May 1 2023

PM has ‘warm and insightful’ phone call with Ukrainian president

Chris Hipkins on the phone to Volodymyr Zelenskiy this evening (Photo: Supplied)

Prime minister Chris Hipkins has spoken to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time since becoming leader, with the pair sharing a “warm and insightful phone call” this evening.

According to the PM’s office, New Zealand’s “unequivocal support for Ukraine and its ongoing condemnation of Russia’s egregious actions” was a topic of conversation, as was Hipkins’ visit to the United Kingdom for King Charles III’s coronation. Hipkins flies out tonight. While he’s in the UK, the prime minister will visit New Zealand Defence Force personnel who are training Ukrainian soldiers.

Hipkins’ predecessor, Jacinda Ardern, first spoke to Zelenskiy on the phone in June last year, four months after Russia invaded his country, and in December, the Ukrainian leader addressed the New Zealand parliament.

“New Zealand steadfastly supports Ukraine and will continue to look for ways we can provide meaningful contributions,” Chris Hipkins said in a statement. “I look forward to meeting President Zelenskiy when the opportunity arises.

“Over a year on from Russia’s illegal invasion, we continue to call on Russia to act consistently with its international obligations, cease military aggression, withdraw troops and then return to meaningful diplomatic negotiations.”

Chris Hipkins holding a phone, with his hand on his other ear. Notes and a laptop are in front of him
Chris Hipkins on the phone to Volodymyr Zelenskiy this evening (Photo: Supplied)

Hipkins to meet with UK PM Rishi Sunak in London

Chris Hipkins at parliament in 2020. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty

The prime minister will head to the UK this evening for the coronation of King Charles III. Speaking in Wellington before heading to the airport, Chris Hipkins said he was excited to attend the event, but reiterated that he was personally a republican.

Ahead of this weekend’s ceremony, Hipkins will take the opportunity to meet with UK prime minister Rishi Sunak.

“My meeting with UK prime minister Rishi Sunak on Friday evening New Zealand time will focus on trade, our enhanced working holiday scheme, the war in Ukraine and the UKs role in the Indo-Pacific,” Hipkins said.

“Another focus of the trip will be our ongoing commitment to Ukraine. I will be visiting New Zealand Defence Force personnel training Ukrainian troops outside of London, hosted by the UK minister for armed forces James Heappey, and while there will make announcements about additional support New Zealand will make to the defence of their country.”

Hipkins would not pre-empt that announcement on support for Ukraine, but said he’ll be giving Volodymyr Zelenskiy a heads up during a planned phone call tonight.

Also while in the UK, Hipkins will convene a “high-powered roundtable discussion” on climate change and hold bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of Tonga and Canada.

PM says no invitation – yet – to meet with Biden in PNG

PM Chris Hipkins in Waitangi over the weekend (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The prime minister still hasn’t received a formal invitation to meet with world leaders, including US president Joe Biden, in Papua New Guinea.

Reports from the Pacific nation have suggested Chris Hipkins would be heading there on May 22 alongside his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese.

But speaking at his post-cabinet press conference this afternoon, Hipkins said that was still speculation. “That event has not yet been confirmed and therefore no invitation has been received,” he said.

However, should an invitation be issued, he’d accept it if it fitted with his schedule. “If the event does take place it’s something that New Zealand would welcome. We’ve encouraged the US to be more active in the Pacific,” Hipkins said.

No formal invitation had been sent to Biden to visit Wellington despite him being in the region this month.

Is Hipkins bound for ‘big boys’ meeting with Biden?


Chris Hipkins is one of a group of “big boys” who will meet with Joe Biden, alongside a group of Pacific leaders in Port Moresby later this month, according to the  PNG Post Courier newspaper. Eighteen Pacific Island Forum leaders would be among those meeting the US president on May 22, the paper claimed on its front page beneath the headline “PNG ready for big boys”. Biden would attend following a G7 meeting in Japan, en route to Australia for a Quad summit.

The Herald reported on Friday that such a meeting may be on the cards, saying: “New Zealand officials confirmed to the Herald their expectation that Hipkins could be invited to join other Pacific leaders at the May meeting.”

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Hipkins, who leaves tonight for London and the coronation of King Charles III, is likely to address the issue at his post-cabinet press conference this afternoon.

Urgent review ordered into KiwiRail after commuter chaos

Trains train trains

An urgent review into KiwiRail has been launched by the government this afternoon after Wellingtonians faced widespread commuter disruption today.

