By Pattrick Smellie
Jan 27 (BusinessDesk) - Labour Party leader David Shearer announced no new policy today in a much-hyped 'state of the nation' speech, but outlined a series of policy-making initiatives in 2013 for a new "hands-on" approach, including to "develop a clear plan to diversify our economy."
At the same time, its likely coalition partner in a new government after the 2014 election, the Green Party, launched a new coalition of interests opposed to the current direction of government policy at what was billed as its "state of the planet" picnic.
Both announcements followed Prime Minister John Key's own scene-setting speech for 2013 last Friday to a business audience in Auckland, at which he warned councils to free up land for more affordable housing as the government contemplates major changes to resource management law, and said New Zealand must become a "magnet for investment."
Shearer touted Labour's plan to build 100,000 new, more affordable family homes as an immediate kick-start to jobs, and announced a national conference to assist develop housing policies "at the cutting edge of urban design and energy efficiency."
The affordable home design conference will involve "the best ideas of architects, designers, urban planners and others".
The initiative is similar to the Labour-instigated Opposition manufacturing inquiry, which begins at Parliament tomorrow without participation by government MP's but involving Green and New Zealand First MP's.
“Our economic team will develop a clear plan to diversify our economy," Shearer told an audience in the working class Wellington satellite town of Wainuiomata. "It’s about backing the talent of businesses working in high tech and the innovations of those adding value to our natural resources. A thriving manufacturing sector is at the heart of our vision."
"I want KiwiBuild ready to roll on Day 1 when we take office," he said, partly because the home-building scheme would create work. The Greens last week announced a rent-to-buy scheme for low income people to acquire government-built homes, in a move aligned with Labour's housing policy.
Housing affordability is emerging as a key political issue after years of house price increases outstripping New Zealanders' income growth. However, home-building is about to take off in Christchurch, as the city's post-earthquakes rebuild gets under way.
Shearer also promised a white paper this year from shadow social welfare minister Jacinda Adern, with alternatives to addressing child poverty beyond Labour's existing commitment to provide more food to schools.
"This year I’m asking my education team to look at ways to improve transitions from school to further training and high-skill jobs," he said.
Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said the "I'm in - for the future" campaign sought to "draw together new constituencies of New Zealanders disillusioned with the direction the Government is taking", aiming to "stop negative policies being enacted before the 2014 election."