blog april 28

Live UpdatesApr 28 2022

Can Costco’s arrival bring petrol prices down?

It’s Thursday April 28, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Petrol prices in the area near New Zealand’s first Costco fuel station have dropped overnight.
  • The seven-day rolling average of new community Covid-19 cases remains similar to a week ago, as concerns mount around a possible new wave of omicron. There have been 13 more deaths linked to our Covid outbreak, with 484 now in hospital.
  • The group behind a successful legal challenge of the MIQ system has celebrated the ruling. Now, it wants an apology. Read analysis from Andrew Geddis here.
  • The government’s unlocking further funding from its Housing Acceleration Fund, investing $1.4 billion across five Auckland suburbs.
  • The so-called “bank of mum and dad” is the fifth biggest lender in New Zealand, according to research released by Consumer NZ.
blog april 28

Can Costco’s arrival bring petrol prices down?

It’s Thursday April 28, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Petrol prices in the area near New Zealand’s first Costco fuel station have dropped overnight.
  • The seven-day rolling average of new community Covid-19 cases remains similar to a week ago, as concerns mount around a possible new wave of omicron. There have been 13 more deaths linked to our Covid outbreak, with 484 now in hospital.
  • The group behind a successful legal challenge of the MIQ system has celebrated the ruling. Now, it wants an apology. Read analysis from Andrew Geddis here.
  • The government’s unlocking further funding from its Housing Acceleration Fund, investing $1.4 billion across five Auckland suburbs.
  • The so-called “bank of mum and dad” is the fifth biggest lender in New Zealand, according to research released by Consumer NZ.
Apr 28 2022

Rotorua District Council to ‘pause’ controversial electoral bill

A bill that proposed to change electoral rules for the Rotorua district to allow specialist Māori seats on council has been paused after an attorney general report said it could be discriminatory.

The Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, which passed its first reading in parliament, would allow for three general seats and three Māori seats, plus four “at large” seats. It was at select committee stage but a report from the attorney general, released last Friday, said, “The proposed representation arrangement would make the number of council members for the Māori ward disproportionately higher than the number of council members for the general ward, in comparison to their respective populations. This discriminates against electors who are on the general roll (and, as outlined above, those who are non-Māori and cannot change rolls in future).”

This afternoon Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick announced the council would seek a pause on the process of the Māori Affairs Committee considering the bill. In a statement, she said the pause would “allow council officers to work with legal advisers, parliamentary and government advisers, on strengthening the policy work of the local bill”.

“The pause enables everyone to get the discussion around the bill right,” said Chadwick in a statement. “Rotorua is seeking a local bill for election arrangements here because we have moved on from what the Local Electoral Act provides for our community. We want all our votes to count towards representatives at our council table.”

Labour MP Tāmati Coffey, who sponsored the bill, said he supported the council’s decision. “I will be seeking the support from the Maori Affairs Committee to suspend submission hearings while possible amendments are being considered.

“As is standard with a local bill, which I was sponsoring on behalf of the Rotorua District/Lakes Council, a Bill of Rights analysis is not undertaken until the Bill appears at select committee, as opposed to all other bills where it occurs before the first reading.

“Once receiving the advice from the attorney general, it was clear that more information was needed, and a suspension will now be undertaken to respond to the attorney general’s Bill of Rights analysis and consider other concerns this bill raises.

“Labour would not have supported the bill further in its current form. The pause allows for the council to work through the options and decide whether the bill could continue in an amended form.”

West Auckland fuel prices drop after Costco petrol station opens

Petrol prices in the area near New Zealand’s first Costco store have dropped overnight after the American big box retailer opened its service station.

While the actual Westgate store isn’t set to open until late August, the chain’s massive 27-pump self-service petrol station officially opened to customers yesterday. You must be a Costco member to buy petrol.

Upon opening, the price for 91 petrol was $2.50 per litre at Costco – far cheaper than nearby competitors, like Pak’nSave, that were selling 91 for at least $2.69. Overnight, however, prices in the area dropped. Pak’nSave is today selling 91 for $2.57 – prompting Costco to drop its prices even further. When The Spinoff visited this afternoon you could get a litre of 91 for $2.46.

That’s almost 40 cents cheaper than the current price of petrol in the suburb of Ellerslie on the other side of Auckland.

