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Live UpdatesJul 18 2022

Inflation rises by 7.3% – above most predictions

Welcome back to another week of The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


The agenda

  • Annual inflation has hit a 32-year high of 7.3% – even higher than most economists predicted.
  • The cuts to petrol tax and public transport fares are continuing until at least January 31 (and prices at the pump have coincidentally dropped overnight too).
  • New book traces National’s troubled years post-John Key and includes exclusive details of the party’s internal 2020 election review.
  • Mahuta conflict of interest allegations aren’t going away.
  • Covid-related hospitalisations are at the highest level since March, with 797 currently being treated.
  • And in big news: There are (at least) five New Zealands around the world.
blog-july-18.jpg

Inflation rises by 7.3% – above most predictions

Welcome back to another week of The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


The agenda

  • Annual inflation has hit a 32-year high of 7.3% – even higher than most economists predicted.
  • The cuts to petrol tax and public transport fares are continuing until at least January 31 (and prices at the pump have coincidentally dropped overnight too).
  • New book traces National’s troubled years post-John Key and includes exclusive details of the party’s internal 2020 election review.
  • Mahuta conflict of interest allegations aren’t going away.
  • Covid-related hospitalisations are at the highest level since March, with 797 currently being treated.
  • And in big news: There are (at least) five New Zealands around the world.
Jul 18 2022

Māori Rugby League gets ‘overdue’ board seat on national body

The Aotearoa NZ Māori Rugby League has been bumped up to a full voting member status in what’s been described as a “overdue” and “historic” decision.

The promotion followed a meeting of the NZ Rugby League and will mean the ANZMRL gets stronger governance status within the group. It’ll also mean the Māori Rugby League’s chair gets a permanent board seat.

“These historic constitutional changes result from ongoing efforts to deepen and better honour the partnership between NZRL and ANZMRL,” said the League’s board. “NZRL’s Constitution will now be amended to uphold the mana of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the principles of Partnership, Protection and Participation and to promote, support and foster te iwi Māori mo ona tikanga.”

League CEO Greg Peters said it’s a “great feeling” to formally recognise the ANZMRL. “Personally, I have found this process one of the most rewarding outcomes of my sports administration career,” he said.

(Photo: Getty Images)

The move has been welcomed by the ANZMRL’s chairman, John Devonshire, who called it a tremendous initiative – but one that had been a long time coming. “Nevertheless, it is happening today, and for that, we as a Māori rugby league whānau are grateful and acknowledge the current NZRL officials that have been brave enough and sincere about recognising the part Māori play in the game,” he said.

“It is in times like this you reflect on those tupuna who set the kaupapa on its haerenga (journey) many years ago, all those whānau that have contributed to our Māori rugby league kaupapa, over the past 114 years.”

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New survey reveals students struggling to pay rent, sacrificing food and healthcare

Two thirds of tertiary students often don’t have enough money to buy food, clothes, pay bills or get healthcare because of the cost of living.

A new survey, released today by the Green Party alongside student union groups, has revealed the prohibitive cost of renting for many at university.

The People’s Inquiry into Student Wellbeing found that, on average, those living in a shared flat spend 56% of their income on rent, with one in six students unable to move to better accommodation because of the cost.

Over 90% backed rent controls and the same amount said they would use public transport more if it was free, with two thirds saying they could not afford transport costs at all.

The impact of rent prices disproportionately impacted disabled, Māori and Pasifika students.

Green Party education spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick said support for students needed to be increased. “It’s time for a universal student allowance, fees-free, free public transport, rent controls and a rental warrant of fitness,” she said.

“Everyone in this country deserves to live a life of dignity. Our new research shows that’s a right denied to thousands of students.”

Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick of the Green Party (Photo: Benjamin Brooking)

The New Zealand Union of Student Assocations said poverty shouldn’t be a “rite of passage” for students. “A Universal Education Income, a weekly payment to every student regardless of level of study, age, or parental income would help students meet day to day costs and reduce long term debt,” said union vice president Sam Blackmore.

Covid-19 update: Nearly 800 in hospital, 22 new deaths

After a weekend that saw Covid-19 cases and related hospitalisations ease slightly, we’re back to regular (unfortunate) business today.

There are now 797 people in hospital with Covid-19, the highest number in months. Of those, 20 are in intensive care – the highest since mid-April.

There have been 22 new deaths of people with Covid, all people over the age of 60. The Ministry of Health said today’s new deaths include one death from March, two from April, two from May and two from June, which are being reported following completion of the cause of death assessment.

It brings the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 1,849 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 23. On the first day of July, the rolling average number of deaths was just 12.

Another 7,612 community cases have been reported today. That’s a rise on yesterday but lower than before the weekend, however the Monday figure is typically quite low. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 9,689.