Track maintenance prompted delays and cancellations across the capital’s train network, with KiwiRail struggling to get its sole “track evalution car” down from Auckland in time. (It was in Palmerston North earlier today and KiwiRail said it wikl begin assessing the Kāpiti train line today).

Transport minister Michael Wood said the disruption wasn’t good enough. “KiwiRail have accepted responsibility for the missteps which will result in further disruptions to services this week, and have reassured me they are acting quickly to restore fully functional services for commuters,” Wood said.

“The government is committed to making rail more accessible and more affordable for commuters, and events like this are absolutely not acceptable.”

The minister of state owned enterprises, Duncan Webb, said the rapid investigation would make sure KiwiRail learnt from the disruption. I expect to receive the findings of the review next month,” he said.

The review will specifically focus on the causes of the disruption to commuters on the KiwiRail passenger network, with a focus on the recent disruption to the Wellington train network. Once a reviewer has been appointed, they will have 30 days to finalise their investigation.

Earlier in the day, the opposition launched a petition calling on the government to order an inquiry. “This week’s chaos on the Wellington rail network is completely unacceptable and was completely avoidable,” National said.

A train in Wellington

Heavy rain moves toward central North Island, coast of the South


The heavy rain and wind that passed over the top of the country is heading further south.

Metservice has reported that the central North Island is in for a dousing tomorrow, followed by the west coast of the lower South Island.

It’s due to an “active front associated with a subtropical low”, the forecaster said. “Fronts embedded in this flow are expected to bring periods of heavy rain to the west of the South Island during Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Heavy rain warnings and watches remain in place for parts of the North and South Island, along with a strong wind watch for southern Westland.

No surprise, living costs were up 7.7% in the past year

Ethnic minorities in Aotearoa are struggling with the rising cost of living. (Getty Images)

The cost of living was up by 7.7% in the year ending March, according to new Stats NZ figures.

It was largely driven by increases in the cost of food, which was up 12% for the average household, along with high prices for interest payments and rent. It’s hardly surprising given the continuing high levels of inflation, though it’s hoped this will ease off across the rest of the year.

Across more specific groups, Stats NZ said living costs were up by 6.7% for beneficiaries – prompted again by food and rent costs – 7.5% for Māori and 6.9% for “lowest-spending households”.

Rent makes up about a third of beneficiary household expenditure. This compares with 13% for the average household, and 5% for highest-spending households.

The Bulletin: Heavy rains, wind affecting upper North Island

The storms have abated in Northland, with Coromandel and the western Bay of Plenty now bearing the brunt of the subtropical low that is slowly moving south. Auckland appears to have escaped the worst of the weather but commuters this morning are contending with heavy rain.

Motorists heading into the city centre from West Auckland face a challenging commute, according to the Herald, with reports of surface flooding and congested traffic on the motorway. “On top of what’s on the road, the wind is driving sheets of torrential rain, reducing visibility. That’s the worst part,” a driver reports. Meanwhile State Highway 1 remains closed to southbound traffic between Warkworth and Wellsford following a large slip on the Dome Valley road on Sunday afternoon.

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National’s new nursing incentives not enough, say sector reps

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – JULY 12: Nurses protest up Queen Street on July 12, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. Thousands of nurses voted to walk off the job for the first time in 30 years, after rejecting the latest pay offer from the District Health Boards. Some 30,000 NZ Nurses Organisation members will strike around …  Read more

There’s some scepticism from the nursing sector that a new proposal by National would actually help to keep workers in the country and in the industry.

National announced yesterday it would contribute up to $4,500 a year towards the student loans of newly qualified nurses and midwives in return for a commitment to work in New Zealand for at least five years. Party leader Christopher Luxon also pledged to allow nurses to come here on six-month visas to look for a job in cases where they do not have an offer.

But Kerri Nuku, kaiwhakahaere of the Nurses Organisation, told RNZ it wasn’t enough. “The issue is how do we get young people to think of nursing as a professional career and keep them in the training,” she said. There were “significant numbers” of nurses leaving the industry, even after training, because of the conditions of the current environment.

“We’ve got short staffing, lack of investment in nursing, [nurses] unable to give quality of care because of that… this doesn’t change the environment that they’re going into,” said Nuku. “People are burdened, burnt out, they’re tired and unable to give the quality of care that patients deserve. It’s more than just the pay.”

Nuku said whoever is in government should be looking to introduce a “multi-pronged” approach to help keep nurses in the country. “We need more than just one strategy,” she said. “If we’re in a crisis, why aren’t we making learning free? We could even look at options like earn as you learn.”

Conversations in this area were starting between nurses and the health ministry, said Nuku.