Modifications to the wage subsidy scheme

Beehive: Further steps to protect New Zealanders’ jobs

The Government has made modifications to the wage subsidy scheme to ensure people don’t lose their jobs during the national lockdown.

These changes will soften the impact of COVID-19 on workers, families and businesses, and position them to exit the lockdown and look to recovery, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The modifications focus on keeping businesses and workers connected during this unprecedented time. They apply from 4pm today, and include:

  • Businesses accessing the scheme must still undertake best endeavours to pay employees 80% of their pre-COVID income. Where that is not possible – in particular where a business has no activity whatsoever due to the shutdown and workers are not working any hours – they must pass on at least the whole value of the wage subsidy to each affected worker.
  • Businesses must undertake to keep employees in employment for the period of the subsidy.
  • We are folding the previous sick leave scheme into this scheme to prevent double-dipping. The original sick leave scheme was designed when few people were in self-isolation, and it is no longer fit for purpose. We are working on arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19.

The Treasury now estimates the financial cost of the scheme will be between $8 billion and $12 billion depending on uptake by businesses.

“These modifications are about keeping New Zealanders currently at home in lockdown connected to the job they were in on Wednesday before it started,” Grant Robertson said.

“This ensures businesses not able to operate do not need to lay off staff. Even if this requires businesses to operate with no activity, the subsidy allows them to keep their workers on the books, particularly during Alert Level 4.”

The wage subsidy is a Government payment to help employers pay wages. It does not change any other employment law obligations, meaning employees must be paid appropriately under their employment agreements for the hours they do if they work during the lockdown.

“We are running this scheme on a high-trust model in order to get money out the door and support the workers, families and businesses who are affected by COVID-19. We are also preparing an appropriate audit process that will act as a backstop for this high-trust model,” Grant Robertson said.

The wage subsidy is $585.80 a week for full-time workers (who worked 20 or more hours per week before COVID-19) and $350 a week for part-time workers (fewer than 20 hours). It will continue to be paid out in a lump sum covering the 12 weeks, meaning a $7,029.60 payment per full time worker.

“Demand for the scheme is high, with $2.7 billion already paid out for 428,768 workers. I want to place on record my appreciation for the Minister of Social Development, Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, MSD CEO Debbie Power and all their team for the incredible work that has made this happen.

“People are working hard to respond and process applications as fast as they can under challenging conditions. Please be patient when applying, and please be kind to each other,” Grant Robertson said.

Expansion of the wage subsidy scheme comes on top of a range of support measures for Kiwis during this global pandemic, including:

  • The $500 million increase to public health funding for the immediate response.
  • A six-month deferred mortgage scheme for home-owners affected by the virus, so people don’t lose their homes due to COVID-19.
  • The $6.25 billion Business Finance Guarantee, and business tax measures to support cashflow, and help businesses continue to operate.
  • A doubling of the Winter Energy Payment so older New Zealanders can stay warm during winter.
  • Main benefit increases, and
  • Rent freezes and a ban on terminations of tenancies/evictions other than in exceptional circumstances.

Economic decisions as NZ readies for Alert Level 4 in COVID-19 fight

From the Ministers of Finance and Social Development:


The Government is announcing significant further support for the economy, workers and businesses as the country unites to prepare for Alert Level 4 in the fight against COVID-19.

Cabinet today agreed to remove the cap on the Government’s wage subsidy scheme, which will inject a further $4 billion into the economy over the next eleven weeks.

In addition:

  • The Government is expediting urgent work on new income support measures for all workers above and beyond the wage subsidy scheme, to be appropriate for how the economy will operate under Alert Level 4.
  • The Government, Reserve Bank and retail banks have agreed in principle to significant temporary support for mortgage holders and a business finance guarantee scheme for those impacted by COVID-19 as the country moves towards Alert Level 4. The details of this will be announced in the next few days.
  • Cabinet has agreed to freeze all rent increases and to look to extend no-cause terminations to protect people during this difficult time.

“We have a chance to beat this virus as we step up our public health response. We know this will have significant impacts on the economy, and we are doing what it takes in response to this rapidly changing situation,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

“These significant measures – along with previous moves to raise benefits and tax changes to support cashflow – are focussed on cushioning the blow for workers and businesses as we respond to this unprecedented global crisis. As we have said before, we cannot guarantee to stop all job losses, but we are doing our best to cushion the blow.”

As this crisis evolves, we are moving rapidly to support New Zealanders.

Now that many New Zealanders may not be able to go in to work for the next few weeks, our priority is ensuring they continue to receive some form of income through this period.

All employers affected by COVID-19 will now be able to apply for the existing subsidy to support the wages of all of their workers.

The changes mean the forecast cost of the wage subsidy scheme is being lifted from $5.1 billion to $9.3 billion. This assumes 50% of businesses access the 12-week scheme.

“The $9.3 billion is an estimate, not a cap or a floor. This means the support will be there to meet the demand. We are doing what it takes to put support in place for workers and businesses.

“We can do this because New Zealand is one of the best-placed economies in the world to deal with COVID-19, due to our low Government debt and strong economic fundamentals going into this global crisis,” Grant Robertson said.

MSD will do its best to get payments out the door as quickly as possible, Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said.

“But we ask that people have patience and show a little kindness to staff there who are working as quickly as they possibly can. A payment system of this magnitude is unprecedented in New Zealand.”

Wage subsidy scheme – Cabinet decisions on 23 March:

A number of other important changes are being made to the scheme:

  • The previous $150,000 cap is being lifted, so that all employers can access the full payments to subsidise each of their workers’ salaries.
  • New businesses (eg. that are less than a year old) and high growth firms (eg. firms that have had significant increase in revenue) are also eligible. They need to demonstrate the revenue loss assessment against a similar time period, for example a 30% loss of income, attributable to COVID-19, in March 2020 compared to January 2020.
  • Self-employed people with variable monthly incomes are eligible if can demonstrate the revenue loss assessment against the previous year’s monthly average (eg. 30% loss of income attributable to COVID-19 comparing March 2020 to the average monthly income in the period March 2019 to March 2020).
  • The scheme does cover registered charities, non-governmental organisations, incorporated societies and post-settlement governance entities.

