Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8: National backs covered Christchurch stadium; Hairnets galore; Rod Oram's column; Weekend Reads

Bill English and Jacinda Ardern on the campaign trail, at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and a soup kitchen. Photos: Lynn Grieveson and Tim Murphy

In today's email we look past the silly hats into the detail from yesterday's campaigning, discuss land taxes and climate change, and share some weekend reads.

1. Spending and speeding

We're all in full election mode now with lots of goodies being rolled out to middle New Zealand. The campaign trail yesterday was full of fresh spending promises, silly hats and a pledge to allow people to go faster on some motorways.

Bill English structured his events in Christchurch yesterday around a promise that the central Government would pay $120 million towards a new sports and events stadium.

However, the preferred option of both Wellington and Christchurch of a 30,000 seat stadium with a roof and a retractable pitch would cost $496 million. The Council has committed $253 million, so there remains a $123 million gap that would have to be bridged with an increase in rates of up to $120 per ratepayer per year by 2026.

That gap may not last for long. Jacinda Ardern is set to visit Christchurch on Sunday and is expected to also pledge funding for the stadium.

Elsewhere, Associate Transport Minister Tim Macindoe announced the speed limit would increase 10 km/hr to 110 km/hr on some of the new Roads of National Significance, starting with the Tauranga Eastern Link, and parts of the Waikato Expressway before the end of the year.

National is also splashing the cash in Auckland's schools, with the narrative around the population surge and over-crowding forcing some quick policy making on the run from Nikki Kaye.

She indicated last week she had asked officials to look at expanding the voluntary bonding scheme that pays teachers $14,000 after five years at a school. It was launched in 2009 and had previously been only for 'hard to staff' schools.

Yesterday, school principals were told by the Ministry that the scheme had been expanded to all schools in Auckland, RNZ reported this morning.

Kaye was reported as saying the money offered would be less in Auckland and was part of a $20 million sum allocated to help schools find teachers in Auckland.

2. It's silly hat season

Newsroom's Tim Murphy jumped on the campaign trail in Auckland yesterday with Jacinda Ardern and the traveling media pack. He found plenty of photo opportunities involving food and silly hats.

Bill English donned the obligatory election-campaign 'food prep headgear' on Wednesday to roll dough and yesterday was Jacinda Ardern's turn, but with a soup pot.

Tim reports on Ardern's morning campaign stop at Salvation Army food charity "Feed the Need" in Mt Wellington where she, Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa and Ardern's eminence grise, departing Labour veteran MP Annette King, helped prepare lunches for students of Rongomai School in Otara.

Hair net in place, Ardern quipped she had worked in a food kitchen in New York and knew the drill as she stirred soup in a large vat, put the lids on hundreds of plastic soup containers and unloaded bread.

Her group then went with the food to Rongomai School, the leader joining a group of children sitting cross legged on a big blue tarpaulin on the playground to eat the fruits of her labours.

The photo opportunities were all about her personal and campaign emphasis on children and poverty. Feed the Need produced 1500 lunches yesterday and supplies hot food twice a week in winter to a number of schools, including Rongomai.

Later, talking to journalists, Ardern professed to be unsurprised by the Greens decision on Wednesday night to re-enter the fray in Ohariu following United Future leader Peter Dunne's withdrawal.

Her office had been told in advance on Wednesday evening of the Greens' bid to compete directly with Labour's Greg O'Connor.

"Obviously the circumstances have changed and that does not surprise me at all," she said. "We did not expect anything else."

Asked how the Greens' actions fitted with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the parties last year, Ardern defined the MOU as: "a message to voters that if we are given the opportunity we will work together in government."

It remains to be seen if Labour will reach an agreement to withdraw one of its candidates from an electorate in an attempt to secure the survival of the Greens, who are polling dangerously low. One option may be Nelson, where the Greens see a chance of defeating National's Nick Smith.

Tim also picked up on the presence and role of Annette King on the election trail. Here's his piece from this morning on 'The Politics Whisperer.'

3. How about a land tax?

One feature of the 2009 Tax Working Group was the recommendation of a land tax, which is the cleanest, broadest and lowest-rate way to tax wealth in over-valued land.

John Key rejected the idea and Labour prefers a Capital Gains Tax that excludes the family home, but it is still the most efficient and effective way to tax wealth. It may well come up again if Labour wins and sets up a new tax working group. Arthur Grimes' proposal in the 2009 Tax Working Group was for a 1 percent land tax that would have immediately cut land prices 17 percent. Hence Key's reluctance...

However, here's a useful argument for a land tax from academics Zbigniew Dumieński and Nicholas Smith in this comment piece on Newsroom.

