Live updates, December 1: Government grilled on housing; Goff announces planned rates rise for Auckland

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 1. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

8.10pm: The day in sum

There were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and the Ministry of Health issued a warning to be vigilant during the Christmas party season

Auckland mayor Phil Goff released a proposal for a rates rise of 5% next year.

The free-to-air television properties formerly owned by Mediaworks, including Three and Newshub, became the official property of US network Discovery.

The government will rush through legislation before Christmas to allow for pill testing at festivals this summer, it was announced.

Sky TV’s chief executive Martin Stewart quit his job and was replaced by the company’s chief commercial officer Sophie Moloney, with immediate effect.

The government confirmed its business debt scheme, first launched in the early weeks of Covid-19, will be extended until October 2021.

3.05pm: Rates rise planned for Auckland

Auckland mayor Phil Goff has announced plans to raise rates by 5% next year. In his mayoral proposal for a new 10-year budget dubbed the “Recovery Budget”, in response to a $1 billion revenue hole due to Covid-19, Goff said a one-off increase of 5% from July next year would be followed by a rates rise of 3.5% thereafter.

“This not a slash and burn budget but it’s also not the budget we had hoped to put out at the start of the year,” said Goff in a statement. “We have to accept that Covid has changed our financial landscape and change our plans accordingly.”

“Without a suite of measures to counter the $1 billion financial hole caused by Covid, our city will go backwards,” said Goff. “We don’t want a city full of potholes and unkept parks, so we need to take more urgent action now.”

3.00pm: Government grilled on housing in first Question Time since election

Soaring house prices are in the spotlight as the opposition puts the heat on the government in the first Question Time of the new parliament.

National housing spokesperson Nicola Willis is pushing a list of five things the government could do to fix housing that don’t involve tax: strengthen the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS); remove the Auckland Urban Boundary; make Kāinga Ora capital available to community housing providers with shovel-ready plans; and establishing a housing infrastructure fund; and implement new finance model.

You can watch the action here.

1.05pm: Three new Covid-19 cases in isolation as ministry issues Christmas party warning

There are three new cases of Covid-19 recorded in managed isolation in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has reported in today’s media release.

One person arrived on November 23 from Germany via Singapore and tested positive at day 3 testing. “Further testing indicates this case is historical but has not been reported overseas so it is included in New Zealand’s totals,” says the ministry release.

Another person arrived on November 23 from the US. “This person was tested at day 6 due to a person in their bubble testing positive at day 3, and this test returned a positive result. This person is in the same bubble as two people reported yesterday.”

The third person arrived on November 26 from South Africa and tested positive in day 3 testing.

Yesterday laboratories processed 3,165 tests. There are three cases cases have now considered recovered, so the total number of active cases in New Zealand remains at 72. The total confirmed cases is now 1,703.

Christmas parties

On the first day of December, the ministry says to thee:

“With the countdown on until Christmas, the ministry asks that anyone hosting a party for staff ensures that everyone who is attending is well. If anyone who was planning to attend is unwell, please consider how you can include them in your celebrations via video call or other means that ensure they can take part while everyone is kept safe.

“Please encourage those attending to check in at the venue with the NZ Covid Tracer app, in the Covid Tracer booklet available online, or in a personal notebook. Continue to emphasise the importance of handwashing at your event and have hand sanitiser available for your attendees.”

12.45pm: MediaWorks completes sale of Three to Discovery 

MediaWorks’ former free-to-air TV arm, including Three and Newshub, is now officially owned by global entertainment giant Discovery. They are now separate from MediaWorks’ radio and out-of-home (billboard advertising etc) businesses.

The completion of the sale, which was originally announced in September, comes ahead of MediaWorks’ newly appointed group CEO, Cam Wallace, taking the reins from Michael Anderson on January 11. 

In a statement, Anderson said the sale has enabled the business to invest in an “ongoing strategy to realise the combined potential of the radio and out-of-home platforms”.