Costco fuel has opened in Westgate (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

A Costco fuel worker told The Spinoff that today had been “very busy” with a constant stream of cars arriving at the petrol station. “Some people have turned up and been disappointed that it’s members only,” he said, adding that people could sign up for a membership on site but would need to come back at a later date to collect their physical membership card.

The staff member confirmed prices at the Costco station had dropped overnight to ensure they were still the cheapest in the area. “That’s the name of the game,” he said. “Costco tries to match prices in a five to eight kilometre radius.”

Currently, the only place to get your Costco membership card is at a temporary office a little further up the street from the petrol station. Despite the Costco store not opening for several months, there was a queue of over 60 people waiting outside the office when The Spinoff walked past. And it wasn’t moving fast.

The long Costco queue (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Number of Foo Fighters refunds ‘unprecedented’ – Ticketmaster

Ticketmaster says it has been working hard to process an “unprecedented amount of refunds” for the cancelled Foo Fighters tour of New Zealand.

Originally scheduled for late this year, the tour was canned after the death of Foo Fighters band member Taylor Hawkins.

But almost a month after the gigs were called off, Foos fans – like The Spinoff’s Chris Schulz – are still waiting to get their tickets refunded.

In a new statement, Ticketmaster has asked fans to bear with them while they continue the process of refunding ticket buyers. “We have investigated the issue and found that funds due to be processed during this period were held by our payment provider,” it said of refunds promised between April 4 and 9.

“They have confirmed today that they are processing the refunds again, and this may take up to 2-3 days.”

Ticketmaster said it had “stressed the urgency of these funds” to the payment provider and “sincerely apologised” for any inconvenience.

Long-awaited Avatar sequel gets an official title

I don’t want to jinx it but… we’re meant to be getting the first sequel to James Cameron’s Avatar later this year.

After several production and Covid-related delays, the sequel – now officially subtitled The Way of Water – is set for a December release. That’s 12 years after the groundbreaking original first hit theatres. The Way of Water is the first of four (yes, four) sequels, which were largely filmed and produced here in New Zealand.

The first trailer for Avatar 2 has debuted exclusively at CinemaCon but is expected to arrive online from next week. Cameron beamed in from Wellington to announce the trailer and said: “I wanted our return to Pandora to be something really special. Every shot is designed for the biggest screen, highest resolution and most immersive 3D available. I think we pulled it off.”

Alongside the title and news of official footage, a synopsis for the sequel has also arrived. “Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.”

Oh, and before you DM me to say you’re not excited about Avatar 2? Just admit that you kind of are.

Covid-19 latest: 13 deaths, 484 now in hospital, 9,047 new cases

The seven-day rolling average of new community Covid-19 cases remains similar to a week ago, as concerns mount around a possible new wave of omicron. The current rolling average is 7,705 – similar to last Thursday, when it was 7,935.

There are 9,047 new community cases being reported today.

In Auckland, for example, case numbers appear to be on the rise. There are 2,519 new cases in the super city today compared with 2,037 on April 23. Today’s daily case total is higher than any other day this month (apart from April 16, the day after Good Friday, which included two days’ worth of Covid cases).

Another 13 people with Covid-19 have died, the Ministry of Health has announced. It includes 11 people who died over the previous nine days and two deaths on April 4. “These deaths take the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 723 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 13,” said the ministry.

Of the deaths being reported today, two people were from the Auckland region, three from Bay of Plenty, two from Waikato, one from Taranaki, one from MidCentral, one from Hawke’s Bay, and three from Canterbury.

Two were in their 50s, two in their 60s, one in their 70s, three in their 80s, and five were over 90. Five were women and eight were men.

There are now 484 people in hospital with Covid-19 and 15 in intensive care. While case numbers appear to be trending up, hospitalisation numbers remain on the down. However, hospitalisations – like deaths – often lag behind a growth in cases.

Amazon-esque online retailer launches in NZ

An online retailer promising free overnight shipping on products like coffee machines, whiteware and furniture has launched in New Zealand.

Called Andoo, the shop specialises in large furniture and home appliances. According to the Herald, the store has a 6,500 square metre warehouse in Auckland and has plans to expand its business into the South Island.

It launched here and across the ditch earlier this month as an online extension of Australian retail brand Winning Group.

