Summary Our mates across the Ditch are seeing us as “almost better in some ways”, according to new research. An Auckland Council meeting today will see decisions on a radical plan to remove much of the central city’s on-street parking to make way for buses and bikes, and the end of the tram at Wynyard Point. 

Respectful cobbers New research into how New Zealand is perceived by major trading partners suggests the pandemic has changed Australians’ views towards NZ, making Oz a prime target for NZ tourism and exporters. Conducted by The NZ Story, a promotional agency with funding from six government agencies, the research drilled into the views of consumers and business people in the UK, US, China, Japan, Australia, Dubai, India and Brazil. Australians had “less admiration towards the US”, were “wary of the rise of China” and felt increasing kinship and admiration for NZ’s covid response, which they had compared favourably to their own government’s actions. “As they struggle with their own leadership and covid response, their respect towards NZ, our people and leadership has grown – almost to the point where they see us as being better in some ways.”

Transport decisions Auckland council faces decisions today on a radical plan to ditch parking along busy and central city roads in favour of bus lanes and cycleways. The plan would mean the end of parking outside their homes for many Aucklanders. Councillors also face a decision on the popular weekend Wynyard quarter 1.5km tram loop that was put in place to bring people to the new development. The city’s redevelopment arm, Eke Panuku Board wants to close the tram by the end of next year, with options including scrapping the line and sending equipment to MOTAT.

Vulcan lists NZ-founded Vulcan Steel lists today with the ASX as its primary exchange and on the NZX as a foreign-exempt issuer, to become a listed competitor to Fletcher Building’s steel division and Steel and Tube. Vulcan was founded in 1995 by Peter Wells and is now in 16 locations around Australia, with 460 staff, and 13 locations in New Zealand, with 382 employees here. Last year it generated $451.1 million worth of sales in Australia and $280.4m in New Zealand with about 12,000 customers across the two countries.

Port update Northland-based Marsden Maritime Holdings, which owns 50% of Northport, holds its AGM today following a great 12 months. In a year marked by shipping delays and price rises, the port company saw a record rise in profit of $14.3m compared with $6.7m a year ago, coming mainly from higher cargo volumes and a $4 million rise in the value of its 700ha land holdings. The port is earmarked for connection to NZ’s train network, and is about to dive into an ambitious expansion.

Meta support Facebook’s new parent company Meta has announced a support package for NZ media aimed at assisting media to develop sustainable business models. The package includes an Audience Development Accelerator and Grant Fund, the establishment of a News Innovation Advisory Group, and digital engagement training for news organisations. A senior Facebook executive has also shed more light for NZers on what the metaverse actually is: ”A social 3D virtual space where you can share immersive experiences with each other, even if you can't be together in person, and do things you couldn't do in the physical world.” At the same time, Facebook has announced it will close its facial recognition system.

Property update Precinct Properties holds its AGM today a few days out from the reopening of Auckland’s retail just in time for Christmas, capping a year that has seen significant disruption for its central city commercial properties. Interest rate rises are also denting its share price along with those of other listed property companies. In Auckland, Precinct’s central city properties include HSBC Tower, AMP Centre, Jarden House, One Queen St, the new $1b PwC Tower and Commercial Bay retail. In Wellington, it owns buildings leased to various government departments, including the AON Centre, NTT Tower, Central on Midland Park, No.1 and No.3 The Terrace, Mayfair House, Charles Fergusson Building, Defence House, Bowen House and Freyberg Building.

Covid coverage Northland is awaiting genomic sequencing this morning that will show the origin of the two mystery cases that have shuttered the tip of the North Island. Meanwhile, the makers of the new Novavax vaccine have submitted an application for provisional approval in NZ. In the US, the first children under 12 are being vaccinated.

More housing A burning desire to improve housing options for renters and utter disillusionment with conditions for construction sector sub-contractors has given birth to an initiative that promises to shake up both the rental and residential construction markets. Finance entrepreneur Sam Stubbs is putting $100 million into the first phase of a major new build-to-rent scheme, hoping to disrupt the housing market as effectively as his Simplicity KiwiSaver initiative has brought lower fees and competition to the New Zealand funds management scene. In a unique partnership with the founders of successful volume builders, NZ Living, Simplicity Living already has a pipeline of 560 dwellings and will start with 159 dwellings, 111 in the east Auckland suburb of Point England and 48 in Onehunga. 

Salary hikes The skills shortage spreading beyond IT is forcing companies to offer pay increases of up to 30% to snaffle the likes of investment bankers, lawyers, marketing executives, accountants, construction managers and sustainability and risk specialists. Specialists in data analytics, cyber security, artificial intelligence and robotics are also in hot demand. 

Markets update US markets slipped from record highs as investors waited on this morning’s Federal Reserve steer on interest rates. In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jone dropped 0.4%, the S&P 500 dropped 0.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1%. Across the Atlantic, the FTSE 100 was also down as investors awaited the Federal Reserve's update as well as their own central bank’s update tonight, closing 0.36%. The pan-European Stoxx 600 rose for the fifth consecutive day to hit a new all-time high, up 32% from a year ago. 

US tapering begins The US Federal Reserve has announced the long-awaited tapering of asset purchases, the first concrete step towards policy normalisation and inflation control. Bond purchases will be trimmed by US$15 billion per month. Central banks all over the world are taking a similar direction to crack down on inflation, with central banks in Canada and Australia in the past week following NZ’s lead. The UK’s central bank is widely expected to follow the same path tonight. ASB Bank said the fed has signalled a steady pace of similar reductions for each subsequent month, but declares it will remain flexible and will be prepared to adjust the pace if conditions change. "In its comments, the bank still stated inflation was elevated due to ‘transitory’ factors and that that it expected supply constraints to ease and relieve inflationary pressures over time."