Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 22, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at email@example.com
3.50pm: Robertson on way back from Tasmania as cabinet discusses travel bubble
As cabinet meets today to discuss a response to the worsening Covid-19 situation in Australia, a senior minister is on his way back from across the ditch.
Deputy prime minister, finance minister, infrastructure minister, sports minister, racing minister and Jacinda Ardern’s right hand man, Grant Robertson, is ending a trip to Tasmania, as planned, and is headed back to the capital, according to the prime minister’s office.
It’s unclear what Robertson was doing in the Australian state, which has broadly avoided most of the pandemic, but parliament is nearing the end of its second week of a three-week recess.
3.00pm: Full travel bubble pause possible as urgent cabinet meeting under way
The prime minister’s office has confirmed to The Spinoff that cabinet is holding a highly unusual midweek virtual meeting, being chaired by the prime minister, who is currently on holiday. As Covid-19 case numbers in Australia grow, there are reports a pause of the entire travel bubble is being considered at the meeting.
Quarantine-free travel is currently already paused with South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. It remains in place with Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, but the Ministry of Health said in its afternoon media release that the situation in Queensland was being monitored.
Contact tracing has now identified 41 people in New Zealand who have been in locations of interest in Victoria and Queensland, said the ministry. Of those, 39 have had initial tests and returned negative results; one is not yet due for a test result and the other will be followed up – their test result is overdue.
More Mattina mariners test positive
Another five cases of Covid-19 have been detected among crew members of the container ship the Mattina, currently in port at Bluff, reports the Ministry of Health. Nine cases had been previously reported. Three of the five new cases are counted among today’s official case tally as the results came in before 9am, while the other two will be officially added to tomorrow’s tally because they came in later.
There was one further result that is currently under investigation due to a high CT value, and three more that suggest past infection and are therefore not deemed infectious. The three remaining crew onboard the Mattina have returned negative tests.
All crew who have tested positive will remain onboard the vessel while the three who tested negative, provided they return another negative test today, will be moved to a Christchurch quarantine facility “using a well-planned securely managed transport plan, including the use of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) protocols”, said the ministry in a statement.
“It is safer to manage the smaller group of negative cases, by taking them off the ship.”
The two Covid-positive crew members who were taken to hospital yesterday have since returned to the Mattina.
Meanwhile, a historical case has been detected among crew of the Noble Island, which arrived in New Zealand on July 12. The person is currently quarantining onboard the ship.
One previously reported case has now recovered, which brings the number of active cases in New Zealand to 62. Since January 1, 2021, there have been 100 historical cases, out of a total of 662 cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is six, and the total number of confirmed cases is 2,479.
1.15pm: New South Wales hits grim Covid-19 record
New South Wales might be going backwards in its fight against the delta variant.
The Australian state has today reported a record 124 new cases of Covid-19, with almost 50 of those infectious while in the community. More than 100 cases were also recorded yesterday.
Victoria and South Australia have also been fighting outbreaks of the delta strain, but so far case numbers have not spiked too dramatically.
1.00pm: NZer abroad threatens legal action over MIQ booking system
Another day, another horror story about trying to book a place in managed isolation.
One New Zealander stuck in Singapore has threatened legal action against the business ministry over the difficulties he has faced in trying to get home. As reported by RNZ’s The Detail, John Brewer has already taken his fight to the Ombudsman.
“I want them to compel MBIE to solve the problem,” he said. “I went to [the Ombudsman] because I complained to MBIE through their process that I was unable to interact with the site in a way that would allow me to get a booking the way that they have required me to use the site.”
Brewer, along with others like journalist David Farrier, has chosen not to use “scripts” or bots to try and secure a spot in MIQ.
“I can show [MBIE] that I can’t do this and actually get a spot while still obeying the terms and conditions, not giving my password and user name to somebody to let them use a robot or an army of call centre workers somewhere in Southeast Asia,” Brewer added.
