blog may 19

Live UpdatesMay 19 2022

Budget day live

It’s budget day, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The budget headlines

  • The 2022 budget has been released, with a $1bn cost-of-living package the centrepiece.
  • Price cap increase on first home grants for much of the country.
  • Pharmac funding upped, DHB debt cleared, ahead of Health NZ launch.
  • $80m a year for school decile replacement system.
  • The opposition respond: The backwards budget or the brain drain budget?
  • The annual budget speech and debate is now taking place, with the PM participating virtually via Zoom.
blog may 19

Budget day live

It’s budget day, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The budget headlines

  • The 2022 budget has been released, with a $1bn cost-of-living package the centrepiece.
  • Price cap increase on first home grants for much of the country.
  • Pharmac funding upped, DHB debt cleared, ahead of Health NZ launch.
  • $80m a year for school decile replacement system.
  • The opposition respond: The backwards budget or the brain drain budget?
  • The annual budget speech and debate is now taking place, with the PM participating virtually via Zoom.
May 19 2022

Hosts of Gone By Lunchtime and When The Facts Change combine for budget superpod

The crossover podcast event of the year has arrived. Gone By Lunchtime’s Toby Manhire and When The Facts Change host Bernard Hickey have joined forces to weigh up this year’s budget. Listen below.

Follow When the Facts Change on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Follow Gone By Lunchtime on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Budget a mixed bag for disabled community

Today’s budget had both “pluses and minuses” for the disability community, said disability rights commissioner Paula Tesoriero.

The commissioner welcomed the “considerable” investment in the new Ministry for Disabled People, along with the new funding for Pharmac and the increased investment in mental health services.

However, Tesoriero said she wad disappointed not to see a rise in core benefits. “More than 50% of beneficiaries are disabled or have a health condition,” she said. “I would have liked an increase in the disability allowance – and especially the child disability allowance – as one means to address the rising cost of living.”

The commissioner was also concerned by the “lack of urgency” in addressing violence and abuse experienced by disabled people. Disabled people experience higher rates of experience family violence and sexual violence than any other population group, Tesoriero said, so no explicit budget funding to address the issues was “very concerning”.

$327m for new RNZ-TVNZ merger

Today’s budget has pledged $327m in funding over three years for the new public media being formed out of TVNZ and RNZ.

In a statement, broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi said the new multi-platform entity will “guarantee a continuation of non-commercial programming. It will also generate commercial revenue to supplement Crown funding, making it more financially sustainable and allowing it to better deliver on its public media outcomes”.

In other media funding, $1.2m is going to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) over the next four years, and $4.4m is funding a new transmitter for RNZ Pacific.

Major publication breaks budget embargo by one hour

Further action is likely after the Wall Street Journal, one of the world’s most reputable business outlets, published details of today’s budget one hour ahead of the embargo lifting.

According to BusinessDesk, it’s the most serious breach of budget security in many years.

The budget was made available under strict conditions this morning for media and analysts, in what’s known as the budget “lock-up”. At 2pm, the embargo was lifted and details of the budget could be made public.

The Wall Street Journal’s report was subsequently carried on Dow Jones newswires.

The publication later owned up to the breach, informing the offices of PM Jacinda Ardern and finance minister Grant Robertson.

It’s not yet known what repercussions there will be, however a breach of this level could potentially carry implications for future lock-ups.

Anti-poverty advocate: Budget 2022 ‘a slap in the face’ for those struggling

Brooke Stanley Pao, the coordinator of Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) and a spokesperson for Fairer Future, writes on budget 2022:

The budget has addressed zero out of the seven key steps that we called on the government to take to close the gap between the cost of living and incomes for people on income support.

People on benefits face big deficits every week – they are hurting and the situation is urgent. The changes to emergency dental care and child support are well overdue and welcome, but it’s disappointing to see these changes won’t come into effect immediately.

The announcements today, leaving out people on income support, are a slap in the face for some of the people in our community. It’s past time for the government to finally increase core benefit levels to the standard of liveable incomes and fully implement the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG).

Read more budget hot takes here.

