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Anzac Day: What's open, what's not and when you have to pay a surcharge
Anzac Day: What's open, what's not and when you have to pay a surcharge

22 April 2024, 7:57 PM

On Anzac Day, most shops need to stay shut for the first half of the day till 1pm.There are just three-and-a-half days a year which the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 prevents most shopping - Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and the first half of Anzac Day.What's open?Exemptions apply to a few establishments that can open:certain kinds of shops (limited to small grocery shops, pharmacies, service stations, takeaways, bars, cafes, duty-free stores, shops providing services (and not selling things), real estate agencies, public transport terminals, souvenir shops and exhibitions "devoted entirely or primarily to agriculture, art, industry and science".shops covered by area exemptions cannot change them, and no new exemptions can be granted.Shops without exemptions must stay closed during the first half of 25 April.Mondayisation does not affect shop trading restrictions, because they only apply to the calendar date of Anzac Day.Retailers can be fined up to $1000 if they open illegally.As for buying liquor, some bars, cafes and restaurants can continue to sell alcohol, as long as it is accompanied by a meal.SurchargesCafes and restaurants can choose if they want to add a surcharge for opening on the morning of Anzac Day.The surcharge covered the additional cost of wages on a public holiday, Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said."Typically surcharges range from 10-15 percent."Some businesses incorporate the extra costs of operating on public holidays into their annual operating expenses. This approach allows them to spread the recovery of these costs over the course of the year, rather than imposing a surcharge specifically on public holidays," Bidois said.Whether cafes opened on Anzac morning would depend on their location and customer habits, she said."To avoid surprises, diners should confirm whether a surcharge applies either ahead of time or upon arrival. Most establishments will inform customers of any additional fees through visible signage," Bidois said.The Commerce Commission has also said establishments must make it well-known to customers that a surcharge will be payable before they decide to purchase or engage the service."It must be clearly disclosed, for example, by adding information to their website for online sales or placing a sign outside," it said on its website."In addition, the reason for any surcharge must be accurately described and must not be capable of misleading consumers. The surcharge should not exceed those costs, and the costs should actually be incurred by the business."

Supporting better financial access for Kiwis
Supporting better financial access for Kiwis

22 April 2024, 3:06 AM

The Government is overhauling financial services to aid home loan access and bolster consumer protections, announced Ministers Andrew Bayly and Chris Bishop.“Our coalition Government pledges to simplify life by slashing red tape. We're scrapping 11 pages of restrictive affordability rules, easing finance access for Kiwis,” stated Mr Bayly.“These rules added burdensome costs and hindered lending. They failed to shield vulnerable Kiwis," he added.Introduced in December 2021, the regulations caused delays in loan processing, according to Mr Bayly. "It made it unaffordable for many to access credit," he lamented.Housing Minister Chris Bishop highlighted the impact on home loans, stating, “Many Kiwi families were locked out of the market due to prolonged processing times."The reforms aim to streamline home loan applications for hardworking Kiwis, stated Mr Bishop.Acknowledging past difficulties, Mr Bishop commented on the challenges faced by homebuyers, citing house price inflation and regulatory hurdles."These changes address unintended consequences," Mr Bayly explained, noting the need for responsible lending practices.Part of the National-ACT coalition agreement, the reforms include improved dispute resolution and exemptions for councils to offer low-risk financial products."This is just the beginning," assured Mr Bayly, emphasizing forthcoming public consultations on further reforms.The ministers reiterated the importance of accessible financial services and reaffirmed the government's commitment to regulatory clarity and consumer protection.

Police say crime has reduced in central Auckland
Police say crime has reduced in central Auckland

