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  • 01 Oct 2021 11:15 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Apple+ has recently debuted Mr.Corman with studio A24 after spending many months filming the TV show right here in the Wellington region. With more than 200 jobs created and 200 vendors used during the project, it was a welcome Covid-19 relief for our screen sector.

    Having decided to film in the suburban LA sprawl of the San Fernando Valley, Covid-19 shut down production shortly after filming began. The production relocated to New Zealand, based at Avalon Studios, with Wellington standing in for suburban Los Angeles and a predominantly New Zealand crew on board,headed by producer Pamela Harvey-White.

    Episode nine is entirely shot in Petone, mainly on Victoria Street.

  • 01 Oct 2021 10:50 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Global convenience and fuel giant Circle K has plans underway to launch a multi-million dollar franchising drive in New Zealand.

    The American-based retailer is one of the world's largest convenience store brands with more than 14,000 locations.

    Circle K, under its local licence Pamma Retail Group (PRG), is planning to open more than 100 New Zealand outlets, and hopes to see 2 per cent of the country's 5000 convenience stores converted to the Circle K brand and retail fit-out.

    Circle K is also plans to open some of the first purpose-built electric vehicle (EV) charging and petrol stations at sites around the country in an attempt to transform the local fuel market.

    Iqubal Basra, Circle K NZ's site development director, said achieving their rapid outlet growth target will mean the brand will become one of New Zealand's largest grocery convenience and food service retail chains.

    "What New Zealanders can expect to find in one of our stores is a significantly different retail experience from the traditional corner dairy and service station. The larger stores are a hybrid of a convenience store and prepared food outlet."

    Basra said they are looking for 200m2 sites that can open 24 hours a day but can also work with sites with smaller footprints or operate on reduced hours in rural or lower traffic areas.

    "They [the stores] will carry over 2000 different SKUs - a mix of our Circle K private label brand, self-serve frozen and chilled beverages, world famous hot dogs and food to go, with menu items such as fish and chips as well as a wide array of well known international foods," Basra said.

    "In addition, customers will also be able to purchase self-serve coffee for $1 - a move that is set to have an impact on this part of the industry as well."

    Basra said Circle K NZ is now actively searching for service station sites and operators throughout New Zealand.

    "The growth in EVs is set to impact the way fuel outlets are designed, and to address that change, Circle K NZ is planning to transform the New Zealand retail fuel market - opening some of the first purpose-built EV charging and petrol stations at sites around the country as the industry closely watches how the EV trend will reinvent the traditional petrol station," he said.

    "... [the sites] will be designed specifically to accommodate the local growth in the country's EV fleet."

    Circle K first entered the New Zealand market in 2018, and currently has four convenience stores, all in Auckland.


  • 30 Sep 2021 8:02 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Vector Group today announced a strategic collaboration with X, the moonshot factory (formerly Google [x]), which will include virtualising New Zealand’s largest electricity network, run by Vector in Auckland.

    Vector and X are working together on network virtualisation and simulation technology as part of their shared vision to reimagine the design, management, and operation of electricity networks; get ahead of increasing demands for clean energy; and transform the network in order to support decarbonisation.

    As customers increasingly adopt electric vehicles and solar panels, these tools mean transmission and distribution operators can simulate the likely impact and proactively invest and manage their networks to maintain a reliable and affordable energy supply.

    As Vector Group Chief Executive Officer Simon Mackenzie explains: “Electricity networks globally are critical infrastructure that can enable the urgent decarbonisation of transport and industry. We must ensure an affordable transition through accelerating the deployment of new technologies, including digital platforms.

    “The old models for designing and managing energy networks simply aren’t viable anymore to manage the complexities of future energy requirements, climate change and costs. We first presented our strategy to X in 2019, found significant alignment, and now we have a team of experts from both companies working together.”

    It has become an increasingly challenging problem for electricity networks to integrate renewable generation, storage, electric vehicles, and other technologies, while also balancing affordability and reliability needs.

    As Audrey Zibelman, Vice President and General Manager for X’s moonshot for the electric grid explains: “As consumers around the world adopt more renewables and shift to electric vehicles, the pressure is on for networks to rapidly evolve. Our collaboration with Vector is rooted in our shared understanding that the whole industry has to transform. We are excited to partner with an industry leader like Vector as we collaborate on the development of solutions by combining our respective areas of expertise.”

