Dec 1 2023

$33,000 pledged to support journalism and new rewards added

PledgeMe new rewards

A week ago we launched our PledgeMe campaign to help fund What’s eating Aotearoa, a longform journalism project focused on food and how it shapes this country. We’ve just passed the $33k mark.

With PledgeMe it’s all or nothing, and we need to hit our goal of $50,000. If you’ve already pledged, we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you. If you aren’t in a position to support with a pledge or by buying a reward, a simple share of the link to our PledgeMe page or any of our social media posts about the campaign would be greatly appreciated. 

So many of our rewards have sold out, so we’ve just added three brand new ones.

  • Exclusive tips to create a dating profile from our resident expert Madeleine Holden after her custom dating profiles sold out.
  • Next year we’re turning 10! So we’ve added a couple of tickets to the birthday party so that you can join us. A decade of the Spinoff is worthy of a huge celebration.
  • We’ve also added a custom Spinoff “homepage”. When a Spinoff staff member leaves, we create a version of our homepage all about them. This is your chance to be part of an exclusive club of Spinoff legends. The final file will be sent to you ready to print, frame and treasure.

What’s eating Aotearoa is an ambitious editorial planned for 2024 that will explore the intersection of food with politics, culture, business and climate change. 

The Spinoff scores at NZ Podcast Awards

Gone By Lunchtime (Image: Tina Tiller)

The Spinoff Podcast Network picked up three gongs at this year’s NZ Podcast Awards. 

Our politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime won best current affairs podcast for the second year in a row, while This Is Kiwi scored silver in best branded podcast and Business Is Boring placed third in best business podcast.

You can find all of The Spinoff’s podcasts here.

Gone By Lunchtime (Image: Tina Tiller)

Te Whatu Ora takes aim at ‘conspiracy theorists’ spreading vaccine ‘misinformation’

(Image: Tina Tiller)

Te Whatu Ora’s issued a reminder to the public over vaccine safety, citing “misinformation” being spread by a “health agency staff member”.

The health agency’s chief executive, Margie Apa, said the staff member had “no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge” and what he was claiming was “completely wrong and ill-informed”.

“Sadly, we have continued to see conspiracy theorists disseminating false and harmful misinformation,” said Apa in a statement.

“We assure people there is no evidence whatsoever that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand and that they can continue to have confidence in vaccines.”

Apa said that public data showed four deaths in New Zealand were possibly linked to the vaccine, while over 3,300 people had been directly attributed to Covid-19. “By chance and separate to a prior Covid-19 vaccination event, some people will experience new illnesses or die from a pre-existing condition shortly after vaccination, especially if they are elderly,” said Apa.

Pharmac chair resigns as new government signals ‘culture change’ at agency

Salesroom of a pharmacy

Pharmac’s chair has resigned, five years after joining the board of the health agency.

Steve Maharey is a former Labour Party minister and came under fire earlier this year after writing a number of columns that came close to breaching the required political neutrality guidelines for public service board members.

At the time, he offered his resignation to then-health minister Ayesha Verrall, but it was not accepted.

The new government, in particular associate health minister David Seymour, has been at times critical of Pharmac. Seymour told the Herald he had not asked for Maharey to step down, but believed there should be a culture change at the agency.

“There appears to be something of a siege mentality, rather than a collaborative mentality with patients as stakeholders and we’ll be looking to make that change,” Seymour said.

Health minister Shane Reti said the resignation had been accepted. “I want to acknowledge Steve Maharey’s service to Pharmac since joining the board in 2018. “The government will appoint a new permanent chair in due course,” he said.

“Dr Peter Bramley, currently the deputy chair, will act as chair until that point.”

Former minister quits Covid inquiry as government set to launch second probe

Education Minister Hekia Parata

Former National cabinet minister Hekia Parata has resigned from the Royal Commission into the Covid-19 pandemic.

She departed the commission on November 15, ahead of the formation of the new government but after the overall election result was known.

