NZ Election 2020: As it happened - New Zealand election postponed after politicians call for delay over Auckland COVID-19 outbreak

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has postponed the election to October 17 since Auckland will be under alert level 3 until August 26, following the re-emergence of COVID-19 in the community last week. 

What you need to know: 

  • With the re-emergence of COVID-19 in the community, the Prime Minister has pushed back the election to October 17, after announcing in January that it would be held on September 19. 
  • Parliament was due to be dissolved last Wednesday ahead of the September 19 election, but the Prime Minister confirmed it had been delayed until Monday. It will now be dissolved on September 6. 
  • The National Party, ACT and New Zealand First have called for the election to be delayed because they are unable to campaign under the alert level restrictions. 
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has welcomed the new election date, as the Prime Minister is promising not to change the date again. 
  • Opposition leader Judith Collins has reacted to the new election date, saying the National Party will do its best to work with the Prime Minister's decision. 

These live updates have finished. 

12:30pm - Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said there are measures in place to ensure that people will be able to vote in person at alert level 2, and protective gear will be available for staff if necessary. 

12:24pm - Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said the big challenge for the Electoral Commission is reconfirming voting places and getting staff reconfirmed. 

"It's a big job but we're up for it." 

12:16pm - The Electoral Commission is asking New Zealanders to bring their own pen to the polling booths but there are two million pens available for people if they forget. 

12:14pm - Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said after Parliament is dissolved on September 6, if there is a region that is considered unsafe to physically vote, she has the power to adjourn polling until that area is safe.

But she would have to consult with the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition.

Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright.
Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright. Photo credit: Newshub

12:12pm - Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said, "We're not in a position to provide online voting this election. In terms of postal voting, that is reserved for people to apply for if they are unwell and unable to visit a voting booth in person - but that is not available for the whole country."

She said it can be scaled up into the tens of thousands if need be. It could not be scaled up to accommodate the population of Auckland. 

12:09pm - Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright has held a media conference and said she is confident the Electoral Commission can meet the logistics of the new October 17 election date. 

11:57am - The Māori Party says the Prime Ministers decision to delay the election is the "right and honourable" thing to do.

Māori Party co-Leader John Tamihere said Ardern was right to postpone the election by four weeks, but he also revealed that the Māori Party was not consulted.

"Our people will remain vigilant and alert to this virus which has been brought into our communities," he said in a statement on Monday. "And our Whānau Ora kaimahi will continue to support vulnerable whānau."

11:52am – The Electoral Commission will provide an update at 12pm. 

11:40am - ACT leader David Seymour said in a Facebook post the new election date will give political parties more time to debate the Government's performance on COVID-19. 

11:37am - Green MP Chloe Swarbrick said in a Facebook post that with the new election date announced, "It'd be great to have mainstream focus on public health and community support". 

11:30am - Opposition leader Judith Collins has responded to the Prime Minister telling New Zealanders she has no intention to move the election date again.

"We hope that we will be able to come out of level 3 in Auckland in time but I don't think the Prime Minister can actually guarantee that given that we still don't know after a week of investigation quite where this lapse in security has allowed COVID-19 in," Collins told Magic Talk.

"It's come through the border somewhere and she still can't tell us."

Collins said she thought it was "unnecessary" for Ardern to be so certain about not changing the election date again.

"The fact is you have to do what you have to do... We're working to this and I'm not worried about anything else, other than making sure we've got our border policy out and our economic policies out."

11:15am – National leader Judith Collins has acknowledged the election date change on Twitter. 

"The Prime Minister has announced that the new election date is 17 October. That is her decision. Right now the focus must be on finding out exactly what failed so catastrophically at the border so we can be sure it won’t happen again."

11:10am - Opposition leader Judith Collins told Magic Talk the National Party will "do our best" with the new election date of October 17 set by the Prime Minister. 

"She's made this decision which we will live with and do our best with it, and at least we're going to have some opportunity now to get some policy out," Collins said on Monday. 

"It's all been brought about by the need to deal with the catastrophic failure at the border that's let this COVID-19 in."

Collins last week called for the election to be delayed – you can read more about that here

10:57am - Jennifer Curtin, a politics professor, said there is a risk that there could be lower voter turnout over COVID-19 anxiety, particularly older voters who may not want to risk leaving their home to cast a vote.

10:54am - Jennifer Curtin, a politics professor, told Newshub Ardern has "done well" to keep the political parties happy, and said she has also given voters "a clear message" that they can take the time to consider who they vote for.

10:48am - ACT leader David Seymour told Newshub it would have been "untenable" for the Prime Minister not to change the election date. 

He said his message to the Prime Minister over the weekend when she sought advice from political party leaders was to do her best to ensure they get four weeks to campaign. 

10:43am - Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis told Newshub some sort of delay to the election was "inevitable", and he observed that the Prime Minister was "trying to be fair" by choosing the new date. 

10:40am - ACT leader David Seymour has welcomed the election date change.

"The Prime Minister has done the right thing by delaying the election and allowing voters to properly participate in the election," Seymour said in a statement on Monday.

"ACT believes a free and fair contest requires that we have four weeks at level 1 in the run up to Election Day. If the Government manages to contain the Auckland outbreak, and we don't have further lockdowns, then today's decision will allow that to happen.

"In order to have a free and fair election, candidates need to be out in the community listening to voters, and that's not possible while Aucklanders are housebound.

