Back to the campaign

It’s Wednesday, September 20 and welcome along to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

Get in touch with me on

You can learn 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.

And… it’s Megapod day!

Tune into The Spinoff’s 12-hour Election 2023 Megapod below on YouTube, streaming from 9am through until 9pm.


Back to the campaign

It’s Wednesday, September 20 and welcome along to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

Get in touch with me on

You can learn 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.

And… it’s Megapod day!

Tune into The Spinoff’s 12-hour Election 2023 Megapod below on YouTube, streaming from 9am through until 9pm.

Sep 20 2023

New poll: National and Act still ahead – but just

Photo: Getty Images

The National Party would be able to govern with Act, according to the latest 1News Verian poll.

But it would be tight – they’d only have a one seat majority.

National’s on 37%, down two points, while Labour is trailing by 10 points – on 27% and down one. The Greens and Act are both up two to 12%, with New Zealand First and Te Pāti Māori steady on 5% and 3%.

That would give the National-Act bloc 61 seats, meaning they wouldn’t need New Zealand First’s six.

Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori would pull in 53 seats.

In the preferred prime minister stakes, both Chrises are at 23%.

The Megapod hits the home stretch

We’re nine hours down, but there’s three still to go. Here is what’s coming up on the final hours of The Spinoff’s Megapod.

  • At 6pm: Inside the mind of Bernard Hickey: A dive deep into the psyche and philosophy of one of New Zealand’s smartest and most interesting people.
  • At 7pm: A Gone By Lunchtime x Real Pod crossover event: talking reality TV and politicians, memes, zodiacs and political telly from back in the day, with Jane Yee, Duncan Greive and Madeleine Chapman.
  • And at 8pm: Annabelle and Ben return for the final hour… or will they?

Please send your questions to help us crawl over the finish line (“would you rather” format if you wish) via the livestream below.

The daily wrap

There is still plenty of Megapod to go around, but while you settle in for the home stretch, here are some of today’s top stories from the election campaign and beyond.

Tune into the Megapod below – live streaming through until 9pm.

A mojo meter check-in


All day on The Spinoff’s epic 12-hour Megapod, we’ve been asking the question… How is your mojo?

It all stems from National’s Christopher Luxon telling media earlier this year that New Zealand needed to “get its mojo back”.

But according to the many politicians and pundits that have appeared on the podcast today, our mojo (or at least their personal mojo) is doing just fine.

Here’s how it all stacks up as of 5pm.

Hipkins corrects record after incorrect debate answer

Labour leader Chris Hipkins has fronted to media on the campaign trail after it was discovered he made a mistake during last night’s TVNZ debate.

Hipkins pledged to ban fizzy drinks in high schools after claiming the government had already outlawed them in primary schools.

But questions from Newshub to the Ministry of Health revealed that wasn’t true. “There is no requirement on schools to ban fizzy drinks,” said the ministry, noting that there was a duty for them to “to promote healthy food and nutrition”.

Hipkins told Newshub: “I was alerted by my office just now that I made a mistake in last night’s TV debate,” he said.

“As Minister of Education, I consulted on banning sugary soft drinks in schools. We had got all the way to the decision-making around banning them in primary schools, but not secondary schools. We had done public consultation on that. I misremembered what happened next.”

As for how he made the mistake, Hipkins said: “I had misinterpreted all of that, misremembered the finer details of that, that we hadn’t as a Government made final decisions to make it mandatory.”

Luxon invigorated on the campaign trail

A happy man and his goat

Christopher Luxon told reporters that last night’s TVNZ debate didn’t reinvigorate him – because he is always invigorated on the campaign trail.

The National Party leader visited an Auckland goat farm this morning for the first campaign commitment post-debate.

As I described here, Luxon got stuck in when presented with the chance this morning to milk some goats.

Later, I asked whether debating Chris Hipkins was more challenging than milking goats. Luxon deflected: “The time went really fast, and I enjoyed being able to have a platform to say ‘I think there is a strong difference between us and our parties’,” he said.

And as for how he’s finding the campaign, Luxon said he’s loving it. “I bounce out of bed early and ready to go each day. I love any chance to get out and meet with New Zealanders doing a range of things. You come away really inspired going through a campaign process like this.”

