Newshub Staff Rally to Save News Operation Amid Closure Threat

Newshub’s investigative correspondent, Michael Morrah, reveals plans by staff to counter the proposed closure of the news outlet’s operations, announced abruptly in an emergency meeting. Hundreds of employees face job losses by June.

Newshub Staff Rally to Save News Operation Amid Closure Threat

Staff Counterproposal:
Morrah and his colleagues are gearing up to present a counterproposal to salvage some form of the news operation. They see this as an opportunity to provide constructive feedback to management and are determined not to surrender without a fight.

Speculation on Counterproposal:
While specifics of the counterproposal are yet to be discussed, the focus remains on preserving some aspect of the news organization. Morrah emphasizes the importance of solidarity among staff members in formulating a viable alternative.

Expert Insights:
Mark Jennings, former head of TV3 news, suggests significant cost-cutting measures, such as reducing the 6 pm bulletin duration and eliminating foreign correspondents, as potential strategies for Newshub’s survival. The responsibility, he argues, lies with the current owners, Warner Bros Discovery.

Ownership and Proposed Changes:
Warner Bros Discovery, Newshub’s parent company, is pushing for a transition to a digitally-led business model, signaling the closure of its multiplatform news operations. This move would halt all news production, including the Newshub website, by June 30th.

Staff Sentiments and Concerns:
Morrah reflects on the emotional toll the announcement has taken on the newsroom, expressing concern for the financial well-being of younger colleagues and the uncertain future faced by all employees. Despite the challenges, the dedication to journalism remains unwavering.

Potential Job Losses and Consultation Process:
With up to 300 jobs on the line, the consultation period extends until mid-March, with a final decision expected in early April. The company’s substantial loss in the 2022 financial year adds weight to the urgency of the situation.

As Newshub staff navigate through this challenging period, they are united in their determination to explore every avenue to save the news operation. The outcome remains uncertain, but their commitment to preserving quality journalism in New Zealand remains resolute.

Auckland Property Developer Offers Cashback Deals up to $20,000 to Sell Unsold Apartments

An Auckland-based property developer is taking a novel approach to offloading unsold units in a sprawling development project. With approximately 40 apartments remaining unsold in Ockham’s Maanaki apartment block located in Onehunga, the developer is enticing potential buyers with cashback incentives of up to $20,000.

Auckland Property Developer Offers Cashback Deals up to $20,000 to Sell Unsold Apartments

Details of the Offer:

  • One-bedroom apartments, starting at around $670,000, are eligible for a $10,000 cashback.
  • For the more spacious three-bedroom units, priced at about $895,000, buyers can receive a $20,000 cashback.

Market Challenges:
Mark Todd, co-founder of Ockham Residential, highlighted the ongoing challenges in the property market, citing a downturn in sales across the sector since late 2021. He emphasized the financial strain on a significant portion of New Zealanders due to current interest rates, making housing unaffordable for many.

Reasoning Behind Cashback Deals:
Todd explained that while developer costs have stabilized, they remain high, making it difficult to lower prices significantly. By offering cashback deals, Ockham aims to demonstrate generosity while maintaining the value of the apartments for existing owners.

Future Plans:
Aside from the immediate goal of selling remaining units, Todd expressed the desire to free up capital for future developments. He noted the potential to lease out unsold apartments if necessary but stressed the importance of building more to drive productivity.

Response to Existing Owners:
When questioned about offering retrospective cashback deals to existing owners, Todd stated that it wouldn’t be feasible. He emphasized the risks undertaken by the developers and the changing market dynamics, indicating that everyone must accept their position based on current circumstances.

While the sales of the initial 170 apartments proceeded smoothly, Todd acknowledged the fluctuating market prices, emphasizing the value proposition for both current and prospective buyers amidst market challenges.

Will Air New Zealand’s Decision to Raise Domestic Fares Pay Off?

Air New Zealand recently announced an increase in domestic flight fares to cope with rising costs, sparking concerns among New Zealanders about affordability and accessibility.

Will Air New Zealand's Decision to Raise Domestic Fares Pay Off?

Customer Concerns:
Many passengers expressed worry that higher fares would deter them from traveling, citing difficulties in affording visits to family or accessing certain regions due to increased costs.