“The case, death and hospitalisation numbers emphasise the importance of everybody doing the basics well to help prevent infection and serious illness,” said the Ministry of Health, who reminded people who were sick to get tested and stay home.

“Simple measures can make a big difference, so we encourage people to wear a mask, physically distance, wash or sanitise your hands regularly, and stay home if you are unwell.”

National calls for urgent plan to curb inflation: ‘Kiwis are going backwards fast’

Today’s inflation figures should be a “wake up call” for the government, according to National’s finance spokesperson and deputy leader.

Nicola Willis took to Twitter to criticise the government for failing to keep the cost of living and inflation under control – and said New Zealand was at risk of going backwards. “The government must do more to address this crisis,” she said. “Blaming global factors, spending up-large & temporary measures won’t cut it.”

Annual inflation rose by a higher than predicted 7.3% today – the largest jump in more than 30 years. It follows another three decade high increase of 6.9% back in March.

Willis, in a press release, said it’s time for the government to present a credible plan for dealing with growing inflation. “A real plan would focus on strengthening the productive economy and unlocking the bottlenecks in the economy that are worsening inflation, including fixing failed immigration settings and stopping adding costs to business,” she said.

Nicola Willis in parliament
Nicola Willis (Photo: Getty Images)

Similarly, Act said the government needed to take responsibility for the surge in living costs. “Act called the cost of living crisis in December last year, but denial has stopped the government from acting,” said leader David Seymour.

“This government is doing what it does best; gesture politics with a fuel tax discount here and a one off payment there that will make no difference to the underlying problem.”

Grant Robertson: Inflation rise a reaction to ‘volatile and uncertain global environment’

Unsurprisingly, the government has placed most of its blame for today’s inflation hike squarely at the feet of international pressures.

“Global factors such as the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on supply chains and the war in Ukraine are affecting prices, particularly those for fuel and building materials, and this means demand is not being met, and having a sizeable effect on New Zealand households and businesses,” said finance minister Grant Robertson.

The government announced yesterday it was extending its cuts to petrol tax and public transport fares, which Robertson said would help ease some of the pressure on households. The middle income targeted cost of living payment starts next month.

Grant Robertson announces cost of living package extension on July 17 (Photo: Getty Images)

Big development: We’ve found yet another New Zealand

A piece of mine published over the weekend reported on the earth-shattering news that there are at least three more New Zealands out there. The three I wrote about were all in the UK – in Derby, Wiltshire and Buckinghamshire.

Understandably the response to this news was one of shock from New Zealanders. But it also prompted a wave of correspondence with people pointing out to me that I had, in fact, missed another New Zealand. Yes, there is a fifth New Zealand.

“There’s a small community called New Zealand on Prince Edward Island, Canada,” one reader emailed me. “A few years ago I visited beautiful Prince Edward Island in Canada and stumbled across a tiny village there called New Zealand,” wrote another.

Comedian Penny Ashton was even kind enough to share a picture with me of her in New Zealand.

From the looks of things, Canada’s New Zealand is largely just a building and a sign. It also appears to be one of the Newest New Zealands, with its name given around 1947.

Readers were also kind enough to inform me of a village in Malaysia called Kampung New Zealand and a neighbourhood called Nueva Zelandia in Bogotá. If you know of any more New Zealands, please do get in touch.

Get the full story: There are at least three other New Zealands out there

Annual inflation hits 7.3% – the highest in more than 30 years

Annual inflation has hit a 32-year high of 7.3% – even higher than most economists predicted.

It follows an annual increase of 6.9% back in the March 2022 quarter, at the time the largest annual rise since 1990.

Most banks were anticipating a rise of between 7% and 7.2%, meaning today’s announcement is slightly above predictions and could have the potential to see interest rates move.

According to Stats NZ, the main driver for the annual inflation bump was the housing and household utilities group, triggered by rising prices for construction and rentals for housing. “Prices for the construction of new dwellings increased 18% in the June 2022 quarter compared with the June 2021 quarter,” said Stats NZ.

“Supply-chain issues, labour costs, and higher demand have continued to push up the cost of building a new house.”

The government yesterday announced an extension to its petrol tax and public transport fare cuts in anticipation of today’s rise.

PSA: Petrol seems weirdly cheap today

This is purely anecdotal, but petrol seems suspiciously cheap today.

Gas stations around The Spinoff’s Auckland office are showing prices under $3 a litre for the first time in weeks (maybe even months). In fact, according to Gaspy, the Caltex on Newton Road is $2.77 (!!) a litre.

The price drop follows confirmation yesterday that the government would continue the cuts to fuel tax and public transport fares through until January 31. This is simply an extension of the scheme, however, so the roughly 25 cent a litre drop in prices at some Auckland stations is a coincidence/a sign of goodwill.

