blog may 9

Live UpdatesMay 9 2022

$230m funding boost for apprenticeships; more BA.5 cases confirmed

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Monday, May 9. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip or just want to say hi? You can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The government has announced a $230m funding extension for the apprenticeships boost programme.
  • A further two people have tested positive in New Zealand for the BA.5 variant of omicron.
  • Simon Henry reportedly got Nadia Lim’s mobile number “from a friend”.
  • Emissions targets released ahead of plan on how to meet them.
  • PM has ‘no intention’ of ousting Trevor Mallard.
  • There would normally be a post-cabinet press conference at 4pm. With the PM in isolation in Auckland, we’re waiting for confirmation on who will be fronting this.
blog may 9

$230m funding boost for apprenticeships; more BA.5 cases confirmed

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Monday, May 9. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip or just want to say hi? You can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The government has announced a $230m funding extension for the apprenticeships boost programme.
  • A further two people have tested positive in New Zealand for the BA.5 variant of omicron.
  • Simon Henry reportedly got Nadia Lim’s mobile number “from a friend”.
  • Emissions targets released ahead of plan on how to meet them.
  • PM has ‘no intention’ of ousting Trevor Mallard.
  • There would normally be a post-cabinet press conference at 4pm. With the PM in isolation in Auckland, we’re waiting for confirmation on who will be fronting this.
May 9 2022

$230m extension to apprenticeship boost programme announced

Deputy prime minister and finance minister Grant Robertson is fronting this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference with help from education minister Chris Hipkins. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is in isolation in Auckland as her partner has tested positive for Covid-19.

The pair are announcing an extension to the apprenticeship boost programme, currently scheduled to wrap up in August, to the end of 2023.

With an investment of $230 million as part of next week’s budget, the programme will support 38,000 apprenticeships, 24,000 of which are new (14,000 will continue from the existing programme), said Robertson.

The apprentices’ subsidy will be halved for the first year, lowering to $500 from August 5, announced Hipkins. This is “in recognition of the significant growth in apprentices since 2020 and the employment strength in the New Zealand economy”. The second-year subsidy rate will remain at $500 per month until the initiative ends in December 2023.

“A locally trained workforce provides for greater economic security,” said Hipkins. “It delivers a highly skilled workforce to build infrastructure, or design the technology needed to future-proof the economy while ensuring good jobs for New Zealanders.”

Funding was also extended for the Mana in Mahi and Māori Trades Training programmes. Mana in Mahi supports people receiving a benefit into work and training, while Māori Trades Training is a collaboration between the Ministry of Social Development and 17 Māori entities to provide multi-year work-focused training for rangatahi Māori.

“New Zealand is seeing a huge boom in construction and building and we have plenty of people willing and ready to take up the opportunities it provides. However, many lack the foundational skills to realise their potential,” said social development and employment minister Carmel Sepuloni on today’s announcement, which she said would “go a long way to bridging this skills gap”.

Māori TV to get world exclusive announcement from Prince Harry

The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, is due to reveal a new project he’s involved with in an exclusive with Māori Television’s Te Ao with Moana tonight.

In a teaser video on the show’s TikTok account, Prince Harry said he was sharing a new kaupapa. Moana Maniapoto, the host of the show, told the Herald the kaupapa being launched out of New Zealand is inspired by Māori values around kaitiakitanga, and the message from Prince Harry was likely to “spark a discussion” among viewers.

“It’s interesting to hear someone who’s a royal speak about Māori values, given our history but also given the current debates about having Māori values at the forefront of decision making and relationships,” she said, adding that she hoped to interview Prince Harry again at a later date “to tease out that relationship between Māori and the Crown”.

The Te Ao team initially suspected the interview request was a hoax. This might be fair enough, given reports from Tina Brown’s tell-all book suggesting that the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, hated the “pointless Australia and NZ tour” in 2018 (although our own Toby Manhire disputes this).

You can catch Prince Harry and his exclusive announcement on Māori TV at 8pm tonight.

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National backing new emissions budgets, but Act not onboard

The National Party has backed the government’s newly announced emissions budgets, but Act is not convinced.

