blog nov 24 upd2

SocietyNovember 23, 2020

Live updates, November 24: Reserve Bank governor responds to request to tackle house prices

blog nov 24 upd2

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 24. Reach me on

9.00pm: Resene shop closes, other sites of interest visited by Air NZ crew member revealed

Auckland Regional Public Health Service has announced further information about sites visited by the Air NZ crew  member who is under investigation in China for Covid-19 prior to departing on a flight to Shanghai. As well as Animates Manukau (see 1.05pm) on Saturday November 21 between 1:20 pm and 2:11 pm being asked to get tested and to stay in self-isolation until they receive a negative test result, there are a handful of other sites “considered to be very low risk to members of the public”, said the service in a press release.

The person visited Resene Mt Roskill from 11.45am-12.45pm on Friday November 20. As with Animates, the advice is as follows: “Staff should get a test and self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Shoppers should watch for symptoms. If symptoms develop, get a test and self–isolate.” Resene has announced that its Mt Roskill ColorShop will be closed for the next few days, and a deep clean carried out.

For the following sites, the advice is for staff and shoppers to watch for symptoms; should symptoms develop, get a test and self–isolate.

This includes a petrol station, two Auckland supermarkets and a pharmacy within a supermarket. Staff members in these stores at these times are being advised to watch for symptoms and to isolate at home and get tested if they develop them.

BP Connect 154 Coronation Rd, Mangere: Fri Nov 20, 9.28 am – 9.35 am

Countdown, Papatoetoe: Fri Nov 20, 2.45 pm – 2.51 pm,

New World, Papatoetoe: Fri Nov 20, 7.29 pm – 7.43 pm

Pharmacy at Countdown Greenlane: Sat Nov 21, 12.34 pm – 12.42 pm

7.15pm: The day in sum

The Ministry of Health is investigating how an Air New Zealand worker managed to contract Covid-19. The worker tested positive after arriving in China from New Zealand.

There were two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation.

Donald Trump appeared to concede the election, and the formal transition process for the Biden administration began.

The government asked the Reserve Bank to include house price stability in its considerations for setting monetary policy. In a letter of response, RBNZ governor Adrian Orr said the bank already took house prices into consideration.

For the first time since February, the Australian state of Victoria had no active cases of Covid-19. The state hasn’t had a new case since October.

Nurses at managed isolation hotels are having to work overtime or take on double shifts to fill gaps in the system, according to a report from RNZ.

5.15pm: St John Ambulance strike action called off

Strike action by ambulance officers planned for tomorrow and Saturday has been called off after St John Ambulance agreed to implement the findings of an independent pay review, FIRST Union has announced. Yesterday ambulance officers voted to strike, after a promise of time and a quarter on weekend and night shifts was not followed through on. The deal had been agreed last year and was supposed to go into effect on July 1.

Under the terms agreed today, St John has committed to implement the pay settlement in full, and its board has approved an increase to the ambulance service operating deficit by $1 million to cover the cost.

5.00pm: Reserve Bank governor responds to request to tackle house prices

Adrian Orr, the Reserve Bank governor, has responded to this afternoon’s request from finance minister Grant Robertson that the Reserve Bank change its remit to take into account house prices (see 2pm update).

“We will consider your suggestion of how the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) could further take into account house prices when formulating monetary policy, and will respond with considered feedback in due course,” wrote Orr in a letter addressed to Robertson published on the RBNZ website.

“I can assure you that the MPC, in making its decisions, gives consideration to the potential impact of monetary policy on asset prices, including house prices,” the letter continues. “These are important transmission channels that affect employment and inflation. Housing market related prices are also included in the Consumer Price Index, for example rents, rates, construction costs, and housing transaction costs.

Read Justin Giovannetti’s full report on today’s big news and the prospects for change

New podcast: Coming Home part two, available now

In part two of The Spinoff’s latest podcast Coming Home, hosts Duncan Greive and Jane Yee meet more recently returned New Zealanders and learn what factors drew them abroad and what life looked like in their new home countries.

Hear from Julia Arnott-Neenee who, after an afternoon of applying for jobs around the world, ultimately found herself as global lead social strategist for HP based out of San Diego. The hosts also talk to Polly Fryer, Netflix’s non-fiction production executive who is away from the company’s headquarters in Hollywood and instead working remotely from Auckland.

