Economics – Labour Market Statistics are far better than expected

Source: CTU
The Council of Trade Unions says the wage subsidy has done the job it was intended to do with the better than expected Labour Market statistics released today.
CTU Economist, Andrea Black, comments “Unemployment is now 4% of the labour force, compared with Treasury’s projection for this period of 8.3%, which is where it was at the beginning of the year. ‘Under-utilisation’, which is when people don’t get enough hours or facing barriers to getting into paid work but want it, is at 12% which has increased by 2 percentage points from the start of the year.
“Perhaps this can be attributed to employers in these industries cutting hours in response to the ‘softening’ of the economy rather than cutting jobs. Unions are telling us first hand that some employers are making people redundant – so it is possible that the next quarter will paint a different picture.”
“But although there is a rise in underutilisation – there are some positives in the statistics with an increase in Maori and Pasifika accessing more paid work specifically.”
“Wages generally are standing still since pre COVID-19. There are slight average hourly rate falls for those working in accommodation and food services and transport postal and warehousing. As we have always said, this shows the importance of the minimum wage in ensuring a floor for wages and living standards.”
“What the government needs to do now is to accelerate work on its active labour market policies to match working people who are job hunting with vacancies, creation of jobs in public services where there are currently gaps, and explore more innovative approaches such as extended Paid Parental Leave – to temporarily reduce labour supply,” Black said.

Amnesty International on BLM Protests – NEW REPORT FINDS LAW ENFORCEMENT VIOLATED BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTERS’ HUMAN RIGHTS, DOCUMENTS ACTS OF POLICE VIOLENCE AND EXCESSIVE FORCE