22 April 2024, 1:28 AM

Police in Auckland say they're focused on ensuring people feel safe coming into the city, as they address crime and homelessness in the central city.Auckland Council's Safety and Regulatory Committee heard a report from authorities earlier this month, with an update on their goals to work with the community to make the city safer.Some of those who appeared to be homeless are not, police said.Area commander Inspector Grant Tetzlaff told council they distinguish between homeless people and 'hustlers', a term used by other agencies for those who have somewhere to stay and but are still out asking members of the community for money.In a statement to RNZ, Tetzlaff said addressing housing, health, and issues with addiction would decrease the homeless population, and anti-social activity in town."Being homeless is not a crime in and of itself," he said. "It is a social problem which requires a joint effort to address the underlying issues."Police work with a number of agency's to support them in addressing these issues."Officers were going out into the community from a patrol base on Federal Street and from the Auckland City Police Hub, Tetzlaff said.And data showed a reduction in crime in the central city."While our analysis has shown crime levels have been easing off in recent months, there is still a perception that anti-social and nuisance behaviour is impacting people's ability to feel welcome and secure in the CBD," he said."Police encourage people coming into the city for leisure and nightlife to exercise common sense, particularly if they are drinking alcohol."A review of the council's public safety and nuisance bylaws presented at the committee meeting highlighted the primary area of concern to be directed towards homeless people, or street whānau, and their collective presence and activities within the central city.The review said introducing increased enforcement would be relatively simple, with guidelines and training being given to patrolling staff and compliance teams.Council compliance manager Adrian Wilson said that currently they had no powers to physically move people along.He said all council officers could do was ask those causing issues to move on."Regularly, our teams that are out there will ask people to move away if they're causing an obstruction, or move something that may be causing an obstruction," he said."But physically moving a person, there's actually no powers, and I can't see any powers that could be put in through a bylaw that would enable that."Wilson said there were Bill of Rights considerations to be made when it came to physically moving people.Council had previously said that eliminating homelessness was an 'unreasonable' goal.Wilson said there were roughly 30 people sleeping rough in the city at any given time, and council was continuing to work to address the situation, with multiple agencies involved."It is about safety and it is about perceptions of safety," he said."Certainly, we're working together, joined up in our approach in order to make people feel safe in Auckland, and I think there has been improvements and it is improving, and we're going to work as hard as we can to make that happen."Wilson said lumping the homeless and others together was often done, as people observed those who may appear homeless but were in fact homed.He said council staff on the street know those who are homeless and those who are not."They know all the issues, and all the various tactics that they employ to hustle," said Wilson.Tāmaki Makaurau Collaboration to End Homelessness co-chair Ann-Marie Searchfield, who is also the the chief operating officer at Lifewise Trust, said those they worked with were more often the victims of anti-social behaviour rather than the perpetrators."Whilst we do see a situation where people attribute the two together, in the main, we know that the people that we work with who are experiencing homelessness are much more vulnerable, much more likely to be victims than actually being the key motivators of that kind of behaviour," she said."Those people in need of housing, if we worked with them in a way that supported their needs, we are much more likely to see a reduction of anti-social behaviour."Searchfield said those coming in to make use of the city's night-time scene are the ones who often show anti-social behaviour.Housing was a human right, she said.Lifewise has worked with the Housing First Collective in Auckland, and had housed about 1300 households since 2017, including 1100 children.Roughly 94 percent of those housed using their services stay housed, she said."So, it's much less likely for us, if we can use these kind of models, for us to see people on the street becoming victims of anti-social behaviour, and inadvertently being caught up in that kind of anti-social behaviour," she said."It's complex, but housing first and evidence based approach, we want to see more of that.""You get a better return on investment from this kind of purposeful activity for people - purposeful collaboration, and purposeful outreach to these communities, and merging these communities, than you do with using security," said Searchfield.

News in Brief - April 22
News in Brief - April 22

21 April 2024, 10:41 PM

Auckland Welcomes First Social SupermarketAuckland celebrates the opening of its inaugural social supermarket, offering essential groceries at minimal to no cost for those in financial need.Shoppers can tailor their selections using a points system, facilitated by colour-coded shelving indicating point values.Point allocations vary according to household size, with access strictly by appointment.Prior engagement with financial mentors is required, ensuring holistic support for long-term financial empowerment.Demand Grows for Blues Matches at North Harbour StadiumThe Blues secured a resounding victory over the Brumbies on Friday night, triumphing 46-7, yet faced a notable absence of spectators at Eden Park.Concerns arise over ticket prices and waning enthusiasm for rugby union, impacting attendance at home games.Amidst this, North Harbour Stadium, once a popular venue, sees no Blues matches, leaving its future uncertain.Auckland Housing Update: April 2024February 2024 witnessed 1234 new dwellings consented, contributing to a yearly total of 15,254 across Auckland.Notably, 29% were houses, 11% apartments, and 60% townhouses or other attached dwellings.Within the Rapid Urban Boundary, 95% of new dwellings were consented in the past year, with 12% located within 1500m of rapid transit networks.March saw the creation of 1391 new residential parcels under 5000m² and 1404 parcels of all sizes, while January recorded 6074 long-term arrivals and 1092 public housing applications housed in the December quarter of 2023.

