Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick has written to the new prime minister, thanking him for making Auckland one of his first priorities as leader.
Chris Hipkins spent the day in Tāmakai Makaurau meeting with business leaders, as well as attending the tangi for Māori activist Titewhai Harawira.
In the letter seen by The Spinoff, which was also addressed to mayor Wayne Brown, Swarbrick said the city was facing a number of challenges. These weren’t new but instead a combination of “poor planning and underinvestment crunching with a global pandemic, international economic headwinds, and mass construction”.
As outlined in the letter, Swarbrick called for support from both the new prime minister and mayor in tackling three areas: to focus on Auckland’s central city and not “just the CBD”, to ensure everyone has help when they need it – and to “set the rules to let the little guy shine”.
That third element references the need to attract new businesses back to the city centre. “I request the government urgently looks to extend the interest deductibility rules and investigates long-needed changes in the Property Law Act to ensure commercial tenants get a fair go,” Swarbrick said. “As whispers of another delay to completion of the City Rail Link swirl, I ask the government continues its commitment of support to the productive small businesses most impacted throughout and after this construction, as their landlords make windfall capital gains as a result of billions invested in public infrastructure on their doorstep.”
The new prime minister appears to have got off to a rollicking start with the business community, enjoying what he described as a “constructive” meeting with senior members of the community in Auckland.
The hour-long, closed doors discussion at the Auckland Business Chamber was Chris Hipkins’ first engagement since being elected leader of the Labour Party and, therefore, prime minister.
It’s a hugely symbolic gesture for Hipkins to have chosen his first major event to be a) a business discussion and b) in Auckland, the city which suffered the most under pandemic restrictions brought about by his tenure as Covid response minister. The government has been criticised for ignoring business concerns under Jacinda Ardern and this meeting appeared to signal a reset in that relationship.
Speaking to media after the meeting, Hipkins said it had been a positive discussion. “I found a really receptive audience in terms of business leaders who wanted to work with the government,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, issues like labour shortages were top of mind for business leaders, said Hipkins. “Right the way across the workforce you are seeing skill shortages in the labour market. They have given feedback on wanting certainty in some key government policy areas.”
Despite criticism from the opposition over the rate of the minimum wage, Hipkins said this was not an issue that was raised in the meeting. Instead, there were a range of policy areas that businesses wished to see the government slow down on (Hipkins told The Spinoff he had not given business leaders a heads up on what projects might be culled back).
Business Chamber head Simon Bridges was reassured by the meeting with Hipkins and said business leaders were equally pleased that this had been the first engagement for the new prime minister. Now, said Bridges, there just needs to be a plan on the table.
New prime minister Chris Hipkins is meeting with Auckland business leaders this morning at a roundtable event – his first official engagement in the top job.
Greeted by Auckland Business Chamber head Simon Bridges, the former National Party leader, Hipkins gave opening remarks before media were ushered out of the room. It may have been the small room (and the lack of a roundtable) but the turnout certainly felt good for the PM’s first day. Bridges was overheard telling one business leader not to “hold back” during the meeting.
In his opening address, Hipkins promised a collaborative approach between the government and the business community. He also reiterated his intention to scale back the government’s work programme.
Hipkins said he was expecting to hear primarily about labour shortages, though suggested the immigration settings were not the only barrier to addressing this problem.
Following the closed doors meeting, Hipkins will speak to media. While it was initially planned he would attend another business engagement later today, Hipkins has instead opted to attend the tangi of Titewhai Harawira this afternoon.
Labour’s leadership transition was a masterclass in how to pass the reins of power. Part of that was the lack of contenders willing to put themselves forward. One of those who chose not to go for the top job, despite expectations he would, was Grant Robertson.
The former deputy PM and current finance minister was the first to rule himself out of running for the Labour leadership.
Robertson has been fairly quiet in the days since Jacinda Ardern resigned, but today spoke to RNZ off the back of yesterday’s new inflation figures. Part of that conversation addressed his decision not to seek the leadership. It sounded a bit like he, too, didn’t have enough in the tank.
“I’ve been up close and personal with the job of prime minister over the last five years, I know exactly what it takes, I know it’s a bigger job than any ministerial job… I think you have to be honest with yourself and the public about whether or not the desire is there,” he said.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about being the leader of the Labour Party, but I’ve really enjoyed working alongside Jacinda Ardern as minister of finance and I think it would have been dishonest and I wouldn’t have shown much integrity if I put my hand up for a job I didn’t have that 100% desire for.”
However, Robertson said this wouldn’t be his final term – and he’s looking forward to being the minister of finance again after this year’s election. “My job’s not done yet.”
Good attempt here by the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan (paywalled) to work out whether those most impacted by rising interest rates are a significant enough voting bloc to shift the election. Those most impacted will be those who have bought in the last couple of years. Data on average mortgages and household net wealth is a bit patchy, so it comes with some caveats, but essentially the size of the potential voter block is quite small.
About 32% of New Zealand households have a mortgage on their primary residence and the average size of their outstanding mortgage debt was $260k. Around 16% have mortgage debt over that amount and an even smaller fraction of households have mortgages touching $500k. Coughlan says the impact of rising interest rates may not be the electoral slam dunk National were hoping for, but it’s not a good news story for Labour either. “True mortgage pain is avoiding people National would have won anyway, and hammering people Labour had wanted to cultivate,” he writes.
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.
Chris Hipkins got straight to work yesterday as new prime minister, chairing his first cabinet meeting and then reiterating to the media that he plans to rein in certain government projects and focus on the cost of living.
He heads to Auckland today where he’ll meet with business leaders at a CEO roundtable at the Business Chamber. That’ll be headed by former National leader Simon Bridges, who now heads up the chamber. Bridges told RNZ this morning that businesses will be reassured by the new prime minister’s decision to focus on “bread and butter” issues.
“I think it’s incredibly refreshing to see from a new PM that he gets it, that he gets it’s businesses that make an economy and actually allow governments to do the things that we all want them to do like fund better health, education, and law and order.”
Hipkins said yesterday that today’s meeting will be an opportunity to listen – but as Today FM’s Tova O’Brien commented this morning, soon it’ll be time to do more than that. He’ll have to act.
I’ve written up some of the policies that look set to be culled or at least scaled back, along with a couple that could be revived. And in today’s Bulletin, a new poll shows just how important the cost of living will be for Labour’s campaign and Hipkins’ chances of retaining the role of prime minister after October.
Finance minister Grant Robertson, who will retain that job after Hipkins’ reshuffle next week, told RNZ that he believes annual inflation (which remains at 7.2% based on new figures) has peaked. ”
Based on Robertson’s comments, it seems unlikely that the cuts to public transport fares and petrol tax will be extended beyond beyond the signalled end date of March.