Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8: Turei resigns under a new cloud; Ardern transforms Labour in poll

James Shaw and Metiria Turei were upbeat when talking to Newsroom just hours before Turei announced her resignation. Photo: Sam Sachedeva

In this email we look back at yet another tumultuous day for New Zealand politics.

1. Why Turei changed her mind

The old adage is that a week is a long time in politics. These days in the age of Trump and the 140 character news cycle, even 12 hours can seem like an eon.

Newsroom's Shane Cowlishaw interviewed Green co-leaders James Shaw and Metiria Turei yesterday morning and they were adamant they would weather the storm.

Turei told Shane she felt a little bruised, but was still standing.

"The thing about politics is you just have to persist. We know our issues on climate change, and rivers, and poverty, are ones that resonate so the political buffering we’re suffering from at the moment, that’s just part of campaigning," she said.

Photos from Newsroom's Sam Sachdeva captured their smiles just before 10 am yesterday.

But by the afternoon, the picture was changing rapidly.

The coup-de-grace came from an unexpected place. RNZ's Checkpoint with John Campbell sent questions to Turei on Wednesday afternoon about her time on the benefit, citing members of her extended family.

A relative of her daughter's father had told RNZ that the child's grandparents had provided significant support to Turei while she was on the domestic purposes benefit and said her story of poverty was at odds with what they had seen.

The family member had said it was "galling" and "outrageous" to hear Turei talk of her dire situation of poverty forcing the welfare fraud when she and her daughter Piupiu were being supported by the grandmother of her child and did not need to commit the fraud. The grandmother is former North Shore Mayor and Labour MP Ann Hartley.

Turei then rang Checkpoint shortly after 5 pm to say she would be stepping down, although she rejected the suggestion she was supported financially by the Hartley family.

"I have always said I did have really fantastic support from friends and family and that Piupiu's family really supported me especially when I was in law school with things like you know, child care, stuff like that. Like the sort of stuff that you would expect. But I was entirely financially responsible for myself and my daughter," she told Campbell.

Shortly afterwards, she emerged with an ashen-faced Shaw to give a news conference on the black and white tiles outside the debating chamber in Parliament to announce that resignation.

She said the scrutiny on her family had become intolerable.

"I can deal with the political scrutiny. I’ve been doing that for a very long time now, but that scrutiny of family members and broad family members is unacceptable," she said.

"I made the decision actually in travel between meetings in Wellington today, that the right thing to do for my family and the party was to step aside."

2. A Jacinda quake hits polls

Turei's decision came shortly before Newshub published the results of a Reid Research poll taken over the last week, covering the period that included Jacinda Ardern's elevation to the leadership of the Labour Party and the new revelations calling into question Turei's mid-July story about welfare poverty.

The Reid Research poll found Green support fell 4.7 percentage points to 8.3 percent, while Labour support rose nine percent to 33.1 percent. National support fell 0.8 percent to a 10 year low of 44.4 percent.

A poll by UMR for the Labour Party also found Green support had almost halved to 8 percent from 15 percent over the last two weeks, while Labour's support rose from 23 percent to 36 percent. National rose to 43 percent from 42 percent in the UMR poll, while New Zealand First support halved to eight percent. The poll was reported by NZ Herald and RNZ.

But the biggest shift was in the preferred Prime Minister support levels in the Reid Research poll. Ardern rose 17.6 percentage points to 26.3 percent and was just below Prime Minister Bill English on 27.7 percent. Winston Peters fell 1.9 percent to 10.0 percent.

"I do think if I continue as co-leader I will hinder the success of the kaupapa, and the kaupapa is to change the government and make sure the Greens are at the very heart of that new government," Turei said.

"That’s what I’ve been working 15 years for," she said.

In the end, Turei realised her carefully crafted gamble had backfired in the most spectacular fashion, enabling a resurgence of the Labour Party and delivering a body blow to a party she had worked to build up as an MP since 2002 and as leader since 2009.

