Summary Another tranche of covid-related updates are expected from covid response minister Chris Hipkins today, with more details expected on reopening schools to senior students, a reduction in managed isolation stays from 14 days to nine, and partially reopening the trans-Tasman bubble. Northlanders awake to schools, restaurants and shops reopening today.

Updates expected Covid response minister Chris Hipkins is expected to announce today that managed isolation and quarantine stays will be reduced from 14 days to nine. He is also expected to signal the pathway to reopening parts of the trans-Tasman bubble on a state-by-state basis, and a pathway to reopening Auckland schools. Senior students facing NCEA exams are slated to be first to return in what is likely to be a phased reopening. Auckland schools have been shut for nine weeks. Meanwhile, schools in Northland have reopened along with retail and restaurants as the region moves back to level two.

Maori housing applications Applications were to open today for the government’s new Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga fund aimed at helping iwi build new homes. The programme will invest in both small-scale projects including papakāinga, and larger iwi-led developments. Companies such as Fletcher Building are expected to be at the forefront of joint applications with iwi, as it has been partnering on west Auckland housing developments with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara for at least the past five years.

Super housing A new land development company established by Tauranga-based developer Classic Group and the $58 billion NZ Super Fund aims to use its scale and capital to increase housing supply. Kaha Ake’s first development will be in Warkworth, north of Auckland, with more than 500 lots. Over the coming years the partnership expects to achieve a development pipeline of upwards of 3,000 sites for new homes. NZ Super Fund manager of direct investments Hishaam Mirza said the investment is part of a broader strategy to increase the fund’s exposure to real estate.

Poultry foray Australian private equity behemoth Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) is gearing up for a multimillion-dollar foray into a New Zealand agribusiness with poultry once again on the menu, according to new filings at the Companies Office. PEP bought NZ’s poultry company Tegel for around $250m in late 2005. After selling down its stake it exited the investment in early 2011 when it was sold to Asian leverage buyout firm Affinity Equity Partners for $600m. It now has sights on a new large poultry and goat milk farming venture in Waikato with the immediate focus on poultry for meat.

Lodge opposed US tech billionaire Peter Thiel’s plans to build a luxury lodge nestled above the shores of Lake Wānaka are being opposed by a clutch of environmental groups. The notified resource consent attracted six submissions, far fewer than the 118 responses largely opposing a residential development on the same block of land more than a decade ago. However, those six – of which three oppose outright Thiel’s plans – have a body of case law behind them protecting outstanding natural landscapes that weren’t in place in 2010, including the supreme court’s landmark ruling protecting those special environments when considering an application for salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds. 

Stink delays New cars being shipped into Australia are facing even more delays, this time of up to four weeks as ships are fumigated for brown marmorated stink bugs. The bugs’ migration season has begun and runs to April. They would devastate Australian crops if they were able to hitchhike into the country. The stink bugs are also regarded as one of NZ’s greatest biosecurity risk.

Bee careful Honey company Comvita holds its AGM today as it grapples with a turnaround and a wavering share price that is flatlining around $3.73 after a spike last May up to $4.57. Since new chief executive David Banfield joined the company in January last year, Comvita has slashed debt, reduced the number of products and cut liabilities, including hives that were not making a profit in bad years.

Milk price rise The latest global dairy auction saw a solid increase in prices across the board. Whole milk powder, which has the biggest influence on Fonterra farmgate milk prices, rose 1.5% after falling 0.4% at the last auction. Skim milk powder rose 2.5%, following a 0.5% rise at the last auction. In other dairy news, trade minister Damien O’Connor, who returned yesterday from his European trade trip, says the free trade agreement with the EU could mean name changes for some dairy products including cheeses carrying geographically-linked names.

Sea vaccinations New Zealand’s largest seafood company Sanford has joined the likes of Air NZ and Auckland Airport in requiring workers to be vaccinated. It has sent a letter to contractors saying all crew must be vaccinated before going to sea from Dec 31. Sanford’s share price has plummeted since highs in October 2019 of $8.17 to $5 as pandemic restrictions bite into sales. Inventories mostly of salmon, hoki and mussels have shot up from $48.5million to $85million worth of unsold stock. 

One-way bubble Australians stuck in the South Island can jet home from this morning without quarantine, as the Australian government opens a one-way bubble that excludes the North Island. Back home, they will not see Western Australia reopen its borders before Christmas as Queensland is about to do. Western Australia residents still enjoy freedom from most restrictions. In contrast, NSW continues to open up and will allow vaccinated overseas arrivals in to Australia without quarantine from Nov 1.

Bitcoin tradies It’s a historic day for digital currencies as the first US Bitcoin futures ETF began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The first trade comes after eight years of rejection by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Billions of dollars are expected to be poured into digital currencies as the new asset gains mainstream acceptance. Bitcoin continues to inch closer to its all-time high, reaching above US$62,000.

Markets update Markets all over the world are being buoyed by strong third-quarter earnings results despite a theme emerging of the impacts of supply chain constrictions and the pandemic’s impact on labour. The Dow Jones was up 0.5%, and the S&P and Nasdaq both rose 0.7%. Banks are leading companies beating earnings forecasts, with the aggregate S&P companies’ results up by 14% above expectations.
Across the Atlantic, mining helped push the FTSE higher by 0.2%. At the same time, the FTSE was pulled down in particular by airlines as proposals for higher fees at Heathrow Airport came to light. The pan-European Stoxx 600 rose 0.3% on the back of rising prices for construction product manufacturers and energy utilities.