Source: Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand
— Amnesty International USA Recorded 125 Separate Incidents of Police Violence Against Protesters, Medics, Journalists and Legal Observers in 40 States and D.C. During May and June Protests 
— The Report Chronicles the Stories of More Than 50 People Affected by Police Violence as Black Lives Matter Grows Into the Largest Social Movement in U.S. History   
Today, Amnesty International USA released a report documenting widespread and egregious human rights violations by police officers against protesters, medics, journalists and legal observers who gathered to protest the unlawful killings of Black people by the police and to call for systemic reform in May and June of 2020. The report, The World is Watching: Mass Violations by US Police of Black Lives Matter Protesters’ Rights, builds on Amnesty’s interactive mapping of violence against protesters and new findings on the use of lethal force by the police. It is the most comprehensive human rights analysis of police violence against protesters to date.
The research consisted of more than 50 interviews conducted by AIUSA over several weeks in June 2020 highlighting people’s experiences in the context of the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. It also offers recommendations for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, government officials and Congress to comply with AIUSA’s best practices for policing protests; hold law enforcement accountable for human rights violations against protesters, journalists, medics and legal observers; and pass laws and policies to ensure the right to peacefully protest.
“The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest. The research shows that people who were simply exercising their human right to peacefully protest were met with such violence that they lost eyesight, survived brutal beatings, and suffered seizures and severe wounds”Ernest Coverson, Amnesty International USA’s End Gun Violence Campaign Manager
“The Trump administration is now doubling down on military-style crackdowns against protesters, with Attorney General William Barr’s egregious defense of the use of federal troops in Portland and threats to deploy more agents to other cities. President Trump’s actions represent a slippery slope toward authoritarianism and must immediately stop. We need the country’s approach to the policing of protests to be changed from the ground up at the local, state, and federal levels.” said Justin Mazzola, a researcher at Amnesty International USA.
UNNECESSARY USE OF FORCE
Law enforcement repeatedly used physical force, chemical irritants such as tear gas and pepper spray, and kinetic impact projectiles as a first resort tactic against peaceful protestors rather than as a response to any sort of actual threat of violence. Violations of people’s rights occurred during arrests and detentions as well. The use of tear gas during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially reckless. As protestors took to the streets, wearing masks and attempting to socially distance due to the virus, police fired tear gas and pepper spray, escalating risks for respiratory issues, and the release of airborne particles that could spread the virus.
Between May 26 – June 5, 2020, AIUSA documented at least six incidents of police using batons, and 13 instances of the use of kinetic impact projectiles such as sponge rounds and rubber bullets in 13 cities across the United States. What’s more, AIUSA found numerous cases of the unnecessary use of tear gas and pepper spray as a first resort to disperse large groups of peaceful protestors: 89 cases of specific use of tear gas in cities in 34 states, and 21 incidents of unlawful use of pepper spray in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Such unnecessary and excessive tactics were also used by law enforcement to target medics, legal observers and media representatives.
Intensive care nurse Danielle Meehan, who treated 26 year-old student Aubreanna Inda after she was hit in the chest with a flash grenade in Seattle: At one point, Aubreanna Inda told her, “I feel like I am dying.” Danielle Meehan explained, “[She] lost her pulse 3-4 times after my medic partners and I started treating her. We resuscitated her each time with [cardiopulmonary resuscitation].”
Rabbinical student and protester Lizzie Horne recounted after the authorities pepper sprayed and tear gassed her and a large group of protesters who were trapped on an embankment of a highway in Philadelphia: “Out of the blue, they started breezing pepper spray into the crowd…then they started with the tear gas. Someone who was right in front – had a tear gas canister hit his head and started running back. We were trying to help him, flushing his eyes and then he just fainted and started having a seizure.”
17-year-old Elena Thoman, who was tear-gassed by the police in Denver, told AIUSA researchers: “At first it feels like the feeling when you’re chopping onions and then escalates to the point where your skin is burning…I had a lot of open skin and it was burning for an hour. It made me cough a lot – I had to take my mask off because the mask had tear gas in it…so even though there is COVID, I had to take my mask off.”
NBC News photojournalist Ed Ou, after he and other journalists were attacked by police officers in Minneapolis: “They had enough time to shake the pepper spray and to spray it, despite me and others shouting, ‘Press, press,’ continually.” The group was corralled back into a dead end with nowhere to escape as the officers used batons to beat them and discharged grenades, tear gas, and pepper spray on them. His head was bleeding. Despite his repeatedly asking for help, several law enforcement officers walked past him offering no assistance. Ed Ou was treated at a nearby hospital, requiring four stitches for his head injury. “I’ve literally spent most of my career in places where being a journalist was something I had to hide and something I had to be careful about sharing. And this is one place where I should be able to proclaim this is what I do.”
Legal observer Jack-, who was beaten by the police in Chicago: “Three to four more officers who were behind me pulled me up onto a concrete barrier and threw me over onto a wheelchair ramp. I landed on my back and lost my hat. I was looking around when three or four other officers started hitting me with batons. Another protester tried to stop the police, and they started hitting him. People were yelling ‘legal observer’ as it was happening. I was crouched, trying to protect myself, and telling them, ‘I’m not resisting, I’m not resisting.’”
– Name changed to protect the interviewee’s anonymity.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON POLICING OF PROTESTS
AIUSA is calling on Congress to pass the Protect our Protestors Act of 2020 (HR 7315). The organization is also calling on all law enforcement agencies to revise their policies and practices for the policing of protests, and comply with international human rights standards, including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, the guiding principles underpinning all operations before, during and after demonstrations.
The Department of Justice and all state Attorneys General should investigate, effectively, impartially, and promptly, all allegations of human rights violations by police officials during public assemblies, including unlawful use of force, and bring all those found responsible, including commanding officers, to account through criminal or disciplinary proceedings as appropriate, and provide full redress to victims.

