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Get ready: it’s debate week

Welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates for Monday, September 18. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

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Find out more about the political parties and where they stand at

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The Spinoff’s coverage of the 2023 election is powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.


Get ready: it’s debate week

Welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates for Monday, September 18. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

Get in touch with me on

Find out more about the political parties and where they stand at

The agenda

Support our election coverage

The Spinoff’s coverage of the 2023 election is powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.

Sep 18 2023

A wrap of the day’s top stories

In case you missed it, here’s what happened today.

I’m off to an electorate debate tonight – more on that tomorrow. But for now, unless news breaks, I’m clocking off. See you later.

This year’s election, in numbers

(Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP via Getty Images)

Over the weekend the Electoral Commission finalised this year’s list of parties and candidates ahead of next month’s election.

It included some interesting details, which I thought I’d share for you this afternoon.

  • There are 17 parties contesting this year’s election (the same number as in 2020).
  • There are 567 candidates standing in the election, down from 677 in 2020.  It is similar to the number of candidates in previous elections, the Electoral Commission said: 534 in 2017, 554 in 2014, and 544 in 2011.
  • 72 candidates are on the party lists only and 46 candidates for registered parties are standing as electorate candidates only. This year, 56 electorate candidates are standing as independents or representing unregistered parties.
  • The electorates with the most candidates are Dunedin, East Coast, Kaikōura and Wellington Central with 11 candidates each, and the electorates with the lowest number of candidates are Hauraki-Waikato, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Waiariki with three candidates each.
  • There are exactly 100 more male than female candidates (329 male, 229 female), with four another gender and five not specified. In 2020 there were 413 male and 263 female candidate.

Hipkins hasn’t ‘spent a huge amount of time’ on debate prep

Image: Archi Banal

Chris Hipkins claims to be going into tomorrow night’s leaders’ debate fresh, telling media he still has not “spent a huge amount of time preparing”.

The debate, set to air on TVNZ1 at 7pm tomorrow, will be the first chance in this year’s election campaign to see the two Chrises go head-to-head.

Asked this afternoon whether anyone from his team had been standing in as Christopher Luxon during his debate prep, Hipkins said no.

Writing for The Spinoff, Toby Manhire explained the importance of leaders debates and noted that then-National staffer (now deputy) Nicola Willis, in 2008, took on the role of Helen Clark in prep debates for John Key.

Key’s then chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, would later say: “John had prepared, to be fair, but Nicola turned up and absolutely dealt to him. We had to stop the debate at one point because we thought we didn’t want John’s confidence to be knocked. If you look back to that election, the fact John was widely considered to have won that first leaders’ debate against Helen Clark was a really big deal, and Nicola played a big part in it.”

Labour wants to double houses with solar panels, Greens say it’s not enough

Renewable electricity alternatives like solar panels are still largely up to individuals to afford and install. (Photo: Getty Images)

Labour’s promised to double the number of houses with rooftop solar and introduce a rebate to help New Zealanders afford the upgrade.

Chris Hipkins said the rebate would contribute up to $4,000 towards installing rooftop solar at home, with $2,000 for panels and $2,000 for a battery.

“There are well over 40,000 New Zealand homes getting cheaper, clean electricity with rooftop solar – this will more than double that with approximately 60,000 more rooftop solar systems,” he said.

“Experience from projects funded through our Community Renewable Energy Fund shows household solar panels can reduce energy bills by up to 50%. That’s a saving of up to $850 a year.”

While the Greens back the move and have called it a step in the right direction, they’d like to see more done. “Whereas Labour’s plan would help people with around 20% of the upfront cost of solar, the Green Party will help people cover the entire cost – through a mix of grants and interest-free loans that together could unlock solar for every household,” said Julie Anne Genter, the party’s energy spokesperson.

“The Green Party would also install solar on the roofs of 30,000 Kāinga Ora homes over the next three years, instead of just 1,000 per year as Labour is currently proposing.”

Luxon condemns candidate’s anti-fluoride remarks

Christopher Luxon at the National Party campaign launch. Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The National Party was aware of a candidate’s anti-fluoride comments during the selection process, leader Christopher Luxon has admitted.

But the National leader said Ryan Hamilton had “genuinely apologised” and if “everyone had to have a perfect record, we’d have nobody in parliament”.

RNZ reported this morning that Hamilton, who is National’s Hamilton East candidate, had previously made comments online that went against the scientific consensus (and National’s position) on water fluoridation. More recently, he had taken an anti-mandate position around Covid vaccinations.

Speaking to media in Auckland, Luxon condemned Hamilton’s comments as “wrong” and “inappropriate”.

