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Live UpdatesJun 21 2022

Gib taskforce to look at alternative plasterboards

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Tuesday, June 21. It’s very cold here so I hope you’re all wrapped up wherever you are! Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • New police minister hints package to help curb gun violence is coming “in the next few weeks”.
  • The government won’t appeal the court ruling over MIQ – but it also hasn’t apologised.
  • The building minister Megan Woods has appointed a “high level taskforce” to try and address the Gib crisis.
  • Aldous Harding has confirmed she’ll be on the road around the country later this year.
  • Covid-19 update: 17 deaths, 363 in hospital, another 5,630 cases.
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Gib taskforce to look at alternative plasterboards

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Tuesday, June 21. It’s very cold here so I hope you’re all wrapped up wherever you are! Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • New police minister hints package to help curb gun violence is coming “in the next few weeks”.
  • The government won’t appeal the court ruling over MIQ – but it also hasn’t apologised.
  • The building minister Megan Woods has appointed a “high level taskforce” to try and address the Gib crisis.
  • Aldous Harding has confirmed she’ll be on the road around the country later this year.
  • Covid-19 update: 17 deaths, 363 in hospital, another 5,630 cases.
Jun 21 2022

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Contact Energy to shut major gas-fuelled power station

Electricity generator Contact Energy has announced it will shut down its 44-megawatt, gas-powered Te Rapa plant in June 2023, as part of a transition away from fossil fuels.

The station, operating since 1999, provided steam and electricity to a dairy factory owned by Fonterra as well as supplying excess electricity back to the grid. The shortfall in generation capacity caused by the plant’s closure is planned to be replaced by new, renewable generation over the coming years, the company said.

According to Reuters, Fonterra will buy the auxiliary boiler and continue to use this for its dairy operations once the plant shuts down.

About 16 staff members will be affected, though alternative opportunities will be offered to them all.

Contact has previously confirmed it would reduce its emissions by 45% by 2026. The closing of the Te Rapa site alone will allow for an annual reduction of 20%.

In a message to customers, Harbour Asset Management – a major investor in Contact – said it was supportive of the company’s plan, calling it an “excellent example of tangible action on climate change”.

Auckland Council to end BusinessNZ membership after fair pay agreement claims

New Zealand’s biggest council is not renewing its membership of the BusinessNZ lobby group for the new business year that begins next month, a spokesperson has confirmed. The membership, which across the council group cost $20,000 plus GST, came under the spotlight after BusinessNZ launched a campaign against free pay agreements and claimed that New Zealand had been put on a “naughty list” of “worst cases” by the International Labour Organisation, despite the fact the ILO was yet to make its assessment. 

Mayor Phil Goff told Stuff at the time the group’s media statement was “completely unacceptable”. In a “please explain” letter to BusinessNZ, provided to the Spinoff, Goff and the council CEO Jim Stabback wrote:

In particular, we are concerned about the altering of the International Labour Organisation list title from “Preliminary list of cases as submitted by the social partners Committee on the Application of Standards” to “‘Worst cases’ breaches of international labour treaties”. Altering the titles of an external organisation’s document that changes its premise and meaning, seemingly to progress an argument, does not meet the standard of professionalism that we expect from BusinessNZ.

Could you please explain why BusinessNZ made the misleading change of title which distorts the process that is being undertaken and how you intend to rectify this. 

A few days later, BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope responded: “BusinessNZ did not alter or amend any ILO document”. They had simply “added a title to the list of countries taken from this document which was included with our media release”. He wrote: “The preliminary list comprises the cases the social partners consider represent the most serious actual or alleged breaches of ILO conventions commented on by the CEACR [the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Applications of Conventions and Recommendations]. They are thus the ‘worst’ cases of all those commented on in the CEACR report.”

Stabback had not attended any BusinessNZ events in the previous year, a spokesperson said. The fair pay agreement legislation is currently before select committee.

A BusinessNZ spokesperson said the organisation does not comment on member arrangements.

Beyonce is back

That’s the update.

The single comes ahead of Beyonce’s new album Renaissance, which is due at the end of next month.

