New Zealand’s Right-wing government scraps major Jacinda Ardern policies

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon
New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has got 'ambitious' plans - Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald

New Zealand’s new Right-wing government has unveiled plans to scrap scores of Jacinda Ardern’s policies as it turns a page on her time in office.

Christopher Luxon, the country’s newly elected prime minister, this week revealed a 49-point plan for his coalition government’s first 100 days in office.

“It is ambitious, and frankly that is because we are ambitious for New Zealand,” Mr Luxon said.

Mr Luxon’s centre-Right National Party has returned to power in coalition with the populist New Zealand First party and libertarian ACT New Zealand after six years of Labour-led governments.

The most prominent policy to be scrapped is legislation passed by Ms Ardern in December 2020 that would have stopped any New Zealander born after 2008 ever buying tobacco.

The laws inspired Rishi Sunak’s own phased ban on cigarettes, which will increase the legal age of smoking in Britain by one year every year from 2027 onwards.

Jacinda Ardern, who resigned earlier this year
Jacinda Ardern's key policies are set to be reversed - Hagen Hopkins/Getty

Mr Luxon plans to use the money saved by repealing the laws – which would have also slashed the amount of nicotine in cigarettes and cut the number of tobacco shops from 6,000 to 600 – to fund tax cuts.

Nicola Willis, the new finance minister, has said the tobacco industry generates approximately £500 million in revenue that would have had to be found elsewhere.

A legally binding target to reduce New Zealand’s prison population will also be abandoned, which new policing minister Mark Mitchell has criticised for “emptying out New Zealand’s prisons rather than trying to reduce crime”.

The-then Labour prisons minister, Kevin Davis, promised to scrap the target himself during his party’s ill-fated election campaign.

The coalition is also taking an axe to the Maori Health Authority, a separate body responsible for Maori health, which will now become part of the ministry of health.

Also scrapped is further work on the He Puapua report. Commissioned by Ms Ardern’s cabinet in 2019, this recommended a string of policies to tackle inequalities between Maori people and other New Zealanders, including setting up a separate Maori parliament and court system.

Controversial policy on inequality

It never became official government policy and was heavily criticised for proposing to divide New Zealanders based on their skin colour.

“We will not support a system of co-governance that undermines our democracy and treats people differently based on ethnicity,” National said in a statement when news of the report broke in 2021.

Elsewhere, the government will abolish planned increases to fuel tax and a Labour scheme that gave discounts on electric cars and hybrids.

“This is a landmark day in our transition to a low emissions future,” Ms Ardern said when the clean car discount scheme was introduced in 2021.

Also gone is central government funding for a low traffic neighbourhood scheme in Wellington and a £7 billion tram project in Auckland, which Mr Luxon has described as a “white elephant”.

Other pledges made by the new government include increasing the age limit of free breast cancer screening from 69 to 74, banning the use of mobile phones in schools and reducing government spending on consultants and contractors.