    X’s electric grid moonshot, which Zibelman announced at the White House Leaders Summit on Climate in April 2021, is developing grid virtualisation tools to support an efficient and rapid path to the global decarbonisation of the power system.

    Vector will deploy the solutions initially in the Auckland region, but also plans to make them available more broadly, given the urgent global need to decarbonise electricity networks.

    Says Vector's Chief Digital Officer Shailesh Manga: “As an industry innovator, we're proud to be part of a diverse set of experts to solve a meaningful global challenge. We want to ensure that Vector, and other transmission and distribution companies, have the tools to dynamically manage their systems, ensuring we’re never in the way of customers wanting to adopt renewable energy solutions and electric vehicles.”

  • 29 Sep 2021 9:24 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Not many people thought small-town Ōpōtiki could pull off New Zealand's first open ocean mussel farm and find global buyers for its product.

    But Open Ocean Whakatōhea Mussel Ōpōtiki has done it in just seven years and secured a possible $400 million per-year overseas opportunity.

    The company will start exporting its popular greenshell mussels (Whakatōhea kutai), already sold in Pakn'Save and New World shops throughout the country, to the USA, from its new $35 million state-of-the-art mussel processing factory in Ōpōtiki.

    It will produce 45 to 50 tonnes a day of kūtai (mussels) for national and international distribution.

    When Te Ao Mārama asked Whakatōhea Māori Trust board member Te Kahautu Maxwell for his thoughts on the new exporting venture he said, "I am happy we have made our forefathers 'dream a reality to farm the oceans.

    "I am happy that we are now exporting to America".

    Jobs for whānau

    Open Ocean - Whakatōhea Mussels Ōpōtiki chief executive Peter Vitasovich puts the overseas partnership down to Aotearoa having the best farming practices in the world.

    He says the New Zealand native species just tastes good.

    The company is now about to send 12.2m containers stuffed with about sixteen tonnes of frozen half-shell mussel in them that will go from the Whakatōhea moana to American plates.

    So far, there are close to 90 staff at the mussel company and by 2025 there will be almost 280 jobs available, ranging range from production to managerial positions, with the help of a training scheme the company has to upskill and train whānau into different jobs throughout the company.

    Wharengaro Tapara-Kurei of Whakatōhea and Amelia Austin of Ngāti Tuwharetoa both work at the factory and are happy to be employed and be able to take care of the whānau.

    "We have had people move back home because of the employment opportunities," Austin said.

    And Tapara-Kurei wanted to use this media opportunity to expose the great job opportunities for her whānau.

    "The most important thing is we can support our families. We can come out of our homes and start looking for employment. That is us, whānau, let's do this."

    Open Ocean Whakatōhea Mussel Ōpōtiki will send its first container on October 14.


  • 26 Sep 2021 12:35 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Rocket Lab has secured US$24.35 million ($34m) from the US Air Force's new Space Force division to develop the upper stage of its Neutron rocket, according to multiple US news reports.

    The Kiwi-American company could not be immediately reached for comment, and at press time had not released any statement.

    The crew-capable Neutron, which will be able to lift an 8-tonne payload into orbit, is due to launch in 2024.

    The $24.35m funding revealed overnight is part of a wider US$87.5m round to support new technology development programmes by private space-launch operators.

    Space Force also awarded US$24.35m to the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin toward development of its planned New Glenn heavy-lifting rocket.

    The same amount went to Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance toward its pending Vulcan Centaur heavy-lifting rocket.

    And the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX received US$14.47m toward the development of its planned "super-heavy" lifting Starship rocket.

    According to Space News, the grants were awarded following a request-for-proposal process initiated by Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, which has since been renamed Space Systems Command in May.

    The tender was managed by the US Air Force's Space Enterprise Consortium, which Space News says "was created by the Air Force in 2017 to attract startups and commercial companies from the space industry to bid on military projects".

    The US$87.5m funding round was designed to help build capabilities that will allow the recipients to bid for national security launch service contracts.

    The funds will be allocated in 2022, subject to Congressional approval for Rocket Lab, Blue Origin and UAL (SpaceX gained approval through an earlier process).

    Long ties, close ties

    Rocket Lab, which won a key R&D contract with US Department of Defense agency Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) at a key time in its young life, has long had close ties to the US military which, along with Nasa, has been one of its two biggest customers.


