Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am: Election 2017 - Momentum building for Labour; National's huge new roads plan

ormer Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark embraces Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern at Labour's election campaign launch at the Auckland Town Hall on Sunday. Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images.

In this email we catch up on a weekend of election announcements, debates - and Labour's campaign launch.

1. Momentum behind Labour

With 33 days to go until the election, the momentum is now clearly behind a revitalised Labour.

A new poll from UMR for Labour and its corporate clients shows Labour up one percentage point to 37 percent and National down three to 40 percent in the last week. New Zealand First was up one point to nine percent, while the Greens were steady on eight percent.

Labour's formal campaign launch in Auckland also showed the 'Jacinda effect' turning into full 'Jacindamania' on the campaign trail. There were queues of people down Queen St before the afternoon event at the Auckland Town Hall. Over 2,000 people turned up and many had to be shuffled into overflow rooms when the hall itself was full.

After the event, Ardern was mobbed for selfies (John Key style) and addressed another large crowd at Aotea Square with a bullhorn.

Newsroom's Tim Murphy was there for the launch and wrote that Labour's supporters -- and Ardern -- now believe they can win.

"Old hands in the media tried to identify past images to match the feeling; one reached back to the famed Muldoon rallies," he wrote.

"She is hot, right now. Her reception in advance of a campaign and election was akin to Key's first election night victory rally in 2008. A cross between that and the America's Cup parade of a few weeks ago."

See Tim's comment piece on Newsroom and see our full rolling coverage from yesterday, as published first on Newsroom Pro. We will be doing these rolling coverage pieces every day until the election, and immediately after.

2. 'Our nuclear free moment'

Ardern's campaign speech was not laden with new policy announcements. They will not come until after the PREFU on Wednesday gives both parties a clearer idea of how much they have to spend on fresh policies.

But her speech was notable for not mentioning the Government at all and for its relentlessly aspirational tone. It also veered well into territory usually captured by the Greens.

The line most picked up on was the one aimed at her "youth-adjacent" audience when referring to the issue of climate change.

"This is my generation’s nuclear free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on," she said.

Elsewhere, she also committed Labour to changing the Public Finance Act to including the reporting of metrics on child poverty, climate change and the environment.

Ardern embraced Andrew Little immediately after the speech to reinforce the seamless and bloodless nature of the transition just three weeks ago. She also embraced Helen Clark and referenced previous Labour Prime Ministers throughout the speech.

Newsroom's Shane Cowlishaw picked up on a key detail of that transition from Little to Ardern in his interview with her, which was published first on Newsroom Pro on Thursday.

She told Shane that it was her idea to put Little at third on Labour's list, just behind Kelvin Davis and ahead of Grant Robertson.

“For me that was a given, he’s straight into being an enormously important member of the front bench and playing a really strong role in our senior team," she said.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Andrew, I saw how hard he worked as his deputy and then I saw him grapple with the decision in the face of some tough polls and through all of that it was all just about what he could do on behalf of Labour.”

3. The roading Government

But the biggest event of yesterday in terms of spending was Bill English's announcement in Hastings of an extra $10.5 billion to be spent on 10 new 'Roads of National Significance' or RONS as they're known in the (very large) road building business.

The contrast with Ardern's glitzy burst of urban enthusiasm and public support couldn't have been wider.

English gathered with Simon Bridges and local politicians and supporters in a field near Hastings to announce the new roads at an cold event under umbrellas.

Aside from the Napier to Hastings highway announced yesterday, the nine other RONS included: Wellsford to Whangarei; East West Link in Auckland; Cambridge to Tirau; Piarere to the foot of the Kaimai Range; Tauranga to Katikati; the Manawatu Gorge; Levin to Sanson; the Christchurch Northern Motorway; and the Christchurch to Ashburton road.

Despite the scale of the spending, which was launched a day ahead of transport announcements by the Greens and Labour, the event was bumped down the news bulletins by Ardern's launch.

The Jacinda effect and her honeymoon are still at their height in terms of news judgement by the large media outlets.

Also over the weekend, English and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman were forced to leave Dunedin hospital early on Saturday by pay equity protestors. They were there to announce plans for a new Dunedin hospital at a cost of over $1 billion, but the television coverage nationally was dominated the protests and the hasty exit.

The full details of the 10 new roads are here.

4. A noisy housing debate

Social Housing Minister Amy Adams and Labour Housing spokesman Phil Twyford hammered away at each other for a good 20 minutes on The Nation on Saturday on the issue of housing, and in particular the lack of state houses.

The debate focused on the just how many people were homeless, what that meant, how many state houses National and Labour promised to build, and whether there was actually a housing crisis.

The debate moderated by Lisa Owen kicked off with a reference to last week's report by the Salvation Army on the need for an extra 2,000 to 2,500 social houses to be built each year for the next decade.

Adams said the Government would be building 6,000 new state houses over the next three years, while Twyford said Labour planned to build a net extra 1,000 per year until demand was met.

Twyford said the Government had presided over a net reduction of 3,000 social houses over the last nine years. Adams said there had been a net reduction in the number of state houses of 1,200, but there were an extra 2,000 state-funded social houses because of the Government's extra subsidies for houses owned by non-government organisations.

