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A woman with red curly hair wearing a red and white t-shirt shrugs and looks confused. In the background is a wheelchair sign and Aotearoa's Parliament building.

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A woman with red curly hair wearing a red and white t-shirt shrugs and looks confused. In the background is a wheelchair sign and Aotearoa's Parliament building.

Beyond Whaikaha: Seven ways new government policy could impact us

The Government has repealed, disestablished and completed various policies since November. Here's seven actions - planned or already implemented - that could impact us.

  • Beyond Whaikaha: Seven ways new government policy could impact us
    The D*List
  • 1. Pausing progress on Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill

    Why it matters: The Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill was introduced to "to accelerate progress towards a fully accessible New Zealand". However, this bill was widely criticised by opposition parties when introduced by Labour in 2023. While disabled people were hoping for legislation that provided for enforceable standards, a regulator and enforcement mechanisms, the final bill did not meet everyone's expectations.

    At the time, the National Party called the process "a waste of everybody's time", pointed to "very good models around the world where we could have adopted some of that" and recommended the bill “be withdrawn, and a new bill drafted that aligns more closely with the expectations of the disability sector”. Since the election, Disability Issues Minister Penny Simmonds has directed officials to seek (more) additional advice and information.

    Pros: This pause is an opportunity to improve the legislation. The Access Matters Campaign hope the Government draft a new bill that aligns more closely with the expectations of the disability sector.

    Cons: It's not clear what happens next, or when - if ever - the bill will progress. This would have been a good opportunity for the new Government to lay out its aspirations for this legislation and for disabled people, but is instead choosing to kick the can down the road.

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  • 2. Disestablish the Māori Health Authority

    Why it matters: The Māori Health Authority, or Te Aka Whai Ora, was established to "elevate whānau Māori voices, needs and aspirations" in the health system. In areas such as the Far North there are minimal local health providers except a vastly underfunded kaupapa Māori organisation - Whakawhiti Ora Pai - which serves both Māori and non-Māori populations. Māori, especially Māori disabled, can be reluctant to engage with any health providers due to a lack of mātauranga and holistic approaches. The manner in which Te Aka Whai Ora was disestablished has been criticised, as well as a lack of information and planning moving forward.

    Pros: According to some, it addresses ‘separatism’. Rather than separate health systems, just one is needed to unite us all. Health Minister Dr Shane Reti said a "new vision" would bring healthcare for all New Zealanders - "This will serve Māori and non-Māori well."

    Cons: Disestablishing the Māori Health Authority was rushed through Parliament days before concerns were due to be heard at the Waitangi Tribunal, with parliamentary processes being used to prevent a tribunal inquiry. There was no consultation with Māori and no announcement of plans on what is next for Māori, just government “aspirations”.

    According to Waatea News: “The establishment of Te Aka Whai Ora followed recommendations from the Waitangi Tribunal and an independent health and disability system review - which found the health system had failed to recognise and properly provide for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake of Māori health, resulting in Māori having the poorest health status of any ethnic group in New Zealand.”

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  • 3. Targeting those on Jobseeker Support 

    Why it matters: The new Government has set a target to get 50,000 people off the Jobseeker Support benefit, including those who may have a health condition or disability. While some disabled people who receive income support do so via the Supported Living Payment, others get Jobseeker Support.

    Pros: National's Minister for Māori Development, Tama Potaka, emphasised that this was about helping people who wanted to work. He told Waatea News: "Those that have the ability to be in employment, education or training, we are absolutely committed to supporting them to get to a space where they are in employment, education or training and also looking to get some work. That will require a little bit more of a check in, especially with Jobseekers".

    Cons: Labour’s finance spokeswoman Barbara Edmonds said the targets could have "unintended consequences"

    As disabled people, we know policy settings can have disastrous consequences when implemented poorly. When frontline MSD staff have benefit reduction targets to meet, this could lead to disabled people being placed in work opportunities where our access needs aren't met, where we are not well understood, and in situations that are damaging to our health and wellbeing. At the same time, this government's push to reduce benefit rates will leave many in our communities in a lose-lose situation. 

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  • 4. Repeal Labour’s "Ute Tax" 

    Why it matters: The 'Ute Tax' was part of Labour's Clean Car Standard Scheme to keep car emissions low by adding tax for importing high-emissions vehicles, encouraging the industry to bring cleaner cars into the country. However, many disability vehicles are high-emissions vehicles because of the size, mechanics and electronics involved and the amount of fuel needed to run them. Repealing this 'Ute Tax' means this tax would no longer be added to the cost users pay on high-emissions vehicles like mobility vans. 

