(File photo, Radio NZ)
(File photo, Radio NZ)

The BulletinJuly 7, 2020

The Bulletin: Tough times for thousands on temporary visas

(File photo, Radio NZ)
(File photo, Radio NZ)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Problems looming for temporary visa holders, state house waiting list balloons again, and US ban could hit NZ seafood exports.

There are some real problems looming for temporary visa holders and their employers, with thousands set to expire all once, reports Nona Pelletier for Radio NZ. Automatic extensions were granted until September 25 for those expiring between 2 April and 9 July, but at the moment they aren’t being granted beyond that unless Immigration NZ is absolutely sure the jobs can’t be filled by New Zealanders. It’s especially worrying for the dairy industry, which is generally pretty busy around that time of year, and trained workers are hard to come by.

Some non-residents argue that they’ve been sold out for political reasons – and it’s hard to argue with that assessment right now. Newsroom’s Dileepa Fonsecka had a story recently about the position some individuals are in on temporary visas – in one person’s case, they’ve been here more than five years, paid their taxes and all that – and now they’re facing a massive backlog in getting residency. Federica Benedet said it was “not fair at all”, and “after five years and half you still feel like you’re just temporary here and you can’t have any certainty.” Meanwhile, as Fair Go reports, there are even some temporary visa holders who got stuck overseas after ill-timed trips, and it doesn’t look likely they’ll be able to come back in any time soon.

Is there a fair point in the political decision to prioritise NZ citizens and residents? Perhaps – as Stuff reported recently, more than 200,000 NZers are now on either the Jobseeker benefit or the Covid-19 Income Relief Payment. With the second round of the wage subsidy coming to an end in September, it is still unknown just how many people will need a job. However, right now at least there are more people leaving the country than arriving, according to Interest.

Just quickly, a message from The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive: 

“The arrival of Covid-19 and lockdown changed The Spinoff, transforming our editorial to focus on the biggest story of our lives, taking a small team and making it a seven day a week news operation. But it also fundamentally changed us as a business, too. Prior to the crisis, around 20% of our editorial costs were funded by our Members. Now, that figure is north of 50%. If you’re already a member, please know that all at The Spinoff are incredibly grateful for your help. If you’re not, and would like to contribute, please consider doing so – support is important to our ability to cover the next phase of the crisis, in all its complexity.”

Despite strong increases in the number of state houses being built, the waitlist has ballooned out even further, reports Stuff’s Henry Cooke. It is likely that the previously mentioned spike in unemployment over the last few months is partly to blame as well, and grants for emergency motel stays have also gone up a lot too.

Inevitably, this is also a political question, so here are the numbers: There are now almost 18,000 households on the waitlist, up from 5,844 when the government was elected. Over that same period, 3,062 new homes have been built, compared to 2,670 built over the nine years National was in office. The government says the massive increase is partly because of a more welcoming approach to those in need, while National says it shows the government has failed to keep pace with demand.

A ban on sales of NZ seafood in the US could be close, reports Farah Hancock for Newsroom. That’s because of court action brought by Sea Shepherd, on the grounds of failing to protect Māui dolphins. The judge hearing the case has form as well, having previously granted a preliminary injunction banning seafood imports from the area in Mexico – that case related to a creature called the vaquita porpoise. Meanwhile, some of the larger fishing operators in New Zealand have declared a new willingness to get cameras on board boats, reports Radio NZ.

An unusual form of industrial dispute is taking place in nursing at the moment, reports Stuff’s Libby Wilson. There’s a pay gap within the profession, with practice nurses making less than their DHB employed counterparts once they reach a certain level of experience. What makes it unusual is that employers want to offer equal pay – it’s just they don’t have the government funding to do so. A stop-work meeting will be taking place on July 23 for two hours.

Hundreds of businesses are being audited after claiming the wage subsidy, reports One News. They’re the ones that have faced complaints for claiming it under false pretences, and for the really egregious breaches criminal charges are possible. The names of businesses being audited aren’t part of the story, for obvious privacy reasons. However, $200 million has now been repaid, which suggests that plenty of organisations that didn’t need it in the end have done the right thing.

The investigation into the probable leak of active Covid-19 case data will be quick, says State Services (and basically everything else too) minister Chris Hipkins. One News reports that Michael Heron QC has been tasked with undertaking the investigation, and is expected to report back by the end of the month. Heron will have powers to get documents and put people under oath, and will be asked to identify if anything should be changed to prevent future information breaches.

Few publications are doing local government news as well as the ODT, so here’s a pair of stories from their respective councils. The first relates to a long battle from the paper to get access to the Dunedin City Council’s file on councillor Lee Vandervis, who has now clocked up as many as 27 alleged incidents of bullying or otherwise verbally abusive behaviour. And the second concerns the upcoming Regional Council battle over whether Marian Hobbs will remain as chair – that’s coming up for a vote at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday.

A bit of media news: Stuff, the country’s largest news platform, has decided to stop posting anything on Facebook until further notice, amid a global campaign to boycott the social media platform. The move wasn’t formally announced as such – the news came to us at The Spinoff because someone at Stuff leaked us an internal email about it. It’s a significant moment in the ongoing tension between news publishers and Facebook, which has now been rumbling away for years. Former media executive Hal Crawford has written an analysis of both the symbolic importance of the move, and whether it is likely to last.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at

(Photo: Supplied)

Right now on The Spinoff: To start with, we’ve got two competing pieces bouncing off the recent Clare Curran interview, around the nasty culture of parliamentary politics. Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw argues it is unnecessary, and could be very different if the system was designed to reflect better values. In contrast Danyl Mclauchlan argues that the cruelty politicians inflict on each other acts as a necessary check on tyranny, corruption and incompetence. Both are worth reading, in my opinion.

In other news: Kris Gledhill explains the sentencing process for the Christchurch mosque shooter. The Fold podcast meets Multicultural Times editor Guarav Sharma to talk about whether media serves migrant communities. Steven Moe looks at XCHC, a popular creative hub in Christchurch. University of Otago law lecturer Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere writes about the low public profile of NZ judges, and why that might actually be a good thing. And Josie Adams talks to The Beths about the development of their lockdown live sessions, which were great.

It’s always nice to see one of your favourite writers get picked up by another outlet when their original publication goes down. So for a feature today, an excellent Jane Clifton column on Business Desk (paywalled) that looks at an ill-fated forestry bill, which aims to get many more logs processed domestically. It’s clear that there’s more that could be done on value-adding in this sector, but it’s much less clear if this is the answer. Here’s an excerpt:

In a rare moment of sympathy toward an NZ First project, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick championed the aim of having more value-added domestic wood processing during the bill’s second reading on Tuesday. But neither she nor a tactful procession of other government speakers even attempted to explain how the bill might bring this about.

Even the Opposition, beside itself at this attempt to strong-arm the free market, stopped short of saying the bill had fangs. It barely has gums. Still, National MPs privately agree that though it’s one of our top export earners, the log trade is a long-standing example of missed opportunity.

It appears the professional rugby players of the country aren’t entirely happy with the new All Blacks coaching lineup. That comes from a survey reported on by the NZ Herald, and conducted by NZME sports producer Sam Casey. More than 100 Super Rugby players took part in the anonymous survey, with only 28% saying they were completely happy with the selections. For context, players were also asked who the best coach they’d ever had is – there was a wide variety in responses, but Scott Robertson and Tony Brown both got a decent share.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

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