News Lounge Ep2: Teachers striking all over the country; balance of payments deficit hits record; China offers help.

Welcome to News Lounge, your daily dose of the latest headlines from around New Zealand. Today is March 16th, and we have a range of stories to bring you, from breaking news to in-depth features. Join us as we delve into the stories that matter, from politics and business to sports and entertainment. So sit back, relax, and let us bring you up to speed on what’s been happening in Aotearoa.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Kermadec Islands region north of New Zealand on Thursday, with the US Tsunami Warning System issuing a tsunami warning. However, New Zealand Civil Defence said there was no tsunami risk for the country. The earthquake was estimated to be at a depth of 10km and hit just after 2 pm, according to the US Geological Survey.

Around 50,000 teachers from primary, area, and secondary schools, as well as kindergartens, have gone on strike due to stalled pay talks with the Ministry of Education in New Zealand. The teachers have rejected the ministry’s offer of a $6,000 pay rise over two years and 15 more hours of classroom release time per term, in addition to $1,300 one-off payments for primary teachers. The strike marks the second time that primary and secondary school teachers have walked off the job on the same day, with kindergarten teachers joining them for the first time. The striking teachers are calling for better work conditions, smaller class sizes, greater support for students, more teacher aides, more release time, and more funding for professional training. The Ministry of Education has offered mediated bargaining with the Employment Relations Authority to settle the dispute.

Around 50,000 teachers and principals in New Zealand have gone on strike as they demand better pay and improved working conditions, with some educators saying they have had to take on second jobs to make ends meet. Speaking to First Up, staff at Western Heights Primary School in Auckland said they were drowning in assessment, needed support for high-needs children and smaller class sizes. Many teachers said they worked from 7.30am to 4.30pm and also on weekends. Some also said they had to tutor students or work as marriage celebrants in addition to their teaching jobs.


New Zealand’s economy shrank by 0.6% in the last quarter of 2022, worse than anticipated, with manufacturing, exports, agriculture, accommodation and retail sectors all experiencing a fall. Although unemployment remains at a low level, ANZ senior economist Miles Workman suggests that the “real recession” may be felt more widely later in the year and early 2024. Household budgets and business investments are tightening as interest rates are rising, leading to biting capacity constraints in some industries. Despite the economic boost from the cyclone Gabrielle rebuild, ANZ predicts at least two more hikes to the Official Cash Rate to keep inflation in check.

New Zealand’s balance of payments deficit has reached its highest level in 34 years, hitting $33.8 billion for the year ending December 2022, equivalent to a record 8.9 percent of the value of the economy. The deficit was due largely to an increase in imports of goods and services, such as machinery, fuel, and vehicles, and travel costs, while tourism earnings remained low due to the slow recovery of world travel after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Foreign investors also made more from their investments in New Zealand than New Zealanders did from their overseas holdings. The deficit is being attributed to an overheated economy, with economists warning that it is unsustainable and that something has to give. S&P Global Ratings warned that the country’s AA+ rating could come under pressure if the current account deficit does not narrow over the next 12 to 18 months.

New Zealand’s South Island is expected to experience a wet and windy end of the week, with MetService issuing weather warnings and watches for much of the island. The West Coast will see the heaviest rainfall, with gale-force winds anticipated for Canterbury. Metservice meteorologist John Law warns that the heaviest rain will lash the West Coast with 200 to 300mm of rain expected up around the ranges, with Otira and the Fox Glacier possibly receiving as much as 400mm of rain. While the South Island will experience wet and windy weather until Friday, the North Island should expect clear and dry weather from Saturday morning.

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