12.00pm: Plan B leader issues legal threat to Siouxsie Wiles and The Spinoff
Simon Thornley, leader of the prominent group that has vocally opposed the New Zealand pandemic response and rails against “Covid obsession”, has engaged lawyers to send a legal threat to Siouxsie Wiles and The Spinoff, claiming an opinion piece published in May is defamatory.
You can read the full story here.
11.30am: Orca update! No change overnight, says DOC
There was “no change” overnight for baby orca calf Toa being cared for in Plimmerton, near Wellington.
Searches have so far had no luck finding Toa’s pod and the calf’s condition has continued to be monitored.
“We are looking at the feeding regime to make sure the orca calf is getting the right food and consulting with international orca experts about the species’ nutritional needs,” said DOC’s marine species manager Ian Angus.
“Whether the orca calf will remain in the temporary pool or move back to a sea pen today will be determined after a detailed assessment of the weather forecast.”
A DOC boat has stayed out on the water in the hopes of locating Toa’s pod.
10.55am: Some arguments against arming police
Amid renewed calls for arming police in New Zealand, here’s a reminder of some of the arguments against such a move.
Writing for The Spinoff in 2019, as the Armed Response Teams (ART) trial got under way, Manukau councillor Fa’anana Efeso Collins said arming police would cause disproportionate harm to Māori and Pasifika, pointing out that in the past decade, two-thirds of all people shot by police were from those communities.
“In South Auckland, our trust and confidence in the police is already lower than other parts of the country,” wrote Collins. “People are scared to engage at every level of our justice system and I regularly hear stories of racial profiling and aggressive over-policing that leave my community feeling targeted, humiliated and like it’s always going to be ‘us versus them’. In order to effectively engage with our people, police must focus on mending this relationship instead of introducing initiatives that will seriously damage it.”
Collins echoed sentiments made the month prior by former police officer Tim McKinnel, who pointed to a Princeton study that found ART-type units were disproportionately deployed against racial minorities.
In May the following year, as the ART trial came to an end, Anjum Rahman of the Islamic Women’s Council said in a piece for The Spinoff that she was “dismayed” by police using the March 15 mosque attacks as a reason to arm themselves. Police routinely carrying guns would not make the Muslim community feel safer, she wrote. “Increased community safety or police safety is not achieved by force of arms. It is achieved by building community relationships. Rather than closing local police stations, rather than removing officers from local communities, we need police to be present and active in neighbourhoods. This requires a much higher level of resourcing and investment.”
10.20am: Plans for mosque attack movie started less than two months after shooting
Documents released under the Official Information Act show discussions about a film based on the Christchurch mosque shootings began less than two months after the tragedy.
Emails reveal that local producers were involved in talks about a film “based on the terrorist attacks” at the start of May 2019. The prime minister Jacinda Ardern was not made aware of the film until two years later, just ahead of the public announcement.
One message in mid-2019, sent from an American producer to Annabelle Shehan of the NZ Film Commission, included a presentation about the film. “The intention is to make a drama that honors the lives that were lost and focuses on the heroism and the humanity that so many people displayed,” it read.
One year on, in March 2020, the first script was circulated to producers and described as “strong”.
By April, the title “They Are Us” had been settled on with shooting at that stage planned to begin in “late summer 2021”. Of course, Covid-19 prevented this from happening.
As reported by the Herald, the film’s director did not want the script being read by Jacinda Ardern’s office but plans were under way in June on how to brief the government.
At about the same time – just days before the film was officially announced – the film’s producers and directors held a virtual discussion about the film. Director Andrew Niccol described the film as a “love letter to Jacinda and the two mosques” and said it would tell an “inspiring story of what Jacinda was able to achieve.”
Since the film’s very public backlash last month, local producer Philippa Campbell has dropped out of the production and the script has been leaked (and dissected by) Newshub.
9.50am: Brisbane to host 2032 Olympics
This year’s Tokyo Olympics have barely even started (the opening ceremony isn’t until tomorrow) and yet here we are talking 11 years into the future.
