Consumer Issues – Consumer NZ finds the Instachill Evaporative Cooler to be a stone-cold failure

Source: Consumer NZ

A Consumer NZ trial of the Instachill Evaporative Cooler has found it to be effectively useless in the New Zealand climate. The evaporative cooler sells for as high as $889 and claims to be able to replace air conditioning, saving consumers with a unit 'up to $212 per month.'

An evaporative cooler is a fan that blows out cool, damp air. It sucks in air, passes it over water-soaked pads, and blows it back into the room. Evaporative coolers work well in hot, dry climates like Western Australia, or Nevada and Arizona, but not in a damp climate like New Zealand where many people live close to the coast.

“The Instachill was found to pump about a litre of water into your room every hour, which in a poorly ventilated space could raise humidity to a level where mould thrives. Many New Zealand homes suffer from mould already – we don't need anything to make it grow. Except for a few inland areas in high summer, there is no place for an evaporative cooler in New Zealand,” says Consumer NZ product test manager Dr Paul Smith.

“The best ways to stay cool this summer are to open windows or use a fan to create airflow or, to really chill a room, turn on your heat pump in cooling mode. Don't waste money on an evaporative cooler.”

In the trial, the cooler provided a negligible cooling effect, in some instances raising the room temperature. Evaporative coolers should be used with plenty of ventilation. In the best result of the trial, in a garage with a wide-open door, the Instachill lowered the temperature by a paltry half degree Celsius, but increased humidity by five percent. In a poorly ventilated room, the cooler increased the temperature from 25.9 to 31.4 degrees celsius, effectively creating a sauna.

Phil Squire, Sustainability Trust Fair Energy Manager also weighed in on the sale of the Instachill evaporative cooler in New Zealand.

“As an organisation that cares about helping people achieve warm and dry homes in winter, and cool in summer, we were outraged to see the Instachill Evaporative Cooler advertised as a replacement for an air conditioning unit. We acknowledge the upfront cost of installing a heat pump / air conditioning unit might feel out of reach for some – but spending up to $900 on the Instachill is not the solution.”

“There are many simple and often inexpensive, ways to cool your home without adding unwanted moisture to the air. We don't need more mouldy homes and flats in NZ. We're really disappointed in some of our major retailers for selling this product.”

The Instachill is currently sold at popular retailers like Harvey Norman, Mitre 10 and via the As Seen on TV shop.

See the full test details of the Instachill here.

For cooling down this summer, Consumer NZ has you covered with its top tips.

About Consumer NZ

Consumer NZ is a non-profit organisation, with 60 years of helping New Zealanders get a fairer deal. In addition to our product tests, we investigate consumer issues and campaign to improve consumer rights. We don't take advertising and rely on revenue from membership and occasional grants to fund our work.

Cyber Breach – Reserve Bank of New Zealand Latest Statistics Update

Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

Date: 22 January 2021 – As previously advised, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) recently experienced an illegal breach of a file transfer software application, Accellion FTA. For more detail see Our response to Data Breach page.
 
We advised on Monday 18 January that publication of some of our statistical releases are on hold while we work through the investigation and response to the breach.
 
This Stats Alert is to inform you the RBNZ will be postponing publication of most statistical releases. We will provide an updated release calendar when we can, but we expect delays of 3-4 weeks to most publications.
 
At this stage, statistics impacted by this delay will include:

Bank customer lending (C65 & C66): delayed from 12 January
Credit card balances and spending (C12 & C13): delayed from 26 January
New mortgage commitments – Loan to Valuation Ratios  (C30-C35): delayed from 29 January
Bank Balance Sheet (C5, C50-52, S10-41): delayed from 29 January
Non-bank Lending Institutions (T1,T4, T11, T21, T31): delayed from 29 January
Bank Liquidity  (L1-3): delayed from 5 February
Retail interest rates (B3, B6, B20, B21, B25-27): delayed from 5 February

We expect other publications scheduled for February and March to also be affected, including the December 2020 quarter Bank Financial Strength Dashboard (scheduled for release on 3 March).
 