They also clashed over the recent Yale study showing New Zealand had the worst homelessness rate in the OECD. Adams said the study also showed that if New Zealand measured homelessness in the same way as Japan then it would be one of the best in the world.

There was also debate over what exactly homelessness was. Twyford cited an Otago University study showing over 41,000 were classed as homeless, which includes people living in garages, caravans and with friends. Adams referred to the study's more limited measure of 4,197 people classed as being 'rough sleepers' living on the street or in cars or an improvised dwelling.

Twyford was challenged on why Labour planned to build 1,000 a year when the Salvation Army said more than 2,000 a year were needed. Adams was challenged on whether there was a housing crisis. She described the situation as "housing pressure."

The Labour spokesman was also repeatedly asked about Labour's views on a Capital Gains Tax, which Jacinda Ardern has refused to rule out in Labour's first term. He stuck to that line.

Steven Joyce also jumped on Twyford's view that median house prices should be three to four times income if the housing market was working properly. Joyce said in a statement this meant Labour wanted to halve house prices.

That's certainly not what Twyford said or meant.

It's clear National plans to focus its attacks on Labour's plans for water royalties, a regional fuel tax and whether it may introduce a Capital Gains Tax.

5. Quotes of the day:

Jacinda Ardern talking in her campaign speech about climate change, and targeting Green voters directly:

"This is my generation’s nuclear free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on."

Amy Adams on The Nation on National's performance on social housing vs Labour's from 1999 to 2008: "It’s crocodile tears from Labour, who sat there in government for nine years, did nothing for chronic homeless, did nothing for emergency estates.

Phil Twyford in response: "Rubbish Amy. You’ve been in government for nine years. You’re blaming a government that was elected 18 years ago."

Jacinda Ardern on Clarke Gayford's fishing show exploits in an NZ Herald interview :

"Often I hear him telling other people about his shark encounters and I have mixed views on whether I want to know.""

Jacinda Ardern in her campaign launch:

"I have described myself as relentlessly positive.That’s probably because I was born in Hamilton, where everyone is always optimistic that the fog will lift. Literally."

Gareth Morgan announcing TOP would not join a Government that wanted to remove the Maori seats:

"We will not support any government which has on its agenda any policies to reduce or remove current Maori representation in Parliament."

Gareth Morgan responding to a commenter on Twitter (the comment has sparked calls for apologies):

"Jacinda should be required to show she's more than lipstick on a pig.Will she be?"

Steve Bannon talking about his departure from the White House on Friday night in a now (in)famous Weekly Standard interview:

"Now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons. I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There's no doubt. I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart. And now we're about to rev that machine up here."

6. Numbers of the day:

$10.5 billion - The projected spend on 10 new national 'roads of significance' announced by Bill English and Simon Bridges.

40 percent - UMR's measure of support for National, down three points in a week. National was also down three points, but to 44 percent.

663 - The number of applications for emergency grants for people to stay in hotels in the week to August 11. That was down from a peak of 895 in the week ended June 16, Amy Adams reported in her debate with Phil Twyford..

$14.4 million - The amount of rates collected by the Northland Regional Council between 2011 and 2016 that the High Court ruled on Friday were unlawfully collected by the Kaipara District Council. Mangawhai ratepayers have been campaigning for years against rates collected by a council that built an expensive wastewater plant. The Council may now have to sell assets or levy extra rates, or get fresh legislation to retrospectively declare the rates valid.

7. Coming up...

On the campaign trail today, Jacinda Ardern and Michael Wood will unveil Labour's regional road and rail transport policy later this morning.

The Greens plan to announce a transport policy in Auckland early in the afternoon.

Bill English will be visiting schools and a medical centre in Wellington for a policy announcement.
August 23 - The next big set piece on the trail is Treasury's Pre Election Fiscal Update (PREFU) on Wednesday. It will be released at midday and is expected to give both Labour and National around $1.5 billion extra to spend. That will be a key moment. Ardern has signalled extra tertiary education spending, while Joyce has suggested extra Auckland infrastructure spending.

August 23 - The final day for people to enrol to vote regularly. Anyone enrolling after August 23 will have to cast a special declaration vote.

August 31 - The first leaders debate on TVNZ.

September 4 - Then TV3 has its leaders on September 4. The leaders then travel from Auckland to Christchurch for the Press/Stuff debate on September 7.

September 7 - The Press/Stuff leaders debate will be held in Christchurch

September 11 - Polling booths open for early voting.

September 20 - The final leaders debate on TVNZ.

September 23 - The General Election.

October 12 - Winston Peters has said he will make a decision about which party he 'crowns' to be in Government by October 12, which is when the writs with the final election results are returned.

8. One or two fun things

The election is now firing up for all the amateur comedians out there on Twitter.

Here's WhiteManBehindADesk with some advice for youngsters:

"If you don't vote, you'll have to kidnap an old person to make it fair."

This pic from GCSBIntercepts will make you laugh out loud a lot: "Jacindamania is taking its toll on Matthew Hooton."