Apr 11 2023

Further job cuts in MediaWorks news team


Following the sudden and dramatic axing of Today FM at the end of last month, further cuts are being made to what remains of the MediaWorks news team. According to a source within the company, members of the news team were called together today and informed that the team will be cut from 20 to 12, with remaining reporters required to reapply for their jobs. The group of newsreaders, meanwhile, is to be whittled down to one, the veteran broadcaster Geoff Bryan, said the source.

In a statement to The Spinoff, a spokesperson for MediaWorks said: “We are continuing to work with our news team on the future structure of the team. Our priority is supporting our people while we work through any proposed changes.”

In another departure today, an all-staff email announced that Paula Williams, head of MediaWorks’ people and culture department, is resigning. The human resources executive is “taking a career break to travel overseas to spend time with her UK family before embarking on her next career challenge later this year,” the email said.

An internal slide deck leaked to The Spinoff following the shuttering of Today FM revealed 30 jobs would go as part of that process, with the fate of the 20 members of the news team to be determined. The station went off air in extraordinary style, with host Duncan Garner telling listeners, “this is betrayal”, and Tova O’Brien saying, “We were told we had the support of everyone, from the chief executive through to the board, and they have fucked us.” It was taken off-air permanently just minutes later by MediaWorks, which is owned by offshore private equity funds.

Willow-Jean Prime moves into cabinet after Nash sacking

New cabinet minister Willow-Jean Prime (Photo: Getty Image)

The firing of Stuart Nash from cabinet has seen the promotion today of Willow-Jean Prime.

The Northland MP will replace Nash around the cabinet table, meaning that cabinet will be, for the first time in our history, 50% women.

“It was a combination of her skills as a person and the portfolios that she currently holds,” prime minister Chris Hipkins said of why he settled on Prime for the cabinet promotion. “I’m confident that she’ll be a very active contributor around the cabinet table.”

It was “nice to have” a cabinet that reflected the New Zealand population, but Hipkins said diversity wasn’t the deciding factor in promoting Prime.

Meanwhile, Rachel Brooking will become a minister outside of cabinet and take up Nash’s former fisheries portfolio.

Peeni Henare takes on the forestry portfolio and Barbara Edmonds will become minister for economic development.

New cabinet minister Willow-Jean Prime speaks to media
New cabinet minister Willow-Jean Prime (Photo: Getty Image)

No change to Covid settings… yet

Rapid antigen tests (Image: Tina Tiller)

Mandatory self-isolation for people with Covid-19 will remain the requirement – at least for now.

Cabinet today considered dropping the seven-day isolation period for confirmed Covid cases, but opted instead to bump out any changes for another two months.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference, prime minister Chris Hipkins hinted that a “test to return to work” scheme could be in the pipeline.

“It’s a difficult balancing act and we had to weigh a number of things quite carefully,” he said of today’s cabinet decision.

Asked about whether New Zealand was becoming an outlier in terms of its isolation requirements, Hipkins said this was something the government kept an eye out. “Certainly we are heading toward a point where Covid-19 will become normal,” he said. By the end of winter, he expected that would be the case.

New health roles added to residency fast track ahead of winter

Michael Wood (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Another 32 roles linked to the health sector have been added to the government’s immigration green list, opening up a quicker route to residency.

The roles include dentists, chiropractors, counsellors, osteopaths, pharmacists – and “enrolled” nurses (registered nurses and midwives were added to the green list last December).

Immigration minister Michael Wood said that as we head into winter, the updated green list would help the health sector handle increased pressure.

“We need more qualified people to help us deliver on our record health investments and help improve access to good healthcare in New Zealand,” he said.

“We’ve listened to the health sector and these changes ensure that immigration settings are as helpful and competitive as possible.”

The green list now has a total of 48 health roles, said health minister Ayesha Verrall, all of which were “nationally important”.

The announcement comes as New Zealand could be about to ditch its remaining Covid-19 protection – mandatory self-isolation. PM Chris Hipkins is expected to speak about that in just a moment.

PSA: Fifa World Cup tickets are about to go back on sale

Mark your calendars, football fans – April 11 is a big day. (Image: Supplied / Design: Tina Tiller)

For the past two weeks, no one’s been able to buy tickets to the upcoming Fifa Women’s Football World Cup. This afternoon, at 2pm, that changes. “There’s super-strong demand,” says Dave Beeche, the World Cup CEO who delivered this warning to The Spinoff: “Be ready at your keyboard. It’s first come, first served.”

