Jun 27 2023

Great Wall to Great Hall: Hipkins set to meet Xi Jinping

Chris Hipkins at a WEF meeting (Image: Dan Brunskill)

Mad Chapman in China: 

Some jobs are just more fun than others. This morning in the Huairou District just outside of Beijing, tourism minister Peeni Henare stood on the Great Wall of China and listened to a guide explain the history of the wall and the reasons behind its design. The mix of high and low walls along the walkway, she said, allowed soldiers to take cover before shifting to a low section to fire on enemies below. The low portions are more exposed but allow for greater range when attacking. After an hour of standing and talking and looking, Henare announced that he had to “go back to work”.

Peeni Henare at the Great Wall of China (Image: Mad Chapman)

Meanwhile, 200 kilometres south, Chris Hipkins sat in a convention centre as part of a World Economic Forum panel on “rewiring growth amid fragility”. Fellow panelists included Vietnam prime minister Pham Minh Chinh and Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley. Discussing trade growth on an economic panel is a high wall for Hipkins. But shortly, he may have to step out from behind it when meeting president Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People. Hipkins has been pressed on what he’ll raise with Xi, but has given little away, saying only that a range of topics will be discussed, including things of “mutual interest” and things “where there won’t be agreement”.

Chris Hipkins at a WEF meeting (Image: Dan Brunskill)

Since arriving in Beijing, the short-lived mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group in Russia came to an end and China solidified its support of Russia as a “comprehensive strategic ally” in a statement from a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. That support is at odds with New Zealand’s opposition to the war in Ukraine. Suggestions that Hipkins may be able to sweet-talk Xi into sweet-talking Putin into ending the war are likely wishful thinking but he will find himself open to frank discussion with one of the most powerful leaders in the world. Whether he chooses to step out from behind the high wall and say something will depend on just how robust he believes New Zealand’s relationship with our largest trading partner is.

$128m lifeline for struggling universities to be spread across all institutes

Jan Tinetti (Image design: Tina Tiller)

Universities will get a temporary funding boost in order to combat declining enrolments and cost-cutting measures, the government’s confirmed this afternoon.

While recent attention has largely been on struggles at Otago and Victoria universities, the education minister said the $128 million in new cash will be spread across all degree granting institutions over 2024 and 2025. “Other institutions have previously managed declines in student numbers. We did not want to disadvantage those institutions which in some cases had already made difficult decisions,” said Jan Tinetti in a statement.

“Presently, our tertiary institutions are experiencing an unexpectedly large decline in domestic enrolments and increased cost pressures. In addition, although international enrolments are increasing, they remain well below pre-Covid levels. Similar issues are being faced by tertiary providers worldwide.”

Cabinet has also asked for a report back by the end of July on whether recently announced changes represent a threat to capability or provision of programmes nationwide, finance minister Grant Robertson said. And there will also be a review of higher education funding. “The current financial situation of some tertiary institutions points to the need take this broader look into the way our higher education system is funded and financed. Decisions on the scope and approach to the review will be taken before the end of 2023.”

The new funding is coming from underspent cash in the education sector, including from lower than expected enrolments under the fees free scheme.

“The government has heard the concerns of the sector. When we began our budget process, universities and other degree providers were forecasting enrolment increases. The opposite has occurred, and it is clear that there is a need for additional support,” Tinetti said.

The funding will be invested over the next two years, said Robertson, increasing subsidies by 4% in 2024 and 2025. That’s on top of a 5% boost in this year’s budget. “The model of funding for tertiary education has proved itself to be unsustainable,” said Robertson.

“There is now a 9% funding increase effectively… over the next two years. That does give them the opportunity to take a look at the proposals that have been made, but this is a long-standing issue for some.” This represented a “significant” increase in funding, said Robertson, but he wouldn’t label it a bailout.

According to figures provided by the government, Auckland University and Otago University will scoop up the most new funding in 2024 and 2025 – about $14.5 million and $10.5 million annually (on top of the 5% increase announced in this year’s budget already as well). Victoria University, currently battling a forecast deficit of $33 million and potentially hundreds of staff losses, will get just over $12 million extra over the next two years.

“I do think there are reasonable questions to ask about how money has been spent in recent times,” said Robertson. “I know on campuses around the country many of the staff affected by proposed cuts have expressed exactly those concerns.”

Watch: Making cents of the cost of living crisis


People who are actually impacted by the cost of living crisis know exactly what it is. But what does it technically mean? In the second episode of 2 Cents 2 Much, Janaye Henry speaks to everyone’s favourite economist Shamubeel Eaqub and learns the bleak truth behind why so many continue to struggle. Spoiler: “In a country like New Zealand, we choose to have the levels of poverty we have.” And it’s only a cost of living crisis when it starts to affect people who don’t live in poverty.

“If it was a game of snakes and ladders, all the snakes are at the bottom and all the ladders are at the top,” says Eaqub. 

Watch the latest episode below:

Feedback sought on proposed changes to GMO regulations

Image: Archi Banal

The government’s jumped on the GMO bandwagon, announcing consultation is open on proposed changes to regulations that would “foster research and improve health conditions”.

It follows the National Party recently announcing it would end the country’s ban on gene editing and modification. After that announcement, prime minister Chris Hipkins hinted changes could be on the way, but wouldn’t provide details.

Environment minister David Parker said the proposed changes respond to concerns from the research community that current GMO regulations are hindering research and innovation. The proposals will not alter rules on the release of GMOs outside laboratory settings, he said.

“From cancer therapies to expanding our knowledge of biology, the use of genetic technologies has advanced rapidly over the past three decades,” Parker said.