The bad news is that inflation is expected to rise again today – but if you go fill your car up now you can pretend that’s not going to happen for a few blissful hours.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Alleged Mahuta conflicts of interest ‘clear breach’ of rules – Act

It’s been dominating discussion online (that pretty much means Twitter) for several weeks, but owing to the way much of that discussion has played out I’ve largely chosen to avoid writing about the Nanaia Mahuta conflict of interest claims. However, with Mahuta fronting to discuss the issue over the weekend on Q&A, it’s become apparent this isn’t going away anytime soon.

So here’s the latest: The Act Party isn’t buying Mahuta’s claim that the alleged conflicts have been managed correctly.

Appearing on TVNZ’s Q&A yesterday, Mahuta discussed claims that members of her family had been selected for government-paid roles. The minister said these conflicts of interest were declared and managed appropriately.

But David Seymour said that Mahuta had clearly broken ministerial guidelines – although he acknowledged that Mahuta has also faced “objectionable” abuse as a result. “That behaviour is unacceptable,” Seymour said in a statement. “But it is the responsibility of those who carry it out, it does not give the minister a free pass for actual wrongdoing on her part.”

Nanaia Mahuta being interviewed. She's wearing a black shirt and black leather jacket
Foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta on Q&A, July 17, 2022

According to Seymour, Mahuta in 2019 appointed a working group on which a family member, Waimirirangi Ormsby, was given a role. While the conflict was declared, the cabinet manual stipulates that declaring a conflict of interest is only sufficient in cases where the minister doesn’t have ministerial responsibility. “Mahuta did have ministerial responsibility for appointing the… working group and so she needed to do more to manage the conflict of interest than simply declaring it,” said Seymour.

“When she became aware that a family member had applied for a position, Mahuta should have… transferred responsibility for the issue to another minister.”

Like I said at the top, this issue appears to be sticking around – I’ll be keeping an eye on developments.

The Bulletin: All Blacks’ performances against Ireland deemed unacceptable

I watched the game on Saturday because it was a decider. I mused that the All Blacks losing from time to time actually made me more interested in them. Look at the depth of feeling on display right now. Anyway, things look to be getting to the pointy end of the stick for All Blacks coach Ian Foster as New Zealand Rugby issued a statement saying the All Blacks’ performances were “unacceptable”. The usual post-match press conference with the coach was cancelled yesterday.

The Bounce’s Dylan Cleaver writes that Foster said he didn’t know why it had been cancelled and that Foster not being looped in is probably not a good sign. Scotty Stevenson didn’t want to talk about the loss, writing on The Spinoff that he would “write something about what happens when you package up 120 years of respected representative sporting success, call it a brand, and sell it off to Oxbridge dudebro buddies in an act of ego-inflating, nausea-inducing corporate capriciousness.”

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New pod: ‘Blue Bloods’ traces National’s post-Key years

Political reporter Andrea Vance has a new book out – and by all accounts it’s a must read. The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire speaks to Vance on a special pop-up episode of Gone by Lunchtime.

Vance’s book traces National’s troubled years post-John Key and includes a bombshell exclusive: details of the internal review of the National Party’s calamitous 2020 election defeat. The document had been closely guarded by then leader Judith Collins; copies were provided only to the nine board members, with MPs required to proceed into the caucus room and read in situ. “We do not give our opponents ammunition,” said Collins.

Read more: Andrea Vance on National’s long nightmare

Inflation tipped to rise again after petrol tax cut extended

New inflation figures out today are widely predicted to be the highest in more than 30 years.

It’s been three months since inflation shot to 6.9%, triggered by a range of international pressures along with the local impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Economists are now anticipating that figure will rise to at least 7%, but possibly as high as 7.2%. Anything higher than that would be unexpected and could, reports Stuff, move interest rates.

Today’s inflation stats come just a day after the government moved to maintain its current cost of living policies – namely, a cut to fuel tax and half price public transport. The decision to announce this on a Sunday afternoon before the inflation figures were released was widely criticised by the opposition, who said it was a reactionary move.

But, speaking to RNZ, transport minister Michael Wood said the extension of the policy was in order to “take some of the pressure off” for New Zealand. “We’re clearly facing inflationary pressures that are mainly internationally driven… we can’t control those fundamental drivers in the global supply chain,” he said.

While the transport price cuts were across the board and not targeted, Wood said the government’s approach to cost of living had been more targeted than “big swinging tax cuts” as proposed by the opposition. “In terms of fuel costs it’s hard to target that based on income… [but] this will make a real difference,” he added.

At this stage, the policy is meant to end on January 31 next year. But with an election next September, host Kim Hill questioned whether it would happen before polling opened. Wood did not fall into the trap: “We see that there are likely to be cost pressures that go until the end of the year. It would be unsustainable to continue these policies permanently,” he said.