Tickets sales were delayed from sale so Fifa could finalise exactly how many tickets were left to sell (a little more than half of the 1.5 million, Beeche estimated). It’s now 100 days out from the launch of the World Cup and organisers have made a big deal out of it with an early morning event held at Eden Park for several hundred people including media, officials and former Football Ferns.

Stuff captured the moment fans heard Unity Beat, the offical six-note World Cup chant created by Sydney advertising agency TBWA\ Collective, for the first time.

The World Cup is being held across July and August in venues throughout Australasia. From 2pm, when tickets go back on sale, fans are restricted to 10 tickets per match, and 100 tickets total per person. (To get them, you need to register first so it might pay to do that before 2pm.) Prices are as low as $10 for kids and $20 for adults for some round robin games, rising for the knockout stages.

Popular matches are expected to be anything involving the Football Ferns, a replay of the last world cup’s match between USA and the Netherlands in Wellington, and anything involving the USA thanks to the team’s huge fanbase, many of which are expected to travel here to follow the team. The quarter finals, semis and final are also expected to sell out quickly. (Please don’t use Viagogo, which is coming up first in my Google searches for cup tickets.)

Politicians are boasting about the benefits the event will have on the country, especially with a global viewing audience topping 1 billion. “We are expecting thousands of international fans to come to New Zealand for the tournament. It is a great opportunity for us to showcase our unique culture and landscape,” said tourism minister Peeni Henare. Boosts are also expected in the number of women playing football.

Listen: Is your employer watching you work from home?

The surge in working from home looks here to stay, unleashing a whole new class of software tools for bosses to keep an eye on workers — and not always in a good way. In the latest episode of When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey talks to founder and CEO Lauren Peate about the risks of employer surveillance, and how software can be made more ethical, more productive and less stressful.

Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts

The Bulletin: NZ could face a bill of $24b to meet international climate change targets

A report by officials at Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment has found New Zealand could face a bill of $24 billion in the years leading up to 2030 in order to meet its international climate change targets. The Herald’s Michael Neilson writes that that scenario is based on New Zealand not reducing its current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, and a high international carbon price for offsetting any emissions above the country’s target (paying other countries to account for the excess pollution).

David Hall, climate policy director at Toha NZ, said there had long been an assumption international markets would provide a “backstop of plentiful, low-cost emissions reductions” and that there is an uncomfortable level of uncertainty about those assumptions.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 37,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

Three waters, meet 10 buckets?

(Image: Archi Banal)

BusinessDesk’s Patrick Smellie has reported that the government’s contentious three waters reforms could in fact become ten waters, at least as far as the number of bodies overseeing the infrastructure is concerned.

It’s been widely expected that prime minister Chris Hipkins, as part of his ongoing policy “reprioritisation”, would look to adjust if not entirely scrap the water infrastructure project.

“Multiple sources” told BusinessDesk that the government’s preferred plan was now for 10 water entities instead of the planned four. That would hopefully appease local government representatives concerned that the three waters policy was, effectively, government overreach.

It’s likely to be a few weeks before any outcome is revealed, with cabinet yet to formally consider the new proposal.

According to Smellie, the contentious “co-governance” elements of three waters will remain – though that word will probably be phased out.

(Image: Archi Banal)

Final Covid restrictions could be scrapped very soon


Many of us will know someone who has or has very recently had Covid-19. The latest Ministry of Health figures show cases are still slightly on the rise with just over 12,200 new cases confirmed across the country in the week ending April 2.

But, according to RNZ, the government will today consider ditching our final Covid-19 restrictions. That’s the requirement for positive cases to self-isolate for seven days, a rule that’s been in place in some form since the early days of the pandemic.

An announcement is expected “this week”, RNZ reported, which could mean it comes as soon as this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference.

Prime minister Chris Hipkins said cabinet would consider “all of the ins and outs” of both ditching or keeping the self-isolation period. “I’ve heard businesses saying that it has an impact of labour availability. I put the counter…  that people going to work with Covid-19 can have a labour market impact as well.”

Asked about a possible RAT test to release scheme, Hipkins wouldn’t speculate about what ideas could be on the table when cabinet meets this afternoon.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker told the Herald that scrapping the isolation requirement would be the wrong move. “[Covid]’s our number one infectious disease killer, and the number one infectious disease that’s placing people in hospital,” he said.

“Things may be less intense right now, and Covid-19 has obviously been displaced from the headlines by other news items, but we need to retain a lot of respect for this virus and the damage that it can do.”

Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the government should look to other countries, many of which – including the UK and Australia – have already removed isolation rules. “In other countries, there is guidance around self-isolation, but it’s essentially no longer mandatory. We should certainly look at those examples.”