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A clean campaign?

It’s Tuesday, September 5 and welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. 

Want to get in touch? Reach me on

The agenda


A clean campaign?

It’s Tuesday, September 5 and welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. 

Want to get in touch? Reach me on

The agenda

Sep 5 2023

Former Wellington mayor Andy Foster returns to NZ First

Andy Foster  back when he was mayor of Wellington (Photo: Getty Images)

NZ First leader Winston Peters has announced the return of a familiar face to his party: Andy Foster.

The former mayor of Wellington, who lost out to Tory Whanau in 2022, will stand in the Mana electorate this election.

“As a former mayor of our capital city, Andy has an exceptional resume and level of professional and governance experience that will be an asset to the team.” Peters told a conference in Wellington today, reports Stuff.

In the 2017 election, Foster was number 18 on the party list meaning he did not make it to parliament and ultimately headed opted to run for the Wellington mayoralty instead.

Foster said that he believed New Zealand was headed in the wrong direction. “We need a change, a reset, and a new beginning,” he said.

Individual charges dropped in Whakaari White Island case

The view from the Phoenix as Whakaari erupted (Photo: Netflix)

The charges WorkSafe laid against the directors of Whakaari Management Limited have been dismissed due to a lack of evidence. 

It follows a trial that started more than two months ago, after charges were laid in the wake of the 2019 eruption that killed 22 people.

While Whakaari Management Limited still faces two charges, Judge Evangelos Thomas said there wasn’t enough to go on in the case of brothers Andrew, James and Peter Buttle.

“These applications are not about whether any of Andrew, James or Petter Buttle are guilty or not guilty,” Thomas said. “It is about whether there is even enough evidence to continue with the charges at this stage.”

Act wants ‘productivity lens’ in policy, over treaty and climate

Brooke van Velden and leader David Seymour at the Act Party election campaign launch, July 2020. (Photo: Greg Bowker/Getty Images)

The Act Party doesn’t want government policy to be seen in relation to the Treaty or the climate – but instead solely through the lens of productivity.

Leader David Seymour today launched a new policy directly pertaining to productivity, promising to set a target for New Zealand to be in the 10 fastest-growing economies in the OECD and to “introduce a range of productivity-boosting policies to boost productivity growth”.

“Today, both parties are basically offering to carry on in the same direction. The only difference is that you might get different handouts from the same dwindling stock. It is time for real change, but that will depend on our productivity,” said Seymour.

“We like to believe New Zealand is a rich country, but we’re not. For every hour we work, New Zealanders produce 23% less value than Australians or 41% less than Americans.”

In a document titled “tackling our productivity crisis”, Act has proposed putting productivity at the “centre of everything”.

“For example, cabinet papers require ministers to ask whether policies will have Treaty, gender, climate or other implications. Instead, Act will ask how policies impact productivity and economic growth,” the document noted.

“An explicit objective for economic growth will focus the minds of the public service, allow ministers to shoot down anti-growth policies, and ensure voters can hold the government accountable for its performance.”

Watch: The Young Nat living her childhood dream


The smash hit of the 2020 election is back with Youth Wings season two. In episode one we meet Dallas Kete, the Young Nat from rural Waikato who keeps a letter from John Key in her childhood memory box, along with the fairy from her fifth birthday cake. These days, Dallas is engaged to a fellow Young Nat and joking with Christopher Luxon about starting a dating agency. Follow Kete to the frontlines of O-Week as she convinces punters to “Live, Laugh, Luxon” while also making time to visit her beloved Nana, the woman who first inspired her to get into politics over a coffee at their local Robert Harris. 

Youth Wings is made with support from NZ On Air.

Waikato university boss involved with development of National Party policy

(Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

RNZ’s Guyon Espiner has revealed the lengths that the boss of the University of Waikato went to assist National with developing one of its key election year policies.

The party revealed earlier this year it would build a new medical school at the university, investing $300 million in the plan.

