'We wanted a change of scene' - singer Passenger reveals his close Kiwi connection with new album

Michael Rosenberg said he recorded the majority of his Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea single in Auckland. Source: Breakfast


The Great Kiwi Bake Off - Episode 1 Recap, cupcakes and kids' birthday treats

The jaunty music. The bunting. The soggy bottoms. The baking. Oh the baking!

Welcome to The Great Kiwi Bake Off, New Zealand. I hope you’ve eaten, because watching this on an empty stomach is the kind of torture that should only be reserved for those people you really, really do not like.

And look, there’s no point beating around the bush here. The British version of this glorious show is a modern broadcasting masterpiece. Nice telly with a deliciously sweet aftertaste, in the best way possible.

Forget politicians playing nice with their own parties and royal (baby shower) tours, this is not something we can risk screwing up, Aotearoa.

So, do Kiwi cooks have what it takes? Are our jokes just as naughty as the English greats? Apart from canned spaghetti and sausages, can anything edible really be cooked in a tent?

Guys, the answer is… yeah, I reckon.

But doing the real deciding is a duo you wouldn’t want to mess with in a dark alley armed only with a French Stick.

Meet the Dame of Desserts, Sue Fleischl, and Dean Brettschneider, the man who has baked his way around the world. She is the perfect combination of sass and serious expectations, while he plays her straight-man offsider who seems a little scared to be scary.

More importantly, we’re going to keep it simple and refer to them forever more as FleischlSchneider. 'Cos, it sounds so, uh, friendly.

To kick this whole crazy ride off, the Fleischl end of the hashtag tries to convince us cupcakes, which are the Signature Challenge, are "not terribly, technically difficult".

Sue has clearly never seen me in the kitchen.

And don’t even get me started on the children’s birthday cakes the bakers have to deliver for the Showstopper Bake. I am sweating at the very idea of ever having mini-me’s that demand I construct anything more than a supermarket sponge with a few 100’s and 1000’s.

Thankfully, these 12 bakers are exactly the kind of people you want – and expect – in the kitchen; salt-of-the-earth Kiwis (with a few quirky characters thrown in for good measure).

There’s Stacey, the stunning blue-haired, body-building, power-lifting tattoo artist, with the cake-themed outfits.

Jeff, who has eyes like the bluest ocean and a penchant for musical theatre (even if his wife calls his performance "rubbish" – hashtag SingItJeff.

Clayton’s bold approach to the first challenge is to get his "buttercream going, melting a bit of chocolate, decorate some stuff and have a beer – happy, happy". (So chilled out…show off!)

While Hottest Home Baker Joel bravely came out as a cupcake man to his rugby teammates – and then let out the Kiwiest of Kiwisms ("Aaaaaw Noooo-ah") when one of his little fellas ended up face-down on the floor.

Lovely Larissa and Adorable Annabel could be sisters. And Sonali’s relying on the luck of the Irish – and maybe getting the judges drunk on a booze-packed cupcake.

Hosts Hayley Sproull and Madeleine Sami seem to be big supporters of this tactical approach. And those two might need a wee drink.
After all, they have big shoes to fill, since, historically, Bake Off hosts are tasked with making sure TV’s nicest show doesn’t become sickly sweet.

Remember, there’s no cash prize, no car or profit to win. There’s no romance drama or singing and dancing. These people are just here to bake lovely food and, by proxy, are just lovely people.

If we didn’t have Hayley suggesting a bunny cake could maybe have real bunny in it, or Madeleine pointing out phallic decorations in the kitchen, there’s a very real concern the show would just have no bite.

And too much sweetness can be a bad thing. Just ask anyone who’s had to eat 12 birthday cakes.

There were show stopper highs and quite worrying lows. Cakes were dropped, and cakes were moist. There was dry ice and ear-less dinos and unicorns and mermaids.

In the end though, Angel Annabel was crowned the first ever New Zealand Star Baker with a buzzy bee cake that drew gasps, while Smiley Jennie, with her very wet cupcakes, and cute-but-a-little-cheaty, lolly-filled, marshmallow-coated Igloo cake, that was shown the door.

Was it a case of "I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed you sorta didn’t make any of this apart from the sponge" from FleischlSchneider? Maybe.

Should Ol’ Blue Eyes Jeff and his sloppy adult-only mess been shown the door instead? Perhaps.

But the bar has been well and truly set, the expectations shouted from the tent-top, and God help any baker who visits the supermarket on the way to the oven.

And more than anything, I hope Sue knows her probing "did you make the marshmallows?" will haunt my baking nightmares forever more.