The following statistics are unaffected and will be published in line with our release calendar:

Exchanges rates and TWI (B1)
Wholesale interest rates (B2)
Debt securities (D9-35)
Reserve Bank (D3-12; F3-5; R1-3)
Household inflation expectations (M13)
Survey of business expectations (M14)

Delays to publication are necessary because the file transfer software application, Accellion FTA, was used for onboarding data from regulated entities and other suppliers into the RBNZ. The RBNZ will not be collecting data from these entities for statistical production until a new secure file transfer system is implemented. We expect the new system to become available in February.
 
It is important to note that no data has been lost and no publications will be cancelled. We have advised our data suppliers to prepare survey returns as normal.
 
We apologise for the inconvenience and will provide regular updates as the breach investigation continues, including an updated publication calendar.

Economy – Reserve Bank of New Zealand making good progress on addressing data breach

Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

22 January 2021 – The Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua investigation into the malicious illegal breach of a third-party file sharing application has significantly progressed.

Governor Adrian Orr says the investigation remains the Bank's highest priority, including supporting stakeholders to help them manage risks and take appropriate action.

“With the assistance of New Zealand and international police, and forensic security specialists, the cause of the breach is now understood and resolved. The system is closed.

“Significantly, we have a good understanding of the scope of the breach.

“Based on the results of our investigation and analysis to date we have been able to tell stakeholders which of their files on the File Transfer Application (FTA) were downloaded illegally during the breach.

“This prioritised analysis is continuing and we are supporting stakeholders to manage risks and respond appropriately.

“We are also keeping the Office of the Privacy Commissioner regularly informed and we're taking its guidance.

“The Bank's core functions are unaffected, sound and operational.

“I'm pleased with the way the Bank has stepped up in responding to this breach, and I'm thankful for the support of our public and private sector partners, but I am disappointed and sorry this data theft has occurred.

“There are some serious questions that have been answered by the team at the Bank and there are more for the supplier of the system that was breached. That is the subject of an independent review by KPMG that is now underway.

“I will provide an update on the review process next week,” says Mr Orr.

Ongoing updates on the investigation process will be provided via the Reserve Bank Data Breach Response page, and email service.

MotorSport – Van der Drift shows early form as times tumble at Hampton Downs

Source: Toyota

Multiple international champion and former Team New Zealand A1GP driver Chris van der Drift fired the opening shot in the first major practice session at the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs this afternoon.

He waited until the second half of the session before posting a flat 1 minute 31 second lap, which was enough to see him go fastest overall by just over a tenth of a second.
 
With most of the drivers opting to run on old tyres before changing to new rubber, the session provided the first glimpse of the likely pacesetters over the forthcoming Grand Prix weekend and there were one or two surprises in the top ten. The top 13 runners were also covered by less than a second, indicating the 66th New Zealand Grand Prix is set to be an extremely competitive one.
 
Behind van der Drift in the iconic Tasman Motorsports Group liveried car, Brendon Leitch posted an impressive late time to go second, ahead of a hugely impressive newcomer Matthew Payne.
 
The 18 year old from Pukekohe has raced predominantly in karts apart from a couple of Formula Ford races to secure the required license to race in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series this year. He was quickly into his stride in the session and ended it with a great run on new tyres that saw him go third just two thousands of a second off Leitch.
 
André Heimgartner gradually built up speed through the session, climbing up the timesheets to end up a solid fourth. Tom Alexander went well to clock fifth fastest time, with another of the young guns Billy Frazer edging out Shane van Gisbergen by five thousandths of a second to claim sixth. Behind Shane in an impressive eighth making his single seater debut was Peter Vodanovich with Damon Leitch in ninth and Kaleb Ngatoa rounding out the top ten.
 
Greg Murphy continued to impress after going fastest in his practice session in the morning. He was in or around the top five throughout the afternoon session but was edged out in the final few minutes as the faster new tyre runs were completed. He still ended up an impressive 11th overall, just over six tenths of a second off the fastest time.
 
