Politics | Cyclone

Climate focus amid Gabrielle devastation - Analyst

Politics has taken a back seat this week in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle and the devastation it's left behind.

But it is election year and with Parliament sitting once again, teaomā discussed the current political scene with newly minted Associate Professor of Politics at Victoria University, Dr Lara Greaves (Ngāpuhi) for her take.

“When events like this happen, when there’s loss of life, where whānau lose everything, I think that politicians know that it’s important to stop playing politics for the time being,” she says.

“There are bigger things to focus on.”

Has Cyclone Gabrielle sent election year up in the air?

MPs and government ministers have all had a hand in offering support for those affected by the cyclone’s destruction.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins landed in Gisborne in his first in-person look, and asked for international assistance, with another update to come later today.

Greaves says, when disasters happen, people tend to rally around the government more while the opposition finds it hard to land jabs and crack the armour of those in power.

In particular for Cyclone Gabrielle, it’s brought on more kōrero around climate change.

“People are really worried about climate change and I think a lot of people are expecting more people will vote based on climate change policy.”

While it’s been a Green Party policy true to their values, it seems every political party, even those that haven’t seen it as such, are finally taking the issue seriously.

Recent polls show that National and its leader Christopher Luxon aren’t being done any favours, while its usual partner Act continues to climb. Rumours have been heard of Luxon being rolled, yet Greaves thinks it would be a “silly move” to do it so close to October when Election 2023 happen.

“It’s like with anything in politics – timing is everything. You wouldn’t want to necessarily change leader this close to elections in election year coming up against a two-term government.”

National has done it before, however, in the 2020 election where Judith Collins succeeded Todd Muller to become National’s leader in July, only to lead the party to its second-worst defeat in its history later in October.

“We’re waiting to see Chris Luxon’s state of the nation-type speech to see his political ideas and seeing what some policies are heading into the election year.”

For the opposite Chris in the country’s top job, Greaves notes that sidelining some policies hasn’t meant too much on election talk. At the same time, she thinks neither party has done so.

“We’re really still waiting for a lot of it to kick this year but, understandably, the cyclone has put politics on the back burner.”

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