Luxon: Cost of living package ‘a bandaid on a major wound’

National’s leader has given a scathing assessment of today’s budget, saying that New Zealanders have “lost confidence” in the government.

Christopher Luxon claimed that the country would be going backwards because of Grant Robertson’s addiction to spending. “The books are going backwards,” said Luxon, accusing the government of “economic mismanagement”.

Along with labelling this the “backwards budget”, Luxon said it was “a massive budget blowout” and said the cost of living payment of $350 for two million people was “just a bandaid on a major wound”.

Rising inflation would continue pushing mortgage and interest rates up, said Luxon, bring with it “more pain” for households.

Luxon offered some advice to Grant Robertson, suggesting he should get out of Wellington more and meet people in the country’s beltway. “Every week I get out and go to two or three towns across this country and the message is clear: there is a big cost of living crisis,” said Luxon.

There was very little in this budget that would help hard working middle New Zealanders – “the squeezed middle” – that could be contemplating a move overseas. “That is a tragedy, that young people don’t think this is a country that they can get ahead… the government doesn’t care about them.”

In a follow-up press release, National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said Labour’s spending was out of control. “Not content with a record $6 billion per year spending spree that [Robertson] planned, Labour has raided future budgets – spending $2 billion from Budget 2023 and $0.4 billion from Budget 2024,” she said.

PM: Budget 2022 will help NZ deal with ‘challenges of tomorrow’

Jacinda Ardern said it was her government that got New Zealand through Covid – and it’s her government that is now addressing the cost of living.

Speaking remotely while isolating with Covid-19, Ardern said today’s budget addressed the challenges of not just today, but also tomorrow. “It’s an approach that is always focused on people,” she said.

The country had navigated some “incredibly difficult” times in recent history, said Ardern, and the government would support New Zealanders through what’s next. “It was Labour who got us through Covid and it will be a Labour government that gets us through the next set of challenges,” she said. “And there is no more universal challenge than the cost of living.”

However: “No one would thank us for short term relief that came at the expense of long term services.”

Ardern implored the opposition to support today’s budget rather than playing politics. She accused National’s Christopher Luxon of proposing no ideas during his budget speech and said the opposition had previously voted against proposals that would help counter the cost of living.

Half a billion dollars for Māori health sector, $200m for Māori education

More than half a billion dollars is going to the Māori health sector, with the Māori Health Authority, Te Mana Hauora, which will launch on July 1, to receive $188.1m over four years.

The $579.9m sum is for “direct commissioning of services and more support for iwi-Māori partnership boards and to ensure the voice of iwi and whānau is strongly represented across our new Māori healthcare system”, said Peeni Henare, associate minister of health (Māori), in a statement.

Māori health providers will receive $30m to help “sustain capital infrastructure”, with $39 million providing training and development for Māori health workers within the new health system.

Māori education is allocated $200m, including $47m for Māori language immersion kura.

“There is more work to do to meet our expectations for te reo, but this investment provides a strong platform for growth,” associate minister of education Kelvin Davis said in a statement.

Whenua Māori entities will receive $162m in funding to transition to a lower-emissions land uses, reduce biological emissions and develop a Māori Climate Action Plan.

Greens celebrate ‘climate budget’, support for low income NZers

Today’s budget is a “climate budget”, according to the Greens, who are celebrating a “landmark investment in climate action”.

The party said the budget delivers on “all areas” of the party’s cooperation agreement with Labour. “People elected the Green Party to take action on climate change and we are delivering as part of this government,” said co-leader James Shaw.

“The Green Party is also pleased that the budget includes additional support for people on low incomes which will also help reduce emissions – particularly the extension of half price public transport and a new fund to support community renewable energy projects.”

Despite their budget wins, the Greens said there was “so much more” that needs doing. “The Greens have made no secret of the fact that we want more rapid action to cut climate pollution,” shaw Added. “We will keep pushing for climate action that puts people first and future budget investments that make deeper, faster cuts to emissions.”

James Shaw and Marama Davidson arrive at the Green Party election night event. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images; additional design by Tina Tiller)

The headline announcements in budget 2022

Bernard Hickey, writing for The Kākā, summarises the top lines in budget 2022. 