Behind Murphy, Daniel Gaunt was 12th fastest, with Conrad Clark in 13th, Joshua Bethune in 14th and Chris Vlok in 15th. Ken Smith – still recovering from a shoulder injury – limited his time on track and was 16th fastest. The legendary racer will start his 50th New Zealand Grand Prix on Sunday.
 
66th New Zealand Grand Prix – Practice 2
 
1. Chris van der Drift
2. Brendon Leitch
3. Matthew Payne
4. Andre Heimgartner
5. Tom Alexander
6. Billy Frazer
7. Shane van Gisbergen
8. Peter Vodanovich
9. Damon Leitch
10. Kaleb Ngatoa
11. Greg Murphy
12. Daniel Gaunt
13. Conrad Clark
14. Joshua Bethune
15. Chris Vlok
16. Ken Smith

Weather and Climate – NIWA’s Hotspot Watch

Source: NIWA

A weekly update describing soil moisture patterns across the country to show where dry to extremely dry conditions are occurring or imminent. Regions experiencing significant soil moisture deficits are deemed “hotspots”. Persistent hotspot regions have the potential to develop into drought.

Facts: Soil Moisture

Moderate-to-heavy rainfall was observed across the western North Island during the past week, with areas in southern Auckland, Waikato, Taranaki and northern Manawatu-Whanganui receiving about 30-60mm. Light rainfall was observed in the upper North Island, generally less than 25mm. However, eastern parts of the North Island received meagre rainfall, with most locations receiving 10mm or less. This resulted in minor-to-moderate soil moisture increases in the western North Island and minor-to-moderate soil moisture decreases in eastern parts of the North Island. Little change was observed elsewhere. The driest soils across the North Island, when compared to normal for this time of the year, are found in the Far North, Coromandel and small parts of the east coast. Meanwhile, the wettest soils for this time of year for the North Island are in New Plymouth District and southern Manawatu-Whanganui.

Hotspots are currently in place in much of Northland, parts of Auckland, northern Waikato and a small portion of East Cape, while hotspots have strengthened in eastern Wairarapa and expanded to include the eastern Tararua District and coastal Hawke’s Bay. The New Zealand Drought Index (NZDI) map below shows that meteorological drought and severe meteorological drought are in place in the northern half of the Far North District. Widespread dry-to-extremely dry soils are in place in the remainder of Northland, Auckland and northern Waikato.

Widespread heavy rain fell across the west and south of the South Island during the past week, with parts of the West Coast and western Southland receiving over 150mm, and parts of Otago and eastern Southland receiving over 50mm. However, rainfall was generally below 20mm across the Canterbury and Marlborough regions. This resulted in large soil moisture increases in the west and south of the South Island, with small soil moisture increases in parts of the Canterbury and Marlborough regions. The driest soils in the South Island compared to normal for this time of year are located in coastal Hurunui District, while the wettest soils for this time of the year for the South Island are found in southern Canterbury and interior Otago.

A small hotspot remains in place in coastal Hurunui District.

Outlook and Soil Moisture

Saturday will be a mostly dry day across the North Island before a band of showers brings 5mm or less to western areas on Sunday. Dry weather is expected nearly everywhere from Monday to Wednesday (25-27 January), while hot temperatures will contribute to increased evapotranspiration. Rain and showers then look to arrive on Thursday as a front moves across the North Island. Weekly rainfall totals look to generally below 20mm for most of the North Island, with some areas of the north and east receiving 10mm or less.

Due to the light rain in the next week and the hot temperatures expected on Tuesday and Wednesday, most of the North Island will see small-to-moderate soil moisture decreases. However, moderate-to-large soil moisture decreases will be possible along the east coast. This will likely result in all current North Island hotspots strengthening, particularly those in the east.

A band of rain will bring 20-50mm to the West Coast and western Southland on Saturday. The west of the South Island will remain at least showery from Sunday to Tuesday (24 – 26 January), while the eastern South Island remains dry. On Tuesday, eastern areas of the South Island will become very hot, which will contribute to increased evapotranspiration. A front will bring a band of rain and relief from hot temperatures on Wednesday and early Thursday, with the heaviest rain expected across the west of the South Island. Weekly rain totals may exceed 75-100mm for parts of the West Coast and western Southland, with 20-30mm in parts of eastern Southland and Otago. The remainder of the South Island looks to see less than 20mm of rain.