New Zealand Passport system upgrades lead to longer processing times
New Zealand Passport system upgrades lead to longer processing times

21 April 2024, 8:36 PM

New Zealanders are being warned to apply for new passports at least two months before they need them.Current advice from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is that people should allow eight weeks, plus delivery, for a standard passport to be issued.The extending wait times are being blamed on upgrades to the passport system and increased seasonal demand.Almost 38,000 Kiwis are currently waiting for their essential travel documents.The government target for processing passports is 10 days but the current wait-time guideline is more than a month longer than that.In February more than 39,0000 passports were completed; this almost halved in March due to the beginning of the system upgrades, which stopped new applications from being made.DIA said the "major system upgrade" was the biggest change to the passport system in over ten years and would stretch into mid-May.The delays might continue as the new system took time to "bed in", it said."In light of that, we are reviewing forecasts of likely demand and output over the next few months."The department's passport team has been been plagued by problems since the pandemic when it reduced its workforce and then faced a surge of applications once borders opened - also leading to wait-time targets being exceeded.Wait times improved over 2023, with the average processing time for standard passport applications at 17 working days.Between January and March 2024, the average processing time for standard passport applications was 10 working days.But in April 2024 the average processing time for standard applications jumped to 26 working days.The urgent service has remained at two days.However DIA said not all applications were the same and some could go though automatic checks which saw them processed more quickly.It said average processing times were currently less than six weeks, but the upgrades would create outages where passports could not be processed so it was advising applicants to allow eight weeks, plus delivery.The approach was "cautious" and "conservative" DIA said, but admitted it might not have adequately warned applicants about the wait times.It initially said it would be six weeks, plus delivery. After queries from RNZ this advice was changed to eight weeks, plus delivery."We anticipate that average processing times will increase over the next month."DIA said May was usually a big month for applications."This seasonal fluctuation, together with the changes to our system have prompted us to be cautious and advise people to allow six weeks, plus delivery, although in many cases we expect to deliver their passports much sooner."Those who applied before the six-week-wait guidelines were likely to get their new documents within the advertised timeframe at the time of application, but not all."One thing to note is that the timeframes we provide are a guideline, not a guarantee," DIA said."Reducing passport processing times continues to be one of the department's top priorities, and we are constantly looking for ways to achieve this, even as we work to adapt to our upgraded system."We take actions daily to review demand, allocate staff to tasks and enhance productivity."Examples on how we do this include analysing our data, identifying where the bottlenecks are and ensuring we have the right amount of staff working in the right areas."The tech upgrades were set to improve the application process for groups and families and to make the website and processes simpler.The department said it was working hard to reduce waiting times, but it was encouraging people to allow plenty of time.

Air New Zealand expands summer routes and capacity
Air New Zealand expands summer routes and capacity

21 April 2024, 7:09 PM

Air New Zealand has revealed changes to its summer schedule, bringing back popular routes and increasing capacity on key Asian destinations.The airline will resume flights to Hobart, Tasmania and Seoul, South Korea in October 2024. These routes will operate seasonally, with three flights per week from Auckland to each city during the summer months (October to March).Air New Zealand is also boosting capacity on flights to Singapore, Tokyo and Taipei. Starting in November 2024, these routes will see a significant increase in available seats thanks to the introduction of larger Boeing 777-300 aircraft. This means good news for travellers seeking extra comfort, with a higher proportion of premium cabins on these planes.The 777-300 also boasts a 30% greater cargo capacity compared to the previous aircraft, benefitting New Zealand exporters sending goods to these Asian markets.Chicago Service on Hold Due to Engine IssuesWhile Air New Zealand is expanding services elsewhere, the planned return of flights to Chicago has been delayed due to ongoing engine challenges. The airline originally aimed to resume the route in October 2024, but this has now been pushed back.Air New Zealand expects to restart Chicago flights when they receive new Boeing 787 aircraft in the second half of 2025. They will be contacting customers with bookings on the affected route directly to discuss options."We understand this is disappointing news for those planning to travel to Chicago," said Air New Zealand General Manager Long Haul Scott Carr. "However, there are still alternative options to reach the city via other US destinations."Looking Ahead: Connecting New Zealand to the WorldDespite the delay on the Chicago route, Air New Zealand remains committed to connecting New Zealand with the world. These schedule changes will provide more travel options and greater capacity on popular routes, particularly for those seeking premium cabin experiences.The capacity increase for Asian destinations includes:Tokyo: 30,000 additional seats, mostly in Business Premier and Premium EconomySingapore: 20,000 additional seats, with 11,000 in Business Premier and Premium EconomyTaipei: 5,000 extra Business Premier and Premium Economy seats