Other criteria still apply, including the 30% revenue reduction and for businesses, on their best endeavours, to maintain their named employees at 80% of their pre-COVID income. The same twelve-week period applies to the wage subsidy scheme. The new criteria will apply from midnight tonight.

Covid-19: 4 level alert system with guidance on current level 2

  • Four stage Alert System for COVID-19 announced
  • New Zealand moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 – Reduce Contact
  • New Zealanders over 70 and those with certain medical conditions told to stay at home as much as they can to reduce risk of contact with the virus
  • Workplaces to implement plans to reduce person-to-person contact, including work from home where possible
  • Limit all non-essential domestic travel

New Zealand has been moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2, Reduce Contact, in an escalation of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“Protecting New Zealanders from the virus is our number one objective, and we must take decisive action to prevent the worst occurring here,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“New Zealand is fighting an unprecedented global pandemic. We must fight by going hard and going early with new measures to slow the transmission of the virus.

“Today I am announcing a four stage COVID-19 Alert Level system, with escalating restrictions on human contact, travel and business operations.

“The international situation is changing rapidly and we need to clearly sign-post the changes New Zealanders will be asked to make as we step up our efforts to limit the spread of the virus. The alert system means people can see and plan for the kinds of restrictions we may be required to put in place, which may be required rapidly.

“Based on expert medical advice and international evidence I am moving New Zealand to Alert Level 2, Reduce Contact. This will have a significant disruption on how we go about our daily lives, but it is necessary to protect lives.

“People over 70 years of age, or people who are immunocompromised or have certain pre-existing conditions, need to stay at home as much as they can from now on.

“I’m asking everyone to support our older New Zealanders by doing things like keeping in contact with them and dropping off food or other supplies.

“I am also asking businesses and workplaces to play their part. Many workplaces already have plans for staff to work from home or to distance themselves in the workplace. We are now asking you to put those plans in place.

“Health and emergency professionals, transport and delivery staff, supermarket and food production workers, and other essential people will be continuing on at their place of work at this alert level.

“It’s also important to note that at every alert level supermarkets around New Zealand will remain open.

“We are also asking New Zealanders to limit all non-essential domestic travel. We need people to significantly reduce the number of interactions they have at this time and that includes visiting people in different parts of the country for non-essential reasons.

“These measures are being taken in the national interest. We know people, business, and sports events will be impacted, but these are short-term disruptions for the overall health of our people and country.

“I know many New Zealanders are anxious. The alert system is designed to offer certainty around future action and the ability for people to plan and prepare for any future eventuality. Please be strong, be kind, and unite against COVID-19,” Jacinda Ardern said.


COVID-19 alert levels [PDF, 50 KB]

Arden has just said ‘this won’t be for just weeks, this will be with us for some time’.

Pike River re-entry costs jump again but no sign of body recovery

Pike River Recovery Minister Andrew Little has announced that Cabinet has approved of further funds “to complete the project”, but failed to mention a key figure – the total cost.It had already been raised substantially to $36 million “plus some capital expenditure” in 2018, but that has now been raised another $10.8 million as well as a $4.2 million contingency, bringing the total up to a possible $51 million.

And that is just to get as far as the rockfall in the mine, which is probably nowhere near most if not all of the bodies so recovery looks as unlikely as ever, despite the hope given to the families of some of the victims.

Beehive: Final costs for Pike River recovery released

Following the standard process of first communicating to the families, Pike River Recovery Minister Andrew Little has confirmed that Cabinet has approved final funding for the completion of the Coalition Government’s commitment to the Pike River recovery.

Andrew Little also confirmed that, as has been the scope since the start of the project, the recovery effort will not be going beyond the end of the drift and into the main mine workings.

“The Coalition government remains committed to the safe and successful recovery and forensic examination of the Pike River drift. It is important to promote accountability for what happened, to inform the ongoing criminal investigation into the tragedy, and to help prevent future tragedies,” Andrew Little said.

“The Pike River Recovery Agency now expects it will most likely be possible to complete recovery work underground by July/August of this year and hand the mine over to the Department of Conservation for ongoing management by the end of the year. Cabinet has approved a further $10.8 million to complete the project as well as a $4.2 million contingency,” Andrew Little said.

But there is no sign of there being any chance of body recovery. A cabinet paper details they original aimed to do…

…and what they now expect to achieve:

December 2016: Winston Peters pledges to be first to re-enter Pike River mine

To chants of “Winston for Prime Minister,” New Zealand First leader Winston Peters offered to be the first to go back into the condemned Pike River Mine.

Peters was speaking at a rally of some of the Pike River families and their spokesman Bernie Monk who came to Parliament to push their case for re-entry into the stricken mine.

He says he’s read some of the safety reports on Pike River and, like the families, believes it’s now safe to return.

January 2017: Peters meets with Pike River families

Yesterday, Mr Peters met with the families at the picket line near the site’s entrance, and he will meet with them again today at a public meeting in Greymouth.

Mr Peters said he wanted to show the families he would not ignore them, and supported them completely.

“The political system has shut them down, ignored them and has done its best to raise the suspicion that someone’s involved in a cover-up here. Otherwise, why did Solid Energy buy Pike River Mine and why do they want to seal it up for ever?

“Now these families want justice, they want peace of mind, closure, and it could be done if the government was acting in the way it should be doing, and in the way it promised.”

He said he supported the Pike River families who wanted to re-enter the mine, and reiterated his earlier vow not to agree to a coalition with any party that did not hold the same view.

Peters didn’t specifically mention body recovery, but that’s what ‘closure’ means to some people.