A happy man and his goat

World exclusive: Chris Hipkins has indeed read a book

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

During last night’s TVNZ debate, Labour leader Chris Hipkins appeared to suggest he’d never read a single book.

When asked during a quick fire round for his favourite novel, Hipkins basically said he never has a chance to read (Christopher Luxon said The Inner Game of Tennis, by the way).

Appearing on The Spinoff’s Megapod this afternoon, Hipkins was probingly asked if he’d had time to think of a favourite book. “I could name plenty,” he said. “I should have said I’m in the process of reading books to my kids… we’ve just finished Fantastic Mr Fox which is an absolute classic, I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

That didn’t satisfy host Toby Manhire, however, who demanded Hipkins name an “adult” book that he’d enjoyed. “I tend to read a lot of trashy novels when I get the chance,” admitted Hipkins. “I really like the Dan Brown series, any one of those – the Da Vinci Code or anything like that.”

Huge audience for first leaders’ debate

An average audience of 682,000 tuned in to last night’s reasonably dull TVNZ leaders’ debate, according to figures released by the broadcaster.

Across the 90-minute show, close to 1.1 million people watched on television, with an additional 71,779 people screening the debate on TVNZ.

For an alternative take on the debate, I recommend The Spinoff’s supercut: a Chris and Chris love story.

The Megapod hits the halfway mark


We’re now six hours into today’s Gone By Lunchtime Election 2023 Megapod and there’s still another six to go. Here’s who’ll be keeping Toby Manhire company as we head into the late afternoon or “drive time” as it’s known in the biz.

3pm: Deputy leader of the Act Party Brooke Van Velden is in the studio.

3.30pm: Ben McKay, the dashing Australian reporter in the press gallery on the campaign and the other vote on October 14 in Australia, the Voice referendum.

4pm: Andrew Geddis on how to put a coalition together.

4.30pm: Grant Robertson, Labour money man, will join us.

4.50pm: Raf Manji of TOP.

5pm: Youth Wings revisited – Aryana Nafissi and Felix Poole from series one of The Spinoff show on what they’ve been up to since.

Hipkins says Luxon failed to answer questions at TVNZ debate

Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon at hte first TVNZ leaders’ debate of 2023 (Photo: Andrew Dalton/TVNZ)

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said he enjoyed last night’s televised leaders’ debate and said it was a good opportunity for both major parties to air out a lot of issues.

While most pundits have concluded that National’s Christopher Luxon was the better performer, perhaps simply because he’s the fresher face and was seen as an underdog, Hipkins told reporters in Gisborne that he was happy with his performance.

“I think I made an attempt to answer all of the questions that were put to me which does stand me aside from Christopher Luxon,” he said.

“He was content to speak over Jessica [Mutch McKay] and to speak over me, I am generally a bit more reserved. I actually think people watching at home… enjoy when they can hear.”

Hipkins said he didn’t believe the debate was boring, nor did he think he should have brought more fight. “That wasn’t my objective, it was to participate in a debate.”

At several points in last night’s debate, Hipkins attempted to bring the discussion around to National’s tax plan and the so-called “secret costings”. Today’s press conference in Gisborne started with Hipkins suggesting New Zealanders still had no idea how National would pay for the plan or what cuts to essential services may be made.

“We have been clear over the last few weeks that National party’s numbers don’t add up and there is real risk in that for New Zealanders,” Hipkins said.

MP Michael Wood speaks candidly about airport shares ordeal


Labour MP Michael Wood has spoken candidly this morning about his airport share debacle which led to the abrupt loss of his ministerial roles in June this year.

On The Spinoff’s 12-hour Gone By Lunchtime Election Megapod, Wood – who had taken the bus from his beloved electorate Mt Roskill to The Spinoff’s podcast studio – spoke to Toby Manhire about the toll the reaction had on him and his family. “There were some errors I made and I paid quite a significant price for that,” he said. “If you’re really committed to making long-term change in politics which is why I’m here, you ride that out and you start to rebuild.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed that had Wood failed to properly declare that he had around $13,000 worth of shares in Auckland Airport which he had bought as a teenager and did not complete the sale of shares despite being asked 12 times by the Cabinet Office if he had divested them. On 6 June, he was suspended from his transport ministerial portfolio by the prime minister. 

