Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for June 30, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
3.40pm: Māori Party calls for review into Oranga Tamariki
The Māori Party wants Oranga Tamariki’s child protection protocols to be reviewed after a whistleblower video showed physical abuse against children in state care.
The video, released by Newsroom, revealed children being tackled and held in headlocks.
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said it showed a “broken culture” within youth residences. “We expect the same level of care from Oranga Tamariki staff as they do for parents in the community. If anyone else behaved this way, Oranga Tamariki would be taking their children from them. This is absolutely shameful behaviour,” she said.
Ngarewa-Packer said that the minister responsible for the agency needed to provide assurances the abuse in care will stop.
“How will you ensure that all of your staff are adequately trained and qualified to be caring for vulnerable tamariki? How will you ensure that not one more of our mokopuna are abused in your care?”
2.50pm: Mahuta teases Luxon over National leadership
Not so much an update as an excellent jibe.
During question time, local government minister Nanaia Mahuta was asked by National’s Christopher Luxon if she stood by all her statements on three waters. She retorted: “Yes, the case for change is compelling – the member may wish to use that line.”
2.15pm: Flu tracker shows sudden rise in sick children
Earlier I put a call out for anyone who has observed a sudden rise in colds and flus going around, and received a few messages back with links to the NZ flu tracker. It’s a voluntary survey that allows people to record any symptoms they have had in order to monitor the spread of influenza
According to the most recent report for the week ending June 20, just 0.8% of the 45,406 participants had reported fever and a cough. This was only slightly above the equivalent time from last year and, in fact, well below the levels recorded in June 2019. There has been a slight trend upward as we head into the colder winter season.
However, the number of children under five recording cold and flu symptoms has dramatically increased since the start of the month. We’ve had some anecdotal evidence of classrooms being emptier than usual due to sickness, so this particular stat could be a clue as to why.
The Ministry of Health told me they don’t hold data on colds, so I’ve gone to ESR and am hoping to hear back this afternoon.
1.10pm: Almost half a million people fully vaccinated, but jab supply now ‘tight’
Almost half a million New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
As of midnight last night, 1,149,608 doses of the jab have so far been given out – an increase of 130,000 from last week. More than 700,000 people have received dose one, with 444,000 fully vaccinated.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins revealed that 360 doses of the vaccine have now arrived on the Chatham Islands. Hipkins said those living on the islands had been identified as a priority group by the Canterbury DHB. An outbreak in the isolated community would cause a significant strain on the DHB, he said.
Vaccine supply is set to be “tight” going into July, said Hipkins, but “a million doses are expected to arrive across July”. Asked whether it was acceptable that we might run out of jabs, Hipkins said he remained confident of the next shipment arriving.
The Janssen vaccine has not yet been approved for use in New Zealand, Hipkins said, but an update on this is expected to be announced next week. “It is the next likely vaccine to be approved,” he said. At this stage, just the Pfizer jab is being used in New Zealand.
Responding to a question from The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti, Hipkins said that the added threat from the delta variant of the virus had not changed the government’s roll-out plans. “Our goal is still to get as many people vaccinated as possible, it is still to keep border protections in place, and to work really quickly to stamp out any incursions.”
12.50pm: No new Covid-19 cases as Wellington returns to level one
It looks like Wellington has officially dodged a Covid-19 bullet, with no new community cases of the virus recorded overnight. Today is the capital’s first day back in alert level one after almost a week with level two restrictions in force.
According to the Ministry of Health, fewer than 100 people identified as contacts of the Australian traveller with Covid-19 are yet to test negative. Overall, 2,618 people have been confirmed as contacts, with 2,505 or 96% of them returning a negative result.
Eight additional people have had a swab and are awaiting a result, 14 people have been granted a clinical exemption and eight have returned overseas, which means their home jurisdiction will be following up with them.
The remaining contacts are being actively followed up by contact tracing teams, said the ministry. “If you live in the Greater Wellington area, or were in the region between June 19 and 21, we urge you to continue to check the locations of interest that were visited by the Australian traveller to the city,” a spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, just one new case has been recorded in managed isolation. They tested positive during routine day 12 testing, but were not staying in the Novotel Hotel – the site of an ongoing investigation into possible spread of the virus.