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon returning from Southeast Asian trip
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon returning from Southeast Asian trip

21 April 2024, 6:26 PM

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has described the state of the world as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous as he seeks to strengthen Southeast Asia relationships.He is returning on Sunday from a week-long tour of Southeast Asia, where he met with political and business leaders from the region.Amid global tensions and escalating tensions in the Middle East, it was important that New Zealand stood up for its values and continued to push for diplomacy, he said."It's an incredibly disruptive time for everybody, and so making sure that we stand up for values that are important with like-minded countries - of which you saw our Singapore relationship where we have massive alignment on most of these issues [and] the same with these other countries we visited as well, Thailand and the Philippines as well - is important."The government had consistently vocalised its position, calling for a cessation of hostilities in the Middle East, Luxon said."That's what we can continue to do, is continue to urge restraint, urge for diplomacy, and stand up and articulate our values well."The visits focused on balancing the advancement of New Zealand's security and economic interests, and political issues such as the war in the Middle East had not overshadowed his mission, he said.In Manilla, the capital of the Philippines Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch"What you're seeing is a very big reset in orientation of our foreign policy, to make sure that we are prioritising certainly our relationship with Australia that you've seen already, certainly our relationship with Southeast Asia, and the broader Indo-Pacific."We want to build on what we've got, but we want to take it to the next level now."That's my job, is to make sure I build effective, strong, instructive, positive working relationships, personal relationships with these leaders."Business and diplomacy togetherLuxon said he balanced Aotearoa's security and economic interests throughout the trip.The two were inter-dependent, because the economy could only prosper in a secure region, and security issues tend to escalate alongside economic instability, he said."If you don't have a secure stable region, you can't then create a prosperity and drive the economic interests. If you can't create prosperity and economic interests, you end up creating instability and therefore create security concerns."Accompanying Luxon on the trip were 25 New Zealand business leaders from a range of sectors."Some have actually closed deals by virtue of us being able to come to the market, and me come to the market," he said."Others have actually started deals and have got something up and running, which is fantastic. And I've tried to make sure that I'm available to them and their customers, and if that's helpful to them do the business then that's important to me."Prime Minister Christopher Luxon presents Philippines President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr with a personalised All Blacks jersey. Photo: Daniel BrunskillThe trip had been about "high quality engagements" and maintaining New Zealand's relevance to its partners."We've got big ambitions, we've got a lot more that we want to do to lift the intensity, the urgency."Representatives from Te Matatini had helped to set New Zealand apart, including cultural elements in the visits, Luxon said."It is about how you get share of mind. They help unlock and build relationships, and using culture to do that is fantastic. For me, it was very, very important they were part of the delegation."There are six key markets of interest to New Zealand in Southeast Asia, he said; Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam."We've already welcomed the Vietnamese Prime Minister to New Zealand with our first state visit ... under our new government, and we've done the other three countries on this trip, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand."So Indonesia and Malaysia are definitely on our agenda ... they've got elections through the course of this year, so it wasn't possible to do this time."Those big six markets in Southeast Asia are all very different, but they create huge opportunities for New Zealand. So expect a lot more this year. We will look to do those two this year too."

