blog fix may 25

Live UpdatesMay 25 2022

Official cash rate hiked to highest since 2016

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 25, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a query, question or news tip? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The official cash rate has risen by 50 basis points to its highest level in six years.
  • The first case of the omicron BA.2.12.1 subvariant has been confirmed in the New Zealand community.
  • There have been 11 new deaths of people with Covid-19, including a child under 10.
  • Jacinda Ardern is in the United States. Today she’s met with major investors, travel media and the UN’s secretary general. Later today she’ll catch-up with her pal Stephen Colbert on his late night talkshow.
blog fix may 25

Official cash rate hiked to highest since 2016

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 25, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a query, question or news tip? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The official cash rate has risen by 50 basis points to its highest level in six years.
  • The first case of the omicron BA.2.12.1 subvariant has been confirmed in the New Zealand community.
  • There have been 11 new deaths of people with Covid-19, including a child under 10.
  • Jacinda Ardern is in the United States. Today she’s met with major investors, travel media and the UN’s secretary general. Later today she’ll catch-up with her pal Stephen Colbert on his late night talkshow.
May 25 2022

Ardern talks gun control, Neve’s briefcase on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

The New Zealand prime minister has once again beamed into Americans’ living rooms, appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for the fourth time.

The mood of the chat began in a fairly sombre manner, coming just hours after more than 20 people were shot dead at a school in Texas.

Colbert, who visited Aotearoa a few months after the March 15, 2019 terror attacks in Christchurch, asked Ardern about the gun law reform undertaken here after the shootings.

“When we saw something like that happen, everyone said never again, and so it was incumbent on us as politicians to respond to that,” said Ardern. “Now, we have legitimate needs for guns in our country for things like pest control and to protect our biodiversity, but you don’t need a military-style semi-automatic weapon to do that.”

Jacinda Ardern on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

On a lighter note, Ardern spoke of the briefcase given by the government to her three-year-old daughter Neve, who was jealous of the one filled with documents that her mother brought home at the end of the work day.

Ardern, who was repping her favourite New Zealand designer, Juliette Hogan, in a pink pantsuit, gave Colbert a chilly bin full of New Zealand beef, which prompted some confusion over the meaning of chilly bin. The PM also invited him to her wedding with an “invitation” written on an ad for Air New Zealand’s new direct flights between New York and Auckland.

Before heading off on her first trade trip to the US since the pandemic began, Ardern had spoken of her plan to use it to draw tourists back to Aotearoa. She told Colbert the borders were now open after two long years, and New Zealanders were waiting. “Hospitality is part of our identity, we call it manaakitanga. So please, come back and make us whole again. You’re welcome.”

Colbert chimed in with, “Everybody go down, you are not going to regret it, it’s the most beautiful place on the planet.”

In New Zealand, the full episode screens on Prime tonight at 11pm, and there are short clips on RNZ now.

New Gone By Lunchtime: The squeezed muddle

In a globetrotting edition of our politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime, Toby Manhire, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas look at the Australian election and its meaning for New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern’s trip to the United States, and how much hinges on a meeting with Joe Biden. Plus: A look back at last week’s budget and the so-called “squeezed middle”, electoral reform, and the NZ on Air funded Chlöe Swarbrick doco.

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

New school uniform guidelines call for focus on Te Tiriti

The Human Rights Commission has released a set of school uniform guidelines framed around Te Tiriti and human rights.

While the guidelines are non-binding – there is no school uniform legislation in New Zealand – they have been endorsed by the NZ School Trustees Association.

“Students should feel comfortable and culturally safe so that they can focus on their learning, this is why we decided to produce these guidelines as no one’s right to education should be hindered,” said race relations commissioner Meng Foon.

The guidelines suggest that schools recognise Māori tino rangatiratanga and oritetanga, affirming the right for Māori self-determination over themselves and their taonga.

Foon said it would also ensure Māori status symbols are given the same standing as Pākehā status symbols. “This means Māori students should be able to wear items that are taonga to them, like tā moko, pounamu or hei tiki,” he said.

Read more here.

Tova O’Brien’s thoughts on Budget 2022

Do you earn under 95k? With changes coming to home loans you could get onto the property ladder with just a 5% deposit.

Want to know what’s coming in the health sector? A 13.2 billion spend over the next four years means more money for nurse training and ambulance services. Low-income earner? There could be $350 coming your way.

Check out Tova O’Brien’s thoughts on Budget 2022, and find out what the Budget means for you, on Today FM.

Official cash rate hits highest level in six years

The official cash rate has risen to its highest in six years.

