blog may 16

Live UpdatesMay 16 2022

Cash for clunkers? New vehicle upgrade plan unveiled

Welcome back to another week of news, this is The Spinoff’s live updates for Monday, May 16. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • A new upgrade scheme aims to help lower and middle-income New Zealanders swap their existing petrol vehicle for a low emissions alternative.
  • It’s the headline announcement in today’s multi-billion dollar Emissions Reduction Plan.
  • The seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases has increased to 7,702, up from 7,479 a week ago.
  • Jacinda Ardern has tested positive for Covid-19 and is too sick to chair cabinet or speak at the release of the emissions plan.
blog may 16

Cash for clunkers? New vehicle upgrade plan unveiled

Welcome back to another week of news, this is The Spinoff’s live updates for Monday, May 16. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • A new upgrade scheme aims to help lower and middle-income New Zealanders swap their existing petrol vehicle for a low emissions alternative.
  • It’s the headline announcement in today’s multi-billion dollar Emissions Reduction Plan.
  • The seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases has increased to 7,702, up from 7,479 a week ago.
  • Jacinda Ardern has tested positive for Covid-19 and is too sick to chair cabinet or speak at the release of the emissions plan.
May 16 2022

NZ business and investment circles mourn passing of Brian Gaynor

Business and investment circles in Aotearoa are mourning today with the passing of Brian Gaynor, one of the most prominent and influential figures in New Zealand markets.

Gaynor was the founder and longtime leader of Milford Asset Management, a wealth manager and Kiwisaver provider that produced impressive and award-winning returns and built to an imposing $15bn under management as a result.

He was far more prominent than most fund managers though, as he was also one of the most persuasive writers on markets this country has ever known. Through a column he wrote on Saturdays for the New Zealand Herald, he produced hundreds of diligently researched columns that managed to go deep into listed companies, the housing market and other financial matters, with the rare ability to bring lay people and the finance industry along with him. Every column ended with a disclosure of his role at Milford, and often a stake in the business being discussed, which at times infuriated his rivals, who saw him as writing as much for his firm as for his audience. But his methodical, data-centric approach meant no one could dispute his quality as an analyst.

“Brian is a business legend. Full stop,” said Sam Stubbs, who leads passive fund pioneer Simplicity, in a 2017 Spinoff piece. “He’s a personal hero of mine. I wish he could live, and work, forever, and that’s in spite of him being a formidable competitor. Many Kiwis and been enriched, in many ways, by his contribution.”

This is despite Stubbs and Simplicity having been the subject of a brutal column by Gaynor just a few months prior. “While he’s ruffled a few feathers in his time, that, and his thorough analysis and commentary, is exactly what has made NZ business better under his watch,” added Stubbs.

Asked about Gaynor’s passing in this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson said he was deeply saddened. “He was a person who I met on a number of occasions and listened to carefully, and I was always impressed with Brian’s ability to weigh up the different sides of an argument. He had a unique role in being a commentator and a writer but also a very active participant through Milford. He’s going to be sorely missed.”

Gaynor’s life was touched by deep tragedy, when his teenage son died at just 17, yet despite this he never lost his drive and passion for this country’s business community. In recent years he got into lengthy, enjoyably heady scraps with those pushing index funds over active investing, and took his interest in financial journalism up a notch through a large stake in BusinessDesk. This helped move it from a wire service to one of the best consumer-facing business newsrooms in the country. Late last year it sold to the Herald, in a move that saw him reunited with a newsroom that had gained so much for so long from his work. He is survived by his wife Anna and son Peter.

Read Duncan Greive’s profile of Brian Gaynor in full here

Brian Gaynor (Photo: Supplied)

Robertson teases ‘economic security’ in the budget

The word of the day is security.

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson says this week is about delivering “economic security” for New Zealanders.

This Thursday’s budget, newly subtitled “A Secure Future”, is pegged to include support for the cost of living, health and the environment.

Speaking at parliament, Robertson called today’s Emissions Reduction Plan a “landmark” in the battle against climate change. It was also, said Robertson, an important moment for our economic security. “Addressing climate change in a long term focused manner means a more secure future for households and the economy.”

Earlier today, the National Party labelled the new plan “corporate welfare”. Robertson disagreed. “Once again it’s the National Party trying to have their cake and eat it too. It’s all very well to say you support action on emissions, but if it’s not these, what is it?” he said. “I’d ask the National Party to actually front up with their plan to meet these carbon budgets.”

