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Clean-up continues following another wet night in Auckland

It’s Wednesday, February 1 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – continuing our ongoing coverage of the flooding in Auckland and its aftermath. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

What you need to know


Clean-up continues following another wet night in Auckland

It’s Wednesday, February 1 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – continuing our ongoing coverage of the flooding in Auckland and its aftermath. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

What you need to know

Feb 1 2023

Chris Hipkins appoints new chief of staff

Andrew Kirton

Andrew Kirton has been appointed the prime minister’s staff by Chris Hipkins. He begins the role on February 8, replacing Raj Nahna, who has resigned. Nahna become Jacinda Ardern’s chief of staff after Mike Munro resigned for health reasons in 2019. A former Helen Clark staffer, Labour Party general secretary and 2017 campaign manager, Kirton has also worked as head of government relations for Air New Zealand, and more recently as a consultant in PR and lobbying, a role he has resigned. Kirton is married to Camilla Belich, a Labour list MP, appointed a junior whip in this week’s reshuffle.

Holly Donald will remain as deputy chief of staff for “an extended period” to assist with the transition, according to a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office, while Andrew Campbell remains as chief press secretary to the election.

Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Kirton during the 2017 campaign.

Wayne Brown welcomes schools reopening – and blue sky

Wayne Brown inspects flood damage in Auckland (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has welcomed the news that schools will be allowed to reopen from tomorrow morning.

The Ministry of Education backtracked on its initial decision to keep schools closed until next week.

In a statement, Brown also welcomed the blue sky that had replaced clouds across the super city this afternoon. “It turned out to be the right decision to keep schools closed today. But Aucklanders are resilient and – where possible – want to get our region back to normal again,” he said. “The worst is hopefully behind us.”

Mayor Brown said it was important Aucklanders still took extra care in the days ahead. “Our region is saturated. More slips are possible or even likely. Floodwaters are still present with dangerous hidden debris. As everyone heads back to work and school tomorrow, please keep well away from anything that looks like it could become a slip, and do not play in floodwaters.”

The press release concluded with Brown reiterating that there will be lessons to learn from the past few days “for all of us, including me”.

It rains down on Wayne Brown: New Gone By Lunchtime podcast

Gone By Lunchtime (Image: Tina Tiller)
As Auckland begins a big dry following record rainfall and devastating floods, the official response from Mayor Wayne Brown and others has come under scrutiny. In The Spinoff’s politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime, Toby Manhire, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas debate the deluge aftermath, as well as assessing Chris Hipkins’ early performance, the new prime minister’s first cabinet reshuffle, and a pair of polls that show a Hipkins bump and an election year in the balance. (Note: The Auckland discussion is the final third of the podcast.)

Follow Gone By Lunchtime on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and everywhere else podcasts live.

Ministry U-turns on blanket Auckland school closures

Lots of students rely on alarms to get to school on time (Getty Images / Bianca Cross)

Auckland schools will be able to open their doors to students from tomorrow.

That’s despite the Ministry of Education announcing late on Monday afternoon that all learning facilities, including kura and universities, must close until after the Waitangi long weekend.

Schools have been notified today that the blanket directive to close has been lifted, effective from tomorrow.

“Kia ora parents and caregivers We have just received confirmation from the Ministry of Education that our school can open tomorrow,” said a message sent to parents of children at Sherwood Primary School in the flood-stricken suburb of Browns Bay. “We look forward to welcoming our students back to school in the morning.”

While prime minister Chris Hipkins, who recently relinquished his education portfolio, defended the decision to shutter schools, both National and Act criticised the sudden communication of the decision.

Morningside Live Blockparty to go ahead – Spinoff stage a scratch owing to floods

Morningside Live Block Party runs on February 5. Illustrator: Maria Francesca Melis

Morningside Live Blockparty will proceed this Sunday February 5 as scheduled, and at this point sunshine is forecast. Severe weather over the weekend and last night, however, has seen the location of The Spinoff Carpet Club stage (a basement below The Carpet Court) flooded and unusable for the event taking place this Sunday. 

This unfortunately means we will no longer be hosting our stage. The main event goes on, however, and you can catch all the music action including Fat Freddy’s Drop on the mainstage Plus Rubi Du, Team Dynamite’s Lucky Lance with Christoph El Treuento, 2022 APRA Maioha Award finalist AJA, and Reiki Ruawai from Masaya Band and more.

Along with the mainstage, the dancefloor will be glowing at Joel Little’s dreamy new venue, BIG FAN, the beers flowing at the Morningside Tavern, Crave and Kind alongside a plethora of beverage and food options throughout the entire venue. Not to mention the good vibes zone humming at the Glasshouse.

Keep an eye on the Morningside Live social channels (Facebook or Instagram) for further updates.

It goes without saying we’re gutted not to be able to bring The Spinoff to the live stage but here’s hoping we’re back in 2024 for the second run.

