National rent prices remain at record high

It’s Wednesday September 28 and welcome along to The Spinoff’s live updates, made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The agenda

  • The national median weekly rent has remained at the record high of $580 a week for the second month in a row.
  • New Zealand’s first Costco store opened its doors this morning. I got up early to check it out.
  • Salvation Army: Housing ‘catastrophe’ sits at heart of local community challenges.

National rent prices remain at record high

It’s Wednesday September 28 and welcome along to The Spinoff’s live updates, made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The agenda

  • The national median weekly rent has remained at the record high of $580 a week for the second month in a row.
  • New Zealand’s first Costco store opened its doors this morning. I got up early to check it out.
  • Salvation Army: Housing ‘catastrophe’ sits at heart of local community challenges.
Sep 28 2022

Surge in Christchurch council election votes

Voters will be using  Single Transferable Voting and Māori wards for the first time (Image: Tina Tiller)

Is a surge overstating it? Perhaps. But with turnout looking grim this morning, the news is encouraging from Christchurch, where the vote tally for the day, which has just been updated, is running higher now (16.5%) than at the same point in 2019 (13.5%), and is heading north.

Less to cheer about in Wellington, where the latest tally is a round 7%, against 8.2% in 2019.

Some other key races:

Invercargill has 18.3% today (21.3% at the same point in 2019).

Queenstown Lakes: 9.1% (15.5%).

Dunedin: 11.5% (13.5%).

Nelson: 13.6% (16.9%).

Hutt City: 5% (12.5%)

Rotorua: 10.2% (13%).

The latest on Auckland is here.

Listen: The best song about renting in Wellington


From great struggle comes great triumph, and what a triumph this song is from Wellington band DARTZ. Titled “40 Riddiford Street”, presumably a residence known to the band’s members, this song beautifully captures the essence of renting in Wellington. Here’s the first verse:

Grab your friends, we’re about to get fleeced
Let’s sign away our rights on a six-month lease
just to be holed up in this decrepit building
that came with a sign reading “earthquake warning”

She takes half my pay every week
That stone-cold bitch, 40 Riddiford Street
The walls once white but now they are black
There’s spores in my lungs and mould on my slacks

Call it a Wednesday poem or the song of a generation, it’s certainly our Rent Week 2022 theme song.

Auckland election vote tally leaps past 100k


After the dismal news this morning about turnout to date in Auckland and in local body elections around the country, things are looking up. Auckland returning officers report having received 39,300 votes today, via post and Vote Boxes around the city, bringing the running count  to 100,225 ballots, or 8.8% of eligible voters.

It's still below the same point three years ago, when that sat at 11.3%, but offers hope that last year's final turnout might be in sight. It's a low bar: the 2019 figure in Auckland was 35.3%. For more on the turnout tally and the reasons it might be sluggish, see here.

Gone By Lunchtime huddles around the poll campfire

In a fresh new episode of Gone By Lunchtime recorded today, Ben Thomas, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Toby Manhire huddle around the new TVNZ/Kantar numbers to warm their frostbitten fingers. What does it mean for the year to election day, who will be happiest, and, for the first time ever in political punditry they ask: Can Winston Peters be written off? Plus: Is Christopher Luxon onto a winner on tax attack, was the Sam Uffindell report sufficiently transparent, and is the Public Service Commissioner’s investigation into potential Nanaia Mahuta conflicts necessary – or even overdue?

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

Image of the Day: Mould me closer, tiny dancer

Just a lovely pair of mouldy birks (Photo: Supplied)

Look, I know this isn’t pleasant to look at, but it’s not called “most beautiful image of the day” is it?

Just a lovely pair of mouldy birks (Photo: Supplied)

Here’s the second of our Rent Week user-submitted photos, this time from Vicky who says: “This is after a single week of not being there. I hope this brings a call to action for rental WOFs or student subsidised housing because I brought this to the landlord and he told me to open my windows more often. I am a third year uni student trying to survive without sickness and it’s almost impossible in Auckland.”

Dear landlord: how are you supposed to open your windows when you’re not home?

Date announced for 2023 census

Wellington city (Photo: MARTY MELVILLE/AFP)

New Zealand’s next census will be held on Tuesday, March 7 next year, Stats NZ has confirmed.

It follows the 2018 digital census which attracted controversy after the lowest turn out in 50 years.

In a statement, Stats NZ said it had taken on board the lessons of 2018 and the next census was being designed specifically to enable people to participate in the way that works for them.

“The 2023 census will be the most inclusive census yet. People will have more choice about how they participate, either online or on paper. We will have significantly more paper forms available than for the previous census and will make these forms available earlier,” said government statistician and chief executive of Stats NZ, Mark Sowden.

“In the 2023 census, there will be close to double the number of census collectors on the ground compared with 2018 to ensure people have what they need to take part. This will include help online, at your doorstep, or in your home for those who need the most support.”

Sowden said the information collected in the census was “invaluable” and would help communities, iwi, councils and the government make important decisions.

Auckland’s Chief Post Office facade finally restored

Photo: Supplied

The scaffolding and construction shrink wrap have disappeared around Auckland’s Chief Post Office (CPO) as the heritage building’s facade is unveiled to the public after six years of construction and restoration work.

