Tertiary Education

At last – some coverage of the New Zealand general election campaign in the UK media! The Guardian highlights the NZ Labour Party’s promise to provide three years free tertiary (university) education from 2024. It would come in stages – one year free from 2018, and two years free from 2021. Student allowances would also rise next year, from $170/week to £220/week.

All very reminiscent of the UK Labour Party at the last UK general election. Indeed the whole drive by NZ Labour to capture the [disenchanted] youth vote, is very reminiscent of the UK Labour.

However, the commentary here is every bit as bad at giving the promises made by the various parties some sense of scale. The free tertiary education promise will cost around NZ$1.2bn per year, when fully implemented. That is a very, very big deal in a country when the governments entire annual expenditure is NZ$75bn. This NZ Labour Party promise is similar in size to the National Party’s income tax promise, to happen next April if National are returned to government, which is expected to cost around NZ$1bn per year.

This all puts a very different gloss on NZ Labour’s plan to charge tourists NZ$25 each, raising about NZ$100m pa.

The same problem arises when both NZ Labour and National offer to build / refurbish Dunedin’s hospital for around NZ$1.5bn, but cannot find the NZ$123m required to complete the funding of the Christchurch Arena rebuild. Populations are:- Dunedin, 120,000 – Christchurch – 390,000. Compared to Bristol, UK with a population of 620,000.

This election campaign started with a focus on the poor in New Zealand, especially child poverty. With government schemes to build social and affordable housing set to consume substantial funds whichever party is in government, it seems that poverty may have to be challenged without being a direct spending priority. Let’s see what finally emerges in the party manifestos!