Elizabeth Kerekere has spoken to media for the first time since leaving the Green Party to become an independent.
Her decision to quit the party came amid bullying allegations, which Kerekere continues to deny. “It was my choice to resign. But as I said in a statement to the party, they’ve made it untenable to continue working,” she said today.
In the wake of Meka Whaitiri’s shock defection from Labour to Te Pāti Māori, there has been speculation Kerekere could also decide to join the party. She made it clear today that wasn’t going to happen. “I’m aware that people have assumed that I will go to Te Pāti Māori. I have good relationships with them but I am not going to Te Pāti Māoril,” said Kerekere.
It makes her the second to rule out working with Te Pāti Māori today alone, after National. Leader Christopher Luxon revealed on RNZ today that it would be impossible for his party to lead a coalition that included Te Pāti Māori.
Kerekere could still be courted, however. Te Pāti Māori’s co-leader Rawiri Waititi said his party was up for having a conversation with the newly independent MP.
Both of the big parties have fallen in support, but National has edged ahead of Labour and could form a government with the support of a soaring Act, were the numbers in a new poll by Curia for the Taxpayers’ Union to be repeated in an election.
National has fallen by 0.9 of a percentage point from last month to 35.6%. It moves ahead of Labour, however, which drops by 3.1 points to 33.8%. Most of the smaller parties see a rise, with Act enjoying a jump by 3.2 points to 12.7%. The Greens move up by 0.3 to 7.0%, te Pāti Māori rises by 0.8 to 3.7%, and NZ First is unchanged on 2.6%.
Based on those results, and assuming te Pāti Māori were to take at least one electorate seat, National would return 46 seats and Act 16, with Labour 44, the Greens 9 and TPM 5. Christopher Luxon this morning ruled out working with TPM and on these numbers he wouldn’t need their backing to form a government with Act’s support.
Chris Hipkins’s net favourability falls by six points to +22%, but that doesn’t translate into good news for Christopher Luxon, who falls by a point to -7%. Among undecided voters, Hipkins returns +30% and Luxon -26%.
Auckland’s budget hole has blown out to $375 million, bringing with it the possibility of an even bigger rate rise.
Mayor Wayne Brown, freshly back from Sydney, said in a press release that “enough is enough” – and pledged to plug the hole.
“Unless we can set Auckland Council on a path of financial sustainability and reduce our debt, then this gaping hole will only get bigger in the years to come,” said Brown.
“To cover the budget shortfall with rates alone would require an average rate increase of 22.5%. That is to provide the services already planned for, with nothing extra.”
The final proposed budget will be released at the end of the month. Recent consultation showed a significant amount of interest in the budget, though Aucklanders appeared lukewarm on the mayor’s proposed cuts.
“The council will meet to solve this problem over the next couple of weeks,” said Brown. “Councillors need to be part of a balanced solution that doesn’t involve just hiking rates or adding to our debt mountain.”
This was announced during Monday’s post-cabinet press conference but in a lapse on my part, I didn’t write it up here. We’ve just had a press release sent out with the details, however, so here are the new ministerial allocations following Meka Whaitiri’s defection:
Kieran McAnulty becomes lead minister for cyclone recovery in Hawke’s Bay;
Rachel Brooking becomes minister for food safety;
Peeni Henare becomes minister for veterans;
Willow-Jean Prime becomes associate minister of statistics; and
Jo Luxton becomes a minister outside of cabinet, holding the portfolios of Customs, associate agriculture and associate education.
Interestingly, as also announced on Monday, (but also not included in the live updates by me), Nanaia Mahuta requested to relinquish her portfolio as the Waikato lead minister for cyclone recovery due to her travel schedule (she is foreign affairs minister). Michael Wood will take on this role.
Members this morning received an email from party leader Christopher Luxon doubling down on the commitment not to work with the minor party and asking for support ahead of this year’s election.
“National is deeply committed to improving outcomes for Māori, but doesn’t believe separate systems are the best way to do this,” the email, which generally echoed a press release sent to media today, said.
“A National government will deliver strong economic management to address the cost-of-living crisis and raise incomes so all Kiwis can get ahead. National will campaign hard for every vote in the election this year so we can become the stable government that New Zealand needs.”
WorkSafe will investigate the death of a schoolboy at the Abbey Caves near Whangārei.
It was confirmed this morning that a search for the boy, reported by Stuff as being 15, had resulted in a body being found. The teen was swept away in floodwaters during a school visit to the caves alongside 16 others, including two adults.
A WorkSafe spokesperson confirmed an investigation was under way. Police are also investigating the death.
