Poll questions follow Hipkins on the campaign

It’s Friday, September 8 and welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund on deck from Northland, with support from our news team back in Auckland.

Get in touch with me on

Don’t know who to vote for? Find here.

The agenda


Poll questions follow Hipkins on the campaign

It’s Friday, September 8 and welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund on deck from Northland, with support from our news team back in Auckland.

Get in touch with me on

Don’t know who to vote for? Find here.

The agenda

Sep 8 2023

Today’s top campaign stories (and more)

That’s for this week’s election live updates. We’ll still keep an eye on the news over the weekend and may dip in and out if anything big is announced. Tonight I’m heading off to interview an MP about their election campaign – more on that soon – and tomorrow I’ll be popping along to a political rally.

For now, here are the top stories you may have missed from today:

What do all the latest polls tell us?

Image: Archi Banal

Three new results from polling we’ve been tracking were published in the last few days, and draw a vivid underscore beneath the challenge facing Chris Hipkins and Labour.

Here’s the bird’s eye view.

If we translate that average into parliamentary seats (and work on the assumption that Te Pāti Māori wins at least one seat and Top's Raf Manji falls short in Ilam), National would win 46 seats and Act 18, comfortably enough to govern with 64 of 120.

If, for argument's sake, we were to generously round up New Zealand to 5%, what then? It all looks very different. National would win 43 seats and Act 17, a combined 60; half the house but not enough to govern.

Looking at the wider trend, the bloc summary below shows that a steady rise for the Greens is insufficient to offset a greater decline for Labour.

Two other polls have sprung up in recent weeks: A Guardian/Essential poll and another released this morning, by Freshwater Strategy for the Post. Both put New Zealand First above the 5% threshold.

Another poll, another blow for Labour

(Image: Archi Banal)

Let’s cap off this week of the campaign with another poll – one that again has a comfortable lead for the centre right.

The new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll has both major parties roughly static, but it’s the minor parties that are shaking things up a bit. National is up just 0.1% to 35%, while Labour drops back 0.6 points to 26.5%. Act’s up to 14.3%, the Greens are up to 12.7% – and New Zealand First doesn’t make the cut. It’s back below the 5% threshold in this poll to 3.9%.

On these results, National would pick up 45 seats. Coupled with Act’s 19, the right bloc would hold 64 seats – up three on last month’s Curia poll. Labour’s 35 seats wouldn’t be enough to form a government, even with 17 from the Greens and four from Te Pāti Māori – that’s a combined total of 56 seats.

Even if Winston Peters and New Zealand First did claw back into parliament, the right bloc would be able to govern – but only with a one seat majority.

Notably, this poll, which was conducted between August 31 and September 6, takes into account both Labour’s free dental policy and National’s tax plan, as well as the campaign launches for both parties.

Luxon vs Hipkins
(Image: Archi Banal)

Tama Potaka’s ‘cat campaign’ for Hamilton West

National’s Tama Potaka

In the run up to Election 2023, The Spinoff asked a smattering of MPs and candidates from across the political spectrum for a door knocking story – something fun, funny, shocking or surprising from out on the campaign trail.

Here’s National’s Tama Potaka, winner of last year’s Hamilton West byelection:

In Hamilton West we’re running a cat campaign (although some of my team are not all that keen on that). A highlight of my week is getting back to Hamilton West and door knocking with my awesome team and meeting the people that make up our fantastic electorate. Their stories and experiences are what drive me to ensure I am working to make Hamilton West the best place to grow up and grow old. One of the highlights other than meeting the people is meeting their furry friends, in particular their ngēru (cats). 

Like the friendly rivalry of Hamilton West vs Hamilton East, there is the friendly rivalry of ngēru vs kurī (dog). Obviously, ngēru are superior (in my opinion). For me, I love getting out there and meeting our constituents’ cats. If you look through my camera roll, it’s my whānau, Hamilton, and cats. Hamilton West is home to many types of cats, and as my team knows, if I am not posting on Facebook about the latest addition to the Paws for Potaka team, I am telling everyone about the additions. 

Not all in my team are as cat mad as me. My campaign manager and his whānau are a house of dog lovers, leading to some friendly debates over the merits of ngēru vs kurī. It’s all in good spirits, adding a touch of playful rivalry within our ranks.

