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May 8 2023

Defence force staff in line for budget day pay rise

Former justice minister Andrew Little (Photo / Getty Images)

The prime minister wasted no time after arriving back from the UK today, heading straight into a cabinet meeting and now a post-cabinet press conference.

And he’s just announced a pre-budget funding boost for the NZ Defence Force. It’ll include a pay rise for many NZDF personnel of around $4,000 to $15,000 from July this year, bringing 90% of staff to market rate (or close to).

The pay for many NZDF personnel, including new recruits, will increase between $4000 to $15,000 from July 1 as part of Budget 2023.

Defence minister Andrew Little, who was joining Hipkins at this afternoon’s press conference, said it’ll help attract and retain staff. “High rates of staff turnover, as well as increasing calls on the NZDF such as responding to Cyclone Gabrielle, training Ukrainian troops in the UK, and surveillance and patrolling in our region means our forces are stretched,” he said.

The pay increase was “four times greater than any previous defence remuneration boost over the past decade”, Little added.

This year’s budget also includes $328 million in upgrading defence force assets and infrastructure, which Little said would ensure New Zealand can “better work with our partners to meet our commitments here, in the Pacific and abroad”.

Details of controversial Kiri Allan speech to RNZ revealed

Kiritapu Allan (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Details of a speech given by cabinet minister Kiri Allan at an RNZ leaving party have been revealed.

Allan, the justice minister, spoke at an event to farewell her partner Mani Dunlop from the broadcaster. Dunlop had been host of the network’s Midday Report show. However attendees at this event later leaked to the media that Allan had been critical of RNZ, potentially breaching cabinet guidelines.

The Spinoff has seen some of the speech in which Allan said there was something that needed to be looked at within RNZ. “There is something within the organisation that will not, and has not been able to keep Māori talent and that is a question that I think deserves some deep reflection,” Allan said.

“We are looking at… this organisation and how it treats its talent… It’s to this room, and the people within this place to grow and nurture, show that they have a viable future within this organisation. That you can come in as an intern and that you can
get to the top spot, not just because you are Māori but because you have trained them well, you have nurtured them well.”

RNZ refused to release other parts of the speech, or an audio transcript, in order to protect the privacy of these in attendance at the event.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference this afternoon, prime minister Chris Hipkins reiterated that he believed Allan’s comments were “unwise” but said he wouldn’t be taking any action.

National Party banks record $5 million in donations in a single year

Image: Toby Morris

National brought in more than $5 million in donations in 2022, a record high for New Zealand and more than 10 times Labour’s total for the year. Act recorded more than $2 million, the Greens topped $400,000 and NZ First more than $300,000.

Thanks in large part to a fundraising drive from former deputy leader Paula Bennett, National had received more than $2.3 million in donations of $30,000 or more apiece, the sum above which near-immediate reporting was required for 2022 (reduced to $20,000 since). The party has more than doubled that total once donations of smaller size are added to the mix.

National received a quarter of a million each from richlister Graeme Hart and toy tycoon Nicholas Mowbray. $100k-plus came from Bayley Corporation, TM Farmer, Graeme Garrison, Jim Speedy, Brendan and Jocelyn Lindsay, Craig Heatley, Benjamin Gough, Gary Lane and private equity outfit Christopher & Banks.

Act's coffers were boosted by $100k donations from Murray Chandler, Rodney Drury, Graeme Edwards, Trevor Farmer, Lynn Turner, Graeme Hart, John Harman and Jenny Gibbs. Others included Troy Bowker, Don Brash and Aaron Bhatnagar.

Labour's biggest donors in 2022 were Robert Smellie ($100k), Phillip Mills ($50k) and Paul Grimshaw. Other donations included almost $19,000 from Jacinda Ardern and close to $16,000 from Kelvin Davis. Other Labour MPs are believed to have made salary-linked donations but their quantum would not have met the $15,000 mark that requires disclosure.

The Greens' biggest donors were Philip Mills ($25k) and Allen Johnson ($15k) with most of the rest from party MPs. NZ First's top donors were Bowker ($20k) and Jill Garing ($16.4k),

The details were published this afternoon by the Electoral Commission.

