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May 17 2023

PM must explain ‘brain drain’ ads targeted in Australia, says National

Pictured: Chris Bishop not telling The Spinoff which charity advised him on policy (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National has rolled out its party letterhead for a press release condemning advertising funded by the Labour Party.

It’s not that often that a “party” chooses to respond to issues as opposed to an MP (a subtle difference that probably really only interests political nerds). It’s certainly more common in an election year, however.

In the release, National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop criticised Labour for spending tax dollars on Facebook advertising targeted at New Zealanders living in Australia. The ads, pushed by the New Zealand Labour Party in Australia Facebook page, were focused on recent changes across the ditch that made it easier for New Zealanders to become Australian citizens.

“It’s bizarre to see Labour advertising another government’s bid to entice yet more Kiwis to leave New Zealand,” said Bishop. “You’d think Labour’s rampant cost-of-living crisis and economic mismanagement is doing a good enough job of that already.

“The only conclusion that could explain Labour’s approach is that it’s just trying to claim credit for Australia’s decision so it can campaign to Kiwis over the ditch. The problem with that is the fact Labour has used taxpayer money for the advertising.”

Bishop said the prime minister needs to explain the decision to pay for the adverts.

Police launch homicide inquiry, with Wellington hostel fire now considered arson

Firefighters inspect the Loafers Lodge hostel in Wellington. (Photo: MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images, additional design: Archi Banal)

The fire at the Loafers Lodge hostel in Newtown, Wellington, in which at least six people were killed in the early hours of Tuesday morning, is now being regarded as an arson attack and therefore a homicide. “We are treating it as an arson,” Acting Wellington District Commander Dion Bennett told a media briefing this afternoon. “I’m not prepared to say why or the reasons for us treating it as an arson other than to say that we are.”

He added: “Because there are deaths involved, it is a homicide inquiry.” No arrests had been made, but “we do have a list of people that we want to speak to”, said Bennett. “Our investigation teams are working actively on that … We are going to identify some suspects.”

A reconnaissance of the hostel by police this afternoon had led them to conclude it was arson, said Bennett. A fuller examination of the site would begin tomorrow. That process “will be extensive and methodical, and we expect it to take some time, likely several days”.

Reports of a couch ablaze in the hostel earlier in the evening were confirmed today, but it is uncertain whether that is linked to the fatal fire. The precise number of deceased people within the lodge is unknown.

Wayne Brown backs down on proposed arts cuts

Wayne Brown is the mayor of Auckland. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Auckland’s mayor says he has listened to public feedback and will suggest reducing proposed cuts to arts and social services as part of the council’s budget.

“There is just about a consensus that Auckland Council should not proceed with all the cuts to social and cultural spending that council staff proposed to me in December,” Wayne Brown said in a statement.

“A number of councillors have been effective and constructive advocates for these services, and I wish to particularly thank them for that input.”

Programmes that will receive funding in the proposed budget include Citizens Advice Bureau, homelessness initiatives, the Southern Initiative, regional grants, and funding for regional events, arts, and culture, Brown said.

This position was being supported by the deputy mayor Desley Simpson, who added: “While softening the cuts is important in the short-term, the long-term work we are doing to secure a sustainable, fair funding position is just as important.”

Earlier couch fire at Loafers Lodge confirmed; police treating incident as suspicious

The fire at a Wellington hostel early on Tuesday morning (Image: WCC Facebook)

Police have confirmed they are treating the fire at Loafers Lodge in Wellington as suspicious, something fire and emergency had already stated yesterday.

The acting district commander in Wellington, inspector Dion Bennett, said police were now the lead agency in relation to the fire investigation.

“Following a health and safety assessment, officers hope to enter the building this afternoon to begin a scene examination. This scene examination will be an extensive and methodical process, and we expect it to take some time – likely several days,” he said.

Reports of a couch being set on fire prior about two hours before the blaze that left at least six people dead had now been verified, Bennett said. The couch fire was not reported to emergency services at the time.

“As part of our enquiries, we will be seeking to confirm any link between that couch fire and the subsequent fatal fire,” said Bennett. “Alongside the scene examination, officers will be working to locate and recover those who lost their lives in the fire. We know there are many people waiting for news of family and friends – including the residents who escaped the fire and are keenly waiting for news of their fellow tenants.”

A large number of officers were working on this investigation, said Bennett, with the aim of providing answers as quickly as possible.

Police ready to enter gutted Loafers Lodge as investigation continues


The next stage of the investigation into the fire at Loafers Lodge begins now, as police prepare to enter the building.

RNZ has reported that final safety checks were being carried out this afternoon by firefighers on a cherry picker.

The confirmed death toll from the incident stands at six, though it’s feared this number could rise once officers are able to carry out a scene examination.

“Being able to enter the building is obviously a critical step in our investigation, and I am grateful to our FENZ colleagues for their work to ensure we are able to access the building safely so quickly after this significant fire,” said inspector Dion Bennett, the acting district commander earlier today.

“Staff have also been making a number of other general enquiries, including obtaining and reviewing CCTV footage from the area around Loafers Lodge. Work is also ongoing to determine who was in the building at the time of the fire and who remains unaccounted for or uncontactable.”

Meanwhile, Stuff has reported that the brother of a BBC journalist is among those still missing and feared dead.

