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LIVE: NZ Election Debate

L-R: Megan Woods, Labour; Metiria Turei, Greens; Denis O'Rourke, NZ First, Ngaire Button, Maori Party; Nicky Wagner, National
L-R: Megan Woods, Labour; Metiria Turei, Greens; Denis O’Rourke, NZ First, Ngaire Button, Maori Party; Nicky Wagner, National

To follow this blog post, please start at the bottom of the screen.

Parting words from Prof Alex Tan: exercise your sacred right to vote. Otherwise someone else might vote for you. 

Debate ends: 1.40pm 

Candidates now have the opportunity to put a plug in for their party. 1.30pm

Woods: this election is about choice. One choice keeps you in the 20th century, or the other path which is supposedly progressive and is about making NZ the most decent country in the world.

Says this can be done and still put the government into surplus.

“You need to use your vote wisely”

Says a Labour vote is a progressive vote.

Turei: make sure you vote to change the government.

Metiria has really stepped out from behind the podium for this one; says the Greens will ensure a better NZ for all.

O’Rourke: the main issues for NZ first are.

1. the cost of living. So, GST off food, and reform taxation system. Directly tackle income inequality.

2. sustainable industrial and agricultural development.

3. regional development. Regions grossly ignored by this govt.

4. much better housing for NZers. Properly resource Housing NZ to build the houses we need. To address rent increases in Auckland and Christchurch.

NZ First is a responsible partner to any other party.

Button: NZ is the only country in the world with seats set aside in parliament for first nation peoples.

Says we should be worried about parties talking about ‘one law for all’ – says it is assimilation. Akin to neo-colonialism.

We need to address some of the statistics that are not good for Maori.

Says: we need to build up whanau ora, we want rangatiratanga – self-determination. We don’t want more benefits, we want to reach our potential.

Wagner: I ask you vote national again because we’ve delivered for NZers. We’ve managed the recession and created jobs. It’s about people working hard and delivering for their families.

Says we are punching above our weight internationally; in arts, too, Lorde and Eleanor Catton are NZers.

So, vote National to ‘keep the country moving in the right direction.’
That concludes the main part of the debate and now we enter a ‘quick-fire’ lightning round. With Q’s from the floor.

5. Minimum wage: does you party support an increase? 

Wagner: we’ve increased min wage every year in Govt.  Wages must be proportional to the economy.

Woods: what brasses her off, is when we talk about the affordability of the min wage, but not the affordability of manager’s wages. Says paying people more has a stimulatory effect on the economy.

Turei: Don’t believe the govt when it says it will cost jobs. Workers have increased productivity by 15% in the last few years but wage growth is not in line with this.

O’Rourke: committed to raising wages. Immediately $16/hour, then moving to a living wage – established through a crown commission report on what this really will be. If we don’t, more social welfare – which is a charge on the state. ‘A no brainer’

Button: we would increase it, but it’s still not enough to raise a family on. Looking at kai on the table, and ways for families to feed themselves. Want protection of our mahanga kai.

4. how will your party facilitate maori education, particularly in tertiary institutions. 

Button: a number of barriers, particularly in childhood. Need to provide better support – it comes back to whanau, what does a family need to support their children to this level?

Wagner: absolutely committed to getting “five out of five” people through the education system at all levels.

Woods: this govt has made it harder to get into tertiary education by taking away post-grad student allowances. Show no commitment to lifelong learning by cutting night classes. We know supporting people into tertiary education must involve Maori.

Turei: committed to a programme of reducing fees, improving allowances. Need to make sure effects of a poor education system does not close doors to Maori and pacific students.

O’Rourke: want to review student loan system to reduce debt burden, reintroduce universal allowance, too.

3. what are your party’s policies on healthcare. 

O’Rourke: young children need healthcare – free healthcare to under-13s. Always have supported excellent healthcare throughout community. Want to extend this to free dental care for everybody. (no timeframe though.)

Button: we will introduce free healthcare for up-to 18s. Need to focus on confidence in healthcare providers to bring down the barriers faced by Maori. There is institutionalised racism in the healthcare system.

Wagner: Nat govt have invested more money in health every year since being power.

Woods: will make healthcare more accessible for all NZ-ers.

Turei: announced free doctors visits for under-18s. Says Rheumatic fever rates have gone up because people, despite testing, still live in cold damp homes.