Act has already booked almost $1 million in 2023 from donations totalling more than $20,000. For more on the 2023 donors so far reported see here.

Viewership for king’s coronation revealed

Much excitement. Image: Archi Banal

A cumulative total of about 1.2 million people watched coverage of the king’s coronation on TVNZ alone.

The broadcaster said that the average audience on Saturday night was 362,000. Presumably a large amount of people also tuned in over on Three.

The coronation helped bolster TVNZ1 to its highest average audience since May last year.

Over in the UK, The Guardian reported that a peak audience of 20 million was reached (as a reference, David Tennant’s final episode of Doctor Who in 2010 was watched by over 10 million).

Image: Archi Banal

Auckland mayor wants to work on storm resilience, not managed retreat

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown in a 30-minute presentation to Auckland Transport’s board (Photo: Todd Niall/Stuff)

Auckland’s mayor wants the city to prepare for future storms, rather than retreat.

In a press released issued today from his office, Wayne Brown said the council would work with property owners “not on managed retreat” but on building storm resilience.

“In the long run, we can better serve Aucklanders by adapting to life in a changing climate. We need to work with community groups, not over the top of them. I want to see the council join forces with local residents and mana whenua to monitor and manage flood risks in and around urban streams,” Brown said.

The mayor also signalled the council would not compensate homeowners for damage suffered in this year’s severe floods. “Any use of limited public funds needs to be prudent and consistent with public benefit,” said Brown. “Our current position is that Auckland Council is not a guarantor of private property interests, and we are generally not responsible for compensating property owners in case of loss due to a severe weather event or natural disaster.”

Mediaworks launches DJ-less music radio station following Today FM demise


Mediaworks has officially launched Channel X, a DJ-less new music radio station described as a “disruptor in the radio space” (though it launched at midday with When You Were Young by The Killers).

It follows the recent demise of Today FM, the short-lived talk network fronted by the likes of Tova O’Brien and Duncan Garner. Coupled with Channel X’s launch is the debut of Garner’s podcast “Editor-in-Chief”.

Content director at Mediaworks Leon Wratt said Channel X was designed to appeal to people who may not be regular radio listeners. “We’ll be tapping into a wide and slightly more alternative playlist from both local and international artists that generation X grew up with,” he said.

Wratt said the station will be a “music lover’s dream”, describing it as 24/7 anthems with no DJ chat.

The channel is available on frequencies previously used by Today FM across the country.

King Charles state visit to NZ ‘on the cards’ – UK report

King Charles III receives Chris Hipkins at Buckingham Palace. Photo by Stefan Rousseau/Pool/AFP/Getty

With the coronation done and dusted, Charles III will turn his attention to the royal in-tray. “Perhaps the most pressing, and the most ticklish, [matter] involves the issue of foreign visits to Commonwealth realms where the drumbeat of republicanism is growing louder,” reports the Daily Telegraph. The paper, which typically boasts solid palace sources, suggests top of the list will be Australia and New Zealand, each of which has a relatively new prime minister who has voiced non-urgent republican thoughts. “It would make perfect sense for the King and Queen to visit the two countries before either prime minister has a chance to build up a head of steam for ditching the monarchy.”

“The King has a slot in his diary for an overseas tour this autumn,” the source informs the Telegraph, although an October 14 New Zealand election will factor into thinking. “An alternative would be to combine a trip to the Antipodes with the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa, though that could be two years away (no date has yet been announced) and insiders believe the King would prefer to combine it with a trip to Fiji, which he has not visited since 2005.”

King Charles III receives Chris Hipkins at Buckingham Palace. Photo by Stefan Rousseau/Pool/AFP/Getty

The Telegraph reports a “source close to the King” as saying a visit later this year is preferred. “He visited Canada only last year, so it would make sense for him to visit Australia and New Zealand, though the invitation has to come from them, so it’s not something the King or the government can decide unilaterally.”

Anthony Albanese formally invited the King to visit Australia when he met him ahead of the coronation. Hipkins, who returns to Wellington this afternoon, is likely to be asked whether he did the same at his 4pm post-cabinet press conference. 

Tuvalu minister calls out ‘snorkels’ quip on Sky News coronation coverage


The foreign minister of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe, has criticised commentators on Sky News UK’s coronation coverage for making light of the threats posed to the Pacific atoll nation by rising sea levels.