Asked about support for ram raids, Robertson indicated it was on the way. “The work’s happening, we’ll make the announcement about the detail next week,” he said. Government support could be similar to the previous roll-out of smoke cannons to certain stores.

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If you want to support what we do, please consider joining up. There is no minimum to donate and you’ll not only help make local journalism happen but gain a bunch of great member-only perks, including a world version of The Bulletin, written by Peter Bale, delivered direct to your inbox every Thursday, less advertising, an RSS feed, cool merch and more. Join today!

National gives thumbs down to most elements of Emissions Reduction Plan

The National Party has given only partial backing to the government’s new plan to slash emissions. 

Announced earlier today, the $2.9 billion Emissions Reduction Plan includes millions for a car upgrade scheme and funding for new cycleways. There will also be $40 million for decarbonising the public transport fleet.

It follows the release last week of three new emissions budgets. But while these got National’s tick of approval, today’s plan has barely received a pass mark.

“Too much of the new spending will go to corporate welfare and more working groups,” said leader Christopher Luxon. “The government is proposing to give hundreds of millions of dollars to companies for investments they should be making anyway.”

Elements of the plan were welcomed by the party, said Luxon, specifically investment in research to reduce agriculture emissions and expanding options for carbon sinks. However, he said “much of the plan lacks the details we would expect to see after more than two years of work”.

Damning Cycling NZ report reveals ‘medals over wellbeing’ mentality

A newly released report into Cycling NZ, commissioned after 24-year-old Olympian Olivia Podmore’s suspected suicide, has revealed a culture that is obsessed with winning medals at the cost of wellbeing, that muzzles athletes and that treats women particularly poorly.

Dylan Cleaver, writing for The Bounce newsletter, says the report was effectively a referendum into the funding and culture of high-performance Olympic sport in New Zealand. “The verdict is in: It’s screwed,” he writes.

One paragraph from the 104-page report reveals an “old boys’ club” exists within Cycling NZ.

“Aotearoa NZ’s small sporting community tends to recruit or ‘recycle’ personnel from within ‘the system’. This was referred to as ‘shoulder tapping’, the ‘old boys’ club’, and ‘jobs for mates’. We perceive an over-reliance on bringing in recruits that people already know (even, in some cases, where past performance has been suboptimal). This curtails attempts to ensure diversity, introduce new ideas, and in some instances maintains and rewards poor behaviour.”

Read more on the report and its findings here

Why we need to close New Zealand’s $600bn insurance gap

Why are New Zealanders so underinsured? (Image: Getty)

If you were suddenly unable to work, how long could you keep up your lifestyle? What about if you passed away; would your family be financially taken care of?

At AIA, we’re on a mission to make insurance easier for everyone, and make steps to decrease New Zealand’s multi-billion-dollar protection gap.

AIA Chief Customer Officer Sharon Botica shared her thoughts about the protection gap, why it’s a cause for concern, and how we can start to combat it by giving people better access to affordable, informed insurance options.

Learn more about AIA’s insurance starter packs, and how you can insure your future here. (Sponsored)

What’s the deal with agriculture, the emissions plan and its ETS exemption?

The headline figure as far as farming is concerned in the plan published today is a spend of $710m across four years. Almost half of that ($339m) will go on technology to tackle emissions, including establishing a “Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions”, with $256m going to developing forestry to suck carbon out of the air. 

That $710m is a huge chunk – almost a quarter – of the spending coming from the Climate Emergency Response Fund, which is itself funded by the Emissions Trading Scheme. And that’s a scheme from which, as it stands, the agricultural sector, which produces close to half the country’s emissions, is exempt. 

Those emissions (mostly methane, which does way more warming damage than carbon in the short term, but degrades much faster) are set to be counted in the ETS by 2025, as part of a deal struck with farming groups in 2019. Precisely what form that will take is yet to be determined, but it may involve farmers’ own sequestration credits being subtracted from their emissions, like the ETS on a micro-level.  

The Climate Change Commission is currently undertaking a bunch of research on the issue, including an assessment of farmers’ readiness for a farm-level system for pricing emissions, which it will provide to James Shaw by the end of June.

Covid-19 latest: Rolling average of cases on the rise, five new deaths

The seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases has increased to 7,702, the Ministry of Health has announced. Last Monday it was 7,479.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield last week said we could be headed for a winter surge in Covid infections.

There have been five new deaths linked to the pandemic, bringing our total death toll up to 978 and the rolling average over the past week to 17. Of the latest deaths, three people were from the Southern region, one was from Auckland and one was from Bay of Plenty. One person was in their 50s, one person was in their 70s, and three were aged over 90. Three were women and two were men.

