Phil Twyford pointing in the direction of income thresholds for Kiwibuild houses. Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images.

The Bulletin: Pumping out the prefabs

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Phil Twyford talks up prefab housing industry, massive alleged money laundering scheme uncovered, and all the latest in strike news.

Housing minister Phil Twyford is looking to prefab housing to make the Kiwibuild plan possible. Under the Kiwibuild plan, Labour has promised 100,000 homes over ten years. It’s a huge ask, and nine months in, the opposition has been making hay over what appears to be a lack of progress. So are prefabs the solution?

Mr Twyford says he wants to see factories produce up to half of the homes that need to be built, reports the NZ Herald. He says it will take a few years to really ramp up, and that when it was up and running the factories would create jobs. That part is important, because New Zealand currently doesn’t have enough skilled construction workers to build all the houses under the current model – this report from Stuff in February outlines the plan to bring in workers from overseas for the programme.

So will prefab homes be cheaper? Unfortunately, not necessarily, Mr Twyford told Newshub. Kiwibuild houses are already certain to be priced at above $500,000, and that has been creeping up slightly since Labour took office. One important theme around prefab housing that came out of this piece on The Spinoff is that you still have to chuck it on some land, and that’s expensive.

Another aspect that may make it difficult for potential buyers, is that banks mostly don’t give finance for prefab homes while they’re sitting in a factory, reports Newsroom. They have to be attached to some land for that. Prefab NZ, the industry body, says that’s an issue they’re trying to get on the agenda of the Housing minister.


The police have frozen the New Zealand accounts of a massive ponzi scheme based in Canada and China, reports the NZ Herald. Xiao Hua Gong was arrested and charged in Canada, with nearly $70 million in NZ accounts. The police allege he was using New Zealand to launder money, and then shift it back to China. It’s the largest account restraining order ever obtained in New Zealand. The NZ Herald’s latest update this morning is that charges have been laid against an Auckland finance company and two other individuals over the alleged laundering.


Another round of mediation between DHBs and nurses has ended in a stalemate, reports Newshub. That means a strike, scheduled for early next month, is still on.

And in further strike news, Interest reports that 4000 MBIE and IRD workers have voted for two two-hour strikes in July. The Public Service Association says members have had to watch the cost of spending on contractors blow out, while at the same time they haven’t been able to get a cost of living increase.

National says more workers have either undertaken, or signalled intentions to go on strikein nine months of the current government, than under nine years of the previous government. It’s true, and Labour is facing a significant wave of strikes, especially in the public sector. But it perhaps isn’t the best advertisement for whether workers have been generally satisfied with their lot in recent years.


Health minister David Clark says he won’t be scrapping the 2019 DHB elections, despite a major review of the health system being due just a few months later, reports the NZ Herald. 140 new board members will be elected, and Waikato DHB member Mary Anne Gill says that’s a waste of health dollars, at a time when the system could change dramatically anyway. Just for context, turnout in DHB elections bounces around from region to region, but it’s rare for it to be much higher than 50% – here’s an NZ Herald data visualisation with those details.


The country’s underemployment rate is being highlighted, as the unemployment rate falls to 4.4%, reports Stuff. More than 100,000 workers around the country are considered underemployed – working part time, but could be or want to be working more. Young people, Māori and Pacific people, parents with dependent children and especially casual workers are far more likely to be underemployed.


The Dominion Post has been collecting stories from around the Wellington region of streetlights not working for long periods of time, and the number of cases are starting to pile up. Residents say it’s starting to become a safety issue, especially in the cold and wet of winter nights. Part of the problem is that some of the system is underground cabling, and that can be time consuming to fix, particularly in the CBD.


This story from the NZ Herald is a bit of an indictment on underlying racism in New Zealand. An AUT study has found that migrants who change their names to something more anglicised have better job prospects. The main character of the story, a finance professional called Faiaaz Contractor, says his career in New Zealand skyrocket after he started applying for jobs under the name Frank.


Christchurch based clothing retailer Kathmandu has survived the introduction of Amazon to the Australian market, reports the NZ Herald. Kathmandu’s largest market is just over the ditch, so the lift in the earnings outlook will be a real relief for the company.


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Right now on The Spinoff: In political news, Sam Brooks reports that David Seymour has been voted off Dancing with the Stars. Staying with politics, acting deputy political editor Madeleine Chapman reports on the experience of waiting around at the hospital for the PM’s birth. And finally, the story of how international superstar band Faith No More came to play the opening night at a tiny Queenstown nightclub, as told to Don Rowe.


So, should the Parliamentary term be extended? That was the question I put to youyesterday after the suggestion was made by the outgoing PM’s chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman. And as always, your feedback has been coming back thick and fast, which I appreciate.

In general, the feedback was almost universally in favour. There were various reasons offered, many variations on the point summed up by Pam: that it gave a practical time frame for implementing the policies you got elected on.

There were also various caveats on what extending to four years would mean in other areas. Dan made the fair point that if it was extended, the voting age should be lowered to 16, because people born at the wrong moment could theoretically be 22 by the time they get their first vote – too old, says Dan.

And how about five years? That was the question asked by Brian in response, which is fair enough – if campaigns are expensive distractions to governing, better to push them out even further.

Josh had a dissenting view, saying while he could appreciate the arguments for, losing voters would see too much negative change in four years for it to be fair. That’s really the counterpoint to more years of ‘strong government.’ What if you lost? The way our parliament works, there is very little the opposition can do to impede the business of government short of winning the next round.

A pleasure as always to get some of your views, thank you to everyone else who sent them in.


In rugby, Matt Todd has extended his commitment to NZ Rugby and the Crusaders, reports Newshub. It puts him firmly in the frame for the World Cup next year, and he was due to come off contract at the end of this year. He’ll also be playing a short stint with Robbie Deans’ Japanese club, the excitingly named Panasonic Wild Knights.

Football World Cup results and spoilers

Egypt has finished up a horror tournament with a loss to lowly Saudi Arabia. It won’t matter though, because neither side was in a position to qualify from the group, which was topped by Uruguay after they thrashed Russia. Live right now, Spain is playing Morocco, and Portugal is playing Iran. All of them except Morocco can still advance, but if the scores – currently locked up – all stay the same, Iran will miss out.


From our partners, Vector’s Beth Johnson writes that one of the best reasons for lighting up the Auckland Harbour Bridge, is that it makes diversity impossible to ignore.


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