PM Jacinda Ardern speaking in Parliament when the Families Package was passed (Radio NZ – Richard Tindiller)

The Bulletin: Are you entitled to more sweet government money?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. It is now the second half of the year. In today’s edition: Families package comes into effect, but meanwhile, so does the regional fuel tax. Plus, the NZ Defence Force is waging war against political graffiti.

From Sunday, the government’s Families Package took effect. Passed in the mini-Budget at the end of last year, the government has spent much of this year referring back to it when they’ve been questioned if they’ve delivered on any of their promises. But the actual money people get, such as seniors with the Winter Energy payment, or parents of newborns with the Best Start payment, will only now start materialising.

It was considered a big enough deal by the government for PM Jacinda Ardern to go live on facebook to talk about it. It’s the sort of policy that Ardern has always talked about wanting to do, and is arguably the high point to date of her career, in the area of actually doing something about child poverty.

The Winter Energy payment is being attacked though, primarily because it is universal rather than targeted. The ACT Party is one such critic, saying because many seniors are already doing perfectly well, it’s an exercise in throwing money around without assessing whether it will meet the objectives. National’s Amy Adams was also disappointed, telling Newshub the money should have been distributed as tax cuts. Newsroom’s Thomas Coughlan has gone through the details of the wider families package, including asking whether it will work. One conclusion is that it will be difficult to measure the outcomes.

And will anyone actually feel better off? As the costs of living increase, many of the people receiving extra support will see that money disappear into other areas. But for many that money could also be the difference between staying afloat or sinking. The government had to correct the number of families who would be lifted out of poverty – initially their estimate was far higher than the true number, and they’re still trying to figure out what it could be. Regardless, for many thousands of kids, this could be the difference.

And that’s where another big recent change comes in. Being eligible for something is only worthwhile if it actually gets claimed. MSD have announced that they will be making much more of an effort to publicise entitlements, so that people who are struggling know if there’s help available. They’ve also launched an online tool to guide people as to what they could be getting.


But on the other hand, the fuel tax is now on too, and has started to be noticed. Radio NZ’s 6am bulletin noted that some truck drivers were being directed to not fill up in Auckland to save money, and Newstalk ZB reported over the weekend that there were queues at petrol stations ahead of the new tax coming in.


This is a bizarre story about top brass silliness from Stuff, about the NZ Defence Force spending days figuring out how to get anti-SAS graffiti around Wellington removed. The discussions included former NZDF boss Lt. General Tim Keating’s chief of staff Chris Hoey, over graffiti that said the NZDF had “covered up war crimes.” Incidentally, those are the exact questions that were raised by Nicky Hager and John Stephenson’s book Hit and Run.

This paragraph of the story sums it all up best though. To quote:

“Only one staffer raises concerns, writing: “Dumb question, have we thought about the headline ‘NZDF attempts to stop free speech’ so is removal or attempted removal the organisation instruction?” Hoey wrote back: “Yes it is”.


A fascinating read over the weekend came from the NZ Herald’s Matt Nippert, who looked into the massive amount of government money that has gone to major global film companies. Since 2010, almost $600 million has been paid out, and in the last three years it has been $177 million – money that resulted in tax revenue back of around $127 million.

The story is part of a really strong series of pieces from Nippert. In this one, he writes about how filmmakers get tax bonuses for badly shoehorned references to New Zealand. And in this one, he writes about Sir Peter Jackson’s WW1 museum turning into an expensive headache for the government.

In a written response to the questions posed by the Herald, Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson had a question of his own. To quote: “You seem to be asking whether New Zealand needs incentives. In my mind it’s very simple: Does New Zealand want to have a film industry?” The wider point being made by everyone in the industry was that these sorts of subsidies, grants and tax credits were just the cost of doing business with major film studios.

So, do we want to have a film industry? I feel like this is a question that doesn’t actually get asked all that often, it’s just taken as read that we do. But I’m interested in your thoughts, email me at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz.