CEO Justification:
Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran defended the fare hike, attributing it to inflation and the need for the airline to maintain profitability while still prioritizing customer satisfaction.

Aviation Expert Criticism:
Aviation commentator Peter Clark criticized the airline’s stance, arguing that as a national carrier, Air New Zealand should prioritize accessibility over profits and consider cutting unprofitable international routes instead.

Consumer Perspective:
Consumer NZ’s Jon Duffy acknowledged the cost pressures on airlines but emphasized the importance of transparency in communicating fare increases to passengers.

Limited Alternatives:
While passengers could theoretically choose other airlines, the reality is that Air New Zealand often holds a monopoly or duopoly on certain routes, leaving consumers with limited options.

Industry Expert Insights:
Independent aviation expert Irene King highlighted the role of consumer demand in shaping airfare pricing, suggesting that proactive planning could help mitigate the impact of fare hikes.

As Air New Zealand moves forward with its fare increase, the debate continues regarding the balance between profitability and accessibility in the airline industry, with consumers urged to plan ahead to navigate potential price increases.

The Debate Over EFTPOS Tipping: Pressure on Customers or a Support for Hospitality Workers?

The introduction of upgraded EFTPOS machines in restaurants across New Zealand has sparked a debate regarding tipping culture. While some believe it’s an opportunity for Kiwis to be more generous, others argue that it puts undue pressure on customers. This article explores the perspectives of restaurant owners, staff, and customers on the issue of tipping, examining its impact on both the hospitality industry and patrons.

The Debate Over EFTPOS Tipping: Pressure on Customers or a Support for Hospitality Workers?
  1. Tipping Culture in New Zealand:
    Tipping has never been ingrained in Kiwi culture, with tourism websites explicitly stating it’s not customary. This tradition stems from the fact that employers are required to pay a minimum wage to staff. However, with the rising cost of living, some hospitality workers now rely on tips to supplement their income.
  2. Perspectives from Hospitality Workers:
    Many hospitality workers, such as Alex, a student at AUT, emphasize the importance of tips in making ends meet. Alex highlights that tips benefit not only waitstaff but also kitchen and bar staff, contributing to a positive work environment and experience for customers.
  3. Restaurant Owners’ Views:
    Restaurant owners like Michael Dearth acknowledge the role of tips in supporting their staff, particularly students who are learning and growing in the industry. While tipping is encouraged, Dearth emphasizes that customers should not feel judged if they choose not to tip, likening it to a personal preference like choosing between bottled or tap water.
  4. Mixed Reactions to EFTPOS Tipping:
    While some establishments have embraced the option of tipping through EFTPOS machines, others, like Hallertau Brewery, have chosen not to activate this feature. Some staff members, like Henry Fisher, express discomfort with the perceived pressure on customers to tip, suggesting that it may have the opposite effect of deterring tipping.
  5. The Personal Element vs. Accountability:
    Stephen Plowman, a restaurant owner, raises concerns about the lack of accountability with EFTPOS tipping, as the money goes directly to the restaurant owner. Plowman suggests that traditional tipping allows for a more personal interaction between customers and staff, fostering a sense of appreciation for good service.
  6. Navigating Tipping Etiquette:
    Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Association, reassures customers that they can discreetly decline to tip without feeling pressured. While tipping is common in top-end restaurants, Bidois acknowledges that it may not be suitable for all establishments, especially those catering to families or budget-conscious diners.

The debate surrounding EFTPOS tipping reflects the evolving dynamics of hospitality culture in New Zealand. While some advocate for its role in supporting hospitality workers, others caution against the potential for awkwardness and pressure on customers. Ultimately, tipping remains a personal choice, influenced by factors such as individual preferences, service quality, and cultural norms. As the discussion continues, finding a balance that respects both customers and staff remains paramount in shaping the future of tipping in New Zealand’s hospitality industry.

Navigating Economic Challenges: Westpac’s Outlook for 2024

Westpac NZ anticipates a challenging year ahead for the government and the economy in 2024. As fiscal policy tightens and demand for public services grows, the bank’s economic overview sheds light on the complex landscape facing New Zealand. Here, we delve into Westpac’s insights and predictions for the year ahead.