“MediaWorks’ focus will be on implementing key strategic initiatives to deliver long-term growth, which includes our exclusive three-year broadcasting rights partnership with New Zealand Cricket, amongst others,” he said. 

Like many media businesses, MediaWorks struggled this year due to a reduction in advertising brought on by the Covid-19 lockdown. MediaWorks staff were asked to take a voluntary 15% pay cut in April, while in May 130 redundancies were announced.

12.15pm: Pill testing to be legal at summer festivals

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports:

The government is rushing through legislation before Christmas to allow for pill testing at festivals this summer. The move follows a campaign promise from Labour to allow for the testing, which is currently illegal.

The new law is a short-term fix that makes it legal for someone to handle drugs for a few minutes for the sole reason of testing them. The drugs themselves remain illegal. The government is going to start consultations next year to figure out a long-term solution to allow for the testing.

“This law change today provides these services with narrow and time limited protection this summer against prosecution for short term possession of illegal drugs while they test them,” health minister Andrew Little said in a statement.

Part of what’s called harm reduction, the idea is that allowing for the testing helps ensure that young New Zealanders are using drugs that aren’t laced with harmful, life-threatening additives.

Act has said it’ll support the legislation because it balances keeping the drugs illegal with the public health objective of limiting harm.

Similarly, the Green Party has backed the move, saying it’s a sensible approach to reducing dram harm.

11.25am: Ardern raises concern over doctored photo posted by Chinese government

A follow-up to the 10.25am update on a doctored photo posted by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Twitter.

Our own government has confirmed it officially registered its concern over the fake picture, which appeared to show an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

Jacinda Ardern said while she has not spoken directly to Australian PM Scott Morrison, she was concerned by the image.

“That is something that we have raised directly in the manner that New Zealand does when we have such concerns,” Ardern said.

“We will speak up on issues that we have concerns about, we will stick to our independent foreign policy, but that doesn’t stop us observing what is happening with others.”

11.10am: Local music dominates charts for first time in 16 years

For the first time since 2004 – when Ben Lummis (yes) and Brooke Fraser were all the talk – New Zealand music is top of both the annual singles chart and albums chart.

L.A.B.’s In The Air was the biggest song of the year, ahead of the Weeknd’s Blinding Lights. On the album charts, Six60 dethroned Billie Eilish, with their most recent album the biggest seller of 2020.

As an aside, the top New Zealand albums of 2020 list threw me a bit – what ever happened to naming albums?

(Image : Supplied)

10.25am: Australian PM told to slap himself in the face by Chinese media

A spat between China and Australia is continuing to heat up. Australia’s PM Scott Morrison has been told to “slap himself in the face” and accused of arrogance, after he asked for a doctored image on Twitter to be removed.

The photo showed an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of a young child holding a lamb, accompanied with the caption: “Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace”.

As news.com.au reports, Morrison reacted swiftly to the image being shared on social media, calling it “truly repugnant”and asking for an apology from the Chinese government.

“It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform, every Australian who serves in that uniform today, everyone who has pulled on that uniform and served with Australians overseas from whatever nation, that they have done that,” Morrison said. “It is utterly outrageous and it cannot be justified on any basis whatsoever.”

In response, the editor of China’s state-run English language newspaper, Hu Xijin, called Morrison “ridiculously arrogant” and said he should “slap himself in the face” on live television.

10.05am: Freeview set to remove TVNZ from OnDemand app

It’s looking set to be a big day for media news: Freeview has announced that from next June, TVNZ content will no longer be available in the Freeview OnDemand app – less than two and a half years after it was launched.

It’s an intriguing move, considering TVNZ is a part owner of the free to air television service.

In a statement, Freeview said that TVNZ content would be exclusively available to be streamed via the existing TVNZ OnDemand app, with programming from ThreeNow, Māori Television On Demand and RNZ still available via Freeview’s on demand service.

Freeview broadcast TV channels are not impacted by this change.

