22 Dec 2015

The most-read stories of 2015

9:56 am on 22 December 2015

From natural disasters to tragedy, politics, religion and immigration - we look back at RNZ's most-read news stories of 2015.

RNZ's news team explored, investigated and delved into topics across the spectrum this year - including the bizarre, sad and controversial.

Hundreds of thousands of people read our news stories online, with readership figures suggesting RNZ's audience is particularly interested in - among many other topics - politics, immigration and adverse weather events.

We've compiled a list of some of our most-read stories this year.

Sara Jawadi

Auckland woman Sara Jawadi called for interest-free loan options for Muslims. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Kiwi Muslims want to escape rent cycle

Auckland woman Sara Jawadi's campaign for banks to give her and other Muslims an interest-free loan to purchase their first home certainly caught readers' attention. With more than 200,000 individual readers, it was RNZ's most-read news story of the year.

The story explained the potential plight of thousands of Kiwi Muslims facing a choice between their religion and economic stability, as interest is forbidden in Islam.

Ms Jawadi had contacted several banks to work out a plan, and eventually met with ANZ but was told there was no product that could be offered to people in her situation. Other banks didn't respond.

PM announces immigration rule change

Prime Minister John Key's announcement he would be changing immigration rules to attract skilled migrants and entrepreneurs to the regions was RNZ's second most-read story.

Some immigrants have to meet a certain number of points before their residency is approved. The changes boosted entrepreneurs' bonus points from 20 to 40, while for skilled immigrants it went up from 10 to 30 if they set up a business or accepted a job offer outside Auckland.

The prime minister explained the rule changes at the National Party's conference in July.

Immigration appeared to be a hot topic for RNZ readers, with a story on a Filipino migrant worker scam also among the most-read 25 stories of the year.

Kanoa Lloyd

Kanoa Lloyd Photo: SUPPLED

3 News defends use of Te Reo

3 News presenter Kanoa Lloyd had been on the job for five months when she took to Twitter to talk about resistance to her use of Te Reo, saying it was a weird part of her job to get weekly complaints about her use of Māori words in the weather report.

"It's been a new thing to me, people writing to me to request I don't refer to New Zealand as Aotearoa, and to be honest I was a bit surprised by it," she said at the time.

"I thought I had a bit of a thick skin but I've never really encountered people who take offence to Māori being used," she said.

RNZ's story - which was our third most-read for the year - reported how the broadcaster was supportive of keeping Te Reo alive.

Flagged flags - what could have been

Coming in at number four was an opinion piece by RNZ resident illustrator and comic artist Toby Morris.

"Well, I sure hope you like ferns," Mr Morris wrote in the wake of the announcement of the final four flag options, which he labelled "three lumpy ferns and a token koru".

His piece looked at the flag options that didn't make it, including Red Peak, which was later included as a fifth option. The flag referendum was another hot topic among readers, with a story on Red Peak possibly making the final cut, and flag fallacies also included in the 25 most-read stories of the year.

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Some of the flagged flags. Red Peak (top centre) was added to the final cut. Photo: SUPPLIED

Close watch on Cyclone Pam

New Zealand and Pacific Island nations were on alert when Cyclone Pam approached in March. New Zealand escaped the cyclone's wrath, but some areas in Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Kiribati were devastated.

Stories on cyclone alerts for New Zealand and Samoa and the announcement of a state of emergency in Tuvalu were among the top 25 most-read.

US warns citizens not to attend Akl TPP rally

The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) seemed to divide public opinion, spark intense opposition - and intrigue RNZ readers. Our story on the United States Consulate warning US citizens about "the risk" of attending a large anti-TPP deal rally in Auckland was our sixth most-read piece online.

Coming in at number 10 was another TPP story, this time on Prime Minister John Key admitting the cost of medicine would rise under the trade agreement.

Another TPP-related story, this time on Wikileaks documents showing New Zealand government was pushing for deregulation in trade negotiations, was our 13th most-read story.

The Auckland crowd poised to march in opposition to the TPP.

Photo: RNZ

Payouts for underpaid beneficiaries

A mistake by Work and Income that resulted in benefits being paid a day late for almost 20 years hit the news in November, and was RNZ's seventh most-read news item online. Beneficiaries started claiming back the extra day's pay, while Parliament scrambled to enact legislation cutting off the payments.

NZ student mistaken for terrorist

A Sikh student having a coffee at an Auckland cafe with his professor was mistaken for a terrorist in November, with one person taking it upon themselves to call 111 to alert police. Police approached Jaspreet Singh to investigate whether he was carrying a bomb. It turned out it was just his headphones.

A cafe worker who overheard a woman calling the police said it was no more than racism.

"They had no reason to call. She just said 'oh, he has a turban'... So soon after the [Paris] terrorist attacks and everything, people are being crazy."

The story comes in at number eight on our list. In wake of the incident, Indian Sikh MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi called for caution before people jumped to conclusions and raised false alarms.

Jaspreet Singh's earphones were mistaken for bomb wires

Jaspreet Singh's headphone wires were mistaken for bomb wires. Photo: RNZ/Mohamed Hassan

Weather disruption - what you need to know

This fast-moving weather story kept readers informed about evacuations on the Kapiti Coast, surface flooding, mud slips and torrential rain. In our ninth most-read story, it was all happening in the Wellington region.

Other stories in the most-read 25

We've already mentioned our 10th most-read story and our 11th, but want to take a moment to include our 12th most-read news item online - that of John Campbell coming home to RNZ.

Checkpoint with John Campbell is starting to take shape. It will start on 18 January and will be broadcast on radio and video-streamed live on the RNZ site.

Campbell has already created some stellar stories for RNZ since he joined the team, including an investigation into how Apple New Zealand had revenue of $568 million and paid tax of only $6.8 million. He also travelled to Christmas Island - home of one of Australia's detention centres - to unlock some its secrets.

John Campbell sitting at a temporary cardboard desk in the Checkpoint studio at Radio New Zealand.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Christmas Island, as well as other detention centres across the Tasman and, more prominently, Australia's tough new rules on immigration - which have resulted in hundreds of New Zealanders detained, and several deported - is undoubtedly one of the stories of the year.

A piece on two young children with New Zealand mothers who were detained and facing deportation because they weren't New Zealand citizens and a story about a Kiwi man in detention while his partner died alone were also among the 25 most-read stories.

Earlier this month, former New Zealand journalist Maihi Nikora spoke from his hospital bed about his four missing grandchildren. They had been missing for six weeks after their father picked them up from day care and school. The story touched many of our readers, who would have been relieved when they were returned safely to their mother a week later.

Other stories making up the top 25 included:

As our top 25 most-read stories reveal, it has been an interesting year for New Zealand news. No one knows what is around the corner - what intriguing, fascinating and surprising things will happen next. Another year passes us by and another starts. Who knows what it will bring?