Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8: Maori Party surges; Chinese Premier set for Northland deal; OECD highlights NZ's poor productivity

The Maori Party has found itself in the position of potential kingmaker. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we look at how the Maori Party could end up taking the role of kingmaker in post-coalition negotiations, we preview the Chinese Premier's visit and we examine the latest OECD reports on New Zealand's poor productivity.

1. Maori Party a king-maker?

Last night's Colmar Brunton poll on TVNZ threw up the prospect of the Maori Party as the potential kingmaker in any post-coalition negotiations.

The poll of over 1,000 potential voters between March 18 and 22 found support for the Maori Party rose three points to four percent, while support for New Zealand First fell three points to eight percent. The larger parties were unchanged in the second Colmar Brunton poll of the year, with National on 46 percent, Labour on 30% and the Greens on 11%.

The poll came soon after the Maori Party's agreement with the Mana Party and King Tuheitia Paki's decision to back the Maori Party's Rahui Papa over Labour's Nanaia Mahuta for Hauraki-Waikato. See more background and detail on that in last week's piece on Newsroom from Tim Murphy.

2. Jacinda up and Bill down

The other notable thing about the Colmar Brunton poll was a drop in Bill English's support as preferred Prime Minister from 31 percent last month to 25 percent.

The National Party's support held, but the drop will be something to keep an eye on.

Meanwhile, voters are refusing to buy Jacinda Ardern's pledge never to be more popular than her leader Andrew Little.

Echoing last week's Reid Research poll where she out rated Little, the Colmar Brunton poll showed nine percent support for Ardern as preferred Prime Minister, up five percent.

Little was unchanged at seven percent. Winston Peters rose one point to nine percent.

3. Big Chinese deal for Northland?

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Wellington and Auckland over the next two days will dominate the diplomatic and trade headlines here, and in particular the potential for the announcement of a big construction deal for Northland.

Newshub reported last night that China Rail had quietly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Northland Regional Council to build road and rail links between Whangarei and Marsden Point.

Premier Li flew in to Wellington last night and is due to hold a news conference with Bill English today. He then flies to Auckland tonight before a series of events there tomorrow.

4. MFAT and MPI winners in Budget round

Friday's main announcement by Bill English was the detail of a spending package worth $91.3 million over four years on a big trade diplomacy push titled Trade Agenda 2030. See more on that here in my Friday piece for Newsroom Pro.

MFAT and MPI were the winners in the spending, with new embassies in Dublin and Colombo, along with new spending via MPI on fighting non-tariff barriers. They can at least partially thank the Brexit vote and Donald Trump's election for that extra spending.

5. 'It's the productivity, stupid'

The OECD would never be quite so crass as to say something like 'It's the productivity, stupid', but its most recent assessment of New Zealand's performance goes as close to that as it could.

Last week the OECD released its 'Going for Growth' series of reports, which includes an assessment of New Zealand's performance at 'Going for Growth.'

Right up front the OECD cuts straight to the heart of the matter: our woeful productivity performance.

"GDP per capita is 27 percent below the average of the most advanced OECD countries, reflecting an even larger shortfall in labour productivity," the OECD writes.

"The GDP per capita gap has declined somewhat over the past quarter century while the labour productivity gap has continued to widen," it wrote.

The OECD also pointed to a slight rise in New Zealand's income inequality since the Global Financial Crisis.

It recommended improvements in teacher quality, better trade facilitation and more public funding for Research and Development.

6. 'Charge to reduce congestion'

The OECD also touched on the Overseas Investment Office process for monitoring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and had a crack at Councils over land zoning, along with calling for congestion charging.

"Making the FDI screening process more transparent and facilitating trade could help better integrate domestic firms into global supply chains, increasing productivity," the OECD wrote.

"Reducing the scope for vested interests to thwart land rezoning and development that is in the public interest would result in greater agglomeration economies and housing affordability, which would disproportionately benefit lower income households."

It's congestion charging suggestion was particularly topical, given the Government's recent (slow) moves towards that.

"Congestion charges on urban roads would reduce congestion and pollution and provide funds for improving public transit, giving commuters more attractive and sustainable alternatives to private cars," it wrote.

7. Coming up...

It's a relatively quiet week ahead politically and economically, with Parliament not sitting and the main economic statistic due being Building Consents for February due on Friday.

Premier Li's visit is the main focus around Wellington.

8. One fun thing

We all thought President Donald Trump's astonishing behavior would at some point become less astonishing, particularly on a global stage and in formal meetings with world leaders.

But the Sunday Times' scoop last night that Trump actually handed German Chancellor Angela Merkel an invoice for US$300 billion in unpaid defence bills took it to a new level.