Top stories in the news cycle include, the founder of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, dying at the age of 91, Finance Minister Bill English defending the Government’s social housing policy from Labour Party accusations that it is in tatters, and a test case to try and retrieve money from an investor who benefited from New Zealand’s largest Ponzi scheme coming up before the High Court in Wellington.
SNIPPETS OF THE DAY
NZ/KOREA Trade Free Agreement:
Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea opens a new chapter in the two countries’ relationship. Mr Key and President Park Geun-hye of Korea witnessed the signing of the Agreement by Trade Ministers Tim Groser and Yoon Sang-jick in Seoul today. “Korea is one of New Zealand’s biggest and most important trading partners. This Agreement makes it easier for Koreans and Kiwis to do business with each other, and the removal of tariffs will benefit consumers in both countries, “ says Mr Key.
Workers Question NZ-Korea Deal: Workers are questioning what the benefits will be of the recently confirmed free trade agreement with South Korea. “The free trade agreement with South Korea is weak on trade benefits, but deals New Zealand into giving another set of overseas investors the right to sue the government if their profits are threatened,” says CTU Economist Bill Rosenberg. “Trade Minister Tim Groser admits that the agreement is far below what New Zealand usually seeks on access for New Zealand’s agricultural goods. Tariffs will remain on milk powder, one of New Zealand’s largest exports. Many tariffs, including on wood and beef, will be phased out over long periods of ten to fifteen years. The truth is that the Government signed this lame deal because others such as Australia had done lame deals too,” Rosenberg says.
Cyclone Aid Upped To $3.5 Million: Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced that New Zealand will contribute a further $1 million to the Cyclone Pam response and will also help transport Fiji disaster response personnel to Vanuatu by RNZAF C-130 Hercules. “The additional funding we have announced today will be split between Vanuatu and Tuvalu,” Mr McCully says. “The $500,000 we are providing to Vanuatu will allow New Zealand Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) personnel to deploy and will enable us to respond to additional requests for assistance from the Vanuatu Government. “The 10 person New Zealand USAR team will assist with the production of clean drinking water, clearing roads, and limited building demolition.
Proposed Airline Alliance: Air New Zealand and Air China have released details of a proposed alliance on services between China and New Zealand. The alliance, subject to regulatory approvals, would see Air China introduce a daily direct service between Beijing and Auckland. The Chinese flag carrier would also continue to codeshare on Air New Zealand’s daily Shanghai – Auckland service which will be operated exclusively by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft from late August.
Consumer Confidence Increase: New Zealand consumer confidence rose in the first three months of the year, as Kiwis enjoyed cheaper fuel prices and lower fixed home-loan rates, and became more upbeat about the near-term outlook for the economy. The Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Index rose to 117.4 in the latest survey from 114.8 three months earlier. The present conditions index gained 1.8 points to 113.2 and the expected conditions index rose 3 points to 120.1.
NZ Dollar Setting New Records: The New Zealand dollar set new records against the euro and the Australian dollar as investors sold the greenback on concern the US may hike interest rates later than previously expected. Over the weekend, the kiwi touched a post-float record 97.46 Australian cents, beating its previous high of 97.22 cents from earlier this month.
LINKS OF THE DAY
DEADLINE NEARS FOR BY-ELECTION: If you want to vote in the Northland by-election and you’re not enrolled, time is running out. That’s the message from Northland Registrar of Electors Deborah Darton, with just a few days to go until the by-election this Saturday, 28 March. “Everyone enrolled in the Northland general electorate should have received their EasyVote packs in the mail by now,” she says. “If your EasyVote pack hasn’t turned up in your letterbox, you need to enrol or update your details now. Remember, only those enrolled on the general roll in the Northland electorate can vote in the by-election.” More information about enrolling to vote is available at: www.elections.org.nz
CHRISTCHURCH RETAIL SPENDING REACHES $2 BILLION: Christchurch city’s retail and hospitality spending reached $2 billion for the first time, Statistics New Zealand said today. Retail and hospitality sales in Christchurch for the December 2014 quarter were $2 billion, a 4.1 percent increase compared with the same quarter in 2013. This compares with an increase of 4.7 percent at the national level (see Retail Trade Survey: December 2014 quarter). For more information about these statistics: http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/industry_sectors/RetailTrade/ChristchurchRetailTradeIndicator_HOTPDec14qtr.aspx
NEW DAIRY WORK ACCORD: A new dairy industry workplace accord will be launched in May as part of a range of industry actions aimed at helping farmers attract and retain skilled people to work on farms. “The Quality Workplace Accord is a commitment to improving the work environment of dairy farms,” says DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader for people and business, Mark Paine. Find the full story below: http://www.dairynz.co.nz/news/latest-news/workplace-accord-lifting-our-game-so-dairy-farmers-can-attract-good-staff/
ALGAL BLOOM WARNING LIFTED: The Community and Public Health division of the Canterbury District Health Board has lifted its algal bloom health warning issued for the Ashburton River at State Highway 1. Recent river bed surveys have shown that the quantity of potentially toxic blue-green algae (benthic cyanobacteria) in this river has decreased below levels that are of concern to public health. For further information visit: http://ecan.govt.nz/services/online-services/monitoring/swimming-water-quality/Pages/river-warnings.aspx
And that’s our sampling of the day that was on Monday 23rd March 2015.
Brought to EveningReport by Newsroom Digest, Monday March 23, 2015.