    In 2023, Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter argued there should be an exemption on this tax for disability vehicles, but the National Government are repealing the legislation entirely. 

    Pros: Repealing this tax would mean no additional costs are added towards mobility vehicles for disabled people and their whānau. These vehicles are already expensive so removing any additional costs that disabled people have to fork out of their own pocket is a positive.

    Cons: Repealing this tax means some people would not be as encouraged to purchase a cleaner vehicle, which isn't good for climate change in general. Ideally there would be more green vehicle options, rather than fuel-heavy mobility vehicles. However, there is very little choice for mobility vehicles for disabled people already, let alone EV mobility vehicles.

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  • 5. Repeal Labour’s “Fair Pay” legislation

    Why it matters: The Fair Pay Agreements legislation was introduced in 2022 to offer minimum rights, working conditions and pay for employees in particular industries, including staff at disability service providers.

    Pros: According to Workplace Relations Minister Brooke van Velden, the original legislation would have created more costs for businesses, increased prices for consumers, put vulnerable workers' jobs at risk and may have resulted in fewer jobs available.

    Business NZ, who supports the repeal of the legislation, has said a "one-size-fits-all" minimum standard of wages, hours and overtime will not be feasible for all employees and employers across entire industries. An employer wouldn't be able to negotiate freely according to business needs, and could lead to job losses and employment of 'lower quality' staff.

    According to critics, Fair Pay legislation removed bargaining power for employees, meaning high performing staff were still in the same band as everyone else. Under Labour's Fair Pay Legislation, a disabled person employed in the sector may have found it harder to progress in their career as the pay bands are universal and don't change unless you leave one role and re-enter at a higher pay band.

    Cons: According to the Council of Trade Unions, repealing the legislation would mean workers who already experience low pay and poor health and safety would less likely see improvement in their working conditions. Unite Union co-president and hospitality worker Xavier Walsh said, in 2023, that some of the affected industries are "individualised", so having this legislation would encourage more whanaungatanga between employers and employees. 

    The people in roles that would have benefited from Fair Pay legislation are largely disabled people, women, Māori, Pacific people and young people. There’s also no 'safety net' to ensure employees have fair working conditions without this bill in place. With this law repealed, workers in disability support services will need to rely on the Government to increase the budget for Disability Support Services (DSS) to achieve better pay and working conditions.

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  • 6. Cancelling walking, cycling and public transport projects

    Why it matters: The Government is stopping many infrastructure projects such as the Auckland Light Rail and withdrawing central government from the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme. Many disabled people rely on walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure. For a number of reasons, driving or being a passenger in private vehicles can be less accessible for some in our communities. And even if driving is an option, walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure all contribute to making our communities more accessible for everyone.

    Pros: According to Transport Minister Simeon Brown, scrapping Auckland Light Rail means the Government can "get on with delivering the critical transport infrastructure that Auckland needs.” Regarding the Let's Get Wellington Moving programme, Infrastructure and Housing Minister Chris Bishop has said a lot of time and money had been spent with little progress.

    Cons: When projects like Auckland Light Rail and Let’s Get Wellington Moving are cancelled, disabled people disproportionately lose out on more cost-effective, accessible transport, especially for those of our communities who rely on public transport and cycling infrastructure. 

    Improvements to cities' walking and cycling routes can also be great for wheelchairs and other mobility aids.

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  • 7. Cancel Labour’s planned fuel tax increase

    Why it matters: A fuel tax increase was introduced in 2023 to help pay for new infrastructure. For some disabled folks, private vehicles and taxis are the preferred or only practical method of transport. This could be for a variety of reasons, such as getting to a bus stop or train stop not being accessible, or choosing not to take public transport because it is too crowded and could cause overstimulation or overwhelm. 

    Pros: Cancelling increases to the fuel tax could make it cheaper to fill up your car. Having cheaper petrol helps reducing the cost of living, where the extra $8 saved per fuel tank can go towards groceries or other disability-related expenses. Cheaper transport costs also gives disabled people more freedom to travel and go about their activities - work, social life, get to events. 

    Cons: It is unclear where will the money will now come from to pay for roading infrastructure, which could lead to reduced investment. While this is beneficial to reducing the cost of petrol, it doesn’t solve wider transport issues for disabled people - such as a lack of mobility taxi vans or the high-cost and admin involved in purchasing a private mobility vehicle. Private mobility taxis remain very expensive, despite the Total Mobility scheme.

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