2. democratic rights restricted for fossil fuel extraction

Turei: “we will repeal that ridiculous law Simon Bridges put in place” taking away rights to protest. And we won’t take execs out for fancy dinners. We will return these rights to you.

O’Rourke: we will make sure we introduce more renewable energies to the country alongside better public transport policies. Need to phase out fossil fuels.

Button: really focused on getting our people out to vote and engaged with the political process.

Wagner: “every kiwi has a right to protest but we want to make sure they’re protected from physical danger”. Refers to EEZ legislation.

Woods: “a major attack on your democratic rights.” ECAN, University Councils, protest at sea… you need to use your vote to address these.

1. What will you do to address increasing private debt.

Megan Woods: a number of levels at which we must address this. NZ does have high levels of private debt, says we have to raise wages.

Turei: says we need to do away with loan sharks and predatory organisations. Need better financial literacy.

O’Rourke: people need to be able to pay off debt. Need wages to go up, GST off foods, these will help.

Button: we’ve developed a micro-finance projectt; we believe in kai on the table – need recreational fishing zones around cities; want marae to grow more food, too.

Wagner: at the macro level, we need to stimulate better paid jobs. at the micro – getting people to understand finance and allow people to control their own destiny.



says Cera has shared responsibility to all councils.

Parliament voted unanimously for Cera to be created.

“I jsut imagine it, if you cancelled Cera, would you ask them to take away their money?”

Turei interjects: actually, it belongs to YOU. 


says that Cera has not been a partnership.

Says the money comes from various allocations, and that “we don’t need a bloated bureaucracy to do that.”

Labour is committed to devolving those powers.

Labour voted for Cera, yes, because those powers were needed. “But Cera is not giving this.”


“Please excuse my interruption”

But says there is a real, implied threat by what Wagner said.

“If we want real genuine democracy… we have to vote National out. They are too irresponsible to be in control of this country.”


“We in NZ first are quite firm there should’ve been an election for ECan last year. 2016 is far too long to go without an elected regional council.”

NZ first want a full review of the Local Government Act ASAP.

“we say: big is not necessarily better.”

As far as Cera is concerned, agrees with other parties, says we need a full review.


The CER act was vital to ensuring resources to the city.

The minister responsible contains too much power, and staff can’t speak out.

Roger Sutton, the CEO, was chosen for his great comms skills, but in this role he’s not allowed to use those skills.

Says we have to wait too much on CERA and the minister for knowledge about our city.

QUESTION 5) Is your party committed to elected local government in Christchurch? Why, why not?

Beginning with Nicky Wagner:

“absolutely! We work very closely with Waimak, Selwyn, and CC councils.”

Says ECan commissioners were appointed because of entrenched issues around planning documents; says it will be reviewed and that the commissioners finish in 2016.


“YES. Is the answer.”

Says having ECan ‘stolen’ was a major issue.

“We do not believe in taxation without representation.”

Also says we need a clear plan for the dissolution of CERA for 2016.


“Yes, absolutely”

“It was a disgrace that National used the earthquakes as an excuse” to make changes to ECan.

Says it was done for business, not community.

Greens have a plan to wind up CERA, and reinstitute local democracy.


Yes, NZ First commits to elected local govt in all parts of NZ and oppose forced amalgamations.

Is wary of the possibilities of duplication between councils.

Says the best option for Canterbury will come once NZ First are able to undertake a full study of all the options.

Wants a robust debate on the future of Ecan.


Says a regional council is good, but “that a unitary authority worries me”.

Says she understands the theory around CERA, but says “it is a very difficult organisation to work with.”

Wishes that the govt had resourced the council to respond.

Q4 Rebuttals: 

Button: it’s not really a policy issue that caused the housing crisis in Christchurch.

It was quakes, workers, greedy landlords.

We need a short and long term plan. Short: ownership; long: systemic.

Across te tai tonga, this is a major concern.


The Govt will continue to stimulate building of new houses in ChCh.

Says they are building all types of housing, and that you can see it as you move around the city.

“We need to be intelligent about the way we build” – cluster housing, central city zone reform.


Labour’s key thing: ‘home’. Because “houses and homes matter to people’s lives”.

Says 10,000 houses to be built in CHCH within 4 years as part of their Kiwibuild scheme.

Without this, the housing crisis will continue for a very long time.

Says the govt must take a hands-on approach for this.


