blog may 2

Live UpdatesMay 2 2022

Luxon’s pre-budget speech light on policy

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 2, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • There have been seven more deaths of people with Covid-19, 480 are in hospital and there are 6,636 new community cases.
  • A second border case of the BA.4 omicron sub-variant has been detected.
  • National’s Christopher Luxon has wrapped a pre-budget speech in Auckland. He focused on an “economic framework” as opposed to announcing new policies.
  • Potentially devastating sea level rise could effect coastal parts of New Zealand in less than two decades, new predictions reveal.
  • International tourists from dozens of countries are now free to enter New Zealand without the need to quarantine.
  • Jacinda Ardern will front her regular post-cabinet press conference at 4pm.
blog may 2

Luxon’s pre-budget speech light on policy

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 2, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • There have been seven more deaths of people with Covid-19, 480 are in hospital and there are 6,636 new community cases.
  • A second border case of the BA.4 omicron sub-variant has been detected.
  • National’s Christopher Luxon has wrapped a pre-budget speech in Auckland. He focused on an “economic framework” as opposed to announcing new policies.
  • Potentially devastating sea level rise could effect coastal parts of New Zealand in less than two decades, new predictions reveal.
  • International tourists from dozens of countries are now free to enter New Zealand without the need to quarantine.
  • Jacinda Ardern will front her regular post-cabinet press conference at 4pm.
May 2 2022

Further NZ sanctions target Russian politicians and defence entities

The latest round of the New Zealand government’s sanctions on those supporting Putin’s actions in Ukraine target the 170 members of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, as well as six companies and organisations in the defence sector that have contributed to the invasion.

In addition, more than 400 people who are captured by previously implemented travel bans are now subject to the full suite of prohibitions under the Russia Sanctions Act, which includes services prohibitions and asset freezes.

“This will further prohibit those we have already sanctioned from carrying out activity in New Zealand, and prevent New Zealand from becoming a financial safe haven for those  involved with Russia’s illegal activities in Ukraine,” foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a statement.

‘Nothing has changed’: Ardern says no plans to bring in new taxes

Jacinda Ardern says “nothing has changed” about her stance on a wealth tax – “end of story”.

There’s been some confusion today about whether or not a wealth tax is back on the table. Ardern refused to explicitly rule one out when questioned this morning, despite saying in 2020 that she would never introduce one.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference, the first she has fronted in three weeks, Ardern said her stance had not changed. “The simple question we are asking is ‘is everyone paying their fair share?’,” she said. “I think taxpayers would want to know that people are fulfilling the tax requirements they already have in our current system.”

Specifically, Ardern said the government was not doing “any work” around additional taxes and had “no plans” for this either. The government was “simply answering the question of whether our tax system is operating as intended”, she said.

“I have no intention of introducing a wealth tax this term. There is mischief being made here that does not exist. My statements and positions have not changed.”

The use of “this term” would be different to her comments in 2020, when Ardern said she would not allow a wealth tax “as prime minister”.

Meanwhile, Ardern celebrated the return of international tourists, more than two years since border restrictions were first put in place.

Border restrictions eased overnight for 60 visa waiver countries, meaning visitors from nations like the US, UK, Japan, Canada and Germany can reunite with friends and family. Ardern said New Zealand’s recovery is on track and that over the four-day Easter period, spending hit $420 million – 8% higher than the Easter before Covid.

On the recent managed isolation ruling, in which the court determined that the so-called lobby “lottery” was unfair, Ardern acknowledged people being put in “terrible scenarios… and all of them have been heartbreaking and incredibly difficult”.

MIQ and the systems put in place were “the best of a range of bad options,” she said. “Our attempts to make it fairer were found to not have improved the system and I accept that,” she said, but was reluctant to say more as the court is yet to make a declaration.

‘Suspicious activity’ blamed after NZ SeaRise tool crashes

Earlier today we reported that the NZ SeaRise online tool had crashed after the release of a concerning report into predicted sea level rises.

By 8.30am, the newly launched website – which shows the possible impact of sea level rises on New Zealand’s coast – was struggling with the impact of “around 1,000 requests for information per second”.

But what was earlier thought to just be a wave of people trying to learn more about climate change has taken a potentially sinister turn. A follow-up tweet from NZ SeaRise suggested online interference could be to blame for the website crash.

“It’s likely that some of the problems with access are due to suspicious activity,” said the message. “This is the reality of working on climate change and related issues.”

 

Edmonds flour to be made with Australian wheat after local shortage

Edmonds flour will temporarily be made with Australian wheat after “adverse wheat growing conditions” in the South Island.

The company said that with the reduced supply available, it was unable to source enough from New Zealand growers. “In order to ensure Kiwis have access to an ongoing supply of high quality flour, we have had to urgently source wheat from Australia, which will continue to be milled and packed in New Zealand,” said a statement.  