  • 24 Sep 2021 2:56 PM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Parrot Analytics’ global audience demand and brand affinity datasets will eliminate irrelevant or unsuitable product placements and increase brand ROI for Ryff customers

    LOS ANGELES, Calif., 20th September 2021 – Ryff’s digital brand integration platform will now offer brands the ability to create immediate and impactful branding moments on TV and streaming media, thanks to a new partnership with Parrot Analytics. For example, changing weather, politics, sports scores and news can easily be responded to in real time, for the first time. This will enable brands to target product integrations at scale for every demographic.

    Until now, ensuring appropriate cultural and contextual relevance for advertisers has been almost impossible and large-scale campaigns have struggled to cater for small-scale targeted audiences. By taking advantage of Parrot Analytics’ insights into worldwide audience demand for entertainment content, Ryff is now able to deliver product placement inventory for an individual piece of content in any region and country around the world.

    In addition, by leveraging Parrot Analytics’ global audience demand, brand and product affinity datasets, Ryff will realize the benefits of an automated and scalable dynamic pricing system. Revenue will be maximized through the optimal combination of advertiser and content, powered by market-specific audience demand, a dynamic pricing engine as well as Parrot Analytics’ supply-side products.

    Ryff CEO Roy Taylor remarked: ‘We have created a new disruptive approach to reach consumers the world over in a more dynamic and immediate way. As the entertainment landscape evolves, the new digital product placement industry must evolve too.

    By combining our technology with Parrot Analytics’ global audience demand and supply datasets, we are able to supercharge the global targeting of content that will unlock value for our customers - to continue to create the future of advertising.”

    Most minutes watched today are on ad-free platforms where traditional advertising no longer delivers the reach, awareness or sales it once did. Ryff has rewritten the rules of product placement with proprietary GPU-based AI technology, allowing brands to capitalize on the shift in audience preferences by placing products directly into fully mastered and edited content.

    Wared Seger, CEO Parrot Analytics added: “Global audience demand and supply data is key to maximizing the value of product placement on a market-specific basis and we are thrilled to be working with Ryff on this transformative opportunity. We’re excited to help the company elevate the value of its product to both advertisers and content owners. We look forward to working together to give advertisers access to contextually accurate product placement for shows with proven demand and drive increased monetization of this rapidly growing market category.”

    About Ryff

    Ryff is part of a new breed of Hollywood player, rewriting the rules of product placement using proprietary AI technology. The company virtually insert products into fully mastered and edited content including library content on OTT. Ryff is opening up new inventory so brands can reach previously unreachable audiences and build cultural relevance.

    © Scoop Media

  • 24 Sep 2021 9:20 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Statement of Tom Udall Ambassador-Designate to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa Senate Committee on Foreign Relations  
    September 22, 2021

    Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Risch, and members of the committee. It is an honor and a pleasure to meet with all of you again.  As a former member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have great respect for the important work you are doing to consider the diplomatic nominations before you.

    Today, I have exchanged my seat on the dais to sit as President Biden’s nominee to serve as the United States Ambassador to New Zealand and to the Independent State of Samoa.  After a career of public service in the state of New Mexico, including two terms as New Mexico’s Attorney General, five terms as United States Representative, and two terms as United States Senator, I am grateful for the trust the President and Secretary Blinken have in me to represent the United States overseas.

    The advice and consent role of the United States Senate is one of the most important roles granted to Congress by the Constitution – and I am honored by this committee’s consideration of my nomination.

    Chairman Menendez, with your permission, I would like to take a moment to introduce my wife Jill Cooper.  She has been my partner and chief advisor during my 30 years of public service.  She is an accomplished lawyer in her own right, and a strong advocate for the arts, having served as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.  While they are not here with me today in these chambers, I’d also like to recognize my daughter Amanda and son-in-law Judge Jim Noel.

    In January I marked the conclusion of serving New Mexico in the U.S. Senate. New Mexico is a mountainous and rural state strong in its multiculturalism – including a vibrant indigenous culture.  New Mexico is also rich in natural resources, and growing tech, space, and cinematic sectors, complete with a vital national security sector.   In all these respects, New Mexico is very much like New Zealand.   

    Both are aiming for the stars.  Both continue to invest in new space sectors advancing science, human progress and cinematic storytelling set in their unique geographies.  

    While there are numerous positive comparisons, it is no secret that New Zealand and Samoa, like New Mexico, face enormous threats from climate change.
    As a Senator I made protection of the environment a priority, from championing the Thirty-by-Thirty proposal to conserve 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030, to passing the landmark bipartisan Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act. The President has made it clear “that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.”  As Ambassador, I look forward to working with New Zealand, a country that shares my passion for the protection of our natural environment.  

