Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon went head-to-head in the second of four election debates on Wednesday evening. They sparred on law and order, health, climate change and more.

Though plenty of time was spent on attacks and ripostes, needles and retorts, the pair also made a series of factual claims. Newsroom reporters jotted down the ones that piqued our interest and went to work on checking whether they were true.

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This isn’t an exhaustive list of every claim made during the debate, but a sample of the key issues discussed.

Our rating scale is:

True – Entirely true.

Mostly True – There might be a number wrong or a slight overstatement, but the gist is correct.

Needs Context – The situation is more complex than a soundbite allows, and the statement could be misleading if taken at face value.

Mostly False – There might be a kernel of truth here, but the overall impression is misleading or incorrect.

False – Entirely false.

We’ve linked to primary sources where we can, so you can click through and judge the claims for yourself as well.

Hipkins: “70 to 80 percent of the kids who we’ve identified and put through this [youth offenders] programme aren’t going on to reoffend.” True. A July press release from the Government stated the Circuit Breaker programme in four centres had resulted in ‘almost 75 percent’ of children not re-offending. Oranga Tamariki and police told ministers in April that 84 children had been in Fast Track since December 2022 and “eighty percent of those involved have not reoffended”. Sources: Beehive, Newsroom OIA

Luxon: “Retail crime’s up 100 percent.” Mostly True. There were 9454 retail crimes reported in June 2023, up from 3926 in October 2017. However, police say part of the increase can be attributed to more reporting of crimes rather than an outright increase in crime. Sources: Written Parliamentary Question, NZ Herald

Hipkins: “There is no evidence base to demonstrate [that the Limited Service Volunteer programme works].” Mostly False. A 2019 assessment of the LSV programme found “a majority of trainees gain work or enter training”. However, the programme is designed for young people out of work or who study, not for youth offenders who National would like to apply it to. Previous boot camps for young offenders have seen 86 percent reoffend within a year. Sources: NZDF, MSD

Hipkins: “[Funding gang-led services is] a policy introduced under John Key’s government.” Needs Context. The previous National government also funded gang-led services, but not to the tune of $2.7 million. Source: Newshub

Luxon: “No economist in the country thinks that [Labour’s GST-free fruit and vegetable policy will be passed on].” Mostly True. Though it’s true the majority of economists who appeared in the media after the announcement of the policy were critical of the policy, some said it had some merit but preferred other options. Council of Trade Unions chief economist Craig Renney said though the policy wouldn’t be his first choice, it was worth exploring. Source: RNZ 

Hipkins: “We’ve lifted 77,000 kids out of poverty in the last six years.” Mostly True. There are several measures for determining child poverty. On the AHC50 measure, which counts the number of children in households with incomes less than half of the typical 2018 income before housing costs, the 77,000 figure is correct. On other measures such as material hardship or after housing costs, the number of children lifted out of poverty is lower (28,700 and 45,600 respectively). Source: DPMC

Luxon: “We have a 15 percent higher mortality rate on cancer than our equivalents in Australia do.” Mostly True. The latest research (2014-18) shows a 17 percent excess cancer death rate for women in New Zealand compared with Australia and a 5.5 percent excess rate for men. Combining both sexes, New Zealand has an 11 percent higher cancer death rate than Australia. Source: Cancer Control

Hipkins: “That number [40 percent of kids not showing up to school regularly] is not true.” Mostly False. The data for Term 1 of this year shows only 60 percent of students attended school regularly. Regular attendance is defined as coming more than 90 percent of the time. Missing four or five days of school would put a student out of regular attendance. School principals have pointed out mandatory seven-day Covid-19 isolation had an impact on these figures. Sources: MoE, RNZ

Luxon: “When you’ve got a science curriculum in New Zealand that doesn’t mention physics, chemistry or biology, that’s a problem.” Mostly False. Luxon is referring here to a draft curriculum document that was circulated for feedback in June. However, the Ministry of Education told Newsroom explicitly that “Biology, chemistry, physics and earth science will all be included in the refreshed science learning area”. Sources: RNZ, Newsroom correspondence

Hipkins: “For three years in a row now, we’ve had our emissions going down.” Mostly True. Data from Stats NZ shows New Zealand’s emissions fell in 2020, 2021 and in 2022. The latest data is provisional but isn’t expected to change significantly, but it is worth noting both 2020 and 2021 were affected by Covid-19 lockdowns. Source: Stats NZ

Luxon: “We have one public charger for every 95 EVs in New Zealand.” Needs Context. Though IEA data backs up Luxon’s claim, New Zealand’s submissions to the International Energy Agency exclude slow chargers while other countries include them. On a comparison based solely on fast chargers, New Zealand fares well even against high EV adopters such as Norway. Sources: MoT, MoT, IEA

Luxon: “Many of them [automakers] will be 100 percent EVs in a very short period of time”. False. Of the top five car brands in New Zealand in 2022, three have no plans to go all electric and two have a 2040 deadline. That’s not “a very short period of time”. Sources: Canstar, CarExpert, CleanTechnica, Autocar, Autocar, No available information about Suzuki’s plans

Luxon: “There are 54,000 potholes in this country.” True. Waka Kotahi had 54,544 potholes under repair in NZ roads in calendar year 2022, according to OIA data released to Newshub in August 2023. Source: Newshub

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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