Prior to the 2017 election Cross-party agreement pledges a reentry of Pike River Mine

Jacinda Ardern says a Labour Government would reenter the Pike River Mine.

The leaders of Labour, United Future, the Maori Party and the Green Party signed a commitment in Wellington on Tuesday to reenter the West Coast mine.

“Re-entering the drift will mean we can recover some of the men, and evidence of the cause of the explosions. That will help deliver justice and answers, and bring the men home to their families.”

Families of the Pike River victims say they are “over the moon” with the cross-party agreement for an agency to take ownership of the mine and reclaim the drift to recover remains and evidence.

This obviously raised hopes and expectations of families.

The Labour-NZ First coalition agreement merely stated “Commit to re-entry to Pike River”.  They followed through on this, to an extent – Andrew Little enters Pike River portal

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little, and Pike Family representatives Anna Osborne and Sonya Rockhouse have entered the Pike River Mine portal.

“Today we walked together into the mine portal to demonstrate a safe re-entry is possible. I made the emotional journey with representatives of families who have fought for years for re-entry.

“In our first 100 days the Coalition Government handed the keys to Pike River Mine to the families, and established Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau Ma Iwa Pike River Recovery Agency. In the 11 weeks since the Agency was created we’ve made real progress on safe re-entry. Today proves that.

“Again, I’d like to acknowledge all the families who are working in partnership with me and the Coalition Government. We owe it to those families to re-enter the drift and retrieve evidence and the remains of their loved ones,” says Andrew Little.

In May 2019 when re-entry began from Winston Peters: Long awaited re-entry to Pike River Mine

Today’s successful re-entry into the Pike River Coal Mine is a victory for the families who are fighting tirelessly for answers, says New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters.

“Re-entry into Pike River is about justice. It’s about finding out the truth, and it is about doing what’s right for the families of those 29 men,” Mr Peters said.

“On the 13th of December 2016 New Zealand First promised those families that we would re-enter Pike River Mine. It is with solemnity that we deliver on a that promise today,” he said.

Re-entry into Pike River Mine was a bottom-line commitment for New Zealand First, and was entrenched in the Labour-New Zealand First Coalition agreement.

“Today is a milestone for those families. The previous government showed so little courage and completely disregarded the need for accountability.

“We have shown today that going back in was possible and could be done safely,” said Mr Peters.

Yesterday Pike River mine: Entry tunnel recovery cost soars to $47 million

Pike River mother Sonya Rockhouse said the re-entry project, and the evidence it would unearth, was the best chance families had to see someone held to account for killing their men.

“People ask me why so much money is being spent, to me it’s quite simple: it’s being spent to try to solve the mass homicide of 29 men. We can’t be a country that refuses people justice because it costs too much,” she said.

There has been no indication of evidence unearthed so far.

Bernie Monk has battled for nearly a decade to get his son Michael back and to see somebody held accountable for his death.

For him, the news that no assessment will be made of whether the main workings of the mine can be entered means his battle is a long way from finished.

“How can they make this call when the whole idea was to go down 800m – it’s never been investigated – [to] make a call before we even get there,” Monk said.

So the $51m looks unlikely to get Bernie Monk what he wants.

Stuff: Government approves another $15m for Pike River recovery

Pike River widow Anna Osborne said the Government’s plan to close the door on reentry of the mine workings was “premature”.

“It seems a bit odd to say no to that before we have got to the end of the drift and assessed whether reentry of the mine workings is needed or even possible,” she said.

She called for other families to campaign for reentry of the mine workings.

Anna Osborne wants re-entry to the mine workings, not just to part of the access tunnel. There seems to be no scope to achieve this.

Rowdy Durbridge, whose son Dan died in the mine, said he was proud of what the families had achieved for their boys.

“I had family and mates die in that mine. I worked beside them down there and I’ve felt a responsibility to them ever since,” he said.

“That’s feeling’s never going to go away but having fought and won drift reentry and the investigation of their deaths, that’s something I think me and the families and a whole lot of Kiwis who believe in justice can hold our heads high about.”

There is no sign of what accountability and justice might achieve.

Measures “to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19” and PM statement

Beehive release that details the measures being put in place “to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19”.

  • Every person entering New Zealand from anywhere in the world will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, excluding the Pacific[i]. ‘
  • These restrictions will all be reviewed in 16 days’ time.
  • Existing travel ban retained for China and Iran
  • Cruise ships banned from coming to New Zealand, until at least 30 June 2020
  • Strict new health measures at the border for people departing to the Pacific
  • A range of measures to assist those in self-isolation to be announced next week
  • Government will work closely with the aviation sector to encourage airlines to remain active in New Zealand, limit impacts on the tourism sector and exporters
  • Directive on mass gatherings to be announced early next week

[i] The Pacific is defined as the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu & Wallis and Futuna.


Prime Minister’s statement

Good afternoon

The full Cabinet met this afternoon to make a range of significant decisions to further protect the health of New Zealanders and reduce the threat of transmission of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

First I want to provide some context to our decisions.

New Zealand has to date, relative to other counties, a small number of cases. We have successfully managed to contact trace for every one of those cases, and are in the process of doing so for our latest one. This has been a critical part of our response.

Secondly, our smaller number of cases has helped us to manage them in the right place, and with the right support. The majority of our cases have not required our hospital system to care for them.

The key continues to be leaving our hospital system for those who need it most.

All of this points to one strategy which has guided our decision making – spread the cases, and flatten the curve.

It is not realistic for New Zealand to have only a handful of cases.

The international evidence proves that is not realistic, and so we must plan and prepare for more cases.

But, the scale of how many cases we get and how fast we get them is something we should do as much as we can to slow. That is how we ensure health services are there for those who need them most.

That’s why we must go hard, and go early, and do everything we can to protect New Zealanders health.

That is exactly why, to tackle this global pandemic, Cabinet made far reaching and unprecedented decisions today.