Local Government – Porirua businesses up for Gold Awards

Source: Porirua City Council 
Convex Accounting Ltd and AgriNova NZ showed off their durability and resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Porirua businesses were last week announced as finalists for the Wellington Gold Awards.
The awards aim to highlight the contribution businesses make to the Wellington region, and showcase talent and capability in the sector.
Convex Accounting, which has offices in Mana and Wellington, is a finalist in the Emerging Services Gold category.
It grew from “a car boot and a vision” in 2011 to create an accounting firm that strives to help businesses grow, its director Hamish Mexted says.
“We’re thrilled to be finalists, considering the calibre of candidates this year is first rate,” he says.
“We’re thankful for the recognition of our post-Covid efforts and will continue to help those businesses in need through the rest of 2020.”
While lockdown was “chaos” for Convex, Mr Mexted says his team knuckled down, learnt new ways to communicate with each other, and assisted clients with forecasting and continuity planning, using their webpage, newsletters, webinars and livestreaming.
AgriNova NZ, meanwhile, are up for the Global Gold Award. The Kenepuru-based company provides sustainable crop solution options for fruit and vegetable growers in New Zealand and overseas, as well as engaging in research and development.
Managing director George McHardy says he is proud that his dedicated and passionate staff have been recognised as a finalist.
AgriNova NZ has been part of the Porirua business community for more than 27 years, with the central location and easy access to SH1 and Wellington’s port ideal.
Covid-19 forced the business to take the initiative.
“We offered extended terms to customers and got our products out to the regions before lockdown,” he says.
“As we are involved in the food sector, we were deemed essential at Level 4 lockdown, running a tight warehouse and dispatch operation from Porirua to our grower community throughout the country.”
Porirua Mayor Anita Baker is proud to see two of the city’s innovative businesses getting recognised for their work.
“The business community, in Porirua and across New Zealand, is doing it incredibly tough right now – the climate has really changed, and you need to keep evolving or it could spell curtains,” she says.
“AgriNova NZ and Convex Accounting show what it takes to succeed. They’re not sitting back, but are looking at new ways to do things smarter, for themselves and their clients, in these post-Covid conditions.
“I’m proud to see these Porirua-based firms become finalists at the Gold Awards, and wish them all the luck at the ceremony next month, and in the future.”
Gold Awards director John Gow says all the finalists set a very standard, especially in resilience in the hugely altered business environment that now exists.
The winners will be announced at a dinner held at TSB Arena in Wellington on 17 September.

Fishing – Precautionary Closure to Upper Tekapo Canal Trout Fishery

Source: Fish and Game NZ
Angler concern over the sustainability of one of the world’s best “trophy” trout fisheries will lead to a precautionary closure during the 2021 winter fishing season.
The Central South Island Fish and Game Council has put in place a closure on the upper half of the world famous Tekapo Canal fishery (upstream of SH8) for three-months next winter, 1st June to 31st August 2021.
Dr Andrew Simpson, Chair of the Central South Island Fish & Game Council says, “over the last four fishing seasons there has been a dramatic rise in the use of the Tekapo Canal in wintertime by anglers targeting the rainbow trout spawning run.”
Simpson says, “The Council has taken a conservation-minded approach toward anglers’ concern that there is too much pressure on the spawning population and a diminished fishing experience.”
“The winter spawning season closure of the upper part of the Tekapo Canal will enable spawning to occur unaffected by fishing and allow the Council to continue to carry out research into the canal fishery’s sustainability and its value to anglers”.
Central South Island Fish & Game Officer Rhys Adams says, “the immense increase in popularity of fishing in the spawning months has required a re-think of long-held canal management principles.”
“Since the commissioning of the canals it has always been understood that spawning in the canal is not a major contributor to the canals’ trout populations and that the fishery is primary supported by significant numbers of trout that migrate downstream into the canals from the headwater lakes, Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau through the control gates and power stations.”
“In the face of uncertainty and increased angling usage, we can’t rule-out that spawning within the canal could now make a meaningful contribution to trout recruitment in the canal”.
Dr Simpson says, “The CSI Council recognises that winter fishing in the upper Tekapo Canal is highly valued by anglers and for many will be their favourite type of fishing.” He asks anglers to be patient while measures are assessed that manage the long-term sustainability of this fishery.
It should be noted that the lower part of Tekapo Canal (below SH8), as well as all other Mackenzie Basin canals remain open year-round”.
Mr Adams says that three research projects are currently underway to gain further understanding of the Tekapo Canal fishery.
“We are currently undertaking a survey of angler use and catch that will be compared to the survey undertaken during the 2019 winter. We are assessing the age and growth of angler-caught canal trout and those that migrate from Lake Tekapo, and we have a tagging project underway.”
“We have recently released over 400 tagged trout into the canal to assess how trout that migrate through from Lake Tekapo contribute to the canal fishery.”
“We are especially interested to see, in years to come, if these fish grow to the trophy sizes the canals are famous for.”
“Anglers who catch these tagged trout are to contact Central South Island Fish & Game to provide the unique four-digit number, whether it was kept or released, capture location and an estimate of its size – phone 03 6158400 or email csi@fishandgame.org.nz
Resources:
VIDEO: Tekapo trout tagging project video:

