2023 recap: The biggest stories of the year from wild weather, coalition chaos and cost of living

Aotearoa started the year with Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister and ended it with Christopher Luxon.  

Inflation, interest rates and the ever-present cost of living crisis were a constant headache for Kiwis with mortgages.   

Meanwhile, ram raids and crime caused chaos for business owners across the motu. Then at the end of the year, Kiwis headed to the polls to vote in a general election which was followed by a month of political limbo as the coalition Government was formed. 

It would be completely fair to hardly remember everything that's happened this year so Newshub has rounded up some of the more notable and high-profile events of 2023.  


Unless you've been living under a rock, you will be well aware that just about everything has become more expensive this year.   

Stubbornly high inflation has seen the Reserve Bank of New Zealand hold interest rates up which has caused a world of pain for homeowners.   

While inflation has now dropped from its peak of 7.3 percent last year down to 5.6 - it's still well outside the RBNZ's target rate of 1 to 3.    

Throughout the year Kiwis have been rolling off interest rates as low as 3 percent and onto rates as high as 8 percent – and it's not been smooth sailing for Everyone. A recent report showed the number of people behind on their mortgage payments is increasing.   

It's not just homeowners who are feeling the pinch either, increasing costs across the board are piling pressure on Kiwi families with the cost of food, goods and services and petrol all spiking this year.   

National has promised tax cuts to help Kiwis pay their bills however the party is yet to announce exactly how much and when people can expect extra cash.  

And we are far from out of the woods yet, with economists warning it's likely to be a long, slow slog to tame inflation which means prices won't be dropping any time soon.   

It's been a turbulent year for the economy.
It's been a turbulent year for the economy. Photo credit: Getty Images


The one thing that was able to overshadow the cost of living crisis was politics. The year started with a bang when then-Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern resigned saying she had nothing left in the tank.  

After her shock resignation, Chris Hipkins took over as Prime Minister and faced off against his counterpart Opposition leader and now Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.   

A tense election year saw the parties repeatedly clash and in October Kiwis headed to the polling booths to elect a new government. The initial votes, which didn't include people who voted outside of their electorate or from overseas, looked like they were enough for ACT and National to form a government alone.    

However, the final result showed they needed New Zealand First to get enough seats to govern and after several weeks of negotiations, an historic three-way coalition government was formed.    

The election was a tough result for Labour which bled support on to their left counterparts Te Pati Māori and the Greens.   

But Luxon took over with a bang announcing a brand new Cabinet featuring prominent National, ACT and NZ First figures including Nicola Willis who is the Finance Minister, Public Service Minister, Minister for Social Investment and Associate Minister of Climate Change.   

Chris Bishop meanwhile is the Housing Minister, Infrastructure Minister, Minister for RMA Reform, Minister for Sport and Recreation, Leader of the House and Associate Finance Minister. Shane Reti is the new Health Minister and Pacific Peoples Minister  

ACT got three Cabinet Ministers including leader David Seymour who will be Deputy Prime Minister from 31 May 2025 and is the Minister for Regulation, Associate Minister of Education (partnership schools) and Finance and Health (Pharmac).  

Brooke van Velden also made it into Cabinet as Minister of Internal Affairs and Workplace Relations and Safety along with Nicole McKee who is the Minister for Courts and Associate Minister of Justice (Firearms).   

NZ First also got three Cabinet Ministers as well including leader Winston Peters who is Deputy Prime Minister (until 31 May 2025), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Racing.   

Shane Jones meanwhile is Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, Regional Development, Resources and Associate Minister of Finance, Energy  

Casey Costello also got a Cabinet spot as Minister of Customs, Seniors, Associate Minister of Health, Immigration, and Police.   

It hasn't all been smooth sailing for the new Government though, it recently came under heavy criticism from health experts after it revealed plans to repeal some aspects of New Zealand's Smokefree legislation.   

Christopher Luxon is the country's new Prime Minister.
Christopher Luxon is the country's new Prime Minister. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Act 2022 was introduced by Ardern's Labour government to stop young people from smoking and included several new restrictions to be implemented in the coming years including banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.  

However, in a shock move, the new Government said it would repeal the laws in its first 100 days in office with Nicola Willis telling Newshub Nation both ACT and New Zealand First were "insistent" on reversing the restrictions. The Government plans to use the tobacco tax revenue it will keep by repealing the legislative changes to fund tax cuts.  