As of midnight Sunday every person entering New Zealand, including returning New Zealand citizens and residents, will be required to enter self-isolation for 14 days. Everybody.

The Pacific are exempted from this measure, though anyone from these countries will be required to automatically self–isolate should they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival in New Zealand.

These restrictions will all be reviewed in 16 days’ time.

Alongside Israel, and a small number of Pacific Islands who have effectively closed their border, this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world.

We are also encouraging New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas. This help reduces the risk of a New Zealand bringing COVID-19 back with them.

We accept that for New Zealanders currently overseas this is a stressful time and we encourage any New Zealander needing consular assistance to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to restrictions on air travel we are also taking firm measures on cruise ships. As of midnight tonight we are issuing a directive to all cruise ships not to come to New Zealand until at least 30 June 2020, at which time the directive will be reviewed.

I want to be very clear – these measures are about people, not products. They do not apply to cargo ships or cargo planes or to marine or air crew, and we will be working to ensure we keep sea and air freight routes open for imports and exports.

In short, no one needs to conduct a run on their supermarket. It’s worth remembering that we’ve had travel restrictions on China for over a month, and those supply routes continue.

We are mindful that some items that come into New Zealand travel via passenger flights. That’s why support, where needed, will be provided to ensure that essential air freight like pharmaceuticals continue to be shipped into New Zealand.

We did not take these decisions lightly. We know these travel restrictions will place significant strain on the aviation industry, and we anticipate some routes will reduce or cease for a period of time.

As such the Government will work closely with the aviation sector to encourage and support airlines to remain active in New Zealand so that we can re-bound from the restrictions quickly and not have significant impacts on our tourism sector, exporters, and economy.

In addition to these measures the Finance Minister will also announce an economic response including the business continuity package on Tuesday.

We are also stepping up our actions at the border as a key departure route to the Pacific.  New Zealand has a huge sense of responsibility to support our Pacific neighbours.

As such strict new border exit measures for people travelling to the Pacific will be put in place and include:

  • No travel for people who have travelled outside of New Zealand in the past 14 days,
  • No travel for close or casual contacts of a confirmed case.
  • No travel for anyone who is symptomatic
  • Health assessment including temperature check

Taken as a whole, the border measures we are taking today will mean significantly more people will enter self-isolation, and supporting and facilitating that to occur is critical.

We are already registering all travellers into New Zealand, and Healthline is monitoring the self-isolation process.

Today we instructed officials to step up enforcement of self isolation through measures such as spot checks. It is worth mentioning though, to date more than 10,500 people are or have successfully self-isolated in New Zealand. People know that it’s in the best interest of their community and they’re pulling together to look after one another.

After all, the combination of restricting the virus coming here and isolating it when it does are two of the most important steps we can take to avoid community outbreak.

Given self-isolation is so important, we want to make it as easy as possible.

As such the Government will be introducing a range of measures to assist with self-isolation.

Expect more on this early next week.

We will also increase community support to those unable to support themselves in isolation.

In addition to these measures the Finance Minister will also announce a business continuity package next week, the Health Minister will announce a suite of additional health measures to scale up the responsiveness of our health system to the virus and a public information campaign will be launched.

Ultimately though, the best protection for the economy is containing the virus. A widespread outbreak will hurt our economy far more in the long run than short term measures to prevent a mass outbreak occurring.

These measures, while disruptive, are needed to make the space we need as a nation to prepare and manage the spread of COVID-19.

We all have obligations to limit the spread of the virus and basic health measures is are the heart of that.

However in order to limit the risk of community outbreak when people are in close proximity to each other we will also be announcing further guidelines on mass gatherings. For now, Pasifika and the 15 March Memorial have been cancelled.

The guidance we will be developing more broadly on mass gatherings will be based on the following criteria:

  • Large numbers of people in close proximity
  • Events where people are more likely to be in physical contact
  • Events where participants have travelled from overseas
  • And non-ticketed events, where for instance there is no seat allocation making it difficult to contact trace

Again, advice and criteria on mass gatherings will be released next week.  For those who need more immediate advice, they should contact their public health unit.

In conclusion, we have two choices as a nation. One is to let COVID-19 roll on, and brace.

The second is to go hard on measures to keep it out, and stamp it out – not because we can stop a global pandemic from reaching us, but because it is in our power to slow it down.

I make no apology for choosing the second path. New Zealanders public health comes first. If we have that, we can recover from the impacts on the economy, the impacts on tourism, and the impacts on our airline.

Finally, this is an unprecedented time. While we don’t have community transmission here, now is the time to prepare. And we can all play a role in that. So here’s my request to New Zealanders:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. If you don’t need to travel overseas, then don’t. Enjoy your own back yard for a time.
  3. Wash your hands
  4. If you’re sick, stay home.
  5. If you sneeze, do it into your elbow
  6. Wash your hands.
  7. Stop handshakes, hugs, and hongi – I know this is counter to who we are as a nation, but the best thing we can do right now to show love and affection to one another, is to switch to the east coast wave.
  8. Please be mindful of the older citizens in your life. Check in on them, but if you’re sick, keep your distance

Finally, we are a tough resilient people. We have been here before. But our journey will depend on how we work together. We are taking every measure we need as a government, and we ask that you do to.

We all have a role to play. Look out for your neighbour, look out for your family. Look out for your friends.

Two scoots forward, one scoot backward

The use of relatively environmentally friendly electric scooters has surged in the last couple of years, mainly due to scooters for hire in many cities. Lime scooters arrived in Dunedin over a year ago, and it’s common to see them scattered over the city parked and lying on footpaths, and while not prolific on roads they must be being used.

They have not been without problems, in particular injuries of riders who crash. There has also been concerns about the use of scooters on footpaths, posing inconvenience and dangers to pedestrians.

The Government is now trying to address this by looking at restrictions on scooters, in particular limiting their speed to 15 km/h. This may make sense when scooting on footpaths, but it would seem a backward step in cycle lanes where bikes go much faster.

