Election 2023 finance debate: Parties go head-to-head on cost of living, housing

Christchurch based housing

The issue of housing is expected to be one of the hot topics at the election debate. (file image)
Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Southern voters say the cost of living and housing are top of their list as they head into the upcoming election.

The finance spokespeople for the top four polling parties will face-off in front of a sold-out crowd for a debate in Queenstown on Thursday night.

Sausage rolls might be a beloved bite for some politicians, but Fantail Kitchen & Larder owner Kerry Tackney said the cost of sausage meat had skyrocketed and it had been biting into her profits

When she opened her doors in Ranfurly six years ago, it cost just over $15 for five kilograms.

“As of today, we’re paying $63 for that same [five kilos], which is almost giving us zero margin on that one product line, which over the last six years we’ve only managed to increase the price by 50 cents, because it’s kind of off-putting for people. But they don’t realise how much we lose out just by making that one item.”

The cost of living had been taking a toll on their small business.

“It brings down a lot of the spend by our customers,” Tackney said.

“It makes it harder for us because our profit margins have disappeared. Sometimes we miss out on pay because we can’t even pay for some of our bills, because we can’t make that margin anymore.”

She wanted to see policies which realistically brought down the costs of living and raw products.

“Tax would be great, if we could have a bit of a tax break, cos we’re not making the money. Our GST is just through the roof.

“We’ve got to skimp and save and try to get that paid, because otherwise we go into more debt, because we can’t pay it.”

Central Otago district mayor Tim Cadogan said housing and cost of living were top of mind for many of his ratepayers this election, but climate change was up there too.

Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan.

Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan says ratepayers want more stability after years of the pandemic.
Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

When he first donned the mayoral chains seven years ago, the district’s population was about 18,000 people – now it was about 25,000.

“That’s put a lot of pressure on our housing market and also we’ve had a lot of people buy holiday homes as well, and that flows into everything,” Cadogan said.

“If you’re paying a huge portion of your income in your mortgage or your rates, then it becomes hard to do everything else.”

Ratepayers wanted more stability after years of the pandemic, he said.

“That is the constant change and the constant pressure of ‘what’s my rent going to be next week?’ or ‘how much is petrol going to be a litre? and so forth is just wearing people out.”

Less than 50 percent of eligible ratepayers voted in the last council election in Central Otago.

But Cadogan was hopeful there would be a much better turnout this election.

In Omakau, resident Mervyn Crane was semi-retired, and fed up with what it cost to get by.

He was also concerned about law and order and believed the firearm rules had gone overboard.

“I’d also like to see if they could list when they’ve had an arrest, how many law-abiding citizens that have licenses are they arresting and how many are they arresting that aren’t registered firearms owners, so we get some perspective of what’s going on.”

Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce was hosting the ASB Great Debate.

Chief executive Sharon Fifield said inflation was putting pressure on businesses

“Businesses would really like to see a cut in compliance first and foremost, I think. So things like fair pay agreements sits on the table. That’s not really sitting that well on top of everything else like the immigration accreditation et cetera, so all of these are just lumping costs on business.”

The sold out event will be held from 7pm to 9pm on Thursday in Queenstown and livestreamed on RNZ’s website.