Thursday on the campaign trail has been a mix of tourism and crime as the leaders of our two main political parties leave the main centres behind in the search for votes.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG
Labour has announced it will add 300 more police officers with arrest powers to the streets by 2028 as part of its efforts to reduce crime if elected.
It will also consider introducing an offence for stalking following the death of AUT student Farzana Yaqubi, who – the Herald earlier revealed – had gone to police with concerns she was being harassed two months before she was murdered.
Gang convoys will also be targeted with Labour intending to pursue legislative changes to punish gang members who take part in intimidatory convoys, regardless of an offence being committed.
In a statement, Labour leader Chris Hipkins said the boost in frontline officers meant there was one officer for every 470 Kiwis, which he claimed was the “best ratio in modern history”.
The workforce increase would cost $124 million over four years. Fifty extra officers would be introduced in the first year, 75 in the second and third years, and the remaining 100 hitting the ground in the 2027/28 year.
Earlier today, the Herald reported it was understood the murder of promising AUT student Farzana Yaqubi had led Labour to consider criminalising stalking.
Following the revelations, Police Minister Ginny Andersen said she would be taking a “close look” at the findings of an independent investigation into Farzana Yaqubi’s murder to ensure there are “appropriate and prompt” processes in place for police to respond to complaints of stalking and harassment.
Yaqubi, 21, was murdered in December last year by Kanwarpal Singh, who last month was sentenced to 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder.
Today, Labour’s policy document acknowledged the need to modernise stalking and harassment laws with the potential to create a stalking offence.
”Adding an offence of stalking to the Crimes Act, if aligned with laws in Australia and the United Kingdom, could entail a penalty of between 12 months to 3 years’ imprisonment, with stronger penalties if the person has possession of a weapon, for those who engage in behaviour of stalking a victim, loiters near the person’s place of residence or work with intent to intimidate,” the document said.
It said a Labour Government would work with victim advocacy groups and legal experts to progress the changes.
The other new promise concerned gang convoys and could include seizing gang members’ vehicles “without conviction when it is unsafe for police to intervene at the time of the offending, ensuring that gang members don’t get away with breaking the law when it’s difficult to identify the driver of the vehicle, and expanding the scope of police powers so that any breach of road laws by gang members when there are two or more vehicles involved would result in seizure”.
Hipkins described recent gang convoys, like the one in Opotiki in June, were “intolerable”.
”Labour will introduce laws to punish this behaviour and develop new ways to target gangs leaders and break their international links.”
This morning the National leader promised to build a new “Great Walk” and encourage more young people to come to New Zealand on working holiday visas, as part of his party’s tourism strategy.
Tourism spokesman Joseph Mooney said the party would create a new 80km Great Walk at Waiau – Toa/Molesworth in the South Island.
The party would also lift the upper age for being allowed a working holiday visa from 30 to 35 years and allow people to apply for a second and third work visa as long as worker shortages continue.
A working holiday visa is given to citizens of a large number of countries New Zealand has visa deals with. They allow people from those countries to live and work in New Zealand for a period, usually 2 years. Some working holiday visas, for example the scheme New Zealand has with the UK, already extend to 35.
Mooney blasted Labour’s record on tourism.
“The combination of the pandemic and the Labour Government have taken tourism backwards. More than a year since borders re-opened, visitor numbers and tourism jobs have not fully recovered. High inflation, high interest rates and broken immigration settings have punished the tourism and hospitality sectors, pushing many small operators to the brink.
“National will deliver practical and sensible support to make our beautiful country even more attractive to visitors, so tourism operators – including those in the regions – can get on with delivering world-class experiences and hospitality and growing their businesses and the economy,” he said.
The party has also promised to electrify the New Zealand cycle trail for e-bikes, with $3m set aside to co-invest in e-bike chargers.
He also promised $5m over four years to “promote regional events”.
“A National Government will also fix Department of Conservation concessions so businesses operating on the DoC estate have more security in their tenure and therefore confidence about investing in their businesses,” he said.
Mooney said the total cost of the tourism package came to $22m over four years, which would be funded through money that was unallocated from the International Visitor Levy, a charge levied on incoming tourists that was brought in by Labour.
National voted against the levy at the time, alleging it showed Labour’s “insatiable appetite for tax”, in the words of former National MP Nick Smith.
Act meanwhile has unveiled its bright pink new campaign bus.
Leader David Seymour, MPs and supporters were on hand for the unveiling at lunchtime, outside the Auckland Home Show at the Showgrounds in Epsom.
The bus is bright pink with the faces of 20 Act MPs and candidates emblazoned along one side – reflecting the party’s high polling and hopes for a big contingent next Parliament – with Seymour and deputy leader Brooke van Velden super-sized on the other.
”What do you think of Big Pinky?” Seymour asked assembled media.
First stop was across town for a political panel at St Paul’s College in Ponsonby. In the coming days and weeks the bus will travel the country in what’s billed as the “Road to Real Change Tour”.
Seymour revealed a supporter had offered him the use of a plane – not a private jet – to get around the campaign trail.
There would also be a smaller vehicle – “little pinky” – helping cover the 75 stops.