“New Zealand regulations have not kept pace with better understanding of the benefits of GMOs. We want to ensure GMO regulations contribute to better outcomes for New Zealanders through more research, innovation and development, and improved access to biomedical therapies and medicines.”

Parker said the government was aware that some New Zealanders had strong views on GMOs. “We’re not changing the rules that relate to field trials and releases of GMOs into the environment, such as plants or animals.”

Consultation open on July 3 and close on August 25.

Labour candidate to replace Meka Whaitiri in Ikaroa Rāwhiti named

(Photo by William Booth/Getty Images)

Labour’s announced its candidate for the Māori electorate of Ikaroa Rāwhiti, the seat currently held by Meka Whaitiri.

Cushla Tangaere-Manuel is a former journalist and the current Māori rugby programme manager at New Zealand Rugby. According to Willie Jackson, Labour’s Māori election chair, Tangaere-Manuel has “the skills, experience, work ethic and values to advocate for Māori” and will work well within the party’s current Māori caucus.

“Cushla is well known and highly regarded in the electorate having served as the CEO of the mighty sky blue Ngati Porou East Coast (NPEC) rugby union, the only iwi-based union, for nine years,” Jackson said.

“On her watch at NPEC she turned the club around both on the field and off, from being in overdraft to annual surpluses, building a new headquarters and growing the number of representative teams. She has paved the way for other wahine to succeed in sport administration. She was chair of the Heartland Secretariat in 2021, a difficult year due to Covid-19.”

It had been expected that Whaitiri would contest the seat for Labour, but she defected to Te Pāti Māori earlier in the year. Due to a technicality, she’s currently an independent MP but will stand for the minor party in the October election.

“I am honoured to be confirmed as the candidate for Ikaroa Rāwhiti, starting in a new page in my career,” Tangaere-Manual said. “Above all, running in this election is about serving our people. Ikaroa Rāwhiti deserve to have a strong candidate in order to deliver much needed resources especially as we recover from Cyclone Gabrielle.”

Paramore announces Auckland stop on 2023 tour

Paramore has done what Taylor Swift wouldn’t: visit New Zealand. The American rock group has announced a date in Auckland as part of its current tour.

It follows the release of the band’s sixth album This Is Why, released back in February to acclaim.

Promoters Frontier Touring said a portion of all ticket sales will be donated to “leading food rescue organisations OzHarvest (Australia) and KiwiHarvest (New Zealand) to help reduce food waste and create lasting positive social change”.

Joined on tour by Remi Wolf, tickets for the November 18 show go on pre-sale next week.

Invercargill mayor says te reo building names shouldn’t be ‘metaphorical’

Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark has refused calls to apologise for using an offensive slur (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund, additional design Archi Banal)

Invercargill’s mayor Nobby Clark will today propose a new process for the naming and renaming of civic buildings.

It includes a detail that approved names in te reo Māori should not be “metaphorical” or “denote something not relevant to the building or service provided”.

Clark has this week made headlines after appearing and speaking at an anti co-governance rally in this city. During his address, he said that while there was a place for both te reo and English, but the two shouldn’t mix. “I’m very much in favour of bilingual names [for buildings], but not one at expense of the other,” Clark said, as reported by the Otago Daily Times. “Where we’re heading at the moment is a slope in that respect.”

Other details of Clark’s proposal, which will be discussed at a council meeting later today, sound similar to a recent debate over bilingual road signs. Namely, Clark wants to see the English name of any building displayed first followed by te reo, “given the very small number of te reo speakers”.

The Bulletin: Chasing the vote

Within National’s own broad church over the years, prisons have been declared a moral and fiscal failure (by Bill English). The late Chester Borrows, the minister of courts under John Key’s government, went on to describe the “tough on crime” approach that originated out of New York in the 1980s and the subsequent police action as doing nothing but setting a new low.

National has also said it will reintroduce the three strikes law which was released in 2022. That is a clear nod to Act and its supporters. Writing this morning on National’s bids to stare down Act, Toby Manhire notes that given the factors currently working against the government, National will hoping for a larger gap to open up between them and Labour in the next round of polling. “If not,” he says “National could be left to rue becoming preoccupied in a grizzly tug-of-war with Act that not only fails to grow their aggregate vote, but actively alienates those in the middle.”

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 38,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

Acting PM teases details of multimillion-dollar university rescue package

(Image: Archi Banal)

The tertiary sector’s expected to get a multimillion-dollar bailout as universities face widespread job cuts and the loss of courses.

Yesterday, students protested the proposed cuts at Victoria University of Wellington as the university council met to discuss the findings of a recent review.

Jan Tinetti, the education minister, will make the announcement later today. It was reported last night that the funding would help tide universities over following a sharp drop in students, including international students, though finer details of the new package haven’t been confirmed.

Speaking to RNZ, the deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni denied this was an election year bribe. “It is important that the government is talking to the tertiary sector. Certainly this is not an election year thing, it is about supporting our universities and our tertiary sector,” Sepuloni said.

Asked for specifics around how much was being funelled into universities, Sepuloni said that would be announced later in the day. However, there was $521 million set aside for the tertiary sector in this year’s budget, she said.

Universities have already announced various course cuts in an attempt to save money, including teacher training. Sepuloni said not all universities need to offer all courses, however “we need teachers and so obviously we want to make sure the provision of courses to support people who become teachers are in place”.

Over on Newstalk ZB, the deputy prime minister said the cash injection was about showing support for the tertiary sector during a time of high inflation and growing cost of living. “But also when employment is high then people also make the decision to go and work,” she said. “This is about our future and making sure we have people with the right qualifications and skills to be able to lead our economy moving forward and so it’s incredibly crucial to make sure we support the sector.”