“It was really awful to be honest,” Wood said. “It was your judgment, your affairs, things that you did or didn’t do that some people thought reflected on you and your character and that is really difficult.”

Wood also shared his “fondest animal memory ever”. Clue: the four-legged creature in question is “very smart”, “very determined”, “gentle in nature” but “also a bit stubborn”. Tune into The Spinoff’s live Election 2023 Megapod here:

Listen: Gone By Lunchtime on the first leaders’ debate


If you don’t have time to watch a 12-hour podcast livestream today, never fear – the Gone By Lunchtime Election 2023 Megapod will also be shared in more digestible chunks on the regular Gone By Lunchtime feed. The first one is up now!

Toby Manhire, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas size up the big first clash of Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon under the hot studio lights at 1News. What were the flashpoints, would have emerged the happiest, and is this going to change people’s votes? Plus: the angry fence man disrupts Act’s campaign launch and the latest from the campaign trail with 24 days to go. Plus: the latest Ipsos Issues Monitor and a new poll on Te Tai Hauauru.

Follow Gone By Lunchtime on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Coming up on the Gone By Lunchtime Election 2023 Megapod


Two hours down, a mere 10 to go for the Gone By Lunchtime Eletction 2023 Megapod. Here’s who’ll be joining Toby Manhire over the next few hours (all times approximate and subject to change etc).

11.30am: An Auckland Central debate with Chlöe Swarbrick of the Greens, National’s Mahesh Muralidhar and Labour candidate Oscar Sims.

Noon: Greens co-leader James Shaw is in the studio to talk elections and climate change.

12.30pm: The insightful and excellent political commentator Lara Greaves.

1pm: National high-flyer and education spokesperson Erica Stanford.

1.30pm: Robert Patman on the election and the foreign policy questions we should be addressing.

2pm: A whistle-stop tour of some of the box-office electorate seats in election 2023 – with my colleagues Shanti Mathias, Stewart Sowman-Lund, Charlotte Muru-Lanning and Joel MacManus.

The day ahead

We’re living in a post-debate world now – does anyone feel any different? Here’s a look at where the political leaders are today.

  • He’s already fled Auckland for the coast. Labour’s Chris Hipkins will spend the day in Gisborne, first visiting a film production company and later making a cyclone-related announcement. He’ll speak to media this afternoon and then head to Wairoa to meet with the mayor and community leaders.
  • National leader Christopher Luxon spends the morning in Auckland before heading to the bottom of the South Island. First up, he’s at the Oete Goat Farm (yes, really!) in south Auckland. He’ll speak to media before heading to the airport and travelling to Balclutha.
  • Just one visit on the Greens’ itinerary today. Co-leader James Shaw will visit a home in Onehunga to discuss clean power.
  • NZ First leader Winston Peters continues his pre-election tour in Greymouth.

And remember, it’s Megapod day on The Spinoff. It’s just kicked off on our YouTube page – check it out!

The Bulletin: Polling of Te Tai Hauāuru reveals a very close race

It’s been billed as one of the most nail-biting races among the seven Māori seats but last night’s Whakaata Māori polling has Labour’s Soraya Peke-Mason ahead of Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer in Te Tai Hauāuru. Peke-Mason is on 34% while Ngarewa-Packer is on 29%.

National MP Harete Hipango is the party’s first candidate in 20 years to run in a Māori electorate and landed on 12%, with 16% of voters undecided. More than 8,000 voters switched to the Māori roll earlier this year, taking the number of Māori roll voters to over a quarter of a million.

If you missed Charlotte Muru-Lanning’s profile of Ngarewa-Packer yesterday, I commend it to you this morning, especially if you love brilliant little details like what the Te Pāti Māori co-leader’s ringtone is. Haimona Gray wrote a fantastic profile of the hot seat a couple of weeks ago, explaining that it’s large and tribally diverse and there’s “less ability to have those deep community connections which matter more in Māori seats where campaign budgets are stretched and words spreads across the ‘kūmara vine’ faster than on social media.”

Historically, it’s flipped between parties a bit. Tukoroirangi Morgan won it for NZ First in 1996, Nanaia Mahuta took it for Labour in 1999 and Tariana Turia, as the 2002 election incumbent, won it again as leader of Te Pāti Māori at a by-election in 2004 after she voted against foreshore and seabed legislation and resigned as a Labour MP. Labour’s Adrian Rurawhe won the seat in 2014 and retained it in 2017, but he made the call to run list-only for this election after becoming speaker of the house.

