Dec 4 2023

PM Luxon intending to attend Waitangi commemorations

Christopher Luxon and David Seymour at Waitangi on February 5, 2023. Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The new prime minister says he intends to visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for next year’s annual commemorations.

Christopher Luxon said no decisions have been firmly made yet, but he believed it was “important” to attend. “I think the reality for me is we’re going to be a government delivering for Māori,” Luxon said when asked how his attendance would be received.

“You can talk about words, bumper stickers, and rhetoric as much as you like but the hard cold facts are that Māori have gone backwards under the Labour government.”

Luxon said he would lead a “positive government” that would deliver for all New Zealanders. “My job is to model out what I want to see in this country which is more unity, everyone doing well and actually improved outcomes for everybody.”

Under previous National governments, Māori had done incredibly well and he believed this would continue under his leadership.

Christopher Luxon and David Seymour at Waitangi on February 5, 2023. Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Mini-budget due December 20, Willis says financial challenges ‘larger’ than expected

Nicola Willis (Image: Tina Tiller)

The government’s “mini-budget” will be released on December 20, coinciding with the release of Treasury’s half year economic update.

Finance minister Nicola Willis, joining the prime minister at this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference, said this budget will outline a number of “specific steps” the government will be taking to a more disciplined approach to spending decisions.

“I am concerned by the scale of the financial challenges left to us by the outgoing government,” said Willis. “The challenges fall into two broad categories. The first are risks that were referred to in the pre-election update but the true scale and urgency of which was not made clear for a range of reasons including commercial sensitivity. Some of these risks are now upon us and they are much larger than what had been suggested.”

The second challenge involved the “sheer number of government policy programmes” that had been funded on a short term basis, meaning the full scale of the cost involved wasn’t made available to National ahead of the election.

Preliminary advice, said Willis, was that it may cost “many billions of dollars” to plug the gaps. The government could still afford its proposed tax cuts.

Willis accused her predecessor Grant Robertson of finding a “clever work around” that meant the new government was not made aware of these challenges ahead of the election.

Legislation will be introduced to parliament next week which will restore the Reserve Bank’s mandate to a single focus on reducing inflation, which Willis labelled “enemy number one”.

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed that, as required by the law, Working for Families will be adjusted to compensate for inflation.

“Family Tax Credit rates will increase from $136 to $144 per week after tax for the eldest child, and from $111 to $117 per week for a subsequent child,” said PM Christopher Luxon. “The Best Start tax credit rate increases from $69 to $73 weekly after tax. These changes will come into effect on 1 April 2024.”

Watch live: PM Luxon fronts post-cabinet press conference

David Seymour, Christopher Luxon and Winston Peters arrive for the signing of the coalition agreement (Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

As we settle into the swing of the new government, we’re not going to be live-blogging every single post-cabinet press conference. But we will still be keeping an eye on them and bringing you the top lines.

Christopher Luxon will speak to media at 4pm today, ahead of the formal return of parliament tomorrow.

Expect questions on all the big topics du jour – this could include smoking, Winston Peters, Te Pāti Māori protests.

Courtesy of the Herald, you can follow along at home as well.

Teachers union concerned by decision to scrap gender guidelines

Image: Getty

The secondary schools teachers union will be asking the new education minister for a please explain over the government’s plan to ditch relationship and sexuality education guidelines from the curriculum.

As part of the coalition deal between National and New Zealand First, the governing will be axing the guidelines introduced in 2020, even though the guidelines were first implemented by former NZ First minister Tracey Martin.

The new education minister, Erica Stanford, said last week that a health curriculum will continue to be taught at schools, but that the focus on relationships and sexuality had “caused a huge amount of anxiety, and a rift between our parent communities and our schools”.

But that’s not good enough for the PPTA. Acting president Chris Abercrombie said he was concerned by how prime minister Christopher Luxon had framed the decision to repeal the guidelines.

“When asked by the media early last week about this policy, I said secondary teachers were not sure what the problem was that needed fixing. However, the prime minister’s comments, reported on Friday, give us cause for serious concern. None of the reasons he has given for the need for change are valid,” he said.

