An actual-size model of a million dollar Auckland house (Getty Images)
An actual-size model of a million dollar Auckland house (Getty Images)

The BulletinJune 16, 2021

The Bulletin: Rapid house price inflation continues

An actual-size model of a million dollar Auckland house (Getty Images)
An actual-size model of a million dollar Auckland house (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Rapid house price inflation continues, PM wrong about coming availability of grunty EVs, and police reveal other mass shootings around March 15 were foiled.

Any hope that government interventions would immediately curb rampant house price inflation have been dashed by new figures. The REINZ house price index, reported here by Newshub, shows the highest growth in prices over a 12 month period since records began, with median prices up 32%. It also breaks it down among regions, with a graphic showing big green arrows going up in every part of the country. Within Auckland, only Franklin and Papakura now have median prices under $1 million. The full report is here, and looking through it you can see graphs which show just how rapid that growth has been.

What does this demand look like in practice? Stuff’s Liz McDonald had a story about 116 sections in Rolleston being put up for reserve – every single one of them was snapped up in minutes, and the website crashed under the load. Rolleston is a very fast growing town, but even so. Sale volumes are also particularly high, with Interest reporting the figures for May are the highest they’ve been in three years.

What’s driving the behaviour? Paraphrasing RBNZ governor Adrian Orr, the inflation is now more cultural and psychological than being based on economics or policy. Newshub’s AM Show interviewed him at the end of May on whether prices would eventually start to fall, and Orr believes they will. He also warned that current homeowners need to be wary of what a rise in interest rates would do to their ability to service a mortgage.

A lot of the debate around clean car subsidies has devolved into culture war nonsense, but there are some substantive points being reported within that. For example, this Radio NZstory canvasses the views of some farmers and tradies, who say they’d very happily switch to EVs – but suitable vehicles for their work aren’t actually available yet. Comments made by PM Ardern – about new electric Hilux models becoming available within two years – are wrong, according to Toyota and reported by Autotalk.

Federated Farmers have suggested an exemption to costs being imposed on dirtier vehicles be introduced for specific sectors, until alternatives are there. It brings to mind this excellent recent Michael Andrew story, about the eager uptake of electric motorbikes by farmers, who can see the advantages when an actually-available product is presented.

The police’s national security adviser has revealed two other mass shooting plans were foiled around the time of the March 15 attacks. Radio NZ reports the comments came during a Hui on counter-terrorism, currently being held in Christchurch. One of the planned attacks was a school shooting, and the alleged perpetrator was described as “an avid consumer of extremist material.” Lone actors were described as the most serious type of terrorist threat in New Zealand, rather than more organised groups or networks. The conference also included a walkout by about a dozen members of Christchurch’s Muslim community, after comments made in a speech by the NZ Jewish Council’s Juliet Moses – One News has a story on that aspect.

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A huge backlog of children needing urgent dental care is building up in Auckland, reports Radio NZ’s Rowan Quinn. That is despite an ADHB vow at the end of last year to fund and fix the problem. The problem is that increase in money only allowed services to keep pace with demand – some of the 2000 or so children on the waiting list got treatment, but others were added in their place.

National MPs have been speaking off the record about their displeasure at welcoming Harete Hipango back to parliament. Newsroom’s Jo Moir reports one of her colleagues has described her as a “liability”, while others have various criticisms about Hipango not following the party line. She is seen as being a very close ally of Judith Collins. Hipango has returned to parliament after the sudden resignation of Nick Smith.

It’s flu jab season, but there isn’t really all that much of the virus in the country right now, because of measures against Covid-19. Newshub’s Dave Goosselink has reported on whether there’s any point in getting the annual vaccination, and the short answer is yes. Public health experts say that’s particularly true for those in high risk groups. And there is also concern about a sudden rise in the flu-like “Respiratory syncytial virus” (RSV) which is currently being seen in paediatric wards.

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Stuff’s women in charge: from left, Anna Fifield, Carmen Parahi, Tracy Watkins and Sinead Boucher (Photos; supplied/ Image: Tina Tiller)

Right now on The Spinoff: Zoe Lawton writes about starting a blog to anonymously share stories about the legal profession, and what it meant for the #MeToo movement in New Zealand. Duncan Greive writes about the remarkable year Stuff has just had, after being sold for just a dollar. Lawyer Robert Stewart explains name suppression laws, and why some people get it and others don’t. Justin Latif meets a civil servant who isn’t afraid to express their thoughts openly about the need to protect cyclists better. And we look back at the greatest hits of Felicity Ferret, the old Metro gossip column that became an iconic part of the Auckland celebrity scene.

For a feature today, the latest work from arguably the top performing journalist of the global pandemic. The Atlantic’s Ed Yong has just won a Pulitzer for his explainer journalism (and shared the money with his colleagues, which is great) and his most recent piece is an example of why. It’s a deeply thoughtful piece about individualism, public health, and how there will continue to be risks for many even in countries that are starting to return to normal. Here’s an excerpt:

“My biggest concern is that those who are unvaccinated will have a false sense of safety and security as cases drop this summer,” says Joseph Allen, who directs Harvard’s Healthy Buildings program. “It might feel like the threat has fully diminished if this is in the news less often, but if you’re unvaccinated and you catch this virus, your risk is still high.” Or perhaps higher: In the U.S., unvaccinated people might be less likely to encounter someone infectious. But on each such encounter, their odds of catching COVID-19 are now greater than they were last year.

When leaders signal to vaccinated people that they can tap out of the collective problem, that problem is shunted onto a smaller and already overlooked swath of society. And they do so myopically. The longer rich societies ignore the vulnerable among them, and the longer rich nations neglect countries that have barely begun to vaccinate their citizens, the more chances SARS-CoV-2 has to evolve into variants that spread even faster than Delta, or—the worst-case scenario—that finally smash through the vaccines’ protection. The virus thrives on time. “The longer we allow the pandemic to rage, the less protected we’ll be,” Morehouse’s Camara Jones says. “I think we’re being a bit smug about how well protected we are.”

The America’s Cup is looking more likely than not to sail away from these shores, reports the NZ Herald. That comes out of comments from Emirates Team NZ syndicate boss Grant Dalton, who told the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron that negotiations with the government had failed. So far, ETNZ has reportedly rejected an offer for around $100 million from the government, and is believed to want about double that. I’m just putting it out there – the government could give me half of what they’re offering ETNZ, and I’ll learn how to sail and bobble around in the Hauraki Gulf for the public’s amusement.

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