Christopher Luxon said the budgets, which lay out the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be put into the atmosphere in a particular time period, were an “important step” towards reaching net zero in 2050.

“Having agreed the net emissions pathway, the question now is how to bring down emissions. We need effective policies if we are to deliver our ambitious climate change targets,” he said.

“While we share the government’s commitment to lower emissions, there are a range of ways to achieve net zero and we need to consider every option.”

A Stuff article published earlier this afternoon reported National’s climate spokesperson Scott Simpson as saying the party did not have a stance on the budgets, although he was asked about the issue a few hours ago. Stuff also quoted an Act spokesperson as saying the party rejected the emissions budgets. “We should dump the Zero Carbon Act then simply keep the cap on the Emissions Trading Scheme,” they said. “Setting a cap for New Zealand’s emissions makes every other climate policy a costly duplication.”

Covid-19 update: Two more BA.5 omicron cases, two new deaths

A further two people have tested positive in New Zealand for the BA.5 variant of omicron. That means three people in the country have been confirmed with the variant, all of whom travelled from South Africa.

“Both BA.4 and BA.5 have been reported in Southern Africa and Europe, and both variants have been detected in Australia. The arrival of the BA.5 sub-variant in New Zealand is not unexpected,” said the Ministry of Health.

No additional public health settings are being considered at this time.

Another two people with Covid-19 have died in New Zealand, bringing the overall death count to 862 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 15. Of the people whose deaths we are reporting today; one person was from Wairarapa and the other was from Whanganui. Both were male and in their 80s.

There are now 368 people with Covid-19 in hospital, 18 in ICU, and another 6,407 community cases have been reported overnight.

Permanent cut to public transport fares being considered – report

The temporary cuts to public transport prices across the country could be made permanent, according to Stuff.

In response to the rising cost of living, the government halved all transport fares nationwide as well as cutting fuel taxes. Both were planned to be for a three month period. But sources have told Stuff the public transport cuts could be extended indefinitely.

An announcement on this is unlikely to come in time for next week’s budget, but could come soon after. Whether or not the plan moves forward reportedly hinges on public transport usage during the three month fare cut. So far, that would suggest it’s likely to be given the green light: public transport uptake has surged since fares were lowered.

Stuff reported that a discussion has also been had about making public transport free, but that’s understood to be unlikely.

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Next Doctor Who star announced

One of the stars of Netflix’s Sex Education, Ncuti Gatwa, has been confirmed as taking over the lead role in Doctor Who from next year.

The Scottish-Rwandan actor becomes the first person of colour to play The Doctor. He replaces actress Jodie Whittaker who has been in the role for three seasons.

The announcement was made, somewhat surprisingly, just via a simple written statement. However, Gatwa has since walked the red carpet at the Baftas in his first appearance since the news was confirmed. “It feels really amazing. It’s a true honour. This role is an institution and it’s so iconic,” he told the BBC. “I feel very grateful to have had the baton handed over and I’m going to try to do my best.”

In other TV news today: Succession is one step closer to returning for its fourth season. Creator and writer Jesse Armstrong said the scripts for season four are close to completion. “We’re almost done with the writing for season 4, here in London, with the American writers coming over,” Armstrong said, according to Variety. “They’re a really great group of people to talk about the nuances of character and the world and what we’re doing on the show.”

Did Simon Henry have the wrong phone number for Nadia Lim?

Simon Henry got Nadia Lim’s mobile number “from a friend”, according to the PR company hired to represent his company DGL.

My Food Bag founder Nadia Lim has still not received the promised apology that Henry claimed he’d made last week.

The Spinoff revealed exclusively over the weekend that Henry had told DGL staff he would make contact with Lim to formally apologise for the “unacceptable” comments he made about her. “I have written to her today to formally apologise,” he said in a memo, leaked to The Spinoff and dated May 6.

But Lim’s told the NBR today that apology still hasn’t arrived.

Writing for Today FM, broadcaster Rachel Smalley reported that Henry had initially tried to contact Lim over the phone. “Simon obtained Nadia’s number from a friend, whose name we won’t be disclosing,” a spokesperson from Sefiani Communications told Smalley.