Auckland dog attacks: Callouts for attacks on other animals going up
Auckland dog attacks: Callouts for attacks on other animals going up

21 April 2024, 12:04 AM

Auckland's roaming dogs are responsible for more than a thousand attacks on other animals each year, and the number is growing.The attacks have severely injured or killed animals and left families with vet bills totalling thousands of dollars.Auckland cat-owner Sarah woke to a shocking sight in the early hours of the morning a few weeks ago."We heard some commotion in our front yard and raced outside and these three dogs had our cat and were flinging him around the front yard."We managed to get him off them and raced him to the after hours vet, but he passed away as soon as we got there. He just had too many injuries."Sarah had become used to seeing roaming dogs in her neighbourhood, but when she saw security footage of the attack, she was shocked by the way the dogs stalked her cat, which was elderly and kept to himself."He was 14 and he was just outside in our front yard doing this thing. They came onto the property quite clearly, hunting, no barking."You can see them in the camera footage cornering him, chasing him, and then all attacking him."Sarah is one of a growing number of Auckland pet owners affected by dog attacks.In the July 2020 - June 2021 local government financial year animal management received 900 callouts for roaming dogs attacking other animals.The following year there were 1050 and in the 2022-23 year there were 1339.Most of the attacks are on cats, but there are also callouts for attacks on cattle, chickens, horses, rabbits and sheep.Megan Alderson from The Strand Vet said dogs can inflict significant injuries."You'll have puncture wounds on the outside, but crushed organs, lung, liver, kidneys on the inside. So, they're very serious injuries. If they get away with just a puncture wound and then they can go on to absessate."If the animal survives it's often a long and painful journey back to full health, and that can be expensive."They actually often times need 24/7 care for a number of days. Specialists are usually involved, it's not just their regular veterinarian or their GP if it's outside of our realm of expertise."The cost of these injuries can go definitely into the tens of thousands."Alderson said one of her clients needed therapy after her small dog was attacked in front of her and her child.Auckland Council animal management south team leader James Faulkner said any attack triggers an investigation.Once evidence is gathered the dog's owners can be given an infringement notice or disqualified from owning dogs. If the council decides to prosecute, the dog could be euthanised.Faulkner said dog owners need to be more responsible."I think the onus needs to be placed on dog owners. Having a dog is a fantastic experience but it has a certain level of responsibility. People need to make sure that they get their dog trained and they get the right type of dog for them and that their property is secure."All of these things can stop a dog from roaming and then that's going to prevent dog attacks."Faulkner said an officer spoke to Sarah after her cat's death, and the council has put traps in the area to catch the dogs responsible.They have not caught anything yet.

Gloomy mood or Gloomy reality?
Gloomy mood or Gloomy reality?

20 April 2024, 9:29 PM

Economist Tim Hazledine argues that the health of the New Zealand economy hinges less on government policies and more on public perception."The future isn't predetermined," says Professor Hazledine. "Our decisions, based on what we think is coming, can shape that future."Our spending habits, investments, and even job hunting are all influenced by our outlook. If we expect a strong economy, we're more likely to spend and invest, which strengthens the economy itself.The opposite is also true. Fearful consumers tighten their belts, leading to a weaker economy and potentially causing the job losses they worried about in the first place.So, how confident are New Zealanders feeling right now?Recent polls show mixed results. Consumer confidence is up, but still more people are pessimistic than optimistic. A separate poll found more New Zealanders believe the country is on the wrong track, with living costs being their top concern.Professor Hazledine argues these worries may be unfounded. Tim Hazledine is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Auckland Business School and a self-described incorrigible optimist.Interest rates are expected to fall, unemployment remains low, and wages are rising faster than inflation."Given the self-fulfilling nature of expectations," he says, "the government should focus on highlighting the positives of our future prospects."He suggests the government avoid negativity and instead emphasise the good news: a peaceful nation, low unemployment, and rising wages.Professor Hazledine acknowledges real global challenges exist, but worries a negative outlook could drag down the economy unnecessarily.He urges the government to promote optimism, arguing it is not just about luck; a positive outlook can be a powerful economic tool.

