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Auckland Hebrew Congregation:

For the latest news from the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, click here.

Beth Shalom - progressive Jewish congregation in Auckland:

For the latest news from Beth Shalom, click here.

Auckland and New Zealand news:

Annual LIMMUD festival

One of the features of Jewish life in New Zealand is the annual LIMMUD, a festival of Jewish Learning. This takes place in Auckland, is volunteer run, and attracts around 300 people over a weekend. Most attendees come from Auckland, with the balance coming from smaller centres such as Hamilton, Wellington and Whanganui.

LIMMUD presents some 50 - 70 sessions over 1.5 days, attracting a range of international and domestic presenters, speaking on a wide range of topics from "Art and the Talmud" to "Understanding Middle Eastern Conflict".

Children are cared for at onsite classes, and there is a shuk where you can buy Jewish related books, art and items. Kosher food is provided at lunches.

LIMMUD provides a space where a range of Jews can gather to schmooze, learn, and eat in a warm supportive environment. It's the one time of the year where Jewish identity and community in NZ is affirmed and strengthened.

If you would like to explore this further check out the LIMMUD website at limmud.org.nz.

Paranoid Silicon Valley magnates pour millions into New Zealand doomsday bunkers

12 September 2018

In recent months, two 150 tonne survival bunkers journeyed by land and sea from a Texas warehouse to the shores of New Zealand, where they're buried 11 feet underground.

"Seven Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have purchased bunkers from Rising S Co. and planted them in New Zealand in the past two years", said Gary Lynch, the manufacturer's general manager. "At the first sign of an apocalypse - nuclear war, a killer germ, a French Revolution-style uprising targeting the 1 per cent - the Californians plan to hop on a private jet and hunker down", he said.

"New Zealand is an enemy of no one," Lynch said in an interview from his office in Murchison, Texas, southeast of Dallas.

"It's not a nuclear target. It's not a target for war. It's a place where people seek refuge."

The island nation, clinging to the southern part of the globe 2,500 miles off Australia's coast, has 5.7 million people and six times as many sheep. It has a reputation for natural beauty, easy networking, low-key politicians who bike to work, and rental prices half those of the San Francisco Bay Area. That makes it an increasingly popular destination not only for those fretting about impending dystopia but for tech entrepreneurs seeking incubators for nurturing startups.

"It's become one of the places for people in Silicon Valley, mostly because it's not like Silicon Valley at all," said Reggie Luedtke, an American biomedical engineer who's moving to New Zealand in October for the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship, a program created to lure tech innovators.

Luedtke, 37, said people in California have asked him if he's relocating as part of a doomsday contingency plan, because "that's what the country is known for."

Such notoriety has made New Zealand's isolation, once deemed an economic handicap, one of its biggest assets. The nation allows emigres to essentially buy residency through investor visas, and rich Americans have poured a fortune into the country, often by acquiring palatial estates.

Billionaire hedge-fund honcho Julian Robertson owns a lodge overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, the South Island's luxury resort destination. Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman Bill Foley has a homestead in the Wairarapa region, north of Wellington, and Titanic director James Cameron bought a mansion nearby at Lake Pounui.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tour of New Zealand confirmed

10 September 2018

Kensington Palace has confirmed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, will visit New Zealand later this year.

The Royals will arrive in Wellington and visit Abel Tasman National Park, Auckland and Rotorua between October 28 and November 1.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the announcement.

"It's wonderful news that the Duke and Duchess are coming to New Zealand as part of their first major tour outside the United Kingdom. I know they will receive a very warm Kiwi welcome wherever they go," Ardern said.

"I hope many New Zealanders will have the opportunity to see the Duke and Duchess as they visit some of our beautiful provinces and national parks, and experience our hospitality."

The pair got married earlier this year in May and the New Zealand visit will be a part of their first major tour outside the United Kingdom.

Both have visited the country separately in the past - Meghan travelled around the country in 2015 and Harry has been here previously on Royal duties.

Prince Harry visited the country in 2015, his Royal Highness undertook an official Royal tour in May following an invitation from the Government.

Migration - End July last year to this year

24 August 2018

It is now a year since the net inflow to the year ended July showing the net gain of permanent migrants of 63,800 people. The average over the past 20 years has been only 23,200.

There is a drying up of the net flow of people from New Zealand to Australia and an increase in net immigration from the rest of the world.

Over the past four years the net inflow of migrants from the rest of the world (excluding Australia) averaged 66,100 a year, up from an average 39,700 over the four years before that.

In the year ended July, the net loss of people to Australia was 1000, a turnaround from net gains of 500 the year before and 1800 the year before that. But it is still a meagre and exiguous trickle.

Australia's unemployment rate is 5.3 per cent compared with New Zealand's 4.5 per cent, and a Australian labour force participation rate of 65.5 per cent there versus 70.1 per cent here.

So the gravitational pull of Australia may prove weaker in the near-term future than in the past.