In the end, my adoration for cats goes beyond personal preference. It represents the values I hold dear and am working hard to bring to our community. Each ngēru I meet, each cat-loving household I visit, reinforces my commitment to promoting personal responsibility and self-sufficiency within Hamilton West. Through my camera lens and the stories I gather, the vibrant tapestry of our electorate comes alive, showcasing unity, diversity, and the everlasting charm of our furry friends.

National’s Tama Potaka

Read more: Labour’s Georgie Dansey (candidate in the neighbouring Hamilton East) on how she dislocated her shoulder while out door knocking.

‘Structured literacy’ would be mandated under National

Education minister Erica Stanford (Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone)

The National Party has added to its plan to improve the country’s education system, pledging to mandate the “structured literacy” approach in schools.

Earlier in the year, the party already announced that it would make younger students learn reading, writing and maths for an hour each per day as part of its education policy.

Erica Stanford, National’s education spokesperson, said literacy rates in New Zealand have been steadily declining. “Currently, after eight years of schooling, only 56% of pupils are able to read as well as they should for their age. Further, kids in low-decile schools are almost two years behind their peers in high-decile schools,” she said.

The new “literacy guarantee”, which comes with a $60.5 million price tag, would require schools to use the structured literacy approach to teach reading. That’s the method that teaches in an “explicit and systematic way”, starting with the smallest units of sound and building from there, explained Stanford.

“Mountains of evidence shows it is the most effective method to equip children with strong reading skills. However, not all schools currently use it,” she said. “National will not play Russian roulette with our children’s future by leaving the fundamentals of reading to chance.”

Earlier in the year, an investigation on Paddy Gower Has Issues looked at the different approaches to teaching learning and the impacts they were having on young New Zealanders.

Labour promises rebate for insulation, electrification upgrades

Image: Getty Images/The Spinoff

Labour would introduce a “rebate pilot” programme over three years, targeted at encouraging homeowners to make their properties warmer and more energy efficient.

The rebate would mean anyone who undertakes a deep retrofit, full insulation upgrade or electrification of their existing home would be eligible for a 30% rebate of up to $18,000. For homes that don’t require a full retrofit, a $7,000 insulation rebate would still be available.

Energy spokesperson Megan Woods said the plan would reduce emissions, bring down household energy bills, build demand for deep retrofits, and grow jobs. “Warmer, dryer homes have massive potential to help decrease energy demands, and therefore emissions, especially when you swap out gas appliances,” Woods said.

“Everyone deserves to live in a warm, dry home. We know much of New Zealand’s housing stock is energy inefficient.”

O’Connor not complacent in Ōhāriu

Greg O’Connor arrives at parliament in 2020 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Labour’s Ōhāriu candidate’s giving nothing away in what looks set to be one of this election’s most fascinating races.

Greg O’Connor won the seat in 2017 after long-serving MP Peter Dunne, the leader of United Future, announced he’d be leaving parliament. In 2020, O’Connor rode the red wave to a sizeable majority of 12,000 votes.

But this time around, he’s got tough competition from a higher profile opponent: National’s deputy leader Nicola Willis.

Speaking to media alongside prime minister Chris Hipkins in Johnsonville today, O’Connor said he believed the two competitors started as equals. “The moment you think you don’t have to earn every vote, you’re on the back foot,” he said. “I’ve been on the ground here… omnipresent and I’m just hoping that being available to the people of Ōhāriu will be enough to entice them to vote for me.”

Asked about what big issues he was hearing from his constituents, O’Connor signalled that many wanted redevelopment of the Johnsonville shopping centre to start quickly. “I’ve been working closely with the owners and that’s something, being in the heart of the electorate… I’d like to think the bulldozers will be in there sooner rather than later,” he said.

Willis told The Spinoff last month that being an electorate MP was something she’d always wanted. “I think the honour of truly representing people – being able to be the one that fights for a constituent, no matter what the issue is, removed from left and right politics but more ‘how can I be your advocate’ – there’s something very rewarding about that,” she said.

Greg O'Connor arrives at parliament
Greg O’Connor arrives at parliament in 2020 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Off the back of a series of poor poll results for Labour, Hipkins said that the campaign was only just starting to ramp up for his party, though acknowledged National had been in election mode for much of the year. “I’ve been focused on running the country. There’s a huge undecided vote out there so there’s every reason to get out there and campaign hard, that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing,” he said.