In 2032, Brisbane will play host to the summer Olympic games.
The city will become just the third in Australia to host the games after Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000.
8.05am: National ‘pretty worried’ about vaccine rollout pace as delta threat looms
The opposition has pushed for more urgency with the vaccine rollout as the delta variant of Covid-19 threatens to breach our borders.
Three Australian states have locked down amid growing clusters of the virus and case numbers in Fiji have continued to surge in recent days.
National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop told RNZ that he was “pretty worried” about the pace of the rollout.
“Only a very small percentage of the population, in some centres, have even started on group three and we’re being told that in a couple of weeks we’re gonna start with group four,” he said. “I just want people to get jabs in arms… as quickly as possible. But there is a priority order for a reason. We should be looking at those people who are older, who are Māori or Pasifika, [or] who have underlying health conditions.”
In Canterbury, Bishop said, the pace of the rollout was “shocking” despite an MIQ facility and a port in the region. Instead of pushing ahead with group four vaccinations before group three had been finished, Bishop said the attention should be on vaccinating the “more important” group.
“We should be focusing on that and instructing the DHBs to make sure as many people in group three as possible get it ahead of people in group four. I suspect that’s what most New Zealanders would expect as well.”
Yesterday, the Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins reported that more than 628,000 people were now fully vaccinated against Covid-19 while more than 1.5 million had received at least one dose of the jab. Meanwhile, an exclusive new poll this morning by Stickybeak for The Spinoff has revealed mixed opinion from New Zealanders on the state of the rollout.
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Progress on the vaccine rollout is starting to speed up, but the overall rollout is still lagging behind the rest of the world. Yesterday at a press conference, Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins said 628,000 people are now fully vaccinated, with 1.5 million doses administered overall, and Hipkins is confident of that “ramping up” – our live updates at 1.00pm has further details. Oxford’s Our World In Data tracker has New Zealand below both the global per capita average of doses given, and very low relative to other OECD countries. The disclaimer for that stat is that Covid isn’t currently circulating in the community. The NZ Herald had a story yesterday about the slow start to the rollout, which impacted the current situation.
Bookings for the general public will open next week. There may be some teething issues, and are probably to be expected in a complex job. One came out on Stuff, where Sophie Cornish reports thousands of people in Wellington got a text carrying incorrect information, and telling them to book via a dead website or disconnected phone line. The actual website is expected to go live next Wednesday.
Public confidence is crucial to the overall success of the rollout, and we’ve got a new poll that gives a fair idea of how people are feeling. The Stickybeak/Spinoff survey shows there’s much less positivity towards the vaccination programme than the overall government Covid response – on this, respondents were split roughly into thirds over positive, negative and neutral views. On whether people would actually get the jab, 65% of respondents said they would, against about 15% who said they would not.
Meanwhile, in a bright spot: Some rural or remote areas are doing mass-vax days, and Radio NZ’s Tom Kitchin went along to see one in the predominantly Māori community of Te Araroa in Tairāwhiti. The day isn’t part of the ministry’s priority group programme – rather the idea is to get everyone done in one go. Misinformation about vaccines was a topic being discussed by locals in the report, but it appears to have had wide uptake.
Finally, to avoid shortages, a suggestion has been made for New Zealand to start producing vaccines. Stuff’s Hannah Martin reports that came from college of GPs medical director Dr Bryan Betty, who argues that is is necessary to develop capacity because of the likelihood “booster” jabs will be needed as the virus mutates. Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there are no current plans to start producing vaccines, but more cooperation might be possible with Australia who are looking to do so.
Well over 10,000 people on the social housing list are waiting more than six months to get a home, reports Stuff’s Henry Cooke. That overall list is now 24,010, the highest it has ever been. Even with several hundred people being moved off the list into housing, and with a house building programme underway, demand isn’t being met. The story has a concerning post-script: rental inflation is rising faster than both income and general inflation, meaning that for renters the share of their income going into housing is increasing.