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New government, new policy. What’s on the table in 2018…

It’s a new year, and with that comes a relatively new government.

We take a look at everything you should expect to see across New Zealand politics in 2018.

The End Of Life Choice Bill should pass Parliament, but how will you vote?

ACT leader David Seymour’s bill to legalise assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, for patients who meet certain safeguards, is expected to pass its second reading in parliament.

That is, after 9 months of public submissions.

Most MPs will vote the same as they did in the first reading of the bill, which passed 76 to 44. But while Members of Parliament can vote as they like on the bill, the New Zealand First Party voted as a bloc, all in favour. The party threatened to vote against the bill unless the issue was put to a referendum. Seymour compromised, and it gained the support of the 9 MPs who would’ve voted against. The Greens also voted as a bloc in favour, after claiming they wanted to take the matter to the select committee for amendment so that it would be “safer for the disability community.” Even without the Greens’ support, the bill should still pass, just.

If the bill passes its third reading, the matter will be put to a referendum and decided by the people.

So it could be up to you.

Medicinal cannabis may be given the green light

Julie Anne-Genter pushed a bill allowing those with a terminal illness to use cannabis products with the support of a doctor. As she is now a minister, she cannot put the legislation to the house in her name. Chloe Swarbrick, the youngest current MP, has taken ownership of the conscience vote bill. Controversially, the bill allows the terminally ill to grow their own cannabis and some MPs will vote against the bill because of this.

However, Labour have introduced their own cannabis bill, making the Green equivalent irrelevant. The Labour proposal is much more likely to pass as it doesn’t contain anything about terminally ill people being legally allowed to grow their own cannabis. ACT will probably support the bill as they strongly believe in personal freedoms. With the support of New Zealand First, this could become law.

A referendum on recreational cannabis use is set to happen before 2020.

Again, it could be up to you.

A fees free first year

“The first year of tertiary education will be fees free in 2018,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins told media.

It’s officially happening, but there are some criteria for students to meet to get their first year of tertiary education for free.

Firstly, you must be allowed to work and live in New Zealand permanently. If not, you need to be an Australian or New Zealand resident who has lived here for upwards of three years. In addition, you must not be enrolled in a school when your qualification begins, but you would’ve had to be enrolled in a school in 2017 or 2018.

Otherwise, you must not have gained more than 60 credits at Level 3 or above, except at school. This basically means that a student applying shouldn’t have any previous tertiary education or apprenticeship experience unless the student gained less than 60 credits for it.

The Minister of Education announced this will be implemented from January 1st, 2018.

$50 more in the pockets of students

The Prime Minister announced in November that the government would increase the student allowance and living cost payments by fifty dollars per week.

The main difference between the two is that living cost payments are loans and have to be paid back, while the student allowance does not. Milan Caird investigated the financial burden on New Zealand tertiary students in 2017.

Education Minister Hipkins says that the maximum living cost loan would be just under $230. Compared to the current rate of $177, this is a big leap forward, but students would have to be sure that they could pay back the increased loan in time.

The extra funds will begin from January 1st, 2018 and eligible students can celebrate the new year with fifty extra dollars in their account.

Hands off our housing – a ban of overseas speculators might become law

A ban of overseas housing speculators has been a crucial New Zealand First policy, especially in the 2017 election campaign.

The bill will amend the Overseas Investment Act to ensure that foreign buyers purchasing homes in New Zealand is a “privilege, not a right.”

The amendment to the act will label all New Zealand homes being sold as “sensitive,” which will essentially ban non-New Zealand citizens or permanent residents from buying a home here. Permanent residents will have to be screened before being able to buy a house unless they’ve lived in New Zealand for a total of 181 days or more from 365 days. People on other visas different to the standard resident visa, would be allowed to buy plain land if they agree to build a home and sell it on in the future.

The bill is set to become law as New Zealand First, Labour, and the Greens all agree with this policy. The National Party have said it cannot be done without breaching trade agreements such as the TPPA.

Politics can be unpredictable and surprising. But there we go.

Let’s buckle in for the ride.

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