Winston Peters a ‘force for chaos’, says Hipkins

It’s Tuesday, September 26 and welcome back to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, on deck from Palmerston North, with support from our news team around the country.

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Winston Peters a ‘force for chaos’, says Hipkins

It’s Tuesday, September 26 and welcome back to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, on deck from Palmerston North, with support from our news team around the country.

Get in touch with me on

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.

Sep 26 2023

New poll puts Auckland Central on a knife edge

From the Spinoff Megapod: National’s Mahesh Muralidhar, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick and Labour’s Oscar Sims.

Chlöe Swarbrick has a battle on her hands to retain Auckland Central, with a new poll by Curia for the Taxpayers’ Union putting the Green MP just a couple of percentage points ahead of National candidate Mahesh Muralidhar. Swarbrick, whose victory in the high-profile seat was one of the most remarkable plotlines in the 2020 election, is on 38% in the poll, with Muralidhar on 36% and Labour’s Oscar Sims trailing on 17%. Those numbers exclude the “unsure” column, however, which accounts for  whopping 29% of the 500 people polled.

In 2020, Swarbrick trailed Labour’s Helen White in polling but went on to win the seat with 35.5% of the vote to 32.5% for White and 27.5% for National’s Emma Mellow. White was returned to parliament on the list and this election is Labour’s candidate in Mt Albert, the electorate vacated by Jacinda Ardern.

In the party vote, with the unsure vote removed (17% of the total), the poll found 37% backed National (21% in 2020), 26% Labour (46%), with 23% Green (19%), Act 9% (7.5%) and NZ First 4.5% (1.7%).

A third of respondents said the most important issue was law and order, well ahead of public transport (10%), housing (9%) and cost of living (9%).

The poll of 500 people, conducted on September 24, was published ahead of a Taxpayers’ Union debate this evening in the electorate.

From the Spinoff Megapod: National’s Mahesh Muralidhar, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick and Labour’s Oscar Sims.

The daily wrap

I’m heading to Taihape this evening to catch up with a local candidate and enjoy more wonders of democracy at another town hall meeting. But, for now, here are some of the day’s top reads.

We’ll be back tomorrow – unless, of course, news breaks before then.

What’s going to happen to the famous Mangaweka plane?

The ex-Mangaweka plane now sits in Shannon (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

About a year ago I read a Stuff story on the future of the iconic Mangaweka plane and how it was “up in the air”. I tried to find out more, but couldn’t get anywhere with the story.

The DC-3 sat on the side of State Highway One in the town of Mangaweka for almost 40 years, where it was part of an airport-themed cafe. But in 2021, it was moved into the Horowhenua township of Shannon where it’s been sitting behind a wire fence, minus its wings – which is where I stumbled upon it today.

The ex-Mangaweka plane now sits in Shannon (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

As RNZ reported earlier this year, the plane is now up for sale and carries an $85,000 price tag. Based solely on the fact it’s still sitting in Shannon looking in need of further repairs, it appears nobody was willing to purchase it. I think it’s time the Mangaweka plane finally finds a new permanent home.

Will any party dare to make it a last minute election promise? And if you know more, get in touch.

Greens would double best start, make it universal for young children

James Shaw and Marama Davidson at parliament (Photo: Toby Manhire)

The Greens say their new policy of doubling the Best Start payment and extending it for every child under three years would end child poverty in New Zealand.

“Parents all over the country are being forced to cut back on food to pay the bills,” said co-leader Marama Davidson. “Our plan to double the Best Start payment will help make sure parents and caregivers have everything they need to give their children the best possible start in life.”

She added: “One in 10 children are growing up in poverty. For Māori, it is one in five. How is it possible that in a wealthy country like ours there are thousands of children without enough to eat, a good bed, warm clothes, and decent shoes?”

Doubling the payment would see it increase to about $140 a week, said Davidson, and it would be made universal for all young children.

“This universal payment for the first three years recognises that just like in our older years through superannuation, the very first years of a new baby’s life are a time when every family needs extra support,” she said.

Davidson said the policy would be covered by making the tax system fairer, though both major parties have ruled out implementing a capital gains or wealth tax for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Greens have also taken aim at National over its plans for a “traffic light” system for beneficiaries. The policy would mean those who persistently do not meet their benefit obligations would face heightened penalties. Ricardo Menéndez March, the Greens’ social development spokesperson, labelled it cruel and heartless.

“A National government would literally leave children to go hungry and punish families. It is cruel, ill-thought out, and will endanger the wellbeing of thousands of people. The policy goes against our shared values of caring for each other,” he said.

