'I wouldn't give them the money' - Professor praises Gloriavale's 'inventive' application for taxpayer money, but says they do well enough already

A Massey University professor says Gloriavale's application for funding from the Provincial Growth Fund is "inventive" but that he wouldn't personally give them the money because they are "too sectarian".

1 NEWS yesterday revealed the West Coast religious community, which has tax-free charitable status, has applied for millions in taxpayer funding to set up a health food business.

Speaking this morning to TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme, Professor Peter Lineham praised the church's novel approach to running their organisation, but also said he doesn't think they should receive a grant.

"They're nothing if not imaginative, because they seize opportunities," he said.

"This is a very creative way to draw on [Regional Development Minister] Shane Jones' Regional Growth Fund - and boy the Coast needs it."

The community’s leaders are looking to set up a new health food enterprise on the West Coast. Source: 1 NEWS

Professor Lineham said while Gloriavale probably would do the work and establish a business if given the grant, there are questions as to who will benefit.

"The general theory of regional development funds is that if you inject money into a positive enterprise then there'll be quite a lot of trickle down effects .. .and so it will benefit the wider community," he said.

"All the money feeds back into the 500 or 600 people who are there within the [Gloriavale] community ... strictly everything is controlled by a very closed organisational force."

Gloriavale already do "pretty well out of the state", he said, with the tax-free religious charity status allowing them to keep tax on their business profits, as well as receive income through donations and other means.

Read more: Exclusive: Gloriavale seeking millions of taxpayer dollars to set up new health food enterprise

"The law does say, at the moment, that if you're running a business for charitable purposes you're entitled to do that."

Personally, Professor Lineham said he would not choose to give Gloriavale the funding, "because its really just too sectarian".

Mr Jones said yesterday the government would evaluate Gloriavale's application in good faith but will also take into account Gloriavale's reputation with the public whose money it is now asking for.

"I wouldn't want to knock out any particular application till we had all the facts," Mr Jones said.

"We will get from time to time applications where we'll have to be very, very sensitive.

"But the reality is that particular organisation does represent something of a morality play."

Professor Peter Lineham says the sect's application to the Regional Development Fund is inventive, if nothing else. Source: Breakfast

Kiwis can expect 'increasing trend' of whale sightings as populations recover

Kiwis can expect to see more whales in New Zealand waters as the population recovers from whaling and passes by during annual migrations, a marine biologist says.

Recent sightings have included a southern right whale in Wellington Harbour and another near Dunedin, and Auckland University marine biologist Rochelle Constantine says it is part of their population recovery.

"We've got an increasing trend of sighting them ... at the moment we have migrating humpback whales so they're going past mainland New Zealand on their northern migration to their breeding ground," Dr Constantine said.

"They've spent the summer feeding down in Antarctica ... those whales are mostly going to either New Caledonia and some to east Australia - so we see a lot of them at this time."

Dr Constantine said there is now a larger population of southern right whales centred around the sub-Antarctic islands, particularly the Auckland Islands, with "a few hundred of them jammed in there".

Genetic testing had shown that whales seen near the New Zealand mainland do travel between the two areas.

"Every three years or so we sort of get this pulse of them coming around mainland New Zealand ... they know mainland New Zealand and they'll move between the two places."

With sightings becoming more regular, Dr Constantine said the public should be aware that while southern right whales can be friendly, they are easily injured by careless boaties.

"I think these are going to become increasingly more normal events in our lives ... we have to be really careful around them," she said.

"We've had a lot of conversation around Matariki the Wellington whale and threats to it, and actually on the biggest threats to it were people going to close to it in their boat.

"These whales are very gregarious and they're not worried about people coming close, but you can actually hit them in your boat.

"I think there's a sort of thing where we're always excited about seeing whales but we also have to be really careful because they're always just busy doing their thing.

"By law you're not allowed closer than 50m to a whale, and if it's a mother with a calf, it's 200m - so it's quite a distance.

"If you're ever anywhere near them, either in the water or on the water, just to give them space - they'll come to you if they want to."

Marine Biologist Rochelle Constantine says the visitors are currently migrating past the New Zealand mainland, thrilling many who see them. Source: Breakfast


'We're doing that still' - building minister denies 'micro-credentials' a skills training short-cut

Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa has assured that today's launch of month-long, micro-credential courses will genuinely address New Zealand's 30,000 skills shortage, and is not a temporary short-cut.

Ms Salesa said the micro-credentials project has been piloted over the last year in the construction industry and is an alternative to the traditional four-year apprentice training format.

The micro-credentials courses can span four, six or 12 weeks, and train people in tasks such as framing, window installation, and other individual building skills. It can also eventually add up to a whole qualification if the student pursues it.

Ms Salesa denied the program was cutting corners in addressing the country's construction skills shortage.

"Yes, we do need fully qualified folks and we're doing that still," she told TVNZ 1's Breakfast. 

"At the moment there are over 23,000 people in polytechnics who are learning in building and construction. This is actually in addition to what we have already."

"As you are aware, we have innovative ways of building at the moment. We're looking at off-site manufacturing and so there are different ways, instead of just doing bespoke buildings, which takes up to 18 months to two years.

"What we're saying is we can actually build houses in a different way."

Ms Salesa said the pilot micro-credentials program was training 150 students simultaneously, but that it could be "ramped up" to over 1000 students.

The Building and Construction Minister also clarified that overseas students are eligible to enter New Zealand and train through the micro-credentials system.

Despite 10,000 overseas working in New Zealand's building and construction sector, Ms Salesa said the long term solution to construction skills shortages "has to be that we train up our own".

"Given that when we look at the overall numbers the majority of the folks working in this industry are New Zealanders," Ms Salesa said.

"We're focused on local jobs for local folks. 

Labour’s Jenny Salesa said the new four, six or 12 week courses will help address NZ’s skill shortage. Source: Breakfast