‘Too much too fast’: Hipkins takes the axe to Ardern policies

Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has begun a promised “policy reset” by axing a number of his predecessor Jacinda Ardern’s unpopular policies.

Focusing on those doing it tough during high inflation, he pledged to stop a public media merger, cut a social insurance scheme and increase the minimum hourly wage to $NZ22.70 ($20.60).

New Zealand’s new PM Chris Hipkins is ditching some of Jacinda Ardern’s policies to help revive Labour’s chances at the next election.Credit:Getty

Hipkins, who became leader last month after Ardern’s surprise exit, pledged to rein in spending, cutting the government’s cloth for tougher economic times.

He led his new team’s first cabinet meeting in Wellington on Wednesday.

Speaking after the meeting, Hipkins rebuked his predecessor’s vast policy agenda and said “the government is doing too much too fast”.

“We need to focus on the cost of living. Today we deliver on that commitment,” he said.

Two of the big-ticket items – a merger of TVNZ and Radio NZ and the social insurance scheme – were widely predicted for the scrap heap.

However, a pay rise for New Zealand’s lowest earners was not forecast in the reset.

The government will raise the minimum wage in line with CPI, upping it by $NZ1.50 an hour from April 1.

“In tough times, it’s critical to support those who struggle the most to make ends meet,” Hipkins said.

“Those on low incomes make impossible trade-offs between food and medical care, dry homes and a pair of shoes.

“These families need our support now more than ever and an inflation-adjusted lift in the minimum wage will mean thousands of New Zealanders do not go backwards.”

Hipkins said the social insurance scheme, a pet project of Finance Minister Grant Robertson, was “off the table” until economic conditions improved.

In place of the public media merger, the government will give more to RNZ and the media funding agency NZ on Air.

The government has also deferred hate speech reforms, referring them to the Law Commission, and stopped a planned biofuels mandate that would have raised the price of fuel from launching in April.

The re-orientation of government priorities comes ahead of an October 14 election, when Labour is seeking a third term under its new leader.

Two public polls released last week showed the transition from Ardern to Hipkins had delivered Labour a bounce in support.


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