Booming Kiwi gaming industry asks for Government intervention to grow

Games like Into the Dead 2, Bloons TD 6 and the much-awaited Ashen are helping the New Zealand games industry find success on the world stage.

New Zealand Game Developers Association chairperson Michael Vermeulen said the industry is booming, with a goal for earnings to reach one billion dollars per year by 2026.

"We've got companies all the way from Auckland down to Dunedin making games that are doing really well on the world stage," he said.

PikPok managing director Mario Wynands said he believes New Zealand’s "inherent innovative, creative culture" is part of why the country’s games appeal to an international audience, as well as being influenced by a variety of cultures.

"We're able to bring all of this together and then create things which are interesting and compelling all over the world."

Last week, West Auckland-made Bloons TD 6 by Ninja Kiwi was the number one paid app in the world on Android, Apple iPhone and iPad, an unprecedented feat for New Zealand.
In 2012, the industry earned $19.6 million.

Five years later, in 2017, revenue had exploded to $99.9 million, the majority of which comes from exports.

Last year, there were 500 game developers working in New Zealand, according to a survey by NZGDA.

Companies are now calling for government intervention to help grow the industry further, saying maximising their success will be difficult without it.

"If we could see improvements to the local investment scene, to government support then we’d be able to accelerate and amplify that success," Mario Wynands said.

NZGDA's Michael Vermeulen said when foreign game companies enquire about moving to New Zealand, the first thing they ask about is if there any tax incentives.

Digital Media Minister Clare Curran said the government is investigating how to further develop the industry’s impact on the economy and said incentives are needed.

"Research and Development tax credits may be one of them and there may be others," she said.

A government report is being worked on by the New Zealand Technology Industry Association to provide accurate data about the industry and analyse opportunities for growth.

The Minister also acknowledged there is a skills shortage for game development in New Zealand.

"We’re currently having to import people with the skills levels because we’re not producing enough of them," she said.

Aurora 44 creative director Direk Bradley said for development of Ashen, which will be released on Xbox and Microsoft Windows, staff from overseas were needed as the type of game is new ground for creation in New Zealand.

"Honestly, a lot of what the ecosystem needs is people who’ve shipped games as opposed to people who have come out of an education system," he said.

Mr Bradley said gaming students need opportunities for apprenticeships and the education system doesn’t allow for this at the moment.

"It's such a success driven industry… the bar for quality is so high that you need to be around those people that are just the best in the world to be able to live up to that."

PikPok managing director Mario Wynands said with an increase in commercial success, people are starting to take notice of the industry.

"It’s a legitimate career to get into, it’s a great opportunity and something that I think could be an important part of New Zealand’s economy in the future."

Mr Wynands said the gaming industry is starting to close the gap on the success of the film industry and has surpassed the music industry here when it comes to earnings.

The Government report on interactive media is due to be released later this year.

Gaming is NZ’s fastest growing industry, with offerings gaining international popularity. Source: 1 NEWS

Who is South Auckland's rogue zebra crossing painter?

A mysterious pedestrian crossing painter has struck again after a rogue zebra crossing popped up outside a South Auckland school - the second such occurrence at the school over the past year.

Patumahoe Primary School principal Jade Tawhiti spoke to TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning about the latest incident.

"The first one was in, I think it was November last year and it was quite a good job, that one - looked like a mini roller, pretty good white lines," he siad. "And they were actually good from the footpath when you're viewing them, but when you drove down the road, they were all over the show.

"It was quite funny at the time, but sort of when you thought about the safety implications of that, it wasn't so funny."

Mr Tawhiti said after the first incident, "Auckland Transport came rushing here (and) tore shreds out of our staff, sort of thinking that we did it".

He said Auckland Transport painted over the lines with blank paint, but the second time "someone's gone and used a spray can and spray painted the zebra lines".

A pedestrian crossing does need to be installed outside the school, the principal said, explaining that there are "a few variables" in place making it difficult to cross the road safely.

"(There's) high speeds from locals and passersby and there's a couple of funny corners and bends which create low visibility, and a few issues for kids crossing and parents," he said.