Beehive: Bid for safer footpaths

The Government is looking at ways to make footpaths more pedestrian friendly as new forms of transport such as e-scooters change the way people get around.

It’s looking at:

  • Clarifying that pedestrians and people in wheelchairs have right of way on the footpath
  • Putting in a speed limit of 15km/h (about running speed) and a width limit of 75cm for transport devices used on the footpath
  • Allowing e-scooters and other transport devices to use cycle lanes

“This package looks at how we can make our streets safer for those going from A to B, particularly young children when they are learning to ride bikes, and ensuring our road rules reflect real life,” Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said.

“How we travel around our streets and footpaths is changing as more Kiwis choose to walk, cycle, and use new forms of mobility like e-scooters.

“New transport technologies like e-scooters are convenient, fun and help ease congestion, but we need to a balanced approach to ensure pedestrians retain priority on our footpaths.

Safety of pedestrians is important – but I don’t know whether there have been increased injuries of pedestrians due to the use of scooters.

And, limiting the speed of scooters on footpaths to 15 km/h may make some sense, it doesn’t make sense to also limit their speed to jogging pace on cycle lanes.

Other minor changes in the package to simplify and clarify road rules include:

  • Categorising vehicles to reflect changes in technology
  • Improving the safety of people walking, cycling and using micro-mobility devices by clarifying a number of give way rules
  • Giving  buses priority when exiting bus stops on roads with a speed limit of 60km/h or less
  • Clarifying the powers of road controlling authorities in relation to parking on berms.

Yesterday National announced a policy that would try to reduce regulations.

The consultation will be open from 9 March to 22 April 2020.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe on the road and close passes at speed are not only scary, they can be fatal,” Julie Anne Genter said.

Are they fatal? Have any pedestrians been killed by scooters? Or, Genter refers to roads, does she mean the speed of cars versus already slower scooters?

Safety is obviously an important consideration, of pedestrians, scooter riders and people in vehicles. Encouraging people to walk, scoot or pedal is a big thing these days.

But more pedestrians, scooters and bikes could cause congestion and safety problems.

And if they over-regulate it may deter people from using scooters.

I have looked into the practicality and economics of getting a scooter for commuting. Limiting speeds to 15 km/h would rule that option out for me.

‘Accessible Streets’ rules package consultation document www.nzta.govt.nz/accessible-streets-consultation

Ardern says Jones was loose and wrong, but Jones unrepentant

Shane Jones made controversial comments on Newshub in the weekend that have been labeled racist – see Shane Jones accused of stoking racism and embarrassing Peters.

Both his leader Winston Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were out of the country then. Yesterday back in New Zealand Ardern said that Jones was loose with his words and wrong.

RNZ: PM Jacinda Ardern publicly reprimands Shane Jones over Indian immigrant remarks:

Over the weekend, Jones told the Newshub Nation he wanted a “maximum population”, and New Zealand needed to think about the kind of country we wanted.

“If you want another million, two million, three million people, we should debate it and there should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options, unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi.

“I don’t like that idea at all. I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions,” he told Newshub Nation.

Ardern said…

…Jones was not in the Cabinet meeting today, but she planned to have a strong word with him.

“On many occasions I’ve witnessed Minister Jones be both loose with his language and also be wrong, and on this occasion he was both”.

“I take that very seriously, which is why I’m very, very clear I totally disagree with Shane Jones, I will be telling him that, and I will also be asking him to reconsider the way he talks about these issues in the future because I do not believe it is good for New Zealand”.

Ardern said while she had been advised the comments did not have any impact on the trip or New Zealand’s relationship with India, it went beyond that, because it affected our local community.

Advised by Peters? Or by David Parker, who really fudged around questioning on RNZ.

Jones’ outburst came as Trade Minister David Parker and Foreign Minister Winston Peters – Jones’ boss – were in India discussing ways to strengthen ties.

This morning Parker dodged questions from Morning Report’s Susie Fergusson about whether Jones’ comments were unhelpful.

“I’d make the point that when you’re having a debate about population you’ve got to be careful about language,” he said.

Parker refused to say whether the comments were racist or dog-whistle politics.

“I actually get on with Shane Jones well and when I think he’s gone too far I tell him privately,” he said.

However, he would not say if this was such an occasion.

Simon Bridges criticisms are likely to be largely lost in a long list of whinges.

Waitakere Indian Association President Sunil Kaushal said Jones’ comments were racist and Ardern needed to ensure this sentiment didn’t keep being repeated.

“This is a three-strikes-out kind of a thing, you know, she needs to really have a chat with her Cabinet and the leader of Shane Jones’ party that his behaviour is unacceptable in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, diversity inclusive New Zealand. This is not who we are,” he said.

Jones acts like an unrestrained loose cannon. In January: Demands Shane Jones apologise over ‘sexist’ Pania Newton comments. I don’t remember seeing any retraction or apology after that.

Stuff reports that Jones is unrepentant, suggesting that he was mandated by NZ First to “continually” speak about a “maximum population policy” the party intends to bring to the public in the election year – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Shane Jones was ‘loose’ and ‘wrong’.

But Jones… quickly turned the reprimand into an opportunity to electioneer.

When the Prime Minister speaks, on behalf of the Government, she is never wrong. But my remarks need to be seen through the prism of an MP on an election year,” he told Stuff.

“I’ll take it on the chin.”

Jones said the NZ First caucus had mandated him to “continually” speak about a “maximum population policy” the party intends to bring to the public in the election year.

The details of such any such policy were left vague. Jones said the public needed to discuss what the right mix of character, skills or talent migrants should bring to New Zealand, and how many should come.

He said claims his stance on immigration was racist, or that he was inelegantly discussing the matter was “a perception that I now have to manage”.

It seems to be a perception he has deliberately put out in the public.