We’d love for you to check out this new series! Subscribe now on Apple PodcastsSpotify or wherever you usually listen to podcasts.

2.00pm: Government looks to change Reserve Bank’s remit as housing prices continue to soar

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from parliament:

Grant Robertson says the government is looking to reset its approach to the housing market, starting with the finance minister pondering a change to the Reserve Bank’s remit.

In a letter sent to Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr today, Robertson said the government is interested in adding house price stability to the basket of measures the Reserve Bank considers when it sets policy.

The Reserve Bank’s programme of slashing interest costs while flooding the country with money has made it easier for investors, and first time buyers, to enter the housing market.

The result has been a rapid increase in housing prices in recent months. Only last week Orr called high home prices a “first class problem” and didn’t express any concern about first time buyers being priced out of the market.

Speaking with reporters at the treasury, where the government’s new financial statements today showed that revenues are beating expectations while expenses are lower than projected only weeks ago, Robertson said the government is looking at how it can increase housing supply while cutting demand.

One thing he immediately ruled out was new taxes on homes or capital gains.

The rapid increase in housing costs, while it has helped New Zealand’s economy through a Covid-19 slump, endangers the long-term health of the economy, Robertson said.

Billions of dollars of new money in the economy isn’t going towards productive uses, like building new factories or buying better machines, but is instead propping up an already overheated property market.“

Housing price instability is harmful to our aims of reduce inequality and poverty,” wrote Robertson in his letter to Orr.

Over on The Kākā, Bernard Hickey said the government’s move presented some challenges. “The Reserve Bank was specifically using house price inflation and the wealth effect to loosen monetary policy, so this potentially removes that tool,” Hickey said.

“It will be hard to stimulate without it. This will make it difficult to further lower interest rates, given banks are currently not growing lending to businesses and prefer to lend extra against existing homes.”

Meanwhile, Stuff’s Henry Cooke noted that Jacinda Ardern rejected the possibility of writing to the Reserve Bank just a week before today’s announcement.

1.05pm: Case of Covid-positive Air New Zealand worker ‘under investigation’; two new cases in managed isolation

The Ministry of Health is investigating just how an Air New Zealand worker managed to contract Covid-19.

The worker tested positive upon arriving in China, but it’s possible they caught the coronavirus before leaving New Zealand.

In a statement, the ministry said they are following “public health protocols” as if the case were confirmed in the country, despite the worker remaining in China.

“As a result of our investigation to date, we have identified three close contacts in Auckland, all of whom are now in self-isolation,” the ministry said.

“Two additional people are being investigated as close contacts. Other staff on the flight will be initially assessed by Air New Zealand around their contact status.  ARPHS will be actively following up any close contacts when they are back in New Zealand.”

The ministry has also identified a location of interest – the Animates Manukau store. Anyone who visited the pet shop on Saturday November 21 between 1.22pm and 2.11pm is asked to get a test and a notification will be sent to relevant members of the public via the Covid Tracer App.

“People should note that the risk is deemed to be low and testing is being recommended as a precaution only,” the ministry said.

There were also brief visits to a number of other businesses and shops on November 20 and 21. Staff at most of these businesses are being advised to isolate at home and get tested if they develop symptoms, while the investigation continues.  Members of the public who may have been at these locations are not considered to be at risk.

Two new confirmed cases in managed isolation

Two recent returnees have tested positive for Covid-19 in managed isolation, the ministry has announced.

One person arrived on November 17 from India via the United Arab Emirates and tested positive around day three of their stay in managed isolation.

Another arrived on November 19 from the United States and also tested positive at around day three.

Both are now in the Auckland quarantine facility.

One previously confirmed case has now been reclassified as historical, the ministry said, meaning there are now 53 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,675.

Yesterday, 3,560 tests for Covid-19 were completed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,237,736.

12.40pm: Trump concedes, but still won’t admit defeat

The Trump administration has notified president-elect Joe Biden that the formal transition process can begin.

A letter from the General Services Administration head Emily Murphy released to media confirmed that Biden will be able to access the security briefings and transition funds normally made available to an incoming president soon after the election.