Due to the expected rainfall in the next week, small-to-moderate soil moisture increases are likely in the west and south of the South Island. However, additional soil moisture decreases are likely in Canterbury and Marlborough. This will at least slightly strengthen the current hotspot in the Hurunui District, while new hotspots may emerge in Marlborough and central Canterbury.

Background:

Hotspot Watch: a weekly advisory service for New Zealand media. It provides soil moisture and precipitation measurements around the country to help assess whether extremely dry conditions are imminent.  

Soil moisture deficit:  the amount of water needed to bring the soil moisture content back to field capacity, which is the maximum amount of water the soil can hold.

Soil moisture anomaly:  the difference between the historical normal soil moisture deficit (or surplus) for a given time of year and actual soil moisture deficits.

Definitions: “Extremely” and “severely” dry soils are based on a combination of the current soil moisture status and the difference from normal soil moisture (see soil moisture maps at https://www.niwa.co.nz/climate/nz-drought-monitor/droughtindicatormaps)

Hotspot: A hotspot is declared if soils are “severely drier than normal” which occurs when Soil Moisture Deficit (SMD) is less than -110 mm AND the Soil Moisture Anomaly is less than -20 mm.

As of 19 January, the New Zealand Drought Index (NZDI) map below shows that meteorological drought and severe meteorological drought are in place in the northern half of the Far North District. Widespread dry-to-extremely dry soils are in place in the remainder of Northland, Auckland and northern Waikato. Please note: some hotspots in the text above may not correspond with the NZDI map. This difference exists because the NZDI uses additional dryness indices, including one which integrates the rainfall deficit over the past 60 days. Changes are therefore slower to appear in the NZDI compared to soil moisture anomaly maps that are instantaneously updated.

MotorSport – Murphy tops first practice session

Source: Toyota

Four time Bathurst champion and former New Zealand Grand Prix winner Greg Murphy got his GP weekend at Hampton Downs off to a solid start with the fastest time in his practice session this morning.

Two groups comprising eight cars in each undertook shakedown sessions with another practice session scheduled for Friday afternoon. Murphy headed Shan van Gisbergen and Chris van der Drift in his session.
 
His time – a 1 minute 31 second lap, was eclipsed in the second session for the other group of cars by experienced junior formula racer Brendon Leitch.
 
It was the first time for many on the international 4km Hampton Downs circuit. The second session included 79 year old Kenny Smith, who’s 50th start in the FIA sanctioned New Zealand Grand Prix is a key focal point of the weekend. There were no incidents during the sessions with all drivers opting to run old tyres during the shakedown runs.

Group A Practice 1 results
 
1. Greg Murphy
2. Shane van Gisbergen
3. Chris van der Drift
4. Billy Frazer
5. Peter Vodanovich
6. Andre Heimgartner
7. Chris Vlock
8. Ken Smith
 
 
Group B Practice 1 results
 
1. Brendon Leitch
2. Joshua Bethune
3. Matthew Payne
4. Daniel Gaunt
5. Conrad Clark
6. Damon Leitch
7. Tom Alexander
8. Kaleb Ngatoa

Economy – Cost of living rising for poorest households – CTU

Source: CTU
The Council of Trade Unions is warning that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures out today illustrate that the cost of living is increasing disproportionately for those on lower incomes; resulting in the poor getting poorer.
CTU Economist Craig Renney comments, “The cost of essential items like food and rent are increasing at a higher rate than luxury items. This directly and unfairly impacts those on lower incomes. This data is a timely reminder of why regular increases to the Minimum Wage continue to be necessary, and why those on the lowest incomes continue to need increases in their wages ahead of general inflation. We must progress the implementation of Fair Pay Agreements; they are an essential part of making sure that our lowest paid working people are not left behind.”
“These figures also signal that if the government were to invest in additional spending to support its goals, that such spending would not be consumed simply by higher prices.”
“With official interest rates being near zero it is the right time to put long-term investment into New Zealand’s needs. As the Prime Minister signaled on election night, New Zealanders would all benefit from investing to ‘building back better’ from COVID-19,” Renney said.

