First KiwiBuild families welcomed to their new homes

Housing Minister Phil Twyford and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a Facebook video explaining their gift of a plant.

First KiwiBuild families welcomed to their new homes

The first 18 KiwiBuild families have been welcomed to their new homes by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford and the local community.

A street party was held this morning in the McLennan development in Papakura and gave existing residents a chance to meet their new KiwiBuild neighbours.

Jacinda Ardern said KiwiBuild is giving thousands of young families who have been locked out of homeownership a chance to buy their own affordable, starter home.

“Having a home is not about just the bricks and mortar, it’s about being able to put down roots for future generations. It’s about giving our kids, and their kids to come, a place to call home.

“Our Government believes that housing is at the heart of what makes communities strong. Everyone deserves to have a warm, dry and affordable home.

“It’s fitting that we’re welcoming the first KiwiBuild families into their own homes on the first anniversary of forming our Government. It’s incredibly heart-warming,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Phil Twyford said the Government is committed to tackling the national housing crisis, and the terrible impacts on our families of unaffordable housing and a rental market under pressure.

“These 18 families today make KiwiBuild a reality. This is just the beginning.

“We busy building more KiwiBuild houses throughout the country. We’re also making housing more affordable by banning overseas speculators and closing tax loopholes, and reforming the rental market.

“There is still a lot of work to do to build our way out of the housing crisis, but today shows the progress we are already making,” Phil Twyford said.

WORLD accepts breach of inaccurate NZ made labelling law

WORLD owner Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet.

WORLD accepts breach of law likely for inaccurate NZ made clothing labelling

Designer and retailer WORLD has entered into enforceable undertakings with the Commerce Commission after accepting the Commission’s view that labelling on some imported clothing was liable to mislead consumers about the place of origin of the clothing.

The Fair Trading Act prohibits businesses from misleading consumers about a product’s country of origin. The Commission’s view is that tags reading “Fabrique en Nouvelle-Zelande” (which translates as “made in New Zealand”) were likely to have led consumers to think that the garments were manufactured in New Zealand when in fact they were manufactured in China or Bangladesh.

Commissioner Anna Rawlings says that although another label was stitched inside each garment with the correct country of manufacture, this may not have been noticed in many instances and may have confused any consumers who read the label and saw that it was inconsistent with the tag.

When the error was raised in the media, WORLD immediately amended the tags on its imported garments. The Commission’s investigation has concluded with WORLD accepting the Commission’s view that its conduct was likely to breach the Fair Trading Act and undertaking to ensure that all clothing is accurately labelled in future.

In the enforceable undertakings, WORLD has agreed that it will:
• Not use any tag or labelling with the phrase “Fabrique en Nouvelle Zelande” on any imported garments.
• Implement compliance procedures to ensure any claims it makes about the origin of its products are accurate, able to be substantiated and are not capable of misleading consumers.
• Refund any customers who return the garments at issue to WORLD and who bought them under the impression that they were made in New Zealand.
Commissioner Rawlings says that if businesses label their products with a country of origin, they need to make sure the label is clear and accurate. They should also check that other labelling, imagery and packaging is not likely to give consumers the impression that the product is made in New Zealand when it is not.

“New Zealand-made products can sometimes attract a price premium when compared with similar products made overseas and their purchase can represent an important ethical choice for some consumers.”

“The truthfulness of information about country of origin is particularly important because consumers cannot check the accuracy of this kind of labelling for themselves,” she said.

Background
From 2009 to May 2018 WORLD estimates that it offered just over 1,100 t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants for sale in retail stores which were manufactured overseas, but had the ‘Fabrique en Nouvelle Zelande’ swing tag. 99% of the clothing it sold during the same period was made in New Zealand.

You can see a copy of the Enforceable Undertakings on our website.

Business obligations
The Commission sent a reminder to businesses about their obligations when making ‘Made in New Zealand’ claims. You can read more and see examples of our previous country of origin cases here.
The Commission has produced a video called If you can’t back it up, don’t say it which offers guidance to traders about being able to substantiate that their claims are true.

FlexiGroup NZ faces up to family violence in the workplace

FlexiGroup – New Zealand chief executive, Chris Lamers

FlexiGroup New Zealand (NZ) has implemented a company-wide Family Violence Support Policy committing to taking action in advance of the upcoming Victims Protec-tions Bill legislation which comes into effect in April 2019.

The policy provides a range of support mechanisms for employees who are victims of domestic violence including allocating 10 days paid leave to be used for medical appointments, legal proceedings and other activities related to domestic violence.

