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Housing above Oriental Bay in Wellington, on what appears to be a good day (Getty Images)
Housing above Oriental Bay in Wellington, on what appears to be a good day (Getty Images)

The BulletinFebruary 15, 2019

The Bulletin: Wild rental inflation for Wellington

Housing above Oriental Bay in Wellington, on what appears to be a good day (Getty Images)
Housing above Oriental Bay in Wellington, on what appears to be a good day (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Wild rental inflation hits Wellington, an end to tenure review system has been announced, and confirmation comes of Chinese squeeze on tourism.

Wellington is experiencing a wild spell of rent inflation at the moment, reports One News. Average rents in the city are now $45 a week more than in Auckland, according to the latest data from TradeMe. That’s with Auckland hitting a record high, too. New highs are also being hit in the Waikato, and Tasman areas.

All in all, it’s getting tougher every year for renters to make ends meet. Stuff have done some strong reporting on how the increases are affecting those in the capital, with many being forced to make tough decisions about staying or going. The story is also on the front page of today’s Dominion Post, reflecting the depth of feeling in the city about it. A lot of the housing available for renting in Wellington isn’t exactly high standard either – at the extreme end see the ‘uninhabitable’ house that Newshub reported was briefly put on the market.

So what’s going on? It’s supply and demand, basically. The city’s economy is doing pretty well, so there’s money to be made. It’s particularly difficult right now too, with students returning to the city and needing somewhere to live – Radio NZ reported last month that many are becoming increasingly desperate. Some of the city’s residents have effectively been victims of their home town’s success. House sale prices have also skyrocketed in Wellington over the past 5 years.

On the supply side, adding to the problem is that there’s so little land for Wellington to work with, because of the geography of the city and the (vital) existence of the town belt. There are now calls for both more intensification and densification, such as this one on the Talk Wellington site, which calls for that to be accompanied by better infrastructure integration. Suggestions on that have been around for a while though – here’s a report from 2017 that advocates building higher to address the housing crisis, for example. Or even further back, this report on the Croaking Cassandra blog from 2015 about a tense public meeting on more housing density in the suburb of Island Bay. Sometimes locals might want more densification – just not in their suburb, thanks.

Either way, the cost of housing is one of those fundamental aspects that dictates whether or not someone feels they’re living a good life. And clearly for many renters in Wellington, that’s just not happening right now. With local government elections this year, it will be interesting to see if it becomes an issue that candidates actively campaign on.

The land reform process known as tenure review is set to be scrapped. The story of the controversial policy is really well told in this analysis by Stuff’s Charlie Mitchell, who has been investigating it for a while. Basically, it started in the 90s as a beautiful dream that the outcomes of farmers, conservationists and public access groups could all be met, for some of the most important land in the country. By the time it was finally killed off, it often just resulted in what should have been public land being privatised. And very little good came out of it at all.

Confirmation of sorts has come that the Chinese government intends to punish New Zealand economically over the Huawei decision, through squeezing the flow of tourists. The NZ Herald reports on an article published in the People’s Daily – which is basically an outlet for the party line – in which Chinese tourists say they’re cancelling their trips to New Zealand. It won’t crash the economy or anything like that, but tourism is now NZ’s biggest export earner, so it will be a concern for the government.

Another day, another Newshub story about Kiwibuild not going all that well. This time it’s about a development in Te Kauwhata in North Waikato, for which literally nobody put their name forward for the ballot. It follows reports of Kiwibuild homes in Wanaka also going unsold.

Now, it might be tempting to think that maybe it therefore doesn’t matter that Kiwibuild isn’t progressing to schedule, but there have been some developments where there has been way too much interest – for example, 77 people having a crack at a single Kiwibuild home in Papakura. The desire for homes is clearly there, it just depends where those homes are.

The recent news about the mega-merger of the polytechnics has prompted this excellent piece of analysis, from Radio NZ’s education expert John Gerritsen. It unpacks the detail that will be fought over in the consultation process, and in particular one of the angles jumped out – the lumping together of polytechnics and ITOs, more formally known as industry training organisations. ITOs are warning that the proposals will undermine what they’re doing. They prepare students for specific jobs, and One News reports they’re concerned that their work will be undermined by the restructuring.

