Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 4, bringing you the latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
7.00pm: The day in sum
New rental regulations are set to pass under urgency today, as parliament enters its final sitting week.
Owlcatraz shut its doors for good, leaving New Zealand’s owl fan(s) devastated.
There were no new cases of Covid-19 today, and five more people have recovered.
The government renewed its push for people to use the Covid tracer app and display QR codes.
It’s now three weeks until the first televised election debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins.
Minor parties are up in arms, again, about being excluded from TVNZ’s multi-party debate.
Students are to take to the streets demanding action on climate change – for the fifth time.
Iain Lees-Galloway was one of five departing MPs to gave valedictory speeches in the house. He used the opportunity to issue a public apology to his family for the ‘hurt and humiliation’ his affair had caused.
6.50pm: Minor party debate exclusion a ‘kick in the nuts for democracy’
TVNZ’s multi-party election debate is once again the subject of controversy, not because of who will be one the stage, but who won’t, writes Alex Braae.
The network announced today that its multi-party debate will include NZ First, the Green Party, and Act – all of whom are currently represented in parliament. But other parties that have featured in the polls this year will not be invited, including the Māori Party, New Conservatives, and The Opportunities Party. And they’re hopping mad about it.
“Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere said plans were being made now to challenge the decision, on the grounds that Māori candidates with a credible path to parliament would be excluded. ‘Māori are always treated as second class citizens. Brown voices matter.'”
“Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons was equally scathing, describing it as a ‘kick in the nuts for democracy.’”
5.40pm: Lees-Galloway sorry for ‘hurt and humiliation’ caused by affair
In his valedictory speech to the House, former workplace relations, ACC and immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway made a heartfelt apology to his family for the affair that ended his political career. “The trauma they have experienced has been excruciating,” he said. “I am sorry for the hurt and humiliation I have inflicted on my family and for the direct impact my actions have had on so many others.”
This had been a “rough year” he said. “There was the near-end of our marriage, the death of my father and now the end of my political career. We even had to put the dog to sleep a few weeks ago.”
However he said he was leaving with a number of proud achievements under his belt, including an extension to paid parental leave, increasing the refugee quota and ensuring a stronger bargaining position for workers when negotiating pay agreements. Twelve years of advocating for Palmerston North constituents had been one of most rewarding parts of the job, he said.
Lees-Galloway’s speech was followed by valedictory speeches from Labour’s Raymond Huo and the Greens’ Gareth Hughes. Clare Curran – who, like Lees-Galloway, was sacked from cabinet by the prime minister – is speaking now, and will be followed by her Labour colleague Ruth Dyson.
2.40pm: School Strike 4 Climate announce fifth strike
Just two weeks out from this year’s election, students will be taking to the streets demanding action on climate change, for the fifth time. School Strike 4 Climate NZ have announced the next strike will take place on September 4.
In a statement, the organisers said this date will be day of action for the climate.
“Across New Zealand students from all over will be leading actions for the purpose of demanding climate justice. Climate change puts everything we love at risk.
“We do still have time to turn this around, we can’t let this moment slip away! We must do everything in our power before it is too late.”
School Strike 4 Climate said no party is currently doing enough about climate change.
2.25pm: First set of televised election debates announced
We are just three weeks away from the first televised head-to-head between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins. TVNZ have announced the first leaders debate of this election season will air on TVNZ 1 on August 25. It will be moderated by John Campbell.
Following that, a young voters debate addressing youth issues will air on September 2, a multi-party debate featuring New Zealand First, the Greens, and Act will air on September 9, and another Ardern v Collins debate will screen on September 17.
1.00pm: No new Covid-19 cases; renewed push to use tracer app
New Zealand has no new cases of Covid-19 today. Yesterday, there were two new cases to report. The total number of active cases has dropped to 22, as five people have now recovered.
It’s now been 95 days since the last potential case was acquired through community transmission.
Meanwhile, health minister Chris Hipkins has reiterated the need for vigilance around the coronavirus, despite it being several months on from lockdown. He repeated the government’s message that if you are offered a Covid-19 test, you should take it.
Ashley Bloomfield agreed, saying it could take just one case in the community to start an outbreak. “We have worked too hard to let that happen,” he said.
Hipkins said he’ll be making a significant push this week to get more uptake of the Covid tracer app and the number of QR code posters to rise. That includes contacting every mayor and council nationwide, and reaching out to schools. “I’m also asking the Ministry of Health to send our reminders to the 10s of thousands of businesses that have asked for QR codes to remind them they should still have them on display,” he said.
An all of government survey conducted late last month surveyed 800 people with Covid-19 symptoms. It found that under half of those decided not to get tested, with three quarters of those saying they didn’t think they had Covid-19.
“We cannot afford for Covid-19 fatigue to set in,” Hipkins said.
But, Hipkins also admitted that before he was minister of health, he went through a period of not using the app very much. “Then I became Minister of Health and now I use it all the time.”
In terms of an alternative option to the Covid tracer app, Hipkins said he will be in a position to discuss new tracing technology on Thursday.
12.45pm: Ministry to update Covid case info
The director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield and health minister Chris Hipkins will be providing today’s 1pm Covid-19 briefing.
Yesterday, there were two new cases in the country, both in managed isolation.
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11.05am: Owlcatraz shuts for good; owl fans devastated
In devastating news to hand this morning, Owlcatraz owl sanctuary has shut down – for good. The site, just south of Palmerston North in the town of Shannon, had been on the market since April. The sanctuary had been owned by Ross and Janette Campbell since it first opened in 1997.
The Campbells told The Spinoff they’re very excited about their future and “the future of the property.”
“We are working with [the Department of Conservation about] our permits for the owls. And have lots of offers about rehoming all the other birds and animals,” they said.