In the latest year, 46,500 permanent and long-term arrivals were on work visas, up 2.5 per cent on the year before.
People in New Zealand on temporary visas as of June last year saw 152,400 people here on work visas represented a 16 per cent increase on a year earlier. It has increased at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5 per cent between 2010 and 2017.

Of the 152,000, 36,700 - about one in four - were in the essential skills category, up 17 per cent on the year.

Auckland's rapid growth according to Auckland Council's chief economist

16 August 2018

Auckland's population was 1,650,000 as at June 2017, 43,000 thousand new residents for the year.

GDP growth is healthy, construction is surging as the city builds thousands of new homes and retail trade growth remains well above inflation, according to the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development growth monitor and index for 2018.

"Recent years have seen enviable growth in population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as the rest of the world and returning Kiwis have come to appreciate what Auckland has to offer and have made the city their home." The population may hit 2,500,00 by 2043.

Auckland is New Zealand's largest and most consistent source of job growth. Around 190,200 jobs were added in the past five years. Auckland's economy accounted for 38 per cent of New Zealand's economic output.

Mission Bay $200m face-lift: Big housing and retail redevelopment planned for popular Auckland beach suburb

12 August 2018

Developers have unveiled their plans to revamp Mission Bay, to the concern of some locals.

Landmark waterfront buildings will make way for a $200 million, multi-storey housing and retail development if a bold plan to change the face of one of Auckland's most cherished beach suburbs is approved.

Urban Legacy & Partners Limited, known as Urban Partners and founded under the name Retail Holdings by brothers Haydn and Mark Staples in 1983, will next week lodge a land use resource consent application with Auckland Council to demolish buildings and houses it owns on a 6527sq m block between Tamaki Drive, Patteson Avenue and Marau Crescent in Mission Bay.

In their place, the company plans to build up to 100 apartments and townhouses, a 2920sq m hospitality and retail space, up to 265 basement and ground level car parks and a 955sq m cinema complex with four or five theatres, all across seven buildings of varying heights up to seven storeys.

Project director Doug Osborne, who has worked in the property industry for more than 40 years, said the project would bring "much needed" improvement to the commercial area and create a lasting lifestyle legacy for a favourite spot for Aucklanders and visitors.

Community interests were a priority, he said. "We've put thought and care into a design that references elements of the art deco flavour of Mission Bay while providing a mix of hospitality, modern retail and recreational space for locals and visitors."

The Apec squeeze: World leaders to take over Auckland

12 August 2018

A tourism leader is warning big events in 2021 will put strain on Auckland hotels and need to be promoted carefully to avoid damaging the sector.

The America's Cup will be sailed early in the year and that November the Apec leaders' meeting will ''take over Auckland'' at a time when planned new hotels may not necessarily be finished.

It is estimated there will be 10,000 delegates and 3000 media in the city for leaders week - the highlight of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation event.

While the event's organisers are confident the city will cope, Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said that even with if the reported new hotel developments were finished in time, Auckland would struggle to accommodate Apec and the usual number of visitors at that time of the year.

''For the government delegations they're talking about 9000 rooms - it's not far off requiring every possible hotel room including those which haven't been built yet,'' he said.

There had been consultation on how to meet the demand.

''There are very strong imperatives to get it right because it would be very embarrassing to not meet a basic requirement such as having enough rooms for all these delegates.''

US President comes up trumps by signing off Kiwi Act

2 August 2018

United States President Trump has signed legislation that will make it easier for New Zealanders to trade or invest in the world's biggest economy.

The knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors Act or Kiwi Act allows New Zealanders to apply for E-1 and E-2 trade and investment visas.

"The Kiwi Act will increase trade and investment between the United States and New Zealand and will benefit both our countries" Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said in a statement. She expects the legislation to be a "big boost" to New Zealand businesses.

The E-1 and E-2 visas will allow New Zealander nationals who qualify to enter the US multiple times over a two years without having to apply for a new visa each time they enter the US. The visas cover individuals seeking to engage in substantial trade and investment activities in the US.

Arden said the US is important to New Zealand's interests and the Act will help develop closer economic ties. She said officials will now work with the US State Department to ensure the Act can be implemented as soon as possible so Kiwis begin applying for visas.

Auckland's inner suburbs could get modern trams as part of a $10 billion rail package

28 July 2018

Several suburban areas in central Auckland stand to get modern trams under a new route being considered by transport officials.

The Weekend Herald newspaper revealed that the suburbs of Pt Chevalier, Grey Lynn, Arch Hill and Karangahape Rd are on the route being considered by the NZ Transport Agency.

The route is part of a light rail project - the modern day version of trams - from the city centre to West Auckland.

The option of taking trams off the northwestern motorway at Pt Chevalier and running them along Great North and Karangahape Rds is the third big change in as many weeks to a $10 billion public transport programme of 'Think Big' proportions in Auckland.

A few weeks ago, NZTA chief executive Fergus Gammie said the city's $6b light rail programme was likely to see trams from the central city to Westgate extended to Kumeu.

This week, the Government and Auckland Council announced plans to expand capacity on the $3.4 billion city rail link.