“He has changed his position subsequent to those remarks,” he said. “What I see here is an individual who made some comments that were wrong, inappropriate, and offensive, and they shouldn’t be made. But he’s acknowledged his position was wrong, he’s changed his position on fluoride. And he’s also acknowledged and apologised for his comments. That’s all I can ask for right?”

Luxon said peoples’ positions on issues can change, noting that the party’s Maungakiekie candidate Greg Fleming had also been called out for historic remarks on homosexual law reform. “The point is you’ve got to have people that want to come to parliament and be representative of everyone in the community,” said Luxon.

Asked about the fact Hamilton had not fronted calls to comment, Luxon denied hiding him away from the media. “I’m not aware that we haven’t told him to front … all I’d say to you is his comments are wrong.”

The day ahead

Another busy week on the election agenda. Let’s take a look at where our political leaders are today.

  • Ahead of tomorrow night’s TV debate, Labour leader Chris Hipkins has made it back to the North Island. He’s in Tauranga, visiting a community housing block and a Kāinga Ora development. Later, he’ll dental surgery clinic.
  • Up in Auckland, National’s Christopher Luxon is on the North Shore this morning. He’s at a budgeting service Takapuna and will then front for media.
  • There’s nothing I can spot on the Green co-leaders’ agenda or on Act’s itinerary for today.
  • NZ First leader Winston Peters is continuing his pre-election tour in the lower North Island.

The Bulletin: Goodbye recession, hello economic stagnation?

The recession might already be over, reports Susan Edmunds for Stuff. GDP data released this Thursday is expected to show a small amount of growth in the June quarter, pulling NZ out of technical recession. Some industries would have seen more growth than others, according to Kiwibank economists. “Some would benefit from the end of weather disruption, while others would be boosted by migration.”

Thanks to the big population increase this year, it’s likely that on a per capita basis, the economy still shrank over the quarter, said ASB’s Nat Keall. “So while we may no longer be in recession, it could still feel like one for a lot of households and businesses.” Still, the end of the recession is good news – though maybe don’t get too used to it. “Our view is that the economy will re-enter a recession in the third or fourth quarter,” said BNZ chief economist Mike Jones.


National’s Hamilton East candidate opposed fluoridation, vaccine mandates

Ryan Hamilton (National)

An in-depth report from RNZ has unearthed comments made by National’s candidate for Hamilton East that question the scientific consensus on water fluoridation and show support for misinformation-spreading groups. Ryan Hamilton also made comments on social media against the “illegal” Covid-19 vaccine mandates and queried Covid fatality figures.

As we approach October 14, this is yet another example of a political candidate being questioned for comments shared to social media. Though unlike recent examples from Act, Hamilton appears likely to make it into parliament after the election.

The report focuses on a handful of comments or posts Hamilton made on Facebook. In 2013, he commented on a Seven Sharp piece about fluoridation, saying: “Get rid of fluoride. The poverty issue is redundant, most lower socio economics fill their tap water with raro so pull the other one.” Three years later, he sympathised with a group called “Fluoride Free Hamilton & NZ” and said he was with the “minority” opposed to the fluoridation of water.

Fluoride is added to drinking water in order to protect teeth from decay. The Ministry of Health notes that “extensive research carried out around the world, including in New Zealand, has established conclusively that community water fluoridation is safe, affordable and effective”.

As Covid-19 arrived in the community and vaccine mandates were introduced, Hamilton expressed concern on this as well. He described protecting the vulnerable from Covid as “a carefully constructed manipulative guilt inducing narrative” and suggested data on Covid fatalities reported by coroners “seems set up only to inflate the death numbers for the propaganda machine”, RNZ reported.

Hamilton ignored RNZ requests for comment, but a statement in his name said he made the “rash” comments on fluoridation a decade ago. “I’ve opposed fluoridation in the past but now fully back National’s position,” the statement said. “I am vaccinated against Covid-19 but as a Hamilton City Councillor, I opposed mandates for entry to council facilities because I did not support this additional restriction.”

Ryan Hamilton (National)

In recent weeks, five Act Party candidates have vanished from the party’s list for various reasons, including one who compared vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany. Appearing on The Spinoff’s Gone by Lunchtime podcast, David Seymour said those remarks were “absolutely unacceptable” but also bemoaned media coverage over his party’s list and accused 1News of a “nightly witch hunt”.

In April this year, National’s Taieri candidate Stephen Jack stood down after it emerged he had shared a sexist joke and an offensive poem that compared former Jacinda Ardern to Adolf Hitler.