12.40pm: Hipkins, Bloomfield to give update on vaccine roll-out
At 1pm we’ll be hearing from the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield and the Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins. As is the usual for a Wednesday, the pair will be divulging the latest vaccine figures and revealing if any new Covid cases were reported overnight.
This morning, Wellington shifted back down to alert level one after no Covid-19 cases were reported in the community since an infected traveller from Sydney visited the city more than a week ago.
12.10pm: Chris Hipkins ‘naive’ to say there is ‘no major downside’ to vaccine roll-out speed
The Covid-19 response minister is being criticised for saying there is “no major downside” to New Zealand’s slow vaccine roll-out.
Chris Hipkins has continued to defend the distribution of the Pfizer jab despite repeated changes to the schedule. He yesterday revealed we could run out of vaccines by next Tuesday, pending another delivery.
National’s Chris Bishop said there are two “major downsides” to the pace of the roll-out – and called the minister “naive”.
“The first is that we are incredibly vulnerable to the highly transmissible Delta variant, which public health experts agree poses a real risk to New Zealand,” he said. “The other major downside to being the slowest in the developed world to vaccinate is that any decisions around when we can open up to the world are delayed. New Zealand can only start this process once a significant proportion of our population is vaccinated.”
Australia is currently battling its own Delta outbreak, with several major cities in lockdown. “The best protection against Delta is to roll out the vaccine as quickly as possible,” Bishop said.
Hipkins will join Ashley Bloomfield for a vaccine update at 1pm today.
11.45am: BSA rejects complaint over news story featuring ‘n-word’ pub art
The Broadcasting Standards Authority has rejected a complaint about a news story that featured a wall-hanging in a pub depicting the “n-word”.
The news story, broadcast on 1 News, clearly showed the wall-hanging – something the complainant alleged breached the BSA’s “good taste and decency” standard.
In its response, the authority said TVNZ censored verbal reference to the offensive term and provided a warning that some viewers may find details in the story distressing.
“The footage, which depicted the visual impression provided by the wall hanging and the prominence of the word, was not gratuitous but ensured viewers understood both the nature and gravity of the issue and what term was in question,” the BSA said in its decision.
11.30am: Reports of surge in cold and flu numbers as winter hits
There’s anecdotal evidence of a rise in the number of people suffering from colds and flu as the first bout of winter weather hits the country.
Part of that “evidence” is The Spinoff office, which is suffering from a few more absences this week due to colds. We’ve also had reports from health workers that there has been a surge in sicknesses over the past week or so. On the roads, the live traffic maps over the past 48 hours have shown less cars than on a normal work day.
If you’ve noticed anything in your office/home/school etc then please get in touch with me.
I’ve asked the Ministry of Health to comment and hopefully they’ll get back to me this afternoon with a bit more info.
11.00am: The Great Spinoff Weather report 2
As told via reporters on last night’s TV news:
Wellington: Windy and wet(ter than usual).
Christchurch: Cold. Very cold.
Queenstown: Cold, with a chance of photobombing dancer
As an aside, there’s something about the phrase “big snow dump” that I don’t approve of.
10.30am: Four water entities unveiled in major local government reform
Alex Braae reports:
Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta has released the structure and outline of the new entities that will manage the three waters systems. Under the proposals, there would be four entities – three of which would cover the North Island and the top of the South, and a fourth that will roughly cover the rohe of Ngāi Tahu.
Mahuta said the current system, in which most services are provided by 67 councils, is ineffective and inefficient, along with more expensive relative to what is proposed. “Underinvestment, including deferred maintenance and renewals expenditure, has left a legacy of impending costs and poor services for future generations,” said Mahuta.
She also said the reforms would make water delivery safer, and reduce costs on households. “It’s estimated New Zealand will need to invest between $120 billion and $185 billion to maintain safe, sustainable and environmentally appropriate drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure over the next 30 years, costs that most local councils simply can’t shoulder on their own.
“The government has considered the evidence and proposes that four large water entities will create an affordable system that ensures secure delivery of safe drinking water and resilient wastewater and stormwater systems.