A “siloed and ineffective” system within Wellington City Council meant that dangerous street lamps in the city were left unaddressed for years, an internal review has found. “Sixteen street lamps crashed to the ground around Wellington between 2019 and 2023, including one that fell onto an empty parked car and three that fell onto footpaths,” reports Stuff’s Tom Hunt. “However, the message did not make it to senior council management until a Stuff article in February.”
Escalation of identified risks was “by word of mouth and only made to immediate managers”, meaning a message had to pass through three separate managers to get from the frontline to the chief infrastructure officer, the report found. The falling faulty street lights were installed in 2018 and weigh about 15 kg. “They are great heavy things,” said former city councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman, who first alerted Stuff to the issue. “They will just kill you.”
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Auckland Council received 39 requests for service last night after a day of wild wind and rain, while fire and emergency reported just a “handful” of call-outs for flood-related issues.
Emergency officials have just wrapped a morning briefing where it was reiterated that all weather warnings for the super city have been lifted. However, there was a chance for passing showers and high wind today, which could see the harbour bridge closed and some other possible disruption.
Auckland deputy mayor Desley Simpson, who was yesterday delegated the mayor’s powers to lead the emergency response, said she spent most of Tuesday at the Auckland Emergency Management coordination centre. “I was pleased to see that all our partner agencies were working together with AEM to make sure Aucklanders had what they needed,” she said. “I also want to thank Aucklanders for heeding the warnings, being prepared and for their patience as they navigated some tricky conditions.”
Auckland Transport has confirmed travel has resumed to normal today after widespread disruption yesterday afternoon. Rail services have resumed and buses are operating at scheduled times tables with only a few services cancelled.
Simpson said she wasn’t sure if mayor Wayne Brown was back in Auckland after his trip to Sydney yesterday, but assumed he would be present for a council meeting at 9.30am.
In recent weeks Christopher Luxon has come close to unequivocally ruling out a post-election arrangement with Te Pāti Māori, only to tack away from being absolute. This morning, however, he was more direct.
After Luxon criticised Te Pāti Māori for interrupting parliament yesterday with a whakawātea, Ingrid Hipkiss asked him on RNZ if he was ruling out working together. Luxon said: “I just can’t see a way in which we would be working with the Māori Party. Our values are just not aligned … I just can’t see it happening.”
Hipkiss: “So you are ruling out working with the Māori Party?”
Luxon: “Yes. I can’t see us working with the Māori Party going forward.”
With Meka Whaitiri having defected from Labour to TPM and Elizabeth Kerekere quitting the Greens, the National Party is advancing the line that Labour’s only path back to power relies on assembling a “coalition of chaos”. Luxon told RNZ: “What New Zealand needs right now is really serious government.”
Te Pāti Māori has previously said it would not participate in a government that involved Act, without which National is unlikely to be able to form a government after October. Winston Peters has ruled out working with Labour but a National-NZ-First arrangement remains a possibility.
Update: 9.30am: In case there were any doubt about the definitive nature of the above, National has since issued a press statement erasing any speck of ambiguity, under the headline, “Luxon rules out Te Pāti Māori”. In the statement, Luxon says: “National is focused on making life better for all New Zealanders. We believe New Zealand is one country with one standard of citizenship, meaning one person, one vote. The bridge between National and Te Pāti Māori is too wide to close. Te Pāti Māori of 2023 is a very different party to the one National signed a confidence and supply agreement with three times from 2008.
He continues: “I am making clear today that a vote for Te Pāti Māori is a vote for the Labour/Greens/Māori Party Coalition of Chaos and continued economic mis-management … National is deeply committed to improving outcomes for Māori, but doesn’t believe separate systems is the best way to do this.”
Former US president – and hopeful former president – Donald Trump has been found to have sexually abused writer E Jean Carroll.
Trump had been accused of assaulting Carroll in the dressing room of a luxury department store in 1996.
A US jury found him liable for sexual assault and, as CNN reports, he must pay Carroll $2 million in damages. Trump was also found to have defamed Carroll, resulting in another $3 million in compensation. Trump was cleared on a count of rape.
Unsurprisingly, the former president has already rubbished the court’s findings. On his social media network Truth Social, he labelled it a “total disgrace” and part of the “greatest witch hunt of all time”.
A spokesperson for Trump released a statement that said: “Make no mistake, this entire bogus case is a political endeavour targeting president Trump because he is now an overwhelming front-runner to be once again elected president of the United States.”
The class had originally been scheduled to do rock climbing, but the activity was changed to caving due to forecast rain, according to an email to parents obtained by Stuff. School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith has promised “a full and comprehensive investigation” of the circumstances around the trip but says for now their focus is on supporting students and the wider school community.