Plan to ditch ratepayer funding for Northland Rescue Helicopter attracts record submissions
Plan to ditch ratepayer funding for Northland Rescue Helicopter attracts record submissions

20 April 2024, 2:03 AM

A proposal to ditch ratepayer funding for the Northland Rescue Helicopter and other emergency services has sparked a record number of submissions to the Northland Regional Council.As of Thursday morning, the council had received 1740 submissions on its 2024-34 Long-Term Plan, a record for the Whangārei-based council.At least 1200 of those are related to the emergency services levy, and the vast majority of those are understood to oppose the council's proposal.Currently the regional council collects about $12 per household per year for its emergency services fund.About half of that, $535,000, goes to the Northland Rescue Helicopter, while the rest is split among other volunteer organisations such as surf lifesaving and Far North Radio and Sea Rescue.The Northland Regional Council is proposing to hold rates rises down to 3 percent - which would see its services trimmed to "the bare minimum" - or 11 percent, which is still low compared to other councils.However, both of those options involve dropping "non-core" services, such as sports facilities and emergency services funding.The council says it is pushing back against central government imposing ever more costs on ratepayers, and wants Te Whatu Ora/Health NZ to increase its funding for the rescue helicopter.'Fair to say people are not happy'Many Northlanders volunteering in emergency services are aghast, however.Ruawai volunteer firefighter Anthony Blundell said the regional council had "misread the room"."It's really surprised a lot of people why they'd even go down this path, saying it's not their core business when Civil Defence sits under NRC [Northland Regional Council] core business. Who do they think turn up to Civil Defence incidents? So I find that quite ironic."Blundell, who is also an ambassador for the rescue helicopter, said the chopper was called out to Ruawai just last week when a school bus and a car collided."Most fortunately there were no very serious injuries. The Northland Rescue Helicopter was on the scene and they had their other helicopter on call in Whangārei, waiting if it was required. That was just great to know, because it could have been a really serious incident."Blundell said many parents at the crash scene asked him why the council was planning to drop its funding."I can't really use the expletive that most people used, but fair to say people are not happy," he said.Northland Federated Farmers president Collin Hannah, who had also made a submission, said the helicopter was a "Northland lifeline".The idea that the government would step in to fill the funding gap was ludicrous, given the current government's cost-cutting drive.While rescue helicopters played a vital role in regions with spread-out populations such as Northland, it was a misconception that the service benefited mainly rural people."It's bigger than that. I don't think people in Northland realise just how much our urban communities depend on that chopper as well. If you were to have, for example, an aneurism in the brain, the only place that can do surgery is Auckland, and the sooner you get there the better."Kamo Intermediate teacher Monique Bradley was 18 years old when a horse rolled on top of her, leaving her with a brain bleed and a broken spine.She was airlifted to Whangārei Hospital, and eventually learned to walk again and recovered to the point where she was able to qualify as a teacher.Bradley doubted she would have survived a trip in the back of an ambulance on the winding, corrugated roads between isolated Whananaki Beach and Whangārei.She had also made a submission calling for the emergency services rate to be retained."It really hurts the NRC is proposing to cut the funding. If this is to happen it's going to have a massive effect on Northlanders," she said.Govt already provides 86% of funding for emergency ambulance helicopters - ministerRegional Council deputy chair Tui Shortland said the council was pushing back against the government's increasing demands on struggling ratepayers - especially in a region like Northland, where the amount people could pay was limited."We believe that the Ministry of Health is in fact responsible for some of the emergency services we have been funding - and in this current time, in one of the most impoverished regions in the country, we need to question the government," she said."We are going to do this via our long-term plan process, while we have an open discussion with our ratepayers."The rescue helicopter service was required to demonstrate community support, but that did not have to come from rates, Shortland said.Councillors were expecting a lot of submissions, and were looking forward to reading, and hearing, what Northlanders had to say, she said.Meanwhile, Paul Ahlers, chairman of the Northland Emergency Services Trust, which operates the helicopters, said 85 percent of the service's funding already came from Te Whatu Ora and ACC.He wanted to see the trust remain a community organisation, rather than being wholly government funded.Ahlers said losing ratepayer funding would not ground the chopper but it would put the service under great strain - especially because the trust would have just three months to make up for a $500,000 shortfall.He believed the annual ratepayer contribution was working well."It's a system that we actually think is really effective, because it allows us to reach every household in Northland, and allows Northlanders to just give a little bit towards the cost of running what is an essential service," Ahlers said.Associate Health Minister Casey Costello, who is responsible for emergency helicopter services, said what the Northland Regional Council did around its emergency services levy was a matter for the council and the local community to decide.However, she said the government already provided 86 percent of funding for emergency ambulance helicopters around the country - $128 million this financial year - via Health NZ and ACC.This was a big shift from 20 years ago, when air ambulances were mainly funded by communities.Despite that, there was still a strong sense of community ownership over local emergency helicopter services, given the long-term relationship and at times lifesaving service they provided, Costello said.Feedback on the Northland Regional Council's Long Term Plan closes today (Friday) with oral submissions to be heard on 8 May and a decision due in June.

