Newsroom Pro's 8 things: A new city for Auckland; Foreign buyers ban mechanism before APEC

In today's email we look at the clock which is already ticking on Labour's 100 day plan.

1. It's moving day

Many of the new Government's ministers will move into their Beehive and Bowen House offices today after an almighty clear out of boxes and papers over the weekend by the outgoing National Government.

The machinery of Government decision-making and announcements still has a lot of rebuilding to do, with staffers yet to be employed and teams of advisers to link with ministries still just boxes to be filled on organisation charts.

The first full cabinet meeting of the Labour-led ministry will happen on Tuesday and is expected to be followed by a news conference.

But there are plenty of issues to be dealt with and the clock on Labour's 100 day plan is already ticking.

2. Foreign buyers' ban within weeks

One of the most urgent priorities is a mechanism to enact the agreed ban on foreign buyers of existing residential properties.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Guyon Espiner on Morning Report this morning that she expected to have a solution to announce before she left for the APEC and East Asia Summit meetings in Vietnam and the Philippines next Wednesday.

The key issue is whether it is an outright ban on non-residents buying existing homes, or whether it is some form of stamp duty that effectively makes buying property too expensive for non-residents.

The distinction is important because New Zealand's current Free Trade Agreements with Korea and Taiwan expressly prohibit such a ban and would have to be renegotiated before one was put in place.

Some solution is also required for New Zealand to go ahead with signing up to the TPP.

There's more detail on that in this David Parker interview with Audrey Young, in which he appears to rule out a stamp duty and said the Government would choose a foreign buyers' ban over a TPP if it was forced to, but he's hopeful New Zealand won't be forced to.

Ardern also said she expected the new Government to reveal the cost of its 100-day policies before the end of the year.

She has yet to say exactly when the clock started ticking on the 100 day plan, but 100 days after the swearing in of her ministry is January 3. Parliament is expected to resume sitting on November 7 and is likely to rise on Thursday December 14.

That doesn't leave an awful lot of time for legislative changes.

3. Robertson sees active Government

New Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave a couple of long television interviews over the weekend where he outlined his approach to budget surpluses, tax reform, productivity growth and research and development.

Robertson told Lisa Owen on The Nation on Saturday that he expected to announce the details of the much-debated Tax Working Group before the end of the year.

"We’ve committed to making our announcements about the membership of the group and its final terms of reference before the end of the year and within our 100-day plan," he said, adding it would include people from the business community.

He also made clear that Labour's commitment to running budget surpluses over the economic cycle included the potential for running deficits during cyclical downturns, as the previous government had.

He suggested that the mini-Budget mentioned by Ardern on Thursday could be incorporated in Treasury's Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU), which is usually delivered in the first or second week of December.

The key elements of the interview were his points around focusing on living standards rather than GDP growth, and the need for the Government to be active rather than laissez-faire in its approach.

"The days of a hands-off laissez-faire government hoping for the best for New Zealand are over. But what we want to replace that with is an active government that partners in the regions with local government, with business, with iwi," he said.

"That’s a different thing entirely from meddling and telling people what to do. We actually want to listen to the regions of New Zealand, as an example, and say, “What do you need to make sure you can create those decent jobs?"

4. A smaller Callaghan Innovation

Robertson also confirmed in his interview with Corin Dann on Q+A on Sunday that the Government would introduce its 12.5 percent tax credit for research and development spending, which would mean less emphasis on direct grants via Callaghan Innovation.

Asked if Labour would close Callaghan, he said: "The intention is not for it to go, but we want to get a better balance between the grant-based system that Callaghan covers and the certainty that a Research and Development tax credit provides. Both of them have a role to play."

"The grant-based system needs to be looked at. It’s still got a role to play, but clearly it will be a reduced role alongside the industry," he said.

Elsewhere, he said he would like to see the New Zealand Superannuation Fund invest more in New Zealand.

"I think I certainly would like to see the Super Fund invest more into New Zealand. It’s done some, and I know the Super Fund itself is looking into opportunities here," he said.

"It has to get a good rate of return; we all understand that. But if we’ve actually got the incentives right in the economy, that we are investing as a government in our infrastructure, we think that will encourage other investors as well to move away from that speculative part of the economy into the productive part."

Robertson also ruled out regional fuel taxes for cities other than Auckland and said there would be a review of Defence's capability plan.

"We want to review that in the context of getting value for money," he said.

He also confirmed a shift to other measures of the economy, beyond GDP. Treasury has used a Living Standards framework for some time, but it has never been incorporated in the official reports put out of the Government with the Budget.

"I think it’s time that we measured our economy for how it lifts the living standards," he said.

5. A new city for Auckland

New Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford will have his work cut out over the next 100 days as he puts together a new Housing Commission and starts planning to build 100,000 affordable houses over ten years, including 50,000 in Auckland.

There is no shortage of suggestions coming forward now on how that could be done, including one from Infrastructure New Zealand for the Government and the Auckland Council to fast-track the development of a new entire city at Paerata near Drury.

The city would straddle the main rail line and be next to the motorway, thus reducing the infrastructure costs for the Government of building transport links to the CBD. Other alternatives such as Dairy Flat north of Auckland would require a second harbour crossing.

Paerata could accommodate up to half a million people within 30 minutes of central Auckland.

It will no doubt be discussed when Ardern, Twyford and Robertson meet with Mayor Phil Goff and his team later this week to discuss their plans.

I'm scheduled to interview Twyford later today and welcome any specific questions from subscribers.

6. What was Matt McCarten up to?

Newsroom's Sam Sachdeva got the documents back last week from an OIA request on Matt McCarten's 'Campaign for Change' scheme to get international interns to lift voter participation.

Here's his piece published first on Newsroom Pro with more detail on how relations between the Labour Party and McCarten were tenuous at best during the period before the election.

7. Queenstown to Govt: 'We need help'

Newsroom's new South Island correspondent David Williams interviewed Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult on Friday and found the fast-growing tourism hotspot needs over $1 billion for new infrastructure and wants help from the new Labour Government.

Massive growth and poor planning has left Queenstown’s council facing a $1 billion-plus infrastructure bill over the next 10 years, David reports on Newsroom today.

Mayor Jim Boult confirmed the figure – “somewhere north of $1 billion” over a decade – and told Newsroom the programme of works can’t be done without Government help.

He’s adamant the best way to pay is with a visitor levy, which needs Government approval. The new Government’s announcement of an Auckland regional fuel tax gives Boult hope.

“While it’s different to what we’re seeking, the principle of it is similar,” Boult says.

“The answer to our infrastructure spend here is a visitor levy and so that’s a good precedent and we’ll look forward to some debate with the new Government on that.”

8. One notable thing

Usually this section is aimed at having a bit of fun, and often Donald Trump is the butt of everyone's jokes.

But the impending arrests later today of people connected to Trump's campaign by the Mueller investigation triggered something more ominous for Trump this morning.

He went on a twitter rant at about 3 am this morning NZ time, which is 10am on Sunday in Washington.

"Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?),.......the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia,......."collusion," which doesn't exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's......are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!"

Let's hope Trump's supporters don't do anything at all.