It’s moved to 2%, an increase of 0.5% that was largely predicted by economists. It’s the second consecutive 0.5% rise after months of inaction throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the Reserve Bank said it was appropriate to continue tightening monetary conditions “at pace” as living costs surge.

“The Committee is resolute in its commitment to ensure consumer price inflation returns to within the 1% to 3% percent target range,” said a statement. “Consistent with the economic outlook and risks ahead, monetary conditions need to act as a constraint on demand until there is a better match with New Zealand’s productive capacity.”

The war in Ukraine was cited as a driver of inflation, along with disruptions from Covid-19.

“In New Zealand, underlying strength remains in the economy, supported by a strong labour market, sound household balance sheets, continued fiscal support, and a strong terms of trade,” said the bank. “The reduction in Covid-19 health-related restrictions is also enabling increased economic activity, including hospitality and tourism.”

While today’s OCR rise was widely anticipated, the question is now whether the bank continues to hike interest rates in the future.

National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said there was “more pain” on the way for New Zealanders, but said the Reserve Bank had no choice but to act. “This is the first time ever the Reserve Bank has increased the OCR by 50 basis points twice in a row, reflecting just how severe inflation has become,” said Willis.

Conversations That Count / Ngā Kōrero Whai Take is back for season three

In partnership with Massey University, we’re very excited to announce the third season of Conversations That Count – Ngā Kōrero Whai Take, our thought-provoking podcast series about the issues facing Aotearoa and te ao whanui. The season’s first episode takes a close look at what’s wrong with literacy education in New Zealand.

We know that our learners are falling behind global benchmarks, but do we know why? And what can we do to correct this worrying trend? Join host Stacey Morrison and guests Dr Christine Braid, Helena Baker and Josie Woon for an insightful, challenging and ultimately optimistic kōrero about this hugely important issue – click here to listen on The Spinoff Podcast Network, and make sure to subscribe for new episodes monthly.

Covid-19 latest: New omicron subvariant confirmed in NZ, 11 more deaths

Another subvariant of omicron has been detected in the community. The Ministry of Health has confirmed a case of the BA.2.12.1 subvariant, without a clear link to the border, in Hawke’s Bay from a test result returned on May 10.

“This omicron subvariant is prevalent in the USA and has been detected at our border for many weeks,” said the Ministry of Health. There have been 29 imported cases reported of this variant since April.

“Emerging data suggests BA.2.12.1 is marginally more transmissible than the subvariants currently circulating in Aotearoa-New Zealand,” said the ministry. “Our genomic surveillance (genomes and wastewater) remains in place to study any new variants and track their spread.”

Meanwhile, the omicron BA.4 and/or BA.5 subvariants have also been detected in wastewater samples at Rosedale on Auckland’s North Shore and in Gisborne.

“The presence of these subvariants in the community is also not unexpected,” said the ministry.

Latest numbers: 11 deaths, 368 in hospital, 8,150 new community cases

Another 11 people with Covid-19 have died, bringing the nationwide death toll up to 1,086 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 10.

The deaths being reported today are for people who have died in the past 10 days, apart from one death on May 6 and one on April 11. One of those who died was under the age of 10, while one was in their 30s, one was in their 60s, one was in their 70s, three were in their 80s, and four were aged over 90. Six were female and five were male.

There are now 368 people in hospital with Covid-19, including 11 in intensive care.

There are 8,150 new community cases. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 7,308 – last Wednesday, it was 8,024.

Auckland continues to record the highest number of daily cases, with 2,617 registered overnight.

Luxon suggests he’d ditch RNZ-TVNZ merger despite money being spent

If National leads the next government, it’s possible the merger of TVNZ and RNZ could be scrapped.

The multi-million dollar public broadcasting merger is set to be finalised by mid-2023 – before the election – but Christopher Luxon this morning said he’d wind it back.

“That’s a solution in search of a problem,” he told RNZ. “I don’t know what problem the government is trying to solve… I’m just confused as to why the government is doing it.”

He cited the merger as an example of wasteful government spending. RNZ host Susie Ferguson asked how winding back the merger after the money’s been spent wasn’t wasteful. “This is the point,” said Luxon. “The government has no idea why it’s doing it, it’s spending $325 million… for what benefit?”

While the merger wasn’t the main driver of inflation, Luxon said it was one of several examples of wasted spending. He also criticised a $208 million spend for a firearms register for legal gun owners and $650 million going to help companies cut their emissions.

“The government confuses and conflates spending announcements with actually getting things done,” he said. “There’s something in the middle called delivery, execution and implementation and they just don’t know how to get things done.”

Never forget the time John Key went on the Late Show

As we prepare for another appearance by a prime minister on an American late night talk show, it’s time to remember the first.