Pizza on demand: Pizza Express unveils vending machines in Auckland
Pizza on demand: Pizza Express unveils vending machines in Auckland

19 April 2024, 11:57 PM

Pizza Express has unveiled a revolutionary new way to enjoy their pizzas with the launch of their first-ever vending machine in Auckland! Located at 368 Queen Street, this exciting addition brings delicious and convenient pizzas right to the heart of the city's bustling CBD. Mark your calendars, because this innovative machine starts serving hot and fresh pizzas on Sunday, April 21st.The state-of-the-art machine boasts a menu of freshly made pizzas, prepared with high-quality ingredients to satisfy any craving, day or night. Whether you're grabbing a quick lunch, a late-night bite, or a tasty treat with friends, Pizza Express has you covered."Convenience is key in today's fast-paced world," Pizza Express says, "and our vending machines are changing the game." This innovative concept combines everyone's love for pizza with the efficiency of vending machines, offering a hot and delicious solution for on-the-go pizza lovers.Forget waiting for delivery or queuing at pizzerias. Pizza vending machines are here to revolutionise how we enjoy pizza. Strategically placed in high-traffic areas, these machines offer instant access to a variety of freshly baked pizzas.The beauty lies in their simplicity and speed. Users can customise their pizza with various toppings and crust options on a user-friendly touchscreen interface. Once the order is placed and payment is made, the machine whirs to life. Using cutting-edge technology, it assembles, bakes to perfection, and delivers your piping hot pizza within minutes.As technology advances, even more exciting features are on the horizon. Integration with mobile apps for seamless ordering, wider menu options, and eco-friendly packaging are just a few possibilities to look forward to.Pizza vending machines are reshaping the fast-food landscape with convenience, customisation, and lightning-fast service. With Pizza Express leading the charge, these machines are poised to become a staple in the future of on-the-go dining.To celebrate their grand New Zealand debut, Pizza Express has curated a special menu featuring their top six pizzas. From classic Margherita to adventurous options like BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Delight, each pizza is crafted with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, promising a flavour explosion that will leave you wanting more.But Pizza Express isn't just about delivering delicious food. "We're committed to becoming part of the community," they say. They plan to engage with local businesses, participate in events, and support charitable initiatives, making every interaction with Pizza Express a memorable one.

Rates rebate gets boost to help homeowners
Rates rebate gets boost to help homeowners

19 April 2024, 9:21 PM

Good news for low-income homeowners! The Government has announced an increase to the Rates Rebate Scheme, putting more money back into people's pockets.Local Government Minister Simeon Brown says the change is part of the Government's plan to make life more affordable for New Zealanders."We're committed to helping Kiwis who are struggling with the cost of living," Mr Brown says. "The Rates Rebate Scheme helps ease the burden of rates payments for low-income homeowners."Bigger Rebates and Increased ThresholdStarting from 1 July 2024, the maximum rebate amount will increase from $750 to $790. This means eligible homeowners can receive a larger partial refund on their rates bill.There's also good news for those who might be unsure if they qualify. The income threshold to be eligible for the scheme has also been raised, from $30,100 to $31,510 per year.How to Apply"I encourage everyone who thinks they might be eligible to apply," Mr Brown says. "Whether it's you or a family member, contact your local council or retirement village operator to find out more."The Rates Rebate Scheme has been around since 1973, offering much-needed financial assistance to low-income homeowners in New Zealand.This increase reflects the rising cost of living, with adjustments made based on the Consumer Price Index.By increasing the rebate and raising the income threshold, the Government hopes to make a real difference for those who need it most.

