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Political Chaos and Catching Up

      With this title, you may assume this will be a post about the United States. Guess again, New Zealand has also had a bit of chaotic political time since their election. Many New Zealanders went to the polls on September 23rd, some hoping for a change from the long-running National control and many hoping for the National party to maintain that control. However, what happened over the last month I am sure no one expected.
     To better understand this, New Zealand's government operates very differently than most. To become the "government" you need to achieve the majority of the party vote. Individuals vote on party and vote on representatives. Others elected become the opposition. Historically, the party that achieved the most votes have formed a coalition with another and still became the government. However, this election took a step away from the historic track.
      Nationals (Bill English, the acting Prime Minister at the time) took the largest percentage of the vote, with Labour (Jacinda Ardern) coming in a closer second than expected, followed by Greens, and New Zealand First. In another shock the Maori party lost their seat in parliament. Like the campaign had state Greens went with Labour. However, to achieve a government it all came down to Winston Peters of New Zealand First (who lost his seat in Parliament this election) to decide which party would become New Zealand's government.
      Winston Peters decided to take his sweet time in doing so. It was not until this past Thursday (October 19th) that he announced he would form a coalition with Labour to form the government. Nearly a month after the general election. A man whose party received a very small percentage of the vote (7%) and himself not elected became the deciding factor.
      The results have seen optimism and hope, as well as a lot of fear about New Zealand's future. Jacinda Ardern became the leader of Labour at the beginning of August (following resignation of Little due to very low polls) and now roughly three months later has been named New Zealand's next Prime Minister. Labour ran on:

  • Make the first year of tertiary education or training fees free from January 1, 2018'
  • Increase student allowances and living cost loans by $50 a week from January 1, 2018'
  • Pass the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, requiring all rentals to be warm and dry
  • Ban overseas speculators from buying existing houses'
  • Issue an instruction to Housing New Zealand to stop the state house sell-off'
  • Begin work to establish the Affordable Housing Authority and begin the KiwiBuild programme
  • Promises 15,000 affordable homes in 3 years
  • Set up a ministerial inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis'
  • 'Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain (which the Greens support and NZ First would like a referendum first)
  • Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour, to take effect from 1 April 2018, and introduce legislation to improve fairness in the workplace

With these promises, many New Zealanders I have spoke to (as well as media output) are very worried about increases in taxes and the financial sustainability of the government. In fact I have heard many say that electing Jacinda Ardern was worse than America electing President Trump (and these were New Zealanders who do not approve of President Trump). If New Zealand wanted a change they should definitely be getting it. Whether or not this new government will succeed, only time will tell. 

This is a very brief overview of the governmental situation in New Zealand. However, if you are looking for more information a quick google search will give you reading material for days!

On other news, I have finished up classes. In New Zealand, instead of dead week (which is the busiest weak for most college students) they have a week long study break. There are no classes, lab practicals, presentations, or anything else for this week. Although papers (courses) that do not have a final may have a final paper due during this time. Most of the international students, including myself, are doing a short trip. I will be exploring more of the North Island and doing lots of hiking! 

Outside of New Zealand life, I was also informed that a research project I worked on at Purdue was just published (with myself listed as a co-author) in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. The article is titled: Farm-to-School in Indiana: The local politics of feeding children. 


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