And it appears that once again Jones couldn’t give a stuff about ‘stern’ reprimands from the Prime Minister. Being a responsible minister this term seems less important to him than trying to return to Parliament next term.

Another headline this morning to the same article on Jones attack on Indians: ‘This is not who we are’ – PM repudiates Jones’ remarks – but blatantly sexist and racist seems very much who Jones is.

It looks like he, and presumably Peters, are hoping there are enough racists and sexists who don’t feel betrayed by NZ First support of a Labour-led government will vote for NZ First to rescue them from political oblivion.

The problem with alienating various groups is it reduces the pool of voters who may vote for you.

New Kiwisaver rules will ban ‘investing in fossil fuels’

The Government plans to impose new rules on Kiwisaver.

One makes sense – changing default Kiwisaver schemes from conservative to balanced. Most people starting on Kiwisaver will have a long time until retirement, and should be at least in balanced funds if not in growth funds until they get closer to retirement (except perhaps for now when the share market is tanking). People are still free to choose what scheme they are on.

One seems a waste of time – banning Kiwisaver investments in “companies making land mines, cluster bombs, and other illegal weapons”. I hope that will affect just about no Kiwisaver schemes, although it can get complicated where large companies do many things, and have a lot more suppliers and contractors.

One may be more controversial – banning Kiwisaver investments in ‘fossil fuels’.

RNZ: New KiwiSaver rules to ban investing in fossil fuels and illegal weapons

Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi said banning investment in fossil fuel companies would help combat climate change and carbon emissions.

“It also makes sense for the funds themselves given that there is a risk of investing in stranded assets as the world moves to reduce emissions.”

He said the Superannuation Fund quit such investments more than two years ago and its investment returns had not suffered.

‘Not suffered’ on it’s own is meaningless.

It may be interesting to see what the rules actually define for ‘fossil fuel companies’. Exploration and drilling and mining should be clear, but what about distribution and sales? Airlines, shipping and transport companies that use a lot of fuel? Car manufacturers?


UPDATE – the Beehive has released clarification and more details. The ban on investing in fossil fuels only applies to default funds, so it’s more gesture than a comprehensive government interference in what you can invest your own money in.

Default KiwiSaver changes support more responsible investment

New Zealanders’ savings in KiwiSaver default funds will soon exclude investment in fossil fuels, the Ministers of Finance and Commerce and Consumer Affairs announced today.

Rule changes mean that investments in fossil fuel production will be excluded from future funds that are default providers.

Default providers are funds that are allocated to people who do not actively choose a fund when they join KiwiSaver.

“This reflects the Government’s commitment to addressing the impacts of climate change and transitioning to a low-emissions economy,” Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said.

“It also makes sense for the funds themselves given that there is a risk of investing in stranded assets as the world moves to reduce emissions.

“In 2017, the $47 billion NZ Superannuation Fund adopted a climate change investment strategy that resulted in it removing more than $3 billion worth of stocks that exceed thresholds for either emissions intensity or fossil fuel reserves, without negatively affecting performance. So we know that moving away from investments in fossil fuels doesn’t have to mean lower returns.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said rules set down by previous governments have allowed New Zealanders’ hard-earned money to be used to support the fossil fuels companies that are the leading cause of the climate crisis.

“No New Zealander should have to worry about whether their retirement savings are causing the climate crisis. That’s why our Government is moving default KiwiSaver funds away from fossil fuels, putting people and the planet first,” James Shaw said.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government wanted to ensure people who remained in default funds got the maximum benefit from their investments.

The terms of the existing nine default providers expire in June 2021.

“As we go about appointing new providers, the Government is also improving the settings for investors,” Grant Robertson said.

“We’re changing default fund settings from ‘conservative’ to a ‘balanced’ fund. The change is intended to make a real difference to people’s financial wellbeing in retirement,” Mr Robertson said.

“We’re also focusing on ensuring New Zealanders get greater value for money from their fees, which we know can make a big difference in the amount of money people have for their retirement. So the fees each provider charges will be factored into the providers we select during the procurement process,” Mr Robertson said.

Kris Faafoi said another key area of focus would be to ensure members have all the information they need to make good decisions about their fund.

“We want all New Zealanders to enjoy the benefits of KiwiSaver. No fund will be right for everyone so we’re requiring default providers to do more to engage with their members and help them make the right decision for their circumstances. This will help with things like understanding what fund is best for KiwiSaver members and how much they should be contributing so they are on track for the type of retirement they want”, Mr Faafoi said.

About 690,000 New Zealanders have stayed in default KiwiSaver funds, which they were automatically enrolled in when they started a new job. Approximately 400,000 of those have not made an active choice to stay there.

Notes:

Improvements the Government is making include:

  • changing the investment mandate from ‘conservative’ to a ‘balanced’ fund
  • ensuring KiwiSaver fees are simple and transparent, and using the procurement process to put pressure on fees
  • obligations on default providers to engage with their members to help them make informed decisions about their retirement savings
  • excluding investments in fossil fuels and illegal weapons. While default fund providers have in recent years divested any investments in companies involved in illegal weapons like cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines, the changes now enshrine that requirement in default fund settings
  • requiring default providers to maintain a responsible investment policy that’s published on their website
  • transferring non-active default members[1] of any provider that is not reappointed to one of the appointed default providers[2] (so that these members retain the benefits of being in a default fund).

KiwiSaver default fund providers

When people enrol in KiwiSaver but don’t actively choose an investment fund, the Government allocates them a default fund. Around 690,000 people remain in a default fund, and approximately 400,000 of those have not made an active choice to stay there.The terms and conditions that apply to a default provider’s appointment are contained in an instrument of appointment, which is agreed to prior to the term of appointment. There are currently nine default fund providers, and their terms expire in mid-2021.

Every seven years, the Government reviews the settings for default providers ahead of appointing a new selection of default providers through a competitive tender process. The new settings will apply to the default funds that are in place from mid-2021. The procurement process to appoint the new default KiwiSaver providers commences later this year.