Police staff will not be entering the Pike River mine drift in the first instance, Stuff reports. However, if remains of the miners who died there are found, that position may change. Miners who will be part of the re-entry are currently being trained in forensic techniques, and once the mine is fully safe police intend to go in for a full forensic examination.

Stories about banks closing branches felt like death by 1000 cuts last year. But as the NZ Herald reports, the actual number was 44 branches being closed around the country, across all major companies. Bank workers also suffered as a result, with almost every company shedding staff.

Have you got your application in yet to be our new account manager at The SpinoffWe need a new member for our commercial team to come and work in our sunny city fringe offices, where you’ll be working with clients, bringing in new business, and generally just helping us do cool stuff. Applications close Monday 4 March, so start thinking about it now.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Social scientist Dr Kyro Selket argues that fining parents who smoke with their kids in the car is unlikely to help anyone. Ben Creet from Internet NZ writes about the increasing risks to online security, and why keeping yourself safe is difficult but doable. And Sam Brooks, culture vulture, previews the must-see shows at the upcoming Auckland Arts Festival.

This piece as well really shocked me, and because of the nature of it, I didn’t want to bundle it up in a paragraph with any others. John Newton has reviewed a book of James K. Baxter’s letters, in which the poet reveals in a casual and matter of fact tone, that he raped his wife. Newton writes “it’s no longer possible to talk about him without addressing the ways that he thinks and writes about women.”

Today’s reader-suggestion feature is about twitter, and the nature of political communication in the social media age. It’s published by the Guardian, and focuses on US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the explosive growth of her account followers. The statistical point that the article notes about her account is that her engagement levels are relatively high, and picks out a few moments where she demonstrated excellent social media strategy – many of the moments being almost like the equivalent of judo, responding to an attack with a winning counter-attack.

I’m not sure though if the article has quite picked up the political underpinnings of a lot of it though. Unlike many more centrist American politicians, she has politics that sharply accentuate her differences in views, rather than the blandifying similarities of many of her competitors. That’s a powerful thing on social media, particularly in a time when a lot of people seem desperate for politicians to actually have something to say.

Anyway, it’s worth a read for anyone interested in how media and politics works at the moment. Also well worth a read for people with those interests is this from Danyl Mclauchlan on The Spinoff, who floats the outlandish but plausible theory that perhaps the stupid National party BBQ ad is actually an elaborate and successful piece of trolling. When he wrote it, there were short stories on a few news websites. Checking around this morning, it feels like absolutely wall to wall coverage – for example, prominent front page coverage of the ad has united radio rivals Newstalk ZB and Radio NZ. So perhaps McLauchlan has a point?

I missed this story initially, but it seems like a huge one for the future of sport in New Zealand. Basketball has overtaken rugby as the 2nd highest participation sport in NZ secondary schools, reports Stuff. In fact, the number of secondary school students playing rugby dropped 6% in the space of a year, to 25,317. Of course, Basketball NZ is totally impoverished compared to NZ Rugby, so whether they’ll be able to fully capitalise on the increase in popularity remains to be seen. There are a lot more fascinating nuggets of data in the full report, including that Volleyball is now the 5th most popular secondary school sport.

White Ferns coach Haidee Tiffin is taking a leave of absence, after a harsh review into the disastrous T20 World Cup campaign, reports Radio NZ. She will be out of action for the Rose Bowl series against Australia, with NZC high performance coach Bob Carter taking the reins on an interim basis. Tiffen’s contract expires at the end of July, and she has been encouraged to reapply. She played more than 100 games for the White Ferns, has coached the team for four years, and recently racked up a 3-0 T20 series win against India.

From our partners: Barbecuing is one of New Zealand’s national summer past-time, but what are the nuances in our barbecue culture? Brenda Talacek, Vector’s Group Manager for Gas Trading, lifts the lid.

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