Says four of the five political parties on stage want to improve the situation for renters; and to improving housing stock by having govt work with the community to provide better core infrastructure.

Says current govt has caused harm to the community; and that your vote really counts.


National Party say there is no housing crisis;

“I think they’ve got their head in the liquefaction over that!”

Says we need thousands more state rentals, and says NZ first are not afraid to regulate to control rates when necessary for as long as necessary.

QUESTION 4) Many students have expressed concern about rising rents and a shortage of acceptable housing in Christchurch. What could we expect from you to help with this?

Beginning with Ngaire Button: 

Says this is an issue very dear to her heart; “I am a great proponent of home ownership”.

In her day, most people were able to own their own homes, but this is too hard now.

Rent-to-own schemes would allow people back into their homes.

Nicky Wagner: 

After the first ten seconds spent looking for her notes, it became quite clear Wagner is reading her speeches.

Points to the work that National is doing in the rebuild.

Rebuilding, supporting CCC in rebuilding housing stock, and the housing accord to build new homes.

“New transient housing initiative for people who can’t find places to live at the moment.”


says “we have a broken market for housing in CHCH” and that we must address this from a ‘supply side’.

“We won’t count the number of consents, we will count the number of houses built.”

Says you can’t live on a consent when you’re stuck in your car.


“really pleased with labour’s announcement of 100,000 homes.” says it is an investment in affordable society.

Points to Greens’ ‘warm-up Christchurch’ policy is ring fenced for CHCH, and to better protection of renters.

But is pleased to support Labour on this issue.


NZ First would amend NZBORA to include home ownership.

Would establish a new state agency to acquire land for houses.

Would repeal recent social housing reforms and would make sure Housing NZ would build more new homes.

Rebuttals to Q3. 

O’Rourke: says we need to have solid regulation and measurement on energy – particularly around energy waste.

Says NZ must move away from fossil fuels; says heavy freight must travel on rail.

Button: Maori Party is pleased that its refusal to compromise on environmental issues meant the RMA couldn’t be rewritten for commercial interests.

Do not want to see hapu and iwi further disadvantaged in future policy.

Says we need a carbon price, as ETS can hardly cover its own costs at present.

Wagner: calls climate change a major issue.

Says we have a suite of policies ‘comparitable’ to other countries.

Points to NZ’s work in the pacific and says we are pulling our weight internationally.

Woods: says we need to look at policy in a number of areas if we are to be serious about climate change.

Points to Labour’s recent R&D tax credit policy, but is dismayed that in the top ten science q’s of our time there is no reference to climate change.

Turei: today, Greens announced transport plan for Chch.

Says this has an impact on climate emissions.

As do things like the ‘student green card’ to enable ‘you’ to have say on the transport you use.

QUESTION 3) The ICCPR (int. covenant on civil and political rights) has named climate change the biggest challenge of our time. What would your party do to address it?

Denis O’Rourke: we oppose the ETS that has had no effect on climate change when many exemptions are in place.

“We want to reduce dependence on the motorcar” and “to incentivise the introduction of fully electric vehicles.”

Button: says the ETS has failed because big industry can buy cheap credits overseas. Says we need a long-term strategy.

Current policies allow for big emitters to offset emissions through cheap credits, while not reducing emissions.

Wagner: began with a well-thought out pun on the elephant in the room. (There is an elephant in the room)

Says national’s strategy is to take a much stronger global position.

Points to the alliance on studying agricultural emissions; mitigation investment for pacific island neighbours; spearheading policies.

Woods: points to the CHCH rebuild as being a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a sustainable city.

This would include a transport system that isn’t reliant on oil.

Says it is ‘our obligation’ to do these things.

Turei: says that emissions are increasing under National, and says we can easily see a lack of action in their policies.

Greens have announced a carbon tax – a set price. This would then allow for a $2k tax free band for individuals to offset potential costs.

REBUTTALS: 12.37pm

Turei: Says National would have you believe that inequality is acceptable – “it is not acceptable. None of us want to live in a country where kids go to school hungry.”

O’Rourke: says the Nats have their heads in the sand. Says they unfairly give more to the rich and take away from the poor. Again, we need a better living wage.

Button: this is an issue that is hugely concerning to the Maori party. Maori (and Pacifica) are unfairly represented in these figures. Yes, we will increase the min wage, but “our long term goal is to see children reach their potential”.

hey want Whanau Ora to be beneficial and well rounded.

