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Politicheck New Zealand factcheck website

Written By: - Date published: 8:31 am, February 22nd, 2014 - 69 comments
Categories: blogs, internet - Tags:

Politicheck, a local version of fact check websites such as the US sites Factcheck and Politifact, and the Australian website Politifact Australia was launched this week.  The front page says the following:

Politicheck.org.nz’s goal is to analyse all statements made during the election by all parties and say whether or not based on evidence available they are telling the truth. The website looks to operate on a similar level to the US political fact checking website – Politifact.com – although we have no affiliation with that website.

It is in the interest of all New Zealanders that we hold our politicians accountable for what they say or print, as they are the voice of this nation chosen to represent us. All fact checking will be shown through a transparent process, open to the public, ready for scrutiny. There is currently no unbiased source of fact checking of New Zealand politics for the public with this sort of transparency. No newspaper, website or news network is entirely impartial. Also there is no one reference point to see how truthful politicians have been during the election.

This is a totally not-for-profit venture aimed at making sure that all politicians and their policies are kept in check as current New Zealand media reports political statements with little to no objective analysis of what they have said, or are not as accessible as the main news networks. Hopefully through providing information rather than emotion and soundbites – we can change the conversation around politics from a popularity contest to actual policy, facts and data applicable to all New Zealanders.

If you would like to help out – please check the volunteer section for more details.

The release of the website is to try and stimulate interest and to seek out volunteers.  It looks like they intend to get to work once a team has been assembled.

The person behind the website is Rory McCarthy who has set out information about himself including the fact that he is a Green Party member.  There is a need for this type of website and it will be interesting to see how this particular effort develops.

69 comments on “Politicheck New Zealand factcheck website”

  1. karol 1


    I see they have yet to assemble the team of fact checking contributors. What kind of skills/experience would it require?

    • mickysavage 1.1

      I am sure a diversity of skills would be appreciated and someone with the time to and ability to assemble and analyse information.

      Key deserves a fact check website of his own.


      • srylands 1.1.1

        It is an excellent idea. It does not need a diversity of skills.

      • phillip ure 1.1.2

        blip should be on the governing body..(included in the logo..?..)

        ..his/her local expertise/efficiency in this area ..is unmatched..to my eye..

        ..and this is a great idea..

        ..instead of smashing my forehead into blunt objects as politicians’ serial-lying passes always unchallenged..by the bought/paid-for corporate-media trouts..

        ..i can now flick those common-occurances onto this august body..

        ..very good..

        ..for nz politics..my forehead..my furniture/walls..

        ..(and i am sure i will be linking to them..a lot..)

        phillip ure..

      • Disraeli Gladstone 1.1.3

        Winston Peters would require his own ‘wiki’.

      • karol 1.1.4

        The site outlines the process, and indicates some elements of the kind of expertise looked for, which includes:

        They first argue against the issue. They then argue for the issue. If they cannot find evidence they must list the process they went through in order to find evidence.

        Depending on the political affiliation of the party/politician affected, an impartial researcher or someone from the same side of the political spectrum verifies their findings – and states whether they agree or disagree

        It also mentions the kind of expertise looked for in volunteers:

        At the moment we are are interested in volunteers with a media, research, or politics background (preferably over three years in a relevant field but all candidates will be considered) with free time and a passion for getting to the truth in politics.

        They/he is also looking for an editor.

        • veutoviper

          Here is Politicheck’s Twitter feed – https://twitter.com/PoliticheckNZ

          The latest tweet calls for bloggers who want to have a connection to their website to contact media@politicheck.org.nz

          I read about Politicheck (NZ) on Andrea Vance’s Twitter account a few days ago. The related conversation between Vance and others (including Rory) indicated that Politicheck is at a very early stage, and according to one person in the conversation “a project by a uni student”. Rory’s bio on the Politicheck website appears to confirm this to a degree.

          So, while I find the concept and aim very exciting etc, I am a little cautious at this stage that it will be up and running to a sufficient degree etc to make a real impact in this election year. Not being negative, and considering contacting them myself. .

