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Morning Briefing Dec 1: Island's owners among those charged over eruption

New Zealand’s work safety watchdog won’t reveal who they’ve charged in relation to last year’s deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption but several of the 13 parties have already come forward. 

Whakaari / White Island. Source: Getty

Those facing charges include GNS Science, National Emergency Management (NEMA), Volcanic Air and White Island Tours. RNZ reports the island’s owners are also among those charged over the eruption.

The brother of Hayden Marshall-Inman, the Whakaari tour guide who was killed in the eruption, says he’s disappointed charges have been filed. Mark Inman says it’s not what his brother would have wanted.

However, some of the other victims’ families have welcomed the move

The charges come a little more than a week before the first anniversary of the tragedy.

Forty-seven people were on Whakaari when it erupted on December 9 last year. Twenty-two of those people lost their lives, while another 22 were seriously injured. 

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Sick leave set to double

New legislation to double workers’ sick leave to 10 days a year is being introduced in Parliament today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded Kiwis “we have obligations to stay home and get better” and that a more enduring response to sick leave is needed. The roll-over entitlement will remain at 20 days.

The Government expects the changes to be in place by mid next year. 

While the move is good news for workers, National’s workplace relations spokesperson Scott Simpson says it “just piles more costs onto business at a time when they can least afford it”.

Meanwhile, the Government has this morning revealed it’s extending business debt relief for another 10 months.

The business debt hibernation scheme, which was introduced at the height of the pandemic, allows businesses to put their debt on hold and avoid liquidation. 

And in other business news, Unilever New Zealand has announced it’s trialling a four-day work week at full pay for its employees. The company says staff will take either a whole day or two half days off a week.

New stoush over housing

As the latest CoreLogic House Price Index shows nationwide property value growth accelerating, Jacinda Ardern is defending her recent comments about house prices.

Ardern was yesterday discussing taxation measures to bring the housing market under control and said “the appetite for some of these policies also needs to come from the public".

National's Nicola Willis tweeted that the Prime Minister’s comments were "disappointing", while Act’s David Seymour called them "tone deaf". 

And as politicians argue over how to rein in New Zealand’s house prices, ASB’s latest housing confidence survey shows the heat in the market may be too hot for some.

The survey for the three months to October shows a net 12 per cent of people thought it was a good time to buy a house – a nine-point drop on the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, Inland Revenue says it’s cracking down on residential property investors who have sold houses without paying tax on the profits. 

RNZ reports the department plans to match tax returns with property transactions and contact those who might be affected. 

Stuff’s apology makes waves

Stuff’s public apology for its racist portrayal of Māori over the years has sparked a wider conversation about New Zealand’s media.

Stuff’s Pou Tiaki editor Carmen Parahi and Breakfast presenter Jenny-May Clarkson both became emotional discussing the issue on air yesterday morning. 

"People don't understand that the way we've been portrayed for so long has really impacted on our lives, generationally as well," Parahi says.

1 NEWS Māori affairs reporter Yvonne Tahana says Stuff’s apology was “a startling admission” that focuses attention on the wider media ecosystem.

She added that while other media organisations have spoken about hiring more Māori journalists, those journalists “can’t do all of the heavy lifting”.

“For core fundamental change you need our Pākehā colleagues and friends to come onboard - and that’s a massive challenge for the whole industry," she says.

Tolls the way of the future?

Auckland’s drivers could soon find themselves paying a congestion charge to enter the central city at peak times.

It’s one of the options being considered by a joint government and council group in their newly released report, the Congestion Question.

Other main routes in the city could also be subject to charges on weekdays.

The idea has been welcomed by several groups, including those representing freight users and the infrastructure industry. 

Other news of note this morning: 

- Australian PM Scott Morrison has slammed a "truly repugnant, deeply offensive" social media post from a senior Chinese official attacking Australian troops.

- Two households have been evacuated in Porirua after a landslide struck the area last night.

- RNZ reports a campaign to vaccinate young adults against the measles has struggled through the pandemic, leaving New Zealand vulnerable to another outbreak.

- The CTV families are demanding an independent review of the decision not to prosecute anyone for the fatal building collapse during the 2011 earthquake. 

- A new report finds New Zealanders are still in favour of strict measures to keep Covid-19 at the border.

- British singer Rita Ora has apologised for breaking lockdown rules to celebrate her 30th birthday in London.

- And Consumer New Zealand has released its ‘Bad Taste Food Awards’ list, which highlights misleading health claims made on food products.

And finally...

Source: istock.com

A major US study into ageing has potentially found the secrets to a long life.

The two-decade long research has concluded that people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained. It also found those who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than normal or underweight people did.

But before you excitedly reach for the booze and boxes of scorched almonds, New Zealand doctor Mataroria Lyndon says the research needs to be taken with a grain of salt...