REPORT: Upper Tekapo Canal angler use and catch report 2019: https://fishandgame.org.nz/dmsdocument/1647
WHAT IS FISH & GAME?
Fish & Game manage trout, salmon and game birds to provide healthy recreation for Kiwis.
We work to protect the environment that anglers and hunters have enjoyed as a tradition for over 150 years.

Consumer Issues – Supermarket “specials” risk misleading shoppers, Consumer NZ says

Source: Consumer NZ

Consumer NZ’s latest supermarket survey found products can be on “special” so often shoppers risk being misled about the savings they’re getting.  

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said price promotions had become so common that shoppers had good grounds to question whether the discounts were real.  

In this year’s survey, Consumer NZ tracked online prices for a basket of 22 grocery items for 12 weeks at Countdown, New World and Pak’nSave stores in Auckland and Wellington.  

“Many of the items we tracked were routinely discounted. While genuine price promotions are good for consumers, we found specials aren’t always as ‘special’ as supermarkets would like us to believe,” he said.  

At Pak’nSave, the majority of the 22 products that Consumer NZ tracked were on special six or more times. At New World, half the items were on special on six or more occasions.  

Countdown’s specials varied: anywhere from two to 10 items were on special each week.  

Mr Duffy said when the price of a product is regularly reduced, the special price is really its usual selling price.  

At New World, Vogel’s, Ploughman’s Bakery and Nature’s Fresh loaves were on special 11 out of 12 weeks. At Pak’nSave Lower Hutt, Nature’s Fresh bread had an “extra-low” price of $2.99 for all 12 weeks.  

Stores enticing customers with price promotions must be offering a genuine deal. Otherwise, they’ll mislead consumers and breach the Fair Trading Act.  

Mr Duffy said supermarkets use a confusing array of terms in their price promotions, which makes it harder for shoppers to gauge whether they’re getting a genuine discount.  

Consumer NZ wants the Commerce Commission to use its market study powers to investigate the supermarket industry.  

“New Zealand has one of the most concentrated supermarket industries in the world, with two big players dominating the market. That degree of concentration brings with it the risk consumers will end up paying higher prices,” Mr Duffy said.  

Despite the high degree of market concentration, the supermarket sector had failed to attract much scrutiny. Mr Duffy said it’s time for that to change.

Insurance Sector – Cost of Southland February floods grows to $29.6m to support customer recovery

Source: Insurance Council of NZ
The extent of damage caused by the February floods has been reaffirmed, with insurance customers receiving $29.6 million for weather related losses.
The cost to support customers recover from the flood, that saw a state of emergency declared in Southland, Fiordland and Clutha, increased significantly from the preliminary figure of $19.7 million in early May.
Tim Grafton, Insurance Council of New Zealand Chief Executive, says the cost reinforces the importance of having insurance to help you get back on your feet when the unexpected happens.
“These events are becoming ever more frequent and severe for our communities – we need to only look back a couple of weeks to the last flood event that has had a devastating impact on Northland.
While the cost of the Northland floods is still being calculated it is expected that there will be several thousand claims to repair the damage left behind.
“We know that with climate change events like these will only increase. We must adapt to these changes and take steps to reduce risks where possible to minimise the social impact and cost,” says Mr Grafton.
This was further reinforced this week in the Ministry of the Environment’s National Climate Change Risk Assessment for New Zealand report, which states that extreme weather events such as storms, heatwaves and heavy rainfall are likely to be more frequent and intense.
Mr Grafton says we need use these insights to build more resilient communities.
“The report notes that large increases in extreme rainfall are expected everywhere in the country. Pairing this with our knowledge of flood prone areas is critical as we develop new and existing areas of New Zealand to reduce risks for Kiwis.”