Navigating Economic Challenges: Westpac's Outlook for 2024

Interest Rates and Monetary Policy:
According to Westpac’s chief economist Kelly Eckhold, the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy is expected to maintain interest rates at current levels throughout 2024. This stance is contingent on inflation remaining within the target range of 1-3 percent. However, the possibility of rate hikes looms if inflation fails to adjust accordingly, underscoring the delicate balancing act facing monetary policymakers.

Fiscal Tightening and Deficit Reduction:
Eckhold emphasizes the need for fiscal tightening to address New Zealand’s structural fiscal deficit, estimated at around 4 percent of GDP. With loose fiscal policy exacerbating inflationary pressures, the government faces the challenge of curbing spending while meeting growing demands for public services. Achieving deficit reduction will require careful navigation amidst a rapidly expanding population and increasing expectations from citizens.

Economic Growth and Employment Outlook:
Against a backdrop of sluggish economic growth, Westpac forecasts modest expansion of just 0.7 percent in 2024. This subdued growth trajectory is expected to translate into rising unemployment rates, reaching 5 percent over the year. Slowing wage growth further underscores the need for economic rebalancing, as businesses and households adjust to prevailing economic conditions.

External Risks and Uncertainty:
Geopolitical tensions and a weak external economic environment pose significant risks to New Zealand’s business landscape. Uncertainty stemming from these external factors complicates the economic outlook, requiring businesses to adopt a cautious approach in navigating the challenges ahead.

Agricultural Sector Resilience:
Despite prevailing uncertainties, the agriculture sector presents a bright spot in Westpac’s outlook. Improved market conditions, particularly in dairy and forestry, have buoyed prices and strengthened the outlook for the sector. Climate change, however, remains a double-edged sword, presenting both risks and opportunities for agricultural producers.

Housing Market Dynamics:
The residential property market is poised to benefit from robust population growth and impending changes in investor tax rules. Westpac forecasts a 6 percent increase in house prices for 2024, outpacing inflation. Strong population growth is expected to fuel demand for housing, putting pressure on supply and infrastructure.

As New Zealand braces for the challenges of 2024, Westpac’s economic overview provides valuable insights into the factors shaping the country’s economic trajectory. With a nuanced understanding of the evolving landscape, policymakers, businesses, and individuals can better navigate the complexities and uncertainties ahead. By adopting prudent fiscal and monetary measures, New Zealand can work towards achieving economic stability and resilience in the face of ongoing challenges.

Challenges Facing the New Zealand International Film Festival: Staff Departures and Programme Cuts

Challenges Facing the New Zealand International Film Festival: Staff Departures and Programme Cuts

The Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) is confronting significant changes, including staff departures and programme reductions.

Challenges Facing the New Zealand International Film Festival: Staff Departures and Programme Cuts

Staff Departures and Artistic Direction

Five senior staff members have recently left NZIFF, coinciding with the announcement of Paolo Bertolin as the new artistic director. Despite these changes, Bertolin brings extensive experience to the role, having worked as an international film programmer, critic, and producer.

Programme and Venue Changes

NZIFF is scaling back its programme and venue offerings this year, with screenings limited to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. This reduction means that regional centres like Hamilton, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, and Timaru will miss out on hosting festival screenings.

Impact of Covid-19

Catherine Fitzgerald, the festival’s chairperson, acknowledges the challenges posed by the ongoing impact of Covid-19 lockdowns. She emphasizes that Covid-19 has significantly affected society and the festival’s operations in recent years, prompting the need for adaptation and resilience.

Addressing Concerns

Fitzgerald assures that departing staff members were highly valued contributors to the festival, some having been with NZIFF for decades. She urges understanding of the broader context of Covid-19’s influence on festival planning and operations.

Moving Forward

Despite these challenges, NZIFF remains committed to delivering a quality film experience to audiences in the participating cities. As the festival navigates changes and adapts to evolving circumstances, it continues to prioritize showcasing diverse and compelling cinema.

