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Nikki Kaye, along with Gerry Brownlee and Judith Collins, at the first press conference of Todd Muller’s leadership (Getty Images)
Nikki Kaye, along with Gerry Brownlee and Judith Collins, at the first press conference of Todd Muller’s leadership (Getty Images)

The BulletinJuly 16, 2020

The Bulletin: Kaye departure reports signal massive changes in National

Nikki Kaye, along with Gerry Brownlee and Judith Collins, at the first press conference of Todd Muller’s leadership (Getty Images)
Nikki Kaye, along with Gerry Brownlee and Judith Collins, at the first press conference of Todd Muller’s leadership (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Nikki Kaye reportedly set to quit politics, clearer indications of what response to renewed community transmission would be, and Auckland Council to debate emergency budget.

The most prominent liberal in the National Party is expected to quit politics today, in what will be a massive shakeup for the party. The front page of today’s NZ Herald carries a report from political editor Audrey Young that says Nikki Kaye, MP for Auckland Central and deputy leader of the party at the start of the week, is set to announce her immediate departure from politics. Along with Amy Adams, she was an incredibly important figure under Muller’s leadership – according to various reports, she was effectively the key decision-maker in that team.

The decision to go could have something to do with the handling of Michael Woodhouse receiving confidential information from former party president Michelle Boag. According to allegations made last night on Newstalk ZB by former National press secretary Rachel Morton, Kaye pushed Woodhouse to delay putting out a statement on the issue, which then blew up in everyone’s face. It could be entirely unrelated, but Boag was also until recently a key figure in Kaye’s Auckland Central campaign team.

Is Kaye being pushed out by new leader Judith Collins? It’s always difficult to know these things from a distance, but Young’s report would appear to indicate that is not the case. The key paragraph is this: “It is understood several people have tried to dissuade Kaye from quitting or at least to put more distance between the decision and the events of the past 10 days but she is adamant.” And in case you’re wondering if this is simply one report that could turn out to be wrong, the speculation is also carried by Politik this morning – a very well informed newsletter that is written the night before.

For the National Party, losing Kaye would clearly be a blow. While her constituency was very different, she had a similar strength to Paula Bennett – an MP who could draw support from people who might not otherwise consider voting National. In Kaye’s case, it is urban social liberals. If she goes, it will narrow the breadth of ideological diversity within National, at a time when many are suggesting that the change in leadership is primarily aimed at ensuring the conservative base turns out. She has also been widely regarded as an effective local MP, and would almost certainly have been education minister under a future National government – likely along with other portfolios.

It also throws the race for Auckland Central wide open. Kaye famously held the seat twice against Jacinda Ardern, even if the margin was narrow. After falling short by about 1500 votes last time around, Labour’s Helen White has been confident of picking it up. However, The Spinoff understands the White campaign has also been very nervous about the vote being split by Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who announced last month that she’d be explicitly running to win the seat, unlike most other candidates in her party. Now the race is likely to be a straight fight between the two of them, as it is difficult to see who National could draft in at short notice that could hold such a tightly contested seat.

Meanwhile – and depending on your point of view, Collins has either reprimanded or rewarded Woodhouse. Arguably, it’s both. Radio NZ reports he has been stripped of the health portfolio, while also picking up Regional Economic Development and Pike River Recovery. Dr Shane Reti continues his rapid rise up the ranks this year with a move into the health portfolio. It also looks like Amy Adams will be sticking around – she had been planning to retire before Todd Muller got the leadership, but said yesterday the 2nd change of the year hasn’t altered her decision to stay. A full caucus lineup is likely to be released today.

And over the course of several interviews yesterday, Collins gave some indications on what sort of policies she’d be running on. The NZ Herald reports that she has ruled out any sort of push for a quick trans-Tasman bubble with Australia – as that country’s outbreak worsened, the prospect has been looking more and more remote by the day. She also signalled a shift to the right on economic policy if National are elected in an interview with Nine to Noon, including “hints at corporate tax breaks and a halt to massive public spending in favour of schemes to grow businesses”, the possibility of asset sales and privatisations, and changes to climate change legislation.

The Spinoff would like to invite Bulletin readers to a special event with Breast Cancer Foundation NZ. 

The effects of Covid-19 are often hidden from every day view. Writing on The Spinoff, Breast Cancer NZ ambassador Stacey Morrison spoke to Chloe Irvine about her experience with breast cancer through lockdown.

To support Breast Cancer Foundation NZ’s vital work The Spinoff is holding a Pink Ribbon Breakfast. Hosted by Stacey Morrison at Kind Cafe in Morningside, Auckland on July 28 from 730am the breakfast will hear from women about their breast cancer journeyand foundation advocates about the work they do.

Limited tickets are available here for a donation of $50 or more (and includes breakfast). If you live outside Auckland or are unable to join us for breakfast we still welcome your support for Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.

