Nov 29 2023

Mayor Tory Whanau admits she has a drinking problem: ‘My great embarrassment and shame’


Wellington mayor Tory Whanau admits she has an alcohol problem and says she has sought professional help.

It comes after an apparent drunken incident was filmed two weeks ago at a central city bar, RNZ’s Nick James reports.

“I am not a career politician, and leadership positions in public office are not built for regular people who may have struggles with addiction, mental ill health, or any other illness that has stigma attached. We have seen this play out with career-ending moments from politicians across the political spectrum in recent times,” her statement to RNZ read.

“I am a flawed person, but I care deeply about this city. I will continue to represent the hopes and aspirations of my local community and I will do so with the compassion and care of those around me and with the professional help required.

“I would like to say to others struggling with alcohol issues that you can seek help and still commit to your passions, work, family, friends in a way that is meaningful. We are complex, layered people and deserving of love.

“I would appreciate respect and care from the media whilst navigating this period of sobriety and professional support.”

It’s not the first time the first-term Wellington mayor has made headlines for alcohol-related antics.

In July, she was reported to have left a restaurant without paying after having dinner and drinks with a friend.

Cash rate unchanged at 5.5% – and don’t expect a cut soon

Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr (Photo: Getty Images)

The Official Cash Rate will remain at 5.5%, the Monetary Police Committee of the Reserve Bank has determined in the last interest rate decision of the year. While earlier increases had restricted spending and pushed inflation down from its peak, “inflation remains too high, and the committee remains wary of ongoing inflationary pressures,” said the MPC in a statement. Cuts in the rate were unlikely in the next 12 to 18 months, it signalled.

The committee said international economic growth was expected to continue slowing, putting the brakes on New Zealand’s export prospects, while population growth in New Zealand had limited the drop-off in demand growth. That meant the OCR “will need to stay restrictive”.

It continued: “The Committee is confident that the current level of the OCR is restricting demand. However, ongoing excess demand and inflationary pressures are of concern, given the elevated level of core inflation. If inflationary pressures were to be stronger than anticipated, the OCR would likely need to increase further. The Monetary Policy Committee agreed that interest rates will need to remain at a restrictive level for a sustained period of time, so that consumer price inflation returns to target and to support maximum sustainable employment.”

The new National-led government is expected to legislate in the coming months to remove the “dual mandate” so that the Reserve Bank focus is solely inflation, and unemployment no longer enters into the equation.


Wellington mayor Tory Whanau reveals Courtenay Place upgrade plan

Tory Whanau could be electorally vulnerable if she loses support from the left. Photo: Ollie Neas

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau has released her plan to revitalise the Courtenay Place precinct, which she dubbed “our premier place to play”.

The plan aims to improve experience and safety in the area, improve the image and reputation of Courtenay Place, and attract investment.

Courtenay Place and Cuba St play home to 95 restaurants and bars and five theatres and have an annual consumer spend of $500m, but the area has become dilapidated in recent years.

Whanau said revitalising the area was one of her top priorities as Mayor. The Courtenay precinct plan was one of the few areas that survived cost cuts in her long term plan budget.

“There is a lot of agreement on what people want for the area – to be busy and vibrant day and night, offering a great experience for families, students, professionals and business owners as well as people enjoying an evening out. We want a colourful, creative destination that attracts residents, tourists and investment into the area,” Whanau said in a statement.

“The plan outlines some big initiatives that will be a game changer for the area, like the redevelopment of Reading Cinemas. But also, shorter-term projects like additional cleaning, introducing festoon lighting to side streets and night-time safety support. These projects will have an immediate effect, making Courtenay Place brighter, cleaner, safer and more attractive.”

The specific plans outlined are:

  • Regular targeted and community cleanups.
  • A new ‘Courtenay East’ dining precinct, with street activations and live music nights.
  • Stronger safety support networks, working with police, Māori wardens, and community groups.
  • An upgrade of Te Aro Park that celebrates its history as the site of Te Aro Pā, improved lighting,
  • A refurbished Opera House and Reading cinema, and a new mid-sized venue
  • Improved lighting, such as festoon lighting on side streets.
  • Efforts to highlight independent businesses.
  • In the long term, a denser neighbourhood.

The Courtenay Precinct plan is separate from the Golden Mile upgrade, which focused on street-level changes with wider footpaths and restricted private vehicle access. The Golden Mile plan is currently in limbo. Transport Minister Simeon Brown has said he wanted to cancel the project if the contract wasn’t signed.

Despite indicating in October that the contract for the project was “literally days away”, Whanau confirmed on Friday that it has still not been signed.

“We’ll need time to work through what the incoming Government’s direction to stop work on LGWM means for a range of projects, including the Golden Mile,” she told The Spinoff.

“It is my intention to meet with the new Transport Minister as soon as possible to discuss the Golden Mile and other key projects.  I will be making the case that we continue to progress many of these projects that are supported by a majority of Wellingtonians. But I am open to different ways of working together and getting things done.”

‘Winston Peters is running the show’ – Hipkins

Chris Hipkins on election night, 2023 (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Labour leader Chris Hipkins has taken aim at the new deputy prime minister for comments made about the media.