Public Appointments – PSA welcomes appointment of Chief Executive for public service pay equity

Source: PSA
The Public Service Association welcomes the creation of a Chief Executive role to lead the public service’s pay equity work, and the appointment of Grainne Moss to this position.
“Unions and public service employers are currently working through multiple pay equity claims. The appointment of one leader to oversee this work across the state sector will assist with the delivery of equal pay and the elimination of pay discrimination,” says PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.
“The PSA worked positively with Grainne Moss while negotiating our historic pay equity settlement for Oranga Tamariki social workers, and we expect this constructive working relationship to continue.”

WAIHOPAI SPYBASE PROTEST SATURDAY JANUARY 30th

Source: Anti-Bases Campaign

WAIHOPAI DOES NOT PROTECT NZ FROM THREATS TO NATIONAL SECURITY, SUCH AS VIRUSES & TERRORISTS

People from all around New Zealand will be converging on the super-secret Waihopai satellite interception spybase, in Marlborough, on Saturday January 30th.

We will be at the Waihopai spy base main gate at Waihopai Valley Road from 10.30 a.m. There will be speakers; information will be provided on the function of the base; and there will be a peaceful protest, calling for its closure.

The main guest speaker at the base gate will be Green MP, Teanau Tuinono. Following that, there will be an afternoon-long meeting in Blenheim (Nativity Church, 76 Alfred St). Speakers will be investigative journalists Nicky Hager (What Is Five Eyes Today? An Update) & Ollie Neas (Rocket Lab).

Now that the Donald Trump three-ring circus has finally left town, it is a good time to reassess New Zealand’s intelligence and military relationship with the US. Only the emperor has changed, the empire remains unchanged. All the more reason to be shot of it.

This “transformative” Government has continued NZ’s membership of the Five Eyes spy alliance, which is the reason for Waihopai’s existence. This despite Jacinda having said: “New Zealand has, and always has had, an independent foreign policy”. The evidence shows 100% the opposite and nowhere more glaringly than at Waihopai. The fact is that NZ is the most loyal, albeit junior, satellite of the US Empire.

Anti-Bases Campaign invited Andrew Little, the Minister in charge of the NZ Government Communications Security Burea (GCSB, which operates Waihopai) to speak to us at the spy base gate on Saturday 30th and explain the Government’s position. We received no reply beyond a formal acknowledgement. Attempts to invite a speaker from the Labour Party led to us being told we had to ask the Minister to speak on this topic. So, neither Little nor the Government are prepared to front up.

New Zealanders are told that Waihopai/the GCSB/Five Eyes are vital to protect our national security. 2020/21 has seen the biggest threat to NZ’s national security since WW2, namely the virus. What have Waihopai/the GCSB/Five Eyes done to prevent or protect us from it? A big fat zero. The hundreds of millions of dollars and State resources squandered on Waihopai and the GCSB every year would be better spent on public health, on protecting New Zealanders from real threats, not imaginary ones dictated by our Big Brothers in Five Eyes.

In fact, not only is Waihopai doing nothing to protect us from coronavirus, it is itself literally part of the computer virus of electronic spying. New Zealanders need to be sanitised against it.

New Zealanders are told that Waihopai defends NZ from terrorists. No, it doesn’t. The Royal Commission report into the March 15th, 2019 Christchurch mosques’ massacre was damning in its conclusions about NZ’s intelligence agencies The GCSB electronic spy agency totally missed the worst act of terrorism on NZ soil, one committed by a foreign terrorist with an extensive electronic presence. That is because Waihopai and the GCSB define “terrorists” as per the instructions of their Five Eyes Big Brother, the US National Security Agency (NSA). They turned a blind eye to the real terrorists already here. Just as US intelligence missed the threat posed by their own domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol this month.