“We have seen the effects of a system in crisis: fatalities from bacteria in drinking water, broken sewer pipes, poorly treated wastewater running into streams and rivers, no-swim notices at the beaches, regular boil-water notices, and lead contamination,” said Mahuta.
The reforms require the buy-in of councils to go ahead. However, yesterday morning Whangārei District Council made a provisional vote against being part of them, while other councils have also expressed reservations. Some of those concerns have been based on a fear that water services will be more easily privatised if they’re taken off councils, however Mahuta’s release indicated that further safeguards against any future privatisation would be developed.
9.25am: Oranga Tamariki staff dropped after video of tackled children
The agency’s acting chief Wira Gardiner confirmed this morning that police have been contacted over the video’s content, with children’s minister Kelvin Davis pledging to find out how it happened.
The video itself was provided to Newsroom by a whistleblower from within Oranga Tamariki who alleged a lack of qualified staff, good mental health services, trauma-informed practice, and leadership from within care and protection residences.
8.00am: ‘Brand destruction’ – former senior National MP slams party, blames Collins
Judith Collins is facing continued pressure to her leadership both from within the National Party – and outside.
Ex-National MP Chris Finlayson has offered a scathing assessment of the state of the party, and blamed the current leadership for it. “Now I know sometimes, you know, brands go off, but I’ve never seen brand destruction like I’ve seen in the National Party in the last year or two,” he told Stuff.
“You’re talking to the wrong person if you expect me to express any sympathy for the current plight of the National Party, they deserve everything that’s come to them.
“Put that in your article: they deserve everything they’ve got,” he said.
Meanwhile, Collins herself has refused to face questions on the ousting of Todd Muller, who is expected to formally leave politics in 2023. It was originally claimed the former party leader quit to focus on his health and family. But, it has since come to light he was effectively pushed from caucus after anonymously bad-mouthing a fellow MP to Newsroom.
Speaking to RNZ, Collins would not say whether or not she was pleased about Muller staying until 2023, repeatedly diverting to the caucus. “It’s entirely up to him and the caucus,” she said. “He is the MP elected to do the job… he wants to stay and that’s fine.”
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
A big step towards the repeal and replacement of the Resource Management Act has been announced. And befitting a particularly complicated piece of legislation, additional steps have been added into the process, with the intention of making the final shape of the laws that come out of it fit for purpose. Interest reports the legislation will be called the “Natural and Built Environments Bill”, and will be the primary aspect of three new laws being pushed through to replace the RMA.
In practice, it will set environmental limits, but also outline the positive outcomes the legislation aims to achieve – a change in onus from the RMA. The legislation has first been released as an “exposure draft”, which will be sent to select committee for an initial public feedback process, before being sent back to go through the regular legislative process, which will itself include another go through select committee.
Specifically, it’ll be the environment select committee, and as Newshub reports there is some concern from National and Act are worried about that being chaired by Green MP Eugenie Sage. The comments from Judith Collins and David Seymour probably overblow the power held by SC chairs, but they do reflect that underneath this process there will be a competition of interests. When RMA reform comes up as a topic, some people hear stronger environmental protection, while others hear slashing of red tape to get more building done.
One thing that environment minister David Parker appears to be keen on outside of that dichotomy is reducing the power of local government planners. Politik (paywalled) reports that significant planning powers will be moved into the purview of central government, on the grounds that to date some councils have struggled to achieve either environmental protection or house-building. In Parker’s view, local governments may even enjoy not having so much responsibility over this area in future – continuing a strong trend of this particular central government being very kind in seeking to reduce the workload of councils and other regional bodies.
The Children’s Commissioner has asked for police to be called in, after the publication of a video showing alleged mistreatment of children by Oranga Tamariki staff. Newsroom’s Melanie Reid and Bonnie Summers broke the story with a video that appeared to show violent treatment of the children, including being thrown to the ground and in one case a child being put in a headlock. Law professor Mark Henaghan said the video showed “clear assaults” and illegal treatment. The incidents took place in a Care and Protection Residence, where vulnerable children aged up to 16 who need intensive support are housed.