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OCR hits 3.5%

It’s Wednesday October 5 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • Former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross has been found not guilty in a lengthy trial related to political donations.
  • Auckland’s rail ‘chaos’ needs a solution, says National’s Simeon Brown.
  • A new poll has Labour on its lowest result since October 2017, when Jacinda Ardern became prime minister.
  • The official cash rate has risen by 50 basis points to 3.5%.
blog-oct-5.jpg

OCR hits 3.5%

It’s Wednesday October 5 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • Former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross has been found not guilty in a lengthy trial related to political donations.
  • Auckland’s rail ‘chaos’ needs a solution, says National’s Simeon Brown.
  • A new poll has Labour on its lowest result since October 2017, when Jacinda Ardern became prime minister.
  • The official cash rate has risen by 50 basis points to 3.5%.
Oct 5 2022

Cops caught posing as window washers

police-car-alt.jpeg

Police in Auckland have been caught posing as window washers in order to snap drivers using their cell phones at traffic lights.

Footage of the incident was sent to Today FM’s Duncan Garner, who discussed it on his morning radio show today. Garner labelled the behaviour of the officers as intimidating, though some callers into his programme disagreed.

You can listen to the full discussion here and watch the footage below.

In a statement, police defended the use of plain clothes operations. However, they said that dressing officers as window washers was out of line. “We will be communicating with our staff this should not be happening in future,” a spokesperson told Today FM.

“There are lessons here for our staff on the appropriate way to conduct these operations in future and I will be ensuring those conversations will be had.”

Auckland voter turnout continues to look quite shit

Voters will be using  Single Transferable Voting and Māori wards for the first time (Image: Tina Tiller)

With not quite three days to go until ballot boxes are sealed closed, the prospects of an increase in voter turnout are looking slim. The latest tally provided by Auckland Council has 23% of eligible votes received as of today’s mailbag. That compares with 26.8% in the last local elections. Then, the final turnout finished up at 35.3%

It's not a good idea now to return your ballot via post, but you can go to one of the ballot boxes across the super city region. If you don't have voting papers, you can cast a special vote. Find more information here.

OCR jumps by fifth consecutive hike of 0.5%

With a recession looming, Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr warned of a need to curb consumer spending in the lead-up to Christmas. (Photo: Getty Images)

The official cash rate has risen by 50 basis points to 3.5% – the fifth consecutive 0.5% increase.

It’s been rising steadily as part of the central bank’s plans to tackle rising inflation and the cost of living.

The last time it was this high was in April 2015.

In a statement, the Reserve Bank said it remained appropriate to continue to tighten monetary conditions at pace. “Core consumer price inflation is too high and labour resources are scarce,” the bank said.

“Global consumer price pressures remain heightened. The global demand for goods and services is exceeding supply capacity, putting upward pressure on prices. Food and energy prices are being particularly exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.”

Committee members agreed that monetary conditions needed to continue to tighten, the bank said, until they are confident there is sufficient restraint on spending to bring inflation back within its 1-3% per annum target range.

Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr and finance minister Grant Robertson (Photo: Getty Images)

Image of the day: The Big Snow, 2022/1992

Image: Toby Morris

The image of the day comes from Mother Nature.

Image: Toby Morris

This morning large parts of the South Island have been hit by extreme weather, with heavy snow warnings in place for Otago, Southland, large parts of Canterbury and even parts of Marlborough. Perhaps coincidentally, we’ve just published a beautiful personal piece by John Summers, who uses a childhood memory of snow falling on Christchurch in 1992 as a starting point for thinking about taking up space and being a good boy. Highly recommended.

Government finances stronger than expected

Grant Robertson announces cost of living package extension on July 17 (Photo: Getty Images)

The government’s books are in a much stronger position than initially forecast.

The operating balance before gains and losses – or OBEGAL – was at a deficit of $9.7 billion, about half of what was predicted in the May budget.

Grant Robertson, the finance minister, said it showed the economy was in a better state than at a comparable time during the global financial crisis.

“On the measures that matter the government has steered the New Zealand economy and government books through the one-in-100 year economic shock of the pandemic favourably compared to the GFC – our economy has bounced back quicker, unemployment is lower, and the increase in debt compared to the size of the economy is comparable,” he said in a statement.

Speaking to the Herald, Robertson said he would be taking a “balanced and cautious” approach to the better than expected state of the economy.

“Whether it is on tax cuts or anything else, it has already been banked, accounted for, and we have moved on from it,” Robertson said when asked what he might spend the money on.

Grant Robertson announces cost of living package extension on July 17 (Photo: Getty Images)

A higher than usual tax take was responsible for the healthy finances, with National’s Nicola Willis saying it reiterated that the government was addicted to spending.

“Booming revenue growth shows the government doesn’t have an income problem, it has a spending problem. A careful finance minister would find room for prudent tax relief while investing in public services – just as Steven Joyce, Bill English, and Michael Cullen did when they were in the role,” she said.