They then said that if Smalley shared Lim’s number, they would see if it matched the number that Henry used.

The Spinoff has approached Sefiani for further information.

Emissions targets released ahead of plan on how to meet them

New Zealand’s plan for reaching net-zero emissions has become clearer, with the government today announcing three “emissions budgets”.

Under the Zero Carbon Act, emissions budgets – the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be put into the atmosphere in a particular time period – must be met through domestic action. The three budgets today set out New Zealand’s emissions plan for the next 14 years.

Until 2025, 290 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gasses will be allowed into the atmosphere – about 72.4 megatonnes each year. In budget number two, between 2026 and 2030, that will drop to around 61 megatonnes a year. And in the third budget, 2031-2035, it’ll reduce again to 38 megatonnes annually.

Climate change minister James Shaw confirmed the Emissions Reduction Plan, which sets out exactly how the government plans to deliver on the first emissions budget, will be released next week.

Luxon admits there is more work to do in attracting diverse candidates

Here’s an extract from today’s Bulletin, written by Anna Rawhiti-Connell.

The National party leader was in Ashburton on Friday. He received questions at a public meeting about the increasing use of te reo names for government departments and places but moved quickly past them, saying New Zealanders were concerned about bigger things like the cost of living. Luxon also attended by-election candidate Sam Uffindell’s campaign launch in Tauranga on Saturday, promising a more diverse line-up of candidates for the 2023 election and admitted the party had “more work to do”.

Hospices may need to reduce services or shut down altogether

Government funds cover half the cost of running hospices in New Zealand, while hospices raise the rest through op shops and charity events. Te Kahu Pairuri/Hospice NZ acting CEO Wayne Naylor said costs have grown by more than $41m since 2017, while Government funding has increased by just $18.8m. “It’s not going to be sustainable; we can’t keep asking the community for more and more money to fill a significant funding gap,” said Naylor. In February, Tōtara Hospice CEO Tina McCafferty told Q&A that services at the south Auckland hospice had been reduced amid a looming shortfall of about $1.3 million.

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PM has ‘no intention’ of ousting Trevor Mallard

Trevor Mallard appears safe in his job as Speaker of the House.

The Labour MP has been under-fire from across the political divide since it was revealed he had trespassed a handful of former MPs from the parliamentary precinct, in connection to their appearance at the parliament occupation back in February and March.

Those trespass orders have since been withdrawn, but the opposition has continued to question Mallard’s suitability in the role of Speaker.

Speaking to Newshub’s AM, prime minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that she had suggested to Mallard he should backtrack on the trespass notices. “I shared with him a perspective,” she said. “Let’s look at proportionality: there were others who were there who were arrested and charged for their actions,” she said.

What Mallard had to do with around the protest was “unprecedented”, said the prime minister. However, Ardern said Mallard was performing to the “best of his ability”. She added: “I have no intention of changing him”.

There’s been speculation Mallard could be in line for an overseas diplomatic posting. Ardern had no comment.

Read more: Why secret-ballot elections for Speaker are better for everyone

Act proposes two-rate tax system in alternative budget

Less tax for every earner, debt paid down quickly and the bright-line test scrapped. The Act Party has unveiled its alternative budget, 10 days before finance minister Grant Robertson reveals what he has in store for New Zealand’s finances in 2022.

Under Act’s plan, New Zealand’s tax system would be modified to just two rates: 17.5% and 28%, while wasteful spending would be culled by $5.3 billion in 2023. The government has so far signalled it will not be adjusting our existing tax thresholds.

Leader David Seymour said his party would “reshape” the income tax system to restore fairness, reward success and deliver tax relief to New Zealanders. “Kiwis have had a rough ride over the past few years and they’re continuing to be squeezed from every direction. This has been exacerbated by relentless borrowing and spending from government, prices are rising because there’s too much money chasing too few goods,” he said.

“Labour and National use budgets as an opportunity to reward their political supporters. The question is always, ‘who gets what?’ Budgets should answer the question, ‘who do we want to be as a country?’”

Other tenets of the alternative budget include ditching any remaining Covid rules that “no longer make sense” and carrying out serious reform of the RMA (something the government has signalled is already on the way).