Tweet claims deputy mayor ‘devastated’ after calling Wayne Brown ‘part of the problem’


Auckland’s deputy mayor has commented (via tweet) after this morning appearing to label her boss “part of the problem” in an interview about the flooding.

On TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning, Desley Simpson was asked when the media will be able to speak with Wayne Brown, who has been particularly reluctant to front over the past few days. “He was on the ground looking at the community impacts across the region. He’s part of the problem,” said Simpson. “And the solution, he’s aware of the problem most definitely.”

In a tweet sent out from the account “@MayorAuckland” – which has only sent 184 tweets since the beginning of Brown’s tenure – Simpson said she was “devastated” by the slip-up and accused TVNZ of malicious reporting. “I was trying to communicate the fact that Mayor Brown is aware of the problems and part of the solution,” the tweet said.

Meanwhile, Brown’s apparent only appearance in the media today was in an aggressive 30-minute phone call with the Herald’s David Fisher.

Auckland City Rail Link tunnels and stations ‘inundated’

CRL tunnel flooding in Auckland. Photo: Supplied

An assessment of the impacts on an “inundated” City Rail Link project is under way following flooding in Auckland. Crews have pumped water from tunnels and stations sites and equipment was being salvaged and inspected, said the project chief executive Sean Sweeney. “At this stage there is no known structural damage to tunnels, such as collapse or subsidence, but a full and detailed assessment of the sites must wait until this final band of weather passes,” he said in a statement.

He said flooding will “almost certainly” have impacted some equipment in use in the project but the extent of damage was unclear pending a drying and testing of machinery. There is no indication yet of whether the damage may mean a further delay to a project currently scheduled to be completed in late 2024.

CRL tunnel flooding in Auckland. Photo: Supplied

Fuel tax cut, half price public transport extended until June 30

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The government has announced another extension of its cost of living package – the fourth time it has pushed out the end date.

The 25 cent cut to petrol excise duty, along with half price public transport fares, will be kept in place until June 30. These were initially set to be phased out in the coming weeks.

The road user charge discount will be re-introduced and continue through until June 30 as well.

Speaking from central Auckland, prime minister Chris Hipkins reiterated his intention to focus on the “bread and butter issues” and said that helping tackle the cost of living was an important part of this.

“This is our first step in dealing with some of the persistent cost pressures on businesses and families…Reducing the cost of fuel excise and public transport is a good candidate for early action – it’s a major cost for nearly everyone, we know how to do it, and can roll it out quickly.”

He added: “The floods in Auckland and Northland are putting extra stress and financial pressure on families. Cutting fuel excise and keeping half price public transport gives some extra relief as Auckland goes through a difficult period.”

Asked whether extending cuts to fuel tax was wise given the climate-related disaster in Auckland, Hipkins said his government had a strong plan to tackle climate change.

Finance minister Grant Robertson said the weekend’s floods will likely be New Zealand’s most expensive “non-earthquake event” disaster. “But I actually think it’s a much better process for those who are experiencing the disaster,” he added.

Once again pressed on the comments made by Wayne Brown about the media earlier this week, and the slow handling of the disaster on Friday, Hipkins still refused to say anything. He would work with whoever the people of Auckland had elected, said Hipkins.

Coming soon: Elements of Truth lifts the lid on the Jami-Lee Ross saga

Jami-Lee Ross (Photo: Elements of Truth)

It’s one of the most explosive moments in New Zealand’s political history. Now, director Tony Sutorius (Campaign) lifts the lid on the Jami-Lee Ross saga in Elements of Truth.

After a fallout with National that threatens to bring the entire party down with it, Jami-Lee Ross seeks a return to politics as co-leader of Advance NZ. As Ross leads a campaign that seems doomed from the start, Sutorius is with him every step of the way – from public meetings, to the Newshub Nation studio, and inside his own home. Streaming on February 21, as we head into our next election cycle, Elements of Truth provides exclusive insight into a former senior MP turned political outcast as he attempts to stage a dramatic political comeback.

Elements of Truth is made with the support of NZ On Air.


Unemployment at 3.4%, slight rise on previous quarter

Human hand holding empty wallet

Unemployment has risen slightly to 3.4%, just a 0.1 point bump from the December quarter.

“The unemployment rate… has remained at or near historic lows since the September 2021 quarter,” said Stats NZ’s work and wellbeing statistics senior manager Becky Collett.

The underutilisation rate, which measures spare labour capacity, such as those currently not employed but also those who are underemployed, has risen to 9.4% from 9%. The primary contribution to higher underutilisation came from increases in the potential labour force.

Today’s figures come ahead of an anticipated minor recession in New Zealand. Prime minister Chris Hipkins is expected to make a cost of living announcement at about midday.

Changes on the way for Australia’s controversial 501 deportation scheme

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese delivers his victory speech, May 21, 2022 in Sydney. (Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

The length of time someone has spent in Australia will soon be a “primary consideration” when determining whether a visa should be cancelled.

