forced one school to send students home

Rural schools have struggled to find enough relief teachers during the winter flu season with at least one sending students home because of a lack of staff.

Official figures showed there were fewer cases of flu than usual in the past few months, but principals told RNZ the teacher shortage was making it harder to find back-up when teachers were unwell or needed time away from the classroom.

Murupara Area School principal Angela Sharples said she recently had to take drastic action when the flu left the school without half of its teachers and not enough relievers.

"We actually had to roster home our senior students, our Years 9 to 13, on one day. I had planned on having our senior leadership team teaching and then we had another two staff call in sick that morning and I just didn't feel that I could safely open that part of the school."

Ms Sharples said she had never had to close part of her school before because of teacher absence.

"The relief teacher shortage has been getting worse in my opinion since I have been principal here at Murupara. But that combination of a poor teacher supply, poor relief teacher supply and then illness - I just couldn't come up with an appropriate solution."

It used to be a matter of filling out a form - now it's a $4,000, 12-week course. Source: 1 NEWS

She said it had become harder to find relievers since the introduction of a requirement that teachers who had not maintained their teaching registration complete a training course every six years.

She said the school provided a van to drive teachers and relievers from Rotorua which was 50 minutes away.

Ms Sharples said children in remote areas deserved education of as high a standard as those in urban areas.

The principal of Tuakau College near Pukekohe and Pokeno, Chris Betty, said the 48 teachers at his school had logged 330 sick days so far this year, which was a lot.

He said recently the school of 600 students could not find any relief teachers at all.

"We had five relievers that we wanted and we couldn't find them," he said.

Mr Betty said the school was forced to combine some classes and leave senior classes unsupervised.

He said being unable to find any relievers at all was unusual, but the school regularly had to leave classes unsupervised because of a lack of teachers.

"Sometimes we don't put relievers into senior classes, Year 13 classes, because they're 17, 18-year-olds, they're pretty responsible themselves. We might have someone visiting that class to check on them. There'd be a class each week I would think through the whole year on average. In the flu season it might be two or three classes," Mr Betty said.

Area Schools Association president Grant Burns said relievers were not just harder to find in rural areas than in urban areas, they were also more expensive because of their travel costs.

"We've certainly noticed that costs have crept up, actually more than crept up, have leapt up over the last five years at this school. It was around $25,000 a year we were spending on relief, now it's about $100,000 a year. The school has grown in that time, but not to that extent."

Mr Burns said one reason for the rising cost at his school was a growing reluctance to ask staff to cover for their colleagues during time they were supposed to use to prepare lessons.

He said finding relief teachers was time-consuming and it would be ideal if the government set up a central office to do the work.

"What I'd like to see is a middle layer of administration across a district that takes the daily scramble for relievers out of the hands of principals or their delegated staff members," he said.

"It would be nice if we could just simply make a call to the local ministry office or whatever it's called and say 'yep we need three relievers today please' and be able hang up the phone knowing those relievers were going to come.

Some teachers are having to rethink their careers because of a new course they have to take. Source: Breakfast

But at the moment we've got schools competing, all scrambling for a limited pool of relievers."

Mr Burns said jury duty was difficult for schools because it was never clear how long a teacher would be absent.

He said travel times also made it difficult to find relievers to cover short periods such as one or two hours in a day.

By John Gerritsen

Principals teaching, students being divvied up and teachers losing release time are all increasing practices at some schools. Source: 1 NEWS


Most read: Jacinda Ardern’s GDP gaffe is understandable and not of much consequence, says economist

Shortly after Jacinda Ardern misspoke about economic data during a radio interview yesterday, the Kiwi dollar briefly rose.

It resulted in widespread media coverage and gave Opposition leader Simon Bridges an opening to throw another jab in their perpetual political joust, calling her "distracted".

But even if the Prime Minister's statement did cause the dollar to quiver, does it matter in the scheme of things?

"Not really," said Christina Leung, principal economist for the NZ Institute of Economic Research, as she discussed the issue on TVNZ1's Breakfast today.

"The miscommunication is understandable," she said of the interview, in which Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking asked a question about tomorrow's release of gross-domestic product (GDP) figures and Ms Ardern replied, "I am very pleased with the way we are tracking".

The Prime Minister later clarified that she wasn't talking about GDP figures, which she isn't given advanced access to, but instead to the Government's balance sheet.

The Opposition says it shows the Prime Minister is distracted. Source: 1 NEWS

"Financial markets do tend to focus on the glamour stats...like GDP," Ms Leung said today. "And then the Prime Minister would be more focused, of course, about what implications of growth are on tax revenue and what it means for the Government's balance sheet."

Ms Leung said she didn't find the misstatement concerning. The GDP figures released tomorrow will look back to the June quarter, so they won't be affected in any way by a statement after the fact, she said.

And she's also not convinced the PM's statement caused the brief rise in the Kiwi dollar's value, from 65.78 to 65.84 US cents.

"It's always hard to link up what's driving the New Zealand dollar," she said. "A lot of financial markets are driven by a lot of different factors.

The Kiwi dollar rose slightly this morning following a radio interview in which some thought the PM had a sneak peek of Thursday’s figures. Source: 1 NEWS

"Ultimately, what effects the longer-term influence on the New Zealand dollar would be the interest rate differentials between New Zealand and the other major economies - particularly what's going on in the US."

With retail activity and construction "looking quite strong" in New Zealand, Ms Leung said she expects to see "fairly solid growth for the June quarter" - of up to one per cent - when the GDP stats are released tomorrow morning.

Christina Leung, principal economist for the NZ Institute of Economic Research, also tells Breakfast the outlook for tomorrow’s GDP announcement is good. Source: Breakfast

The 140-year-old Christchurch suburb that may disappear from the map

Where we are born and raised is a big part of our identity, but imagine if your hometown was gradually disappearing?

The suburb of Sockburn in Christchurch has been around, in name at least, for the past 140 years.

Over 6000 people still live there, but the surrounding suburbs are quickly engulfing it from all sides and the Sockburnian culture threatens to disappear altogether.

TVNZ1 Seven Sharp's Julian Lee visited the proud little suburb. To find out more watch the video above.

Surrounding suburbs are quickly engulfing Sockburn from all sides. Source: Seven Sharp