blog march 14

Live UpdatesMar 14 2022

Cost of living crisis: Fuel taxes and public transport fares reduced

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 14. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • In the face of the growing cost of living, the government has confirmed fuel excise duty and road user charges will each be dropped by 25 cents per litre for the next three months. Public transport fares will be halved for the same time.
  • Two more people with Covid-19 have died overnight, while 952 people are now in hospital with the virus.
  • More than 15,000 new community cases were registered today.
  • The borders could be fully reopened to tourists much earlier than planned for. Details will be announced this week.
blog march 14

Cost of living crisis: Fuel taxes and public transport fares reduced

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 14. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • In the face of the growing cost of living, the government has confirmed fuel excise duty and road user charges will each be dropped by 25 cents per litre for the next three months. Public transport fares will be halved for the same time.
  • Two more people with Covid-19 have died overnight, while 952 people are now in hospital with the virus.
  • More than 15,000 new community cases were registered today.
  • The borders could be fully reopened to tourists much earlier than planned for. Details will be announced this week.
Mar 14 2022

Fuel taxes cut, public transport fares halved, in face of ‘energy crisis’

Fuel excise duty and road user charges will each be dropped by 25 cents per litre for the next three months in response to the ongoing cost of living crisis, with the former to be implemented at midnight tonight. Public transport fares will also be halved for the same period.

Jacinda Ardern, speaking at parliament, said we are currently in the midst of a global energy crisis and short term measures were needed. “This is a wicked, perfect storm,” she said. “The impact of the war sits on top of the pain already caused by the pandemic. Just as it was our job to get New Zealand through the Covid-19 health crisis it’s also our job to put in place a plan to get us through the global energy crisis too.”

The changes to fuel tax will lead to a potential saving of between $11.50 to $17.25 per tank of fuel.

Last week prices for all three fuel types increased by the highest amount on record, said Ardern, and the conflict in Ukraine will lead to continued volatility at the pump. “There is no silver bullet but we have a plan where every part will make a difference.”

The cuts to the fuel tax and the halving of public transport costs will both be reviewed before the three month period is up.

Ardern reiterated that, on April 1, a suite of permanent increases to household incomes will be implemented through increases to Working for Families, superannuation and benefits. “While forecasters predict inflation will peak and subside over the coming year, there is less certainty around fuel costs due to the volatility of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Ardern.

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Finance minister Grant Robertson said the government was moving quickly to address the pain at the pump. “Reducing fuel excise duty is the quickest move we can make and it will be confirmed by an Order in Council that will come into effect tonight,” he said.

“Due to the nature of road user charges, officials are working through a number of options to make sure support flows in a timely way, and the transport minister will be setting out the details for how we will support RUC payers in the coming days.” The changes to public transport fares will be introduced as quickly as possible, added Ardern, after consultation with councils.

The estimated cost of this cut over the three month period is about $350 million for the fuel tax changes. Robertson said this will mean reduced revenue for the National Land Transport Fund, which funds investment in roads and other transport infrastructure. “We will be meeting the costs of this through savings and reprioritisation from the Covid Response and Recovery Fund,” he said. “This means we can continue the government’s record investment into transport infrastructure without having to cut projects.”

Asked whether changes to GST were considered, Robertson said no due to its complexity.

The pain at the pump is real (Image / Tina Tiller & Getty Images)

First out of the block for political reaction to this afternoon’s announcement was Act leader David Seymour. He called the 25 cent per litre cut a “trim”.

“Petrol tax has increased 41 cents a litre under Labour, today’s 25c decrease is a fraction of what the government could have done to support Kiwis who are being squeezed from every direction,” said Seymour.

Earlier today, Seymour told me he hoped the government would adopt Act’s Carbon Tax Refund model to help with growing living costs.

Watch: Jacinda Ardern to reveal cabinet decision on soaring petrol costs

Jacinda Ardern is expected to lay out a temporary fix to the growing pain at the pump.

After first admitting today that there is a cost of living and energy crisis, the prime minister said cabinet would be meeting to discuss possible solutions. With Grant Robertson also set to be at the podium this afternoon, we’re expecting those solutions to be made public.

You can tune in below and we’ll have rolling coverage from 4pm.

And while we wait… Did you know Jane Campion went from winning big at the Baftas this morning to winning even bigger at this afternoon’s Critics’ Choice Awards? Along with snagging another best director win, Campion scored for her screenplay and the Power of the Dog took out best picture and best cinematography.

Breaking: Dug the Spud not actually a spud

After a whirlwind media tour that included appearances on CNN and the ABC, it’s been confirmed Guinness World Record hopeful Dug the Spud is not even a potato.

According to Stuff, the 7.9kg tuber discovered in Hamilton is actually – according to DNA testing – a type of gourd. As a result, Dug is no longer up for Guinness glory.

“I’m disappointed, but he’s still ‘Dug – not the biggest potato’,” Dug’s discoverer, Colin, told Stuff. “It’s been a real roller-coaster of potato-rama. We hopped on the roller-coaster eyes wide open and enjoyed the ride and this was the last real twist.”

