Live updates, August 3: ‘Say yes to the test’ – PM reiterates plea

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 3, bringing you the latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.00pm: The day in sum

National won’t have selected its new Auckland central candidate in time for the electorate’s first debate.

Hopeful candidate Nuwanthie Samarakone has responded after a fitness photo of her was shared between National Party members.

Four new local lifestyle magazines will launch in October, thanks to veteran editor Sido Kitchin.

There were another two cases of Covid-19, in managed isolation.

A major new report has outlined the biggest and most pressing risks New Zealand faces from climate change.

Auckland Airport’s international terminal will soon be split into two separate areas, ahead of a travel bubble with the Cook Islands opening.

6.30pm: Ardern responds to comedian’s joke about Christchurch terror attack

There’s been a storm of criticism for Australian comedian Isaac Butterfield’s joke targeted at the victims of the March 15 terror attacks, including from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“No one in New Zealand would ever want to see anyone taking lightly something that had such an extraordinary impact on our Muslim community,” she said according to the NZ Herald.

Ardern said she had not seen the video, but her general sentiment is that people should take that issue seriously.

5.20pm: National reveals transport plans for Kāpiti Coast and Horowhenua

National has announced its $330m transport plans to unlock the economic potential of Horowhenua and Kāpiti by electrifying and double-tracking the rail line between Wellington and Ōtaki, building a full expressway interchange at Peka Peka, and completing the Horowhenua Expressway from Ōtaki to Levin.

“These projects will generate hundreds of jobs for years to come, giving the local economy the boost it needs to bounce back from the economic crisis that has already seen 212,000 New Zealanders end up on unemployment benefits,” Collins said.

“These world-class road and rail links will free people from the tyranny of congestion and save lives while opening up even more job and growth opportunities by bringing the coast closer to Wellington.”

New spending for these projects will be funded from National’s record $31 billion transport infrastructure plan and forms part of National’s wider transport plan for the Wellington and Lower North Island regions. Further details of this plan will be released on Wednesday.

4.00pm: ‘If you are offered a test, please say yes’ – PM

Updated

Appearing at what might be her final press conference at the Beehive in her current term as prime minister, Jacinda Ardern stressed that the country’s Covid-19 response will continue after parliament is dissolved. Part of that response will now continue under new branding. “Be ready” the government will now tell New Zealanders in a renewed advertising campaign, asking people to stay home with a sniffle, use the Covid-19 tracing app and wash their hands.

“We cannot afford to be complacent, which is why we are dialling up the covid messaging in response to some behaviours we’ve seen in New Zealand,” said Ardern.

Ardern said cabinet will continue to meet fortnightly during the election campaign and the Ministry of Health will still provide daily updates on new Covid-19 case numbers.

On testing

Ardern reiterated the need for testing to continue, despite us being at alert level one. She said that while the border remains are “first line of defence” against the coronavirus, testing in the community is important to ensure Covid-19 has crept back in.

“If you are offered a test, please say yes,” she said.

Current Covid-19 testing numbers are about a third of what they were during alert level four, and half where the government would like them to be currently, the prime minister said. Around a quarter of people being offered Covid tests at their GP are declining them.

To lift those numbers, the frequency of testing staff at airports and managed isolation facilities would be increased, said Ardern.

Still no timeframe on international travel

Ardern still hasn’t put a timeframe on potential quarantine-free travel with destinations such as the Cook Islands. She said today that travel to Australia won’t happen for some time due to ballooning Covid case numbers in Victoria.

At her press conference this afternoon, Ardern said there was a lot of pressure on the Government to open a travel bubble – but she said it had to be done with caution to protect the Pacific Islands. That was a message reiterated by health minister Chris Hipkins who said he wanted to ensure the islands weren’t put at risk by travel from New Zealand.

Watch live

 

3.35pm: Auckland Airport prepares for safe international travel

Our main gateway to the rest of the world is preparing for a return to quarantine-free travel. Auckland Airport’s international terminal will soon be split into two separate areas, ahead of a planned air corridor with the Cook Islands opening.

Here’s what has been announced: 

  • International Terminal Zone A, safe travel area: The main pier to the south (gates 1-10) will be used by people travelling to and from countries with which New Zealand has formed a safe travel bubble. People who have been in New Zealand for more than 14 days and are departing on international flights will also use Terminal A. Retail and food and beverage options will be available
  • International Terminal Zone B, health management area: A second self-contained zone will be created out of Pier B (gates 15-18), the pier that points to the west. International Zone B will be used for travellers arriving from countries with which New Zealand does not have a safe travel bubble, and who are required to undergo either managed isolation or quarantine. It will also be used for passengers transiting through Auckland Airport en route elsewhere. With the limited number of transit passengers, food and beverage options will be made available via vending machines

More information is available here.

Jacinda Ardern today said a travel bubble with Australia won’t be happening for some time, as case numbers in Victoria continue to increase rapidly.

2.45pm: Shortlisted National candidate addresses ‘defamatory claims’

Following the news the National Party has delayed selecting its Auckland Central candidate by four days (10.30am update), one of the party’s shortlisted candidates for the seat claims to have been the target of a potential smear campaign.