          • Stephanie Rodgers

            One possible issue I can see is timeliness – it’s going to be difficult for a volunteer team to balance the need to be rigorous with the media’s short attention span. If a politican tells a porky it needs to be exposed within 24 hours or people have moved on (unless it’s a massive issue. Or about someone’s private sex life.)

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              I don’t think there’s any sense in losing sleep over that.

              “A lie runs round the world while the truth is still getting its boots on”.

              The effects of ongoing fact checking will be cumulative, and politicians have a tendency to recycle their lies.

      • David H 1.1.5

        Jeeze Mickey, at least let them get a first breath before hitting them with the heavy artillery. That is a BLiP list.

    • Pasupial 1.2


      From “Volunteer” page:

      “At the moment we are are interested in volunteers with a media, research, or politics background (preferably over three years in a relevant field but all candidates will be considered) with free time and a passion for getting to the truth in politics.”

      The experience requirement counts me out for now (and lack of free time too). Given the meticulous research of your posts, I imagine that you have just the right kind of background for this initial phase. I’ll probably hold off till Politicheck start asking for proofreaders (tedious work, but easier to fit into a toddler focused day).

      Though if you do go ahead with this, please leave yourself sufficient time to continue crafting your excellent contributions to TS!

      [edit: see you beat me to it]

      • karol 1.2.1

        Oh. Thanks, Pasupial. I wasn’t thinking about myself as a fact checker, so much as wondering how good the fact checking would be – ie via the credentials of the fact checkers.

        The time commitment is a biggie. I do like researching, but there’s more to fact checking than that – need to be able to analyse, weigh up at least two possible points of view on it, etc.

  2. tricledrown 2

    A start would be Bill Englishs claim that under National child poverty has got better.
    Fact is that 60,000 more children live in poverty since 2008.
    In 2008 170,000 children lived in poverty.
    2014 the number of children living in poverty exceeded 250,000 a massive increase.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      There have been many children born since 2008.

      What’s (most) important and comparable is the rate of childhood poverty, not the absolute number.

      • Puddleglum 2.1.1

        Hi Lanthanide,

        I think that’s debatable.

        Is it better to have 1 million children in poverty out of a population of 5 million children (rate of 1 in 5) than to have 250,000 children in poverty out of a population of 1 million children (rate of 1 in 4)?

        As well as the quantitative utilitarian calculation of the absolute amount of suffering (which is obviously greater in the first case), there’s also the potential for ’emergent’ effects as absolute numbers increase, irrespective of rates (i.e., critical mass and concentration effects for all sorts of negative outcomes). Given human sociality, it’s likely that negative effects are not just additive with each individual affected.

        • Lanthanide

          Yes, but we’re not talking about 5 million or 1 million children. We’re talking about a slow, but steady, population growth. So the rate of childhood poverty and whether it has increased over those years or not is more relevant than the total number of children now in poverty.

          It seems very likely that the rate of poverty will have gone up, just eyeballing the raw numbers alone, but it is worth knowing if that is the case, and also how much the rate increased.

          • Puddleglum

            I agree that rates are useful for comparison but it’s important to be clear about what’s being compared and just what the comparison means in relation to social problems.

            I was trying to highlight that changes in absolute numbers (irrespective of the rate) are potentially just as concerning, in their own right, as relative rates of poverty (at times T1 and T2).

            Even if any increase in absolute numbers represented a reduction in the rate, that is not necessarily what we should take as a ‘good sign’ in relation to poverty in New Zealand. Surely, the aim is to reduce the absolute number of people in poverty, not just reduce the rate at which individuals find themselves in poverty?

            It’s a bit like saying that reductions in the rate of carbon emissions from each vehicle is all we need to focus on in relation to climate change when, in fact, the real concern should be the absolute amount of carbon being emitted as the ‘population’ of vehicles increases.

            Comparison of rates, that is, could give us a misplaced sense of satisfaction over how we are dealing with poverty (or climate change). If more and more people are poor in New Zealand that should be sufficient cause for concern (if more and more carbon is being emitted into the atmosphere, that should be sufficient cause for concern).

            Of course, a reduction in rates is better than the same rate or increased rates when the population is increasing. But it could be argued that that is only because it represents a smaller increase in the absolute number of people experiencing the problem, and not that it represents a reversal of the problem to the point that it is becoming less of a problem. (Which, in fact, goes to support the view that our concern is actually with absolute numbers, not rates.)