Other support mechanisms can include changes to employee patterns of working hours, location of work, work telephone number and email address. Additionally, if a team mem-ber is supporting a colleague who is a is a victim of domestic violence they can take up to five days’ unpaid leave to accompany the victim of family violence to court, hospital or to help with the care of children.

FlexiGroup NZ worked closely with Women’s Refuge in the development of the Family Violence Support Policy and has already trained 50% of managers in ‘Supporting victims and users of family violence’ workshops, helping to raise awareness around the different types of family violence, identification of possible signs and behaviours of victims and users of violence and supporting victims or users of violence.

Dr Ang Jury, Chief Executive of Women’s Refuge says: “We applaud FlexiGroup NZ for developing and instituting a Family Violence Support Policy. For victims of domes-tic violence, having a workplace that is not only compassionate, but aware of the signs that an individual is in an abusive situation can make all the difference. We hope to work with many more organisations as this approach makes it easier for individuals to come forward, feel supported and receive the assistance they require.”

Women’s Refuge chief executive Dr Ang Jury.

FlexiGroup NZ Chief Executive Officer, Chris Lamers says promoting open dialogue in the workplace on domestic violence is an important step in addressing New Zealand’s troubling rate of domestic violence.

“Family violence isn’t an easy topic to talk about but it is in silence that it continues to happen with almost 80% of cases going unreported. If we’re going to truly face up to the problem, as a nation everyone including businesses and employers need to step up and do their bit to break the silence and promote change.

“It’s about fostering a workplace environment where everyone is clear that domestic violence of any form is never OK but it’s absolutely OK to talk about it, to reach out for help – and have the reassurance that non-judgemental support is available.”

Family violence statistics in New Zealand:

• New Zealand has one of the highest rates of family violence in the developed world, as one in three women experience domestic violence and one in six men will experience sexu-al violence.
• It is estimated that there could be around 500,000 family violence victims in New Zealand, of which more than 40% are in paid employment.
• 76% of family violence incidents are NOT reported to Police.
• Family violence is estimated to cost the country between $4.1 and $7 billion each year.

A new, safe cycleway for West Aucklanders

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and Mayor Phil Goff after opening the Seabrook Avenue Cycleway

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford today opened the new cycleway in New Lynn that will ease congestion and make Auckland a healthier and safer place to live.

The $2.2 million project provides an off-road cycleway on Seabrook Avenue, as well as improve four local intersections between Willerton Avenue and the New Lynn train station and town centre. It also includes new bike parking racks, upgraded street lighting and new signage.

The project will connect to the Waterview Shared Path, via the upcoming New Lynn to Avondale Shared Path, improving the West Auckland cycleway network.

“The Seabrook Avenue Cycleway will encourage more walking and cycling trips in the area and help children cycle to and from New Lynn School safely,” Phil Twyford said at the ribbon cutting ceremony today.

“More Aucklanders are cycling, with 19 per cent of Auckland bike riders regularly commuting to and from work. Safe and accessible cycle routes give people a heathier travel option to get to work, school and play without adding to the traffic.”

“Our government is committed to saving lives on the road and this project will help do that by slowing down vehicles at intersections and prioritising pedestrians and cyclists,” Phil Twyford said.

The NZ Transport Agency is investing $390 million in walking and cycling over the next three years through the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP). This is a $96 million increase on the previous three years.

Phil Twyford said that $260 million of the funding is going to cycling and walking facilities in our three main cities – Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – where it can have the greatest impact on congestion by improving connections and making active travel safer.

“Together, we are creating safer, healthier, and more accessible cities where people of all ages and abilities can choose to bike every day,” said Phil Twyford.

Vodafone reveals identity of its Digital Assistant

Vodafone today revealed the identity of the newest member of its team, a Digital Assistant. Introducing Kiri. She’s down-to-earth, easy to talk to, warm and empathetic. Kiri is tech savvy and loves to help customers get the most out of their products and services.

In a Kiwi-first, customers will be able to interact with Kiri in-store later this year.

Kiri’s strikingly life-like appearance relies on real time rendering and AI, using FaceMe’s latest techniques in machine learning based animation to produce a compelling experience. Skin texture such as pores and lines are carefully sculpted, and light reflection and roughness have been detailed by FaceMe’s artists.

The result is a one-of-a-kind Digital Assistant tailored specifically for Vodafone’s Kiwi audience.

Vodafone Customer Operations Director Helen van Orton describes the customer-led process of bringing Kiri to life.