Pressed on whether or not his heart was really in it, Hipkins refuted that he wasn’t committed to the campaign and said he was getting into areas that didn’t always back him. “We’re not just going to places where people agree with us,” said Hipkins, a possible dig at Christopher Luxon who spent yesterday in the heart of National country: Queenstown.

Writing for The Press today, Andrea Vance noted the visit was a “parachute into friendly territory” and looked more like a holiday for Luxon than a campaign stop.


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All the new stuff coming soon to a screen near you

From The Spinoff’s Rec Room newsletter, edited by Chris Schulz.

According to critics, Telemarketers is the corporate exposé of the year. In the early 2000s, two teens working at the fundraising company Civic Development Group began filming some of the stuff going on at a place that would soon be fined for “the biggest telemarketing scam in American history”. The results, executive-produced by the Safdie brother, deliver a high stakes Michael Moore-style doco in three hectic parts. “Compulsively watchable,” says Vulture. This one’s on Neon from Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Apple TV+ has The Changeling, the horror series based on Victor LaValle’s twisted novel. LaKeith Stanfeld is getting rave reviews for this one: “Maybe one of the most nuanced and gut-wrenching performances you’ll ever see in a horror series,” says a critic for the San Jose Mercury News. Elsewhere, take your pick from a Netflix slate that includes season five of Top Boy, as well as new shows Spy Ops, Scouts Honour and the nature doco Predators narrated by Tom Hardy.

Those of you still hanging out for more zombies will be thrilled by the launch of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, a spinoff that’s earning comparisons to The Last of Us. It’s on TVNZ+ from Monday. Disney+ has season two of I Am Groot, Neon has the fourth season of A Black Lady Sketch Show. And don’t forget the biffo: the Rugby World Cup kicks off on Saturday morning at 7.15am with a grudge match between New Zealand and France. If that’s not enough sport for you, the Warriors’ first playoff game in ages kicks off at 6pm. Both games are live on the free-to-air Sky Open (the channel formerly known as Prime).

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If you’re heading out for a night at the movies, there’s Theatre Camp (“A deeply charming and hilarious stage kid mockumentary,” says The Guardian), My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, and Biosphere, a sci-fi comedy starring Mark Duplass living in a dome and attempting to procreate with his male cellmate. Yes, really. It’s had great reviews.

Coming Monday: Dear Jane


Coming Monday, Dear Jane is a five-part podcast series for The Spinoff, exploring the impact of a sexual relationship between a young teenage girl and her adult youth group leader.

Watch the trailer below:

Dear Jane was made with the support of NZ On Air

Subscribe to Dear Jane on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.


If this series brings up any issues for you there is help available 24-7:

  • Helpline – free call or text 1737
  • Youthline – phone 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email 
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline – phone 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Watch live: Parliament officially dissolved ahead of election

Photo: Getty Images

While parliament actually wrapped up about two weeks ago, it’s not until today that it technically draws to a close ahead of election day. That’s because the 53rd parliament will be formally dissolved at a ceremony at 11am.

What’s this all about? Well, as explained by parliament’s Facebook account: “The dissolution brings the current parliament to an official end, when the New Zealand Herald of Arms Extraordinary to The King reads a proclamation signed by the governor general.”

Want to tune in? You can do so via YouTube.

Two thirds think NZ heading in the wrong direction

Job cuts are happening throughout the public sector after government action plans called for cost-cutting measures

There’s more bad news for Chris Hipkins with a new poll highlighting what direction New Zealanders think the country is going on. Spoiler: it’s not good.

Writing for The Post, Luke Malpass has details of a new Freshwater Strategy Poll showing 63% of voters think the country is heading in the wrong direction. By comparison, a fifth – 21% – think it is headed in the right direction and 15% reckoned it was pretty static.

This is perhaps an explanation for why Labour’s been accused of running a slightly more ruthless campaign than in recent election years. As Malpass summarised: “It is generally considered in New Zealand that negative campaigns only work when the public think that the country is going in the wrong direction. When most people are happy, the message doesn’t resonate.”

The opposition has also latched onto the perception of New Zealand’s misdirection. Christopher Luxon has in recent weeks taken to discussing how New Zealand needs a “turnaround”, something he claimed to be good at leading during his time in the business sector. At a speech in Hamilton this morning, as reported by Stuff, Luxon focused on the country’s infrastructure issues.

