Holding on for a hero


Vincit qui se vincit*

In the 1970s, Lee Majors became a TV sensation with the Six Million Dollar Man – a fictional show about Colonel Steve Austin, a bionic man with superhuman strength.

Fifty years on, New Zealand has its own Three Billion Dollar Man – Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

As overseer of the $1 billion-a-year Provincial Growth Fund, Mr Jones likes to claim he is a champion of the regions – home to “garden variety kiwis”.

People living outside the beltway probably agree with him.

But what about voters in the cities? Who will be their champion?

Mr Jones would say, talk to the “red team” and that’s where things get awkward.

Labour MP and Finance Minister Grant Robertson has just delivered a bumper surplus, yet pessimism prevails among businesses unimpressed by the lack of investment in infrastructure.

Even the statutorily independent Reserve Bank Governor is imploring the government to use its fiscal levers to help the economy, with the Bank’s monetary policy proving ineffectual.

Cognito thinks Labour is about 12 months behind schedule in the electoral cycle.

In its self-titled “year of delivery” the government hasn’t spent nearly enough on major infrastructure projects to unblock our constipated cities. Auckland in particular is heavily congested and Wellington has similar problems, despite years of talking about solutions.

Lack of spending is exacerbated by the absence of decisive political management, a coherent story and a lacklustre legislative agenda. Voters would be hard pressed to say who’s in charge and what the government’s main objectives and priorities are, let alone its key deliverables of recent months.

Urban voters are holding on for a hero but will run out of patience at some point. All of this is a recipe for voter revolt.

When Steve Austin was injured in a bad accident, experts managed to rebuild him. The Labour Party will need to do the same ahead of next year’s Budget, but even that might be too late.

* He conquers who conquers himself.