The “rabbit in the hat” in this budget is a one-off $350 cost of living payment for those not already getting the winter energy payment and earning less than $70,000 a year.

The other headlines include:

  • A two-month extension of the fuel excise cuts and the half-price bus, train and ferry fares launched in March;
  • A permanent halving of public transport fares for people with community services cards;
  • Immediate legislation to stop supermarkets blocking competitors from using land through the use of covenants;
  • A relaxation of the house price and loan caps for first home buyer grants and loans;
  • $168m over four years for the Māori Health Authority for direct commissioning of services, which represents just 1.5% of the extra $11.1b being spent on health over the next four years;
  • A $1.8 billion funding increase for Health NZ and a further $1.3m boost next year to enable it to “start with a clean slate”, including “cleaning up” previous DHB deficits of $550m;
  • An extra $191m over two years to lift Pharmac’s medicines budget to $1.2b per year, with a focus on funding better cancer treatments;
  • An increase in dental grants from $300 to $1,000;
  • An extra $2b in funding for education operating spending and $855m for capital expenditure on schools;
  • A new $300m affordable housing fund for grants to community housing providers;
  • An extra $327m over four years to set up the new combined RNZ/TVNZ public broadcaster;
  • Scrapping the rule that treats child support payments made to beneficiary sole parents as income, delivering an estimated 41,000 parents an average of an extra $24 a week;
  • Replacing the school decile system with a new “equity index”, with $75m a year in additional equity funding for schools in areas with high socio-economic needs;
  • An extension of the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme for an extra year, until June 2024, enabling over 26,000 more insulation and heating retrofits for the homes of low income earners; and,
  • A new Business Growth Fund to improve SME’s access to finance, following the model of similar funds in the UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia, with the government contributing $100m as a minority shareholder alongside private banks.

Read his full budget 2022 analysis here.

The backwards budget or the brain drain budget?

While the government wants people to remember today’s budget carries the subtitle of “A Secure Future”, the opposition have revealed their alternative names.

National’s Christopher Luxon has labelled it the “backwards budget”.

“Kiwis, the economy and outcomes are all going backwards under Labour and today’s forecasts confirm the situation is only going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.

The news of a temporary cost of living payment was simple a “bandaid”, said Luxon. “The squeezed middle are paying the price for Labour’s economic mismanagement,” he said. 

Along similar lines, Act’s David Seymour said this was a “brain drain budget”. That’s because, claimed Seymour, people were going to be leaving New Zealand in order to seek out a better life. “Those who rely on working to pay rising bills needed hope, but it’s not in this budget,” he said.

“Why should people stay here to be milked harder? Why be milked for Labour’s ideological projects and wasteful  mismanagement?”

$80m a year for school decile replacement system

The biggest chunk of education spending in today’s budget goes towards replacing school deciles with a new “equity index” as the measure of disadvantage in schools, a move the government first signalled in 2019.

Most of the money, $75m a year, will go directly to schools with higher levels of socioeconomic need, adding to the $150m they currently receive through the decile-based system.

The budget increases school operations grants and tertiary and early childhood education subsidies by 2.75%.

There is also $266m over four years to give early education teachers pay parity with school teachers.

In tertiary education, the budget provides $56m a year to pay for an expected increase in enrolments next year and in 2024.

There is also $40m for modernising polytechnic facilities.

Child support fix aims to bring 14,000 children out of poverty

Child support rules will be amended in a move that the government predicts will lift 6,000 to 14,000 children out of poverty.

It will see child support payments for sole-parent beneficiaries be passed on directly and charged as income for benefit purposes. “For decades beneficiary sole parents have been denied money that is rightfully theirs by an outdated rule that has seen the Crown retain their child support payments,” said prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

“Amending the rules and treating child support paid to sole-parent beneficiaries as income, will lift an estimated 6,000 to 14,000 children out of poverty using the before housing costs (BHC50) measure.”

It’s also hoped that the changes will encourage more parents to pay child support as they know it will go directly to their children, said Ardern.