    I also look forward to maintaining the strong political, military, and intelligence relationship we share with New Zealand: from World War II when tens of thousands of Americans were stationed in New Zealand, through the post-war Five Eyes intelligence alliance formed by the United States, Great Britain, Canada,  Australia, and New Zealand; and from support for our forces in Afghanistan in 2001 as well as other peace-keeping missions, to formalizing our strengthened defense cooperation in the 2012 Washington Declaration.  

    Just last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern affirmed that recent developments in the Indo-Pacific do not change the security and intelligence ties of New Zealand to the Five Eyes alliance.

    Members of this committee have been clear that the United States cannot challenge all the threats in the region alone.  We need allies like New Zealand and we need to help them thrive despite those regional challenges.  

    We should not allow outside influences to drive a wedge in that relationship.  As 
    Ambassador, I will work to protect and grow the mutual goodwill between our nations.  

    Countering and competing with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) requires strong partnerships with countries throughout the region.  Beijing continues to pressure countries that stand up to its human rights violations, to threaten freedom of navigation, and to violate international rules and norms.

    To ensure stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region as a whole, it is important to note that our relations do not begin and end with security.  As an island nation, New Zealand is not unique in its dependence on international trade. 

    It is also one of many countries that has felt the pressure of Beijing’s attempts to coerce through punitive trade decisions.  

    The United States is one of New Zealand’s top trading partners.  And I know from experience that during Senate visits overseas many of us looked for ways to increase trade ties between many nations and our respective states.  If confirmed,
    I will work to ensure that our trade relations continue to grow and that you or the companies you represent are welcome in New Zealand.

    As Pacific nations with advanced economies, the United States and New Zealand have both an opportunity and responsibility to support the island nations in the
    Pacific.  All of them are increasingly threatened by the immediate threat of COVID-19, but also the growing influence of the PRC, and the threats from climate change.  The Independent State of Samoa, a small island country rich in Polynesian culture is not immune to these challenges.  We need to continue to reinforce Samoa’s independence with our Peace Corps and Fulbright initiatives.

    Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Risch, and members of the committee, it was one of my great honors to serve on this committee and to serve the nation and the people of New Mexico.  After a career in public service, I am honored by the President’s nomination to represent the United States in New Zealand and Samoa.  

    Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I am happy to answer any of your questions during this hearing or for the record.

  • 23 Sep 2021 11:25 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    Amazon plans to spend $7.5 billion building a cluster of data centres in Auckland, due to open in 2024.

    The tech giant says the Amazon Web Services build will create 1000 jobs, and add $10.8 billion to New Zealand's GDP.

    AWS New Zealand head, Tim Dacombe-Bird told the Herald that the $7.5 billion was calculated over 15 years, and included the cost of building at least three data centre zones and stocking them with hardware, plus operating costs including utilities and salaries.

    Overseas Investment Office is required.

    Amazon says it's in discussions with the OIO, but the Auckland build has already received approving noises from higher up the political food chain.

    "Amazon is the second major global tech provider to invest heavily in establishing a Cloud Region in New Zealand [after Microsoft], bringing with it new jobs, exciting new opportunities for the digital sector, and further acceleration to our economic recovery from Covid-19," Digital Economy Ministery David Clark said this morning.

    "This investment, estimated to be around $7.5band demonstrates the high level of confidence the international business community has in backing New Zealand's economy."

    Clark added, "This will create job opportunities for industries like our construction sector, and bring long term benefits as we see the ICT sector and local innovators significantly grow into the future."

    "Cloud-based technologies are generally accepted now as being the way to work and innovate digitally; an example of this is the NZ Covid Tracer app."

    With its cloud storage and on-demand computing services, AWS is one of the vendors involved with both the NZ Covid Tracer app and the $38m drive to create a new online vaccination management system.

    Local data centres will make both easier in terms of potential data sovereignty issues.

    "Protecting Kiwis' data and privacy is critically important to the Government. Onshore Cloud facilities give us stronger control of New Zealand's data because it is held here, where our laws and protections apply," Clark said.

    AWS currently serves customers from its data centres on Australia's east coast. Bird, said the local server farms would serve local customers like TVNZ , Vector and Education Perfect, "even faster" and address concerns for those with data sovereignty issues who needed data stored locally.

