Nau mai haere mai, welcome to this week’s newsletter.

It’s news to nobody that New Zealand is facing a severe housing shortage. So, many would have welcomed the Associate Housing Minister’s assertion last week that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to finding ways to make rental accommodation more affordable.

Her inclusion of rent controls among those various options, however, didn’t stay on the table long. Firmly dismissed by the Prime Minister yesterday – and, to be fair, floated fairly tentatively by the minister in the first place – it was one of the more short-lived policy proposals of our time.

Disappointing for desperate renters maybe, but as New Zealand economist James Graham (now teaching at the University of Sydney) argues here, not unexpected when you weigh the evidence for rent controls against the expectations.

While those lucky enough to secure a rent-controlled home no doubt benefit from such policies, Graham writes, the laws of unintended economic consequences mean many more don’t. Alas, there is no quick or partial fix for a housing crisis decades in the making.

There’s plenty more to read here and on our homepage – including the University of Waikato’s Holly Thorpe on how snowboarding came in from the cold and the rise of young stars like Olympic gold medallist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott. Many thanks for your ongoing support and interest. Take care and all the best, mā te wā.

Finlay Macdonald

New Zealand Senior Editor & NZ Editor: Politics, Business + Arts


Why the NZ government is right to rule out rent controls as a housing crisis solution

James Graham, University of Sydney

While the idea of rent controls can seem attractive at first glance, the evidence suggests the government is right to be sceptical of their ability to help ease the housing crisis.


Critically understaffed and with Omicron looming, why isn’t NZ employing more of its foreign-trained doctors?

Johanna Thomas-Maude, Massey University; Sharon McLennan, Massey University

The pathway for foreign doctors to practise in New Zealand is neither easy nor very fair, meaning an over-stretched health system is missing out on valuable expertise.


Rebuilding post-eruption Tonga: 4 key lessons from Fiji after the devastation of Cyclone Winston

Suzanne Wilkinson, Massey University; Mohamed Elkharboutly, Massey University; Regan Potangaroa, Massey University

As Fiji did after 2016’s catastrophic cyclone, Tonga will likely face challenges with building materials and costs, and low levels of technical expertise. But these can be overcome.

Lynn Grieveson /Newsroom via Getty Images

New Zealand’s border quarantine has intercepted thousands of COVID cases, but is it time to retire the flawed system?

Michael Plank, University of Canterbury; Audrey Lustig, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research; Giorgia Vattiato, University of Canterbury; Shaun Hendy, University of Auckland

New Zealand’s system of managed quarantine at the border may soon be less important, but we could well need to stand it up again quickly if a new COVID-19 variant emerges.


How snowboarding became a marquee event at the Winter Olympics – but lost some of its cool factor in the process

Holly Thorpe, University of Waikato; Belinda Wheaton, University of Waikato

The mainstream embrace of snowboarding for its youthful audience and sponsorship riches also dented its once-alternative image – but a new generation of stars could change all that.

From our international editions

Mountain glaciers may hold less ice than previously thought – here’s what that means for 2 billion downstream water users and sea level rise

Mathieu Morlighem, Dartmouth College

Glaciers in North America, Europe and the Andes, in particular, have significantly less ice than people realized.

What’s the difference in protection against Omicron between 2 doses and 3 doses of vaccine?

Nathan Bartlett, University of Newcastle

Emerging evidence suggests the highly infectious Omicron variant has the ability to escape the protection two vaccine doses offer.

How centuries-old bones from Australia’s historic shipwrecks can help us solve crimes

Paola Magni, Murdoch University; Edda Guareschi, Murdoch University

We’re searching for ways to use recovered bones and teeth to better understand time spent in the sea, and the overall journey of the mortal remains.

Trying to cool the Earth by dimming sunlight could be worse than global warming

Luke Kemp, University of Cambridge; Aaron Tang, Australian National University

The risks of using aerosols to reflect sunlight and cool the planet include creating extreme weather and worsening catastrophes.

Cookies: I looked at 50 well-known websites and most are gathering our data illegally

Asress Adimi Gikay, Brunel University London

The laws about cookies are fairly clear in EU and UK, but many big companies are breaking them anyway.

Many women want to pursue higher education, but structural barriers remain. Our research offers solutions

Fitri Hariana Oktaviani, Universitas Brawijaya; Kanti Pertiwi, Universitas Indonesia; Nayunda Andhika Sari

Many Indonesian women want to pursue higher education, but structural barriers remain.

Why church conflict in Ukraine reflects historic Russian-Ukrainian tensions

J. Eugene Clay, Arizona State University

The current split in Ukrainian Orthodoxy reflects a fundamental question: Are Ukrainians and Russians one people or two separate nations?

Wolves use trails created by humans for convenient hunting and easier access to prey

Melanie Dickie, University of Alberta

The hunting territories of wolves in the northern boreal forests are changing, in part due to the convenience of trails built for logging. This has placed caribou at an even greater risk.

Embrace your inner Winter Olympian: The art and science of enjoying exercise in the cold

Jane Thornton, Western University

Even with Winter Olympics for inspiration, outdoor activity in sub-zero weather can be hard to commit to. How can it be easier, safer and more fun to embrace your inner winter athlete?

Arms trade to Africa can be opaque: why this is dangerous

Nicolas Florquin, Graduate Institute – Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement (IHEID); Alaa Tartir, Graduate Institute – Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement (IHEID)

New illicit flows of arms and ammunition contribute to fueling conflict and instability in West Africa.