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. 

One new policy in a debate of few insights


In case you missed it last night, because it really was a blink and you’ll miss it moment, there was one new policy slipped into last night’s leaders’ debate.

Chris Hipkins pledged to ban soft drinks in high schools if re-elected on October 14 – an extension of the current ban that applies only to primary schools.

The revelation came during a discussion on Labour’s dental policy, with National’s Christopher Luxon saying that he believed education was more constructive than a ban on fizzy drinks. It was, wrote Newsroom’s Jo Moir, the only “new” insight in the debate.

At a post-debate press conference, Hipkins admitted he’d dropped the new policy, which would be formally launched as part of Labour’s as-yet-unannounced education plan.

How the two Chrises rated their performance in the first debate


Both Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon scored themselves an eight out of 10 in last night’s leaders’ debate. As someone I think on Twitter joked, it shows that inflation is even hitting politics – both Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins rated themselves a seven back in 2020.

Last night’s debate was the first opportunity of the election campaign to see the two Chrises going head to head. We’ve got a full recap here, some group analysis here and there’s more in today’s Bulletin as well.

I was in the studio last night, meaning I was also at the post-debate press conferences. Both leaders appeared pleased with how the debate went. “I really enjoyed it, I hope that actually for New Zealanders watching it was a good chance to get a sense of what both parties have on offer,” Luxon told reporters, adding that this election boiled down to which party was the best economic manager.

The debate went “very fast”, he said, and each section didn’t feel like a full 15 minutes. “I hope it was a good platform for people to hear us both speak, present our respective ideas for about we can take the country forward, and I appreciated having a bit of time to unpack those ideas,” he said.

Asked about undecided voters who may have tuned into the debate, Luxon said he hoped people who had never voted National before may be thinking about the direction the country was going on. “I’d probably give myself an eight out of 10,” he said when asked for a personal score. “Both of us were respectful… hopefully the New Zealand public got something out of that and got a better sense of who we are as leaders”.

Neither Luxon nor Hipkins was surprised by how much they had in common with one another, when asked by The Spinoff. “Yes there are areas of commonality but I think people saw there are also areas of difference,” said Luxon. In our group think, Mad Chapman wrote: “It’s quite rare to watch a debate where the debaters spend more time agreeing than disagreeing, but so goes the fight for the centre.”

The pair did genuinely appear to enjoy each other’s company, at least when compared to the 2020 debates. As I wrote last night, “in the moments before the debate went to air, the pair were chatting jovially – apparently about ‘road trips across America’, according to Hipkins.” Ahead of the 2020 debates, Ardern and Collins opted largely to stare straight ahead without any interaction.

Speaking to media, Hipkins also said he really enjoyed the debate and while he said he was “never very good” at giving himself a rating, also settled on eight out of 10. “I learnt that even with a lot of interjection, you can’t get Christopher Luxon to answer a question,” he said, later adding that he had a lot more sympathy for journalists as a result.

Asked by The Spinoff why it took until the co-governance section of the debate for him to fire up, Hipkins said he objected to the “politics of dividing New Zealanders in order to secure votes”.

He believed Luxon had gone “incredibly negative” right from the beginning, when asked to comment on remarks by a senior National MP who tweeted that Hipkins had been negative during the debate.

Whether anyone will really have learnt anything remains to be seen. The next leaders’ debate is on September 27 and will be hosted by Newshub’s Patrick Gower.

Get ready for The Spinoff’s Election 2023 Megapod

As the campaign lurches into blur mode, today we’re trying something new, strange and probably dangerous: an epic livestreamed Megapod – a full 12 hours of Gone By Lunchtime from 9am. Toby Manhire will be joined by Ben Thomas and Annabelle Lee-Mather, as well as a parade of high-profile candidates and commentators, to debate, discuss and tip into delirious mode ahead of the 2023 election. (I’ll be there too, bringing you news updates from out in the field.) 

Join us at today from 9am-9pm – or you could just bookmark the YouTube link below right now.

For Election 2023 coverage, follow Gone By Lunchtime wherever you get your podcasts.