Images: Kiri Allan (top) and Tania Tapsell (Supplied)

The Bulletin: East Coast looms as race to watch

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Poll puts spotlight on tight East Coast race, Ardern and Collins go toe to toe in very different debate, and solo mother speaks out over denied benefit.

The East Coast is going to be a fascinating electorate to watch on the night, and could get very close. Through Local Democracy Reporter Charlotte Jones, the Rotorua Daily Post has reported on an internal Labour poll which puts their candidate (Kiri Allan) ahead of National’s candidate for the first time in more than a decade. Allan is a sitting MP, and said she had done the “hard yards” to win people over through the last three years.

Or maybe the poll was dodgy? That’s what National’s campaign chair Gerry Brownlee maybe alleged, maybe was just asking questions about, in a furious press release about whether it was a ‘push-poll’. That’s where respondents are asked questions in a certain way to lead them towards a favourable outcome for the pollsters. As Justin Giovannetti reports, Labour reacted to that with fury, releasing material around the poll that “shows clearly that the questions are standard for surveys of this type,” Labour campaign manager Hayden Munro said in a statement. Even so, polling electorate seats is difficult, and so it’s clearly all on.

Anne Tolley is retiring from the seat, and National are being represented by popular Rotorua District Councillor Tania Tapsell, who I interviewed earlier in the year. As a new candidate, she has a low list placing, so absolutely has to win the seat to get in. The whole electorate is fascinating, in part because the three leading candidates are all wāhine Māori. Some might also argue that the electorate is also unusual for having three genuinely impressive candidates, but we won’t go there. The Gisborne Herald reported on a debate held between Allan, Tapsell and Meredith Akuhata-Brown of the Greens, a sitting Gisborne District Councillor.


The second leaders’ debate took place last night, and by all accounts it was both a more entertaining and informative affair than the first one. In particular, it would seem the PM was much more willing to get amongst than in the past, and perhaps because of that combative tone, more candid information flowed from both of them. We had a panel of people give their verdicts, and Toby Manhire (who was there in the audience) wrote about the tone, and some of the newslines out of it.

Meanwhile, for those with an interest in world news, yesterday was a bad afternoon. I’m talking of course about the US Presidential debate, in which voters of the most powerful country in the world were presented with their only viable options. Catherine McGregor has recapped the lowlights so you don’t have to go back and watch it yourself.


A solo mother has spoken out over a bureaucratic welfare rule that has left her struggling to make ends meet, while her former partner gets the sole parent benefit. Stuff’s Josephine Franks reports that those benefits are awarded on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, and so even though they share custody 50/50, the mother has missed out. The mother also said that it wasn’t possible to simply work it out between them, because they aren’t on speaking terms, and there was a history of abuse in the former relationship.


The two organisations who have broken most of the stories around the NZ First Foundation will challenge the name suppression of two people facing charges. Radio NZ reports they and Stuff will go to court, on the grounds that “voters should have as much information as possible heading into the election,” said RNZ head of news Richard Sutherland. The SFO has confirmed that those facing charges are not sitting MPs, nor are they NZ First candidates or party members.


Concerns are being raised about digital-only government service offerings in the wake of Covid-19, reports the Wairarapa Times-Age. The concern comes from the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who say that many government services are physically withdrawing from communities, but the need for face to face services remains as strong as ever. CABs are pillars of the community, are generally staffed by volunteers and provide free services, so the speaking out should be taken seriously.


After a brutal cold snap, temperatures around the country are expected to swing up sharply later in the week, reports Radio NZ. Even though it was brief, the livestock losses from snow around the lower South Island have been particularly bad. Rapidly warmer weather isn’t necessarily a blessing either – in drought-hit Auckland, an especially dry September is expected to be followed by more of the same in October.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

A rare quiet moment for L.A.B (photo: Gladys Smith; additional design: The Spinoff)

Right now on The Spinoff: Justin Giovannetti reports on the absence of policies aimed at supporting women in the election campaign. Justin Latif reports on concerns around the effect of gentrification in South Auckland. The 100 Year Forecast looks at which areas are most likely to see increased flooding. Alice Neville writes about how Wellington’s food community is bouncing back from a tough year. Tracey Lee writes about the potential voting power of New Zealanders living overseas. Alice Webb-Liddall speaks to a te reo learner who grew up in Pakistan, about a whole new world opening up. Matthew McAuley speaks to L.A.B about their breakthrough year in the music charts, and what comes next.

And in a few funnier bits: Jose Barbosa ranks the best deliverers of dad jokes in parliament. And Hayden Donnell, former evangelical Christian, writes about the theology behind Judith Collins’ call that Nicky Hager would one day have to meet his maker.


For a feature today, another podcast I’ve been listening to a bit recently. The 1 of 200 podcast looks at NZ politics through a left wing lens, and I particularly enjoyed their recent episode Campaign Socialists – it started with an entertaining and somewhat serious deep dive on the messaging behind recent Ardern and Collins campaign ads, and then went on a somewhat fruitless search through the policy platforms of various parties for any glimpses of socialism. There’s a lot of driving to come as I make my way back up the country, so if there are podcasts you reckon I should listen to please tell me at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz.


Super Rugby as we know it is likely over, after a decision out of South Africa. The governing body there has voted to explore moving its four remaining franchises into European competitions, a move that has been hinted at for a while. As the NZ Herald reports, they say the decision has been taken now because of moves by NZ Rugby to push for more limited scale competitions in response to the pandemic. In response, NZ Rugby said the decision was no surprise, and they had their own plans in the works for 2021. It doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Rugby Championship or SANZAAR, though it could make things a bit awkward.


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