The National-led coalition has announced it will look to introduce a second independent inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic on top of the Royal Commission, after New Zealand First campaigned on it ahead of the election.

The commission’s chair Tony Blakely said in a statement that he welcomed the new government reviewing the inquiry’s terms of reference.

“We will provide updated information regarding any changes to our terms of reference as part of our regular communication,” he said.

“Related to this, it was our intention to seek public input and submissions on the inquiry from November this year. However, given the scope and Terms of Reference of the inquiry may change, we’ve made the decision to delay public submissions until early 2024. We believe this delay will avoid any confusion for those who want to share their Covid-19 experiences with us.”

Appeal sees Grabone owners NZME fined $200k over unsafe puzzle toy

(Photo: Getty Images)

NZME, the owners of the Herald, has been fined close to $200,000 after a “magnetic puzzle toy” sold through its Grabone service was deemed to be unsafe.

The fine is an increase on the $88,000 penalty previous imposed by the court after the Commerce Commission appealed the decision.

In a judgment released this week, the High Court said: “it is difficult to conceive of a more serious case in terms of the impact of offending on a victim”.

The puzzle toys were made up of small, high-powered magnetic balls. “They were supplied in breach of an unsafe goods notice which prohibits the supply of certain magnets, sold in sets of two or more, that are of a particular size and strength,” the commission said.

“The ban exists because if more than one of the magnets are swallowed, they can attract to each other within the body which is extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, in this case, a child swallowed two magnets from one of the magnetic toys supplied by NZME and significant emergency surgery was required to remove them.”

Commissioner Anne Callinan said the fines imposed needed to be “significant enough” to deter other businesses from non-compliance.

NZME sold 213 of the magnetic toys between October 2020 and September 2021, the commission said, before a recall notice was put in place.

Listen: The RBNZ’s wet blanket for summer

The Reserve Bank surprised everyone this week by warning it may have to raise interest rates again to force inflation down, effectively eliminating the prospect of major mortgage rate cuts over the coming summer. In this week’s episode of When the Facts Change, Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr joins Bernard Hickey to dig in to the RBNZ’s unexpectedly hawkish outlook heading into 2024.

The Bulletin: Fortnightly rubbish collections on the cards for Auckland

Auckland is considering a move that would reduce kerbside rubbish collections to once a fortnight. It’s part of a council plan to drastically reduce the amount of rubbish produced by households, supported by the recent city-wide rollout of food scrap bins expected to reduce up to 41% of bin contents by weight. The change will only occur once the food scrap collection service is well established, the council says, likely in 2026.

Councillor Daniel Newman says it will be “one of the most inconvenient and unproven changes that council officers have ever proposed” and will prove deeply unpopular with many Aucklanders. Fortnightly rubbish collections are common both internationally and in other New Zealand centres.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 39,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.

New government makes India a priority

Former trade minister Todd McClay (Radio NZ: Claire Eastham-Farrelly)

The new government has reiterated its commitment to build a stronger relationship with India.

Trade minister Todd McClay will visit the country before the end of the month for a whirlwind trip to meet with his counterpart, reports Thomas Coughlan at the Herald.

“I will be working with prime minister Luxon and the cabinet to ensure that we maintain a regular rhythm of engagement with India’s political leaders as a strategic priority,” McClay told a meeting of the India New Zealand Business Council.

“As a practical demonstration of this, I plan to visit India to meet my counterpart before Christmas.”

During the election campaign, both National and Labour pledged to improve ties with India. Christopher Luxon said India was a “strategic priority” and the ultimate goal was to sign a free trade deal between our two nations.

“Australia has just signed a free trade agreement with India and the UK are close to signing one too,” said Luxon earlier in the year. “Yet foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta has said that a free trade agreement between New Zealand and India is no longer a priority.”

Talk of a deal with India were initiated during John Key’s time as prime minister, but subsequently stalled.

New trade minister Todd McClay (Radio NZ: Claire Eastham-Farrelly)