9.20am: Sky’s chief executive quits, replaced immediately

Updated

Sky TV’s chief executive Martin Stewart is leaving the company to return home to Europe after less than two years in the role, the company has revealed this morning in a note to the market. The company’s chief commercial officer Sophie Moloney has been appointed chief executive, effective immediately.

“The likelihood of further Covid-19 border restrictions”, was cited as instrumental in Stewart’s decision to depart.

His short stint at the helm has been something like a highlights package, with Sky negotiating a 5% equity stake to NZ Rugby, the acquisition of Lightbox and Rugby Pass, and a bumpy ride attempting to sell the outside broadcasting subsidiary.

Like many media companies, Sky was knocked by the Covid crisis. In September it reported an annual loss and wrote down the value of the business by more than $175 million.

“Since joining Sky in February 2019, Martin has led a successful turnaround and the Board acknowledges his significant contribution,” chairman Philip Bowman said.

“Despite an exceptionally challenging year in 2020, the business is well-positioned to achieve its strategic priorities of strengthening our core satellite business, growing streaming services, delivering broadband services and securing the rights to bring the best of sport and entertainment to our customers.”

Earlier this year, and just before Covid-19 took hold, The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive sat down with Martin Stewart for a chat which you can read here.

7.50am: Business debt scheme extended for 10 months

The government has confirmed its business debt scheme, first launched in the early weeks of Covid-19, will be extended through until October 2021.

As TVNZ reports, the scheme allows businesses that meet the necessary criteria to place their existing debts on hold for up to seven months.

Finance minister Grant Robertson said some businesses need that extra support going forward. “New Zealand’s economy is recovering better than we expected, but the impacts of the pandemic are far-reaching and some businesses need continued support to keep trading,” he said.

The extension is intended to “give businesses time to explore options for continuing to trade,” Robertson said, stopping them from going into liquidation.

Consumer affairs minister David Clark told TVNZ that preventing insolvencies means retaining jobs and cashflow in the economy. “Business debt hibernation gives some breathing space to businesses that are doing it tough,” he said.

“It means when creditors start applying pressure, company directors have the support of a tailored mechanism to work through options with their creditors to find a way forward.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The government has announced plans to follow through on its election promise of doubling sick leave. As Stuff reports, from late-2021 the minimum amount of paid sick leave will be upped to 10 days a year. The bill goes to the house today, before heading through the select committee process over the next few months.

One thing the government has chosen not to do is change the maximum amount of sick leave that can be accumulated. That limit will remain at 20. Upping the number of sick days to 10 was a policy Labour campaigned on before the election, saying it was necessary to ensure people could take time off work if they had Covid-19 symptoms.

National isn’t too pleased with the announcement. In a scathing press release, the party’s workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson said an economic crisis is not the time to be increasing sick leave provisions. “Doubling sick leave just piles more costs onto business at a time when they can least afford it, coming on top of minimum wage increases and the proposal for an extra public holiday,” he said.

It’s no surprise that Act’s David Seymour isn’t onboard either. He said Labour was using the coronavirus crisis to push its left-wing agenda. “Small businesses can’t afford five extra days of sick leave on top of one of the highest minimum wages in the world, a new public holiday, ‘fair pay’ agreements and all of the other costs Labour is adding,” said Seymour. He posited that this legislation is driven by “the unions who back Labour”.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.00am: Yesterday’s key stories

Worksafe has laid charges against 13 organisations and individuals in relation to last year’s Whakaari/White Island eruption. Two of those charged have been confirmed as government agencies.

The government revealed its plan to double sick leave from five to 10 days a year. A bill will be introduced to parliament on Tuesday.

Four new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation were announced. A seventh member of the Pakistan cricket group has also now tested positive.

New figures showed that job numbers increased by over 27,000 in October, compared with September, largely boosted by the general election.

There was a big increase in the number of young people and Māori turning out to vote at this year’s election, according to numbers from the Electoral Commission.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates




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