3. National's waking nightmare

Just eight weeks ago, National appeared to be cruising to victory with a well-respected leader riding over the top of a meandering opposition.

Now, all bets are off after the Greens accidentally unleashed a 'Jacinda-quake' that could give Winston Peters a genuine choice between a waning National and a revitalised Labour.

A series of unfortunate events has transformed the political calculus ahead of the election in 44 days. Bill English now faces an unpredictable and unsettling six weeks of campaigning.

He faces nagging questions about his involvement in the Todd Barclay affair. He also faces an energetic and so-far disciplined Opposition leader in Ardern. She is resonating for now with an urban electorate frustrated with nine years of soaring housing costs, congestion and not-just-in-time infrastructure investment.

Ardern's explosive start in the polls has only confirmed the fears of those in the Government that English lacks his predecessor's political skills in the cut and thrust of an election campaign against an equally popular opponent. Key had to beat a hardened and popular leader in Helen Clark, who was Ardern's inspiration and earliest boss.

Soft Green and National voters looking for a change of Government are now listening to Ardern and Labour in a way they weren't when Little struggled to lift the phone, let alone put it back on the hook.

One feature of this latest round of polls was the almost-as-sharp drop by New Zealand First in the polls. The UMR poll had support for Peters' party almost halving to eight percent from 15 percent. It fell 3.8 percent to 9.2 percent in the Reid Research poll and Peters' preferred PM rating fell 1.9 percent to 10 percent, well less than half of Ardern's support. He is lacking the political oxygen and the leadership vacuum that he had when Andrew Little was Labour's leader.

There is clearly a large chunk of the electorate who had once comfortably voted for National or the Conservative Party who are shifting around. In recent months they went to New Zealand First, but seemed happy in the last two weeks to jump on another bandwagon of change in Ardern's Labour.

If the Jacinda effect carries through into early September and Labour is able to consolidate its support in the mid to high 30s, then National has a problem, particularly if the as-yet-unfinished fallout from Turei's resignation further damages the Greens. Voters will not be allowed to forget that the Green caucus hounded two of their own out in support of Turei just a day before her resignation. The Party even gave a fresh endorsement to Turei on Tuesday evening.

The permanence of the electoral damage for the Greens will depend on whether voters see the rest of the party as culpable for Metiria's mistake (given it backed her to the hilt and expelled her critics), and just how ruthlessly Ardern goes after soft Green voters. Shaw's approach will be crucial in the coming days.

4. No cruise for National

Where once it could be reasonably certain that Peters had few real choices other than National, English now has to reckon with the chances of Peters eyeing up Labour as a partner with a share of the vote approaching 40 percent. If Peters is able to hold on to 10-15 percent then a change of Government is more than a possibility. That is National's waking nightmare.

English will hope that the apparent chaos on the centre-left scares voters enough to opt for stability. That certainly worked in 2014 when Kim Dotcom was proclaiming moments of truth on stages with Hone Harawira, and David Cunliffe was failing to fire with the public as Labour Leader.

There were hints of this 'flight to quality' effect in the latest round of polls. National's share of support in the UMR poll rose one point and English's rating as preferred PM rose 1.7 percent in the Reid Research poll, although National's support did edge down to a 10 year low in the Reid Research poll too.

National's sleek rowing skiff powered past a chaotic dinghy in 2014. This time around the public has the alternative of a genuinely popular Jacinda Ardern allied to a known quantity in Winston Peters and the less-than-scary visage of James Shaw.

The decks are now cleared for a real contest and National's hopes of a cruise to victory are dead in the water.

5. Water royalties for councils

Buried amid all the political drama yesterday was a substantial election policy announcement from the Labour Party that would have wide-ranging effects on agriculture and Councils if implemented.

Jacinda Ardern announced her water policy at the Environmental Defence Society's 'Tipping Points' conference in Auckland yesterday, including unspecified plans for water royalties for commercial water use to be set and charged by councils after consultation with iwi.

This would effectively kick some very tough decisions and fights over revenue raising and sharing down to council level.