A fitness photo showing Nuwanthie Samarakone in a leotard has been shared among National Party members. The photo had originally been shared on her Facebook page but was later removed.

As the Herald reports, Samarakone has rejected any suggestion the photo is anything more than just a fitness pic.

“I understand that some delegates have been sent a photo of me while I was competing in the fitness realm a few years ago, making utterly false and defamatory claims about what that photo represents,” she said in an email to Auckland Central delegates.

“I am always up front and transparent. Yes, I am committed to being fit and healthy, and am proud of the discipline I bring to my work and my personal life.

“I was a ballet dancer for 17 years under the Royal Academy of Dancing (UK) and retired hurt. Fitness, dance, hiking across our beautiful New Zealand walks and general well-being is a huge part of my life.

“I am disciplined, fit, resilient and train hard for the events in which I have participated. I proudly own all those experiences which have given me the strength, the resilience and the tough mindset to withstand the pressures of politics.

“However I have no tolerance for people who seek to bring down others through personal attacks, and who damage the integrity of the National Party in the process,” Samarakone said.

The race for the Auckland Central seat is set to be one of the most exciting this election, in part due to the resignation of National’s Nikki Kaye last month. Once the party selects its new candidate, they’ll be going up against Green MP Chloe Swarbrick and Labour’s Helen White.

1.15pm: New report details biggest climate change risks to NZ

A major new report has outlined the biggest and most pressing risks New Zealand faces from climate change, and they go well beyond the science of changing weather patterns.

Our reporter Alex Braae has written an explainer about the report. Here’s an extract from his piece:

One of the most dangerous and concerning aspects of climate change is the unpredictability of it all. Some activists even joke about using the term “global weirding”, rather than global warming, because of the way that immense greenhouse gas emissions are expected to break down normal weather patterns. Because of this, we can’t predict the future with perfect accuracy.

With all of this in mind, a new report has been released, with the aim of bringing together all of the potential risks and uncertainties that climate change will bring. It is called the National Climate Change Risk Assessment, and has been developed by the environment ministry.

Read Alex Braae’s full explainer here.

1.00pm: Another two cases of Covid-19, in managed isolation

Updated

There are another two cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has announced. All are in managed isolation.

The first new case is a male teenager who arrived in New Zealand from the USA on July 29. He tested positive for Covid-19 as part of routine testing around day 3 of his stay in managed isolation at the Sudima Hotel in Auckland, and has since been transferred to the quarantine facility.

The second case is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand from Switzerland via Amsterdam and Seoul on July 20. He has been staying at the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch and tested negative around day 3 of his stay, then tested positive at his second routine test. The ministry said this again emphasises the importance of testing returnees in managed isolation twice before they are able to leave the facility.

It takes the total number of active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities to 27.

Testing rates still ‘need to increase’ – Bloomfield

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said New Zealanders need to continue to be vigilant against the threat of Covid-19 and testing rates still need to increase across nationwide.

“We have seen how quickly infection can spread within communities, cities, and states overseas. There is still a pandemic raging around the globe and while our strict border controls form our first line of defence from the virus, we need to be sure it has not crept undetected into our communities,” he said.

Dr Bloomfield encouraged all people who are offered a test to have it done: “To ensure that if there is a case out there it is detected prior to it spreading, patients must present to a care provider, be offered a test, and accept that test.”

Pop-up testing is taking place in Queenstown tomorrow, after a traveller who later tested positive for Covid-19 spent time in the region. Testing will be available at the Pak n Save carpark in Frankton from 9:00am – 5:00pm tomorrow. It will be available for both those with Covid-19 symptoms and those without.

12.30pm: Ministry to update Covid case numbers

As usual, the Ministry of Health will be updating us on the latest Covid-19 case information – today via press release around 1pm.

It follows the prime minister saying a potential travel bubble with Australia has been delayed, as the state of Victoria continues to see hundreds of new cases each day. Victoria yesterday went into a New Zealand-style level four lockdown, along with implementing a nightly curfew. They have now recorded more than 11,500 cases in the state alone.

In New Zealand, we had five new cases of the coronavirus over the weekend, all in managed isolation.

Good news: Alice Snedden’s Bad News is back

Good news for people who love Bad News – Alice Snedden’s docu-comedy series tackling some of Aotearoa’s most contentious social and political issues is back for a second season. The eight new episodes cover topics ranging from inequality in healthcare to the tax-free status of churches and euthanasia.

Want to know more? Read about the second season here.

The first episode of season two will premiere on RNZ on Monday August 10 and on The Spinoff on Tuesday August 11.

11.45am: Veteran magazine editor launches four new titles

Four new local lifestyle magazine titles will be launched online and in print from October – with a veteran editor at the helm.

Sido Kitchin was the editorial director of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day and Lucky Break up until the closure of Bauer Media NZ back in April. Now, she’s launched School Road Publishing, a new media venture that will produce the set of new titles. The company will be wholly owned by advertising agency Stanley St.