Wagner: “you guys are educated and intelligent. … the Government must be evidence based.” says the govt has managed to support families through the worst financial crisis in 50 years, and has managed to get us “back into the black”. We can only help people – through jobs, etc. – when we have a better, stronger economy.

Woods: says one of the reasons she’s involved in politics, is because every child in this country deserves the best start in life regardless of how much money their family has in the bank. We won’t put money into tax cuts for the wealthiest NZ-ers.

Woods, Labour 

“Inequality and child poverty earn this government a fail grade.”

Says she has constituents who cannot afford food. A living wage where people can afford food is not a luxury.

Wagner, National

“Inequality is not rising in NZ.” pointing to OECD 2007-2011 figures.

Says child poverty is falling by 3%.

“Govt is taking an investment approach to welfare.”

Says the present tax system means that 43% of NZ-ers get paid to live here.


Inequality is not the same as inequity. It’s about justice, too.

Equality, starting at the same place, does not always provide the same outcomes.

Publicly funded health systems, based on equality, do not take into account the ability for people to pay.

It ignores other factors such as language, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity.


Will raise min wage to $16/hour immediately.

Talks about the rise in income gap, among the highest in the OECD.

GST off all food [? – I might have heard that wrongly?].

And to clamp down on tax evasion, he says costs are up to $7b (other reports have this up to $6b)

Turei, Greens

“Inequality and poverty is one of the biggest issues in this campaign, and one in which National needs to be held to account for its failure.”

Says it should be possible for families to feed their kids every day before school.

Greens will combat this with free doctors visits, food in schools.

QUESTION 2) Inequality has been a hot election topic. How is your party planning to respond to this?


Each candidate has a chance to respond to what the other parties have said.

Megan Woods, Labour, says that we need well paid jobs.

Metiria Turei, Greens, mustered a round of whoops and applause by pointing out that the National Government have cut post-graduate allowances for students. Among other cuts to tertiary institutions.

O’Rourke, NZ First, says “National’s claims that they’ve produced a ‘rockstar economy'” are heavily reliant on the Christchurch rebuild and dairy. Talks about the job economy being low value under National. (lots of nods from Woods & Turei to that)

Button, Maori, education is key to addressing whanau and child poverty. It is key to breaking the cycle. “We will invest in iwi scholarships, and government scholarships.”

Wagner, National, “there’s never been a better time to get a job in NZ. Especially if you’ve got the right attitude.” Says wages are rising faster than inflation, and that you need to choose your career pathway carefully.

Nicky Wagner – National 

Wagner points to National Government’s ‘track record’ in investing in the economy.

“We don’t want a boom bust economy. Want to make sure there are jobs out there for you.”

Ngaire Button – Maori Party 

Button begins by sharing her mihi. She has six kids, and says she knows the pain of students.

Button says we need to grow the $7b maori economy, and need to ensure job and trades training.

Need clear career pathways for graduates.

Denis O’Rourke 

NZ First will help the environment by imposing high environmental standards,

O’Rourke is listing the whole of NZ First’s policies that might apply to the question; the audience response is fairly lukewarm.

Metiria Turei – Greens

Greens have announced a $1b development budget.

We will invest in 2,000 new places in science & technology.

Greens say we need a smarter and greener economy.

The crowd received these policies warmly.

Megan Woods, Labour

“I understand that concern, I started here in 1992 – a year after the Ruth Richardson budget.”

Says we must back our smart businesses, bring back R&D tax credits.

“We will back young people.”

Says we are stuck in a commodity mindset, but aren’t prepared to add value.


1) Many students have expressed concerns about their ability to get a full time, salaried position when they graduate. What will your party do to address this?


Today’s debate is being chaired by political science professor Alex Tan.

He says the aim of the debate is to provide students with the information they need to be engaged in democracy and to vote sensibly.


All the candidates are now present, and the Undercroft is absolutely bursting at the seams.

UCPols’ president, Nathalie Blakely, has officially welcomed the crowd and the candidates.


Welcome to the live blog of the NZ Election debate.

Michael Cropp will be manning the keyboard today.

The MP’s attending are:
National: Nicky Wagner
Labour: Megan Woods
Greens: Metiria Turei
NZ First: Denis O’Rourke
Maori Party: Ngaire Button

The crowds are gathering