For further updates and information, please visit the NZIFF website.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis Confirms No Pay Cuts in Public Service Spending Review

Finance Minister Nicola Willis has clarified that public servants’ pay will not be reduced as part of the government’s review of public service spending. While seeking savings of $1.5 billion annually, the government has asked public service agencies to propose savings of 6.5 to 7.5 percent. This article explores Willis’s statements and the implications for public service employees.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis Confirms No Pay Cuts in Public Service Spending Review
  1. Clarification on Spending Review:
  • Willis confirms no pay cuts: During a session at Parliament’s Governance Select Committee, Willis assured MPs that the government does not intend to reduce public servants’ pay.
  • Savings proposals: Public service agencies have been tasked with proposing savings measures, with ministers expected to assess and decide on their implementation.
  1. Ministerial Guidance and Evaluation:
  • Applying good judgment: Agencies are urged to exercise good judgment in formulating savings proposals, considering the potential impact on frontline services.
  • Ministerial assessment: Ministers will evaluate proposals based on their alignment with government objectives and the implications for service provision.
  1. Opposition Concerns:
  • Labour’s stance: Grant Robertson expresses concerns about the reach of public service cuts and seeks clarification on the potential impact on public servants’ pay.
  • Willis’s response: Willis reassures Robertson that pay reductions are not part of the government’s intention.
  1. Focus on Objective Measures:
  • Establishing clear targets: Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is working on setting clear objectives for public sector agencies to ensure measurable achievement.
  • Moving beyond amorphous goals: Willis emphasizes the importance of objective measures to track progress and assess performance effectively.
  1. Challenges in Performance Measurement:
  • Unique nature of public sector activities: Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes highlights the complexity of measuring performance in the public sector due to the diverse range of activities and objectives.
  • Need for bespoke measurement: Each agency’s performance must be assessed based on its specific activities and goals, presenting challenges in defining and measuring success.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis’s confirmation that public servants’ pay will not be reduced provides clarity amidst the government’s review of public service spending. As agencies work to propose savings measures, ministers will prioritize maintaining frontline services while ensuring accountability and measurable achievement. The challenges of performance measurement in the public sector underscore the need for objective measures tailored to each agency’s unique activities and objectives.

Exploring Overseas Investment Opportunities for Build-to-Rent Homes in New Zealand

The New Zealand government is contemplating the possibility of allowing increased overseas investment in the build-to-rent housing sector, as revealed in a leaked draft Cabinet paper. This potential policy shift aims to address housing supply challenges and facilitate the development of rental accommodation across the country. In this article, we delve into the details of the proposed initiative and its implications for the housing market.

Exploring Overseas Investment Opportunities for Build-to-Rent Homes in New Zealand
  1. Overview of Proposed Policy Changes:
  • The leaked Cabinet paper indicates Associate Finance Minister Chris Bishop’s intention to expand overseas investment opportunities in the build-to-rent housing segment.
  • Proposed amendments to the Overseas Investment Act aim to permit foreign buyers to invest in residential land for the construction of new dwellings or accommodation facilities, irrespective of their intention to reside in the properties.
  1. Rationale Behind the Proposal:
  • Addressing housing crisis: The government views build-to-rent housing as a potential solution to New Zealand’s housing shortage and aims to streamline regulatory frameworks to encourage its development.
  • Enhancing housing supply: Allowing overseas investment in rental housing projects is expected to boost housing supply and introduce healthy competition in the rental market.
  1. Scope of the Proposed Changes:
  • Ministerial directive: The proposal includes issuing a ministerial directive to signal New Zealand’s openness to overseas investment in the housing sector.
  • Expansion of eligibility: Foreign investors would be permitted to invest in residential land for the construction of single dwellings or larger accommodation facilities, subject to certain conditions.
  1. Implications and Considerations:
  • National interest concerns: While the initiative aims to stimulate housing supply, critics raise concerns about potential risks associated with unrestricted foreign investment and its impact on housing affordability.
  • Compliance with international obligations: The proposal highlights the need to balance domestic policy objectives with New Zealand’s international commitments regarding foreign investment regulations.
  1. Political Responses and Criticisms:
  • Opposition concerns: Labour’s housing spokesperson Kieran McAnulty voices skepticism regarding the proposal’s alignment with National’s election campaign promises and its potential implications for local housing markets.
  • Transparency and accountability: The leak of the draft Cabinet paper sparks debate about government transparency and the need for public discourse on significant policy shifts.
  1. Next Steps and Cabinet Consideration:
  • Cabinet review: As the leaked document represents a preliminary proposal, further deliberation and scrutiny are expected before any policy changes are implemented.
  • Future announcements: Associate Finance Minister Chris Bishop intends to provide updates on the government’s stance on overseas investment in build-to-rent housing following Cabinet deliberations.

