Contact Energy raises prices and directors' fees; highly skilled workers join dole queue; middle-income families head to food banks; banks charge up to $20,000 to discharge mortgages early; Kiwi-trained teachers heading to Middle East; and more
- Contact Energy is raising prices 10 percent at the same time as the company is raising the directors' fees pool by $1.5 million. The Herald reports that thousands of customers will soon receive letters announcing the price rise. Many shareholders oppose raising directors' fees but the company's Australian majority owners are in favour. Energy Minister David Parker is unimpressed. "The Government has already said it is concerned about the recent hike in Contact's electricity prices, and we remain concerned about whether the electricity market is operating effectively to constrain excessive prices and excessive cost structures."
- The economic slowdown is pushing highly skilled workers into the unemployment office, reports the Dominion Post. New figures from Statistics New Zealand show there has been a 25 percent increase in unemployment in Wellington in the last quarter. An unusually high proportion of the newly unemployed are executives, with restructuring, redundancies and downsizing in many organisations blamed for the trend.
- In further grim economic news, more middle-income families in the Auckland region are turning to food banks for help. The 10 Auckland and Northland food banks run by the Salvation Army have seen a 20 percent increase in demand in the past five months. Salvation Army spokesman Gerry Walker said, "We are seeing more working families using our services, not just for food, but for budgeting advice as well. But the issue is not one of budgeting, it is that these people lack the money to cover the basic cost of living."
- The office of the Banking Ombudsman is investigating the fees banks are charging to customers wishing to pay off fixed-rate mortgages early. The Press reports that one bank charged a $20,000 break fee on a loan of $560,000. Deputy banking ombudsman Susan Taylor said there had been a cluster of complaints about break fees in the last few months.
- The Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) claims a New Zealand company has been "teacher trafficking" since 1996, sending Kiwi-trained teachers to lucrative jobs in the Middle East. The PPTA is concerned at the number of mid-career teachers who are taking up jobs in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, reports the Press. But Multi Serve Education Trust chief executive John Langley said the teachers were seeking opportunities that did not exist in New Zealand and wanted to "get some excitement back in their lives".
- A black market for plastic rubbish bags has sprung up in Wellington following the theft of $18,000 worth of the city council-approved bags from a Kilbirnie supermarket. The bags have been sold cheaply to unscrupulous retailers, according to the Dominion Post.