It’s not yet known specifically what kind of vegetable/monstrosity Dug actually is. Colin theorised that maybe it was some sort of crossbreed between a gourd and a cucumber. “The mysterious part is why did it grow so big? And why does it taste and look like a potato?” Colin said.

“If it quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and has feathers on it, then it must be a duck. But nah – this one turned out to be a turkey.”

As The Spinoff’s deputy editor Alice Neville said: “I feel this is symbolic of the fucked state of the world.” Too true.

PM was three months late to admit cost of living crisis – David Seymour

Jacinda Ardern’s admission that there is a cost of living crisis came at least three months late, said Act Party leader David Seymour.

Until today, the prime minister has refused to admit that the growing price of fuel and food was a “crisis”, despite ongoing pressure from opposition parties.

David Seymour told The Spinoff live updates that Ardern’s comments this morning were part of a “domino effect” started by Act in December. “The National Party fell in and then we had an unlikely hero in [social development minister] Carmel Sepuloni,” he said.

During her media rounds this morning, Ardern maintained that her position on the cost of living had been “consistent” despite choosing not to label it a crisis until today. Seymour disagreed: “She’s as out of touch as when she locked down Auckland for three months and then refused to visit,” he told me. “I don’t think she appreciates the anguish people feel… the question now is what will she do.”

It’s been signalled by the prime minister that cuts to fuel tax could be on the cards. An announcement will be made at 4pm today, with Ardern joined by finance minister Grant Robertson for the usual post-cabinet press conference.

Seymour said that petrol price cuts were a “minefield” but the most important thing was that the government “does something that will help people immediately”. He hoped that Act’s proposed Carbon Tax Refund would be adopted. The policy would see the tax revenue collected from the Emissions Trading Scheme returned in the form of a refund – around $749 for family of four.

“Every economist says don’t cut GST and there is good reason for that,” said Seymour, after claims that could be what cabinet will consider today. “That’s why we’ve said use the ETS revenue.”

As for whether today’s announcements were triggered by last week’s poll, Seymour hoped not. “The polls have been shifting for a year,” he said. “I would have thought that they could have worked it out a bit earlier.”

David Seymour in the house (Photo : Getty Images)

Covid-19 update: Two deaths, 952 in hospital, 15,540 new cases

Two more people with Covid-19 have died, with New Zealand’s pandemic death toll now sitting at 115.

Of these deaths, one occurred in Waikato and one in Canterbury. Both were women aged over 70 years, said the Ministry of Health.

“We know the omicron variant can cause serious illness and death either directly or by its impact on other health conditions, particularly for our older and more vulnerable New Zealanders,” said a ministry spokesperson. “The importance of getting boosted cannot be under-estimated.”

There are now 952 people in hospital with the virus, including 19 in intensive care. Most of these are in the Auckland region: 210 people are in both Auckland and Middlemore hospitals, with 185 in North Shore Hospital.

“The figures show that just over 3% of people aged 12 and over in the Northern region have had no doses of the vaccine,” said the ministry. “Of those aged 12 and over in Northland and Auckland hospitals with Covid-19 for whom we have vaccination status recorded, 15% have had no doses of the vaccine and are five times over-represented in our hospitalisation figures.”

There are 15,540 new community cases being reported today.


Once again, the ministry reiterated its call for people to register their rapid antigen test results. “As we’re seeing the vast majority of positive results coming from rapid antigen tests, it’s essential people continue to register their result, whether it is positive or negative,” said the ministry.

“Please continue to get tested if you have symptoms. Even if you think you might have Covid-19, it’s better to test and know for sure.”

Plans to reintroduce container refund scheme

A recycling refund scheme is being proposed as a way to incentivise people to correctly dispose of their waste.

Environment minister David Parker said the container return scheme would apply to bottles, with every item recycled returning a 20 cent refund.

The idea is a throwback to one that was around in the 1970s before eventually being scrapped. Parker said it would stop so many recyclable bottles ending up in the landfill. “More than two billion drinks are sold every year in New Zealand. Less than half of these containers are recycled, meaning that over a billion containers end up as litter, are stockpiled, or sent to landfills every year,” he said.

The Zero Waste Network welcomed the proposal, calling it a positive step forward. “A container return scheme with the right settings will take pressure off councils, ratepayers and the recycling industry, by covering the cost of collecting and processing beverage containers. It is a major win-win and sets the stage for building a reuse economy,” said chair Marty Hoffart.

The container return scheme is just one part of a broader overhaul of our recycling system. Other proposals include standardising curbside collections across the country and separating businesses’ food scraps from general waste to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Environment minister David Parker  (Photo: RNZ/Don Thomas)

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‘This war has broken my heart’

From The Spinoff Weekend: a curated collection of the best stories published on our site every week.

If you’re confused by Russia and Vladimir Putin’s war playing out in Ukraine right now, you’re not the only one. “Until the very last moment, I was 100% sure that this was not going to happen. I would never have believed that Putin would start a war with Ukraine,” writes Igor, who shares nationalities between Russia and Ukraine.