It’s the first lead track the singer’s released from a solo album since 2016 (though her soundtrack song Be Alive from King Richard debuted at the end of 2021).

‘Democracy is for everyone’: Greens want limit on political donations

The Greens want a cap on how much can be donated to political parties every year.

There’s currently no upper limit on the amount people can give to parties, though every donation over $15,000 must be publicly disclosed.

That’s not good enough, said electoral reform spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman. The MP currently has a member’s bill that would see elements of our electoral law overhauled, including those around donations. “Democracy is for everyone, not those with the deepest pockets,” she said. “It is time to take big money out of politics.”

Ghahraman said the annual limit should be set at $35,000. “We need a level playing field where every New Zealander has an equal say in our democracy,” she said.

The issue of political donations to the New Zealand First party is currently facing scrutiny at a High Court fraud trial in Auckland. The latest from that can be found here.

Covid-19 update: 17 deaths, 363 in hospital, another 5,630 cases

The Covid-19 death toll has jumped by 17, including 14 from this month and three recorded between March and April.

It takes the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 1,432 and the seven-day rolling average to 12. The deaths were all people over the age of 50, with 10 male and seven female.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has dropped by about 30 since yesterday, with the number now sitting at 362. There are currently four people in intensive care.

Another 5,630 community cases have been announced, with the seven-day rolling average of community cases now 4,878 – last Tuesday it was 5,983.

Auckland continues to register the highest daily case count, with 1,663 since yesterday.

 

Building minister intervenes over Gib shortage crisis, new ‘taskforce’ announced

The building minister has been in crisis talks over the ongoing Gib crisis, with a “high level taskforce” being set up to try and address the shortage.

Megan Woods has sent an urgent letter to Fletcher Building, the company that controls most of the plasterboard market in New Zealand. Woods has asked the company to stop threatening legal action to other companies over the use of trademarked terms (including colours).

“The government is committed to supporting the building sector to deliver the homes and buildings that New Zealand needs. That’s why my top priority is to ensure builders, from big companies to single tradies have the materials they need to do their job with confidence,” said Woods.

The taskforce will look at alternative plasterboard products and examine whether legislative change or regulatory change is needed, said Woods. It will also look at new distribution models and act as a forum for related supply chain concerns. 

“While Gib is well-known, it is not the only plasterboard available. The Building Code allows for the use of any product which meets performance specifications,” said Woods.

“The taskforce has a very clear aim, to increase sector productivity as quickly as possible, and to remove any unnecessary barriers, including around certification, to facilitate the use of different types of plasterboard.”

A first meeting of the taskforce will take place next week.

Why we celebrate the beginning of Matariki today

Matariki is celebrated over a period of days during mid-winter – but these days aren’t the same every year, or even across regions and iwi. So how can we tell when Matariki is beginning? The Matariki Advisory Committee, led by Rangi Mātāmua, says there are some key things to look out for when figuring out the beginning of the Matariki period.

The method used to find the best public holiday date was using the Tangaroa phases in the lunar month of Pipiri (roughly June/early July). The maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) often has four lunar phases that honour Tangaroa, (god of the sea, lakes, rivers and their creatures). These Tangaroa phases occur in the last quarter of the moon’s cycle, when it goes from a quarter moon to completely dark. Today is Tangaroa-ā-mua, the first Tangaroa phase of the current lunar cycle.

The unique relationship that Tangaroa has with the moon is through his domain as god of the seas and oceans – the tides and flows of which are tied to the phases of the moon. Tangaroa has whakapapa connecting all forms of life, from the water that flows through the valleys and feeds the crops to the water that we consume. The Tangaroa phases are also relatively high energy times, according to the maramataka, and encourage people to gather with whanau, challenge themselves creatively and physically and give back to the whenua.

The beginning of Matariki occurs when the star cluster can be seen before the rising of the sun on the first clear day of Tangaroa. After that, there are around seven or eight days where Matariki is celebrated while the cluster can be seen, before the new moon.

So if you didn’t get out to see the cluster in the early morning sky this morning, you still have plenty of days to do so.

Opposition calls for apology over MIQ

The government has confirmed it won’t appeal a court ruling that landed in favour of the Grounded Kiwis lobby group.