According to CNN, Biden will be able to get $6.3 million in federal resources and another $1 million “to provide appointee orientation sessions and a transition directory.”

In her letter, Murphy said that she came to this decision independently, and based on law and available facts.

“I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official – including those who work at the White House or GSA – with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” she wrote. “To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination.”

Despite this, in a tweet, Trump said he believed he would “prevail” and his case for a presidential victory will continue.

“Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Trump said.

Incoming Biden administration acknowledges start of transition

The director of the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris transition team has acknowledged the Trump administration’s concession.

In a statement, Yohannes Abraham said the decision by the Trump team is a “needed step” to begin tackling the challenges that the US is facing, including getting the Covid-19 pandemic under control.

“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies. In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”

12.10pm: Ardern speaks with French PM Macron

A day after her first phone call with US president-elect Joe Biden, Jacinda Ardern has spoken to another world leader.

French prime minister Emmanuel Macron tweeted to confirm he had talked with Ardern today, reaffirming his support for the Christchurch Call.

“We must work with our partner countries and civil society to bring the Christchurch Call to life. We must continue our fight against terrorism and violent extremism online,” Macron tweeted.

The Christchurch Call was a political summit held in France two months after the mosque attacks on March 15, aimed at ending the spread of hate speech on social media sites.

11.55am: Developer fined $80k for illegal, unsafe apartment building

Auckland Council has welcomed a court decision penalising a property developer for building unsafe apartment buildings.

John Liong Kiat Wong was fined $80,750 relating to four charges for illegally converting a Mount Eden warehouse into a building with offices, car parking and residential apartments.

The illegal building work was discovered in 2018 when a large concrete block fell from the top level of the converted building and onto neighbour’s roof, narrowly missing a skylight.

In a statement, Auckland’s mayor Phil Goff said the penalty reflected the serious nature of the offending and will send a strong message to anyone purposefully not meeting their obligations under the Building Act.

“Those who flout the rules in such a manner need to know that they will be caught and face of the consequences of their actions,” he said.

10.20am: Victoria’s last active Covid-19 patient recovers

The Australian state of Victoria has no active cases of Covid-19, after the last patient with the virus was discharged from hospital yesterday.

It’s the first time since February that Victoria’s hospitals were completely free of coronavirus cases.

The state hasn’t recorded a new infection since October, with yesterday marking the 24th consecutive day without a new case or death.

9.25am: New report calls for higher minimum wage

Alex Braae writes:

In a new report, the Helen Clark Foundation has put forward the case for a higher minimum wage, to provide a long-term boost to productivity and a more equitable society.

The report was produced in partnership with the NZ Institute of Economic Research, and is part of a series on New Zealand’s post-pandemic future.

NZIER Deputy Chief Executive Todd Krieble said questions around the minimum wage shouldn’t be defined by short-term outcomes.

“Backing people from the get-go with good wages is a form of ‘predistribution’ that means we can be less reliant on ‘tax and transfer’ to smooth out household incomes. This is important because inequality is a drag on growth and well-being.”

Krieble also argued against the commonly held belief that minimum wage rises caused higher unemployment, saying that ” is not well supported by the evidence. In any case it is a very short-term view if we want a fairer society.”

Helen Clark Foundation executive director Kathy Errington said there was a moral dimension to boosting the minimum wage, given what happened during the pandemic.

“Lockdown brought home to many of us that the essential workers who keep us alive are not paid at a level which recognises their value to society. Cleaners, supermarket workers and other essential workers need more than applause at 7pm – many of them urgently need more money.”

8.20am: Airbnb, Bachcare cancellation fees target of new Consumer NZ complaint

Consumer NZ wants court action against Airbnb and Bachcare for what it’s calling “unfair” cancellation terms. It’s lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission, after complaints about the two accommodation sites continued to rise following the Covid-19 lockdown in August.

Consumer NZ’s chief executive Jon Duffy said the booking sites’ heavy-handed policies had resulted in some customers being hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

“Consumers who had booked accommodation but couldn’t travel because of the lockdown told us they’d been denied a full refund. Even though they couldn’t use the accommodation, through no fault of their own, they were informed they wouldn’t get their money back. That’s plainly unfair,” Duffy said.