“Customers tell us they want the experience of engaging with a Digital Assistant to be seamless, emotive and engaging – characteristics that are critical for creating trust. Customers want to feel valued and that their needs are taken care of.

“Kiri will help out with routine tasks so that our retail staff can help solve more challenging issues for clients. The technology also has the potential to create whole new job categories where frontline employees monitor conversations to continuously improve them, creating brand new professions in our evolving digital world,” van Orton said.

Natural, engaging interaction requires a less than 200 millisecond response time. Kiri’s processing has been optimised for speed and accuracy to create an experience that feels instantaneous. Computer vision technology allows Kiri to ‘see’ and behave like humans. For example, using her situational awareness system, Kiri can naturally respond when people walk up to her, and greet them proactively.

FaceMe CEO Danny Tomsett believes emotional connection is key for interaction.

“FaceMe has analysed what creates great experiences and which human qualities we need to reproduce – and supercharge – using AI technology. Through advanced Digital Human EQ combined with the IBM Watson conversational platform, we have created a great customer experience that leaves people feeling deeply content and satisfied with each conversation,” Tomsett said.

Kiri is currently in training and will start working in select Vodafone retail stores later this year.

“I’m really excited about my new role at Vodafone and to talk to our customers. I’m still learning, but in future I want to answer those complicated technical questions. I can’t wait to meet everyone!” Kiri said.

Draft decision on contributions to $50 million levy

Draft decision on contributions to $50 million telecommunications development levy

The Commerce Commission today released its draft determination on how much 17 telecommunications providers will each pay towards the Government’s $50 million Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL) for 2017/18.

The Government uses the annual levy to pay for telecommunications infrastructure and services which are not commercially viable including the relay service for the deaf and hearing-impaired, broadband for rural areas, and improvements to the 111 emergency service.

The levy, about 1% of telecommunications services revenue, is paid by providers earning more than $10 million per year from operating a telecommunications network, including providing internet, mobile, and data services to consumers.

Today’s draft determination determines proposes that Spark, Vodafone, Chorus, and 2degrees will collectively pay more than 90% of the $50 million levy. Voyager and MyRepublic will be liable for the TDL for the first time this year due to their growing revenues.

A copy of the draft determination can be found here.

The Commission invites submissions on its draft determination via email toregulation.branch@comcom.govt.nz by 5pm, 8 November 2017. The Commission expects to release its final determination in December.

Background

The Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL) was established by legislation in June 2011 and is set at $50 million a year until 2019. The Commission is required to prepare an annual TDL liability allocation determination in accordance with the Telecommunications Act 2001. The legislation requires a draft determination to be prepared and for submissions to be allowed on the draft before a final determination is prepared.

Voyager and MyRepublic qualify for the TDL as their telecommunications revenues now each exceed $10 million. REANNZ will no longer be liable following a High Court decision that it operates a private, not public, telecommunications network.

More information on the TDL is available on our website.

NZ Transport Agency wins global award

The Northern Busway will be extended to Albany – improving travel times.

NZ Transport Agency wins global award for putting customers at the heart of decision making

The NZ Transport Agency’s commitment to best practice engagement has been recognised on the global stage, with the Northern Corridor Improvements (NCI) project winning the IAP2 International Project of the Year at the International Core Values Awards.

The award recognised the 2016-17 planning and consenting stage of the project to build a new motorway connection between SH1 and SH18 on Auckland’s North Shore to complete the Western Ring Route, as well as increasing transport choices for everyone by extending the Northern Busway and creating over 7kms of new walking and cycling paths.

The NCI project team was honoured last night at a ceremony on the Gold coast after competing against the best of the best from IAP2 award finalists around the world including New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.

In announcing the award, the judges said that “public participation practice at the ’empower’ end of the spectrum is rare and has lifted the bar on tried and true practice and handed decision-making back to the communities with outstanding outcomes such as bike and walking tracks becoming standard for new motorways as an outcome of this excellent process”.

“The engagement team had very clear objectives. The role of the public was well defined and there were higher levels of engagement for stakeholders who represented key groups and who would more likely influence decisions. They worked hard to empower, collaborate and involve.”

As well as the top project award, NCI also won the Australasian Project of the Year across all categories and the individual Australasian Planning Category award.

“This is not only a great result for the team and for the Transport Agency but most importantly for the communities we worked so closely with,” says the Transport Agency’s Chief Executive Fergus Gammie.