But, the prime minister has so far not apologised for the government’s handling of the managed isolation system – and that’s angered the opposition.

Act Party leader David Seymour said not appealing the decision was the right call, but so was an apology. “When Jacinda Ardern faces the media today – she should look firmly down the barrel of the camera, own the decision she made to keep families apart and say sorry,” he said.

That’s the same view held by National’s Covid spokesperson, Chris Bishop.

At her weekly post-cabinet press conference yesterday, Ardern deferred a question about a government response to the court case to relevant ministers, and would not apologise. She added that the finding of the court in the case was “relatively narrow”.

Grounded Kiwis is eligible for compensation after winning its case, with the government expected to cover legal fees for the group.

Aldous Harding announces NZ tour

Some incredibly exciting tour news has been announced this morning!

New Zealand singer/songwriter Aldous Harding has confirmed she’ll be on the road around the country later this year. She’s announced shows in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in late October.

It follows the release earlier this year of her amazing fourth album Warm Chris (read our thoughts on that here).

After two-plus years of border closures, gathering restrictions etc it is so welcome to have new tours being announced nearly every week.

Tickets for Aldous’ shows are on sale this Thursday – more details can be found at Live Nation.

New police minister hints gang announcement due ‘in the next few weeks’

The new police and justice ministers have met to discuss how they can stall the number of gang shootings in Auckland.

A reshuffle last week saw Poto Williams ousted as police minister and replaced by Chris Hipkins, while Kris Faafoi’s resignation meant the justice portfolio could be filled by Kiri Allen.

Hipkins told Newshub that work was under way to curb gang activity. “We are looking to get a package of things together which we will talk about in the next few weeks so is there more we could do in that space? Yes, I think there is,” he said.

When pressed for further details of what this “package” could entail, Hipkins said it was too soon to say. “I don’t want to get into the details of what are early-stage discussions but we are aiming to progress them very quickly so I can provide absolute assurance that minister Allan and I are going to be working closely together on those issues.”

However, frontline police officers were likely to have more power. Hipkins told RNZ that any changes “will be at the practical end of things” but he needed “a bit of time to step through those options”.

The police were “involved” in conversations about what new powers could be introduced, said Hipkins.

Government turns down fishery industry request to help address labour shortage

Newsroom Pro editor Jono Milne reports on the fisheries industry trying to retain Pacific Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers here to fill labour shortages. Between 200 and 500 workers still had time left on their RSE visas at the end of fruit-picking season. The industry wrote to immigration minister Kris Faafoi asking that workers be given the chance to transfer over to better-paid seafood jobs at the start of New Zealand’s hoki season. The request was turned down. Milne outlines the complexity of attempting to transfer workers from a scheme specifically designed for horticulture and viticulture workers into a new one.

Chris Schulz, editor of The Spinoff’s new business newsletter Stocktake, has more on worker shortages this morning. Stocktake goes out at 8.30am today so subscribe here for his story on how shortages are impacting business and an expert’s point of view on how they might play out.

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No decision on whether government will appeal MIQ court loss

The government hasn’t ruled out appealing a court case that found elements of the managed isolation system infringed on the rights of overseas New Zealanders.

The Grounded Kiwis case focused primarily on the so-called MIQ “lottery” that randomly allocated slots in an isolation hotel from a “virtual lobby”.

While both prime minister Jacinda Ardern and the former Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said they accepted the court’s findings, they haven’t decided whether they’ll cough up the compensation owed.

“In this case, the government will be required to contribute to Grounded Kiwis’ unpaid legal fees, which exceed the amount of funds raised in the two calls for crowdfunding,” Grounded Kiwis spokesman Martin Newell told the Herald.

Since last week’s reshuffle, Ayesha Verrall has taken on the Covid portfolio. Her office wouldn’t comment, blaming the “complexities” of the court decision.

National’s Chris Bishop said the government needed to move on – and rule out any appeal. “The only thing appealing the judgment would do is cost the government tens of thousands of dollars in time and legal fees, and force Grounded Kiwis to do the same,” he said. “Rather than appealing, the government should be apologising.”