“Our current Edmonds packaging states that we use only NZ wheat, so we are updating it to reflect this change.”

In the meantime, some flour will still be sold in packaging that mentions New Zealand wheat. A correction will be printed under the best before code.

The new packaging (Image: Edmonds / screenshot)

The challenge (and reward) of better flood prediction

Last month’s country-wide flood events served as a stark and painful reminder of how even today, so much our lives and livelihoods remain at the mercy of the elements. Earlier this year, we spoke to experts from Tower Insurance, Niwa and the University of Waikato about the work that goes into predicting and planning for these events – and the surprisingly specific ways that flood risk can be calculated these days.

Read the story here(sponsored)

Luxon pitches ‘economic framework’ – but no policy – in pre-budget speech

Christopher Luxon has just wrapped a pre-budget speech in Auckland, where he attempted to make the case that his party would be the best managers of New Zealand’s economy. But, he chose not to proffer any new policy and instead focused on areas he thought the government should be doing better.

It comes about a fortnight before finance minister Grant Robertson will reveal the 2022 budget and outline how he intends to spend $6 billion from the government coffers.

Speaking to a room of business community members and caucus colleagues – including Judith Collins, Simeon Brown and Shane Reti – the National Party leader laid out the “five pillars” he said his party would address to help bolster New Zealand’s economy.

They included education, infrastructure and technology. “These are the factors that have worked worldwide to drive prosperity, and now, as our economy falters, we need to look to them to supercharge our growth story going forward,” said Luxon.

What Luxon did not do, however, was announce any bombshell policy. “There’s not one big-bang solution to this challenge – so I’m not going to announce a big policy today and claim it will be ‘transformational’,” Luxon said. “Instead, National’s approach is to relentlessly target the big drivers of our economic engine.”

Asked by The Spinoff whether there was a plan buried within his speech, Luxon, flanked by his deputy Nicola Willis, said there was. “We’re trying to stay let’s take a step back and think about how we run this economy. At the moment, just spend spend spend doesn’t cut it.”

Luxon said that instead of announcing a new policy, it was “really important to have an economic framework” which he said had been missing from the government. “What New Zealanders are asking for right is ‘how do you fundamentally solve an inflation crisis and a cost of living crisis’. You’ve got to take a step back and say these are the foundations of a good economy.”

Today’s speech made no mention of the potentially catastrophic sea level rise predictions revealed last night. Luxon told media that announcements on climate change would be forthcoming. “What my speech was about today is the fundamental economic drivers… those are the things that will make the difference and drive higher wages. We will have more to say around climate change.”

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for the opposition leader. He’s struggled to get cut through in media interviews, specifically one with Jack Tame and a follow-up with Tova O’Brien, and has appeared out of his depth on some topics. One issue that’s been repeatedly addressed by Luxon over recent weeks is wasteful government spending, including the $100 million spent on the train between Hamilton and Auckland. That was again mentioned by Luxon in his speech today, where he conceded that $100 million was “a relatively small portion of total government spending”.

He did not, however, provide any new examples of wasteful spending. “You like to belittle those examples but the reality is those examples speak to a very poor culture of fiscal discipline,” he told The Spinoff.

Despite the rocky fortnight, Luxon seemed confident he was making ground with the public. After today’s speech, Luxon shook a lot of hands and seemed to receive a warm reception from those he spoke to. Asked to rate his performance over the past fortnight, Luxon did not give a number but told The Spinoff he was enjoying the job. “Fundamentally I think we’ve got the plan and the team going forward,” he said. “As I travel the country, the public are on board, we’ve got supporters… I’m feeling really encouraged.”

Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund

Covid-19 latest: Seven deaths, 480 hospitalisations and 6,636 new community cases

Seven more people have died with Covid-19 over the past two days, the Ministry of Health reports. This takes the total number of publicly reported deaths to 757 and the seven-day rolling average to 11.

Three of the people who died were from Auckland, one was from Waikato, one was from Bay of Plenty, one was from Wairarapa and one was from Canterbury.

One person was in their 40s, one was in their 50s, three were in their 80s and two were aged over 90.

There are 480 people in hospital with Covid-19, 12 of whom are in ICU.

There are 6,636 new community cases today, which brings the seven-day rolling average to 7,553, down from 8,355 last Monday.

Second border case of omicron BA.4 sub-variant detected

A second person who travelled from overseas to New Zealand has been confirmed as having the BA.4 variant of omicron, following yesterday’s reported first case.

Both identified cases are currently isolating at their homes, says the Ministry of Health.

BA.4 has been reported in southern Africa and Europe, and in New South Wales. “The arrival of this sub-variant in New Zealand is not unexpected,” says the ministry. “At this stage, the public health settings already in place to manage other omicron variants are assessed to be appropriate for managing BA.4 and no changes are required.”