The 110-year-old building, which houses Britomart rail station, has received a facelift following four-and-a-half years of work to convert the terminal into a through station as part of the multibillion-dollar City Rail Link project. The CPO’s ground floor reopened in April 2021 as the transport centre’s main entrance.

“The restored CPO celebrates Auckland’s history and heritage and contributes to our increasingly vibrant and people-friendly downtown. It will be enjoyed by Aucklanders and visitors to the city alike,” said Auckland mayor Phil Goff, onsite to celebrate the unveiling of the building’s original, refurbished clock in one of his last public appearances as the city’s top local official.

Auckland Transport chief engineer Murray Burt said the restoration work would preserve the “heritage icon” for years to come.

The building’s original steel framed windows were repaired and refurbished, the Oamaru stone facade was restored and cleaned, all external feature lighting was replaced and new waterproofing membranes were installed. Forest and Bird-approved measures were also fitted to stop birds from nesting. “We’re excited to be able to showcase the beautiful CPO building once again and give a real sense of place to the fantastic Te Komititanga plaza.”

Photo: Supplied

Hooray! Rents holding steady at record high

Design: Archi Banal

The national median weekly rent has remained at the record high of $580 a week for the second month in a row, according to Trade Me’s latest Rental Price Index.

That magical number of $580 was first reached in April, then fell for a few months and now is back, baby.

Records were either broken or matched in Canterbury ($520) and Manawatū/Whanganui ($510).

Some regions like Tasman and Wellington actually enjoyed decreases month-on-month but compared to August 2021, the national median weekly rent has increased 5%.

“Going into the next few months, we would usually expect to see rental market activity pick up during the warmer period,” said Trade Me property sales director Gavin Lloyd. “Given the activity we have seen over the past few months, it will be interesting to see whether this Summer rents remain stagnant, or if they head north again.”

Somewhat surprisingly, the rent increases are happening alongside a massive growth in available rentals on the market, which jumped by 37% last month (though there was a lockdown this time last year which affects stats).

Read more Rent Week coverage on The Spinoff here.

Watch: Remember to vote in the local elections

Hopefully you’re aware by now that it’s local body election season (we have a bunch of content on The Spinoff right this very moment).

And you should also by now have been sent your voting papers. Want a refresher on how to vote? José Barbosa is back to help you.

View post on TikTok

Want more help? Check out now!

The Bulletin: New Zealand adds ​​Putin-backed Chechen leader to sanctions regime

Foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta announced yesterday that 19 individuals linked to Russian president Vladimir Putin have been added to New Zealand’s sanctions regime over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The list includes Ramzan Kadyrov—the controversial Putin-backed Chechen leader accused of numerous human rights violations over his 15 years in office. Kadyrov appeared to say he was resigning in early September. Forbes has this brief background on him.

Overnight, reports of explosions being heard near the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines have come in. Sweden is launching an investigation into possible sabotage of the pipes which are now leaking gas into the Baltic Sea.

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.  

Doors open early at NZ’s first Costco

The Costco checkouts (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Doors at New Zealand’s first Costco store were set to open at 8am – but by 7.15am the massive warehouse was filled with keen shoppers.

The Spinoff was among those first in the door to the Westgate store, joining a queue of dozens including some who had waited through the night.

According to 1News, the store opened early for safety reasons. “If we let everyone in at once it’s absolute carnage,” an employee said.

Inside, there was a somewhat frenzied atmosphere with shoppers seen filling their trolleys high with goods. One shopper told The Spinoff she was there for a spot of early Christmas shopping, while another was more keen on clothes. Bulk food items were also in high demand.

The Costco checkouts (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The iconic Costco food court was also open for business, with the best deal being a $1.99 hotdog and refillable soda combo. I can exclusively confirm it’s really, really good.

Salvation Army: Housing ‘catastrophe’ sits at heart of local community challenges

Photo: Getty Images

Unaffordable rents, unavailable social housing, increasingly visible homelessness and the “pipe dream” of homeownership – a housing “catastrophe” sits at the core of many challenges local communities are facing in Aotearoa, concludes the Salvation Army.

The church’s “State of our Communities” report – its fifth since 2017 – has focused on life in the Auckland suburbs of Royal Oak and Westgate, Wellington’s Petone and Blenheim, the largest urban centre in Marlborough.

Salvation Army social policy analyst and advocate Ana Ika said the housing catastrophe was at the heart of many issues that nearly 500 residents and 15 community leaders were experiencing. “Home ownership is a pipe dream, rental property is unaffordable, social housing is unavailable and homelessness is more visible in these communities.”

Locals living in the burgeoning “commercial mecca” of Westgate hoped the rapid and inevitable housing intensification, which has seen building consents rise by 400% in the last decade, would cease so the community could “recuperate”. In stark contrast, Blenheim locals wanted the opposite as a shortage of houses has made renting a “cut-throat” process. Other issues besetting communities were rising living costs, increasing levels of crime and inadequate healthcare services.

Residents weren’t without solutions, including community gardens to alleviate swelling food costs and further investment in young people’s wellbeing and education. Ika said it was vital their challenges were shared to ensure they weren’t normalised and that communities and local and central government worked together to address them.

The full report can be found here.