Dental grants for low-income families will also be upped from $300 to $1,000. “Increasing dental grants was a manifesto commitment and today we are delivering on our promise,” said Carmel Sepuloni, the social development minister. “Many low-income New Zealanders find it difficult to afford immediate and essential dental care, and increasing the level of the grant will ensure more people can receive the urgent help they need.”

Price cap increase on first home grants for much of the country

The price caps on eligibility for first home grants will be increased in many parts of the country, for both existing and new builds. The house price and income caps will also now be reviewed every six months to make sure they continue to stay up to date.

“The Kāinga Whenua Loan cap will also be increased from $200,000 to $500,000 to provide more choice and opportunities for people building, relocating, or purchasing a home on whenua Māori,” housing minister Megan Woods said.

In Auckland the price cap on existing properties for a first home grant will increase from $625,000 to $875,000. In Wellington the increase is from $550,000 to $750,000. Some areas, such as the Far North, will have no increase for existing properties but an increase in the cap for new builds (from $500,000 to $675,000).

A new programme has been established, the Affordable Housing Fund, to “support the development of new affordable homes for low-to-moderate income families and whānau in areas facing the biggest housing supply and affordability challenges,” Megan Woods said.

The Affordable Housing Fund has been funded from the $350m Residential Development Response Fund (RDRF) announced in 2020 to support the construction sector during the initial COVID-19 lockdown, which was not required. The government will convert $200 million of the RDRF to non-recyclable funding for the Affordable Housing Fund to be available as grants.

The first stage of the Affordable Housing Fund will offer $50m worth of grant funding to not-for-profits to deliver affordable rental housing in Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua, Napier/Hastings, Wellington, and Nelson/Tasman.

Pharmac funding upped, DHB debt cleared, ahead of Health NZ launch

DHBs’ debt will be cleared at a cost of $1.8 billion giving the replacement Health New Zealand and Māori Health Authority a “clean start”.

In a statement, health minister Andrew Little said the 20 DHBs had collectively run annual deficits in 12 of the 13 years since 2008.

The Māori Health Authority will get $168m over four years to directly commission hauora Māori services. New Zealand’s drug-buyer Pharmac will also get an extra $191m over the next two years – in what Little says is the medicines budget’s “biggest-ever increase”.

It brings total funding to $1.2 billion.

“Pharmac has assured me it will use this funding to secure as many medicines on its list as it can, with a focus on better cancer treatments, to ensure as many New Zealanders as possible benefit from this biggest-ever increase to its medicines funding,” Little said.

More than $166m has been set aside over four years for ambulance services, adding more than 60 vehicles to the road fleet and about 250 more paramedics and frontline staff. Another $90.7m will go towards air ambulance services to replace ageing aircraft with modern helicopters.

The budget increases dental grants for low-income families from $300 to $1,000 in line with Labour’s 2020 campaign promise.

A new Ministry for Disabled People is also being established at a cost of $100m.

$350 cost of living payment announced, public transport fare cuts extended

A temporary cost of living payment will see two million New Zealanders earning up to $70,000 given an extra $27 per week over a three month period. But it won’t be paid out until August.

Announced as part of the $1 billion cost of living package in today’s budget, the payment will be made in monthly instalments from August 1. It’s been calculated as being half the amount of the winter energy payment a couple would receive over the winter. Anyone already receiving the winter energy payment won’t be eligible.

It’s estimated the budget sweetener will cost $814 million.

During his budget speech, finance minister Grant Robertson said the payment wouldn’t start until August as IRD needed time to get it up and running.

One issue to consider, as raised by Act’s David Seymour, is whether this new payment will contribute to rising inflation.

In addition, the cuts to fuel tax and public transport fares will be extended for a further two months. “Budget 2022 is being delivered against the backdrop of a global inflation spike, with existing supply chain pressures being exacerbated by pressure on oil prices from the war in Ukraine,” said Robertson.

“This will pass but we need to protect New Zealanders from the immediate impact.”

From mid-September, half-price public transport will be made permanent for community service card holders, funded through the Climate Emergency Response Fund.