Nurses have called off the first of two strikes, after an improved offer from the DHB. Newshub reports that they’ll now consider the offer, before voting begins on Tuesday. The second strike, on July 12, is still on.


Dozens of school principals have put their names to ads attacking education minister Chris Hipkins’ NCEA review, reports Newshub. One of the major problems appears to be that Hipkins hasn’t really consulted with principals on the changes, and that they’re being rushed through. Hipkins told Radio NZ he was disappointed to see the public letter, and said he had discussed the review with several of the signatories.


Here’s a good thing to bookmark and save for later. Stuff have created a tracker which measures how the government is going on its Kiwibuild promises. It’s not quite as simple as building 10,000 houses a year – a lead-in time was built into the plans, which the tracker measures. The first deadline they need to hit is 1000 houses by the end of this financial year, so July 1. If they don’t reach that, alarm bells will ring.


The NZ Herald has apologised for putting neighbourhood ethnicity data in property listings on the real estate platform OneRoof. The data was included as a ‘one fact,’ on a few property listings, for example one in Kerikeri which noted that the area was 71% European. The Herald took the blame for the inclusion, saying it wasn’t a requested or suggested by the real estate company Bayleys.


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Right now on The Spinoff: It’s over. It’s finally over. Sam Brooks has finally made it to the end of Dancing with the Stars. Please make this ordeal worthwhile for him and read his final review. Toby Morris has put out yet another thought-provoking masterpiece for Side Eye – today he’s looking at the failure of tough on crime policies. And Don Rowe met a wealthy advertiser who has taken on the project of updating the public image of cannabis.


This is a deliciously interesting feature about a reputation management company becoming the story, from the New Yorker. It covers the downfall of PR company Bell Pottinger, who took on a contract for controversial funded by the Gupta family in South African, who until recently had the ear of ousted South African President Jacob Zuma. Bell Pottinger’s campaign involved covertly using the rhetoric of emancipation to attack the Gupta’s opponents. When it was revealed, they crumbled.

The whole story covers the history of Bell Pottinger, and the dubious company they kept. Here’s an extract:

“In the summer of 2011, Bell Pottinger executives received an inquiry from a potential client, the Azimov Group, which described itself as an international team of investors in the cotton trade who had links to the government of Uzbekistan. The inquiry should have raised concerns. Uzbekistan’s cotton industry was reported to be reliant on government-enforced child labor.

The country’s leader, Islam Karimov, was a de-facto dictator, and his security services had been accused of manifold abuses, including the torture of political opponents. In 2002, there were credible reports that two dissidents had been boiled alive.

A Bell Pottinger executive quickly replied to the Azimov Group, saying that some of his colleagues would be “delighted to talk to you about how we might best support your enterprise.”


The Tall Blacks are looking good for the 2019 Basketball World Cup, even if they get there by winning ugly, reports the NZ Herald. The Tall Blacks beat China over the weekend, to top their qualifying group ahead of the next stage. They should – should being the operative word there – make it through that second round in September.

Football World Cup results and spoilers

The World Cup has been an absolute bonfire of teams with title-winning ambitions so far. In the space of a weekend, three legitimate contenders have been sent home. Lionel Messi and Argentina? Gone. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal? Gone. Andres Iniesta and Spain? Now gone too, as a result of losing to hosts Russia 4-3 on penalties.

If you’ve got any of France, Brazil or Uruguay in the work sweepstake, you could be in with a good chance of running off with the biscuits. But they’re also all on the same side of the draw, and will also have Belgium to worry about. On paper, England now have the easiest possible progression to the final that they could have hoped for – they could face Colombia, Sweden and Croatia to get there. On the other hand, England have an appalling record at penalty shootouts, and odds are they’ll have to go through at least one.


From our partners, Vector’s Beth Johnson writes that one of the best reasons for lighting up the Auckland Harbour Bridge, is that it makes diversity impossible to ignore.


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