Stuff is stuffing up, so it’s temporarily relocated to The Post


Update 11.30am: Stuff is back, baby.

National news site Stuff has been down since last night, with all of the outlet’s content now being pushed onto its new website for The Post. 

The homepage for Stuff currently shows content published last night, with nothing new being uploaded since then. That problem has continued to drag on into the morning, with Stuff sending a push notification this morning that encouraged followers to check out their live blog – seemingly the only aspect of the website that’s still functioning.

Now, users are being directed to the new website for The Post, the rebranded Dominion Post, which has temporarily removed its paywall. “Argh! Stuff is having major technical problems,” reads a headline on the homepage.

“But news rolls on, and we’re going to ride this hump day regardless. We’ve pulled out the tape and the No. 8 to blog the news for you today – and the quiz!”

Yes, Stuff is currently blogging its popular day quiz, question by question, alongside blogged news reports from around the country. “When our fearless CEO Sinead Boucher got up with the sparrows this morning, she had this to say: ‘This is fubar, I regret getting out of bed,'” the live blog added.

Rose Matafeo to host UK Taskmaster spinoff

The best person to represent NZ on the world stage (Image / Tina Tiller)

We’re big fans of Taskmaster here at The Spinoff – and we just so happen to be big fans of Rose Matafeo as well. So it’s quite lucky that the two are being merged. It’s just been announced that Matafeo, a former contestant on the UK Taskmaster, will become host of a new spinoff: Junior Taskmaster.

The show will see children aged nine to 11 compete in a series of bizarre tasks for the pleasure of Matafeo, who will be joined by another former contestant, Mike Wozniak, as her assistant.

“To be appointed as Junior Taskmaster is one of the greatest honours of my already wildly successful career. I am greatly looking forward to the power going to my head,” Matafeo said in a statement.

Wozniak, arguably one of the best Taskmaster contestants ever, said it was a dream come true: “I hereby vow to do my utmost to hold the office of Junior Taskmaster’s Assistant in the spirit of the original Little Alex Horne: with his courage, his grit and his dignity”.

I’m not entirely won over by the premise at this stage, but the chance to see more Taskmaster, more Matafeo and more Wozniak on my screen in 2023 is truly exciting. Now all we need is a Taskmaster NZ spinoff for 20-something journalists.

‘Support for today, building for tomorrow’: Budget slogan revealed

Grant Robertson speaks to media while holding a copy of Budget 2023 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

This year’s wellbeing budget, due to be formally unveiled tomorrow, will carry the slogan: “Support for today, building for tomorrow”.

Grant Robertson, the finance minister, showed off the front cover of his latest budget to reporters this morning outside parliament.

AAP’s Ben McKay snapped a pic of the minister with the budget, noting that the front cover image was once again taken by a certain G Robertson. (In 2019, the stock image used for the budget cover included a woman who had chosen to ditch New Zealand for Australia which was, to be honest, a bit awkward).

PM’s trip to Papua New Guinea up in the air

PM Chris Hipkins in Waitangi over the weekend (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The prime minister’s planned trip to Papua New Guinea could be canned after reports US president Joe Biden has pulled out.

Chris Hipkins was expected to visit the island nation on Monday for face-to-face time with Pacific leaders and Biden, who was due to spend a few hours on the ground en route to Australia.

However, it’s been reported this morning that Biden won’t be travelling to Australia, nor PNG, due to ongoing domestic financial issues.

Whether or not Hipkins still decides to travel remains unknown at this stage. However, at his post-cabinet press conference on Monday, he told reporters he would reevaluate should the president not end up making the visit.

It would have been the first time Hipkins and Biden met in person. Jacinda Ardern was invited to the White House last year, the first time a New Zealand prime minister had visited the Oval Office for several years.


The Bulletin: Dawn raids took place as government planned apology

RNZ Pacific’s Lydia Lewis reports that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) was conducting out of hours compliance visits to private residents otherwise known less euphemistically as “dawn raids”, while the government was preparing for the historic Dawn Raids apology in 2021. INZ has confirmed to RNZ that there were three visits between July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. The apology took place on August 1, 2021.

It follows recent news that these visits were still taking place, prompting a “please explain” letter to INZ from immigration minister Michael Wood. All out of hours visits have now been paused as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) conducts a review.

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Suggestion of second Loafers Lodge fire central to police investigation – report

The fire at a Wellington hostel early on Tuesday morning (Image: WCC Facebook)

Claims a couch was set on fire inside the Loafers Lodge just hours before the blaze that left at least six people dead have not yet been confirmed, but will be investigated.

It’s been reported by media in Wellington that some inside the gutted hostel suggested an earlier fire started at about 10.30pm on Monday night, triggering the fire alarms and a brief evacuation. It was then at about 12.30am that firefighters were called to what quickly became a deadly inferno inside the Newtown residence.

So far, police have not confirmed a second fire actually occurred – but they will be looking into it, reports Stuff. The outlet understands that “the suggestion that couches were set alight shortly before the building erupted in flames is central to the police investigation into the fire”. Police have remained fairly coy on what the investigation will involve, but the fire is being treated as suspicious.

Today’s edition of The Bulletin has all the details on what is known so far ahead of what will be an extensive investigation by emergency services.

The fire at a Wellington hostel overnight
The fire at a Wellington hostel on Monday night (Image: WCC Facebook)