The government’s also introducing urgent legislation to tackle the “root causes” of high grocery bills. It’ll stop supermarkets from blocking competitors from accessing land to open new stores.

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Hear me out: Dancing with the Stars should tear up the BBC rule book

Concerned viewer Toby Manhire writes:

Last night on The Project they put on solemn faces and dropped the bomb: Eric Murray had “gone down with Covid”; he and partner Lauren were out of Dancing with the Stars. Who would replace him? “This is quite exciting actually,” pretended DWTS NZ host Sharyn Casey. “What happens is, up until the semi-finals if somebody got Covid there’s a rule that comes out of the BBC where they get to have a bye, where they go away for a week and come back, but once you get to the semi-finals you’re eliminated out of the competition, and the person that was eliminated last returns, so it’s great news for Vaz and Britney … who come back into the competition and head into the semi-final.”

This seemed a terrible idea, made terribler this afternoon when another contestant, Rhys Matthewson, had the misfortune to test positive. He’ll be replaced by Kerre Woodham. Great news for Kerre and Vaz, whoever he is, but – what? The very obvious thing to do is manufacture some kind of instant vote and ensure that Eli Matthewson, who was ejected from the programme in a stupid milkloving piece of shit travesty, could be reinstated. But, no, the BBC wouldn’t allow it.

Absurd. Preposterous. The iron rule of reality television is that you make up the rules as you go along in the service of the ratings audience. Eli and Jonny were by some distance the best thing about this show. Get them back and go home. Stuff the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Eli Matthewson and Sonia Gray, two celebrities who shouldn’t have gone home this early on Dancing with the Stars. (Photo: Three, image design: Tina Tiller)

Even better: go full omicron. Split the fields into two: the healthy and the Covid-infected. If people have reservations about celebrities puffing and spluttering around the stage even more than usual, fine. Put them in full PPE. Put them in zorbs. Isolate them together in a Big Covid House. Get Ashley Bloomfield on the sideline just in case they collapse.

Let us not be bossed around by the BB-bloody-C. In keeping with New Zealand’s reputation as a global pioneer in reality formats, let us innovate, break free of the colonial shackles of the BBC. Would it break contractual obligations and invite a lawsuit and other serious consequences? Yes. Is it implausible? Yes. Should that stop them? No. Take a risk. Let us dance to the stars of the southern cross.

DWTS shock: Another ex-contestant to return

Another contestant on TV3’s Dancing with the Stars has caught Covid-19, forcing them out of the contest.

Comedian Rhys Mathewson, considered a frontrunner to take out the mirrorball trophy, will no longer be dancing in this weekend’s semi-final. He’ll be replaced by ex-contestant Kerre Woodham, who was eliminated two weeks ago.

The switch-up follows the news last night that Olympian Eric Murray had also caught Covid and would be replaced by Alex Vaz. BBC Studios format rules dictate that the most recently eliminated contestant is to be invited back to the show.

“I’m absolutely devastated for Eric and Rhys because they were so looking forward to being there,” said Woodham. “I’d made my peace, I’d left and gone up to the Hokianga for a visit. But the show’s gotta go on, and it certainly takes an awful whole lot of pressure off – the fact that we’re there to keep the show ticking over!”

Kerre Woodham and Jarred Neame dance a paso doble. (Photo: Three)

It begs the simple question: should all the dancers be wearing full PPE throughout their routines?

Parliament to debate dropping voting age to 16, ditching Easter trading rules

Parliament will debate lowering the voting age, giving prisoners the vote, and removing our Easter trading laws.

A member’s bill ballot this afternoon has seen Golriz Ghahraman’s “Electoral (Strengthening Democracy) Amendment Bill” drawn. Under her proposed law change, voters of Māori descent would be able to change roll type at any time, the voting age would be dropped down to 16 and all people in prison will be given the right to vote. 

The debate over lowering the voting age has been given more prominence in recent years with the Make it 16 campaign, led by a group of young New Zealanders.

“The issues covered by this bill have been the subject of reviews, reports and submissions, by the Electoral Commission and other bodies,” said Ghahraman. “This bill gives us an opportunity to strengthen our democracy this term rather than waiting years for an independent electoral review.”

