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Jun 26 2023

Food banks get $6m funding boost as cost of living continues to bite

New data suggest that New Zealanders with food allergies are paying more for their food than standard alternatives. (Photo: Getty Images)

Another $6 million will go towards community food providers across New Zealand, with priority given to those working in high demand regions such as Auckland, Tairawhiti and Hawkes Bay.

Deputy prime minister and social development minister Carmel Sepuloni said that times were tough at the moment, and so it was important to provide further support for those who were struggling.

“This will ease some of the pressures on families, and organisations who are working with households and in our communities,” Sepuloni said.

“Demand for food support, particularly in communities impacted by the extreme weather events, remains higher than it was prior to Covid-19. This boost in funding aims to help community food providers continue their mahi during this period of high demand.”

The new food bank funding comes on top of $24 million announced in this year’s budget for longer-term solutions to tackle food security.

The Greens have criticised the new money, saying it wasn’t the solution to address inequality. Instead, said the party’s social development spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March, the government should look to introduce an income guarantee scheme. “Demand for food banks is increasing, but the Greens know that food banks are not a solution, they are a symptom of inequality and poverty,” said Menéndez March.

“We know that food banks do such important work to help communities, and stop many people in Aotearoa from going hungry. But we need to address the reasons people use them in the first place.”

$5m lifeline for Ruapehu ski season announced

Mount Ruapehu (Photo / Getty)

The government’s put $5 million up for the liquidators of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts to ensure the mountain’s 2023 ski season can go ahead, it’s been announced. 

Deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni, speaking at a post-cabinet press conference, said it’s not what the government wanted – but it opted to step in to ensure New Zealanders could access the ski field over winter as nobody else had come to the table. A longer term solution was being sought out, Sepuloni said.

Associate regional development minister Kiri Allan said the government had always been committed to ensuring this year’s ski season could go ahead. “Ruapehu is a very significant part of the economy in the central North Island, accounting for around a tenth of regional GDP, or $100 million per year. The season going ahead will save hundreds of jobs and support local tourism, the regional economy and the community, while a long-term solution is found,” Allan said.

“This will provide workers on the mountain with job security and ensure businesses dependent on activities on and around the mountain have the certainty they need for the season ahead.”

There is a backup plane, but it’s not in China

“There is only one Air Force plane in China,” starts a comment from the prime minister’s office to media this afternoon. “It’s carrying a large business and trade delegation as well as the prime minister and media.”

It had earlier been reported (and roundly criticised by the opposition) that two 757 planes had travelled to China with the prime minister, with the second simply there in case the first broke down.

A backup aircraft is pre-positioned in Manila in case of breakdown and did not travel to China, the PM’s spokesperson said. It will now pre-position in Darwin to provide support for the return journey of the primary aircraft if required. “It will not pre-position in Shanghai, unless required, and there are not currently two planes in China as has been reported. It is not unusual for the Air Force to provide backup aircraft, where available. This has occurred more frequently following a highly publicised series of break downs affected a delegation led by John Key in 2016.”

A backup aircraft was considered “justified” because of the importance of the trade mission, the long distance involved and the large size of the travelling business delegation and media contingent.

The 757s are around 30 years old, are nearing the end of their economic lives, and are due for replacement in between 2028 and 2030, the spokesperson added.

Deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni told media this afternoon that the backup plan was decided on as a “plan B” considering previous incidents involving the aircrafts. However, the prime minister would not be travelling on the plane if there were concerns about safety.

What happened to the sun in Auckland?

This happened.

‘Extravagance’: Why Hipkins took a spare plane to China

The prime minister took two defence force planes to China, it’s been reported, with the second aircraft allegedly there as standby in case the aging 757 he’s travelling on breaks down.

It’s seen the Act Party take aim, labelling it “extravagance” and an embarrassment. “The emissions created by taking the extra plane is the equivalent of driving a Ford Ranger the distance of a trip to the moon three times,” said Act leader David Seymour.

“Some people might bring a spare phone charger with them while travelling overseas in case they lose one or it breaks. Chris Hipkins needs to bring a spare Boeing aircraft with him. This extravagance is typical of Labour’s wasteful attitude and reckless disregard for Kiwis’ money. The fuel bill for the bonus Boeing would have been in the vicinity of $150,000.”

According to Stuff’s Luke Malpass, the back-up plane will relocate to Shanghai today, which is where the PM and his delegation will depart from in the weekend.

Not unbalanced ‘in and of itself’ to stop minor parties joining TV debates – BSA

The five chaps who took part in the TVNZ minor party debate (Credit: One News)

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has issued new guidance ahead of October’s election, warning that it won’t be a breach of the balance standard to exclude particular politicians from debates.

There has previously been controversy when the leaders of certain minor parties are left out of televised debates ahead of a general election. According to the BSA, this won’t be enough to breach the balance standard in and of itself.

“Balance requirements reflect the current media landscape where opportunities to learn about different politicians and perspectives are typically available from multiple sources. Audiences are not dependent on any one programme for all of their political information or analysis,” said the authority’s acting chief executive Helen Cruse.

Politicians could also withstand a greater level of scrutiny during questioning, said Cruse, meaning that the threshold for finding a fairness breach was higher than for someone unfamiliar with the media.

These people are often capable interviewees, experienced in handling aggressive questioning or other coverage that may be considered unfair for an ordinary person,” Cruse said.

