(File photo/Radio NZ)
(File photo/Radio NZ)

The BulletinAugust 2, 2018

The Bulletin: In this economy?

(File photo/Radio NZ)
(File photo/Radio NZ)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Slight rise in unemployment sparks concern, leading construction firm collapses amid building boom, and calls for more serious kauri measures. 

Both unemployment and underutilisation have ticked up slightly in the latest Stats NZ quarterly survey. The seasonally adjusted rise is marginal in both categories, but the unemployment rate remains close to the 9 year low seen in the last quarter. That the unemployment rate rose at all was a surprise to some economists, reports the NBR, who had expected it to remain steady.

However there’s good news for people who are working, because wage inflation has also jumped, reports Interest. It’s up 0.5% for the quarter and just under 2% over the year, largely on the back of a minimum wage rise, and pay equity settlements. Overall 17% of those surveyed saw their pay go up over the quarter. Because of these factors, it stands to reason that many of the people with higher incomes will be at the lower-paid end of the market.

There is also serious economic unease in Christchurch, where businesses in the central city are being forced to close their doors, reports Radio NZ. Cheesemaker Sarah Aspinwell described it as a “bizarre” economic climate for the city, and the stats back that up – both population and economic activity in the centre city are still well down on pre-quake levels.

What does it all mean for the wider economy? Newshub have reported a fascinating set of comments from ANZ’s Cameron Bagrie, who said that while low business confidence wasn’t a useful measurement for economic outlook, the economy as a whole was slowing. He was concerned about other factors though, like “employment, investment, and firms’ own activity expectations,” which weren’t looking great either.

One outcome of it all could be a cut to cut the official cash rate next week, reports Newsroom. Because the Reserve Bank now has a mandate to maximise employment, a move like that could act as a stimulus.

Leading building firm Ebert Construction has gone into receivership, and workers have been locked out of building sites, reports Radio NZ. The workers are currently trying to get their tools which were on building sites, and were told it could be up to a week before they get them back. On Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald property editor Anne Gibson said it was a disaster for the building industry, as they were in the middle of multiple projects, including the acute mental health unit at Middlemore Hospital.

The founder of the firm, Dennis Ebert, told Stuff that he was sad to see it happen. Mr Ebert hasn’t had any involvement with the firm over the past few years. The company’s losses have been assessed by the receiver as being in the tens of millions, and according to some reports are up to $40 million.

Why did Ebert go down when there is so much construction going on? Stuff reports warnings from industry experts, who say that firms are taking on projects where the profit margins are too thin to allow for anything to go wrong, or for costs to rise. It’s similar to what happened to Fletcher’s Building and Interiors unit over the last few years, which incurred heavy losses after winning bids for major projects like the Christchurch Justice Precinct and SkyCity Convention Centre.

Forest and Bird is calling for all kauri forests to be closed to the public, to fight the spread of kauri dieback, reports the NZ Herald. The tree disease can be spread by walkers, and Forest and Bird has taken a lead on the issue by closing all seven of their reserves with kauri in them to the public. They say MPI’s leadership on the issue has been “dire and slow.”

Union leader Mike Treen has been released after being detained by Israel, reports Newshub. The union says he was tasered repeatedly, after being arrested as part of an aid flotilla attempting to get medical supplies to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of people in Auckland will need to be tested to see if they’ve picked up a superbug at Middlemore hospital, reports Stuff. The bug is a carbapenem-resistant organism – and it can resist the antibiotics that kill other antibiotic resistant bugs. And what’s worse is that the number of CRO cases this year is already the highest annual tally, and it’s August. Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles says it’s the beginning of an epidemic.

Dr Pauline Kingi has quit as the chairperson of the inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as deputy police commissioner, reports the NZ Herald. There were concerns of a conflict of interest, after she had endorsed 23 of Mr Haumaha’s skills on LinkedIn. The government will now have to find a replacement to head the inquiry. A correction here too from yesterday’s Bulletin – it wasn’t Dr Kingi who said it was common practice for Māori professionals to endorse each other on LinkedIn – those comments came in fact from minister Tracey Martin.

A few days ago I talked about the visuals on a Stuff interactive being really impressive, but their latest one is on another level entirely. It tells the story of how Māori were dispossessed of the land between 1865 and 1909, the trauma that caused, and the subsequent Treaty settlements. Please, please reward them a click or even fifty clicks for it. There’s a small army of people who are credited on it, and it’s the sort of rich interactive content that should be changing the way that we in New Zealand think about what online media can be.

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Tom Scott and Haz Beats (Photo: @timdfilm)

Right now on The Spinoff: Anna Connell clears up a whole load of misinformation about LinkedIn in the wake of Dr Pauline Kingi’s resignation. Media nerd Duncan Greive takes a look at the big changes in the latest NZ on Air audience survey. And Sam Wicks has put together an oral history of the Last Week EP by Avondale’s finest, Homebrew, which was released a decade ago.

A year ago this week, the Labour party was careening to yet another heavy election defeat under Andrew Little, and facing another three long years in opposition. How things can change. As of today, PM Jacinda Ardern is back on deck after exactly six weeks of maternity leave, presiding over what might have seemed like an unlikely coalition government that hasn’t been shy about pushing some major policy initiatives.

One of the ministers in the government who has earned a wide range of plaudits has been Andrew Little himself. He’s made progress on contentious Treaty settlements, re-entry into Pike River mine, and reform of the justice system, stumbling only over the repeal of the three strikes sentencing law. If those annual Trans-Tasman MP ratings come out at the end of this year, Little on current form would be a good bet for a top ranking.

So how does Andrew Little feel about it all now? Pretty good about having his decision be vindicated by events, if this profile on Stuff is anything to go by. He admits it was a horrible call to have to make, but feels that it was undoubtedly the right one. Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

“This response to a policy platform he had led the creation of helped Little deal with what he now admits quite candidly was a very emotional time.

“I had to nurse through my sense of grief, but it was made a lot easier by seeing it was the right call to make. I get quite clinical about these things, I’m quite capable about being quite clinical about me. Did it hurt? Of course it did. Was it emotionally difficult? Of course it was.”

“”I don’t do self-pity, I hate self-pity, but the sense of grief I was feeling – it was certainly very satisfying to see what was happening.”

Remember how the Kiwis played a one-off test against England in Denver that few people cared about? It turns out NZRL still hasn’t been paid for it by the promoters, and have had to cover player payments out of their own pockets, reports the NZ Herald. The payment delays throw the next two fixtures into serious doubt, as the whole point of the exercise was to try and make a quick buck.

But in some good league news, the Warriors have named their squad to contest the inaugural Women’s NRL, reports Newshub. It features plenty of Kiwi Ferns, including captain Laura Mariu, and the four club competition will be played at the same time as the other NRL finals series.

From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that sometimes looking back on the past can make you glad you’re alive today, particularly when it comes to the safety of lines workers. 

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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