Meanwhile, Act MP Chris Baillie has had his rather wordy “Repeal of Good Friday and Easter Sunday as Restricted Trading Days (Shop Trading and Sale of Alcohol) Amendment Bill” drawn as well.

That would see, unsurprisingly, the removal of restrictions on what shops can be opened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Along with Christmas Day and half of Anzac Day, the Easter holidays are the only dates when almost all retailers are required to be closed.

Covid-19 latest: Case numbers trending up, five new deaths announced

The seven-day rolling average of new community Covid-19 cases has risen once again. It’s sitting at 7,981 compared with 7,533 last Thursday.

There are 9,091 new cases being recorded today, with Auckland continuing to report the highest daily case total. There are 3,233 new cases in the super city.

New Zealand’s Covid-19 death toll has risen by five up to 1,022. The seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 16.

Of the latest deaths, one was from the Wellington region, one from Bay of Plenty, and three from the Southern DHB area. One person was in their seventies and four people were in their 80s. Four were women and one was a man.

There are currently 411 people with Covid-19 in hospital, with 12 now in intensive care.

Just over 70% of the eligible population has had a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, said the Ministry of Health. That equates to about 2.64 million people.

Cheese rolls and a new tie: Ardern joins in virtual budget traditions

Jacinda Ardern’s in self-isolation with Covid-19, meaning she can’t be in Wellington for the launch of the budget. But that doesn’t mean she can’t partake in some of the traditional pre-budget festivities.

The prime minister went live on Instagram this morning with her deputy and finance minister Grant Robertson for a final pre-budget chat.

“You might know that we have a few traditions just before the budget,” Ardern explained. “One is that I give the minister of finance a tie. The other is that we have a quick cheese roll together.”

Robertson joined the chat by showing off a pretty glorious looking plate of cheese rolls. Due to being in isolation, Ardern said she’d had hers delivered to the door. “I’m almost loath to show you mine… They’re a little on the beige side,” she said. “They’re going to taste just as good, but do you know what , I’m not going to know – because I’ve lost all my taste.”

The PM should just “think about the texture rather than the taste,” added Robertson.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)

The cheese roll chatter was followed by the arrival of Robertson’s budget day tie. Despite telling The Spinoff earlier this year that he was anticipating an orange tie, the 2022 tie is in fact dark blue with red circles. “It goes really well with the suit,” said Robertson. “That’s amazing.”

Ardern said she’d delivered two tie options to Robertson. Despite this, Robertson – who should really understand the value of considering all options – opted not to even look at the second tie. “I’m happy with this.”

Budget day traditions.

Bernard Hickey: The ‘build back better’ moment has passed

Writing for his newsletter The Kākā, Bernard Hickey gives an insight into what he’s anticipating from this afternoon’s budget. TLDR: Today’s budget will cement in three decades of government spending, tax and investment incentives that delivered a low investment, low wage and high house price economy.

The framework of this afternoon’s budget, the first built for a post-Covid world, is already in place, and it’s largely the same as budgets of years gone by. The “build back better” moment has passed and the government is now back to business-as-usual, which means:

  • “Keeping a lid” on public debt so private homeowners can keep low interest rates, high mortgage debt and continue reaping highly-leveraged and tax-free capital gains;
  • Sticking with a low public investment approach that starves cities of infrastructure for housing and low-emissions transport to keep debt low and avoid a supply-driven crash in house prices;
  • Retaining a punitive and inadequate welfare system that sentences yet-more-tens-of-thousands of kids to yet-more generations of poverty in order to keep the size of government around 30% and deliver regular income tax cuts for those on middle incomes;
  • Keeping the investment incentives in favour of leveraged investment in residential land, rather than in research, development and international business expansion;
  • Holding on to an economic growth formula of relatively high migration of guest workers, low wages and low productivity growth, where the way to get ahead is to buy residential land and hold on for the next burst of tax-free capital gains; and
  • Maintaining the size of government at around 30% of GDP in the long run and using any fiscal headroom to hand back cash through tax cuts and middle-class welfare.