Government announce bottom of cliff emergency housing measures

Recognising that problems of homelessness and the difficulty of getting affordable housing haven’t been resolved, the Government has announced more emergency housing measures – and keep blaming the ‘last nine years’ again, despite property prices climbing right through the last three government tenures.

Government steps up action to prevent homelessness

  • 1000 new transitional housing places delivered by end of year to reduce demand for emergency motel accommodation.
  • Introduce 25% of income payment, after 7 days, for those in emergency motel accommodation to bring in line with other forms of accommodation support.
  • Over $70m extra to programmes that prevents those at risk of losing their rentals becoming homeless and support people out of motels and into permanent accommodation.
  • Alongside these immediate actions, there is a long-term plan of action to address and reduce homelessness.

More vulnerable New Zealanders will be moved from emergency motel accommodation to transitional housing as the Government steps up efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan, released today, will also see an increase of 1,000 transitional housing places by the end of the year, adding to the over 1,300 places already created since the Government was formed, further reducing the reliance on leased motels for emergency accommodation.

Using attack as a form of defence the inevitable blaming of the last government.

“This Government inherited a homelessness crisis decades in the making when we took office, that will take time to fix. The previous Government left us with a chronic shortage of houses and were selling off state houses that people desperately needed,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“We campaigned on tackling housing and homelessness and we are delivering. This Government has put a public housing building programme into action on a scale that hasn’t been seen in New Zealand for 40 years.

A claim to have addressed the living in cars crisis.

“On coming into office, our immediate priority was to get people out of sleeping in cars and garages or on the street and into safe and warm accommodation.” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Over $70 million in this package is dedicated to programmes that are proven to work in helping vulnerable New Zealander’s to stay in their homes and not end up on the streets.

Two years later a lack of housing is still a problem.:

“This next step in our plan aims to both prevent people becoming homeless in the first place and reduce the reliance on motels for emergency accommodation by increasing the supply of transitional housing,” Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi said.

The full set of measures are detailed in the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan https://www.hud.govt.nz/community-and-public-housing/support-for-people-in-need/homelessness-action-plan/

Details of Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan package, backed by over $300m of extra funding, include:

  • $175m to deliver 1,000 additional transitional housing places by the end of 2020
  • $25.6m extra to the Sustaining Tenancies programme to help those at risk of losing their rental with practical support including budget advice, property maintenance, and mental health and addiction support
  • $20m to work with Māori to prevent homelessness & expand housing supply that delivered by Māori
  • $17.5m to support young people leaving Oranga Tamariki care into accommodation with wrap around support services
  • $16.3m to help acute mental health and addiction inpatients transition into the community with housing and other wrap-around support
  • $13.5m to pilot a rapid re-housing approach for people receiving Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants
  • $19.8 million to expand intensive case manager or navigator support services for people in emergency housing longer than 7 nights
  • $8.7 million for a new housing broker service to connect with local landlords and help more MSD clients secure private rental homes
  • $740,000 to fund programmes to help people gain skills and confidence to secure and manage a private rental home
  • $9.3 million to support the wellbeing needs of children in emergency housing, such paying for transport to school or early childhood education

One thing has caused consternation from the left:

Additionally, to ensure parity with other tenants in social housing, a 25% of income payment will be introduced for people staying in motels for longer than 7 days.

No Right Turn: Labour’s festering Neoliberalism

…the “contribution” will be 25% of a “client’s” income, exactly what they’d be paying if they were in a state house with individual bedrooms and a proper kitchen and a backyard rather than a shitty motel.

What stinks is the reason for it: if you read the Cabinet Paper (paragraphs 63-68), its intended to “support a reduction in the reliance on motels” and produce “behavioural changes” which will supposedly reduce the cost of the programme. In other words, it will cause people to either leave those shitty motels earlier than they otherwise would have, or not ask for assistance in the first place.

None of this fixes the big problem – the continued climb in property prices and rental costs.

Post image

From https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/f36cp8/yelp/

That’s something that past governments plus the current government have failed to deal with.

Some factors are outside government control, but one huge problem remains – the Resource Management Act makes it slow and costly to make more land available for new housing.

And one problem with the RMA is that it allows small numbers of people to hold things up. One example is playing out in Dunedin now. The 2nd Generation District Plan was notified in september 2015. After a lengthy submission process decisions on the 2GP were notified on 7 November 2018.

Since then one small group of people have appealed, have changed their appeals a number of times, have failed to come to an agreement through mediation, and currently after more changes are headed to a hearing in the Environment Court probably about June. There have already been 9 filings on this one appeal so far this year. Over a thousand properties are impacted, with no development possible until this is resolved.

The Dunedin City Council are aware of an urgent need for more land for building, and are trying to get it resolved, but have had to follow RMA processes that allow people to oppose and delay.

There is no sign of this RMA problem being fixed, hence the need for emergency housing measures being tacked on to previous emergency housing measures.

Business case now planned for RNZ/TVNZ merger before legislating

Plans to merge RNZ and TVNZ have slowed further, with  business case process now under way. This is expected to be completed by about mid-year, after which ‘final decisions’ will be made. With the election due in September it seems unlikely much will actually happen this year.

Minister of Broadcasting Kris Faafoi had wanted to get a decision from Cabinet last December to rush through legislation under urgency to disestablish RNZ and TVNZ and do a business case later. He was supposed to be one of the more competent ministers.

RNZ last November:  Govt to consider replacing RNZ, TVNZ with new public broadcaster

The fate of RNZ and TVNZ may soon be in the hands of Cabinet ministers, with a proposal to disestablish both broadcasters and create an entirely new public media entity.

An advisory group, with representatives from both media companies and a range of public service agencies, was set up to look at future funding options.

RNZ understands there were three options: merge the RNZ and TVNZ newsrooms, put more money into New Zealand On Air, or the third, preferred option now heading for Cabinet – most likely in early December.