The number of hospitalisations has also risen to 415, with 11 now in intensive care.

There are 7,061 new community cases nationwide. Auckland continues to record the most new cases with 2,413 confirmed today.

Is the Emissions Reduction Plan enough to change our transport habits?

Now the Emissions Reduction Plan has been unveiled, the challenge becomes about encouraging people to leave their cars at home.

That’s according to the Ministry of Transport’s chief science advisor, who said the key point of today’s multi-billion dollar plan was that it incentivises people to change their behaviour.

“This is not about forcing or pricing people out of their cars,” said Simon Kingham in comments to the Science Media Centre. “Currently, for many New Zealanders it isn’t practical to walk, cycle or use public transport, and to change this, there needs to be an increased investment in public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure.”

One element of today’s emissions plan was $350 million for “transport choices”. That includes about 100 kilometres of new cycleways, but also walkable neighbourhoods, healthier school travel, and making public transport more accessible and easier to use.

“The co-benefits of getting more people to walk, cycle and use public transport are significant,” said Kingham. “Research shows that physical and mental health will improve, communities will become stronger and more resilient, and infrastructure costs will be cheaper. So in many ways, what is good for carbon reduction should also result in a host of other societal benefits.”

New emissions plan: Car upgrade scheme unveiled, no extension to public transport fare cut

A new $569 million car upgrade scheme aims to help lower and middle-income New Zealanders swap their existing petrol vehicle for a low emissions alternative.

Starting with an initial trial of up to 2,500 vehicles, it’s the headline announcement of the government’s new $2.9 billion Emissions Reduction Plan announced today and linked to the recent release of three “emissions budgets”.

But while it’s a big win for private vehicle owners, there is little mention of the rumoured Auckland congestion charge nor of an extension to half price public transport fares. The former has been bumped to the second half of 2022, while it’s possible there could be more on the latter in this week’s budget.

Announcing the clean car scheme, climate change minister James Shaw said families who trade in their vehicle will receive support for the purchase of EVs, PHEVs and hybrids. “By taking advantage of the clean car upgrade, families will not only benefit from lower transport costs but will also be able to replace their high-emitting older vehicles with a safe and sustainable alternative,” said Shaw.

It’s similar to the so-called “cash for clunkers” scheme rolled out more than a decade ago in the US. The post-recession plan saw economic incentives to US residents to purchase a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle when trading in a less fuel-efficient vehicle.

“Switching to a low- or zero-emission vehicle will also reduce costs for families in the long term, due to their lower running costs,” said Shaw. “For EVs charging at home, during off-peak hours, the cost would be equivalent to buying petrol at around 40c/litre.”

Shaw also unveiled a new $20 million “social leasing scheme” and acknowledged that owning a vehicle is a luxury for some families. “We are also trialling a social leasing scheme that will support low-income families to lease a safe, low-emission vehicle from a community organisation,” he said. ”

The trial is expected to operate from early 2023 in three communities “to test its effectiveness across New Zealand”.

Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw at the confidence and supply agreement signing ceremony on October 24, 2017. (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

In a statement, prime minister Jacinda Ardern – in self-isolation with Covid and therefore sideline from today’s announcements – called today a “landmark day in our transition to a low emissions future”.

She added: “We’ve all seen the recent reports on sea level rise and its impact right here in New Zealand. We cannot leave the issue of climate change until it’s too late to fix.”

Today’s Emissions Reduction Plan is the appetiser to Thursday’s Budget 2022 – newly taglined with “a secure future” – which is also expected to include funding for climate-related policy.

The cost of living is also expected to feature heavily in the budget. Ardern said today’s announcements will help with growing inflation. “Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will shield households from the volatility of international price hikes while reducing transport and energy bills,” said Ardern. “Households are already seeing the impact of escalating petrol prices and this plan sets out practical ways to cut power, transport and other costs by taking climate friendly actions.”

It’s not just car drivers that benefit, however. About $40 million will go towards decarbonising the public transport fleet, with zero emissions buses to enter our nationwide fleet from 2025.

The government also plans to roll-out about 100 kilometres of urban cycleways. “There is strong public support in our biggest cities to move quickly on opening up streets for safe walking and cycleways and improving the frequency and reliability of public transport services,” said transport minister Michael Wood.

“This helps to unclog our streets, allowing goods and services to move around more efficiently, supporting greater productivity and building our country’s economic prosperity.”