That means Owl Capone, Owlè MacPherson, Owlvis Presley, and the Owlcatraz babies Owlmo and Owlfalfa will all be in safe hands.
“Joey our cockatoo is coming with us.”
The pair said there was some interest from people who wanted to take over the sanctuary’s operations, but “it didn’t work out.”
As Stuff reports, the 6.67 hectare property will be converted into lifestyle properties featuring streams, pathways and a miniature train.
10.50am: New rental regulations set to pass under urgency
It’s the final sitting week of this parliamentary term, which means the government is trying to push through a heap of legislation under urgency.
One bit of law up for debate this week is the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, which has its second reading today. The MP in charge, associate housing minister Kris Faafoi, said the bill aims to recognise the balance between protecting a landlord’s interest in their property and ensuring tenants receive fair rights for the rent that they are paying.
But it’s received heavy criticism from property owners over the past few days. The real estate institute offered what almost sounds like a threat to prospective tenants, claiming that without an “excellent” rental history you may struggle to find a new rental. That’s because the bill proposes to remove 90-day no cause terminations.
8.00am: Airports ahead of government on plan for travel bubble
Both Auckland and Wellington Airport have come forward with plans for how to handle safe, quarantine-free international travel for when a travel corridor opens with the Cook Islands. The airports have said they would physically segregate travellers into different sections of the terminal, depending on where they had travelled from.
But the government is remaining cagey on plans for any quarantine-free travel. The prime minister said any chance of a travel bubble with Australia had been delayed due to the ongoing situation in Victoria, and would not put a timeline on travel to the Cook Islands – despite them being Covid-free.
New Zealand Aviation Coalition co-chair Justin Tighe-Umbers told RNZ that airports had put a lot of work in to be ready if and when the government made the call.
“There’s certainly a lot of pent up demand in New Zealand for people to go off to a tropical island, especially in the middle of winter,” he said.
“We’ve obviously seen a lot of media coverage out of the Pacific Island governments, and they are ready to go and want to see this happen. It’s going to be so important for their economies.”
7.55am: Memebers of parliament – everything is calming down
Right now on The Spinoff, Madeleine Chapman’s politics column for people who just want the memes.
Here’s an extract:
This column began because for one fortnight last month there seemed to be daily breaking news involving the actions of MPs. There was so much to digest and the only solution was for me to condense it while also adding another piece of content to the pile.
All this is to say that nothing much happened last week.
Or rather, your friendly local politicians finally calmed down, had a normal week, and left me with virtually nothing to meme.
7.45am: Shane Jones’ PGF in the spotlight – again
Shane Jones’ claim that his provincial growth fund would create more than 10,000 jobs is yet again being questioned, in the final sitting week of this parliament,
As RNZ reports, the regional economic development minister said a detailed stocktake had found 13,217 people had been employed so far following PGF investments. But the opposition’s not so sure.
National said the minister was being disingenuous, as these figures did not show the true number of jobs created or the breakdown of what was full time or contract jobs.
Jones told RNZ: “At the level of the human face of the PGF, this figure is not only handsome it’s an affirmation of everything we set out to do.” The figures were revealed after continuing calls from journalists and opposition MPs to come forward with more details on employment statistics – so Jones went and got them.
“If a minister who is a steward of such a large amount of money is made to look evasive then it’s not a good look for the public seeking more confidence and it’s not a good look personally either,” he said.
But National’s Michael Woodhouse isn’t buying it: “They have no idea how many jobs have been created and the reason is they didn’t ask the applicants, so I think it’s disingenuous to say that many jobs have been created and they’re doing random surveys to pluck any sort of job number out of the air to make it look as if they’ve achieved an arbitrary goal,” he said.
7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Tauranga’s mayor is embroiled in some chaotic infighting around the Council table, and it could get uglier now that it has gone public. The situation for recently elected mayor Tenby Powell is that a series of “profanity-laced” texts to fellow councillors have been released, which were sent in June amid other councillors trying to oust his then-deputy Larry Baldock. Both Stuff’s Matt Shand and the BOP Times’ Samantha Motion filed requests to get the communications, which also showed that Powell considered resigning as well. As Powell saw it, he believed he had “lost the community” and that his family was starting to get abusive and threatening messages sent to them.
The BOP Times story in particular goes into great detail about the feud at the heart of it all, between Powell and mayoral candidate Kelvin Clout. Befitting the latter’s name, Clout is seen as a fairly influential figure, and has previously been deputy mayor. The timeline suggests they had a showdown, including after alleged comments from Clout that he intended to “run Powell and his wife out of town” – he heavily disputes that he said that, or intended such a course of action. In return, the messages show Powell clearly doesn’t rate Clout – even after the pair held a meeting to work out how to reconcile their differences, Powell was still texting Baldock about how Clout was a “spineless coward.” Both are now publicly saying that they wish to move on from the incident, and won’t be holding grudges over it.
Who exactly is Tenby Powell, and what is his style? He’s a former army man, who then went out and made a lot of money in business. Formerly unsuccessfully active in Auckland local politics, Powell was described by NZ Herald gossip columnist Rachel Glucina as “combative” in 2010 – the description seems apt. As Tauranga’s mayor, a few weeks ago he simply walked out of an angry Papamoa meeting over rates rises, saying the atmosphere had become “abusive and threatening”. Powell was also the subject of a recent official complaint, after describing a fellow councillor as a “f****** climate-denying racist” in front of other councillors and staff. Onlookers described his anger as appearing to be out of control, and compared him to a volcano. On the substance of the comments, he was making them about a councillor who suggested last year that the Treaty of Waitangi should be burned, so you can make up your own mind about whether he had at least something of a point.
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
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.