Finding joy in your golden years: 10 Tips for a happy retirement
Finding joy in your golden years: 10 Tips for a happy retirement

19 April 2024, 7:54 PM

Retirement is often seen as an ending, but what if it's a brand new beginning?With more free time and a chance to pursue your passions, retirement can be a golden opportunity to find happiness.Embrace the AdventureInstead of fearing change, greet retirement with open arms.See it as an exciting adventure – a chance to finally chase those dreams you tucked away during busy work years.Stay Sharp, Stay HappyKeeping your mind and body active is a recipe for retirement bliss.Challenge yourself with a new language class, volunteer your skills, or join a club to keep your brain buzzing.Don't forget the physical side – daily walks, a new sport, or even tending a vibrant garden can work wonders for your mood.Laughter is the Best MedicineLighten up! Laughter is a powerful tool for happiness.Spend time with loved ones, share jokes, and simply enjoy yourself.Laughter is contagious, and it can brighten your day and the days of those around you.Connect and ShareWe're social creatures, and staying connected is crucial for mental well-being.Don't become a hermit! Share your thoughts and feelings with loved ones, but remember, a balanced approach is key.Pursue Your PassionsRetirement is a chance to rediscover the things that truly set your soul alight.Whether it's spending quality time with your grandchildren, getting lost in a captivating book, or finally mastering that new instrument, make time for what brings you joy.Never Stop LearningA curious mind is a happy mind. Taking a course, joining a book club, or simply reading a good book can keep your brain sharp and your spirits high.There's always something new to discover – embrace the adventure of lifelong learning!Strengthen Your BondsRetirement offers the perfect opportunity to nurture relationships with family and friends.Plan outings, throw parties, or simply have lunch dates with the people who matter most.Small Acts, Big ImpactDoing something kind for someone else can be a powerful way to boost your own happiness. Write a heartfelt note, visit a friend in need, or volunteer your time – these small gestures can make a world of difference.Make Your Dreams a RealityDid you always dream of writing a memoir or exploring faraway lands?Now's your chance! Don't let those long-held aspirations gather dust any longer.Stay Active, Stay PositiveRetirement isn't an excuse to become a couch potato.Staying physically and mentally active is key to maintaining a positive outlook.Pursue hobbies, take up a new challenge, and embrace a youthful spirit.By following these tips and keeping a positive attitude, you can make your retirement years some of the most fulfilling and joyful of your life.

Auckland City Gardens Apartments no longer dangerous fire risk, council says
Auckland City Gardens Apartments no longer dangerous fire risk, council says

19 April 2024, 7:10 PM

Auckland Council says residents will not need to evacuate a fire hazard prone building in the central city, if certification data comes back saying it is no longer dangerous.Residents of the 16-storey City Gardens Apartments building in central Auckland had been told by Auckland Council they would need to vacate the building by Monday 22 April due to significant fire safety risks.However, in a statement, Auckland Council general manager building Ian McCormick said since that notice was issued additional measures had been put in place to ensure the residents' safety.The building had significant issues and the council had been working with the body corporate for some time to rectify them, he said."However a recent incident highlighting issues with sprinkler and alarm systems elevated our concerns to the point where the issuing of a Dangerous Building Notice became necessary."McCormick said he was on site on Friday along with 15 building inspectors and Fire and Emergency specialists to assess the situation."We are pleased to say that good progress has been made and based on our observations we believe the building is no longer dangerous."Owners were able to demonstrate that crucial life-saving systems including the alarm systems, sprinklers, smoke and heat protectors and fire doors are all working compliantly."It was expected that certification documentation confirming this would be completed today, he said.Once that was received and council was satisfied, the body corporate and residents would be informed that they would not need to vacate the building on Monday, he said.Council would then usually lift the Dangerous Building Notice at that point, he said."However due to a determination to MBIE sought by the building owner's legal representation, we are currently unable to do so. We are working through that process, but this will not affect the fact that residents do not need to vacate."Some work still needed to be done on the building "to improve the passive fire systems and complete the separation of the stairwells through the carpark building", he said."This work will be incorporated into a Notice to Fix which we will serve on the body corporate in the immediate future."The issues facing this building were unique and council did not share similar concerns for other apartments in Auckland, he said.

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