However, he says homemade paint jobs could be dangerous for students due to the confusion over whether or not it is safe to cross.

"At the end of the day, it creates confusion, so if you've got white lines and kids assuming it's a legal, proper pedestrian crossing, they're going to walk," he said. "As it stands now, it's what they call a care crossing, which actually has to be manned by patrollers or monitors, and we have the swinigng arms."

Auckland Transport spokesperson Mark Hannan said a real zebra crossing will be installed outside Patumahoe School by March or April of next year.

Patumahoe Primary School principal Jade Tawhiti spoke to Breakfast this morning about the incident. Source: 1 NEWS

'I'm absolutely stoked' - Hamilton McDonald's worker scolded by manager now allowed to speak Te Reo Māori with customers

A McDonald's employee who was chastised by her manager for speaking Te Reo Māori at work has received an apology.

Janine Eru-Taueki, 19, was keen to celebrate Māori Language Week with customers at the Hamilton McDonald's where she worked, but had her enthusiasm dashed when a manager told her not to speak New Zealand's official language.

Janine was told it would be considered rude to address customers in a language other than English, she told Māori Television.

However, Māori Television now reports that Janine has received an apology from her manager and will be allowed to use te reo in the workplace from now on.

"I feel at peace about it now. They're allowing me and all Māori-speaking employees to speak Māori to staff and customers. I'm absolutely stoked," Janine says.

The teenager is also happy she gets to keep her job.

"I thought I might lose my job, but because they've changed their policy I still have a job."

McDonald's officials said they are learning from the situation and will explore policies that might better support Māori Language Week in the future.

The restaurant didn’t receive any customer complaints about Janine's bilingual efforts, they confirmed.

McDonald's Hamilton stores are planning to offer a bilingual menu to customers.


BPA-free plastic containers may not be less toxic

Substitutes for BPA plastics may have ingredients that cause similar problems as the product they're replacing.

Nearly two decades ago, researchers found the plastics ingredient known as BPA was causing a sudden increase in abnormal animal egg chromosomes.

The discovery resulted in more products being developed as alternatives, so they didn't contain the toxic ingredient.

However, Washington State University spokesperson, Patricia Hunt, said an array of substitutes used to replace BPA appear to come with similar problems.

Ms Hunt said more work is needed to determine whether some replacements are safer than others.

Plastic products that show physical signs of damage or ageing cannot be considered safe, she said.

Chemicals expert at the University of Melbourne, Professor Ian Rae, said whether someone has been affected by BPA won't be obvious straight away.

"BPA is known to be a hormone mimic. The activity is modest, but BPA is widely used in plastics and other materials and we are all exposed to it in one way or another.

"Because the effects are slow to develop and BPA may affect different people in different ways, it has been hard for regulators and even harder for consumers to assess the risks we may be facing. Most regulators have judged that the toxic effects are below levels of concern."

He said people need to be just as cautious around non-BPA products.

"Some manufacturers, perhaps sensing that bans might be imposed or - to take a more nuanced view - that consumers might respond to concerns expressed by others and avoid BPA-containing products, have taken cautious action.

"Some actions involve the use of materials that do not require the addition of BPA, but others mean turning from BPA to alternatives that can provide the same actions as BPA."


Woman, 72, charged after bus crash that left two pedestrians dead in South Auckland

A 72-year-old woman has been charged over a fatal bus crash in April that left two people dead in Papatoetoe, Auckland.

Taylor Charles King, aged 23, from Papatoetoe and 34-year-old Jeremy Tokotai Kaukasi died after the crash on Puhinui Road in Papatoetoe at about 6.50pm on Saturday, April 14.

The men had just picked up a meal in Papatoetoe when they were hit and killed. Source: 1 NEWS

The two men were crossing the road at the time.

Police say the woman has been summonsed to appear in the Manukau District Court on October 25 to face two charges of careless driving causing death.

A pair of pedestrians were crossing the road when they were struck by the bus at 7pm last night. Source: 1 NEWS