    AWS has doubled its NZ staff to 100 over the past year, and in May opened a larger office in Auckland in the new PwC Tower at Commercial Bay.

    AWS is separate to Amazon's online shopping operation, which has built warehouses across the Tasman and recently opened to Kiwi shoppers. AWS' expansion into NZ is unrelated to any e-tail developments that may or may not happen here.

    AWS is the largest of the big three in cloud computing services backed by a series of massive data centres. The Big Three also includes Microsoft and Google.

    All three were already expanding their cloud computing arms quickly, but the pandemic surge in working from home has turbocharged growth.


  • 23 Sep 2021 11:05 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    As a company, we’re on a mission to raise the next generation of mountain bikers.

    And although we’re based in beautiful New Zealand, and love it – most of the mountain bike families we want to help are off-shore. In fact, only 5% of our customers are down under, which means that achieving our mission means getting serious about the bigger markets.

    Like the US of A.

    And recently, we’ve taken another step towards growing our USA customer base, thanks to New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.

    If you’ve never heard of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE), they’re the New Zealand government's international business development agency, and they focus on helping kiwi export businesses grow bigger, better and faster. 

    Anyway, we’ve been working with NZTE for a while now, and they’ve helped us with many of the challenges we face as a fast growing export business. Things like strategy, counterfeits, logistics, recruitment, planning. The works. They have been epic!

    And now, we’re pleased to announce their co-investment into our US market growth, thanks to their Investment Growth Fund (IGF) programme. 

    The IGF with NZTE (enough acronyms yet?) provides us with up to $600k of co-investment over the next 3 years, all targeted at growing our business in North America. 

    Receiving the IGF is a big milestone for us, but it hasn’t been without hard work. It’s been a 6 month process led by our co-founder Tom and our financial controller Celia, who have worked to prove the direct economic impact on New Zealand as a result of growing our business off-shore.

    But now, with the IGF under our belt, we can put our foot firmly down on our USA growth plans.

    We’ve already hired Lauren DiMartino, our US market lead. And she’s already busy doing things that we simply couldn’t do from New Zealand right now, like attending bike specific trade-shows like CABDA Chicago, or building deeper relationships with our distributor and network of retailers, including the likes of REI Co-Op. 

    A massive thanks to Celia from our team, and Dave Cotter from NZTE who has supported us through the process of successfully completing our IGF submission. And a special thanks to our distributors, retailers, customers and team for their support to date.

  • 23 Sep 2021 10:18 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

    The US has found a new food traceability champion – in New Zealand. Rfider is a winner in the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) New Era of Smarter Food Safety Low or No Cost Food Traceability Challenge”.

    It is the only company outside of North America to get the FDA accolade, and Rfider will now be promoted widely by the FDA as part of its “New Era Smarter Food Safety” campaign.

    Chief executive John Pennington says the validation of Rfider as globally capable comes at a time when countries like the United States are encouraging firms to voluntarily adopt tracing technologies in all sectors producing human and animal foods.

    The FDA says about 48 million people in the US (1 in 6) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Now it is taking a new approach(link is external) to food safety, leveraging technology and other tools and approaches to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. The goal is to “bend the curve of foodborne illness in the United States by reducing the number of illnesses”.

    Rfider has developed a next generation digital food traceability platform. “Anyone in the supply chain network can be up and running in minutes, collecting critical event data in a highly efficient way, without the need for costly integration or app development – we’ve taken care of that,” Pennington says.

    “Frontline staff at every point in a food’s supply chain, from growers through to logistics providers and distributors can now scan products to access mobile first tools which simply traceability and provenance information capture. Consumers can also scan the same codes to get real-time updates on an item’s safety, allowing them to make more informed purchase and usage decision.

    “Take our coffee customers, for example. We not only help them trace every lot of beans from harvest to consumer, but we also empower a significant number of process and supply chain efficiencies along the way. Transparency is becoming a major untapped source of value, which could be turned into a competitive advantage for brands that are built on integrity and sustainable practices.”

    The FDA challenge comes off the back of its “New Era of Food Safety Blueprint(link is external)”, which has been designed to enhance traceability, improve predictive analytics, respond more rapidly to outbreaks, address new business models, reduce contamination of food, and foster the development of stronger food safety cultures.


    For more information in Rfider’s tools go to: is external)

    For more information about the FDA Traceability Challenge go to: is external)