We got a clear picture yesterday of what the plan is, should community transmission of Covid-19 re-emerge in New Zealand. Justin Giovannetti reported on the press conference from PM Ardern, which would involve swift regional lockdowns, a range of heavily policed checkpoints, and the possibility that individual cases would be moved to managed isolation. The government has also expressed concern that people aren’t using contact tracing apps as much as they should, meaning that if an outbreak does occur, it will be much harder to keep track of. The context for this is two-fold: Firstly, Ardern said businesses had been looking for some indication of what they should expect in such a situation. And secondly, the situation overseas is looking pretty bad for a lot of places that previously had the virus under control, with new lockdowns being brought in.

Auckland Council will today debate an emergency budget, aimed at filling the hole in the finances left by Covid-19. Stuff’s Todd Niall reports it’s looking likely that there will be a 3.5% rates rise – which in turn will mean fewer service cuts. However even so, somehow hundreds of millions of dollars worth of spending will need to be shaved off, and public transport is likely to be an area that suffers. Hundreds of staff will also lose their jobs, along with the previous cutting out of hundreds more contractors.

Around the country, some interesting moves are taking place around house prices. As Interest reports, they’re heading down fairly sharply in Queenstown, both for the month and for the year. Across Auckland, pretty much everywhere has seen a rise this month, even if most parts of the city are slightly down from a peak three months ago. It’s the regional centres where some massive movement is happening – Rotorua, New Plymouth, the Hawke’s Bay and Dunedin have all seen very large rises over the course of the year, though some are slightly down on the month.

Major new funding is being put into waste management by the government, particularly around plastic recycling and reprocessing. Business Desk (paywalled) reports that the money is partly aimed at stimulating the industry after Covid-19, along with reducing New Zealand’s reliance on overseas processing. Over time, policy changes will also mean the landfill levy will rise by $10 per tonne to $60.

MBIE is currently considering anti-dumping tariffs on imported potatoes, reports Farmers Weekly. The industry is desperate for them to be put in place, amid fears the market is being flooded by spuds imported from the Low Countries in Europe, undercutting local prices. The global strain on the hospitality sector is to blame – to put it simply, people aren’t going out and having chips at the pub right now. Meanwhile in vegetable news, the NZ Herald reports courgette prices are at record highs, in large part because there’s no way to import them from Australia right now.

An amusing media story to finish this section. Leonie Hayden has written about an apology made by Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking to John Tamihere, after defamatory allegations were made on air in 2018. The settlement included a payout, and as Tamihere told Radio NZ outside court today, he’d happily be putting that money towards the Māori Party’s election campaign.

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James Borrowdale and his first book, Weed. (Photo: Damien Shatford)

Right now on The Spinoff: Elle Hunt writes from London about the mood in the city now lockdown has been lifted. Jihee Junn reports on a new survey of public opinion on optimism for how the country will come out of Covid-19. Four New Zealand food writers share their thoughts on being non-white in a very white industry – and suggest what they think needs to change. Alice Webb-Liddall reports on iwi concerns that a new Hamilton theatre is set to be built on an urupā, or burial ground. Calum Henderson pays tribute to the unique oeuvre of television creator Orlando Stewart, who is behind the new Tom Sainsbury show. Sam Brooks reviews the new Urzila Carlson Netflix comedy special – the first time an NZ comedian has managed to get a gig that big. And we’ve taken an excerpt from James Borrowdale’s new book about the history of cannabis in New Zealand, about the reality of armed police raids in isolated rural communities.

For a feature today, a fascinating editorial about the meaning of statues on public land in New Zealand, a topic that has been discussed a lot over the past few months. The NZ Geographic editorial begins by looking at a survey of exactly who has a statue put up of them – but more to the point, it looks at the meaning of the statues, and in many cases the place names that we use today. Here’s an excerpt:

The answers to these questions can be rather dismaying. Recently Wairarapa resident Raihānia Tipoki looked into the namesakes of five of the region’s towns: Joseph Masters, Charles Carter, George Grey, Isaac Featherston and John Martin. All were active in displacing the area’s original inhabitants.

“So as the many kāinga throughout Wairarapa slowly shrank behind the billowing smoke of the growing colonial towns, new streets were created, monuments erected,” writes Tipoki, “and now as I drive north to visit my friends in Masterton, my eyes are subjected time and time and time again to the names of the people riddled throughout our region who sought and succeeded to suppress the indigenous peoples of this land.”

More bad news for the Warriors, with confirmation that a quartet of players will return to New Zealand to be with their families. Matt Manukia from One News reports tickets have been bought to fly David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa home on the 27th, just after a game against the Roosters. The decision was made after the NRL wasn’t able to get an exemption for the families to join the players in Australia. It means a torrid season for the club is likely to get worse on the park, and considerations are now being made for how the hole can be filled.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

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