John Key visited the Late Show with David Letterman back in 2009, where he presented a top 10 list of reasons to visit New Zealand. The list included New Zealand being “like England without attitude” and suggesting Americans, err, “get the whānau together, stay in a bach, crack open the chilly bin and slap on your jandals.”

It’s bleak. It feels a lot more like a gentle roast than a true advert of all New Zealand has to offer, but if any Americans chose to visit off the back of Key’s appearance than please let me know.

Enjoy.

PM Jacinda Ardern is currently in the US on a trade charm offensive. She’ll be swinging by the Late Show set later this afternoon NZ time for her fourth appearance on the show.

Seven shootings in Auckland overnight, mayor calls for crackdown

Police responded to seven shootings around Auckland overnight.

The incidents occurred in the suburbs of Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Flat Bush, Papakura, Te Atatū, Henderson and Mt Albert. Four took place within one hour between 6.40pm and 7.40pm.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff told RNZ it was a miracle no bystanders were hurt. “This is appalling behaviour by gang members who are self indulgent, think that in this and in everything else they do they are above the law,” he said.

Tighter firearms control was needed to curb the rise in gun violence, said Goff. “The fact of the matter is, as a legitimate firearms owner I can get as many firearms as I like there’s no record where I buy them from and there’s no record of whom I sell them to,” he said. “We’ve got to crack down on the ease at which you can legitimately get firearms.”

Police also arrested two people in the early hours of this morning after they were caught breaking into Newshub’s Auckland studio.

Rent prices soar to all-time high – latest data

There’s more bad news for renters, with TradeMe today revealing the average price for a rental has soared to a record-high.

The national median weekly rent hit $580 in April, a 7% rise on the year before. The month before saw another 7% annual rise in rents, with TradeMe’s property sales director Gavin Lloyd saying tenants are now paying $40 more than they would have been a year ago.

All-time high median weekly rents were also seen in Southland ($420), Northland ($550), and Canterbury ($495). “The largest year-on-year price increase was seen in Taranaki, with the region’s median weekly rent growing by a whopping 19% in 12 months,” said Lloyd.

“Last month the number of rentals in the Taranaki region dropped by 32% year-on-year, which really put pressure on the market, and is making it tough for prospective renters who are now facing fewer options and higher prices.”

The median rent in Auckland for April was $600, a 2% rise on the year before. “However, when compared with the month prior, this marked a slight drop of $10 per week,” Lloyd said.

The most expensive Auckland districts in April were North Shore City ($660), Rodney ($630), and Papakura ($650).

The Bulletin: Rise tipped for OCR announcement today

The Reserve Bank will update the official cash rate today. Most economists are picking a rise of 50 basis points which would take it to 2%.  Looking at the impact of OCR rises on home loan interest rate rises, Stuff’s Susan Edmonds explains that interest rates may not get much higher, saying “the main reason that we are already paying more for our home loans is that further increases are being priced in by the financial markets.”

Writing about the Reserve Bank’s balancing act right now, the Herald’s Liam Dann (paywalled) says “There will be a fine line between knocking the economy back on its heels and inflicting blunt force trauma in the form of recession.”

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.  

Ukraine top of the agenda as Ardern meets UN secretary general

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has enjoyed her first day in New York as part of a week-long trade visit to the United States.

While the all-important meeting with president Joe Biden has yet to be locked in, Ardern, speaking to media from outside the United Nations, said today was about pushing the message that New Zealand was “open for business and also open for travellers”.

The day began with a round table with travel editors who have a “wide reach” across the US market. Ardern said the session was “well received” and it will “pay dividends” when tourists from the US travel to our country.

This was followed by a meeting with investment management corporation Blackrock. Ardern said this allowed for the business delegation that has travelled from New Zealand to sit face-to-face with “a number of influential individuals in the investor sector”.

Finally, Ardern met with the secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, where “a range of issues” were discussed. “It was a chance for us to discuss everything from the conflict in Ukraine, to climate change, and more broadly the role New Zealand can play in United Nations reform,” Ardern said.

On the issue of Taiwan and the recent comments by president Biden, Ardern said her position was simply on behalf of New Zealand. “When it comes to some of the language we’ve heard and the discussion between the United States and China, I will continue to advocate on New Zealand’s behalf for peace and stability,” she said.

“Our independent foreign policy has meant that we have been very consistent in maintaining the same values throughout, peace and stability, of using dialogue, and the importance of multilateral institutions like the United Nations.”

Next on the agenda for the prime minister is the traditional late night show appearance with Stephen Colbert, the US broadcaster who has often spoken highly about Ardern (and even visited New Zealand in 2019).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in New York at the start of the US trade mission. (Photo: RNZ / Pool Christian Carroll)