Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am

The Government's housing announcement this week has refocused attention on the Hobsonville development model. Photo: Supplied

In today's email we take a deeper look at the Hobsonville housing development,which is the model for the government's planned house building programme.

1. The Hobsonville model

The Government's housing announcement this week has refocused attention on the Hobsonville development model, which National wants to use in its current form in various places across Auckland, and Labour wants to use at a much larger scale and with a higher share of affordable housing.

Under this model, a state-owned master planner works with private developers to build a mix of affordable and 'market' (ie much more expensive) homes in a way that is profitable for the Government.

Earlier this month I went out to Hobsonville to talk to Chris Aiken to find out how the Hobsonville Land Company (now renamed HLC) is working.

Hobsonville is now building around 500 homes per year and is on track to build 5,000, having already built 1,000. It has certainly unleased the biggest and most attractive new housing development in the country, thanks largely to the Government underwriting the infrastructure and the private sector jumping in to find some development profit margin.

It looks an effective model that will create some great communities. The debate is over whether the model is nearly big enough to deal with the scale of Auckland's housing shortage and whether it includes enough affordable housing.

Here's my full report on Newsroom Pro.

2. Are barns the solution?

Newsroom Pro Editor Lynn Grieveson has uncovered a split opening up between DairyNZ and Federated Farmers over the potential solution to the 'peak cow' issue around nutrient leaching.

DairyNZ thinks scientific solutions can be found to allow New Zealand dairying to continue being grass-fed, but isn't as keen as Federated Farmers on the idea of using barns to allow continued growth in cow numbers.

Here's Lynn's full report on Newsroom Pro for the detail and the background on the use of barns to reduce dairy's environmental impact.

3. Easing trade tensions

Bill English just can't seem to get away from sheep farms.

Newsroom's Foreign Affairs and Trade Editor Sam Sachdeva travelled with the Prime Minister yesterday to Japan's largest sheep farm.

Sam reports English is positive about improving relations between Japan and New Zealand on sharing farm expertise and technology to deal with an ageing workforce.

See Sam's full report on Newsroom Pro, including his great pic of the PM feeding a lamb.

4. 'Please come back'


Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw has uncovered another case of an administrative error leading to an early prisoner release from a system under growing pressure.

He reports Corrections is still trying to track down the prisoner to return her to jail after she was mistakenly released by prison staff. The woman was sentenced in the Porirua District Court on 11 May on several charges including drug use, shoplifting, and driving while disqualified. She also had unpaid fines and was sentenced to six weeks’ jail for those.

Since the woman had already spent time on remand, staff at Wellington’s Arohata Prison calculated that she should be released on the same day she was sentenced.

But they missed the fact her sentence for unpaid fines cannot be credited to remand time, meaning she should not have been released until 31 May.

Arohata Prison Director Chris Burns told Shane that staff had tried to contact the woman to ask her to return after the error was realised, but had not been able to.

That's one way to reduce the prison population...

5. 1.3 million fewer benefit years

The Government's social investment approach has been great for one particular profession - actuaries calculating future liabilities.

This week the Ministry of Development’s latest benefit valuation showed just how much work they're doing to calculate the benefits of having fewer people on benefits.

Used to estimate the future costs faced by MSD, the report showed welfare reforms and tight management had trimmed 1.3m years off the time beneficiaries could be expected, over their working life, to receive the benefit.

The estimated future cost, however, rose by $7.6 billion to $76b.

This was largely due to measures such as unemployment and inflation, with MSD pointing out it masked a $1.7b performance improvement achieved by a drop in people on the solo parent and jobseeker benefits.

Another detail revealed in the valuation is that mental health is increasing the welfare burden. You can read the report here.

6. 'Classic form'

The scoop this week from Newsroom Co-Editor Tim Murphy on the early discussions about a potential sale of the Ports of Auckland operating company certainly captured the attention of the Auckland Council, and Mayor Phil Goff in particular.

Yesterday, Tim got hold of the memo sent by the Mayor to his 20 Councillors on Wednesday in the wake of that scoop.

It's clear Goff was not happy about the leak of the discussions. He said his position has not changed from before the election, despite the reports.

Goff's memo details a meeting he had with the Ports company on Tuesday evening and laments: "In classic form, even before the meeting was held, the media had been fed information around what was supposedly discussed."

See Tim's piece and the full memo over at Newsroom.

7. One fun thing

Here's a fun thing to distract you if you're stuck in a cramped or old office in a boring building on a Friday.

This piece in Wired details the extraordinary planning and details behind the development of Apple's new mothership HQ in Cupertino.

8. Weekend Reads

Back by popular demand, here's a few longer reads for the weekend.

This piece in the Guardian on Facebook's advertising techniques, particularly around political advertising, is fascinating.

The New York Times reports on the sophisticated systems that have been developed to smuggle and export specialist food items back from Australia and into China. The same techniques are likely to apply here.

In the wake of the latest Trump dramas, his ghost writer for 'The Art of the Deal' says via the Washington Post that Trump's self-sabotage is rooted in his history.

For those admirers and worriers about Amazon, this TechCrunch piece on why Amazon is eating the world is a must read.

The globalisation of services industries was a trend remarked on earlier this month by Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler when he noted low wage growth was keeping inflation low globally, and in New Zealand. This piece on that trend of services jobs being sent offshore is well worth a read.