NZ SeaRise tool crashes after sea level rise report

Last night, the NZ SeaRise programme released a report that indicated the predicted 30cm rise of the sea level in New Zealand wasn’t 40 to 50 years away, but 10 to 20. So, twice as fast.

This morning, NZ SeaRise released a tool that allows users to check how far away their community is away from “being underwater”. At 8.30am, the programme tweeted that its website “is currently trying to handle around 1,000 requests for information per second”.

As of the time of writing, the tool is still unusable and NZ SeaRise has taken the servers down for maintenance. The message is pretty clear: the seas are rising, and we’re terrified.

Last night, Eloise Gibson and Felippe Rodrigues at Stuff published a massive interactive story on the sea level rise. The piece indicates that while much of the country is sinking, including Auckland, Wellington and parts of Christchurch, there are places like Tauranga and the small community of Pīkowhai that are actually rising.

Another observation from the piece, based on research for former parliamentary commissioner for the environment Jan Wright, finds that just 30cm higher seas would turn a one-in-100-year flood event in Wellington into an annual event.

Speaking to AM this morning, Jacinda Ardern said that the government was doing work with local government and private insurers to make sure that the cost burden was falling in the “appropriate place”. “We need a national approach to how we deal with this question.”

When Bridges said that New Zealanders looking at coastal properties should buy with caution, she replied simply:

“Just look at all of the information.”

You can find the information here, at least when servers are back up.

Police warn of rise in pet sale scams

Prospective dog owners are being warned about a rise in scams targeting people looking for a new pet.

Police said they’ve seen incidences where scammers advertise puppies for sale on trading websites using images they’ve found online. When the victim expresses interest in purchasing one of the dogs, they are told they need to pay $2,000 on average for the puppy.

The preferred method of payment is often cryptocurrency, predominantly Bitcoin, paid directly into the scammers wallet.

After payment is made and a “delivery date” for the puppy is given, the scammer will insist on further payment to cover things like transportation, insurance or vaccination fees.

Police said people need to do their due diligence before buying a pet and should investigate the supposed breeder or seller to make sure there are no obvious red flags.

Do we really need Wahlburgers?

There was news over the weekend that Wahlburgers, the American burger chain co-owned by actor Mark Wahlburg and his brothers, will be winging its way to Auckland before the end of the year.

The burger restaurant is poised to open in the waterfront building previously tenanted by Euro and is expected to be the first of several eateries around New Zealand.

A Wahlburgers joint opened up in Sydney earlier this year and, if the Google reviews are anything to go off, it’s not the best. “Like Mark Wahlberg it *may* look good but it’s mediocre and overpriced,” wrote one unhappy patron. “Burger was bland, the patty has no flavour and just screams of processed junk meat.”

Another said while the restaurant was in a premium location it was overpriced, while someone else praised the “beautiful” venue but complained of “long wait times” food that “was not better than your normal fast food burger”.

The business had an overall rating of 2.8 stars, including a smattering of five star reviews.

Maybe we could get an In-N-Out?

Opposition amps up tax attacks

The tax debate has well and truly started, over a year before the 2023 election.

Jacinda Ardern has refused to rule out introducing new taxes should she be re-elected next year.

Speaking to Newshub’s AM, the prime minister reiterated that a capital gains tax would not be brought in while she was in office. However, she did not say a wealth tax would be given the same treatment. “You’re asking me to project into the next election and beyond. I am not going to do that because we haven’t formulated our tax policy for the 2023 election,” she said.

Footage has, however, reemerged of the prime minister doing exactly that. “I won’t allow it to happen as prime minister,” said Ardern in 2020 when asked of a possible wealth tax.

The opposition have leapt on the issue, with both National and Act sending out press releases regarding tax. Act’s David Seymour said that Labour is “eagerly searching for new taxes to fuel its addiction to spending” while National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said New Zealanders “could face new taxes” as Jacinda Ardern looks set to “u-turn” on a promise.

“Labour is addicted to spending and is now looking for any excuse to load more taxes on Kiwi households and businesses to pay for it,” said Willis, adding that New Zealanders “cannot trust” Labour on tax. “We need a Government that is up front with New Zealanders.”

National leader Christopher Luxon is scheduled to give a pre-budget speech today and you can expect tax will be on the agenda. The Spinoff live updates will be there live.

National leader Christopher Luxon and Act leader David Seymour (Photos: Getty Images)

Otago’s online MBA makes study fit around you

(Image: Supplied)

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Places are still available for 2022, find out more now(Sponsored)

16 month Shelly Bay occupation ends

After 525 days – or roughly 16 months – the occupation of Wellington’s Shelly Bay has come to an end.

The occupation, reports Stuff, began in November 2020 after some members of Wellington iwi Taranaki Whānui were left upset by the sale of its land to developer Ian Cassels for a planned $500 million project.