Kitchin said she knows how much New Zealanders love magazines: “It’s a buoyant market for mags right now and in a Covid world, readers are relishing the comfort, connection and inspiration they bring,” she said. “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to create fresh, new titles that will enhance Kiwi lives with 100 percent locally-generated content and I look forward to announcing the brands and their editors shortly.”

Paul Dykzeul, former Bauer Australia-New Zealand CEO, will join the board and consult to the publishing business.

10.30am: National to miss first Auckland central debate

Problems in selecting a new candidate for the Auckland central electorate will mean National miss the first debate to be held this weekend at Freemans Bay School. The seat’s been vacated by Nikki Kaye, who announced she’d be stepping down from politics the day after being rolled as deputy leader.

As the Herald reports (behind the paywall), the decision to short-list just two candidates – Nuwanthie Samarakone and Emma Mellow – provoked angry complaints from MPs and party members and calls to redo the selection process.

Under the party rules, the pre-selection committee has the job of short-listing five candidates for delegates to elect a candidate. After selecting only two, the committee reconvened on Friday and short-listed three further candidates – Rob Thomas, Sarah Manley and Sang Cho.

The new selection date of August 10 is a day after the first Auckland Central candidates debate, which will feature high profile Green MP Chloe Swarbrick and Labour’s candidate, Helen White.

8.00am: Victoria’s Covid crisis throws spanner in travel bubble plans

Updated

The Victorian state of Australia has now hit more than 11,500 cases of Covid-19, with 671 new cases recorded yesterday. The state’s now gone into their equivalent of our level four lockdown – essentially totally shutdown – for at least the next six weeks.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ this morning it means plans for a trans-Tasman travel bubble are on hold for the time being. She said there’s no timeframe on quarantine-free travel with Australia resuming, but “obviously this is a major setback.”

“We have to be very assured that any quarantine-free travel doesn’t come at a risk or a cost to be us… so obviously this is going to be some time away now.”

Appearing on the Am Show, Ardern elaborated by saying Australia would need to be free of community transmission for at least 28 days before travel could be considered.

“Anywhere where we have Covid-free travel they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time – that will be some time for Australia,” Ardern said.

Ardern said she hasn’t been in contact with Victoria’s premier Dan Andrews since we were in lockdown.

7.45am: PM defends limited border charges

Jacinda Ardern has defended the government’s decision to only charge Kiwis returning back into the country for a holiday, rather than all returnees. The charging scheme was a win for the Green Party, who had said they would not support blanket charges. But it caused a rift within the coalition, as New Zealand First believed all New Zealanders coming into the country should be hit with a fee.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning, Ardern said the government would have faced legal difficulties if they had introduced mandatory charging across the board. “If we create a barrier to coming back for good to someone’s legal place of residence, that did carry some high legal risk,” she said. “Ultimately New Zealanders want people to be charged and we are.”

When pushed by Hosking on the fact that the majority of returnees will still get their isolation costs covered, Ardern said they had to make a choice: “If you’re here, you’re safe, you’re in New Zealand and you’re making a choice to leave [and then return] then yes, you should pay for that. But if you’re offshore and you, for no fault of your own, find yourself in circumstances where you need to come home, then you can come home [without being charged].”

7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Within the space of a few months, Billy Te Kahika Jr has gone from being a relatively obscure blues musician, to becoming a politician deemed important enough to bother fact-checking. The alert came in from international news service AFP on Friday, who will be running fact-checking services over the course of the election campaign. The particular claim made by the NZ Public Party leader was that the military had been authorised to remove people from their homes to enforce Covid-19 restrictions, and to be perfectly clear, that is not true. But the huge spread of the facebook post in which the false claim was made was part of the reason why it was fact-checked.

The wider movement didn’t come from nowhere, and nor did it go entirely unnoticed as it was building up. Local papers like the Gisborne Herald reported on packed public meetings held around the country. Closely adjacent protest events, like those that took place at the Auckland Viaduct because of a conspiracy theory about superyachts and child trafficking, were reported on by The Spinoff’s Josie Adams. But there has been a significant shift over the past week especially in terms of nationwide mainstream media coverage, in large part because of the merger event held with Advance NZ and former National MP Jami-Lee Ross.

On that merger, there has been little further movement as yet in terms of other small parties being brought into the fold. And a particularly revealing story by Stuff’s Andrea Vance came out over the weekend, in which Outdoors Party co-leader Sue Grey alleged that she had been the subject of a targeted harassment campaign by Public Party supporters, because she and co-leader Alan Simmons had refused to merge with them. Te Kahika denies directing or instigating any of that, and asked his supporters to stop. But the messages sent to Grey speak to a growing confidence among those in that political space that the Public Party is now the dominant faction, with the sort of momentum for conspiracy theories that hasn’t been seen in years.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here 

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

Melbourne entered a strict NZ-style level four lockdown, including a curfew, while regional Victoria will begin level three restrictions from midnight Wednesday.

The announcement came as Victoria confirmed 671 new cases and seven new deaths.

There were three new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation in New Zealand – two women who arrived from Manila and LA respectively, and a child from Pakistan.

Work visa holders will be allowed to enter New Zealand “within the coming months”, finance minister Grant Robertson said.

Read yesterday’s live updates here




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