            A focus on rates could lead to people claiming – incorrectly – that ‘child poverty’ (or, simply, ‘poverty’) is reducing, when it isn’t; it continues to increase (i.e., more children are living in circumstances defined as poverty). It would be equivalent to claiming that carbon emissions are reducing when, in my example, they continue to increase in absolute terms.

            The importance of this point, btw, is not just technical or definitional. It concerns how we might go about dealing with poverty (or ‘climate change’) in policy terms.

            A universal benefit – superannuation – pretty much eliminated elderly poverty. Other approaches could have reduced the rate of poverty in that group but, with boomers retiring, still seen the actual number of elderly people in poverty increasing.

            If poverty is ‘wrong’ or ‘unacceptable’ then the aim is for fewer and fewer individual people in society to be experiencing it, in absolute terms. Policy must aim to achieve that, not just reduce its rate (especially given an increasing population, steady or otherwise).

            It would be possible to use measures of rates to achieve the same end, I suppose, but unnecessarily complicated. That is, you could say that the aim is to get the rate of poverty decreasing at a rate greater than the rate of increase in the population (So, if population increases by 2% you’d want the rate of poverty to decrease by at least 3%, to round up). But, then, why use rates at all? Why not just talk absolute numbers?

            ‘Rates’ are just the statistical expression of the notion of ‘efficiency’. Concerns with efficiency are fine for many of our pursuits. They shouldn’t be the focus for things like poverty.

            Should the aim have been to abolish slavery or just reduce its rate (incidence) even as numbers of slaves increased (i.e., they were being used more ‘efficiently’ per unit of economic activity)?

          • greywarbler

            Are you thinking Lanthanide that there is an acceptable level of poverty, a sort of base cyclical rather than a structural one, and that there should be an economic equation on which to judge where increases result in active concern? When thre would be a marginal increase in child poverty which indicated a situation that went beyond normal to requiring some study by a committee of experts?

            • Lanthanide

              Actually I was thinking two things:

              1. There will likely always be a base level of child poverty. Of course we should take all practicable steps to reduce it as much as possible, but eventually there’ll be a tiny little core of children, whom in order to get them out of poverty, will need to become wards of the state (or something like that), which becomes expensive, as well as fraught with moral questions, and ultimately will result in some children being mistreated under that system as well. Fundamentally, humans aren’t perfect and in any system, people will fall through the cracks.
              2. Watching the rate reduces the effect of the ‘noise’ of births on the signal of poverty. If we know the rate of poverty is decreasing, we can look at the policies and procedures in place and judge that they are working, and look what to do to make them more effective or work better. Conversely, if the rate is rising, we can look at the policies and procedures and judge they are not working, and try and do something different.

              I do have to admit that Puddleglum above makes a very compelling argument, though, in that a falling rate can easily be used as justification for not trying to improve the system further, which ultimately doesn’t help those who need it.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          This problem is twofold. Developed countries don’t have “poverty” as it pertains to the developing world.

          So the biggest problem we face is our increasing inequality, which is the main driver of social ills in developed countries (apart from the Greenhouse Effect).

          However, we have also started to exhibit a small but increasing amount of developing world problems.

          The short terms solution is to raise taxes on the wealthy to help them pay for the damage done by their support for the National Party. The long term solution is to use our resources to lift everyone, rather than just those at the top.

      • Psycho Milt 2.1.2

        What’s (most) important and comparable is the rate of childhood poverty, not the absolute number.

        Strikes me this is exactly where a fact-checking site would come in. Is one side saying child poverty has decreased because the rate has, while the other side is saying it’s increased because the raw number has? Both positions are defensible, so if you know the basis for those positions you’re less likely to bandy words like “liar” about and blog comments threads may become slightly less ridiculous.

      • David H 2.1.3

        And how it’s measured? Is it income, or chattles +income, or one parent or two? Someone has to work out how to measure child poverty properly, because Pullya and Shonky have no idea or inclination to have these number reported correctly.