He’s watching, listening, studying the situation from New Zealand, and is horrified by what he’s hearing. “One of my cousins and his family (five adults and two kids) now live in one tiny room provided by their friends in Chernivtsi, and their life is full of struggles. They live in fear,” Igor writes. “Many cities are devastated – not only military facilities but also residential complexes, hospitals and schools. Civilians are dying under destroyed buildings without water, electricity, internet connectivity or food … It is shocking and very, very sad.”

You can read Igor’s piece in full here. Sign up for The Spinoff Weekend below.

Covid death toll rises as omicron’s wave could be peaking in Auckland

From The Bulletin: All the best stories curated from around New Zealand media to start your day.

Hospitalisations and deaths are lagging indicators of Covid, only following days or weeks after cases move through an area. Epidemic modeller Michael Plank told RNZ that there’s ample proof omicron is now in retreat in Auckland. However, hospitalisations and deaths could still increase for some time. Michael Baker told Stuff that the death toll could top 20 daily due to the massive size of the omicron surge. While that sounds low, the country only had 51 total deaths from Covid at the start of the year.

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. 

Actor confronts Tom Hanks after being fired over ‘dead eyes’

If you haven’t listened to the podcast series Dead Eyes this headline may make little sense to you, so I urge you to go and start listening now.

For three years, actor and comic Conor Ratliff has been recording a podcast in which he seeks answers to why he was fired from the HBO series Band of Brothers over his supposed “dead eyes” – a comment allegedly made by Hanks himself. It’s seen Ratliff chat to casting directors, industry experts, fellow actors and basically anyone who may have crossed paths with Hanks over the years.

But the thought of Hanks ever actually appearing on the podcast seemed… unlikely.

Until now: after more than 30 episodes, Hanks this week sat down with Ratliff for a 90-minute episode of the podcast where he apologised for the firing.

I’m about 10 episodes behind on this podcast because I lost any hope of this confrontation ever happening – so now it’s time for me to catch up.

Jane Campion scores big at Baftas

Jane Campion has won best director, and her film The Power of the Dog best film, at this year’s British Academy Film Awards – cementing both as frontrunners for Oscar glory later this month.

The Power of the Dog, a Netflix western shot in Otago, has already pulled in an impressive awards haul this season. It won big at the Golden Globes, along with picking up a slew of smaller critics prizes.

Other big wins at the Baftas include Troy Kotsur in the best supporting actor race for Coda, likely giving him the head over Power of the Dog stars Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee at the Oscars. There were no surprises in best actor and supporting actress, with Will Smith and Ariana DeBose winning as expected.

Sci-fi epic Dune won the most prizes of the night, five, thanks mainly to its impressive technical achievements and score.

The full winners list can be found here

Jane Campion speaks onstage during the Netflix Power Of The Dog Live-to-Screen Performance on March 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Netflix)

Oh, and in case you missed it, Campion responded over the weekend to actor Sam Elliott’s bizarre critique of Power of the Dog. Legend.

Date for wider border reopening to be brought forward – PM

Tourists could be visiting New Zealand a lot sooner than anticipated.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning that the government is looking to bring forward the border reopening dates and will announce details this week.

Currently, New Zealanders can return home from anywhere in the world without the need to isolate. Working holiday visa holders are also permitted entry through our border.

“We will bring forward those other reopening dates,” said Ardern. “[We’re] looking to announce timeframes for that this week.” It will be earlier than the previously teased July date, the PM added. “The point that we’re coming off the peak of omicron is when the experts have said it will be possible to reopen the borders more widely.”

PM admits there is a cost of living crisis, signals cuts to petrol tax

What a difference a week makes. Jacinda Ardern has finally admitted there is a cost of living crisis, days after a new poll put the Labour Party below National for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began. And she’s teased that cuts to petrol tax could be on the way as prices soar well above $3 a litre at the pump.

The opposition spent much of last week pressing the government to admit the growing cost of food and fuel was a crisis. Ardern initially said that wasn’t how she would define it, but her minister Carmel Sepuloni told RNZ that the cost of living was a “a crisis for many families”.

Asked about that comment on Newshub’s AM this morning, Ardern said she agreed with her minister. “For many people, there is a huge impact of the pandemic and a war,” she said. “Regardless of the title it is given – you can call it a crisis, an emergency, a shock.”

Today is the first time the word “crisis” has been said by Ardern. Despite this, the prime minister denied changing her position in the past week. “There has never been a moment where we have not said families are absolutely feeling the pressure,” she told RNZ. “We’ve been consistent on that.”

Some further relief could be on the way for consumers, too. Ardern said cabinet would today be discussing how “to ease the impact of the energy crisis out of Ukraine”. Further information, Ardern said, would be released at 4pm. “We know that we need to move as quickly as we can,” said Ardern, indicating that GST cuts are not a quick fix but there were “other options” on the table.