They argue the income from such a tax could be redistributed as a type of universal basic income or exemptions made for those on low and fixed incomes.

There's also a strong view on Treasury's migration forecasts in the PREFU from Thomas Coughlan at Newsroom.

4. Rod Oram's weekly column

Rod Oram's column this week, which is available early for Newsroom Pro subscribers, focuses on the debate about the environment in the election campaign.

He goes into detail on the respective parties' policies on climate change and the recommendations from the OECD and others on what we should be doing.

His conclusion?

"On one side, National is arguing for more of the same that has got us into this mess, while ACT wants wholesale abandonment of even those measures, and NZ First has a hodgepodge of contradictory policies," he writes.

"On the other side, Labour, the Greens and The Opportunities Party clearly articulate the challenges, are ambitious for change and have substantial policies to deliver on the strategy the OECD advised in March in its 10-year review of our environmental performance:

“Developing a long-term vision for a transition towards a low-carbon, greener economy would help New Zealand defend the ‘green’ reputation it has acquired at an international level.”

Here's Rod's column in full on Newsroom Pro.

5. Numbers of the day:

110 kmh - The new speedlimit by the end of the year on the Tauranga motorway and the Waikato Expressway.

$85 million - New Zealand's merchandise trade surplus in July, as reported by Statistics New Zealand yesterday. Economists had expected a $200 million deficit for the month.

15 percent - ASB's Housing Confidence survey published this morning found a net 15 percent of respondents in Auckland expected house prices to rise, which was the lowest percentage in eight years.

6. Quotes of the day:

David Seymour hit back at comments by Bill English yesterday that were critical of Seymour's language describing Richard Prosser as a "f***ing idiot":

"He's upset about a bad word? We're upset about the prospect of NZ first running our country's finances with retrograde 1950s policies. Has Bill English spent any time at all with voters recently? Because what I hear from angry constituents when I go door to door puts my language to shame. People are furious, not just about shifty Winston Peters, but a broken housing market and rising crime under both Labour and National. I do not regret my words and ACT will not back down."

Jacinda Ardern introducing Annette King to the children at Rongomai school in Auckland yesterday:

"This is Annette. But you can call her Aunty."

National MP Stuart Smith accidentally lets slip in a Morning Report interview that State Highway 1 between Kaikoura and Blenheim will open on December 15:

"It's an educated guess, it's 10 days before Christmas, in the middle of December, and everything is on track as we get closer to it."

7. Coming up...

Bill English is visiting Queenstown and Wanaka later today for campaign events ahead of National's formal campaign launch in Auckland on Sunday.

Jacinda Ardern is in the South Island in coming days, with a visit to Dunedin scheduled for today and a visit to Christchurch on Sunday.

8. Weekend Reads

Especially for subscribers over the weekend, here's a few longer reads on economic, social and political issues of the week.

Please feel free to email me (just hit reply) with suggestions for next week. We have a savvy set of subscribers who are always telling me new and useful things that I like to share. My mobile number is also at the bottom of the subscriber emails so you can also just text me or phone me with a tip that is safe from the prying eyes of the OIA.

The National Government is increasingly looking at using online education programmes sourced from North America. This deeply reported piece in Slate about 'online credit recovery programmes' shows they are tempting, but not as effective as they look at first blush.

Here's the one story about Trump
you can read this weekend that explains so much about how he operates and why he's so dangerous. The New Yorker's Patrick Radden Keefe goes deep into the relationship between Carl Icahn and Donald Trump. The results are breathtaking. Icahn was essentially given a free pass to rewrite the rules for his own business. The article forced Icahn to step back from his role advising Trump.

Danyl Mclauchlan is a thoughtful if interested (he's a Green Party strategist) observer of New Zealand politics. This piece of his in The Spinoff is long, but well worth it. Anything that starts with a riff on Michael Lewis' Moneyball has got my vote.

India is a fascinating place that New Zealand knows far too little about, particularly given our growing trade and migration links. This New York Times piece from its departing correspondent Ellen Barry is a simple story about how to get away with murder in small town India. It is extraordinary.

A sample: "We found Mukesh on his terrace with his new wife, slicing okra. My heart was racing as we climbed the stairs, but it needn’t have: When we asked him whether he had killed his wife, he told us in detail how he had done it. The new wife said she believed Geeta had deserved to be killed and Mukesh should not worry himself about it."

And no weekend reads would be complete without a useful link to a piece about the changing nature of media. Sara Fischer's report at Axios explains why the big shift into streaming video is going to make life very difficult for advertisers and others who use metrics around attention and viewership.