  3. ianmac 3

    Sounds great to me. The care with which Karol and others stick to the facts would make the writers on the The Standard ideally suited.
    Wonder how Whaleoil would fit as truth finder?

  4. Skinny 4

    This will cause a dilemma for the spin merchants of the National party who have got away with unfettered dibble for the last 6 years. Jolly good stuff young man, go get em!  

  5. Bearded Git 5

    Great idea-all Standardistas should share on Facebook and Twitter accounts today.

    We need this up and running well before the election.

    • David H 5.1

      @ B Git And for those of us that think that Farcebook and Twatter are a waste of time? And so don’t use them.

  6. Hi Everyone,

    First of all thanks for the exposure. I wanted to clarify a few points. While I am currently a Media Design School student – I am 30 years old, I have worked in the IT industry for six years, studied politics/law and psychology at an undergraduate level, and now my long term goal of game development for pro-social games.

    The reason things are not pushing forward immediately (and the reason for the soft launch) is that we need to err on the side of caution with who we recruit. I have researchers so far from all sides of the politics spectrum volunteering. My goal is to have a large team who won’t have to dedicate much time each per week to making this happen. I also have an advisory team who is assisting me in this process consisting of university professors, bloggers from both left and right wing websites (avoiding those at the very fringes as there will be no way to please them), and some within the business world to assist with marketing, website development, and legal issues.

    As the main aim is to be impartial I would rather delay the hard launch of the website until I feel that I have a team who I can rely on to perform their duties, and hold truth as the most important value over any political preference (as I do).

    While we will strive for near 100% accuracy, to say that we will achieve that would be naive, which is why our processes will be open to the public. This is meant as a shared resource for all New Zealanders to try and restore some of the faith and goodwill we have in our politicians – as long as they tell the truth.

    I will hopefully have some very substantial announcements in regards to staff in the next few weeks. With final candidates being selected for the role of Editor just recently. Once I have my Editor I can begin pushing forward with getting our first batch of articles.

    So thanks for the feedback and support, know that sure while I may be “just a student”, I do have a wealth of experience, study and research behind setting this venture up.



    • ianmac 6.1

      Good on ‘yer Rory.

    • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 6.2

      Excellent idea and excellent work, Rory McCarthy – & a big thank you! 😀

    • veutoviper 6.3

      Thanks for that clarification and update, Rory.

      My comment at was not meant to question your credentials etc, but merely passing on what I had read on Twitter. I am sure you know who the person is who made the comment I quoted.

      As I said, I was not being negative at all just cautious. There is a real need for this fact checking and I am impressed at the wide range of people getting involved to ensure impartiality, and the approach you are following in setting up Politicheck.

      And I am now thinking even more about volunteering!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.4

      Despite my cynicism (see below) I think this is a good idea. It’s past time we had some evidence-based policy around here.

    • weka 6.5

      Thanks for posting Rory and all the best with the project. Looks like a game changer if you get it right, so appreciate your explanations about timing and process.

    • jolly good..

      ..and in the interests of ongoing-transparency/consumer-confidence..

      ..could you please tell us the names of these ..’non-fringe’/easier ‘to please’ left/right bloggers..?

      .. who are deciding the form/function of this beast..?

      ..i am sure many of us would like those details..

      ..(and to be frank..that you even use those terms/pre-judgements/assumptions on yr part..

      ..does set a little/wee ‘acceptable-gatekeepers’ alarm-bell going off for me..eh..?..i do hope that is not the case..and imagine if you had included the biggest fact-bender of all..farrar..in yr ‘easier to please’ bloggers..eh..?..that would be a serious eye-opener/possible-glitch just there….eh..?..)

      ..and while you are at it..

      ..in this spirit of disclosure..cd u also tell us who these ‘professors’/’business-world’ bloggers are..

      ..i am sure we would also like to know that..

      ..y’know..!..start as you intend to carry on..eh..?

      ..and i do think this/such transparency is crucial..

      ..don’t you..?

      ..thank you..

      ..phillip ure..

      • phillip ure 6.6.1

        and rory..y’know how the green political-spectrum is a big one..

        ..from left-socialist to right-libertarian….

        ..could you tell us where you sit on that band..?