The Bulletin: Invercargill mayor vocally backs ‘Stop Co-Governance’ tour

Mayor Nobby Clark welcomed the controversial “Stop Co-Governance” meeting to Invercargill on Saturday with a 15-minute speech which included criticisms of the “Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF), Three Waters, ‘cancel culture’, council mana whenua representatives, and ‘the bastardisation of the English language’,” reports the Otago Daily Times’ Ben Tomsett. Later meeting organiser Julian Batchelor said a number of his supporters had told him they’d  purchased guns.

While he said he advocated for a peaceful solution, “you have to change your attitude because we can’t be just nice little Kiwis anymore. You have to say ‘I’m on the warpath,’ and we’re going to stop this.” A New Zealand police spokesperson told the Herald’s Lincoln Tan, “There is absolutely nothing to substantiate the claims made at the meeting in relation to New Zealanders arming themselves.” Mayor Clark said that while he doesn’t agree with everything said at the meeting, he “probably agree[s] with a majority”.

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Political jostling over ‘tough on crime’ as National unveils new justice policy package

Paul Goldsmith (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National’s big election year conference was held in Wellington over the weekend, where party leader Christopher Luxon pledged to tackle law and order with a sweeping range of policies. That includes the return of three strikes, a new “use-it-and-lose-it” rule to prevent repeat offenders receiving sentence discounts for youth or remorse more than once and a call for judges to stop applying sentencing discounts of more than 40%.

Crime is quickly becoming a major election issue once again, with parties jostling to prove they are the so-called toughest on crime.

Paul Goldsmith, National’s justice spokesperson, told RNZ that the government had devoted its attention to reducing the prison population but without reducing crime. “We want a lower prison population, but it has to follow a reduction in crime,” he told Morning Report today. He couldn’t, however, provide evidence that his party’s policies would have an impact. “The evidence that’s there at the moment is a government that’s reduced the prison population by 20%, but crime has increased by 33%,” Goldsmith said.

According to the government, increasing prison sentences would just make prisoners even harder to rehabilitate on the other side. But Goldsmith said prisoners on remand should be able to access a full suite of support.

On TVNZ’s Breakfast, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick said it was unacceptable that New Zealanders felt unsafe. “It is absolutely not the status quo we should accept,” said Swarbrick. However, she said the Greens would have been “slaughtered in the media” if they released a major policy like this without properly costing it. “It costs $190,000 per year to send someone to prison… the longer we put people in prison, the more likely they are to re-offend,” said Swarbrick.

Act’s Brooke van Velden welcomed National’s support for law and order policies and said it was important to listen to the public. “When I’ve been out on the street, people say they want more consequences for crime and there is a state of lawlessness… we’ve got people who no longer want to walk in broad daylight to a supermarket,” she also told Breakfast. “The government’s been spending more money reducing peoples’ sentences than on reparations for crime. We need consequences for crime.”

A sweaty week awaits Chris Hipkins in China

A ceremonial guard awaits Chris Hipkins in Beijing (Photo: Nathan McKinnon/RNZ)

It’s going to be a clammy week for Chris Hipkins. Late last night, Hipkins, tourism minister Peeni Henare, trade and export growth minister Damien O’Connor, 29 business delegates, 16 Matatini champions and a gaggle of media and handlers landed in Beijing ahead of a week of trade and diplomacy talks between New Zealand and China. This is Hipkins’ first visit to China as PM and will mark his official introduction to president Xi Jinping (the meeting will happen on Tuesday). There’s plenty of thorny issues to discuss, with growing concerns among Western leaders in 2022 over China’s “assertive” (Jacinda Ardern’s descriptor) moves in the Pacific, including the signing of a contentious security pact with the Solomon Islands and a wide-reaching proposal to nearly a dozen Pacific countries covering a range of areas including policing, security and data communication cooperation.

But Hipkins has presented this trip as being, first and foremost, a trade endeavour. “There’s not much more bread and butter than trade for a country like New Zealand,” he told media last week. With China being our largest trading partner by a long way, and post-Covid moves towards a more localised economy there, Henare, O’Connor and the 29 delegates will be working hard to expand New Zealand’s offering to China’s billion consumers. 

On the diplomacy front, there is debate to be had over New Zealand’s reliance on China as a trading partner while China’s politics – particularly the mass internment of Uyghur people and close ties with Russia – so conflicts with our historical national stances on human rights issues. Last week, Hipkins said he didn’t think Xi Jinping was a dictator – a predictable answer for a close trading partner and imminent visitor. Whether or not Hipkins will dare venture into those areas during his bilateral meeting with Xi is hard to say, but he’d be wise to sweat over every word he utters to Chinese officials. 

Hipkins is greeted by China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, Ma Zhaoxu (Photo: Nathan McKinnon/RNZ)

He’ll also be literally sweating. Hipkins’ trip coincides with a Beijing heatwave. Last week, the capital city recorded its hottest June day in 60 years, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees celsius. After a 22-hour journey on the defence force plane, Hipkins was greeted in Beijing by a late-night ceremonial guard, as New Zealand and China flags hung in the warm air. Today he visits the local embassy and attends one of many business-focused events selling Aotearoa to China. Tomorrow, it’s the main event, where media and officials here in Beijing will be keeping a close eye on how Hipkins is received by Xi.

The first meeting with a powerful and volatile trading partner? A full week of opportunity to say something that local media tears to shreds? Three months out from an election and 40 degree heat? The ceremonial handshakes will be clammy for all sorts of reasons.

Madeleine Chapman is in China this week reporting on Hipkins’ trip.