"The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water, and its use. Royalty levels will be set following consultation and the revenue will largely be returned to regional councils," Ardern said.

“To help set the royalty, in my first hundred days, I’ll host a roundtable on water at Parliament, with all affected sectors. I will not set a rate until I have met with those who will be affected; this is an issue that we must tackle together," she said.

Labour would also ensure water bottled for export would charge a royalty.

However, Labour policy staffers confirmed the royalty for commercial water use on sheep, beef, deer and dairy farms would not apply to water used to feed stock. Water from tanks and bores that is used in troughs is a permitted activity under the RMA, while water used for irrigation is a consented activity.

“Labour will work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims in a manner that respects iwi’s mana, and restores the mauri of our rivers and lakes," Ardern said.

Ardern's water round table is set to kick off an almighty series of fights over who controls the water resource, who benefits, how much they pay and who gets to keep the revenue.

Farmers and the Government warned it would hit agriculture hard, particularly in Canterbury where over 60 percent of irrigated dairying is located.

6. Quotes of the day:

Metiria Turei explaining why she resigned on RNZ:

"The reality of my life and people's fallacies of my life are just becoming so intermingled that my family are suffering."

James Shaw, when asked on The Project if he had any benefit fraud he wanted to declare:

"No, and I think that's a little soon."

Checkpoint producer Catherine Walbridge in response to Matthew Hooton's suggestion that a NZ Herald investigation was behind the resignation:

"Actually it followed a @CheckpointRNZ investigation and a list of written questions to her today. Instead of answering them, she resigned."

More detail on those questions is here at Checkpoint.

Winston Peters in Parliament yesterday when challenged during question time about his questioning of Bill English over the Todd Barclay affair:

"Oh, no, we have got him—just be patient."

Bill English comments on Donald Trump's "fire and fury" threat to North Korea:

"I'm worried those comments are not helpful. I think you have seen the reaction from North Korea that indicates that kind of comment is more likely to escalate than to settle."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appearing to contradict Donald Trump in comments made overnight:

"I do not believe that there is any imminent threat' from North Korea. Americans should sleep well at night."

Yet US Defence Secretary Jim 'Mad Dog' Mattis was anything but conciliatory in his comments overnight. (Reuters)

"The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people."

The New York Times reported Trump's 'Fire and Fury' tweets were improvised and surprised aides.

7. Numbers of the day:

26.3 percent - Support for Jacinda Ardern as preferred Prime Minister in the Reid Research poll published last night on Newshub. That was up 17.6 percentage points in two weeks.

4.8 percent - LINZ reported that 4.8 percent of the buyers of Auckland property in the June quarter were either not tax residents or had student or work visas.

Down 5.5 percent - ANZ's Truckometer series found heavy truck movements fell 5.5 percent in July in seasonally adjusted terms, although stormy weather is thought to have been a factor. Light traffic fell 2.2 percent. ANZ still saw the recent upward trend consistent with GDP re-accelerating to over 3.0 percent by late 2017.

8. Some fun things

Last night's resignation of Metiria Turei bought out the Twitter comedians in force. Here's a selection:

Chris Bramwell: "What a year to be in the billboard business."

Jehan Casinader: "Andrew rang Jacinda from a taxi to announce he was quitting. Metiria says she decided to quit while sitting in a taxi. Lesson: take the bus."

Ben Uffindell: "At start of this, polls showed likely NAT-NZF govt, lots of drama, Labour rebuilt, and at the end, polls show likely NAT-NZF govt."

This Beehive Letters imagining of Winston Peters responding to his critics about the apparent lack of detail on Bill English's texts to Glenys Dickson captured some of the mood yesterday.

And finally, this Matthew Yglesias summary of the 'Trump Doctine' sounds about right: "Tweet loudly and make vacuous threats."

Have a great day. Avoid travelling to Guam at this time.

We will be covering the Reserve Bank Monetary Policy Statement in full later this morning. And hoping no else resigns in the meantime.