The new Government believes the smokefree laws would force tobacco onto the black market. The Government also said having limited stores selling tobacco products would create a massive target for criminals.  

But the move has enraged health experts with more than 100 organisations in health, education, social services and unions calling the repeal "immoral and undemocratic" in an open letter in December.   

The government has also faced opposition to its plan to scrap the Māori names of the public sector organisations - a move that could cost more than $1.2 million.   


From ram raids to car chases, youth offenders and burglary sprees, crime was a hot topic this year.    

Documents released in July showed in the first six months of this year, there were 254 ramraids - that's a 518 percent increase on the first six months of 2018.    

A police report analysing a year of ram raids also found 76 percent were committed by youths under 17 years old and 17 percent were under 13 years old.   

The new government has promised to crack down on crime and pledged to ban gang patches in public in its first 100 days in office.   

As part of its coalition agreement with NZ First, National also promised to train more police officers and tweak the sentencing act to place a greater focus on the victims of crimes and implement harsher punishments for offenders.   

Businesses battled ram raids and burglaries.
Businesses battled ram raids and burglaries. Photo credit: Newshub


It was a wet and chaotic start to the year for people in Auckland, Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti with Cyclone Gabrielle battering huge areas of the motu.    

In Auckland, severe flooding pummeled the city in January causing widespread damage, slips and entire communities to be cut off. Hundreds of houses were red stickered with more than 1000 yellow stickered. The west Auckland suburbs of Piha and Muriwai were battered by slips and road closures. The Council invested more than $1 billion in the recovery which took several months.    

Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti were also devasted by wild weather earlier in the year with Cyclone Gabrielle causing mass evacuations and 20 million tonnes of silt to be washed up onto floodplains in the region.    

The agricultural area of Esk Valley was hit particularly hard by the weather with hundreds of hectares of food lost as flooding dredged up silt and decimated plants.   

The recovery is still underway for Auckland, Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti with many houses still sitting empty awaiting decisions from councils, homeowners and locals.  

Cyclone Gabrielle caused major flooding in Auckland at the start of the year.
Cyclone Gabrielle caused major flooding in Auckland at the start of the year. Photo credit: Newshub


Staffing shortages, pay disputes and mental health were the focal points of Aotearoa's healthcare system this year.    

Workers and hospitals were under huge pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic and that continued throughout 2023.    

A lack of staff was a particular concern with several countries, including our Australian neighbours, incentivising nurses and doctors to move across the ditch.    

Australia and Britain significantly ramped up the incentives offered in an effort to poach New Zealand nurses in 2023 as they battled with their own worker shortages.    

The staffing issues were exacerbated by several strikes throughout the year as nurses clashed with the Government in a bitter pay dispute.    

In August nurses reached a pay agreement with Te Whatu Ora which included several salary increases.   

Staffing shortages are plaguing the healthcare sector.
Staffing shortages are plaguing the healthcare sector. Photo credit: Getty Images


Nurses weren't the only ones striking this year. Secondary and primary teachers walked off the job multiple times in protest of pay and working conditions.    

The strikes came as New Zealand struggled with poor student attendance and falling success rates causing concern for parents and experts alike.    

Falling achievement rates have been an ongoing concern with National campaigning on the issue hard during the election campaign, and heavily criticising the then Labour Government over its approach.    

Earlier in the year National MP Erica Stanford said then Prime Minister Chris Hipkins would go down in history as "the worst Education Minister we have ever had" due to flailing attendance rates.    

Education was a hot-button election issue.
Education was a hot-button election issue. Photo credit: Getty Images

Things were still looking bleak towards the end of the year with New Zealand recording its worst-ever results in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of reading, maths and science in December.    

Kiwi 15-year-old's average score tumbled 15 points in maths to 479 points while their science and reading scores fell 4-5 points to 504 and 501 points respectively.    

But we aren't alone with the overall average scores for the 81 countries and economies which participated dropping significantly in all three as well.    

The newly elected three-way coalition has promised to improve New Zealand students' education outcomes.   

The government recently released its first 100-day plan which includes requiring primary and intermediate schools to teach an hour of reading, writing and maths per day starting in 2024.