Both projects will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the programme.

Auckland changing to thriving city with $14 billion of building under way

Auckland's skyline would be transformed in the coming years with a number of significant city shaper towers under construction. It's going to be a very altered skyline.

In the near future as billions of dollars worth of construction materialises the form of striking new skyscrapers is progressively changing the face of the city.

Auckland's current construction boom has attracted $10b worth of private investment in 7000 residential apartments and 167,000 square metres of commercial office space.

The last major building boom in Auckland was during the mid 1980s but that paled in comparison to today's development.

Just some of the major private developments set to change Auckland's skyline include Commercial Bay, The Pacifica, Seascape and One Market Square.

In the first quarter of this year there were 319 cranes operating, a 14 per cent increase from the end of last year and a 219 per cent increase from 2014.

Building consents in Auckland have almost tripled since 2011, from 4470 to 11,628 with residential consents the largest contributor at 10,867. The city is changing dramatically.

Electric trains were moving more people than ever and the Government's recent $28b proposal to supercharge Auckland's transport network would be transformational.

Auckland City Rail Link to be upgraded


Artist's impression of Mt Eden station

24 July 2018

The City Rail Link is going to be bigger, and cost more, because the original projections for use now look inadequate.

As planned, the CRL's underground rail lines will have a capacity of 36,000 passengers per hour. That figure was expected to be reached in 2045.

Now the Government/council joint-venture company managing the project, has provided Auckland Council with new projections. They show the 36,000 capacity will be reached by 2035 - just 10 years after it opens.

The CRL looks set to join other major public transport projects, like the electric trains and Northern Busway, whose popularity has outstripped the planners' expectations. Last year, Auckland Transport's HOP card system was used more than 20 million times - that target wasn't expected until 2021.

Speaking yesterday, Mayor Phil Goff said the choice was to press on as planned, and retrofit the system later, or do the extra work now and save money in the longer term.

"I think it's a no brainer to expand rather than retrofit," he said. "We have to learn the lesson of the harbour bridge, which was full soon after opening and needed to be upgraded with extra lanes very quickly. We've got to future proof, and it's a hell of a lot cheaper and less disruptive to do it now than to wait."

Consent given for 32-unit apartment block in Auckland's upmarket suburb Orakei

23 July 2018

The developers of one of the very few apartment sites left just outside inner city has now received Council approval to build a 32-unit apartment block with unobstructed sea views.

OP Trustee got plans approved by Auckland Council to develop the 7395ha site at 236 Orakei Road, calling the project The Peninsula and planning 70 carparks.

The Council consent document said that all units are generously sized with balcony areas, and that owners will also have access to a large communal space.

"The building has been designed to meet the acoustic and vibration standards of the Unitary Plan, particularly in relation to the adjoining rail line," the consent said.

New Zealand's annual net migration drops

23 July 2018

New Zealand's annual net migration dropped in June as fewer foreigners arrived and more Kiwis left, but remains high.

Annual net migration was at 65,000 in the year to June, from 72,300 in the year to June 2017, Statistics New Zealand said. A net 66,800 foreigners immigrated to New Zealand in the June year, while a net 1,800 Kiwis left the country.

The number of non-New Zealanders migrating here dipped 1.4 per cent from the year earlier, at 129,500 from 131,400 in the year to June 2017, which is the first time that annual figure has been below 130,000 since April 2017, Stats NZ said. The number of non-New Zealanders leaving rose 9.2 per cent to 64,500 in the year.

New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration in recent years, which made rising immigration a key election issue as it strains the country's infrastructure and is blamed for inflating property prices.

Increasing numbers of migrants came on work visas in the latest year, up 3 per cent to 46,400 from the previous year to June, with residence visa numbers down 17 per cent to 13,900 and student visas dropping 1.8 per cent to 23,600.

The United Kingdom remained the biggest source of work-visa migrants, though that number dropped 2.5 per cent to 7,300 in the latest year, as did the second and third-largest sources France and Germany which respectively dropped 3.7 per cent and 8.3 per cent. The biggest increases in work visa arrivals came from China, which rose 22.5 per cent to 2,300 in the year, and the Philippines, which was up 19 per cent to 2,500.

China continued to be the biggest source of migrants on residence visas, though that dropped 22 per cent to 2,700 in the year. Chinese migration remained the largest on a net basis, with 8,100 of net arrivals coming from China, though that was down 21 per cent on a year earlier.

India was the second-largest source at a net 6,800, though Indian net migration was also down 8 per cent from a year earlier.

Short-term visitor arrivals, which includes tourists, people visiting family and friends and people travelling for work, reached 3.8 million in the June year, up 3.8 per cent from a year earlier.

Two new hotels announced for central Auckland

19 July 2018

A new Sudima Hotel of up to 200 rooms has been announced for Auckland's CBD today, just two days after plans came to light for a 225-room Indigo Hotel in the city desperate for accommodation.

Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala, the Auckland-based founder of the Sudima national chain, said his latest Hotel would be developed on the corner of Nelson St and Wellesley St near the NZ International Convention Centre.

