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TVNZ/RNZ merger to be scrapped

Feb 08, 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed the TVNZ/RNZ merger will be scrapped and the income insurance scheme and hate speech legislation at least delayed.

RNZ and NZ On Air will receive a funding boost to strengthen its public media role, the biofuels mandate will be halted, while potential changes to the Three Waters project will be considered by Cabinet soon.

He has also announced a new $1.50 minimum wage increase to $22 an hour, which would apply from 1 April.

Hipkins made the announcement after today's Cabinet meeting, his first announcement of planned cuts to the government's work programme with the aim of refocusing on cost-of-living pressures.

"I said the government is doing too much too fast, and that we need to focus on the cost of living. Today we deliver on that commitment," he said.

"Work on the TVNZ-RNZ public media entity will stop entirely. Support for public media needs to be at a lower cost and without such significant structural change."

He said the social insurance scheme was "off the table" and would not proceed until New Zealand saw a "significant improvement in economic conditions".

"Work will continue to explore ways to best address these inequities in the long term when the economy is better placed to make change. But it is off the table for now."

The government had already severely reduced its plans to change hate speech laws, with Justice Minister Kiri Allan last year announcing it would be restricted only to a change around incitement against religious groups - but confirmed that would also be postponed.

Other aspects of hate speech law had already been referred to the Law Commission, and Hipkins said the amendment bill currently before Parliament would also be withdrawn and considered alongside.

"This will allow the Law Commission the opportunity to consider a difficult and highly contested area of law in totality," he said.

On Three Waters, he said the need for reform was "unquestionable", with the recent flooding in Auckland demonstrating the limits of the infrastructure, but would need to be carefully considered whether the changes - some proposed, others already set down in law - would be fit for purpose.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins spoke to media after meeting with his re-organised Cabinet for the first time.

When he was confirmed as the new Labour leader and prime minister after Jacinda Ardern's resignation in January, he said he would be reining in programmes and policies that "aren't essential right now" to focus on immediate priorities like the cost of living.

He has already confirmed the continuation of reductions on fuel tax, road user charges and public transport fares.

Hipkins has largely refused to be drawn into ruling in or out policies so far - but said he would not be ditching Three Waters entirely.

Cabinet meetings are often held on Mondays, but was delayed this week because of Waitangi Day and Hipkins' visit to Australia.

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