        ..and if ..say..farrar/hooten are part of yr ‘trusted-advisers’..?

        ..’cos..y’know..!..if it walks like a rightwing attack-machine being set up to attack a/the new government/coalition..

        ..and talks like one..

        ..it probably is one..eh..?

        ..and if farrar is working with you/’trusted’ by you..(!)

        ..do ask him about tania heke..eh..?

        ..the beers..the pizza..

        ..he will know ‘who’ that is..eh..?

        ..and i am sure will have his explanations for you..


        ..phillip ure..

    • flip 6.7


      Great idea. Love to see something done as it will contribute to a more informed participatory democracy (something I go on a bit about) and will be intriguing to see how well your processes work. It looks like it’ll take a chunk of money. Shame the media seem to have abdicated their responsibility in this area given the resources they have.

      Normally facts are true up to a point or from a particular angle or in a particular world view. Just not always the complete truth. It is very much how you say things as well.

      Be interesting to see what you go after first, how you address balance and how long from publication to verification it will take. (Time for the process)

      Presumably you will not only publish falsehoods but also those that on checking turn out to be ‘true’.

  7. Sanctuary 7

    Rory is a dirty Greenie??? He kept that under his hat. Anyway, he is a great guy and his efforts here are both sincere and badly needed. Good luck to him!

  8. greywarbler 8

    It would be our ‘Novonzpedia’!

    I give the translation of ‘novo’ from urban dictionary, below. (Using their explanation of ‘novo’ it becomes ironic, a comment on the politicians and hangers-on whose verbiage we would examine.) And the more unsure they became of the site, the more they would ridicule it and its name, and the more attention they would draw to it.

    (Think on the French – Le Canard enchaîné (French pronunciation: ​[lə kanaʁ‿ɑ̃ʃɛˈne]; English: The Chained Duck or The Chained Paper) is a satirical newspaper published weekly in France. Founded in 1915, it features investigative journalism and leaks from sources inside the French government, the French political world and the French business world, as well as many jokes and humorous cartoons. -Wikipedia-)

    A word used to describe the actions, attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions (among other things) of a lazy, apathetic, and above all worthless individual.

    Due to its unusual etymology (which will not be introduced in the interest of brevity), the word can assume a polysemous form — that is, it can mean everything, yet simultaneously mean nothing. In addition, it is extremely versatile in terms of its usability
    (i.e., it can take the form of a noun, verb, adjective, etc.).
    Phrase: “You Novo’d it!”
    Translation: “You half-assed it!”

    Phrase: “This is Novo.”
    Translation: “This is boring/stupid/worthless/…”

    • David H 8.1

      A word used to describe the actions, attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions (among other things) of a lazy, apathetic, and above all worthless individual.”

      So in other words Novo’s, would be the whole of the National Party.

      • greywarbler 8.1.1

        David H
        I thought that it was such an interesting word with so many meanings and inferences. It has direct meanings relating to new – and it has ironic, sarcastic meanings in the urban dictionary usage.

        The free dictionary has the meaning of de novo – from the beginning, anew.
        The Latin Word List – The Latin Word Novo has many meanings, mainly: to make anew, refresh, revive, change, alter, invent.

        It could mean looking anew at old actions, attitudes etc from the National Party. And could extend to the old Labour Party.

        So I suggest it for a name myself. It’s not just what it seems, and going beyond simple is what’s needed to winkle out the truth from pollies doings.

  9. Lanthanide 9

    Excellent. I heard a radio interview on This Way Up last year about Politifact in Australia, and they were saying they were considering moving into NZ with this being election year.

    About time.

  10. One Anonymous Bloke 10

    Reality’s liberal bias will see the site labelled as “Left-wing” before you can say boo!

  11. aj 11

    As I expect many statements considered will contain shades of grey, perhaps a ranking from 1-10 could be considered. 1 a total lie, 10 a complete truth.
    Individual politicians and parties could then be given average scores over time, which will be a useful measure.

    • Lanthanide 11.1

      Politifact already do this, so presumably this new site would also follow that system.

      Off the top of my head, politifact have such conclusions as “mostly true”, or “true with few exceptions” and “pants on fire lie”, as well as just straight ‘true’ and ‘false’.

