Hidesight: Soundbite gobbles up Colin Craig's hopes
"The land-banking market is an artificial one created by the rural-urban limit. In the absence of dealing with the urban limit then land-banking needs to be addressed as Mr Craig also proposed"Featured comment
I prefer doers to armchair critics. That’s why I admire all those standing for office.
There are more than enough sitting on the sidelines throwing rocks. There are precious few putting their hands up attempting to make a difference.
I am doubly impressed by anyone taking it on themselves to start a whole new party. That requires huge commitment and superhuman effort. It means having the courage to step outside the security of the two old parties to create something new and something different. It’s no easy task.
Colin Craig, leader of the new Conservative Party, has my admiration twice over. He’s established a new party and he’s standing. And more than that, he’s a conservative. That means he’s pitted himself against the liberal hand-wringing commentariat. That makes his job doubly difficult.
Having unloaded all that, I now must say I’m disappointed. I have never seen a party so quickly abandon its principles. That normally occurs after election. That’s when political events, the necessary deals, the compromises, the need to work with others, all conspire to chew them out.
But right now the Conservative Party is young and fresh and outside Parliament. It has no need to compromise or cut deals or win over middle voters. It has the luxury of standing alone and of articulating clearly and simply what it stands for and, more than that, of sticking to it, at least for now.
That’s a stark contrast to the two old parties. They have been in Parliament forever. They long ago gave away even the pretence of holding to philosophical principle. They chase the same voter for the same, all-consuming goal: to win and to hold power. There is no role for philosophical principle or reflection in their ruthless chase for votes. Winning is everything.
The Conservative Party stands apart from all that. Or so it should. And yet at the very first opportunity Mr Craig has jettisoned his party’s principles. He threw away his party’s unique selling point. He didn’t have to. The party could have stuck to its principles and produced the only policy that would have actually worked. But no. Mr Craig dumped the party’s principles in favour of an ill-conceived, nonsensical and counterproductive sound-bite.
“Use it or lose it” is Mr Craig’s message to landowners around Auckland. He told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that, “I’d be writing a letter to all those developers who have locked up all that land and be saying, ‘Look, you’ve got five years to build houses, otherwise we’ll be buying it from you under the Public Works Act.’”
Poof. That’s private property blown up with a bang. Private property! That’s the very heart soul of conservative parties around the world, down through the ages. They are, by their nature and history, respectful of long held societal mores and traditions. Indeed, the right to own property is enshrined in Mr Craig’s very own party’s founding principles.
But that counts for nothing. Use it or lose it. If Mr Craig decides that you aren’t using your property as he best sees fit he will invoke state power to take it off you. That’s a party utterly abandoning its philosophy and principles.
The maddening thing is that the answer to the housing problem lies entirely within the Conservative Party’s philosophy. The problem would be cleared up once and for all if the government stood up for private property rights and therefore killed off the rural-urban limit and stopped the wealth-sapping Resource Management Act in its tracks.
Mr Craig and his party had the answer. But sadly he opted for soundbite over substance.