Everything you need to know about the world today, curated by 95bFM and VICE NZ.
Food Grants to Low-Income Families Soar in 2017
Work and Income gave out the highest number of food grants ever recorded last year. The Ministry of Social Development reported an increase of 100,000 grants to those facing financial hardship as the price of housing has continued to increase, severely affecting beneficiaries and low-income families. Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Ricardo Mendez March said they weren’t surprised at these figures, with food being “scrimped on” in the family budget. The increase has now cost the Ministry $52 million.
Auckland Small Business Owners Don't Like Bike Lanes
Auckland small business owners are protesting against Auckland Transport plans to replace car parks with cycleways and buses in local shopping centres. The Karangahape Road Business Association is withdrawing support for a $16 million dollar cycleway and streetside upgrade. Mt Eden Village Business Association is strongly criticising plans to extend bus stops in the area. Association chairperson Steve Roper says Auckland Transport needs to “go back to the drawing board.” They are joined by businesses in a range of areas, from West Lynn to Northcote Point.
Gisborne Council Votes for Poverty Bay Rename
A Gisborne councillor is calling for the name ‘Poverty Bay’ to be dropped entirely. The Gisborne District Council has recommended a vote to restore the East Coast district’s name to its original Māori name, Tūranganui-ā-kiwa, for use in conjunction with Poverty Bay to reflect the area’s shared history. However, councillor Meredith Akuhata says while a portion of the public are supporters of the name Poverty Bay, the name should be dropped all together. “This is kind of a stepping stone in the right direction," says Akuhata. The final decision will be made by the geographic board.
PM Ardern Visits Pacific
The government will begin its ‘Pacific reset’ strategy as Jacinda Ardern visits the region for the first time since becoming Prime Minister. Foreign Minister Winston Peters previously promised to increase aid and begin a new strategy with the Pacific, and will accompany Ardern on the trip this week. This year's annual Pacific Mission will focus on recovery and resilience, particularly for Tonga after the damage caused by Cyclone Gita last month. The government will also be looking at ways it can enhance the economic development of the Pacific as well as the effects of climate change on the region. Director of the Council for International Development, Josie Pagani, says that the strategy calling for improved conditions will mean greater independence for the Pacific.
Merkel Gets Fourth Term as German Chancellor
Yesterday the German Social Democrat Party approved the coalition with Angela Merkel, giving her a fourth term as Chancellor. Six months ago, the general election gave no majority to Merkel’s conservative party CDU, leading to six month of talks and political uncertainty. The failure of a coalition with the Green and Liberal parties led Merkel to ask support for the Social Democrats, who have supported her in past years. This new coalition was heavily criticised within the centre-left party, especially from its young branch.
China Responds to US Trade Tariffs
China has responded to the United States’ new trade tariffs, saying that the country would take necessary steps if its interests are hurt. Spokesperson for China’s National People’s Congress Zhang Yesui says it’s natural for some ‘friction to exist’ given the large volume of trade occurring between the two nations, which amounted to US$580 billion last year. President Trump announced on Thursday tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium products. Trump also indicated he has been considering a tax on EU made cars. US trading partners, The International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation have strongly criticised this move.
No Clear Majority in Italian Elections Underway
Italy is currently electing its new parliament, from which no clear majority is expected. The European migrant crisis is impacting primarily Italy, with immigration becoming the the main issue of the campaign. The rise of the League, a far-right party allied with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right party, is worrying many across Europe. In the meantime, the centre-left party of former Prime minister Matteo Renzi is being left behind since its failed attempt to reform the constitution last year. A low turnout is expected, as many Italians are said to not believe in politics anymore. The next government, which will not be appointed before weeks, will be the 65th since World War II.
Australians Surrender 50,000 Guns in Firearms Amnesty
A three-month long gun amnesty held by the Australian Government has lead to the surrender of more than 50,000 unregistered firearms. Firearms recovered included more than 2,500 automatic weapons and one rocket launcher. The amnesty is the first since 1997, which occurred in response to the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history in Port Arthur. Recent threats of terrorism and an increased number of illegal weapons entering the country prompted the Australian Government to take action. Police hope this will affect the local ‘grey market’ of illicit guns that have been linked to organised crime and terror incidents.
Continued Onslaught in Syria Causes UN Concerns
Continued fighting in Syria is concerning the United Nations. The UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, said in a statement that violence has escalated in areas such as rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, which is home to 400,000 people. Mountzis says “the collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable,” as Syrian regime forces continue their military offensive in Eastern Ghouta. This comes a week after the UN security council passed a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire.
South Korea Sends Two Envoys to the North
Two South Korean officials will visit North Korea this week and meet with Leader Kim Jong-un—ten years since the last official visit of South Korean diplomats in the North. The two envoys were sent by South President Moon to continue the dialogue between both countries. The move follows the presence of North Korean officials and athletes in the winter olympics last month, including Kim Jong-un’s sister. This recent improvement has been welcome from both sides, but the United States stay critical of the dialogue. The Trump administration is keeping the focus on sanctions and does not want any further talks without some guarantees about the North’s nuclear program. After their meeting with Kim Jong-un, the two envoy will fly to Washington in order to find common ground.
Additional reporting: Jemima Huston, Jean Bell, Lillian Hanly, Ulysse Bellier and Bailley Verry