It’s a major softening of the controversial 501 deportation scheme that has caused tensions between Australia and New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern fought for changes to the rules while she was prime minister, arguing it was unfair for people to be deported to New Zealand simply because they were born here. That argument proved fruitless while Scott Morrison was Australian PM, but his successor Anthony Albanese appeared keen to implement change.

The new rules state that “considerable weight should be given to the fact that a non-citizen has been ordinarily resident in Australia during and since their formative year, regardless of when their offending and level of that offending began”.

Revealed last night by Newshub, these changes arrive ahead of new PM Chris Hipkins’ first face-to-face with Albanese in Canberra next Tuesday.

The changes will come into effect from March 3.

‘I am the mayor’: Wayne Brown’s ‘Trump-like’ Herald call

The January 28 press conference

Under-fire Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has doubled (tripled?) down on his criticism of the media, accusing reporters of ignoring the work he has done in the wake of last week’s floods.

In a conversation with Herald reporter David Fisher, who was first leaked the now infamous “drongo” text, Brown said the media “can’t get over the fact the person they loved, I beat him by a mile” – a reference to Efeso Collins.

Brown also complained about media attention given to members of the All Blacks who turned up to help in Māngere on Monday. They were just “unloading a few boxes”, said Brown, but the media would “fly through the Blitz” to “kiss their arse”. In contrast, he accused reports of ignoring visits he had undertaken. “I paid for a helicopter. Me. I paid for it. The taxpayer paid for [PM Chris Hipkins’ helicopter]. There’s some balancing stuff. Just think about that,” Brown said.

Over the weekend, Brown said he would absolutely not be stepping down as mayor. That message was reinforced in the conversation with Fisher. “I am the mayor for three years. You can’t do anything about that. No one else in New Zealand is going to get 180,000 votes. That was my mandate.”

While Brown was happy for Fisher to report the aggressive phone call, he did say: “Don’t fuck me over.” Fisher described Brown’s attitude in the phone call to Donald Trump, saying there’s a “reflex to self-justify and defend himself”.

You really should just read the full write-up here

Wayne Brown fronts a rare press conference, alongside the PM

Deputy mayor assists after AT ticketed cars in flood-affected area


Residents in the flood-hit suburb of Browns Bay were outraged to find Auckland Transport traffic wardens had been out ticketing parked vehicles.

According to Stuff, about 22 infringement notices were issued to cars in the North Shore suburb – seemingly going against the Civil Defence advice to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.

Queried on the tickets by Today FM this morning, Auckland deputy mayor Desley Simpon said she would follow-up on this straight away. “That is not good enough, no. I’ll talk to the chief executive straight away.”

In a later tweet, Today FM producer Tom Day said the tickets were rescinded just 30 minutes later.

Meanwhile, Simpson was once again the face of the Auckland Council’s emergency response today with mayor Wayne Brown not fronting for interviews. Simpson would not comment on Brown’s reluctance to be interviewed, nor the leaked texts in which he called the media “drongos”, but said the mayor had been out and about in Auckland helping local communities.

The Bulletin: Petrol tax cut and half-price public transport extension likely

Stuff’s Luke Malpass is reporting that prime minister Chris Hipkins will announce an extension to the 25-cent petrol tax cut and half-price public transport. Those were set to end by March 31, as announced by finance minister Grant Robertson in December.

The announcement is likely to be made today when Hipkins visits Auckland again. Malpass writes that  it “seems to be part of an emerging Labour strategy under Hipkins which moves away from sharply ideological politics and looks to fight back and his political opponents on cost of living and the economy.”

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

Wild weather starts to ease, but drivers urged to stay home if possible

An Auckland road closed after severe flooding (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The top of the country has endured another wild night of heavy rain and wind, with flash flooding hitting areas still recovering from Friday’s deluge.

Parts of Auckland were cut off earlier this morning as the northern motorway closed in both directions. Waka Kotahi said all lanes had now opened, however the Esmonde Road northbound on-ramp remains closed currently.

Parts of the Wairau Valley, where two people died before the weekend, have flooded once again.

However, the red heavy rain warning for Northland has been lifted.

Police have urged motorists to take extra care when travelling, and avoid the roads entirely if possible. “In some areas of heavy flooding, roadblocks are in place,” a spokesperson said. “Please do not drive through flood waters and remember hazards and debris could lurk beneath the surface and flood waters could be contaminated.”

Fire crews are also responding to what has been described as a steady stream of emergency calls that came in overnight. “Our communications centre has put our Multiple Incident Procedure in place. We are prioritising calls to properties with people in vulnerable circumstances, such as the elderly,” a statement, shared by Stuff, reads.

“We have sufficient resources around Auckland to respond to these priority calls, and we are asking people to only call 111 where life or property is at threat. Calls to flooded basements, for example, are not urgent. Please delay reporting those kinds of incidents until the current rainstorm has passed.”

The Herald has reported callouts to other Auckland suburbs including Hillcrest, Mount Roskill, Onehunga, Belmont, Lynfield, One Tree Hill, Remuera and Greenlane.