The Great Kiwi Bakeoff is on TVNZ2 on Tuesdays at 7.30pm and then on TVNZ OnDemand

Bridget Jones is a TVNZ publicist and former entertainment reporter

Dean, Madeleine, Hayley and Sue from The Great Kiwi Bake Off.
Dean, Madeleine, Hayley and Sue from The Great Kiwi Bake Off. Source: TVNZ


Jami-Lee Ross faces fight of his life to keep Botany as resignation forces by-election in safe National seat

Jami-Lee Ross faces the fight of his life to keep Auckland's Botany electorate after his resignation today triggered a by-election in the safe National seat.

Mr Ross is laying a police complaint against National Party leader Simon Bridges’ handling of electoral donations, and has accused him of being a "corrupt" politician.

It was the downfall of another National MP, Pansy Wong, in 2011, and the Botany by-election, that brought Jami-Lee Ross to Parliament.

He easily won the seat for National at three general elections, but now faces a battle to keep it.

"I'm happy to face a by-election, stand as an independent. My community will make their decision," Mr Ross told reporters today.

The Botany MP has quit Parliament and accuses Simon Bridges of electoral fraud. Source: 1 NEWS

Politics has been the father-of-two's life. He entered Parliament at just 25 after six years as a Manukau City Councillor.

Former ACT party deputy leader Kenneth Wang also stood in Botany.

Speaking of today's events, Mr Wang said Mr Ross is "willing to throw his personal conflicts with the leader above the party's interests and that puts some serious doubt on his personal integrity".

Botany has the highest number of people born overseas of any electorate, at 49 per cent. The majority of voters are Asian or Pacific Islanders.

And it has always been a safe National seat. Mr Ross won 62 per cent of the votes at last year's election.

In Botany today, people were shocked to hear of his resignation.

"I wouldn't support him, not after what he did," a woman said.

A man said: "Personally, think he's in the right and National Party is in the wrong." 

Mr Wang thinks the now-independent MP faces an uphill battle to hold on to the seat.

"The majority of people chose the National Party during the last election. I don't think that mood has dramatically changed," he said.

But Mr Ross asked: Do they want someone that has stood up for them for 15 years and will continue to do so? I believe I can represent Botany. I can speak out more on their behalf as an independent, and I'd like to do so."

But it's now up to the people of Botany to decide if he still has a political future.

Simon Bridges has called Mr Ross’ allegations "baseless", saying they come from someone who's "lying, leaking and lashing out".

1 NEWS’ Katie Bradford takes a look at Mr Ross’ chances of keeping his seat. Source: 1 NEWS


Aucklanders urged to be on lookout for counterfeit $100 notes after charges laid against man

Waitemata Police are appealing to retailers for any information about customers paying for goods with counterfeit money, following the arrest of a 26-year old man.

A number of items, predominantly in west Auckland, have been purchased using fake $100 notes, although Police are concerned that the offending may be wider spread.

Products such as petrol, food and cigarettes are among those to have been purchased using the counterfeit currency.

"The majority of the offending has occurred in the Henderson, Titirangi, Te Atatu and Avondale areas, however we believe there may be more in counterfeit notes currently in circulation and we're urging retailers to contact us if they believe they are in possession of these notes," said Constable Rebecca Brown.

"The notes are very poor quality and relatively easy to spot as counterfeit money, they do not have a clear panel and the paper they are printed on does not feel legitimate.

"On close inspection you can see they have roughly cut edges and black lines - it's not too difficult for anyone to see they are not genuine."

Police have charged a 26-year old man over the offences. He is due to appear in the Waitakere District Court later this month.

File image of $50 and $100 notes. Source: 1 NEWS

Tens of thousands expected at Auckland Diwali festival this weekend

Huge crowds are expected at this weekend's Diwali festival in Auckland, with the grand finale to include a fireworks display.

The festival runs from midday on Saturday and Sunday until 9pm, and about 55,000 people attended in 2017.

Hundreds of performances are scheduled in Aotea Square and Queen Street, and there will be plenty of food and activities.

A total of 70 street stalls will be set up and the organisers say more than 45 hours of live entertainment is scheduled.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge will be lit up with traditional Rangoli patterns starting from Thursday from 7pm each night.

The festival is smoke and alcohol free and motorists are warned that significant disruption to traffic in the CBD is expected.

Traditionally made colorful lanterns are are common feature at Diwali festivals around the world. [File Picture]
Traditionally made colorful lanterns are are common feature at Diwali festivals around the world. [File Picture] Source: istock.com