“It shows the value of putting our customers at the centre of everything we do and it’s wonderful to see those efforts recognised on a world stage as we work to build a safe, connected transport system that works for everyone.”

Mr Gammie says the awards are a reflection of outstanding team work across the Transport Agency. The awards are shared with the Transport Agency’s engineering consultant team from Aurecon NZ, who managed the delivery of the design, consenting and national Board of Inquiry approvals stage of this major project.

The NCI project started construction in April this year and will be delivered in stages by the Northern Corridor Improvements Alliance over the next four years.

IAP2 is an international association of members who seek to promote and improve the practice of public participation that affects the public interest in nations throughout the world. IAP2 awards annually a series of awards in Best Practice known as the Core Values awards.

Dealer’s guide to electric vehicles launched

A new guide gives people in the automotive industry an overview of electric vehicles (EVs) and equips them to answer customers’ most common queries.

The Dealer’s Guide to Electric Vehicles was launched online today by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) as part of the Government’s information campaign to accelerate the uptake of EVs in New Zealand.

A third of New Zealanders are now open to buying a battery EV, according to EECA’s market research. This number will continue to rise as battery technology improves, charging stations spread across the country and EVs become more price competitive with petrol and diesel cars, says EECA Chief Executive Andrew Caseley.

“Car buyers are increasingly likely to ask dealers what it’s like to drive and own EVs,” he says. “This guide gives dealers an introduction to the technology to help them make the most of this rapidly evolving market.”

It includes the key reasons car buyers are motivated to start looking for an EV, essential information dealers should include in their EV ads, how to help customers decide which type of EV will best suit their needs, and information on EV batteries and charging.

While the guide targets dealers, the information provides useful background to others in the industry including automotive workshops and collision repair shops.

Mr Caseley acknowledged industry experts that had input to the guide, including the AA, MTA, MIA and VIA.
Hard copies of the Dealer’s Guide will be distributed to dealers and others in the industry in November.

Download the Dealer’s Guide to Electric Vehicles
Download the Buyer’s Guide to Electric Vehicles

Moral decisions for driverless cars – Expert Reaction

Waymo Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid undergoing testing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In a scene right out of ‘The Good Place’, researchers have asked millions of people across the world what they think a driverless car should do in the face of an unavoidable accident.

Published today in Nature, the study used data from MIT’s Moral Machine, which has gathered over 40 million decisions in ten languages from across 233 countries.

Each scenario required making choices between various combinations of saving passengers or pedestrians and the researchers identified a number of shared moral preferences. These included sparing the most number of lives, prioritising young people and valuing humans over other animals.

The SMC asked New Zealand experts to comment on the study.

Associate Professor Alex Sims, Department of Commercial Law, University of Auckland, comments:

University of Auckland associate professor Alex Sims

“As the article argues, the question is not if driverless cars will start being driven on our roads, but when. Autonomous cars raise the issue of the trolley problem, which was once just a thought experiment in ethics. You see a run trolley (in New Zealand we would de-scribe it as a train carriage), moving towards five people lying on train tracks. Next to you is a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be diverted onto an-other set of tracks, saving the five people. But, there is one person lying on the other set of tracks and pulling the lever will kill that person. Which one is ethically correct?

“Autonomous cars raise the stakes. If a crash is inevitable – for example, an autonomous car’s brakes fail, and the car has to choose between running over and killing three elderly people or swerving into a brick wall and killing the car’s occupants – what should the car do? The authors quite rightly state that we, as a society, cannot leave the ethical principles to either engineers or ethicists.

“We need rules. It would be unconscionable for people to drive cars that were programmed to ensure that the occupant’s safety was put ahead of everyone else’s. For ex-ample, a car cannot be programmed to run three people over to avoid the car’s sole occupant crashing into a parked car.”

No conflict of interest declared. Dr Sims’ full comments are available as a blog post on sciblogs.co.nz.

Professor Hossein Sarrafzadeh, Adjunct Professor, High Tech Research, Unitec, comments:

Professor Hossein Sarrafzadeh, Adjunct Professor, High Tech Research, Unitec

“While technical aspects of driverless cars have seen great advancement, the social aspects have not been studied well. Social scientists will certainly focus on ethics of technology including driverless cars as we get closer to wider use of this technology in the next few years. Cultural aspects of driverless cars and other artificially intelligent systems like emotion recognition systems have not been studied sufficiently either and there is a great need for research in these areas globally and in New Zealand.