"It will have 180-200 rooms pending final design, a gym, a rooftop bar and a separate restaurant and bar. The hotel is scheduled for opening in the summer of 2019/2020.

Also this week, a new Indigo Hotel with 225 rooms was revealed as being planned for 51 Albert St, site of the Macdonald Halligan Motors building, subject to heritage preservation orders. Developers 94 Feet said they planned to retain that building's facade.

New Zealand CEOs are being 'kept awake at night' as a nation-wide shortage of people with digital skills threatens local businesses

19 July 2018

A new survey shows more than half of the CEOs questioned say they are struggling to find the talent their organisation needs, with 62 per cent think New Zealand is lacking the digital skills to stay competitive in the 21st century.

There is some evidence the problem is even more acute in Auckland.

New Zealand having benefitted from reversing migration in the past few years, the survey shows the country is still grappling with serious talent shortages: "We are now well past the point where strong data skills are nice to have; they're now at the core of what is going to keep our businesses ahead in 2018 and beyond".

This presents a great opportunity for new migrants who meet the qualifications.

The shortages - data scientists, designers and programmers being particularly hard to find - highlight the speed with which the digital space is changing and developing (a report released last year by the New Zealand Digital Skills Forum showed that while 14,000 new jobs were created in the tech sector in 2016, only 5,000 tech students graduated in 2015.

Business leaders are looking to get themselves fit for the future - and this means getting digitally fit.

Almost 1300 CEOs from New Zealand and around the world took part in the online survey - PwC's 21st annual CEO Survey - held between September and November last year. The global results were released at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January.

Auckland's Statue of Liberty: Giant statue of Papatuanuku the Earth Mother proposed for Bastion Point

15 July 2018

New Zealand's own version of the Statue of Liberty may soon welcome visitors at the entrance to Auckland Harbour.
The structure of Papatuanuku the Earth Mother, proposed by Ngati Whatua Orakei and part-funded by Auckland Council, would stand 30 to 50 metres tall on the historic headland of Takaparawhau/Bastion Point.

That would make it as big as, if not bigger than, the New York icon, which is 46m.

The iwi has conceived it as Auckland's version of the Statue of Liberty or the 30m Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro, visible in lights at night from across the city, with stunning views from downtown, the North Shore, and from ships and ferries.

Mayor Phil Goff said it "has the potential to be an iconic symbol of Auckland".

"It will reflect the unique culture and identity of our city and be enjoyed equally by Maori, the wider community and international visitors," he said.

Auckland Council has approved $1 million in its 10-year budget for initial design and development of the proposed structure or "pou" - $100,000 for design in the current financial year and a further $900,000 for initial development next year.

"It is anticipated that council funding will be supported by other funding contributions," the council said.
Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust chairwoman Marama Royal said "conceptual designs" were still being considered.

"While there is still a consultation process to go through and a more detailed concept to be developed, Ngati Whatua Orakei supports the idea of having a culturally significant icon in Tamaki Makaurau that will be recognised across the world," she said.

Air New Zealand partners with JetBlue Technology Ventures in Silicon Valley

12 July 2018

Air New Zealand has entered a partnership with the innovation arm of United States airline JetBlue Airways that has already invested in flying cars and electric planes.

The airlines announced an international innovation partnership around JetBlue Technology Ventures (JTV), the venture capital subsidiary of JetBlue Airways, a Silicon-Valley-based company, which incubates, invests in, and partners with early-stage start-ups.

Among JetBlue Technology's existing moves has been an investment in Joby Aviation, a startup that's developed an electric-powered short hop vertical takeoff taxi and Zunum Aero, a US company that's developing a hybrid battery powered plane capable of flying up to 12 passengers more than 1000km by 2022.

Air New Zealand says the partnership with JTV gives it access to emerging technologies and an entrance into the Silicon Valley innovation environment.

''Together the two companies, along with future partners, will build a network to better address changes coming to the travel industry as well as improve efficiencies within the existing infrastructure,'' the airlines said.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said his airline had a proud history of product innovation and the new deal was part of the aim of redefining air travel.

New Zealand passport power

11 July 2018

New Zealand's global ranking of ''passport power'' shows where Kiwis can enjoy visa-free or visa-on-arrival access.

The Henley Passport Index shows that the number of countries New Zealanders can enter visa-free has increased in the last year.

New Zealand has visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 182 destinations, up from 172 last year.

The index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association.Among more than 40 countries where Kiwi passport holders need visas are China (if staying longer than visa-waiver periods) Vietnam and Russia.

Passports on the index that access the fewest countries are from Afghanistan and Iraq - just 30 countries - and rank 102 on the list.

The so-called hermit state, North Korea, is ranked 94th with visa-free access to 43 destinations, up from 40 last year.

Revealed: Auckland's new waterfront plans for America's Cup

9 June 2018

When the horn sounds for the America's Cup in 2021, the Auckland waterfront will be sporting a new, jazzed-up look.

Aucklanders will notice a big difference along the waterfront from Britomart to Wynyard Quarter.