“No one is doing a next-day delivery service [in NZ] like we do,” said Andoo’s New Zealand manager Troy Tindall. “No one has a 24/7 customer support service and no one is taking away for free old items. We saw there was a gap in the market over here and it’s great to be able to feel that gap.”

At a first glance, Andoo seems to be modelling itself on Amazon – the global retail giant that has a surprisingly limited presence here in New Zealand. Along with the focus on quick and free shipping and a wide range of stock, the two outlets share… some similarities in their logo.

NewFish: Creating sustainable kaimoana with algae and pāua

Business Is Boring, in proud partnership with Spark Lab: NewFish founder and GM Hamish Howard wants to create seafood products that don’t harm the planet, without compromising on taste. He has big aspirations to reimagine New Zealand’s seafood industry and change food production systems for the better.

Last week, Howard joined Simon Pound on Business is Boring to talk about his journey to business owner, and the first NewFish product: pāua saucisson.

Follow Business is Boring on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Judgment due in Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei court case

After 11 weeks of hearings last year in the Auckland High Court, the judgment for the case Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei v Attorney-General will be made orally this morning by Justice Palmer.

The case is part of a seven-year legal battle by the iwi to assert its exclusive legal rights as mana whenua. Central to the case is a challenge to the Crown’s proposal to offer land parcels within Auckland central to the Hauraki-Marutūahu Collective redress. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei say they already have ahikā in these areas.

It’s likely that whatever the decision is, it will be appealed by either side.

Foo Fighters fans still waiting for NZ show refunds

It’s almost been a month since the Foo Fighters tour of New Zealand was cancelled following the tragic death of band member Taylor Hawkins.

Refunds were promised weeks ago, but fans are still waiting to get their money back. Ahead of the long Anzac Weekend, Ticketmaster apologised for the lengthy delay and promised money would be in bank accounts this week. But, come today, that money has still not appeared.

Foos fan Chris Schulz, who is waiting on his refund, writes:

Fans are still raging on Facebook, requesting updates, comments, or any kind of communication. “What’s happening?” asked one. It’s a great question, one Ticketmaster won’t answer: I’ve tried contacting them for comment, and they haven’t responded.

Clearly, this is not OK. If Ticketmaster can set up tech systems to sell huge quantities of tickets and take large amounts of money in a very short space of time, they should also be able to set up a quick and easy process to return that money. Surely, after the past two years of postponements and cancellations, that’s something that should have been sorted.

We’re now approaching a full month. That is some bullshit.

Read Chris’ full piece here

Ticketmaster
Nearly four weeks on, Foo Fighters fans are still waiting on refunds for the cancelled show. Image: Toby Morris

Check your passport now

The backlog in issuing New Zealand passports is at its greatest level since 1992, with the process taking as much as three times longer than usual. That’s that the message from Maria Robertson from the Department of Internal Affairs, who told RNZ’s Nine to Noon this morning that a surge in demand as borders reopen, combined with a depleted workforce and courier delays meant that “people should allow five to six weeks, and we should be within that”.

Application rates had “bounced rapidly”, adding pressure on a staff that had been reduced by as much as 40% owing to omicron illness and isolation requirements. “When you’re a production organisation like ours that has a massive impact on your ability to serve customers,” she said.

About half a million New Zealand passports have expired across the course of the pandemic. Robertson reminded would-be travellers that many countries required at least six months validity on a passport for entry.

$1.4b housing spend announced for five Auckland suburbs

The government’s unlocking further funding from its Housing Acceleration Fund, investing $1.4 billion across five Auckland suburbs.

Around 400 urban renewal projects in Mount Roskill, Māngere, Tāmaki, Oranga and Northcote will receive the funding, housing minister Megan Woods announced this morning.

“The large scale projects under way in these suburbs are a first of their kind in New Zealand, replacing aged public housing that has reached the end of its life, and creating opportunities for new public, market and affordable housing to be built,” Woods said.

The cash injection will will develop “build-ready land”, said Woods, to enable up to 16,000 homes in the suburbs over the next five to sixteen years. “This work will allow for the replacement of around 4,000 Kāinga Ora homes past their use-by date, 2,000 additional Kāinga Ora homes, as well as 10,000 additional affordable and market homes to be built and available for purchase.”

