Winston Peters at the 2017 New Zealand First Convention (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Live updates, July 19: Winston Peters attacks urge to tax – and ‘woke pixie dust’ – in speech to party

The latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day.

7.30pm: The day in sum

There were three new cases of Covid-19, two men in their 30s and one woman in her 70s. All were detected in managed isolation.

All returning adult New Zealanders would be charged $3000 to cover a significant portion of the cost of their quarantine stay under National policy announced today. The government has indicated it too is looking at introducing fees.

At the NZ First Party Conference, Winston Peters pledged an annual cap of 15,000 immigrants and said the immigration portfolio going to NZ First would be a “bottom line” for any post-election deals.

Defending National’s failure to mention climate change in its infrastructure plan, Judith Collins said the nuclear-free issue of this generation is not climate change, but “the economy”

7.20pm: Warehouse staff to learn their fate tomorrow

The Warehouse will hold staff meetings tomorrow morning at which details of a major restructure are expected to be announced, Stuff is reporting. The Warehouse Group had previously said it was looking at cutting 1080 jobs and closing at least six stores across its Noel Leeming, The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery brands..

The stores will be closed until 9am to allow for the meetings.

2.15pm: NZ First will be a handbrake on taxes – Winston

Winston Peters has positioned New Zealand First as a “rock against the surging sea”, in a campaign launch speech delivered in Auckland today. The New Zealand First leader promised 1000 new police officers and a limit on immigration to a maximum of 15000 highly-skilled people per year if elected to return to Parliament in the next term of government. But much of the speech was defined by what the was against. Peters boasted that the party had scuttled plans for light rail, which he said was expensive and uncosted, and a capital gains tax, which he said wouldn’t bring in any economic gains. A vote for New Zealand First was an “insurance policy” against bad ideas, he said.

Getting the immigration portfolio would be a “bottom line” for New Zealand First in any government next term, he told media following his speech.

NZ First MP Shane Jones (in hat) and leader Winston Peters (greeting a supporter) at the NZ First conference (Photo: Hayden Donnell)

Below, a few highlights from Peters’ speech to the party:

“We’ve used common-sense to hold Labour and the Greens to account. We’ve opposed woke pixie dust. We’ve defended socially conservative values, like the right to believe in God. We’ve focused on the wisdom of sound economics.

“Whilst the rest have been politically correct, we’ve set out to correct politics. We’ve been an accelerator for good ideas and a handbrake for bad ones.

“This September also provides a clear choice for voters – how to make their party vote count. The best way they can do this is to use their vote to take out some necessary insurance:

“Insurance against the ideological urge to tax, tax, tax; Insurance against big government and the view that nanny state knows best; Insurance against the folly that tax payers money can solve any problem; Insurance against extremism – from either side of politics, and; Insurance against any who would seek to govern alone.

“Questions over competency or controversy have never been an issue for us. Whilst front benchers on both sides of the house have been spilling out of cabinet, or National’s front bench, our ministers have been steadfast. Doing their jobs, securing the resources needed to make good on our campaign promises. They have managed their ministerial portfolios brilliantly.”

1.00pm: Three new cases of Covid-19

The Ministry of Health has released the following statement on today’s case numbers:

There are three new cases of Covid-19 to report in managed isolation in New Zealand today. It has been 79 days since the last case of Covid-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source.

Two of today’s cases were in managed isolation in Waikato and the third in Christchurch.

The first case is a man in his 30s who arrived in New Zealand on 14 July from Afghanistan flying via Doha.

The second is also a man in his 30s who arrived in New Zealand on 14 July from Pakistan flying via Dubai.

Both positive results were from day 3 tests.

Both returnees, and the family of the second case, were transferred last night from Waikato to the Auckland quarantine facility.

The third case is a woman in her 70s who arrived in New Zealand on 30 June from India. She was already in quarantine in the Chateau on the Park in Christchurch after a family member tested positive from a day 3 test. The woman remains in quarantine.

The number of active cases in New Zealand is 25.

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is now 1,203, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

There is no one in New Zealand receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19.

Yesterday our laboratories completed 1,365 tests. Our seven day rolling daily average number of tests is 1,984.

The total number of tests completed in New Zealand to date is 442,488.

12.50pm: National confirms $3000 quarantine fee policy

National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has confirmed that National would charge returning New Zealanders $3000 for the cost of their managed isolation or quarantine stay. The fee would apply everyone, with certain exemptions on compassionate grounds and in cases of financial hardship. Brownlee offered no details of what level of hardship would qualify someone for an exemption, however.

Additional adults in a room if a couple has arrived would be charged an additional $1000. Children under three years would be exempt; those over three would incur a charge of $500.

The policy is broadly the same as signed off this week by Australia’s national cabinet and is in line with policies in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, Brownlee said

“Two-week quarantining looks likely to be with us for a while,” he said. “This is a practical solution to a growing problem.”

11.50am: Recipients of mental health funding announced

Sixteen charities and community groups are to share in $200,000 allocated to help support people living with mental health and addiction challenges who have been impacted by Covid-19. Funded by the Ministry of Health, the Whai Ora, Whiti Ora Fund is being administered by the Mental Health Foundation which recently called for applications for grants for up to $20,000 each.

