Sure, it’s not the month or even the year of a general election, but March still surely had its ups and downs on the rollercoaster that is New Zealand politics. From leadership elections and new policies to debates and scandals, it was surely interesting.


Simon crosses the bridge to become National leader

After Bill English’s resignation from Parliament, National Party MPs were vying for the spot of leader, with hopes of winning the 2020 general election. Five members of Parliament campaigned for the top spot, but only one could triumph. The National Party caucus voted in Simon Bridges as leader in late February, with Paula Bennett being his deputy. A cabinet reshuffle was conducted by Bridges in his first move as leader, a move largely driven by a focus on regional development and housing. No new National leader can start without throwing a few punches at Labour, and Bridges was no exception. He pointed out that Labour’s “Kiwibuild” housing plan wasn’t possible, whilst also claiming that the Labour Party will implement policies that will push New Zealand backwards as a nation.


A less than perfect summer camp

News surfaced mid-March that sexual assaults and heavy drinking occurred at a Labour Party youth summer camp. Four people were allegedly sexually assaulted at that camp, all of them being 20 or under. The Prime Minister claims she wasn’t told about the allegations, and found out about them through a question from a journalist. Andrew Kirton, the Labour Party General Secretary, decided not to inform the police or the victims’ parents about the incidents which occurred. What has been described as the first major scandal from the new government wasn’t handled well at all according to high profile New Zealanders, including former Prime Minister and Labour leader Helen Clark.


Former health minister on the chopping board after a disastrous interview

Jonathan Coleman, the former National Party spokesperson for health, resigned from politics recently to enter a new job in the health sector. Although not before his last interview, which didn’t go according to plan. When asked about the poor management of a Wellington hospital during his time as health minister, he responded, “anyway have a great day… I’m leaving politics so thanks very much, Susie. Bye-bye,” and hung up the phone. Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report have shown that they told Coleman in advance that he would be questioned about the hospital, and that they had other questions that they were unable to ask due to him putting the phone down. Since he is out of politics, he’ll likely never feel the need to call back.

Jonathan Coleman. Photo from RNZ.


Offence taken at comments by Minister for Women

While speaking at a Christchurch school, Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter told students that old, white men should vacate their positions on boards to make way for fresh faces and diverse voices. A Christchurch man lodged a complaint after hearing about this to the Human Rights Commision due to sexism, racism, and ageism. Genter claims that she meant women, younger people, and ethnically diverse people also had relevant viewpoints and should be able to contribute to discussions. National Party leader Simon Bridges disagrees with Genter, and pointed out that the government has less women in cabinet than when National were in power.


All of the cameras are on the Broadcasting Minister

Minister for Broadcasting Clare Curran has been under criticism recently after arranging to meet with Carol Hirschfeld, the former head of news of Radio New Zealand. Curran had previously claimed that it was no more than an accident that the two had met up, which contradicts with text messages released recently showing Curran trying to meet with Hirschfeld for almost an entire month. RNZ staff are told not to make personal contact with politicians, a rule which has forced Hirschfeld to resign from her position following this scandal. Curran was questioned heavily about the incident by National MP Melissa Lee. The minister defended herself by saying that she changed the records to show that the meeting was on purpose. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that she won’t be stripping Clare Curran of her ministerial portfolios.


Coming up next month: Will Simon Bridges make his first mistake as National leader? Will Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran be sacked? Any news about Jacinda’s little one? We’ll keep you updated with all of New Zealand’s groundbreaking political news on Tearaway.


AZARIA HOWELL is a huge politics nerd living in Christchurch. Expect lots of new political articles on Tearaway from her! She also loves snowboarding, Beagles, and wearing clunky boots. @makeazariagreatagain