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State housing in the Hutt Valley (Radio NZ: Alexander Robertson)
State housing in the Hutt Valley (Radio NZ: Alexander Robertson)

The BulletinFebruary 20, 2019

The Bulletin: Social housing list balloons amid heavy demand

State housing in the Hutt Valley (Radio NZ: Alexander Robertson)
State housing in the Hutt Valley (Radio NZ: Alexander Robertson)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Social housing list balloons amid heavy demand, bizarre development in NZ-China relations takes in former PM, and another species of foreign fruit fly found.

The social housing waiting list has cracked 10,000, and is steadily rising all the time. Newshub reports that is an increase of 73% on the number a year earlier – and this comes despite the largest number of new social housing places being made available in the last year for a decade.

Housing minister Phil Twyford has reiterated that the government was expecting to see an increase in people hoping to get into social housing – saying these people are the “hidden homeless” who are now starting to come forward for help. And in fairness to the government here too, their delivery numbers for social housing are actually much better than for the Kiwibuild programme. According to the minister, 1191 new state houses have been built, and the expanded Housing First programme has helped 521 rough sleepers into a permanent home. The 2018 Budget also included an allocation of money for 6400 social houses to be built over four years.

Having said that, the government and the system they’re presiding over has come in for criticism. Auckland Action Against Poverty say successive governments have failed, and the current government’s increases are modest. They also criticise a lack of action on bringing down rents, say Kiwibuild is failing, and private developers aren’t focusing on low income people. The Greens are also calling for more state housing to be built as an urgent priority.

Meanwhile, the government has called an urgent stocktake into emergency housing, reports Stuff. It comes off the back of one of their stories that found that a “rat hole” motel had received millions of taxpayer dollars to house the homeless, but also didn’t have a Code Compliance Certificate, and was just generally a disgusting place to live. That story also prompted a political war of words, with National’s Louise Upston accusing social development minister Carmel Sepuloni of not being up to her responsibilities – Ms Sepuloni in turn said the previous National government were responsible for exacerbating the homeless crisis in the first place. In the case of this particular motel, it had been providing emergency housing since 2016.

Finally, on the subject, there’s an interesting set of cases playing out in Wellington at the moment, with Stuff reporting criticism of damages claims the Council is taking against tenants. They’ve been accused of taking Tribunal claims against tenants for accidental damage, as well as being accused of making claims above what is reasonable. The Council, which is the 2nd biggest landlord in the country, says they can’t yet fully respond to the accusations.

There’s been an incredibly bizarre development in the story of the NZ-China relationship. An article appeared on a Chinese news website – headlined ‘We need to learn to listen to China’ and bylined as being written by none other than former PM Dame Jenny Shipley. But as the NZ Herald reports, she completely denies having written it, or even speaking to the publication. It even made it to CNN, to whom Dame Jenny said the comments were correct, but had been made to a different publication last year, and weren’t in the form of an article.

Dame Jenny does have very close business links to China, in particular through having been an independent director of the China Construction Bank, and being a member of the NZ-China Council. In fact, she’s earned significant sums of money in the process. But still, using fake news to get heaps of clicks is pretty unethical, and she’s probably owed an apology by foreign minister Winston Peters, who blasted her before it was known that she didn’t write the article.

Another species of fruit fly has been discovered in Auckland, this time in the suburb of Ōtara, reports Radio NZ. Parts of the suburb have now been placed under a Controlled Area Notice. The fruit fly is a different species to the Queensland guy causing so much angst in Devonport – this one is more of a tropical variety. An real outbreak of a new species of fruit fly could have dramatic consequences for NZ’s horticulture industry.

The Salvation Army have taken matters into their own hands, to combat predatory sales trucks that exploit low income communities. The Spinoff reports they’ve launched a rival service in South Auckland, which will offer financial advice and reasonable credit policies, along with the goods for sale. They say the predatory lending industry is booming, with more people being trapped in debt cycles every year.

There’s heavy conjecture around a new NZIER report, commissioned by the oil lobby, on the economic impact of the oil and gas exploration ban. The headline figure that has been reported pretty much everywhere, for example this piece on the NZ Herald, is that the ban will cost the economy up to $30 billion by 2050, and that the impact on global emissions will be negligible. However, the government are questioning the modelling used for the study, and Greenpeace say the report doesn’t make any acknowledgement of the economic costs of climate change, and say the ban will reduce emissions if clean technology is developed instead.