Which begs the question – if this spy base can’t even protect us from viruses and terrorists, what useful purpose does it serve? Certainly nothing for the NZ people. For more than 30 years Waihopai has been NZ’s most significant contribution to Washington’s global effort to manipulate world business and diplomacy. And for more than 30 years the Anti-Bases Campaign has protested at Waihopai, calling for its closure.

Waihopai does not operate in the national interest of New Zealand. In all but name it is a foreign spy base on NZ soil, paid for with hundreds of millions of our tax dollars; it spies on Kiwis and foreigners; it is NZ’s key contribution to America’s global spying & war machine. It does not protect us from threats to our national security, such as viruses and terrorists. Waihopai must be closed.

Murray Horton,
Secretary/Organiser
Anti-Bases Campaign

NGĀ TĀNGATA MICROFINANCE CALLS FOR TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR PYRAMID SCHEME PROMOTERS

Source: Child Poverty Action Group
Ngā Tāngata Microfinance (NTM) is calling for tougher penalties for those caught promoting pyramid schemes. Such business models are illegal under the Fair Trading Act 1986.
This call comes after the Commerce Commission issued a ‘stop now’ notice to a serial pyramid scheme promoter undertaking the illegal activity via social media channels in New Zealand.
The Commission is currently investigating what is known as ‘the Lion’s Share scheme’ and warning people against joining the scheme or buying into it while the investigation takes place.
“The pyramid model is a ‘theft’ model” says Dr M. Claire Dale, founder and chair of Nga Tangata Microfinance. “To email perpetrators with a “Stop” notice is to slap them with a wet bus ticket.” 
“The profits of pyramid schemes always flow upward, as the ‘pyramid’ image suggests, to the scheme initiators. The pyramid requires a constant inflow of investment from new members to survive. Rather than a traditional business model of expanding the business through sales, bringing benefits to every tier of the operation, a ‘pyramid’ model is based on those at the top of the pyramid siphoning off all new investment, and there is not even, necessarily, a product. Inevitably, new investors dwindle, and only those at the top of the pyramid, the original investors, win: they capture the investments of the later participants who lose everything,” says Dale. 
“Typically, it’s vulnerable people who are targeted by these types of scams and are lured in through sophisticated techniques on the promise of an eventual cash windfall,” Ngā Tāngata Microfinance general manager Natalie Vincent says.
However, despite the law, few scammers running pyramid schemes here are prosecuted, and when they are, penalties are light. 
“Current penalties and the history of light fines are a weak deterrent for greedy people looking to exploit their fellow citizens. The evidence of the proliferation of such illegal schemes shows that the soft legal response is not effective,” says Vincent. 
“There is no place for pyramid schemes in New Zealand. The soft approach taken by the Commerce Commission does not protect our most vulnerable people who are preyed on by these schemes which promise to lift people out of strife but instead do the opposite.”
Offences under section 24 of the Fair Trading Act 1986 can attract a fine of up to $600,000, yet despite the evidence of culpability, recent investigations and subsequent prosecutions have resulted in warnings or small fines only. 
“In order to deter promoters of illegal pyramid schemes from robbing our most vulnerable communities of their hard earned, and often inadequate income, we urge the Commerce Commission to immediately pursue the highest possible penalties for this type of gross offending,” says Vincent.
Historic judgements
– In 2000, Tauranga-based Maximus Intermediaries swindled $3.1 million out of 12,000 people. The High Court ordered the operators to pay back the money, which was the heaviest judgement that had ever been imposed on pyramid scheme operators. It is thought it was unlikely that Maximus victims would ever get their money back.
– In 2019, the Commerce Commission issued four warning letters to the operators of the Women’s Gifting Circle. No further action was taken.
– In 2014, three men were fined a total of $60,000 for promoting the TVI pyramid scheme. The Auckland District Court appointed payments of $65 a week on each offender.
ABOUT NGĀ TĀNGATA MICROFINANCE
Ngā Tāngata Microfinance is a not-for-profit organisation providing fee-free and interest-free loans to New Zealanders experiencing tough circumstances, alongside wrap-around financial literacy support.