Local Government – Lower Hutt welcomes Government’s $15 million investment towards Eastern Bays Shared Path

Source: Hutt City Council
Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry has welcomed the Government’s announcement this morning that it will invest $15 million towards the Eastern Bays Shared Path.
The shared path will create a safe walking and cycling route and connect communities along Lower Hutt’s Eastern Bays, from Point Howard right through to Eastbourne.
Mayor Barry says he is absolutely delighted the Government will invest $15 million of ‘shovel ready’ funding towards the project.
“This is a big deal for Lower Hutt, and particularly the Eastern Bays whose residents have long told us this project is a priority. With Government support, people can expect to see shovels in the ground early next year, with construction planned to continue through until 2026,” Campbell Barry said.
“Once completed, it will be a major upgrade from the current infrastructure which discourages walking and cycling. Pedestrians and cyclists are forced to use the road shoulder, which is dangerous and non-existent in some parts. If we want people to take up active modes of transport, it’s high-quality infrastructure like the Eastern Bays Shared Path which will encourage that.
“Ultimately the announcement today gives the project certainty to move ahead at pace. While it has been on Council’s books for a number of years, a funding shortfall has meant there had been some delay and uncertainty about its future.
Deputy Mayor and Harbour Ward Councillor Tui Lewis says the fast tracking of the Shared Path couldn’t come soon enough for the local community, who have waited years for this news.
“The Shared Path is one of the most common issues raised with me by local people over the years. There are major safety concerns from the people of the Harbour Ward, so from my perspective, this was an obvious choice to put this up for shovel-ready funding” said Tui Lewis.
“I’m really happy to see their appetite for safe local transport met by the Government. It’s important that we provide our commuters more options for getting out and about in our city and make sure our spaces are safe for those people who are using them.”
The Eastern Bays Shared Path is the second Hutt City Council project to receive ‘shovel ready’ funding, following the Prime Minister’s announcement last week that the Government will invest $27 million towards the rebuild of Naenae Pool.

Residential Housing Market – July House Price Index illustrates property market resilience post-COVID

Source: CoreLogic

According to the July 2020 QV House Price Index (HPI) results out today, property values recorded a marginal increase, up 0.2% over the month. This is somewhat of a turnaround from June, after the national index edged 0.2% lower.

In these variable times, the three month measure of the index is illustrating a more complete picture of value movements across the country, with nationwide values inching up only 0.4% over the slightly longer period, which begins around the time NZ moved out of lockdown level four – when it was very difficult to transact property.

Across the main centres the general pattern of values plateauing since the strict level four lockdown is also evident. Value change since 1 May has ranged from -0.3% in Dunedin to 0.9% in Hamilton, with Tauranga the key outlier at 2.5% growth over that time.

Strong momentum leading into lockdown saw Tauranga’s property values continuing to grow while many others faltered, however the latest couple of months have seen that momentum dissipate too, with values in Tauranga steadying (+0.2%) since 1 June.

As New Zealand emerges from the previous lockdown, a new sense of optimism as emerged, but tempered with a note of caution as to what the near-term future holds. The significant support provided by the Government and retail banks, in the form of wage subsidies and mortgage deferrals, don’t have too much longer to run and while there have been discussions about support being extended, it seems more likely to happen in the event of a local COVID-19 outbreak.

Aviation and Technology – Sabre renews strategic, long-term distribution agreement with Air New Zealand

Source: Sabre Corporation

SINGAPORE – 4 August 2020 — Sabre Corporation (NASDAQ: SABR), the leading software and technology provider that powers the global travel industry, has renewed its long-term, worldwide distribution agreement with Air New Zealand.

Under the renewed agreement, Sabre will continue to distribute global Air New Zealand content to hundreds of thousands of travel agents and thousands of corporations globally through its extensive travel marketplace. 

The agreement also includes an opt-in content program in New Zealand and Australia, which provides agencies with access to Air New Zealand's preferential content through the Sabre marketplace. 
Sabre is mission-critical to the world's travel ecosystem, playing a key role in facilitating the marketing and sale of airfares and other types of travel to travel agents, corporations and online travel agencies across the world.