17 December Government plans for RNZ and TVNZ remain up in the air

A Cabinet decision on the future on RNZ and TVNZ has been delayed until early next year.

The Broadcasting Minister will not meet his commitment to announce the government plan for public media by Christmas, because ministers want more work done before making a final decision.

Cabinet had one proposal to consider – disestablish RNZ and TVNZ and create one new public media entity.

Minister Kris Faafoi said he intended to make a public announcement by Christmas, but that was not going to happen.

“Cabinet colleagues had a few questions and I think that’s fair to go and make sure that those issues are addressed before we make a final decision.”

29 January: New details revealed as Cabinet agrees on RNZ, TVNZ public broadcasting decision

Cabinet is forging ahead with the plan to create a new, super-sized public broadcaster, but ministers have taken some convincing.

RNZ understands they have signed off on a high-level decision to proceed and to commission a business case, after the Minister for Broadcasting, Kris Faafoi, presented a revised paper on Monday.

RNZ understands there was pushback from some senior Labour and New Zealand First ministers about the way the preferred option was landed on, the implications for public broadcasting if RNZ ceased to be a standalone company, and the speed at which it had been progressing.

However, this may not necessarily change the timetable – the plan was to work towards having the new media company in place by about 2023 and that appears to still be the goal.

It’s already taken Labour most of this term to get to this point; Clare Curran’s plans for ‘RNZ+’ were canned when she lost the Broadcasting portfolio in 2018 and Faafoi took over.

Curran established a ministerial advisory group headed by Michael Stiassny that started the work on the new model; through that process and subsequent work by consultants three options would emerge – merge the RNZ and TVNZ newsrooms, boost NZ On Air funding and the third – create a substantial new media organisation.

Those three options were given to a working group to thrash out, comprising representatives of TVNZ, RNZ and a range of public agencies, including DPMC and Treasury.

Its recommendations formed the basis of the December Cabinet paper that concluded the status quo was “unsustainable” and that the working group had “collectively recommended the government agree to disestablish TVNZ and RNZ and to establish a new public media entity”.

That paper laid out guidelines for how it would operate, including having a “clearly defined public media mandate and purpose, with the core functions of a globally recognised public media entity”.

It would provide public media services across a variety of platforms, “some of which may be advertising free”.

The new entity would have a “mixed funding model” that would be funded both directly from the Crown, and from a range of “non-Crown” sources including advertising, sponsorship and subscriptions.

It would operate as a not-for-profit, and would have “statutory protection for editorial and operational independence”.

2 February:  New public media plan still a work in progress behind closed doors

Cabinet has approved the idea of a new public service outfit to replace state-owned RNZ and TVNZ by 2023 – but they want more details from the broadcasting minister. So does the public and the rest of the media. 

…the proposal went before Cabinet again last Monday and this time ministers approved it, according to Jane Patterson’s RNZ scoop.

But they still want to see more details and a completed business case.

Jane Patterson said ministers wanted it “crystal clear” that this would be a public broadcasting outfit with a charter to uphold, but it is still not clear how public funding and commercial revenue will be blended.

That point was made last Wednesday by Victoria University’s associate professor of media and communication studies Peter Thompson on RNZ’s The Panel.

“If you look at other entities overseas like Ireland’s RTE or Canada’s CBC, successful and sustainable hybrid models of public broadcasting require at least 50 percent of their funding from public sources,” he said.

“It is high time the government announced its blueprint for the new public media entity, and sought public feedback to ensure the best outcome and informed debate before the 2020 election,” Dr Thompson said in a statement issued by the pressure group he chairs, Better Public Media.

7 February: Work to begin on business case for new RNZ, TVNZ public broadcaster

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi has confirmed work will begin on a business case for creating a new, super-sized public broadcaster.

He said Cabinet has approved a business case to examine the viability of establishing a new public media entity as an independent multiple-platform, multi-media operation.

When asked about the impact the proposal would have on the commercial market, Faafoi said he would need to wait for the business case.

One could wonder why a business case wasn’t sought in the first place. Faaafoi had wanted a decision on the merging from Cabinet last year.

Final decisions about the future of RNZ and TVNZ will be made once the business case is completed.

Faafoi said he wanted the new entity to be more nimble and designed for a digital 21st century environment.

He said PricewaterhouseCoopers will conduct the business case, and it is expected to report back by the middle of this year.

While Labour may want a proposed plan in place before the election it seems unlikely legislation will happen in time.

New Zealand First broadcasting spokesperson Jenny Marcroft said her party supports the decision to commission a business case.

“We need to see what the options are, the design and cost, and the likely timeframes.

“In a media environment that is increasingly dominated by digital platforms, and people receiving their news from dubious sources. It is clear that the future of organisations such as TVNZ and RNZ are preserved”, Marcroft said.

Sounds like NZ First weren’t keen on Faafoi fast tracking the merger. And natikonal aren’t keen on the proposal at all.

In the lead up to the election, the National Party has already made clear it does not support the idea of having one big public broadcaster.

The National Party’s Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media spokesperson Melissa Lee criticised the Government for leaving the future of public broadcasting in a state of uncertainty.

“There is no plan still, this is almost three years down the line [and] we are no clearer as to what they are going to do,” she said.

Lee was also unhappy with what was known about the proposal so far.

“We want plurality of voice in the media space and anything that reduces that voice is something we would be very concerned about,” she said.

Faafoi said the future of RNZ and TVNZ will become a political football whether the Government liked it or not.

I wonder why he thought he could rush it through.

Last month RNZ reported that it understood Faafoi’s original plan presented to Cabinet in December was to prepare legislation under urgency to disestablish RNZ and TVNZ, and then proceed with a business plan later this year.

That seems a crazy way to go about things – rush the changes through, and then see if it’s a good idea later.

Faafoi has been seen as one of the more competent Government ministers, but this isn’t good for his reputation.