The Cup village will be dressed up around Hobson Wharf, the Viaduct Events Centre - the home to Team New Zealand - and on Wynyard Point, where there will be a pit row of challenging teams. More than 80 superyachts will be moored up.

It will be the most inclusive America's Cup event ever, says Team New Zealand, with a large area set aside at its own base for the public, and sites for fans to be part of the action on and off the water.

Between them, Auckland Council and the Government are spending $212 million on construction and running costs for the Cup - $114m from taxpayers and $98.5m from ratepayers.

On top of this, the council is pouring $55m of new money and bringing forward $53m of expenditure on a raft of projects to spruce up the waterfront for the Cup and Apec conference in 2021.

As well as this is Commercial Bay at the bottom of Queen Street. Costing $940m , this downtown shopping centre (with 120 shops) and 39-level office tower will feature a laneway open 24 hours a day, H&M flagship store, stalls offering $5 noodle meals alongside offerings from celebrity chefs and a branch of New York restaurant Saxon + Parole.

Migrant numbers bolstering demand for property

21 May 2018

The number of immigrants to New Zealand is still relatively high and bolstering demand for residential property but showed annual net migration was slowing.

Annual net migration was at 67,000 in the year to April, from 71,900 in the year to April 2017, Statistics New Zealand said.

Some 98,300 non-New Zealanders arrived in the April year, up from 97,800 the year before, offset by a lift in the number of non-New Zealanders leaving to 30,200 from 24,500, leading to overall net immigration of non-New Zealanders of 68,100. A net 1,100 Kiwis left in the latest year.

New Zealand has been experiencing record levels of net migration in recent years, which made rising immigration a key election issue as it strains the country's infrastructure and is blamed for inflating property markets.

Increasing numbers of migrants came on work visas in the latest year, up 5.4 percent to 46,400 from the previous year to April, with residence visa numbers down 14 percent to 14,300 and student visas dropping 0.6 percent to 23,700.

China continued to be the biggest source of migrants on residence visas, though that dipped 20 percent to 2,800 in the year, while the United Kingdom remained the biggest source of work-visa migrants, up 0.4 percent to 7,400.

Rebuilding Commercial Bay bringing new life to the city

May 2018

When it opens for business next year, Commercial Bay will be Auckland's largest mixed use development.

By the time the first phase of the project completes, there will be a 39,000sq m office tower and 18,000sq m of retail. It will change the face of the central city.

Yet developer Scott Pritchard says its impact will be wider than reviving the area where Queen St meets the waterfront.

Pritchard is the chief executive officer of Precinct Properties. He says: "Commercial Bay is a response in a New Zealand context to what we've seen in gateway cities around the world. Retail is changing. Major retail brands want to position their flagship stores in the city centre. For them, it is a challenge finding the right location. Auckland has never had such a concentration of top retailers in one location."

Creating that concentration meant seizing an opportunity that won't come again.

It's unusual for a single developer to acquire this much land in an important central position in Auckland.
Pritchard says it doesn't happen often anywhere in the world.

"We have investors that have exposure to all sorts of real estate companies. To have someone who owns a couple of city centre blocks that are right on the waterfront and on the main street is rare. To be able to knit a number of high rise buildings together along with a retail centre at the base and to provide car parking and seamless links to the rest of the city is also unique.

"We have been able to design this in concert with some major infrastructure, that's the City Rail Link which is under construction as well. Introducing accessibility and public transport to the centre has been a major bonus.

Architect Blair Johnston leads the Warren and Mahoney team working on the development. He describes Commercial Bay as "tremendously ambitious".

He says: "It is a true mixed-use project. It brings together commercial, retail and transport in the first stage and will later include a new city centre hotel. We don't often see this intensity of land use. The power of such intensity is that all the different uses will support each other."

Johnston views the retail component as being something not seen before anywhere else in New Zealand - and something that probably won't be.

NZ Super Fund wants to own and operate two of Auckland's light rail projects

9 May 2018

Work is about to start in Auckland on two light rail lines, not one - and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund wants to build, own and operate both of them.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Finance Minister Grant Robertson made the surprise announcement today. The ministers said Cabinet has agreed that work should start on both lines straight away, with an open tender process for the funding, construction and operation of the lines.

One light rail line will run from the central city to Mangere and the airport.

The City to Mangere light rail line will run from Wynyard Quarter, up Queen Street, across to Dominion Rd and down to Mt Roskill, then to Onehunga and across the Manukau harbour to Mangere, on through the industrial airport zone to a terminal at the airport.

It will be a commuter line connecting the 55,000 households already located on the route with the city's two-fastest growing employment centres - the city centre and the airport precinct. Tens of thousands more homes will be built along the route in the coming decades.

The line will also provide a frequent and reliable public transport link for airline passengers.

The second light rail line will be a northwest line, running from the central city in parallel with the Northwest Motorway to Westgate and eventually to Kumeu.