After reviewing the two sites’ cancellation policies, Consumer NZ believed they risk breaching the Fair Trading Act which bans unfair terms in consumer contracts.

Duffy said Airbnb allows hosts listing on its site to use cancellation policies that can result in customers losing 50 to 100% of the accommodation fee, despite giving reasonable notice they need to cancel. In contrast, if an Airbnb host wanted to cancel a booking, the most they could be charged by Airbnb was $145.

Bachcare’s standard terms were even harsher, he said. Its cancellation policy states the customer will lose all accommodation fees and the service fee, even if they cancel 60 days before the start of their stay.

In its complaint, Consumer NZ has asked the Commerce Commission to seek a court declaration that the cancellation terms are unfair.

7.50am: Nurse shortage at Auckland managed isolation hotels

Nurses helping to keep the community safe from Covid-19 are having to work overtime, or take on double shifts, to fill gaps in the system, according to RNZ.

Healthcare workers have also signed up to new employment terms, specifying that they cannot visit places where vulnerable people might be – such as hospitals or retirement villages – and cannot take up a second job.

Nurses Society director David Wills told RNZ the rules were sensible precautions for stopping the spread of Covid-19.

“People that have flatmates who work in healthcare facilities and other settings, or have vulnerable family members, those people have to move into hotels. They’re living in the hotels not for 14 days like the guests, but for nine months – the duration of the contract,” he said.

But the stricter rules meant there were fewer potential employees to fill the roles at MIQ facilities, said Wills.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

All things being equal, which US president would you enjoy a twenty minute conversation with more – Joe Biden or Donald Trump? PM Jacinda Ardern certainly seemed fairly cheerful at her post-cabinet press conference when discussing a call she had yesterday with president-elect Biden. Radio NZ reports they talked about a range of topics, including the Covid-19 response, climate change, and an invitation for Biden to come to New Zealand.

But there was a particular quote that highlighted why the Biden administration is so attractive to the New Zealand government: “We spoke about the importance of organisations like the World Trade Organisation to a country like New Zealand, the ambition we have to resolving those issues, the role we played to date and our eagerness to support work to unblock some of the issues we’ve experienced.” Trump was notorious for shunning international organisations, which New Zealand is heavily reliant on as a small country. As such, official congratulations from Ardern were offered – Axios reports a handful of countries (who largely seek to emulate Trump’s unilateralist approach) are still waiting on offering theirs.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Five Eyes intelligence group (which includes NZ and the US) has provoked anger from China. The NZ Herald reports the concerned missive over the undermining of democracy in Hong Kong was met with a rhetorically aggressive response, warning that those who “undermined China’s sovereignty” would risk having their eyes poked. Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Ardern said that New Zealand’s involvement in the statement was consistent with the government’s earlier approach. The government also had the backing of National’s (then) foreign affairs spokesperson Simon Bridges, reports Newshub. “We want to trade, we want a strong relationship – but there are these areas where our values are different, and we’re not going to be shy in telling these folk,” said Bridges.

And finally, on this general topic: New foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta has been profiled by the Financial Times, (paywalled, try googling it if blocked) and it’s an excellent piece of work that balances both insight into New Zealand politics, and translating that to the wider world. It also discussed how difficult Mahuta’s job will be, with a balancing act of her own to manage on the competition between superpowers.

7am: Yesterday’s key stories

Two new imported cases of Covid-19 were announced – but the location of origin for one of the two cases is still being determined.

An Air New Zealand worker has reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 in Shanghai. They tested negative last week while in New Zealand but tested positive in Shanghai as part of routine screening over the weekend.

The children’s commissioner is advocating for a “total transformation” of the current child welfare system, recommending a “by Māori for Māori” approach as part of a new report into Oranga Tamariki.

The government announced three additional projects to go through the RMA fast track process. All three are private projects located in Auckland, Huntly and Richmond.

The Green Party unveiled its portfolio reshuffle with co-leaders James Shaw in charge of climate change and Marama Davidson in charge of prevention of family and sexual violence, and housing.

Jacinda Ardern spoke with US president-elect Joe Biden in a phone call to discuss a range of topics including climate change, Covid-19 and trade.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates

Keep going!