The clear message across seven pollsters

Image: Archi Banal

The rationale for Christopher Luxon’s late ruling-in of New Zealand First is clear enough at a glance across the latest numbers from the seven polling companies that are surveying in the leadup to the election. In six of the seven, Winston Peters’ party is at or above the 5% threshold, leaving National and Act struggling to command a combined majority of the 120 parliamentary seats.

If we assume Te Pāti Māori wins at least one electorate and map the average across the seven polls (bearing in mind that some are a month old at this point) into the house, National would win 45 seats and Act 15, agonisingly short of a majority. NZ First’s seven seats would make it comfortable. (Labour would win 34, the Greens 15 and TPM three.)

For argument’s sake, what if NZ First fell a whisker beneath the 5%? On those numbers, National would take 48 seats and Act 16, giving them some breathing space with 64 seats.

Labour promises to ‘turbocharge’ medicine funding

File photo, Radio NZ

Labour would invest over $1 billion in new funding at Pharmac if reelected, leader Chris Hipkins has promised.

It will mean $181 million of funding a year from 2024/25, along with an extra $50 million for new treatments in the first year, rising to $100 million a year in 2026/2027.

“This funding boost will provide more cancer treatment as well as treatment for other conditions too,” said Hipkins. “Overall our boost will increase Pharmac’s funding by more than $1 billion over the next four years, a total increase of 62% since Labour took office in 2017.”

Taking aim at the opposition, who has also pledged to increase funding for new cancer drugs, Hipkins said: “You can’t trust the Coalition of Cuts to fund medicines.”

He added: “Under National, Pharmac was starved of funding when they froze its budget for three years and only increased the medicines budget by 25% over nine years.”

National’s policy would see it scrap universal free prescriptions, instead funnelling that money into funding 13 cancer treatments.

“Under National, New Zealanders will not have to leave the country, mortgage their home, or start a Givealittle page to fund potentially life-saving and life-extending treatments that are proven to work and are readily available across the Tasman,” Christopher Luxon told media in August.

Hipkins said that would punish people who relied on free prescriptions and “seriously undermines Pharmac’s ability to work to strike the best deal for New Zealanders.

“We want to give Pharmac the funding it needs to strike the best deals it can on behalf of all New Zealanders, not only those conditions singled out by National,” said Hipkins.

A mega list of Megapod listens

Last week’s 12-hour Gone By Lunchtime Megapod saw a number of fascinating chats in The Spinoff studio – and now you can listen back to all of them.

Head to the Gone By Lunchtime feed wherever you get your podcasts to catch up on all the interviews, including with Labour’s Michael Wood, National’s Erica Stanford, Act’s David Seymour and even prime minister Chris Hipkins. There’s also an Auckland Central debate or, if you’re after something more chaotic and fun, a crossover with The Spinoff’s Real Pod.

Which politician(s) said they would be up for appearing on reality TV? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

National pledges ‘traffic light’ system, with more sanctions, for beneficiaries

(Image / Getty)

National would introduce a tiered “traffic light” system for beneficiaries, pledging to penalise unemployed people who persistently do not meet their benefit obligations.

The party’s social development spokesperson Louise Upston said that benefit dependency had surged under Labour, with almost 60,000 more people on the jobseeker benefit compared with when National left office.

“One reason benefit dependency has grown substantially is that Labour removed clear consequences for jobseekers who don’t fulfil their obligations to prepare for or find work,” she said in a statement.

“In the 12 months to June this year, the number of sanctions applied to jobseekers who breached their obligations was around half the number applied in National’s last year in office, despite a 45% increase in the number of jobseekers since then.”

The traffic light framework would have three levels. At “green”, there would be no change to benefits as those on the list would be meeting their obligations to prepare for or find work. A first or second breach of these obligations would mean moving to the orange tier, where additional requirements and targeted support would be introduced. This could include more regular check-ins or a requirement to attend a job workshop.

Someone could move to the red level after a third breach and be deemed “high risk”. This would see sanctions implemented including “benefit reductions, benefit suspension, money management and mandatory community work experience”.

Upston said those who can work, should work. “New Zealanders will always give a helping hand to those who need it, but taxpayers are rightly concerned about the number of people on the jobseeker benefit having grown while jobs were plentiful,” she said.

John Key floats Winston Peters as speaker of the house

Sir John Key suggested vouchers as a vaccine solution earlier this week (Dan Cook – Radio NZ)

Former prime minister Sir John Key has backed National leader Christopher Luxon’s decision to rule in working with New Zealand First. And he’s floated a possible governing arrangement that he thinks could work.

