Maori own the water, all wealth needs to be taxed, and if you’re rich, expect your superannuation to be cut.
Those were some of the policies on offer at this afternoon’s public meeting for The Opportunities Party.
Party leader Gareth Morgan spoke for about 45 minutes in the Graham Young Youth Theatre at Tauranga Boys’ College, which was filled to about a third of capacity with curious locals of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.
“I’m not actually interested in politics at all,” he says. “I’m about policy, and improving the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.”
He talks about his 35-year history involved in economics and social policy, before referring to the country’s growing inequality and the ‘ridiculous acceleration’ in housing unaffordability.
Then it’s onto taxes.
“A third of the richest New Zealanders aren’t even in the top tax rate,” he says, before revealing his plans to tax all capital – although he stresses new taxes would be offset by other tax reductions, with overall tax not increasing by so much as a dollar.
“I don’t want you to walk out of here and slit your wrists,” he jokes.
And it is a joke – about how seriously New Zealanders take their property investment ambitions. But that would change under a Gareth Morgan government. He wants people investing in businesses instead, to create jobs.
One thing he does have on his side is sincerity. He speaks without notes or a teleprompter, leading one to assume he means every word. He’s also incredibly relaxed, leaning on the side of the lectern, rather than standing behind it – and in a t-shirt, no less.
On foreigners: he wants the rich ones (the ones he claims visit and buy our farms as casually as they do souvenirs) taxed at a yearly rate of three per cent on their New Zealand properties. He also wants the number of poorer migrants – who come here to do unskilled labour and keep wages down – to be reined in.
“I don’t need a cent of super. It’s disgusting,” he says. He wants the richest half of superannuates to receive half of what they’re getting now, and shift the $3 billion in savings to parents with young children, many of whom are struggling with rising rents and an uncertain job market.
After saying his piece, he hands it over to the audience. A couple of them ask further questions about tax and inequality, but others want to know about his party’s stance on the environment – especially water.
Gareth says he wants our rivers to be swimmable, and he wants everyone to have access to fresh drinking water. But he reckons Maori own it, by virtue of the Treaty, and that a deal needs to be done with them first, before we can start selling it.
So there’s a lot for a Tauranga audience to think about. Throughout his presentation, he takes a few pot shots at Winston Peters, and labels the National party habit of announcing policies that won’t come into effect for decades (such as raising the superannuation age) a ‘con job’.
Out in the theatre foyer he says audiences can be ‘sceptical’, but he hopes he can make them think – and hopefully, impress them.
“You want them to think they’ve just seen Jesus,” he says.
Only time will tell if he can have as much of an impact.
If you’ve got a question for Gareth, or want to hear him in his own words, head along to the Graham Young Youth Theatre at 5.30pm tonight, when he’ll be going in for round two.