"In the past week alone, because of Auckland's level 3 lockdown, I have had to cancel more than a dozen events, including debates and community meetings. The extra time will allow a proper contest of ideas.

"This delay might create some political uncertainty, but it will be trivial compared with the concerns households and businesses have as a result of the Government's incompetence on public health."

10:38am - Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien says the Prime Minister has "struck the right balance" with the new October 17 election date. 

10:34am - Green Party co-leader James Shaw has hit out at other political parties for urging the Prime Minister to change the election date.

The headline of the statement is, "Political parties should stop naked political self-interest and accept the Election Date change".

"We have been incredibly disappointed to see the National and other small parties continue to use the weekend to bang on about what would suit them best politically when it comes to the Election Day date," Shaw said in a statement on Monday.

"Frankly, many New Zealanders would have heard loud and clear that these parties prioritise their potential electoral successes over the health of our communities, and the strength of our democratic institutions."

But Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the Greens support the Prime Minister's decision nonetheless. 

"Those additional four weeks should provide time for the public health response to get on top of the current outbreak," she said. "We would encourage all politicians to accept the new date and to stop undermining the public's faith in the democratic process."

10:24am - The new key dates:

  •  Monday: Business committee meets in the afternoon to agree a Parliament timetable
  •  6 September: Parliament dissolves
  • 13 September: Writ Day, nominations close 18 September
  •  3 October: Advance voting begins; last day for return of the writ is 12 November
  • 17 October: Election Day

10:21am - Ardern does not think election hoardings will need to come down. 

10:20am - The Prime Minister, who leads the Labour Party, said Labour will not re-launch its campaign. 

10:20am - The Prime Minister has "no intention" to move the election date again. 

10:19am - New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who on Sunday called for the election to be postponed, has welcomed Ardern's decision to move the election to October 17.

"New Zealand First is pleased that common sense has prevailed. We were concerned that the COVID outbreak had the effect of limiting campaigns to an unacceptably short period until overseas and advance voting begin if the general election was held on September 19," he said in a statement on Monday.

"As I said yesterday, voters are sovereign. Holding an election during a COVID outbreak has the risk of serious interference in our democracy. Voters would be expected to exercise their electoral rights with a dearth of information and that is unacceptable.

"With a delay Parties can now prepare to begin campaigning again, confident that they have the time and resources to engage in a free and fair election.

"New Zealand First will now be looking at our campaign strategy to ensure that we can to get back out on the campaign trail as soon as safely possible."

10:16am - "I have thought about every single element of this," Ardern said, explaining how there will be electoral workers who have planned for the September election date.

"I think New Zealanders deserve to have certainty and a balanced decision which I think this is."

Ardern again reiterated that she was not pressured into changing the date. 

10:14am - Ardern says the new election date is the outcome she "would've arrived at" despite pleas from other political parties. 

10:12am - The dissolution of Parliament, which was supposed to happen last Wednesday, is now due to happen on September 6. Ardern said she thinks it's appropriate to have Parliament sitting while big decisions are being made about the latest COVID-19 outbreak. 

10:09am - "Ultimately this was my decision," Ardern said, when asked if she was pressured into changing the election date by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. 

10:06am - The Prime Minister has proposed that Parliament reconvene on Tuesday. 

10:05am - The election has been pushed back by four weeks to October 17. 

10:04am - The need for certainty was something each political party agreed on, Ardern said. 

10:03am - Ardern said she reached out to all political party leaders despite the decision being up to her. She said under the circumstances she felt it was appropriate to ask them for their advice. 

9:59 - The Prime Minister says it will be a "busy day of announcements", with a 1pm press briefing from Ashley Bloomfield on the latest COVID-19 updates and Finance Minister Grant Robertson set to reveal more details on financial packages at 3pm. 

9:36am – What can we expect from the Prime Minister?

Here is a statement from her office on Sunday:

"The Prime Minister has proactively sought the views of the leaders of every political party represented in parliament this afternoon about the election date. A range of views have been expressed that the Prime Minister has taken on board.

"The Prime Minister will provide an update tomorrow morning once she has also reviewed the most up to date health information on the situation in Auckland."

9:30am - Do you think the election should be delayed? Have your say. 

9:20 - Duncan Garner, host of The AM Show, believes the Prime Minister has no other option than to delay the election - a move he described as "totally appropriate".

"Ardern won't want to leave the election too late - she needs to cash in on her popularity now and not sometime next year," he wrote.

"The longer she leaves it the more time there is for the economy to collapse, for people to be laid off, for COVID-19 to sneak in again. Locking us down and restrictions in our daily lives isn't making Ardern more popular, and she's smart enough to know that."

Read more here.

9:18am - Massey University Professor of Politics Richard Shaw told Newshub if the election is rescheduled, it will likely be on the assumption that an October or November election date could provide a "safer environment" for voters.

However, he said there's "no guarantee" the country will have returned to its 'COVID-free' streak by that time - and postponing the election on that basis could lead to repeated delays.

"You could conceivably go on for a very long time if that were your logic."

8:53am - Constitutional lawyer Mai Chen told The AM Show Prime Minister can only push the date back as far as November 21. 

"You can't try and keep yourself in power by extending Parliament beyond the time Parliament expires," said Chen, adding that anything later than November would require Parliament to be recalled to lengthen the term. 

"[Ardern will] have to reconvene Parliament and get them to agree by a supermajority - 75 percent or more - that we're going to extend the term of Parliament and have an election later than [November]."

Chen suspects the election will be postponed.

Read more here