During part of a panel discussion on Saturday focused on whether more nations in the realm might become republics, Sky News host Anna Botting alluded to recent polling, saying, “Tuvalu, aren’t they the ones that wanted to stay the most?” To which author Kathy Lette responded, “Tuvalu? They’ve had to go underwater, put their snorkels on!”

In response to a clip of the exchange, Kofe wrote on social media: “How can anyone find humor in the potential loss of entire countries and cultures due to climate change? It’s beyond comprehension and completely unacceptable. We must call out this behavior and hold those responsible accountable for their ignorance.”

Lette later apologised.

Last year, in an interview with The Spinoff, Kofe said: “Every day, we see the sea encroach more and more or a tropical cyclone hit harder or a drought last longer. I am fearful that those with more money and resources will drown us out and misrepresent us only to continue their destruction of the planet. But I am also extremely hopeful because I see powerful leaders from small states like my own coming to the fore.”

What is it with NZ politics, toilets and pissing?


Rotary Club members in St Johns, east Auckland, were revealed on the weeked to have attached an image of the former prime minister Jacinda Ardern to a toilet bowl which is, naturally, a trophy for an annual debate. The moot this year: was Muldoon a better PM than Ardern? Mercifully there is no footage of the debate itself, the Rotary Club has apologised, and in itself it is hardly Watergate. But it is not the first time pissing on images of people has soured the political discourse. 

Screengrab via Stuff

During the Auckland local election campaign last year, Wayne Brown’s troubling fixation with the Herald journalist Simon Wilson burbled out in the form of a hot-mic declaration that his first action as mayor would be to instruct staff to “glue little pictures of [Wilson] on all the urinals so people can pee on him”. 

In 2020, meanwhile, Clare Curran revealed a photograph from a National Party regional conference some years earlier in which Michael Woodhouse was being presented with (again, some kind of debate trophy) a bright blue toilet seat with her picture attached. 

The photo from the debate, posted on Facebook, was sent to Curran by a friend

The question, I suppose, is does this amount to a pattern? And: Are we OK?

For their part, the St Johns Rotarians might take a leaf from the book of counterparts in Rhos-on-Sea, Wales. Their efforts were celebrated in the pages of North Wales Pioneer last week, which hailed in a headline, “Park benches in Rhos given attention ahead of Coronation”. President Pauline Hogan was quoted as saying: “We felt in particular, with the upcoming Coronation, that the benches in Rhos Park could do with a spruce up so they can be used during any celebrations.”

This is an excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

‘A technical republican’: Hipkins reiterates monarchy views on BBC

King Charles meets with PM Chris Hipkins

Prime minister Chris Hipkins has popped up on the BBC as he rounds out his trip to the UK.

Appearing on the network’s politics show with Laura Kuenssberg, the PM was asked once again for his views on New Zealand remaining part of the Commonwealth.

As he has maintained throughout his tenure in the top job, Hipkins said he, personally, believed New Zealand would eventually become a republic. But he was careful with his words when asked if thinks the monarchy should exist at all. “It’s not that I don’t think the monarchy should exist. I’d describe myself as a technical republican,” said Hipkins.

“In my mind, it would be nice to have someone who is in New Zealand to be a head of state, having said that we, like the UK, have an unwritten constitution.”

The system that we have at the moment “works quite well” for New Zealand, said Hipkins, explaining that our governor general is New Zealand-based and fulfils most of the duties of a monarch. “What we have at the moment wouldn’t be what I’d design if we were designing the system from scratch, but actually it’s working OK and there isn’t a groundswell for change,” he said.

Recent polling shows Hipkins was correct with this reasoning. While most reckon we’d likely to vote to get rid of it in a decade, a poll taken today would see King Charles remain our head of state. Hipkins said he thinks that will eventually happen, but even the recent passing of the queen wasn’t enough to prompt a debate. “I think a lot of New Zealanders take the view of it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it,” he said.

Hipkins was also asked about the new UK-NZ free trade agreement and about the recent defection of former minister Meka Whaitiri – an issue that, while dominating ours news cycle last week, would have been totally unknown to BBC watchers.