“The guidelines are evidence-based, coming with a separate pedagogical guide for teachers. The lead writer is an academic who is an expert in this field of knowledge, the guidelines are age appropriate – there are separate guidelines tailored for younger and older students – schools are required by the Education and Training Act to consult with their communities on the delivery of the health curriculum and parents can withdraw their children from all or part of it.”

These are the aspects that Luxon himself said he wanted in the curriculum.

“Not one of the reasons given by the prime minister appears to be valid,” said Abercrombie. “This is extremely disturbing given this change, initiated by NZ First,  was agreed to as part of the National Party’s coalition agreement with NZ First. We would have hoped the prime minister would have made sure there was a very sound rationale for this change before putting it in the agreement.”

Abercrombie said the union intended to raise its concerns during a meeting with Stanford soon.

Te Pāti Māori plans day of protest as parliament returns

Te Pati Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi and parliament’s debating chamber (Photos: Lynn Grieveson/Newsroom via Getty Images, NZ Parliament)

Parliament resumes this week, marking the first opportunity for the new government to set out its priorities and be challenged on them by the new opposition.

In anticipation of this, Te Pāti Māori has called for supporters to unite tomorrow morning for a day of protest.

According to Stuff, the protest will be in opposition to the government’s position on issues like co-governance and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Supporters have been urged to take part from 7am tomorrow morning across the North Island, with some traffic disruption likely in bigger centres. Police were “aware of the potential for gatherings”.

Te Pāti Māori’s new caucus has also vowed not to pledge allegiance to the King when they’re sworn in this week.

Closed Leigh Sawmill Cafe wants to reopen, but ‘no date set yet’

A popular Auckland cafe that has mysteriously closed its doors is hoping to reopen, but there’s no timeframe in place yet.

The Spinoff reported last week that both Cotto, the K Road pasta bar, and the Leigh Sawmill Cafe north of the city had suddenly stopped taking customers and started cancelling bookings.

The link between the two? Craig Anderson, an Auckland businessman involved in a number of hospitality businesses in the region.

After our report last week, Leigh Sawmill manager Susan Kaiser emailed on behalf of the Guinness brothers, the newly reinstated managers of the cafe. Kaiser confirmed that Anderson handed the keys back on Friday November 24, and the lease was relinquished the following day. Other details regarding the lease agreement were confidential, she said.

Kaiser and the Guinness brothers were “in the process of organising all the suppliers, services and licences needed to reopen – no date set yet – with the aim of keeping it simple”, she wrote.

She was in communication with promoters and bands who have booked dates over the summer, and that when a plan for reopening was set, it would be posted on social media and advertised. Though nothing has yet been posted on the Leigh Sawmill Facebook page, the hours tab on the website reads, “CLOSED – BUT NOT FOR LONG! PLEASE KEEP CHECKING BACK IN”.

Read more on the closures of Cotto and the Leigh Sawmill Cafe here

Would you pay $18k to see Coldplay?

Coldplay in Perth (Photo: supplied)

Scalpers are already out in force for next year’s Coldplay tour, which will see the band play a record-breaking three nights at Eden Park.

Writing for his Boiler Room Substack, Chris Schulz has taken a look at some of the priciest tickets being advertised on websites like Viagogo. One person is attempting to get $18,000 for a ticket, which would likely have retailed on Ticketmaster for max $250 (if it’s even real). It’s not the only outrageously overpriced ticket, with others being listed for thousands as well.

Schulz has a long history of writing about Viagogo here at The Spinoff (and specifically how you should absolutely under no circumstances use the service to buy tickets). In 2021, he took a look at how New Zealand artists were being targeted by scammers hoping to make huge profits on resold concert tickets. And last year, he reiterated the pledge to never ever use Viagogo, while taking a look at how some resold tickets were going cheap on Trade Me (which is only marginally safer than other retailers).

Coldplay in Perth
Coldplay in Perth (Photo: supplied)

Ex-health worker pleads not guilty to illegally accessing databases


A former health worker has pleaded not guilty after appearing in court today on a charge of dishonestly accessing Te Whatu Ora databases.

As The Post reported, Barry Young (also sometimes identified as “Winston Smith”), who had appeared in videos with conspiracy theorist and former broadcaster Liz Gunn, could face seven years in prison.