Other key figures in the package include:

  • $650 million over four years for decarbonising industry.
  • $350 million to fund tansport choices (this includes the cycleways but also walkable neighbourhoods, healthier school travel, and making public transport more accessible and easier to use).
  • $20 million to accelerate the decarbonisation of freight transport.
  • $61 million to support a sustainable, skilled workforce of bus drivers

NZ censor bans Buffalo shooting livestream

Livestream footage of a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, has been declared objectionable by the New Zealand Classification Office, meaning it is illegal to hold or share a copy of the video. The interim ruling follows the decision yesterday to ban the “manifesto” that appears to have been written by the shooter, which includes repeated references to the man who shot 51 people dead at two Christchurch mosques, describing the convicted terrorist as the “particular person” that “radicalised” him.

“This footage celebrates the killing of innocent people going about their lives, doing their grocery shopping. There is no merit in this and it is sadly being shared by people who support the actions of the killer,” said Rupert Ablett-Hampson, the acting chief censor. “The video, in my interim assessment, reaches the objectionable threshold. It depicts acts of extreme violence and cruelty, and is comparable to the livestream from the March 15 mosque attacks. Like the manifesto we urge New Zealanders not to seek this livestream out. This decision means it is an offence to possess or distribute these publications. People who have downloaded this document or this video, should destroy any copies.”

Government in contact with US officials after Buffalo terrorist referenced Christchurch attack

New Zealand’s government has been in touch with US officials after it was revealed a racially motivated terrorist attack in the state of New York was inspired by the Christchurch mosque shooting.

As The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire reported last night, a white supremacist “manifesto”, believed to be written by the 18-year-old accused of shooting dead 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket, makes a number of references to the 2019 mass murders in Christchurch and the terrorist convicted of perpetrating them.

Minister Megan Woods told Newshub’s AM that contact had been made between our government and counterparts in the US. “The terrorist in the US directly referenced what happened here in New Zealand on March 15 and I think that’s incredibly difficult for many people, not least of which our Muslim communities in Christchurch,” Woods said.

What the government had been discussing with those in the US was not revealed by Woods.

Details of how NZ will meet new emissions caps to be revealed today

It’s a major day for the government with the release of the long-touted Emissions Reduction Plan.

Media will be learning of the plan this morning in a budget-style lock-up at parliament before the details are made public at midday. It follows the release of three “emissions budgets” last week – caps on the amount of greenhouse gas New Zealand can emit over the next 15 years.

With the PM out of action, it’ll be up to deputy prime minister Grant Robertson and climate change minister James Shaw to reveal the plan and address media. “The Emissions Reduction Plan will be a blueprint for a more equitable, more prosperous, and more innovative future – and all within planetary limits,” said Shaw. “It requires nearly every part of government to act to reduce emissions right across the country and to ensure all New Zealanders benefit from the transition.”

Last week’s emissions budgets received bipartisan backing with National quickly coming onboard. However, as noted by RNZ, that support does not necessarily extend to the release of today’s plan to meet those targets. Te Pāti Māori does not support the emissions caps, saying they don’t go far enough.

It’s been nearly five years since Jacinda Ardern said that “climate change is my generation’s nuclear-free moment”. Today we find out what that really means.

The Bulletin: Allied health work strike going ahead today

Allied health workers rejected a last minute offer from DHBs on Friday and a planned strike is going ahead today, with 10,000 workers walking off the job. Public Service Association (PSA) organiser Will Matthews described the offer made on Friday afternoon as a “kick in the guts”. Allied health workers ​​are healthcare workers who aren’t part of the medical, dental or nursing professions. DHBs across the country are deferring elective surgeries and clinical appointments because of the strike. The PSA says thousands of New Zealanders will be affected while DHBs say the impact won’t be clear until today.

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PM too sick to give major emissions reduction speech

Jacinda Ardern won’t be chairing cabinet today, nor will she be speaking at the launch of her government’s major plan to reduce emissions.

The PM tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend after isolating alongside her family.

It’s bad timing for Ardern – along with today’s Emissions Reduction Plan, this week also sees the launch of the 2022 budget. A spokesperson for the PM said Ardern’s involvement on budget day will depend on how she is feeling.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast today, senior minister Megan Woods said Ardern was doing OK. “She’s obviously gutted not to be there this week – it’s a pretty big week for us as a Government.. we’re gutted not to have her with us as well.”

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson will front today’s climate announcement in place of Ardern and will also host the Monday post-cabinet press conference.