Winston Peters has suggested some media outlets were “bribed” by the $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund, saying he had “never seen evidence” that they were politically neutral over the past term of government.

But speaking to RNZ this morning, Hipkins said the claims were baseless. “The person who needs to do something about it is Christopher Luxon – this is his deputy prime minister making very serious allegations without any basis and without any facts to back them up,” he said.

“You know, ultimately Christopher Luxon is in charge, he is responsible for ensuring that ministers uphold the standards of being ministers. Winston Peters is not and I think Christopher Luxon should do something about that.

“He should certainly be pulling Winston Peters into line, although at this point, it seems like Winston Peters is running the show rather than Christopher.”

Later, Hipkins told reporters at parliament that the prophesied “coalition of chaos” was already being realised. “I said during the election campaign I was expecting this coalition to be a coalition of chaos, I did not expect them to prove it so quickly,” Hipkins said.

Tune in for The Real Pod’s last hurrah

The Real Pod (Image: Tina Tiller)

It’s a very sad day here at Spinoff HQ as we bid farewell to our oldest podcast, The Real Pod.

Tune in for one very special livestream as Jane Yee, Alex Casey and Duncan Greive gather around the microphone for the final time (don’t worry, nobody is leaving The Spinoff or dying) and reminisce about the past seven years. Fittingly, we’re all about to enjoy some Nando’s here in the office as well.

As an OG Real Pod listener and a day one Cornie, I’ll be raising a glass of ice cold fizz and shedding a single tear from my googly eyes. Tune into the livestream below.

Greens unveil portfolio reshuffle ahead of opposition

James Shaw and Marama Davidson arrive at the Green Party election night event. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images; additional design by Tina Tiller)

The Greens have announced a portfolio reshuffle as they head into opposition.

Parliament’s set to resume next week, with the new National-led government now sworn in and cabinet meeting for the second time today.

“Our team of Green MPs will do everything they can to make sure Aotearoa upholds Te Tiriti and works for everyone,” said Green co-leader Marama Davidson. “They will bring their vast collective experience, knowledge and skills to shadow the Government’s ministers, to challenge them and hold them to account.”

The Greens are the third largest party in parliament, having picked up an extra seat when the special votes were tallied up.

Davidson is now the spokesperson for conservation, child poverty reduction, prevention of family violence and social investment. Her counterpart, James Shaw, holds the climate change role he had in the last government along with being the spokesperson for finance, public service and regulation (a new role to mirror minister David Seymour).

The whole Green caucus has picked up portfolios, which includes new MPs Kahurangi Carter and Tamatha Paul.

The Bulletin: Global attention on smoking law reversal

International media have picked up on the new government’s plan to reverse what was touted as “world first” smoke-free laws. The BBC reports that UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s position remained unchanged after New Zealand’s reversal. New Zealand’s laws were believed to have inspired the UK government to announce a similar smoking ban for young people.

The news has been included in the New York Times (NYT) The Morning newsletter today and covered in the NYTTime Magazine reports that “critics and health ministers have called the plan a win for the tobacco industry.” Here, the Herald’s Derek Cheng (paywalled) sifts through various studies to examine the claims that the laws would grow the black market for tobacco and harm small retailers. He concludes critics of the smoke-free laws “maybe” have a point.

The Herald’s Audrey Young writes (paywalled) that the issue has shown prime minister Christopher Luxon “how easy it is to lose control of the narrative” and given him his first lesson on accountability.

How the new government is responding to Peters’ media bias claims

Winston Peters makes a point (Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

Christopher Luxon said he “didn’t see” comments made by his new deputy alleging that some media had been “bribed” by the $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund.

As Newshub’s Jenna Lynch said last night, that would seem unlikely. “This is either a case of incompetence or wilful ignorance,” Lynch said of Luxon’s blind eye.

But while the new prime minister may not have seen the remarks – which Peters has since doubled down on – his colleagues certainly did.

Peters’ eventual replacement as deputy PM, Act’s David Seymour, said while he personally did not endorse the journalism fund, calling it a “very silly policy”, claims of bribery were unfounded.

“I would make the point that $55 million over two years in a billion-dollar industry, the idea that all the journalists in New Zealand were corrupted by 2 per cent of revenue – for me, it doesn’t pass the sniff test,” he told Newstalk ZB.

“Many people felt that was distorting [media’s] priorities. I don’t know that it did, for the simple reason that it’s a tiny amount of overall revenue and journalists generally, while they may have a view I disagree with in some cases, they’re pretty fierce about that independence. The whole thing [notions of bribery] isn’t quite plausible.”

Winston Peters makes a point (Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

The newly minted finance minister Nicola Willis didn’t go quite so far, instead telling Newshub this morning that Winston Peters was just being Winston Peters. “He’s not the only politician in Parliament who’s been critical of the media. That’s just something that’s par for the course,” Willis said. “I think there’s a bit of hyperbole in there, but that’s Winston being Winston.”

Peters has largely avoided media appearances since being sworn in on Monday, but had time for a lengthy appearance on Sean Plunket’s The Platform yesterday. He told listeners of the fringe radio station that he was “at war” with the media.

“We’re going to keep on going. We’ll see who wins,” he said.