The Wellington District Court was reportedly packed with supporters during Young’s appearance, with judge Andrew Nicholls warning those in attendance to keep quiet during the proceedings.

Young had worked for Te Whatu Ora since 2018, though has since been removed as an employee. He was arrested last night.

Prime minister Christopher Luxon praised the quick action of the health agency this morning in preventing the further spread of the anonymised health data.

‘An embarrassment’: NZ picks up ‘award’ for offshore oil ‘U-turn’

Image: Tina Tiller

New Zealand has picked up the less-than-coveted “fossil of the day” title at this year’s COP28 climate summit.

The “award” is given each day at the conference to a country deemed to be “doing the most to achieve the least” or “doing their best to be the worst” in terms of the progress in the climate negotiations and climate action.

In this case, New Zealand has been given the title over the government’s plans to reverse the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration.

As Newsroom reported, the government was said to be making “a U-turn on the way to a liveable future,” according to the award’s founder the Climate Action Network, which made the award.

Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb, chief executive of the World Wide Fund for Nature NZ, said the new government was achieving international recognition for all the wrong reasons.

“The science is unequivocal that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Reopening the door to offshore oil and gas exploration in the middle of a climate crisis is not only irresponsible, but makes us an embarrassment on the world stage,” Kingdon-Bebb said.

“We’ve already heard concerns from our neighbours in the Pacific and our trading partners won’t react kindly either if New Zealand doesn’t play its part in the global response to climate change.

“I urge the Government to wake up to the calls of the international community and abandon this ill-thought-out decision.”

The Bulletin: Health worker arrested over Covid vaccine data breach

A 56-year-old Te Whatu Ora staff member has been arrested in connection with a mass privacy breach of Covid-19 vaccination data and will appear in Wellington District Court today on a charge of accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes. The employee had no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge, according to Te Whatu Ora chief executive Margie Apa, and “appear[ed] to be trying to spread misinformation” using the data.

Last week a man believed to be a Te Whatu Ora staff member was interviewed on a New Zealand conspiracy theory site, where he claimed he developed a database for the vaccine rollout and quoted from that work, the Herald reports. He said the data backed up his claims of “excess mortality” due to the vaccine. Said Apa following the arrest, “What this individual is trying to claim about vaccines is completely wrong and ill-informed, and their comments demonstrate this.”

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 39,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture. 

‘We got it wrong’: The smoking issue that just won’t go away for PM Luxon

Christopher Luxon was sworn in as prime minister yesterday (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

A week on from being sworn in and the issue of smoking continues to dog the new government.

Prime minister Christopher Luxon admitted yesterday he had got it wrong after he and other senior ministers persistently said just one retailer in Northland would be able to sell cigarettes under the current plan to reduce smoking rates.

That figures was first raised by Luxon at a post-cabinet press conference last week, and yesterday morning saw Chris Bishop repeat it multiple times on TVNZ’s Q&A even after being told he was incorrect.

The correct number was 35, though Luxon told RNZ this morning that it didn’t change his government’s opposition to the proposed smoke free plans.

“We got our numbers wrong, but the meta, macro point remains,” said Luxon, adding that he believed concentrating cigarette supply into a smaller number of venues would create a “massive magnet for crime”.

While Luxon said it was fair for the media to criticise the government for this error, he told Newstalk ZB he believed there was some “nitpicking” going on from reporters as well.

“What I want people to understand is we are deeply committed to reducing smoking rates,” said Luxon. His government would maintain the status quo, which he admitted would not reduce smoking rates as quickly as the proposed regulations.

“What I’ve said is we got [the numbers] wrong, we’ve spoken to our team to make sure we fact check information. We want to make sure we’ve got really robust processes in place.” Luxon wouldn’t elaborate on what these processes would be.

Luxon said he didn’t believe the Labour government had a “guaranteed model” to show the impacts of its smoking rules either, but remained “proud” of what his government had announced as part of its 100-day plan.

The other issue continuing to stick around after a week in government remains the comments by deputy prime minister Winston Peters on media independence. Luxon told TVNZ that it was simply the result of having a three-way coalition. “We’re in a coalition government… It’s got three different parties. It’s got different personalities, different players,” he said. “We will all say and express things differently, and that is OK.”