“One aspect of driverless cars that is not taken into account in various studies of the social dimensions of this technology is the fact that future roads may not be the same roads we are using today. Even if we use similar roads they will be heavily sensored, intelligent roads. They will certainly be much safer, although these ethical dilemmas will remain if the same roads are used. Future roads, I believe, will be different to what we have now. There may be no humans walking across the roads that autonomous vehicles travel in.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Associate Professor Colin Gavaghan, New Zealand Law Foundation Chair in Law & Emerging Technologies, Faculty of Law, University of Otago, comments:

Associate Professor Colin Gavaghan

“These sorts of ‘trolley problems’ are philosophically fascinating, but until now, they’re rarely been much of a concern for law. Most drivers will never have to face such a stark dilemma, and those who do will not have time to think through consequentialist and deontological ethics before swerving or braking! The law tends to be pretty forgiving of people who respond instinctively to sudden emergencies. The possibility of programming ethics into a driverless car, though, takes this to another level.

“That being so, which ethics should we programme? And how much should that be dictated by majority views? Some of the preferences expressed in this research would be hard to square with our approaches to discrimination and equality – favouring lives on the basis of sex or income, for instance, really wouldn’t pass muster here.

“Age is also a protected category, but the preference for saving young rather than old lives seems to be both fairly strong and almost universal. So should driverless ethics reflect this?

“Even that preference seems likely to raise some hard questions. At what point does a ‘child’ cross the threshold to having a less ‘valuable’ life? 16? 18? Is an infant’s life more precious than a toddler’s? An 8-year-old’s? Expressed like that, the prospect of building a preference for ‘young’ lives looks pretty challenging.

“One preference that might be easier to understand and to accommodate is for the car to save as many lives as possible. Sometimes, that might mean ploughing ahead into the logging truck rather than swerving into the group of cyclists. Most of us might recognise that as the ‘right’ thing to do, but would we buy a car that sacrificed our lives – or the lives of our loved ones – for the good of the many?

“Which brings us to the role of law in all this. Maybe it just shouldn’t be legal to buy a car that would discriminate on protected grounds, or that would sacrifice other people to preserve our own safety. But in that case, how many people would buy a driverless car at all?

“What if we left it up to individual choice? Could driving a ‘selfless’ car come to be seen as an indication of virtue, like driving an electric now? Would drivers of ‘selfish’ cars be marking themselves out in the opposite direction?

“Maybe the biggest issue is this: over a million people die on the roads every year. Hundreds die in New Zealand alone. Driverless cars have the potential to reduce this dramatically. It’s important to think about these rare ‘dilemma’ cases, but getting too caught up with them might see us lose sight of the real, everyday safety gains that this technology can offer.”

No conflict of interest.

NASA Testing New Zealand Wool Tech

 

A New Zealand developed, wool-based filter technology is one of several filter systems being evaluated by NASA to protect astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on upcoming deep-space exploration missions.

Designed by Auckland based wool innovators Lanaco, the HelixTM filter is sourced from the company’s purpose bred AstinoTM sheep and is being tested for use in Orion’s emergency life-support system in the event of on-board fires.

The Helix filter could be used as a pre-filter layer for emergency personal equipment and cabin air systems, preventing clogging in other filter layers by removing thick contaminants like molten plastic.

Shaun Tan, Lanaco Head of Technology, recently returned from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston and is confident that the Helix filter can deliver on NASA’s requirements.

Artist’s rendering of the Orion crew module.

“In the case of the Orion life-support system, the Helix filter is being tested for particle loading capacity, breathability, flame resistance and the ability to function even if exposed to Orion’s water-based fire extinguisher systems.”

“The Helix filter is currently used in protective equipment in high contaminant situations like construction and mining, but firefighting in space represents a new challenge for our R&D team” says Tan.

Lanaco’s wool-filter technology made headlines in 2017 following the launch of anti-pollution face masks now popular in several Asian and Indian mega-cities.

Lanaco CEO Nick Davenport says that recent successes demonstrate the versatility and effectiveness of wool-based air filtration.

“Wool is an outstanding fibre. Its electrostatic properties catch small harmful particles, its protein structure captures gases and harmful toxins and yet the fibre is bacteria and flame resistant. We believe in wool as a sustainable, innovative solution to combat air-pollution.”

“The Lanaco story is one of New Zealand high-country farmers producing the world’s greatest natural fibre to protect people from poor quality air. To now be playing a role in supporting deep space exploration is a testament to the farmers, scientists and manufacturers that have pushed Lanaco to the forefront of filter technology” says Davenport.