But the Council of Trade Unions said the strong economy should mean an investment in New Zealand’s future – like tackling housing, poverty, and the “$104 billion infrastructure gap”.

The latest OCR update is due at 2pm.

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Jami-Lee Ross not guilty in donations case

Jami-Lee Ross speaking outside the Wellington Central police station  (Radio NZ, livestream)

Former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross has been found not guilty in a lengthy trial related to political donations.

Ross was charged alongside three businessmen in relation to donations to the National Party. The three businessmen were then further charged for donations made to the Labour Party, alongside two men and a woman with name suppression.

After a seven-week trial, Justice Gault laid down three guilty verdicts in relation to the National Party donations, while all were acquitted in relation to Labour Party donations. Ross, and four others, were cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire has been in court – you can read his full report here.

Jami-Lee Ross, pictured at parliament in 2020, was found not guilty to crown charges in the Auckland High Court. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Auckland’s rail ‘chaos’ needs a solution – Simeon Brown

Hop key tags are popular on trains (Image: Supplied by AT)

The transport minister needs to “urgently talk” to the immigration minister to sort out Auckland’s transport woes, according to the National Party.

That shouldn’t be too difficult considering Michael Wood is responsible for both the transport and immigration portfolios.

It comes after Aucklanders were this week warned of disruption on the train lines over the next two years ahead of the opening of the city rail link. But while the maintenance work is required, there’s concern about a lack of bus drivers to fill the void from train cancellations.

It was revealed today that Auckland Transport, Environment Canterbury and Greater Wellington Regional Council have asked for immigration settings to be urgently reviewed to address the country’s bus driver shortage in time for the rail disruption.

National’s Simon Brown said a solution to the “chaos” was needed. “If the government is serious about getting people into public transport, they need to ensure people have reliable options available to them,” he said. “While Labour likes to talk a big game on public transport and light rail, the reality is very different.”

People won’t use public transport unless it’s reliable, said Brown – “and right now it is anything but reliable in Auckland”.

National leader defends plan to cut top tax rate after UK u-turn

QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 01: National Party leader Christopher Luxon addresses members of the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce and media during the annual New Zealand National Party caucus retreat on February 01, 2022 in Queenstown, New Zealand. The retreat brings all National Party MPs together ahead of the new parliamentary year. (Photo by James Allan/Getty Images)

National’s leader has defended his party’s plans to unravel the highest tax threshold should he become prime minister next year, despite financial chaos linked to a similar move in the UK.

British prime minister Liz Truss this week u-turned on a proposal to cut the top tax rate after it triggered a market fall.

But Christopher Luxon told RNZ he wasn’t concerned about a similar impact here. “The situation in the UK and the situation in New Zealand is very different,” he said. “You’ve got a UK government that’s talking about wholesale changes to a tax system and at the same time massive amounts of stimulus going in around energy payments in particular.”

Pressed specifically on National’s plan to cut the tax rate for the highest earners, Luxon said we lived in a very competitive world. “If we want the best talent to come here, we have to be the best,” he said. “New Zealand has a higher cost of living, we have lower wages.”

Luxon said there were more people leaving New Zealand than coming here and suggested our tax rates were one of the reasons for this. A major part of National’s tax plan remained indexing tax rates to inflation, he added.

The Bulletin: Concerns about train line closure continue

This morning the Herald’s Georgina Campbell has a report (paywalled) on three regional transport agencies writing to immigration minister Michael Wood. Auckland Transport, Environment Canterbury and Greater Wellington Regional Council are asking for immigration settings to be urgently reviewed to address the country’s bus driver shortage. It follows the news on Tuesday about the closure of Auckland train lines next year for a major rebuild project.

Services will be replaced by buses but as the agencies writing to the minister and Auckland Councillor Richard Hills note, we have a shortage of bus drivers. There is also concern that the likelihood of buses getting stuck in traffic will put people off public transport and 50,000 cars may be back on Auckland’s already congested roads.

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.  

New poll has Labour drop to lowest support since 2017

(Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images

A new poll has Labour on its lowest result since October 2017, when Jacinda Ardern became prime minister.

The Roy Morgan survey has Labour on 29.5%, a 5.5 point drop from the previous poll. Support for National is up half a percent to 36%.

While neither party has enough support on their own, National would be in a position to govern with help from Act, up 2% to 12.5%. The Greens are also polling at 12.5%.

That means a potential National/Act coalition sits on 48.5% – 6.5% points ahead of a Labour/Greens coalition on 42%.

On this poll, Te Pāti Māori would not be the kingmaker as it has been in a number of recent surveys. However, the party is polling at 3.5% (not enough to return to parliament without winning an electorate seat as it did in 2020).

Looking at the parties outside parliament: support for New Zealand First is down 0.5% points to 1%, The Opportunities Party was up 1.5% points to 2.5% and support for the New Conservative Party was unchanged at 0.5% in September.

The latest poll result comes after public bullying claims within both Labour and National, and also follows the prime minister’s trip overseas following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The recent TVNZ Kantar Public poll also had National in a position to govern with Act, though Labour was sitting at 34%.