'Significant damage' and power outages in Whakatane after ex-tropical Cyclone Cook's overnight visit

The sun's shining in Whakatane, but the power's still out after ex-tropical Cyclone Cook caused widespread damage.

Mayor Tony Bonne says there has been "significant damage" to four power feeders responsible for Whakatane's power.

The wider region remains without power, but Edgecumbe has escaped the blackout.

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The homes encouraged to evacuate from Ohope came away unscathed.

Whakatane streets have trees strewn across the road, power lines down and damaged cars from fallen debris.

Minister Anne Tolley who was one of many residents evacuated from Ohope says despite any real damage, it's important people heed the safety messages.

Tolley told the media the mayor provided a "candlelit dinner" and she stayed with friends.

Meanwhile some Edgecumbe residents will be granted access to their homes from lunchtime.

Residents are being advised to stay off the roads while crews continue to clean up the streets.

All downed power lines should be considered live and the council says to call if residents have any concerns.

Road crews are working to clear slips after ex-tropical Cyclone Cook caused weather havoc overnight. Source: 1 NEWS

Government takes first step to freeze MPs' pay

The Government will take the first steps to freeze MP pay, in an attempt to share "New Zealand's prosperity more fairly", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. 

A bill to freeze pay will be introduced to Parliament, which will freeze MP salaries and allowances until July 2019 "while we develop a fairer formula for future pay increases".

"MP salaries have risen at a rate that is out of proportion with wage growth of most New Zealanders," she said. 

It comes after the Remuneration Authority, that sets MPs' pay rates, had recommended a three per cent pay rise for MPs in August. 

Ms Ardern said at the time it was "just not appropriate for MPs to be the subject of such an increase".

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said over the next year "officials will look at the settings for determining future MP pay increases, with possible further changes in place before next year’s review". 

"Because of the timing of the annual salary review process set in law, the Government must initiate this process to freeze pay quickly."

The Prime Minister said Cabinet confirmed a decision to freeze MPs salaries and allowances for a year. Source: 1 NEWS


Did 'distracted' Jacinda Ardern's radio remarks cause the NZ dollar to rise?

The New Zealand dollar saw a slight rise today - from 65.78 to 65.84 US cents. But was the quiver unjustly caused by a misstatement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern?

That was the accusation from Opposition leader Simon Bridges today as he spoke with reporters in Parliament, just hours after the PM made a statement on Newstalk ZB that she insists wasn't an error.

"I am very pleased with the way we are tracking," she told host Mike Hosking, also stating that she'd been given "a hint" ahead of the second quarter gross domestic product figures set to be released in two days.

The Opposition says it shows the Prime Minister is distracted. Source: 1 NEWS

But she was referring to the government's unaudited financial accounts, Ms Ardern later clarified. She doesn't have advanced access to GDP figures and so won't be able to comment on them until they're released on Thursday, she said.

Mr Bridges, however, referred to it as a serious "misstep".

"This matters, because these are possibly the most -- or certainly up there as the most - important figures," he said, adding that he listened to the interview live and the question seemed clearly to him to be about GDP. "They move the dollar. They move a bunch of other economic indicators. She needs to get that right.

"That she didn't I think shows that she is distracted. She's focused on the shambles of the coalition rather than what matters to New Zealanders."

The PM says her answer about the economy was correct but misunderstood while speaking on a radio show today. Source: 1 NEWS

During her own chat with reporters at Parliament this morning, Ms Ardern held firm that the misunderstanding was on the part of Mike Hosking and Newstalk ZB.

"I know what I was talking about. Unfortunately, the question that was being asked was something different," she said. "I accept I was thinking about one thing, he was talking about another.

"Of course the Prime Minister does not get the GDP figures, nor should they. I could not comment on them because I haven't seen them."

Despite the criticism. Mr Bridges has acknowledged the fluctuation in the Kiwi dollar value is unlikely to be anything more than a minor blip because the Prime Minister's interview was clarified so quickly.

The Kiwi dollar rose slightly this morning following a radio interview in which some thought the PM had a sneak peek of Thursday’s figures. Source: 1 NEWS

Should New Zealand increase its refugee quota? A decision is 'imminent' says Ardern

A decision on New Zealand's refugee quota is "imminent", says Prime Minister Jacinda, who herself wants the current quota increased. 

However, National's Simon Bridges said Ms Ardern needs to "sort it" before she leaves for the US later this week, with discrepancies between the Government partners a barrier to finding consensus on the issue. 

The Government partners have vastly different views on New Zealand's refugee quota, with Labour pledging to raise it to 1500 and the Green Party aiming for a quota of 5000.

"If you look at the Prime Minister's rhetoric she's made great play about being a globalist, a progressive with soaring rhetoric on these issues," Mr Bridges told media today. 

"It's all very well to do the photo ops, the international pieces, but when you've got important questions like this back home that... [are] now are up in the air because of a lack of unanimity and cohesion."

Ms Ardern said she personally wants the quota to increase.

However, earlier this month NZ First's Winston Peters told media the focus needs to be on New Zealanders struggling at home.

"We have 50,000 people who are homeless back home and I can show you parts of Northland where people are living in degradation," he said from Nauru. 

Mr Bridges said if the announcement on the refugee quota was lower than 1500 it would demonstrate "Winston Peters undermining the Prime Minister". 

He did not think the refugee quota should be increased as he thought "1000 is right".

National’s Simon Bridges says NZ currently has the right number, however, Jacinda Ardern wants to see it increase.