  12. One Anonymous Bloke 12

    A humble suggestion: that the ambit is extended to include government departments and other institutions (looking at you, Treasury, ACC, Dr. Bratt) that act like political parties.

  13. Clemgeopin 13

    Some issues, policies and statements to examine:

    [1] State asset sales are good for the country.
    [2] Huka lodge is being sold to the Chinese.
    [3] Charter schools are good for the country.
    [4] The Greens Solar power scheme does not stack up.
    [5] National favours the wealthy.
    [6] Labour-Green’s joint power policy will not reduce power bills to the consumer.
    [7] Political polls are a good indication of the actual election result.

  14. xtasy 14

    This is an interesting development, and I will follow with interest, what ‘Politicheck’ will present us.

    In the meantime, it may be worthy to note, that at least some of New Zealand’s otherwise more “conservative” investment-, share-market- and business-advisors, like for instance Brian Gaynor, are starting to question the STATISTICS we get presented by government:


    It appears he does share concern about the reliability of for instance unemployment figures in New Zealand.

    Besides of that, he mentions yet again, how “shaky” and unreliable economic data from Mainland China is, which is now the largest or second largest trading partner of NZ. There are signs that big bubbles are about to burst. It seems that Key, English and Joyce have had too many fancy “wet dreams” about the economic prospects New Zealand may have, by exporting ever more milk powder and baby formula to there, feeding the supposed “rock star economy”.

    As things can move fast on the trade and economic front, the present “low” for the opposition may yet change unexpectedly later in the year, especially also once interest rates start rising, pinching the many excessively debt laden “home buyers” in their bottoms.

    Presently too many are lulled into the habitual, blinding consumerist habit, that is those that can spend a bit, and they forget that all is not quite what it seems.

    Bring out the TRUTH, thanks!

    • greywarbler 14.1

      It would be wise to start presenting the facts clearly. If the economy goes belly up at some time, the NACTs will have a nice line of lies, smutty stuff, fudged facts, muddled stats ready to go that will place the blame on Labour unto the third and fourth generations!

      • xtasy 14.1.1

        Yes, the Nats and ACT will probably blame it on Labour and Greens having “sabotaged” economic confidence in New Zealand AND in China, and hence it is again all about the mindset, that must in their views be the problem.

        To them it is like that: Labour and Greens = borrow and spend, and then take a runner. It is also “collective” responsibility and guilt.

        While that is absolute rubbish, they tend to get away with such propaganda too often.

        People who vote left have a “mental illness”, it must in their eyes mean, so we should all be sent into work camps for REHAB. That is perhaps why MSD keep hanging on to Dr David Bratt, their “Work will set you free” Principal Health Advisor, for greater agendas the Nats are yet to announce, after next election.

  15. Philj 15

    My father used to say, “the Truth shall set you free, but first, it will really piss you off!”


    Fact or opinion, hmm, is a widely held opinion a fact? Statistics are the simplest of lies, sometimes. If poverty is defined as income 60% of the median it will exist for as long as it is measured. Does that mean its a fact or an opinion? This is the business of politics. But the idea has some merit, lot a lies in politics .

    • McFlock 16.1

      If poverty is defined as income 60% of the median it will exist for as long as it is measured.

      Um, no. There is no reason why that statement would be true, other than a political unwillingness toaddress poverty and inequality.

    • Lanthanide 16.2

      It might seem like that, but it’s actually not the case. Median means “middle number”, ie 50% of numbers are above, and 50% are below. But it doesn’t have any bearing on how far above or below those numbers are.

      Quick example:
      2, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 9, 9, 10, 10, 12, 12, 13, 14, 16, 16, 18, 19, 20.

      That’s 20 numbers. The median (middle number) is 10. 2, 2, 3 and 4 are less than 60% of the median, and 6 is exactly 60% of the median.

      We can change the distribution like this:
      6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10, 12, 12, 13, 14, 16, 16, 18, 19, 20.

      There are still 20 numbers, the median (middle number) remains 10, but now all of the lowest numbers are at least 60% of the median. Note also in this example that everything in the top 50% has not changed at all, only those numbers below the median were altered.

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