The 16 recipient organisations are:

1.        Able Charity Trust, Dunedin
2.        Akaroa Resource Collective Trust, Akaroa Heartlands
3.        Asian Family Services, Auckland/Wellington
4.        Creative Kids Trust Board, Blenheim
5.        Family Support Services Kaiwaka/Mangawhai Inc, Kaiwaka/Mangawhai/Maungatoroto/ Wellsford
6.        He Waka Taiora, South Auckland
7.        Loss and Grief Support Trust, Southland
8.        Mother’s Helpers, Auckland
9.        Nga Manga Puriri Trust, Northland
10.        Pacific Island Synod, Nationwide
11.        Rainbow Path, Auckland/Wellington
12.        Te Aroha Noa Community Services, Palmerston North
13.        Te Poho Collective- supported by Mahitahi Trust, Nationwide
14.        Te Roopu Taurima, South Auckland
15.        Turning Point Trust, Tauranga
16.        Waiheke Adult Literacy Inc, Waiheke Island

10.55am: Travel to Tasmania, Pacific islands should be prioritised, says Peters

A “state to country’ version of the trans-Tasman bubble is the clear way forward, Winston Peters told Q&A this morning, given the “tragic failure” of some parts of Australia to control Covid-19. The obvious place to start is Tasmania, a state which is currently as safe as New Zealand, Peters said. “I know the population is small, but it’d be a test for Queensland to (subsequently) join.”

While the Australian federal government had been opposed to the idea of opening the country state by state, Peters said prime minister Scott Morrison has recently begun to come around to the idea. Still, New Zealand is being too easily constrained by the bureaucracy of the federal government, Peters said, and we need to more forcefully ask Australia to open travel corridors with Tasmania and Queensland, “yes or no”.

There’s no reason why travel to safe Pacific islands shouldn’t have started already, Peters said. The issue was that the government had decided it would introduce a trans-Tasman bubble first, and then use that as a model for the Pacific islands. “But the trans-Tasman bubble is handicapping our progress. So let’s go with, for example, Niue and the Cook Islands for a start.”

10.15am: ‘The nuclear-free issue of this generation is the economy’ says Collins

National leader Judith Collins appeared on TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, and the party’s new transport and infrastructure plan was in the spotlight. Collins was challenged by host Jack Tame on the claim that $6.1bn of the plan’s funding would come from cancelling light rail to Auckland Airport. As Tame pointed out, only $1.8bn in ATAP funding for the light rail project has been allocated so far. So where, he asked, did National get the other $4bn it claimed it would save? This was funding for the “out” years, Collins said – the cost of the light rail project over 10 years.

The problem with this argument, Tame said, was that the government has been “very clear” that would be relying on third-party funding mechanisms to pay for light rail (or light metro) in Auckland. Wasn’t it then disingenuous for National to claim that as savings? No, because that $6.1bn doesn’t include all the funding from the Land Transport Fund that the government has “whipped up” by taking funds out of roads and putting it into light rail, Collins said.

Pressed on what National’s plans to cancel Skypath – the walking and cycling path over Auckland Harbour Bridge – would mean for people who want to cross the harbour without a car, Collins pointed to the party’s plan to build a tunnel, but acknowledged this would mean non-motorists faced a 13 year wait to get across by means other than ferry.

Cancelling Skypath isn’t just about saving money, she said, but of safety too. “If you put the Skypath, which is $360m, and you’re attaching this onto a structure, the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which as we all know is not as robust as we’d all love… That was built in 1957 – how’s that going to solve much?”

Climate change is not mentioned in the transport and infrastructure plan. Is that because National doesn’t take climate change seriously, Tame asked. Of course we do, answered Collins. “And that’s why we’re talking so much about public transport, ferries, electric vehicles – all the things that we’re going to put in. We’re looking at new infrastructure where we can have smart technologies like automated trains.” Yes, the plan includes a lot of roads but “electric vehicles travel on roads.”

Jacinda Ardern said that climate change is the nuclear free issue of this generation, noted Tame. Does Collins agree? “No I think the nuclear-free issue of this generation is actually the economy,” she said.

“I will not beggar this country and our people just so that we can go off to Paris or anywhere else and skite about how New Zealand farmers have been done in or whatever. If we didn’t have our agriculture side – and by the way they’re adjusting very well to climate issues – we’d have nothing.”

On National’s plans to charge returnees for their quarantine or managed isolation stay, Collins confirmed that the party is looking at a fee of “round about” $3000, with some exemptions. Deputy leader Gerry Brownlee will announce full details of the policy this afternoon.

8.25am: National wants returnees to pay $3000

Apparently preempting a policy release expected later today, Stuff is reporting that National would charge people returning to New Zealand $3000 for managed self-isolation or quarantine. There would be a small number of compassionate exemptions but these would be “the absolute exception, not the rule”.

Stuff understands the policy would come into effect on October 3, giving New Zealanders a short window after the election to get home without having to pay.

The government has also indicated it wants to introduce charges, but only for those who have left the country voluntarily following lockdown, and they would likely only pay for part of the cost of their stay. Cabinet is set to discuss the issue on Monday.

8.00am: Yesterday’s key stories

Auckland transport received a $182m boost from the government for four transport projects to help the region’s economic recovery.

Torrential weather battered the upper North Island with roads closed and residents evacuated due to flooding.

One new case of Covid-19 in managed isolation was announced – a man in his 50s who arrived on July 12 from Central Africa via Tanzania, Doha and Brisbane.

Brexit “bad boys” Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore said New Zealand should expect “Winston on steroids” as they prepare a complete revamp NZ First’s social media presence.

Read yesterday’s live updates here.



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