“Why is it that when our political systems and local governments or central government change, projects get turned off and on and off and on,” Luxon queried.

You can read more on the poll here (paywalled)

Listen: Chris Hipkins on leading a conservative left-wing government

The prime minister seems to be moving forward with his plan to ignore the infrastructure deficit by ruling out wealth and capital gains taxes. He joins Bernard Hickey on the latest episode of When the Facts Change to defend his stance as a steady, status quo government and tries to win the vote of Bernard in the process.

Listen below or wherever you find your podcasts

The day ahead

It’s the first Friday of the election campaign proper – and here’s where our political leaders are today (that we know of).

  • There’s another Chamber of Commerce breakfast and speech for Labour leader Chris Hipkins this morning in Wellington. From there, he’ll link up with the party’s Wellington central candidate for a visit to KiwiClass, before heading into the Ōhāriu electorate to visit Quay Marine. Before lunchtime he’ll address the media.
  • National leader Christopher Luxon is further north today. He’s also addressing yet another Chamber of Commerce event this morning in Hamilton, before heading over to Tauranga for a visit to the Bay Oval Pavilion in Mount Maunganui (Luxon really loves a sport ground). There will be a policy announcement from a school later this afternoon.
  • No word from the Act Party today but presumably David Seymour will be on “big pinky”.
  • Not much from the Green Party co-leaders today, however Marama Davidson will be down in Ashburton this evening for a public event on the future of Aotearoa.

Anything I’ve missed? Let me know. Also: I’m in Northland this weekend. Anything I should be doing related to the election campaign?

The Bulletin: Wait times worse than ever, health agency promises better

The number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment continues to grow, the latest Te Whatu Ora data shows. Between March 2022 and March 2023 the numbers increased in 14​ of the 20 health districts, with by far the worst waitlist in Canterbury​, where 948​ people were waiting longer than a year at the end of March. That’s just shy of a staggering four times increase since March 2022, when Canterbury’s number was 238.

It’s more dire news for Canterbury’s struggling health service, following the announcement yesterday that Christchurch’s only 24 hour surgery clinic would be forced to close overnight until Monday, due to nursing shortages. On waiting times, there’s some good news: Te Whatu Ora says it’s still on track to reach its goal of zero patients waiting longer than 12 months for treatment, excluding those waiting for orthopaedic surgery, by December 31 this year.

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.  

Labour’s internal polling has dipped into 20s, PM admits

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

You can add another must-listen to your election year podcast agenda because Tova O’Brien is back with a new self-titled show at Stuff, and the first episode was a cracker.

In a lengthy interview with prime minister Chris Hipkins, it’s revealed that that Labour’s own polling has dipped below the all-important 30% mark, in line with recent public poll results. That revelation came from Hipkins himself after it was put to him by O’Brien that a caucus source had described the internal polling as “fucked”.

Hipkins denied this, but admitted that the polling has fluctuated below and around the 30-point mark.

“That is very, very bad news for the red team,” writes O’Brien in her column today. “It was a sucker punch for the party when Labour tipped into the terrible twenties in the latest 1 News Verian poll on 29%, the fact it’s now coming from Labour’s own pollsters will mean they can’t bury their heads in the sand, they can’t pretend it was just a blip.”

It follows a new Talbot Mills Corporate poll that had Labour at 30% support, down from 32% last month and giving it “one of its worst scores in that poll since it went into government in 2017”, reports the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan. And yesterday’s first Post/Freshwater poll released yesterday morning had Labour on just 26%.

In another interview with Hipkins, this time on Bernard Hickey’s podcast When the Facts Change, the prime minister defended his six months in the top job and his decision to opt for stability over revolutionary.

“I think the goals that the Labour Party has and our hopes and aspirations for New Zealand’s future are exactly the same as they were back in 2017. I think what has changed though is we’ve had a global pandemic in the meantime, and we’ve had to respond to a series of unprecedented events,” Hipkins said.

“What I’m putting before the electorate this year is a series of policy commitments that are deliverable, that are achievable, that are affordable.”

Hickey concludes his write-off in this morning’s edition of The Kākā newsletter by adding: “In my view, he’s actually saying: ‘we’re choosing to stick with the status quo because it works well for median voters’.”