The campaign kicks into full swing

It’s Monday, September 4 and welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on

The agenda

  • Both National and Labour have now formally launched their campaigns. Read a report from Toby Manhire here and a funny from Mad Chapman here.
  • National’s tax policy continues to dominate headlines but is continuing to prompt questions. The party’s campaign chair defends the policy.
  • In The Bulletin: The battle of the Chrises and senior doctors to strike this week.
  • There’s drama brewing over an attack ad launched by the Council of Trade Unions.
  • On today’s agenda: A new policy and a Hawke’s Bay walkabout for National’s leader Christopher Luxon, while Labour’s Chris Hipkins chairs cabinet (as PM) from Wellington.

The campaign kicks into full swing

It’s Monday, September 4 and welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on

The agenda

  • Both National and Labour have now formally launched their campaigns. Read a report from Toby Manhire here and a funny from Mad Chapman here.
  • National’s tax policy continues to dominate headlines but is continuing to prompt questions. The party’s campaign chair defends the policy.
  • In The Bulletin: The battle of the Chrises and senior doctors to strike this week.
  • There’s drama brewing over an attack ad launched by the Council of Trade Unions.
  • On today’s agenda: A new policy and a Hawke’s Bay walkabout for National’s leader Christopher Luxon, while Labour’s Chris Hipkins chairs cabinet (as PM) from Wellington.
Sep 4 2023

Gore Council CEO resigns after 22 years

Mayor Ben Bell, CEO Stephen Parry, and the only force that may be able to sort this mess out, Gore’s supernatural brown trout statue. (Image: Jason Stretch)

The chief executive of the Gore District Council has resigned, it’s been reported today.

Stephen Parry will leave the role at the end of October after 22 years at the council.

It comes after tensions at the council spilled out into the media not long after the 2022 local elections, with reports Parry and mayor Ben Bell weren’t on speaking terms. A symbolic vote of no confidence in the mayor was set to take place earlier in the year before being called off at the eleventh hour.

In comments reported by the Otago Daily Times, councillor Richard McPhail thanked Parry for his “tremendous work” over the years. “He has been a champion for Gore and its ratepayers and a senior figure on Southland’s local government landscape.”

Parry told council staff via email that he left the role with no regrets “and a fair degree of excitement about what lies ahead”.

L-R: The famous Gore trout, CEO Stephen Parry and mayor Ben Bell (Image: Jason Stretch)

Hipkins shows off dossier of attack ads used against Labour


There was no concern that an attack ad targeting Christopher Luxon could in fact be helping the National Party when Labour’s Chris Hipkins arrived at a press conference moments ago.

Armed with a stack of previous attack ads directed at himself and the Labour Party, the prime minister opted to continue the war of words with the opposition.

Christopher Luxon was “thin-skinned”, said Hipkins, and was “trying to create a diversion” as National’s tax policy faced additional scrutiny.

“The National Party and their surrogates including the Taxpayers Union, Groundswell and Hobson’s Pledge have been running attack ads since I took office,” Hipkins told reporters. “I haven’t issued a media statament or called a press conference every time they have done that. I think they probably need to rethink whether [National] are cut out to be in government.”

Earlier today, National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop told media that the Labour Party had ditched “be kind” for “be nasty” by endorsing the American-style attack ad published today by the Council of Trade Unions.

Hipkins rejected this entirely. “It’s a bit rich given the level of attack advertising almost every day since I took on the job. I don’t think critiquing the potential effects of the National Party policies is something [the CTU] should shy away from,” he said.

He was not aware that the ad would be running today, but Hipkins said it wasn’t unusual for the CTU to campaign during the election period.

Thanks to Newshub for live-streaming the press conference – the screenshots above are from their footage.

National pledges flood and recovery ombudsman

A submerged paddock in the Esk Valley in February (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The National Party has launched its cyclone and flood recovery policy, promising to set up a specific ombudsman, speed up processes and cut red tape.

Announced by party leader Christopher Luxon on the campaign trail in Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay, the policy would prioritise infrastructure projects that connect communities and regions, expedite consenting processes and “unblock the EQC assessment pipeline”.

The proposed ombudsman would have the power to review government decisions and issue rulings and recommendations when they believed property owners had not been treated fairly. 

The policy was expected to cost $7m over two years, coming out of the National Resilience Fund.

Joined for the announcement by cyclone recovery spokesperson Chris Penk, Tukituki candidate Catherine Wedd and Napier candidate Katie Nimon, Luxon said the recovery process for Hawke’s Bay, which saw widespread devastation in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle in February, was taking too long and leaving the region in limbo.