According to this morning’s report, Neil Quigley, the university’s vice chancellor, was in constant contact with National’s health spokesman Shane Reti ahead of the policy launch. And he told Reti that the first student intake would be in 2027 – “a present to you to start your second term in government!”

Some have raised concerns that the university was at risk of compromising its independence by getting involved in politics in this way.

“It is critical that universities maintain political independence to ensure their academic freedom and their integrity,” Tertiary Education Union organiser Shane Vugler said.

Read the full in-depth report here

The day ahead

Your daily heads up of what our political parties are up to during the election campaign.

  • It’s Chris Hipkins‘ birthday and the Labour Party leader is in his hometown. He’s meeting with community leaders in Wainuiomata this morning, will speak to media after that and head into Lower Hutt this afternoon.
  • National’s Christopher Luxon is in the capital today. He’ll once again be out with a placard as a “human hoarding” today before addressing a BusinessNZ conference later in the day.
  • The co-leaders of the Green Party are splitting duties between Auckland and Wellington today. I don’t have any more info about what we can expect.
  • And the Act Party’s David Seymour will be unveiling a new policy in Auckland later today.

The Bulletin: $250m wiped off SkyCity’s market value

When markets closed last night, the casino company’s share price was at $2.02, a low not seen since the early days of lockdown. News broke yesterday morning that the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) had applied to temporarily suspend SkyCity’s gambling license after a complaint from a former customer.  The complaint alleges the company did not comply with requirements to detect incidences of continuous play by the customer and recommended cancelling its licence “for 10 days or so”.

Forsyth Barr’s head of research Andy Bowley believed the financial impact of that would be minimal but noted there was a question mark over “what else is out there, that the DIA could be investigating.” SkyCity’s Adelaide casino is under scrutiny for alleged breaches of anti-money laundering rules.

Separately, as Newshub reported last night, another customer is alleging she gambled for periods of up to 18 hours straight without intervention from staff. The Herald’s Anne Gibson reports (paywalled) on reactions from analysts, including one who noted yesterday marked the start of Gambling Harm Awareness Week. The Problem Gambling Foundation welcomed the DIA’s move and is recommending that the current number of allowed hours of continuous play be reviewed.

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.  

Hipkins happy to ‘scrutinise’, but says Labour’s campaign will be ‘clean’

Chris Hipkins at the Labour Party campaign launch, Aotea Centre, Auckland. Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty

The Labour leader said he’s happy for his party’s campaign to criticise and scrutinise the National Party, but would not endorse “personal” attacks.

An advert by the Council of Trade Unions targeting Christopher Luxon was plastered across the front page of the Herald yesterday morning, labelling him “out of touch”.

Chris Hipkins told reporters yesterday that he’s been the subject of attack ads across his time as prime minister and this ad was no different.

And today on RNZ, he said he was happy for Labour to continue scrutinising and at times criticising National’s vision for New Zealand. “If the National Party wants to be the government after the election you get scrutinised and you get criticised everyday… It’s not unhealthy,” Hipkins said. “Governments and those who seek to be government should be scrutinised, that’s democracy.”

As for the claims that this could be a negative election campaign, Hipkins said Luxon had called low income New Zealanders “bottom feeders” and went around the world calling New Zealand a “wet, whiny and negative country… I think New Zealanders can make their own judgements about who’s being negative”.

The National Party’s accused Labour of ditching the “be kind” mantra for “be nasty” with this particular ad, while Stuff’s Bridie Witton argued this morning that we could be in for the most negative election campaign ever. Hipkins told Newshub’s AM that Labour would be running a “clean” campaign. But, he added, “it’ll be a robust campaign”.

He wouldn’t endorse “personal attacks” such as those targeting an individual’s family, but was happy for the campaign to scrutinise promises by the opposition.

Meanwhile, a new Roy Morgan survey out this morning has support for Labour dropping even further – down to 24%. National was only in the early 30s, but with surging support for Act could comfortably form a government. Hipkins said Roy Morgan polls always fluctuated wildly and today only marked day two of the election campaign. “I think the numbers are going to shift around in the next six weeks”.