The politics of affluence
By Richard Harman (author)
Auckland’s Epsom electorate has more people earning over $100,000 a year than any other; the most people with Bachelor’s degrees and 30% of its population is Asian.
It should, theoretically, be rock solid, safe centre right territory.
Last election it was but with a twist because the electorate MP, is ACT Leader, David Seymour, who gets there because the National candidate, Paul Goldsmith, encourages his supporters to vote for Seymour on the electorate vote but National on the party vote.
That way National effectively gets an extra seat.
Yet the irony may be that Seymour’s libertarian philosophies should be more in tune with the electorate's thinking on many issues.
However last night at a candidates’ meeting in the electorate what quickly;y became apparent was that the issues in Epsom are much the same as the issues across the rest of Auckland; the pressure that immigration is putting on housing and infrastructure like schools. Whether Seymour’s philosophies match those concerns will be a question that will not be answered till election day.
The case against immigration and what it was doing to the electorate was put by Labour’s ideas man and Jacinda – booster, David Parker, who is standing in the seat. Of course he won't win, but his vote may be an interesting indicator of whether the tide even in this blue ribbon seat has turned against the Government because of the immigration.
Watch his numbers on election night; they could be an indicator that National is losing some of its traditional urban Auckland votes.
What became obvious as the candidates introduced themselves was that housing was the number one issue; they would later connect that to immigration, but Parker probably spoke for all of them when he said that New Zealand was one of the wealthiest countries in the world yet we could not house our people.
“It is disgraceful,” he said.
Seymour saw the pressure on housing as a symptom of success.
“Most of the problems we face are the product of the record numbers of people trying to move here,” he said.
New Zealand First, predictably, were quick to link the housing issue to immigration.
Their candidate, Julian Paul, said that in the short term New Zealand needed to adjust its immigration settings so that we could focus on delivering a high standard of living.
He said New Zealand First wanted to see the next Government prioritise housing, healthcare, employment and education with Kiwis “front of mind”.
“We are not about building a wall around the country and keeping everyone out, “ he said.
“We want to promote immigration so that it suites our country and enriches our culture.
“What we have at the moment is unfocussed immigration which puts a strain on our infrastructure, especially here in Auckland.”
Tertiary Education Minister, Paul Goldsmith, who presides over the export education sector which attracts one of the largest slices of migrants said that when he first stood for the seat in 2011 the lament that he heard was from people complaining that their children lived overseas.
“I think that it is a wonderful thing that we have turned that round dramatically so that more New Zealanders are coming home than are leaving and people from around the world want to base themselves IN this country,” he said.
“Around here we are very conscious of the strains of growth.
“If you go anywhere else in the country, they are desperate for workers.
"We've got a bit of a two-speed country, and that's why as a Government we are working to have a balanced approach to immigration to keep the skills coming that we need while also raising the bar regarding the skills that we are asking for.'
But Parker said Labour would go further. The vast majority of our migrants were economic migrants, he said.
“Should you be able to cut that back,” he asked
“The answer is that every country in the world controls its level of migration and every country in the world is entitled to have a debate as to how much and New Zealand is too.
“We say we’ve got to take a breather and let infrastructure, public and private, catch up.”
Parker said New Zealand needed to be wary of getting immigration wrong.
“As is shown with Brexit and by Trump.
“Yes, it’s great that we are a multi cultural, cohesive and tolerant society.
“But if you push these things too hard they can go the other way.”
Coates said immigration was a difficult and complex issue that all too often was reduced to misleading sound bites.
And Paul said NZ First believed immigration should not be used as an excuse not to train our own people.
Perhaps the real issue about immigration was evident in the audience makeup at the candidates’ meeting. Fewer than five of the 150 or so people there were Asian.
There was some debate about how to get more people to vote but no discussion about the absent Asians.
Perhaps they were too busy enjoying their houses to come.