Fresh on BusinessDesk this morning:

Jenny Ruth’s column is a deep dive into Briscoe’s apparently effortless success.

Henry Burrell reports new game studio Mad Carnival Entertainment has been awarded a $250,000 grant to help it fund a project in partnership with a yet-to-be-named major social media player.

Brent Melville reports NZDF personnel posted overseas could become collateral damage under the government’s reworked brightline housing tax.


Overnight events:

Traffic light tweaks – This afternoon cabinet is expected to consider changes to the omicron traffic light system of restrictions, including the use of mandates, QR codes and hospitality venue limits. Late on Friday, opposition leader Christopher Luxon proposed the removal of most of the limits from April 13, which is when Australian tourists can arrive. Luxon proposed removing mandates, the use of QR codes, the 100-person limit for venues and the need for pre-departure tests.

Just quietly … – The government quietly removed self-isolation and MIQ requirements for unvaccinated citizens of Aotearoa-NZ returning home from midnight on Friday. The announcement was deep in an MBIE website without any ministerial statement or highlighting by the Beehive, right at the end of a three-week sitting block in Parliament.

NATO urgency – US President Joe Biden is travelling to Europe this week for urgent NATO summits on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He is expected to look at how much NATO can help Ukraine without putting the world at the risk of a third world war through direct clashes between NATO and Russian forces. Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelenskyy proposed again overnight that Russian President Vladimir Putin come to the table to negotiate a peace settlement, reiterating Ukraine would abandon its quest for NATO membership if Russia removed its troops.

More peace talk Turkey indicated over the weekend that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators “have almost reached agreement” on Ukraine committing not to join NATO and declaring itself neutral, although the future status of Crimea and the Donbass region would have to be negotiated by Putin and Zelenskyy. The United States remains skeptical about Russia’s intentions with secretary of state Antony Blinken saying on Friday that Russia was showing little sign of willingness to stop the war.

Firmer markets – US stocks rose 1-2% on Saturday morning on renewed hope for a peace deal in Ukraine. The NZ dollar benefited from the increased risk appetites, opening this morning just over 69 USc.

Sick leave stress – Both Fletcher Building and Countdown are forcing employees to use sick leave when isolating with covid, Stuff and 1News report respectively. There is government support available to them, but they’re choosing not to apply, and are instead running down the liabilities on their books from sick leave balances that have built up.