Read more and subscribe to The Kākā here

Major investor dumps DGL shares in wake of ‘Eurasian fluff’ controversy

Investment management firm Milford has confirmed it’s dumped its shares in DGL – the company run by Simon “Eurasian Fluff” Henry.

The DGL boss faced widespread condemnation after he referred to My Food Bag CEO Nadia Lim as “Eurasian fluff” and claimed she was using her sensuality to sell stock. After a week of radio silence, Henry eventually “apologised” (a brief two-line written statement that was emailed to Lim from an assistant).

At the time, several investment companies – like Kiwi Wealth – put DGL on the exemption list. But Milford refused to comment on its position, saying it would meet with DGL’s board directly.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB last night, Milford’s head of sustainable Investment Frances Sweetman confirmed the company were no longer shareholders in the group. “It was a difficult … but very constructive meeting,” she said.

“Difficult in that we shared with them some of our thoughts on the impact of those comments that he made. But constructive in that they were willing to listen to our views, and also take on board some of the feedback that we gave them about some of the changes we thought they needed to make.”

There was no market disclosure of Milford’s sale, reports the Herald, which indicates its stake was under 5%.

QUIZ: Match the budget slogan to the finance minister

To get you in the budget day spirit, The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire has prepared a simple task. Can you match the budget title to the finance minister responsible for delivering it?


New sports agency to be established after Olivia Podmore tragedy

Writing for The Bounce newsletter, Dylan Cleaver exclusively reveals how the government is planning to respond to the damning report into Cycling NZ.

Here’s an extract from his report:

The government will announce the establishment of an independent sports integrity bureau in response to another dismal report into the culture of high-performance sport in New Zealand.

Multiple sources have told The Bounce that the details are being finalised on what would represent a quantum shift in the way sport responded to athlete welfare issues.

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson, who holds the sport portfolio, hinted at the sea change in his Tuesday press call when he said the elite sports system must achieve wellbeing and high performance.

“There is no tradeoff. There must be both… So change is coming.”

It is understood the proposed Crown entity would also administer prescriptive integrity issues such as anti-doping and match-fixing, as well as the harder-to-define athlete welfare issues.

Read more here

The Bulletin: We might be done with the pandemic but it is not done with us

You might recall Grant Robertson saying at a breakfast last week that he was well and truly over Covid. Michael Baker has said the same lately. It’s not an uncommon sentiment – weary and worried isn’t a preferred state for most people. But we’ve just had two days of Covid case numbers in the 9000s with a second omicron wave predicted for June. Case numbers are at “high alert” level in New York and rising again in Australia.

new report from the International Science Council says we will be dealing with the pandemic and its effects for at least another five years. Several hundred experts contributed to the report and are urging governments to work together to not only address vaccine equity and prevention but also the social fall-out.

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.  

It’s budget day: what can we expect?

It’s budget day, one of the biggest events in the annual political calendar.

While select media in Wellington will get their first look this morning at what finance minister Grant Robertson has in store for the economy, the rest of us have to wait until 2pm. That’s when the embargo drops and a flood of announcements will arrive in my inbox.

We’ll have all the biggest announcements condensed down for you, with coverage out of parliament as well.

So what can we expect? Robertson has already signalled that the biggest areas of focus for this budget are health and the climate. “Budget 2022 will be about health,” Robertson said during his recent pre-budget speech. “The system is fragmented and inefficient.”

Monday saw the release of the government’s major Emissions Reduction Plan. It’s anticipated there will be further climate-related announcements in today’s budget.

Anything for cost of living? The government has been coy on just how much support for the cost of living will be provided. It’s possible an extension of half price public transport could be announced as that was noticeably missing from Monday’s ERP.

Tax cuts are seemingly off the cards, with Robertson saying in question time yesterday that it would be unwise to adjust tax settings after the impact of the pandemic. Also in question time: PM Jacinda Ardern said that 60% of families receive the family tax credit, possibly suggesting additional support here.

National will be quick to jump on a lack of support for the so-called “squeezed middle” if the government does not provide broad support for rising inflation.

All will be revealed at 2pm.