Kiri Allan speaks out: ‘I’ve experienced all the stages of grief’

Kiri Allan in January 2023 (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Former minister Kiri Allan has taken to Instagram, sharing details of her time away from politics and a diagnosis of ADHD and PTSD.

Allan never returned to parliament after the car crash in late July. She had previously taken time off work for her mental health and personal reasons, returning to Wellington for just a few days before the incident that ended her political career.

In a post on Instagram, Allan said she had experienced all of the stages of grief over the past month. “Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and now, acceptance,” she wrote. “I’ve been wrapped up in love by those that love me genuinely, whānau and friends and I can’t express my gratitude to those that held my hand in some of the darkest times.”

Allan said she had previously been diagnosed with depression and anxiety but has since been told she has ADHD, PTSD and dysregulated emotions. “It was a slightly painful experience realising I’d been misdiagnosed and mis-medicated for years,” Allan wrote. “Now I’m getting the right support for that, but it’s a new journey of learning a complete different way of operating.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kiri Allan (@kiri_allan_mp)

Thanking her former boss Jacinda Ardern, Allan said the ex-PM was one of the “most incredible leaders” she had ever worked with. “[I] love you mate, and am forever grateful for the opportunities you gave me personally, but mostly for the way you led in some of our darkest hours,” said Allan.

On her mental health, Allan said she had been struggling for a long time and this year felt like “a rolling maul of yuck”, including the cyclone, “stuff unravelling in the media” and the end of a personal relationship. She compared the election campaign to 2005, saying it has “felt nasty” and “non policy-based”.

“I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason,” said Allan. “All I know is that I was deeply unhappy for a long while (for tonnes of reasons), and my close people knew I felt like I couldn’t keep going anymore, because I’m an all [or] nothing person, and that has plenty of consequences.”

A timely reminder: have you enrolled to vote?

(Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP via Getty Images)

With 40 days until election day, and the campaign kicking into top gear over the weekend, here’s your timely reminder: get enrolled to vote.

The Electoral Commission has just sent out some all-important dates. This coming Sunday, September 10, is the last day to enrol if you want to get an EasyVote card. That makes iot quicker and easier to vote in the election.

If you don’t enrol by Sunday, you can still vote up until election day – but you’ll need to cast a special vote.

Everyone who is enrolled by Sunday and has their details up to date will receive an EasyVote pack in the mail.

Some key election dates:

  • Sunday September 10: writ day, rolls close for printing;
  • Wednesday September 27: overseas voting starts;
  • Monday October 2 – advance voting starts in New Zealand; and
  • Saturday October 14 – election day, voting places open 9am to 7pm

National attacks attack ad: ‘Be kind has truly become be nasty’


The National Party has blasted an attack ad targeting its leader that cropped up on the front page of a national newspaper.

The Council of Trade Unions’ ad has a large picture of Christopher Luxon with the words: “Out of touch. Too much risk”. There’s also an entire website dedicated to attacking Luxon, focusing on previous comments the National leader has made.

Chris Bishop, National’s campaign chair, said it was American-style attack politics and “not what New Zealanders want in this election campaign”.

“‘Be kind’ has truly become ‘be nasty’ under Chris Hipkins and his union elite buddies,” said Bishop, accusing the “Labour-aligned” CTU of helping “their mate Chris Hipkins and his increasingly desperate Labour Party”.

Speaking to reporters at parliament, Bishop said he didn’t have a problem with papers like the Herald accepting the advertisement, but he did have an issue with the CTU for launching it. “I think it’ll backfire,” he said. “I think New Zealanders will see through it.”

Hipkins will speak to media later this afternoon.

SkyCity share price plummets

Following this morning’s report that SkyCity could have a 10-day suspension on its casino operation, there’s more bad news for the company.

Its share price has fallen by about 10% in the opening minutes of trade this morning, wiping $174 million off the overall value. The individual share price has dropped by 23 cents down to $2.09, about where it was sitting a month into the 2020 Covid lockdown.

Winston Peters rides a horse and wears a hat


I know it’s exactly what Winston Peters wants me to do but I can’t stop watching this video and I think it must be shared. From the music, to the hat, to the horse and to Peters’ incredible pronunciation of rodeo (see: row-DAY-oh) that is probably correct but just very different to how I say it – this is cinema.

Election live: The day ahead

Here’s a look at what’s coming up from our political parties today (that I’ve been informed of):

  • Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins will largely not be in front of the public today, though he will front for some media interviews. Cabinet will continue to meet during the campaign period, though Hipkins won’t be hosting the typical press conference. He will, however, speak to media at about 1.30pm.
  • National Party leader Christopher Luxon is visiting Hawke’s Bay for a walkabout in Havelock North. At lunchtime, he’ll release a new policy before capping off the day with some lovely sign waving with party supporters.
  • Green co-leader Marama Davidson is in Auckland, though I don’t know why at this stage.