The northwestern line is also a commuter route, linking the central city to existing suburbs like Te Atatu and the fast-growing new suburbs of the outer northwest, including West Harbour and Hobsonville. In time the route will be extended to Kumeu and perhaps Waimauku.

This line is expected to follow the route of the Northwest Motorway, in a similar way to the Northern Busway on the Northern Motorway.

Both light rail lines should be in use well within the next 10 years.

Unemployment rate drops to lowest in nearly a decade

2 May 2018

The strong labour market has delivered another drop in the rate of unemployment from 4.5% - to 4.4%.

This takes those without jobs back to the same level as nearly a decade ago in the boom leading up to the global financial crisis in late 2008.

As unemployment figures dropped to near decade lows, employment growth in this March quarter rose 0.1%.

The unemployment rate for men fell to 3.9% whilst women fell to 4.9%.

New Zealand based Ohmio Automotion inks 150 unit autonomous shuttle deal

28 April 2018

New Zealand autonomous vehicle developer Ohmio Automotion may just have scored the largest deal for autonomous shuttle vehicles in the world.

Ohmio inked an agreement to supply 150 shuttles to Korean company Southwest Coast Enterprise City Development (SolaSeaDo) in Seoul, South Korea, today.

However, the agreement is dependent on SolaSeaDo securing a deal to build a large scale smart city in Korea. SolaSeaDo is in the advanced stages of securing that contract and will know later this year if it has been successful.

The shuttle agreement was signed by Mohammed Hikmet, the founder of Ohmio parent company HMI Group, and SolaSeaDo president Yoon Jin Bo.

“This is a significant development for Ohmio and a major vote of confidence in what we have developed," Hikmet said.

The Ohmio LIFT is a 20-person autonomous shuttle that can be extended to carry up to 40-passengers (the Ohmio LIFT XT1) and operates on pre-determined routes without a driver. The offering will provide services similar to a tram, but with "virtual rails" and guided by a range of electronic systems.

Dean Zabrieszach, CEO of HMI Technologies, said he was not aware of any other commitment to deploy as many vehicles.

"We think this is the largest single deployment of autonomous shuttles in the world,” he said, adding that SolaSeado was "very confident" about that outcome of the smart city negotiations.

Ohmio has been developed by HMI in Pakuranga, Auckland, launching the first demonstration in Christchurch last September, using prototype vehicles to showcase the automated shuttles and the robotic technologies underpinning them.

“These first vehicles were to show we had developed the know-how to build an autonomous vehicle," Hikmet said.

"Since then we have been developing the Ohmio LIFT, a vehicle that we expect will be used in a range of environments such as airports, business parks and central city areas."

Ohmio's first sale was to Christchurch International Airport in March.

Having recently met with potential investors and customers in Asia and North America, Hikmet said there was a lot of international interest in Ohmio.

And Australia's most loved brand is... Air New Zealand

19 April 2018

For the second consecutive year, Air New Zealand has maintained its coveted spot as the number one most reputable company - in Australia.

In the latest Corporate Reputation Index from Australia's Reputation Institute, the New Zealand airline beat Qantas and Virgin Australia, which came in third and fourth respectively.

Air New Zealand also trumped well-known major corporates such as Toyota, Apple and Nestle.

The national carrier's general manager for Australia, Kathryn Robertson, said Air New Zealand was determined to be Australia's airline of choice.

"From our artificial intelligence powered chatbot Oscar, who helps thousands of Australian customers get answers to their questions, through to our $100 million lounge investment programme ... Air New Zealand is focused on offering Australians a better way to fly across the Tasman and beyond," Robertson said.
"We're thrilled to continue to be held in such high regard."

Earlier this month Air New Zealand announced an increased Tasman schedule. From the end of October, Air New Zealand will offer 15 per cent more seats across the Tasman year on year, including two new routes from December.

New electric buses on Auckland's City Link service next week

13 April 2018

Two electric buses will run on the City Link service in Auckland from next week, only weeks after the city's first full battery-powered bus hit the road servicing AUT's Northcote and Manukau campuses.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter launched the City Link buses today in a joint project between the Government's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and Auckland Transport (AT).

EECA is also involved with AUT and bus company Tranzit Group in the 35-seater bus transporting hundreds of students a day.

Goff said compared to diesel buses, the new e-buses will be cleaner, quieter and provide passengers with a better experience.

"Auckland is serious about leading the response to climate change in New Zealand and internationally. Transport contributes over a third of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland and this trial supports our efforts to lower emissions in our city.

"Last year I pledged with mayors from around the world to work towards making our streets fossil-fuel free. As part of the declaration I committed Auckland to procure only zero-emission buses by 2025. Today marks a positive step towards achieving that goal," Goff said.

Genter said electric buses are great news for people working, visiting, and living in the city. They're better for the climate, they're quieter, and keep the air we breathe clean, she said..

"It's great to see trials like this, which will help local and central government learn and plan for large scale deployment of zero emissions buses."

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff cut the ribbon on the city's first two electric commuter buses. Photo / Auckland Transport.
Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison said the two buses will help AT develop a Zero Emission Bus Roadmap for Auckland.