“The eyes of the world have watched New Zealand's exemplary handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and we're excited to announce our renewed agreement with Air New Zealand and to continue to support their digital customer and retailing strategy.,” said Rakesh Narayanan, Vice President, Regional General Manager, Asia and Pacific, Travel Solutions, Airline Sales. 

“Travellers want the very best offers and choices possible, while travel agencies want to be able to provide this rich content to their clients. Meanwhile, airlines need robust distribution strategies to be able to distribute their fares and ancillary products to a wide audience. Sabre's AdvanceConnect program, which provides robust product capabilities and faster, accurate responses for all bookings and ancillary sales, ensures travel agents and corporations have interactive access to its branded fare offers and ancillaries. Sabre is deeply committed to bringing the travel ecosystem together so that all parties can realize their goals, and this latest agreement demonstrates the very clear commitment of both organisations to the recovery and future growth of the travel industry.”

“We're delighted to renew our distribution agreement with Sabre” said Andrew Dale, Regional General Manager Sales & Alliances, Air New Zealand. “As we look to further ramp up domestic and eventually international operations, it's vital that customers have choice and flexibility in booking through their preferred channel. The value of our travel agency partners cannot be underestimated in helping travellers to make the best choices and regain trust in travel during this time, and we're thrilled to be able to connect to them through Sabre's Global Distribution System (GDS).”

About Sabre Corporation

Sabre Corporation is a leading software and technology company that powers the global travel industry, serving a wide range of travel companies including airlines, hoteliers, travel agencies and other suppliers. The company provides retailing, distribution and fulfilment solutions that help its customers operate more efficiently, drive revenue and offer personalized traveller experiences. Through its leading travel marketplace, Sabre connects travel suppliers with buyers from around the globe. Sabre's technology platform manages more than $260B worth of global travel spend annually. Headquartered in Southlake, Texas, USA, Sabre serves customers in more than 160 countries around the world. For more information visit www.sabre.com.

Unions – New Zealand’s wealthiest people can afford to pay more tax

Source: PSA
The Public Service Association supports calls by Tax Justice Aotearoa for a more progressive tax system, with increased taxes on the wealthiest New Zealanders used to fund services that benefit all New Zealanders.
Decades of systemic underfunding have undermined the capacity of New Zealand’s health and education systems to deliver for our communities, and left our infrastructure increasingly unable to perform.
Tax Justice Aotearoa is calling for a new tax rate of 50% on every dollar of personal income over $150,000 per year, an annual levy of 2% on net wealth over $2 million (once debts are subtracted, and a more transparent tax system that holds everyone accountable and challenges tax avoidance by the super-wealthy.
The PSA says its own election campaign for universal basic services strongly aligns with the efforts of other progressive organisations, and the union’s policy proposals would be supported by a fairer tax system.
“Not many people would call modern Australia some sort of radical far-left experiment, but the richest Australians pay significantly higher income tax than the richest New Zealanders. The one percent have avoided paying their fair share for too long,” says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.
“We believe all New Zealanders have a right to free education, free healthcare and free public transport, and if we increase taxes on the minority of people who can easily afford it, we can in turn increase support for the much larger group of New Zealanders who urgently need it.”
Australians pay 45% tax on every dollar of personal income over $180,000 AUD (about $193,000 NZD).
New Zealanders pay 33% tax on every dollar of personal income over $70,000. This means someone paid $700,000 a year pays the same income tax as someone earning ten times less.
The super-rich routinely find ways to avoid even the minimal tax obligations New Zealand expects of them.
“The richest one percent of New Zealanders own 20% of this country’s wealth, and they can obviously afford the best accountants in the business. They take advantage of loopholes to ensure their money is not classed as taxable income, but instead as other currently untaxed forms of wealth and capital,” says Mr Barclay.
“This must change. Most ordinary working people don’t have a choice about paying our tax, it goes out of the pay check automatically. The super-rich should not get to play by a different set of rules to the rest of us.”
recent poll by Newshub and Reid Research asked voters whether the richest New Zealanders should be expected to pay a higher tax rate, and the most popular answer was ‘yes’.