First Leaders' Debate: The big issues from Luxon v Hipkins clash

The economy and crime loomed large in the first leaders' debate.

The TVNZ First Leaders' Debate put Labour’s Chris Hipkins and National’s Christopher Luxon face to face for the first time. But what were the key issues that pitted them against each other?

GST off fruits and vegetables

The two leaders butted heads over Labour’s plans to take GST off fruit and vegetables.

Luxon thought taking the tax off supermarket produce will not help families -"you get a couple of cents off your fruits and vegetables"- and thinks his tax cuts for the "squeezed middle" will see more of an impact.

Hipkins said the introduction of a grocery commissioner will help to ensure that supermarket prices go down, with Luxon not believing it will help.

This conversation led to the second big topic of the evening:

Foreign buyers snapping up homes

Luxon was asked by debate host Jessica Mutch McKay "what if you're wrong on the foreign buyers tax?"

Luxon outlined the National Party plan to sell "1600 to 1700 houses to foreigners, actually at about a $3 million price, at a 15 per cent tax - that all adds up". He said these figures have been independently verified, and doubled down on not releasing the figures to the public.

Hipkins interrupted, saying: "They're not releasing those numbers because they know they don't add up." Hipkins pointed to what he said was National's need to sell $5 billion in New Zealand homes, saying the party are "banking on New Zealanders gambling online more, in order to pay for their tax cuts" and claiming $6 billion in public spending cuts from National.

Luxon was quick to reply, saying: "The Labour party... used to actually support working people. I support working people. I want hard working, lower middle-income Kiwis to get tax relief."


The two Chrises were asked if they knew what it felt like to "wander around and feel unsafe" a day after the stabbing at Albany bus station in Auckland. Hipkins acknowledged that while he doesn't feel unsafe "at the moment", he realises there are "more New Zealanders" feeling unsafe. "We do need to do something about that," he said.

Luxon said: "Look, I've walked through downtown Auckland late at night and it doesn't feel safe" and acknowledged "that's the reality for many of your viewers watching tonight".

The topic quickly turned to what National claims is an increase in crime under the Labour government. When asked for a solution, Luxon said National will "back the police and tackle the gangs". There was a quick jab from Luxon at the Labour party funding a $2.75 million dollar methamphetamine rehab programme in the central Hawke's Bay.

Hipkins fought back, saying Labour has increased the police force by 1800 people.

Luxon said National will ban gang patches in public spaces, give police powers to disperse congregation, "make it tough" on illegal gang-owned guns and change sentencing. He also said the party wants "consequences for serious young offenders". Luxon claimed there are nine gang members for every 10 police officers in New Zealand.

The pair spoke about their plans: National to bring back boot camps, and Labour to continue with the "circuit breaker" programme, educating young ram raiders into not perpetuating the cycle of crime.

Winston Peters and the coalition of chaos

Luxon was asked by Mutch Mckay if he has the experience to "prepare you for managing Winston Peters and David Seymour". He said his business background had set him up for the role.

Hipkins interrupted, saying "with all due respect, Chris, Winston Peters and David Seymour will be running circles around you. Winston Peters brings chaos where ever he goes. I've ruled out working with Winston Peters because a stable government does not come from working with Winston Peters."

Luxon said the "original coalition of chaos" would be Te Pāti Māori, the Green Party and Labour. "And I'd argue you've got the support of the gangs, as well," Luxon added.

Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon clashed across a range of issues.


Luxon said rental prices have increased under a Labour government and claimed “Labour has been an abject failure on housing".

Hipkins said Luxon's priority is "tax breaks for landlords" whereas Labour wants to get Kiwis into homes.

"Will you guarantee your tax breaks for landlords will get passed on to tenants?" Hipkins asked Luxon.

Luxon avoided a direct answer. "What you are doing isn't putting any downward pressure on rents," he replied.

Luxon discussed his experiences owning his first home when he was 24, and Hipkins earlier said he was about the same age when he purchased his first home.

"I don't want New Zealand to be a nation of renters, I want them to be a nation of homeowners," Hipkins said.

Both leaders stated they agree with building more state houses.

Climate Change

Both leaders agreed that there is a climate emergency. It is "very serious", Luxon said.

Hipkins pointed out that National had signed the 2050 emission targets agreement "and yet they want to cut all of the things the government's currently doing to reduce our emissions".

Luxon said they are committed to the goals, but they want to achieve the net zero target differently: by doubling the amount of renewable electricity in New Zealand.

Mutch Mckay discussed the wild weather seen around the country this year, and Hipkins said: "We need to act with evermore urgency when it comes to climate change, now's not the time to take the foot off the accelerator."

Luxon said he is taking the climate crisis seriously, but claimed targeting farmers and agriculture isn't the solution as they are necessary, both in New Zealand and around the world. Luxon said he thinks the solution would be giving farmers "all the tools and technologies they can, we have to give them credit for all the good stuff they're doing on [the] farm, then we introduce sensible agricultural pricing".

Hipkins said National are proposing to "wind back all of the measures [Labour] has put in place that have seen [positive] outcomes. Chris, here's an outcome for you: emissions have gone down three years in a row, and you want to cut all of the things that have delivered that."

Both leaders agreed more Kiwis need to believe climate change will affect them on a personal level, and that they share the same goal: lowering emissions.