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A day in the life of someone dealing with the rising cost of living (Getty Images)
A day in the life of someone dealing with the rising cost of living (Getty Images)

The BulletinSeptember 26, 2018

The Bulletin: Living cost rises cut into government’s efforts

A day in the life of someone dealing with the rising cost of living (Getty Images)
A day in the life of someone dealing with the rising cost of living (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Cost of living rise cuts into government efforts, Greens say Labour is watering down oil exploration ban, and Environment Court gives America’s Cup green light.

It’s becoming harder to make ends meet in New Zealand, despite the efforts of the government earlier this year to redistribute more money to lower-income people. Across a range of areas, the cost of living is going up, and in some cases particularly sharply.

Rents are hitting record highs across the country, reports the NZ Herald. The rent rises are taking place in every single region, and have reached new peaks in Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Otago. Generally prices go up in summer too, so either the effect is taking place early this year, or people looking to start new tenancies could be in for a painful experience. This is going to disproportionally hit the poor too, given high house prices will mean that many will have no choice but to rent.

Petrol prices are also at record high levels, and as Stuff reports, a rise in the petrol tax is just a few days away. Between an increase in excise and GST, that will add about another 4c a litre, which could firmly entrench prices above $2.40 a litre. Fuel taxes are also pretty regressive – as South Auckland councillor Efeso Collins has argued in the case of Auckland’s fuel tax, it will hit the poor harder, particularly if they’re doing shift work or living in an area without good public transport options.

And Stuff has also done a rundown on all the other areas where life is getting more expensive. Electricity. Food. Rates. Ciggies. The cost of living is comparatively higher in NZ than it is in the USA, and inflation, while flat in the headline figures, is having more of an impact for those at the bottom.

All of this is a problem for the government, because it’s hurting the very people their economic policies have set out to help. Back in April, there was a healthy jump in the minimum wage and accommodation supplement, and the Families Package came in at the start of July. But politically and socially, people who are benefitting from those policies might still feel short changed if the day to day costs they have to meet aren’t getting any easier.

The Greens are at odds with Labour over a ‘use it or lose it’ policy on oil exploration permits being shelved, reports the NZ Herald. Energy minister Megan Woods made the decision in response to industry concerns about no new block offers on permits coming in the future, and now extracting companies will have more time to decide if they want to use the permits. But the Greens say that waters down the policy, and gives extraction companies special treatment.

The America’s Cup has been given final sign off by the Environment Court, and the transformation of Auckland’s waterfront can now begin in earnest, reports Stuff. Hobson Wharf will be extended, industrial land cleared at Wynyard Point, and new bases for teams built. Hundreds of millions of dollars are going to be spent on the plans, with the Cup scheduled for 2021.

Radio NZ’s news bulletins this morning are reporting that PM Ardern had a brief chat with US President Donald Trump. The topics of conversation were Mr Trump’s work on Korea, New Zealand’s efforts to get steel tariffs removed, and baby Neve.

NZTA contractors have been snapped dumping roadworks rubble in a Northland stream, reports Radio NZ. The matter was raised by Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti, who was tipped off by a concerned constituent. The stream, which feeds into Whangārei Harbour, has since been cleaned up, but a lot of people including the local iwi aren’t happy at all it happened in the first place.

Parts of the Auckland CBD could have a speed limit of 30kmh, to better accommodate walkers and cyclists, reports the NZ Herald. The proposals from Auckland Transport will go out for consultation later this year. The reason behind the proposal is safety – between 30kmh and 50kmh, there’s a statistically very significant increase in the chance of death if a car hits a pedestrian.

Here’s another story about dysfunction at the Horowhenua District Council, and it’s a remarkable entry in the catalogue. Radio Live reports that former deputy mayor Ross Campbell has started wearing a body camera to work, because he’s concerned about his safety. He’s accusing fellow councillors of threatening and putting his health and safety at risk, and the camera will record all interactions and conversations Mr Campbell has at work.

This story is from Australia, but it’s a very important one for questions of media freedom. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the ABC chairman Justin Milne sent an email telling the former managing director that they needed to sack the ABC’s chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, because the government didn’t like what Alberici had to say. The chairman’s email urged for Alberici to be sacrificed, rather than risk the government destroying the organisation as a whole, which some in the government periodically threaten to do. Justin Milne has a long-standing friendship with former PM Malcolm Turnbull.

And just quickly, a shoutout to the NBR on for putting editorial independence over advertising dollars. At the bottom of this paywalled story about a developer in court is a note, about how a representative of the company in the story suggested ads might be bought, if the NBR dropped an application to access court documents. The NBR admirably refused, and while it might seem like any news organisation would do the same, it still deserves to be highlighted.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Former minister Peter Dunne hammers National’s decision to support Donald Trump’s ‘war on drugs.’ Samuel Scott meets Albert Cho, who is carving out a space as New Zealand’s most controversial food blogger. And I wrote about the latest denial of the NZME-Stuff merger, and whether Stuff-Mediaworks could be on the cards next.

This is a really long, but really worth reading essay about growing up with Chinese heritage in New Zealand. Written by Rose Lu for the Pantograph Punch, it chronicles her upbringing in Whanganui, and the various distinctions and markers of identity the author maintained about themselves. It’s brilliantly written and the details all add up. Here’s an excerpt:

“By then I had become expert at presenting myself as a certain type of Chinese. There was no denying how I looked, but I also made sure that my New Zealand accent would not be denied. I was quick to understand racism when it manifested as disbelief that I was ‘from’ Whanganui, or amazement that my English was so good, but I never saw a problem with being labelled as a ‘banana’, or when my friends commented that they ‘forgot’ that I had a race.

It wasn’t until I moved to Wellington after university that I wondered if something about how I saw race was off. I volunteered as a phone counsellor at Youthline, and in one training session I blithely commented to another trainee, Sophie, “Oh, but your English is so good!” upon hearing that she had been educated in Hong Kong. Our supervisor, also of Chinese heritage, overheard and cracked up at my faux pas. Sophie had received her schooling entirely in English, from an international school. But because she presented as partly Chinese, I unconsciously made a few assumptions about her. I had acquired a passive form of racism that is pervasive in well-intentioned New Zealanders, one composed of ignorance and neglect.”

Maria Folau is on the move, reports Radio NZ. The Silver Ferns shooter is heading to play for the Adelaide Thunderbirds – a team that didn’t manage a single win in their last Australian Super Netball competition. Folau has an exemption to play in Australia and still represent the Silver Ferns. Incidentally, Newshub are reporting that some Thunderbirds fans aren’t happy about the signing at all, because of her support for husband Israel Folau’s comments about homosexuality.

And in the NRL, the judiciary have denied headline writers everywhere the chance to say see you later Billy Slater. They’ve let the star Storm fullback will be free to play in the Grand Final this weekend against the Roosters, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, after being let off for a shoulder charge. There has been huge debate over this among sports fans, not least because the original incident looked innocuous to some, and because Slater plans to retire after the Grand Final.

From our partners, Vector’s Beth Johnson writes that if you get a cheque in the mail, no, it isn’t a scam. It’s just the Loss Rental Rebate system in action.

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