Tauranga’s port is booming, as it has become the only port in the country capable of receiving the biggest international cargo ships. The NBR reports the Port’s role as a hub for the rest of the country, and fast services to Asian markets, has pushed it to record profits. There has also been an increase in rail traffic in and out of the port, as the preferred method of moving cargo – traffic snarl-ups are a pretty constant concern in Tauranga, and more trucks on the road makes that worse.

Councils around the country are split over whether to sign up to the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration, reports Radio NZ. The declaration would commit councils to policies that would reduce carbon emissions. 23 local authorities have failed to sign up to it, with 55 so far on board.

There was some feedback on yesterday’s Bulletin from the Viagogo press office, who wanted the following statement included after I described them as “the notorious ticketing site accused of multiple ongoing scams.” Their statement is as follows:

“We are pleased by the Court’s ruling to deny the Commission’s application for relief. This is a significant legal victory for Viagogo. For over a decade, millions of customers have been successfully using Viagogo which is why we remain committed to providing a secure platform for people to sell as well as buy sport, music and entertainment tickets to events in New Zealand and all over the world. All tickets on Viagogo are valid and it is perfectly legal to resell a ticket or give it to someone else if you want to.”

It’s no doubt an interesting statement from Viagogo – I’ll let you be the judge.

And finally, a correction from yesterday’s Bulletin about Australia’s digital services tax, and collection of tax from Google: Nigel pointed out that the country is currently consulting on a tax, rather than actually having one in place, and the $37 million collected from Google Australia was simply corporate income tax.

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Right now on The Spinoff: The food podcast Dietary Requirements has managed to get Al Brown back in. Duncan Greive argues the government’s digital day of reckoning, when they’ll finally crack down on tech giants, is drawing near. Design-and-build company Box co-founder Dan Heyworth questions whether building a house needs to be so expensive. And Anna Knox ponders why – to an almost unique degree among reality TV shows –  Heartbreak Island makes everyone so furious.

The NZ Herald has announced that there will be a digital paywall on premium content. The announcement was made as part of a wider piece on their financial results, which show a drop in profit. They also break down where revenue is growing and shrinking, with digital revenue going up, and print and radio going down. However, both shrinking categories remain vastly larger shares of the company’s income. The NBR (paywalled) reports that there has been a huge delay in getting this paywall out – measured against the statements of NZME’s own boss Michael Boggs. When implemented, it is also expected to open up paywalls to a few other sites internationally under a bundling deal.

The paywall should be in place by the end of June, and I strongly urge anyone who cares about journalism to sign up. I’ll explain why – it’s not out of the goodness of my heart or anything like that. It’s a simple economic statement about what is valuable. Their excellent journalistic investigations and analysis pieces will go behind the paywall, which will in turn be used to fund those investigations. If the paywall isn’t successful, those vital pieces of work, which are incredibly expensive and time-consuming to produce, will probably cease to exist.

Some may choose to focus on the fact that opinion pieces will also go behind the paywall, and opt not to go for it on the basis that some columnists produce garbage. Some might also look at the front page of the NZ Herald site, look at some of the dreadful clickbait on it, and conclude that there’s nothing on the site worth paying for. Both of these conclusions would be wrong.

Regardless of whether or not you sign up for the paywall, Mike Hosking will keep his job. Syndicated nonsense from sites like will still be run up the flagpole. But every digital subscription will give true investigators like Matt Nippert and Kirsty Johnston more time and space to break big stories. It will mean features and commentary from insightful writers like Simon WilsonClaire Trevett and Matthew Hooton will be affordable for the company. And it will mean the newsroom – which is one of only a few in NZ who are actually capable of the sort of vitally important wide general news coverage that is often taken for granted – will be in a slightly safer financial position. I for one will be putting my money where my mouth is when the paywall is announced.

If you’re into rugby, you’ll probably have heard that the owner of French club Toulon has blasted former All Black recruit Julian Savea. It’s a really interesting story, because we hear so little about how players actually go when they depart for bigger paychecks. As UK rugby journalist Russell Hargreaves told Radio Sport, there’s actually a lot of NZers who underperform, saying their form and application really drops off when they arrive. I wonder if it’s something to do with leaving behind the lure of playing for an All Blacks jersey?

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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