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News of Zealand

News of Zealand: Christchurch is Getting Its Cathedral Back

Plus National announces assistance for first-time home buyers, while Labour want to ban foreign speculators from the property market.
Image via Flickr user Jocelyn Kinghorn. 

Everything you need to know about the world this morning, curated by bFM and VICE NZ.


The Christ Church Cathedral Will Be Rebuilt, But Needs More Money
For almost seven years, the Christ Church Cathedral has lain in rubble as Anglican officials, politicians and the public debated its fate—an enduring symbol of the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch in early 2011. Over the weekend a decision was finally made to restore it. Rebuilding the cathedral will cost an estimated $108 million. The government has pledged $25 million towards the build and Christchurch City Council will contribute $10 million (subject to public consultation). Public donations are being sought to plug the $14 million funding gap.

National Pledges to Increase Financial Assistance for First Home Buyers
National has promised to increase financial assistance for first home buyers if re-elected. The HomeStart grant would be increased by ten thousand dollars, meaning first home buyers could get $20,000 to buy an existing house and $30,000 for a new build. National leader Bill English says their party can promise more money because of the strength of their economy. English says the the biggest risk for homeowners are interest rates rising, if led by a Labour Government. However, Loan Market mortgage advisor Bruce Patten says that in reality the number of affordable homes sold would be less than 10 percent. Patten says the policy is misleading as a big percentage of the market that won't be able to unlock the grants.


Labour to Prioritise Housing and Education
Jacinda Ardern says the first hundred days of a Labour-led government will prioritise housing and education. Arden told a packed St James Theatre in Wellington on Sunday that Labour would introduce a law to ban overseas speculators from buying existing homes and would have it done by Christmas. The opposition leader also promised free tertiary education for the first year as well as an increase in student allowance by $50 a week. In response, Prime Minister Bill English said New Zealanders were still in the dark about what a Labour-led government would do, accusing the opposition of hiding the things they don't want people to know about.

Shoes on Parliament Lawn a Stark Indication of NZ's Shocking Suicide Statistics
Last year, 606 New Zealanders took their own lives. Yesterday, on World Suicide Prevention Day, 606 shoes were placed on the lawn to represent each of these lives lost. The group behind the demonstration, Yes We Care, is calling for an independent inquiry into mental health and for political parties to adopt a zero suicide target. Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern said that family members of suicide victims would have input into a mental health review if Labour comes to power. National MP Simon O'Connor took to Facebook to accuse Ardern of inconsistency, saying she was "happy to encourage suicide of the sick, elderly and disabled". Ardern responded on breakfast radio this morning that O'Connor was confusing suicide with euthanasia, and the two were separate issues.



Hurricane Irma Batters Florida
Hurricane Irma has battered Florida with 200km per hour winds and flooded the only road connecting the Florida Keys with the mainland. Some 6.5 million people, about a third of the state's population, have been ordered to evacuate and 1.6 million homes have lost power. Two dozen people in the Caribbean have lost their lives and Cuba faced 11m waves yesterday as a result of the storm. Irma is now a Category 4 storm, one of the most powerful ever seen in the Atlantic. South Florida's large elderly population is proving to be a real test for emergency shelters, many of which are not equipped for people with elaborate medical needs.

Malcolm Turnbull Throws His Support Behind "Yes" Campaign for Same-Sex Marriage
Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has urged the country to vote yes in the upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage. Speaking at the New South Wales Liberals and Nationals for Yes campaign launch yesterday in Sydney, Turnbull said the question facing the nation was one of fairness. Turnbull pointed out that same-sex marriage has already been made legal in 23 countries, including several with which Australia has close cultural affinities. The Prime Minister asked Australians to be honest with each other and see that the only threat to marriage is a lack of loving commitment, not gay couples.

Russian Air Strikes Incur Civilian Casualties in Syria
Monitoring groups have reported Russian air strikes in Syria have killed 34 civilian casualties, including nine children. The attack on Sunday targeted more than 40 ferries that were travelling from the southwest town of Deir Az Zor to the eastern shore of the Euphrates according to Rami Abdel Rahman, head of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in Britain. The strikes were in combination with attacks by Syrian troops on ISIL forces near Deir Az Zor. For the first time in 4 years, Syrian troops are now said to have reclaimed from ISIL forces the 450km highway between the capital Damascus to Deir Az Zor.

Reporting by Alessandra Nixon, Jean Bell, Adel Abied