Speaking to RNZ’s Checkpoint yesterday, Key said that having New Zealand First propping up National and Act could take a different form to a traditional coalition.

“What happens if Winston [Peters] becomes the speaker? In which case they’re technically not in government, are they?” asked Key.

“MMP requires a lot of creative thinking. Let’s say Winston was the speaker, then you only need 60 votes not 61, and maybe that’s the solution. The trouble you have with MMP, it’s a beautiful thing to say here’s the outcome, and on that Saturday night or on that Sunday we’ll all be able to opine on that. But as it stands today I can’t make you a guarantee that Winston’s there or not there.”

Key said that while he hadn’t advised Luxon on what to do about Peters, “if I was advising… I would advise him to rule Winston in under the conditions he’s done.

“And the reason for that is that fundamentally if you got to election Sunday, the day after the election, and the only alternative was another election because no one would ring Winston, I think the public would be pretty grumpy.”

Sir John Key (Dan Cook – Radio NZ)

The day ahead

The day ahead for me, if you’re wondering, involves driving around the Rangitikei and Wairarapa electorates – but more on that later.

For now, here is a quick glance at where our political leaders are today.

  • Ahead of tomorrow’s Newshub leaders’ debate, Labour’s Chris Hipkins is in Auckland. Today he’ll be visiting a health clinic in Otahuhu and then fronting for the media.
  • National leader Christopher Luxon is also in Auckland today. Right now he’s starting the day off at a strawberry farm in Kumeū before speaking to reporters and later heading out west for a mall walkabout. Will it see crowds like Jacinda Ardern at a Westfield in 2020?
  • Potential kingmaker Winston Peters is continuing his nationwide tour. He’s hosting public meetings in Taupo and Rotorua today.
  • I don’t have schedules for Act and the Greens but I can only assume they too are out and about today. However, the Greens do have a policy announcement later in the day.

The Bulletin: Change of direction for source of cryptosporidium outbreak

As Stuff’s Debbie Jamieson reports, efforts to hunt out the source of Queenstown’s cryptosporidium outbreak are moving away from the water supply toward businesses in the central town. Yesterday, the council received negative results from water supply samples taken last week and Public Health South has confirmed it is looking for alternative sources. There are currently 31 confirmed cases of cryptosporidium, seven probable cases, and eight under investigation.

Staying with Queenstown, Newsroom’s David Williams reports on the council’s decision to leave slash in a steeply sloped forest above the town’s cemetery. The cemetery was inundated with mud, logs and debris after a month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours last week.

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.  

‘Change to what?’ Hipkins says NZ worried about possible National-Act-NZ First coalition

Image: Archi Banal

New polling shows Winston Peters would be the kingmaker after this year’s election, but Labour leader Chris Hipkins said if that’s the case it will mean a new National-led government.

The Newshub Reid-Research poll had New Zealand First up to 5.2%, meaning they would bring six MPs back to parliament after October 14. It would propel the right bloc – which between National and Act would fall short on 60 seats – into government.

Appearing on Newshub’s AM show this morning (and sitting on the the “therapy” couch next to Ryan Bridge), Hipkins said New Zealanders were concerned about what a National-Act-New Zealand First government would mean.

“I’m doing fine, the polls last night showed National and Act are coming down,” he said. “The National Party are proposing a whole lot of cuts they’re not being upfront about. I get… it’s natural to think about change. But change to what?”

All of this is despite a Herald poll of polls revealing just a 0.2% chance of Labour being able to form a government on October 14. It would be the worst result for a major party after being in government since the Great Depression, the outlet reported.

On Peters specifically, Hipkins said he had made it clear that he wouldn’t work with him again and told RNZ that the New Zealand First leader was a “force for chaos” in government. “I made a principled decision to rule him out,” he said. “National-Act-New Zealand First would be absolute chaos for New Zealand, it would bring it backwards.”

It’s just under three weeks until polling day and early voting formally kicks off next week. Hipkins said that’s a long time in politics but that “every single day” matters in this campaign. “I’m going to be out there fighting for this,” he said. “We’re out there to remind New Zealanders what’s at stake. I’m very proud of our track record… [and] we’ve got a positive vision for the future.”

Hipkins told Newshub that while he would answer the phone if Peters called after the election, he would only do so because he’s not rude. But there’s no chance of them working together.

Newshub’s poll also showed Christopher Luxon was now the country’s preferred prime minister. “I don’t claim perfection but I do claim that I would be honest with New Zealand,” said Hipkins. “Ultimately that’s one poll out of many.”