"These buses will help us accurately estimate whether electric buses meet the needs of our customers, what routes they can operate on and, of course, whether they're commercially viable.

"In January, we replaced some of our fleet vehicles with electric cars. These 20 cars are performing well and are just the beginning of the change to EVs for Auckland Transport," Ellison said.

The supplier of the buses is Alexander Dennis/BYD.

ADL New Zealand general manager Tony Moore said the buses for the trial are based on the Transport for London e-buses.
"We are working with progressive transport authorities, cities and enlightened political leaders around the world to introduce, emission-free transport solutions.

"The mayor has made it clear that Auckland intends to lead the way in the drive towards a greener, cleaner environment and the introduction of these buses is important in that journey."

Auckland Transport was awarded $500,000 from the EECA Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund towards one of the buses and charging infrastructure. Auckland Transport's contribution towards the cost of the buses is $1.21m.
EECA is also funding the installation of 60 EV charging stations at Auckland Transport parking facilities.

Immigration restrictions fail to dampen numbers as NZ hits record net migration gains

29 March 2018

An unprecedented increase in arrivals of foreign nationals last year has given New Zealand its highest net gain ever recorded, despite the Government's efforts to restrict immigration numbers.

New Zealand had a net gain of 72,300 permanent and long-term migrants in 2016/17 or 4.7 per cent more than the previous year, according to the annual Migration Trends report released today.

It was also the seventh year-on-year increase for work visas - with 152,432 temporary workers in the country on 30 June last year or 16 per cent higher than the year before.

But the number of new international students had dropped 3 per cent, bringing the total number of student visa holders to 75,578, or 1 per cent lower than the same period last year.

There was a growth of 34 per cent in study to work visas, 17 per cent in essential skills visas, 12 per cent in family work visas and 8 per cent in working holiday scheme visas.

New work visa approvals were 8 per cent higher than the year before.

The high number of work visas reflected growing issues of labour supply and a reliance on immigrant labour in some industries. These temporary workers are important for two reasons, they fill key labour shortages and they provide a pool from which permanent residents come.

Migration Trends 2016/17:

  • Net inward migration gain 72,300 (up 4.7 per cent)
  • New student visa approval 75,578 (down 1 per cent)
  • Temporary work visa holders in NZ 152,432 (up 16 per cent)
  • Permanent residence approval 47,684 (down 8 per cent)

Tourism spend in Auckland up

21 March 2018

The latest Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) show that tourism spend for Auckland is estimated to be $8.3 billion for the year to January 2018, up eight per cent compared with the year to January 2017.

MBIE Manager of Sector Trends Mark Gordon says that of this tourism spend in the year to January 2018, international visitors spent $4.3 billion (up 10 per cent compared with the year to January 2017), and domestic tourists spent $3.9 billion (up six per cent) in that period.

"When it comes to the monthly expenditure, tourism spend in Auckland for the month of January 2018 is up 12 per cent compared with the month of January 2017," says Mr Gordon.

Guest nights hits record in January as visitors flock to hotels and holiday parks

12 March 2018

New Zealand guest nights hit a record in January, rising 1.4 percent on the year with hotels and holiday parks in high demand.

Total guest nights increased to 4.97 million in January from 4.9 million a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. Of that, international guest nights rose 3.1 percent to 2.2 million, outpacing a 0.2 percent gain in domestic accommodation stays to 2.9 million.

Stats NZ said January is typically the height of the peak season for many accommodation operators and usually the time when records are set.

"International guest nights also reached their highest-ever level in January, even as international visitor arrivals dipped slightly in the month," accommodation statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said. "This may be because some people who arrived in 2017 stayed on in January."

New Zealand has been enjoying a booming tourism sector in recent years as low airfares made it easier for visitors to travel to the remote South Pacific destination and the weakening kiwi dollar has added to the nation's allure.

The occupancy rate across accommodation types lifted to 58.7 percent in January versus 57.2 percent a year earlier.
The figures show hotel guest nights rose 6 percent to 1.39 million in January from a year earlier, with international stays up 4.9 percent to 736,000 and domestic stays up 7.2 percent to 652,000.

Hotel occupancy was 74.4 percent in the month, compared to 72.2 percent a year earlier.

Biggest knuckle boom crane in southern hemisphere arrives in Christchurch

9 March 2018

The only crane of its type in the southern hemisphere has arrived in Christchurch to become part of the New Zealand construction scene.

The $1 million machine is the largest knuckle boom crane produced by Palfinger with a 50-metre reach and able to work in confined spaces.

The owner of Hire Frankton, Ross McFaul the $1million crane is the largest knuckle boom crane in New Zealand
He said the crane was highly versatile and easy to set up for its size and reach.

"We can set up on the side of the road or in narrow spaces between buildings with no disruption to traffic, or elaborate traffic management plans.

"I could park this crane on the goal line of a rugby field and it could pick up a 500 kilgramme weight on the half way line with the boom parallel to the ground. That how much reach it has," McFaul said.