Capacity will also be created for an extra 11,000 homes on surrounding privately owned land. “Revitalising these suburbs through this investment has so many benefits,” Woods said. “Creating capacity for new homes, employment opportunities, improved water assets and a lot of potential for emissions reduction with the suburbs already being well served by public transport options.”

Today’s announcement was made near the Mount Roskill site where work currently includes land decontamination and an upgrade of water infrastructure. Approximately 5,400 homes will be built in the suburb, the most of the five suburbs named today.

Group behind MIQ legal challenge welcomes result, calls for apology

The group behind a legal challenge of managed isolation has celebrated a court ruling that supported their argument.

The High Court yesterday ruled that the managed isolation lottery was an “unjustified limit” on the right of New Zealand citizens to enter the country. While it defended the need for some sort of MIQ system, it agreed the need for a voucher was “flawed”.

Grounded Kiwis said it was “thrilled” by the result. “It’s an emotional day for those who were affected: while welcoming this acknowledgment, it doesn’t erase the pain,” said the group in a statement posted to social media. “Nothing makes up for the trauma of missing the opportunity to say goodbye to a dying loved one, being separated from young children for months.”

The group’s London-based spokesperson Alexandra Birt told RNZ this morning she had stayed up all night to hear the ruling. “To have recognition that the MIQ lottery was not justified, and was a flawed system that breached the rights of New Zealand citizens overseas, was obviously a huge decision, and very emotional,” she said.

An apology from the government was owed to New Zealanders abroad who had not been able to make it home through the lottery system. “This whole time what we’ve been seeking is some recognition from the government that the way the system operated did impact on people and was not a justified system,” she said.

“We’ve had that recognition now from the courts, and we’d hope that the government would stand by that and say ‘yes, we could have done better’.”

At this stage, the group would not be seeking compensation.

In a statement released yesterday, the Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins defended MIQ as “the least worst option to help keep Covid-19 from entering and spreading in New Zealand”.

Read more: Andrew Geddis on what the MIQ ruling actually means

150 experts say we can’t just rely on Covid-19 vaccination rates

The group, which includes Michael Baker and Rod Jackson, has written an open letter to the government urging them to do more to protect New Zealanders from the virus, especially over winter. They’ve proposed a “Vaccines Plus” strategy which advocates for good public health measures, as well as vaccination. They’re asking for mask mandates and better ventilation in schools and indoor public spaces, and want the government to help supply N95-type masks to the public. It’s a position supported by the Director General of the World Health Organisation, who’s said: I need to be very clear: vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis.”

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.

Parents are the fifth largest lender for home loans in NZ

New research has revealed how many parents are helping to get their kids on the property ladder. The so-called “bank of mum and dad” is the fifth biggest lender in New Zealand, according to research released by Consumer NZ.

Parents have doled out $22.6 billion for home loans, placing them above Kiwibank which has lent around $16 billion. The four biggest lenders were ANZ, ASB, Westpac and BNZ banks.

According to the Consumer study, 14% of families – or 208,638 parents – have supported their children to buy a house, with around half of these helping to fund a deposit. On average, they contributed $108,000.

Three out of five parents don’t expect to be repaid.

(Consumer NZ)

“We’ve reached a point in New Zealand where it’s no longer enough to do all ‘the right things’ to buy your first home – to get a job with a good income, save furiously and cut back on the ‘nice to haves’,” said Gemma Rasmussen, Consumer NZ’s head of campaigns and communications. “The role of the Bank of Mum and Dad is more pivotal in the first home buying process, but it also means that we’re seeing a greater social divide of who gets to buy a first home and who does not.

The median house price in New Zealand sits at around $890,000, which is 15 times the average income of $56,836. Back in 2002, the average house price was $186,000 – six times the average income of $29,432 per year.

“The overwhelming majority of parents (87%) either offered to or were happy to help get their children on the property ladder,” Rasmussen added. “There is recognition that a first home purchase isn’t as straightforward as it was 20 years ago, which is why many parents are so willing to help.”

Consumer’s research found that over half of New Zealanders who currently don’t own a home consider themselves “locked out”, largely due to the “shifting goalpost” for a deposit. “You’re saving, and then overnight the property price jumps up tens of thousands of dollars,” Rasmussen explained.

Tina Tiller