SkyCity facing temporary gambling suspension over customer complaint

SkyCity is looking to launch an online gambling platform, but run it from overseas to get around it being illegal in NZ (Getty Images)

SkyCity could temporarily lose its gambling license for a period “in the range of 10 days” after a complaint from a former customer.

The Department of Internal Affairs has been looking into it since February last year, when the customer, who had gambled at the Auckland casino until early 2021, first came forward.

According to reports, the DIA has asked the Gambling Commission to suspend the casino’s license suggesting the chain did not comply with requirements to detect incidences of continuous play by the customer.

“SkyCity is committed to maintaining the highest standards of host responsibility best practice, with priority given to minimising the impacts associated with problem gambling as an area of primary focus,” a spokesperson for the company said.

“SkyCity has made, and continues to make, significant investment and enhancements in its host responsibility controls, technology and resources.”

In March last year, Newshub’s Michael Morrah reported that the DIA was investigating after reports of continuous play by gamblers.

The Bulletin: Senior doctors and dentists to strike this week

Around 5,500 doctors and 100 dentists will strike on Tuesday afternoon after attempts at mediation between Te Whatu Ora and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) failed this weekend. The senior medical specialists will strike from 12pm to 2pm, with another two hour strike scheduled for September 13 and a four-hour stoppage in the works should the shorter strikes fail to create progress. This is the first time the union has gone on a nationwide strike. Some 250 planned medical operations will be postponed this Tuesday, reports the Herald’s Rachel Maher, in addition to outpatient visits during the strike.

Te Whatu Ora’s Andrew Slater tells Maher it offered senior doctors and dentists salary increases over the next year of between 7% and 12.9%, an increase of between $15,000 and $26,000, but ASMS head Sarah Dalton says that’s not true. “I can tell you now that if we, if what they have put on the table would have offered, annualised, that level of increase to our members, we would have snapped it up, but it’s not,” Dalton said. Asked for a response, “Slater confirmed the figures were simply an increase to a 15-point system they already have in place, where the doctors receive a pay increase each year after a pay review.”

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 38,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture. 

National campaign chair stands by tax plan as questions continue to be asked

Chris Bishop (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The National Party’s standing by its tax policy as holes threaten to be poked in the major election year plan.

Announced almost a week ago, the plan has dominated headlines and risked overshadowing the party’s own campaign launch yesterday. As The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire wrote, the swish launch in South Auckland did not deliver any new policies, simply a pledge to implement previously announced ones. And Stuff’s Tova O’Brien commented that without a new policy for punters to get excited by, “Luxon’s media conference after the launch was instead totally overshadowed by questions the leader was unable to answer about how National plans to pay for its tax cuts”.

The questions hang largely on one aspect of the plan: the foreign buyer tax that would see speculators pinged 15% on the purchase of any luxury home over $2 million. However, it’s since been pointed out by tax and financial experts that the numbers may not quite stack up. Shamubeel Eaqub told Newshub Nation over the weekend that National’s revenue estimates were “bullshit”, while Robin Oliver, the tax expert named by National, said he wasn’t consulted until after the plan had been released.

Speaking to RNZ this morning, National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop described the backlash to the tax plan as “confected outrage from the Labour Party” and said that the advice provided by Oliver was “not so much advice for us but he is on the record saying it is possible to do”.

Without naming any further names, Bishop said his party had been consulting with a range of economic, legal, financial and tax in the development of our policy. “We are extremely confident what we are proposing can be done and it will be done under National,” he said.

“Lots of other countries to similar things… we’re not inventing a new thing that other countries don’t do. The reality is there will be people who want to buy property and invest here and if they do we’re saying that’s fine… then they have to pay a 15% foreign buyer tax.”

However, Bishop admitted that the policy could not apply to people who became New Zealand residents.

Chris Bishop (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the other big story of the weekend: protesters at both the Labour and National campaign launches. Bishop said his party was taking the necessary precautions to avoid aggressive scenes, but said in an election campaign when the leaders were in public, “these things are going to occur”.

He added: “I’d just encourage the people on the other side of the fence so to speak to show a bit of respect to the democratic process. We’ve got free speech in this country, they’re entitled to their views but leaders are also entitled to go out and campaign and that applies to Chris Luxon but also frankly it applies to Chris Hipkins as well.”