The crane's extension boom and fly-jib have a reverse linkage system that can reach through low door openings and work inside a building.

The boom can even pass right through a building to operate on the other side.

The machine is officially called a PK200002L SH, but McFaul calls it "Jock", and is operated with a remote control system.

All the safety features can be monitored from the remote control, he said.

The crane was built in Austria at Palfinger where it was fitted and tested.

McFaul said getting Jock onto the roads because of concerns about its size, and he thanked staff at the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Initially the crane will be based in Christchurch for rebuild construction, maintenance and repairs, installation of new plant, and possibly wind farm blade repair work.

Some of the first work has been carried out at the University of Canterbury.

New York Times shines a light on 'laid-back' Auckland's sophistication

9 March 2018

Auckland's laid-back feel and sophistication are outlined for readers of the New York Times, one of the world's most influential news titles.

In the publication's 36 hours slot - "What to do when you've got 36 hours to get to know a city" - travel writer Elaine Glusac samples slices of the city's life and its treats.

She liked what she found.

"The New Zealand city is laid-back and outdoorsy, but its sophistication shines in its expanding art scene, thriving fashion industry and a new generation of chefs embracing native ingredients."

But in an article devoted mainly to Auckland's natural treasures, cultural and commercial attractions, and good coffee, Glusac finds space to join the city's inhabitants in moaning about the traffic.

She declares: "Close to one-third of New Zealand's estimated 4.5 million population lives in Auckland, a geographically blessed - and traffic cursed - city spread over at least 50 volcanic cones on a North Island neck of land between two large harbours."

Glusac's 36 hours took her on a swing through the Auckland Art Gallery and the Auckland Museum, along Karangahape Rd, the city's "counter cultural side", an America's Cup sailing experience, part of the Coast to Coast walkway, Britomart, Wynyard Quarter and Waiheke Island.

Impressed by the museum, she wondered at its full name.

"Devoted to the story of New Zealand from geology to politics, the Auckland War Memorial Museum holds treasures obscured by its title, namely the vast collection of indigenous Maori art works and crafts."

For sustenance, Glusac delighted in an "edible landscape" at one restaurant, Pasture, whose offerings included smoked quince and butter aged "so it tastes like Camembert", and in the "unusual dishes" such as spicy peanut butter and carrot kimchi on toast at Orphans Kitchen.

"Coffee-crazed New Zealand is a country where you can find a barista at a rural gas station. Espresso bars seem stationed on every corner in Auckland."

The co-owner of Pasture, Laura Verner, said it was a nice surprise to be featured in the Times and she hoped it would be good for business.

"I had no idea Elaine was from the New York Times. We found out months afterwards when she wrote to us to clarify details."

Verner said Pasture, which opened in August 2016, had hosted many foreign visitors. It had a strong international following, having featured in overseas publications and through social media.

What lies beneath: Auckland City Rail Link plans unveiled


3 March 2018

Three new stations will be built for Auckland's underground rail line, the City Rail Link.

You cross the threshold. You arrive at the entrance to the station, step inside and find yourself in a great public entrance to a hall of sound and light; the station itself will be the third and deepest on Auckland's new underground rail line.

In another of the stations, there are multiple entrances. In this other station the ceiling also provides a sculptural form that defines the space, this time, with hundreds of rods, some wooden, hollowed, cut to different lengths so that you're walking beneath a shimmering, undulating blanket.

The station in the heart of the central city, has the access point for two universities, the midtown workplaces and the arts and entertainment precinct of Aotea.

The light will change, by day appearing as if seen through the raupo in the stream; by night, a constellation of stars - sculptural possibilities in a constant state of renewal.

The rods represent the upward growth of crops, and also a great population and an abundance of wealth. Many will be notched, the light on the notches creating a pattern that simulates the flow of water to the sea. There's a lot going on in that ceiling.

For all the wonder of those two large stations, it's the third, the smallest of the three that is the most surprising.
Mt Eden is currently an anonymous nothing space, a kitset suburban station, blandly conceived for functionality and security.

The new design rethinks all that.

"The threshold begins," says the official blurb, "with an open civic space that radiates out from the station." It's a community space, a performance space, a forecourt that holds the people in it as if in the palm of a hand. As you enter the building itself you discover a space defined not by its ceiling but by a wall of carved basalt, curved in form, layered with taniwha, shimmering with water running down its face.

If the city is in transit itself, changing the way it works, railway stations can help. That's what Auckland is doing, or going to be doing: unclogging the roads, confronting climate change, embracing the multitude of meanings of community. Stepping over those CRL thresholds will be a part of it.

In the 19th century they built great railway stations all through Europe and America: glass and wrought-iron masterpieces that celebrated the marriage of technology, art and personal aspiration for all. It wasn't done by accident.

The creators of the undergrounds of London, Moscow, Paris and elsewhere art to create lovely public spaces specific to their location. The Paris Metro is lovely in the same way the London Tube is lovely, but they do not look like each other. What they share is a commitment to what designers call a sense of place. That's what the designers of the CRL stations have done.

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