The protest group that’s been on the site, Mau Whenua, was largely made up of iwi members.

The group signalled its intention to leave last week after acknowledging the dispute had reached a stalemate.

Despite this, occupation leader Dr Catherine Love said yesterday that the protest would continue – just in a different form. “We are continuing our protest against the invalid sale and unwanted development of Shelly Bay, including through our legal cases. However, we will do so in the most effective way possible, which may look different,” she said.

Read more here

Florence and the Machine joins bumper summer of tours

Florence and the Machine are the latest international performers set to return to New Zealand over next summer.

The band will play one Auckland show on March 21 at Spark Arena as part of an Australasian tour in support of upcoming album Dance Fever.

Florence and her machine were last in the country in 2019 and have made regular appearances on our shores over the past decade. Joining this tour as opening act will be American singer King Princess.

It’s set to be a mega summer of international tours now border restrictions have eased. Harry Styles and Lorde will also touring next March, while the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Justin Bieber are due at the end of this year.

All the ticket details for Florence’s show can be found here and check out Dance Fever when it launches on May 13.

Also announced today, the line-up for post-omicron festival Elemental Nights. The mid-winter event will include Australian surf-crooner Dope Lemon, New Zealand’s Reb Fountain, Ireland rapper Biig Piig, UK singer-songwriter Tom Misch and American performer Oliver Tree.

It’s a buyer’s market, says new real estate report

From this morning’s edition of The Bulletin, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell

new report from realestate.co.nz tracking average asking prices and housing stock says Wellington is now “a buyer’s market” as of March, and that Auckland got there in April with a 1.6% decline in average asking prices between March and April. Prices for houses in some regional areas have, however, hit a high. The average asking price in Waikato was up 41.2% compared to the same time last year. The average asking price in Auckland for a house in April was $1,234,148, still up 10.9% on this time last year. In Wellington the April asking price was $971,976, down 3% on March.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.

Parts of NZ predicted to experience devastating sea level rise within 20 years

Potentially devastating sea level rise could effect coastal parts of New Zealand in less than two decades – well short of previous global predictions.

While the international expectation, based on the Paris agreement, was for 30cm of sea rise by 2060, new research from the NZ SeaRise programme confirmed that parts of the country could see that within 10 to 20 years. As Newshub reported, sea level rises could be at one metre by the time we reach 2060.

“While the findings are sobering, the data shows why we must continue to build on the progress this government has made over the last four years to build a climate-friendly, prosperous future for Aotearoa,” said climate change minister James Shaw.

Along with mitigation, through the forthcoming Emissions Reduction Plan, Shaw said we need to address adaptation as well. “While cutting emissions is the best possible step we can take to limit the severity with which we feel the impacts of climate change, we know we must also prepare for the effects we cannot avoid,” he said.

The government is asking for feedback on New Zealand’s first ever National Adaptation Plan. “This plan will be a step change in the way we plan and prepare for the impact of climate change,” said Shaw.

Meanwhile, New Zealanders wanting to know whether their property could be impacted by the forecast rise in sea levels can visit a newly launched website.

One of the study’s lead scientists, Tim Naish, told Newshub’s AM that said some of his findings left him in shock. “I mean I knew it was bad, I knew we were getting sea level rise, we know that, I’ve been a climate scientist for 20 years, but I was shocked at how quickly it can happen,” Naish told Newshub.

“We provide the usual caveats and explanations about uncertainty but for the next 30 to 40 years until mid century. But we are fairly confident the errors are very low and that’s mostly because all of the sea level rises are already baked in – we are already committed to it,” he said.

Ōwhiro Bay in Wellington is one area that Naish said will have to deal with the possibility it could be wiped out from rising sea levels. “We literally have a decade or two before in places like this we’re gonna be at decision points about whether you look at some sort of managed retreat,” Naish said.

Border restrictions ease for visa waiver countries

International tourists from dozens of countries are now free to enter New Zealand without the need to quarantine.

Border restrictions have eased overnight for 60 visa waiver countries, meaning visitors from nations like the US, UK, Japan, Canada and Germany can reunite with friends and family.

Tourism minister Stuart Nash has been at Auckland Airport this morning and told media that New Zealand was now back on the map – and open for business. “The welcome mat is out for citizens of visa-waiver nations, who like Australians can now travel here without isolation if they are vaccinated and do a pre-departure and arrival test,” he said.

“Thousands of passengers are touching down today on around 25 flights at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch international airports as New Zealand opens up further for business.”

Today’s loosening at the border comes alongside the return of schools for the first time since the country dropped down from red to orange. With that comes the end of mandatory face masks in the classrooms, though experts like Siouxsie Wiles and Jin Russell have argued that masks should be worn regardless.