The leaked draft Cabinet paper sheds light on the government’s contemplation of expanding overseas investment opportunities in the build-to-rent housing sector as part of efforts to address housing challenges in New Zealand. While the proposal aims to stimulate housing supply and encourage investment, it raises questions about regulatory oversight, affordability, and the balance between domestic priorities and international obligations. As discussions evolve, stakeholders await further clarification and decisions from the government regarding the future direction of housing policy in the country.

Senate Advances $95 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine and Israel Amid Political Turmoil

In a significant move on Thursday, the Senate pushed forward a crucial wartime aid package aimed at assisting Ukraine and Israel. This decision comes after a previous setback caused by Republican opposition to a comprehensive border security bill, which was later abandoned.

Senate Advances $95 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine and Israel Amid Political Turmoil

With a vote of 67 to 32, the Senate cleared the path for consideration of the $95 billion emergency aid bill, focusing solely on foreign policy matters. Despite earlier resistance from some Republicans, who had demanded inclusion of immigration enforcement measures, several of them agreed to move forward with the aid package after securing the opportunity to propose changes.

The urgency of providing support to Ukraine, particularly in its conflict against Russian forces, was emphasized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who described the vote as a positive step. However, challenges lie ahead as Republicans threaten to prolong the process with potential amendments.

Senator Rand Paul, among those voicing opposition, criticized the bill’s allocation of resources to foreign countries before addressing domestic concerns. Such dissent could lead to delays in the bill’s passage.

If approved by the Senate, the aid package faces further uncertainty in the House, where Republicans have shown reluctance towards increasing aid to Ukraine. House Democrats, led by Hakeem Jeffries, are determined to utilize all available legislative tools to ensure comprehensive national security legislation is enacted.

The Senate’s decision follows a failed attempt to advance a bipartisan border bill, with Democrats accusing Republicans of prioritizing political agendas over national interests. Despite initial support from Schumer, the bill was ultimately stalled due to lack of sufficient votes.

The ongoing political turmoil underscores the challenges in achieving consensus on critical issues, with both parties grappling for control over legislative priorities. Amidst these tensions, the fate of the aid package hangs in the balance, with implications for both international relations and domestic policy agendas.

Canadian Building Permits Plummet 14% in December, Marking Lowest Level in Over Three Years

OTTAWA—Canadian building permit issuance witnessed a significant decline in the final month of 2023, hitting its lowest level in more than three years amid concerns surrounding pent-up demand for housing in the country.

Canadian Building Permits Plummet 14% in December, Marking Lowest Level in Over Three Years

The total value of building permits plummeted by 14% from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted 9.25 billion Canadian dollars, equivalent to $6.83 billion, as reported by Statistics Canada on Tuesday.

The sharp drop was notably weaker than the 2% increase anticipated by economists, according to TD Securities. December’s decline follows a 3.9% fall in permits observed in the previous month.

Statistics Canada attributed the decline in permits to its lowest level since October 2020 to weaknesses in both residential and non-residential sectors. On a year-over-year basis, the overall value of permits issued in December witnessed a decrease of 14.5%.

Impact on Construction Activity

Building permits serve as an early indicator of construction activity in Canada, drawing from a survey of 2,400 municipalities representing 95% of the country’s population. However, the issuance of a permit does not guarantee imminent construction.

Despite signs of activity in Canada’s housing market, including a rise in existing home sales, construction intentions in the residential sector notably decreased in December. Permits for multifamily dwellings experienced a significant decline, while intentions for single-family homes saw a slight increase.

Quarter and Annual Trends

The overall value of building permits in the final quarter of 2023 experienced a notable decline of 9% from the previous quarter and a 1.7% decrease compared to the same period in 2022. Single-family homes were the only segment to witness a quarterly increase.

For the entirety of 2023, the value of building permits experienced a decline of 2.3%, albeit nominal permit valuations were inflated due to rising material and labor costs. On a constant-dollar basis, the value of building permits saw a more significant decrease of 8.9% compared to 2022.