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Morning Briefing May 27: Covid-19 reveals Kiwis' financial vulnerabilities

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed Kiwis’ financial vulnerability, according to a new international study.

Source: istock.com

The survey of 3000 New Zealanders during Level 4 lockdown was conducted by the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC)and found a third of households were in financial difficulty, with 40 per cent at risk of tipping into hardship.

Two other countries’ survey results are in, from the UK and Norway, and so far, New Zealand’s are the worst

The CFFC says the reasons for New Zealanders’ poorer financial resilience score include low levels of household savings before Covid-19 (Kiwis have the worst savings rate in the OECD), low social welfare benefits and many people having jobs in tourism and international education.

And the financial uncertainty rolled on for many yesterday with several more companies confirming redundancies.

Major New Zealand hotel chain Millennium & Copthorne Hotels says it’s slashing more than 70 per cent of its workforce, while Tourism Holdings, the company which operates Waitomo’s glowworm caves and Kiwi Experience, is looking to cut 140 jobs.

Southern retail giants H&J Smith have also announced a proposal to shut several stores across Southland and Otago. 

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Housing confidence dips

Meanwhile, housing confidence has reached an eight-year low, with predictions it will fall even further in the coming months.

According to ASB’s latest housing confidence survey, house price expectations took a substantial knock in the three months to April, with perceptions of whether it’s a good time to buy also declining.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley says the results aren’t surprising, given the current recessionary economic conditions. 

Overwhelming support for govt response

But even with many people feeling the financial strain of Covid-19, the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll has found the vast majority of New Zealanders are confident in the Government’s response to the crisis.

More than 90 per cent of those surveyed said the Government has responded appropriately to the outbreak, marking a 30 per cent jump in approval since February’s poll.

There’s also general approval of the Government’s response to the economic fallout of the virus, with 86 per cent of Kiwis saying it was either very or fairly good. 

Those poll results come as the Government’s Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme approaches a billion-dollar milestone.

More than 50,000 small businesses have applied for the interest-free loans in the scheme’s first fortnight.

Rocky start for new leaders

National’s freshly minted leadership team had a day to forget as they headed to Parliament for the first time in their new roles.

While Todd Muller’s first Question Time tussle with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern passed without incident, he and deputy leader Nikki Kaye faced embarrassment beforehand when discussing the lack of diversity on their front bench. 

Ms Kaye described finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith as Māori, which was news to him.

Mr Goldsmith said while he doesn’t identify as Māori, his great-great grandfather had multiple European and Māori wives, “so I’ve got lots of relatives across Ngāti Porou”.

The diversity bungle proved too tempting for NZ First MP Shane Jones to ignore as he shouted, “Ahh, Ngāti Epsom,” when Mr Goldsmith was called on to ask a question in Parliament. 

Police trial flawed from start

New Zealand Police knew their trial of an Armed Response Team had problems before the test even began, according to documents obtained by 1 NEWS.

The six-month trial, which effectively saw members of the Armed Offenders Squad on patrol in three districts, was sold to the public as tackling a rise in gun crime.

However, the researchers evaluating the programme outlined problems to police from the start, including the trial’s short length and a lack of baseline data, saying it wouldn’t be able to prove its worth. 

Cash boost for vaccine race

New Zealand has joined the global search for a Covid-19 vaccine with the Government allocating $37 million towards its research and development.

The vaccine strategy aims to secure a vaccine safely, effectively and in sufficient quantities at the earliest possible time.

However, Professor Graham Le Gros from the Malaghan Institute has told Seven Sharp it could be two years before a vaccine is available.

New Zealand’s investment in a potential Covid-19 vaccine comes as a US company began injecting its own vaccine candidate into people in Australia yesterday.

Organisers of next year’s Tokyo Olympics have also been warned developing a vaccine in time for the event is doubtful.

Japan’s medical association has previously said it will be difficult to stage the Olympics without the discovery of a vaccine. 

Other news of note this morning:

Smoking in cars with children will soon be illegal after the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

Pacific governments are being warned to put urgent Covid-19 safety measures in place at ports as foreign fishing boats emerge as a new point of virus transmission.

A passenger of the Ruby Princess who tested positive to Covid-19 is suspected to have carried the "dormant" virus for almost 10 weeks before falling ill.

National Party leader Todd Muller has made a U-turn over his controversial 'Make America Great Again' cap.

Key people behind the sequel to Avatar are among hundreds of foreigners being quietly let into New Zealand under little-known exemptions to the closed border regime.

And Wallabies veteran Karmichael Hunt says a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition makes the most sense for the game going forward. 

And finally...

Grimes and Elon Musk Source: Getty

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and his singer partner Grimes have been forced to change their baby’s name in order to comply with state laws.

The couple announced the birth of their baby boy earlier this month, revealing they’d named him X Æ A-12. (Not a typo.)

Unfortunately, California law prohibits the use of numbers in names, so Grimes and Musk have decided to change their baby’s moniker. Sort of.