Dec 4 2023

Closed Leigh Sawmill Cafe set to reopen, but ‘no date set yet’

A popular Auckland cafe that has mysteriously closed its doors is hoping to reopen, but there’s no timeframe in place yet.

The Spinoff reported last week that both Cotto, the K Road pasta bar, and the Leigh Sawmill Cafe north of the city had suddenly stopped taking customers and started cancelling bookings.

The link between the two? Craig Anderson, an Auckland businessman involved in a number of hospitality businesses in the region.

After our report last week, Leigh Sawmill manager Susan Kaiser emailed on behalf of the Guinness brothers, the newly reinstated managers of the cafe. Kaiser confirmed that Anderson handed the keys back on Friday November 24, and the lease was relinquished the following day. Other details regarding the lease agreement were confidential, she said.

Kaiser and the Guinness brothers were “in the process of organising all the suppliers, services and licences needed to reopen – no date set yet – with the aim of keeping it simple”, she wrote.

She was in communication with promoters and bands who have booked dates over the summer, and that when a plan for reopening was set, it would be posted on social media and advertised. Though nothing has yet been posted on the Leigh Sawmill Facebook page, the hours tab on the website reads, “CLOSED – BUT NOT FOR LONG! PLEASE KEEP CHECKING BACK IN”.

Read more on the closures of Cotto and the Leigh Sawmill Cafe here

Would you pay $18k to see Coldplay?

Coldplay in Perth (Photo: supplied)

Scalpers are already out in force for next year’s Coldplay tour, which will see the band play a record-breaking three nights at Eden Park.

Writing for his Boiler Room Substack, Chris Schulz has taken a look at some of the priciest tickets being advertised on websites like Viagogo. One person is attempting to get $18,000 for a ticket, which would likely have retailed on Ticketmaster for max $250 (if it’s even real). It’s not the only outrageously overpriced ticket, with others being listed for thousands as well.

Schulz has a long history of writing about Viagogo here at The Spinoff (and specifically how you should absolutely under no circumstances use the service to buy tickets). In 2021, he took a look at how New Zealand artists were being targeted by scammers hoping to make huge profits on resold concert tickets. And last year, he reiterated the pledge to never ever use Viagogo, while taking a look at how some resold tickets were going cheap on Trade Me (which is only marginally safer than other retailers).

Coldplay in Perth
Coldplay in Perth (Photo: supplied)

Ex-health worker pleads not guilty to illegally accessing databases


A former health worker has pleaded not guilty after appearing in court today on a charge of dishonestly accessing Te Whatu Ora databases.

As The Post reported, Barry Young (also sometimes identified as “Winston Smith”), who had appeared in videos with conspiracy theorist and former broadcaster Liz Gunn, could face seven years in prison.

The Wellington District Court was reportedly packed with supporters during Young’s appearance, with judge Andrew Nicholls warning those in attendance to keep quiet during the proceedings.

Young had worked for Te Whatu Ora since 2018, though has since been removed as an employee. He was arrested last night.

Prime minister Christopher Luxon praised the quick action of the health agency this morning in preventing the further spread of the anonymised health data.

‘An embarrassment’: NZ picks up ‘award’ for offshore oil ‘U-turn’

Image: Tina Tiller

New Zealand has picked up the less-than-coveted “fossil of the day” title at this year’s COP28 climate summit.

The “award” is given each day at the conference to a country deemed to be “doing the most to achieve the least” or “doing their best to be the worst” in terms of the progress in the climate negotiations and climate action.

In this case, New Zealand has been given the title over the government’s plans to reverse the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration.

As Newsroom reported, the government was said to be making “a U-turn on the way to a liveable future,” according to the award’s founder the Climate Action Network, which made the award.

Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb, chief executive of the World Wide Fund for Nature NZ, said the new government was achieving international recognition for all the wrong reasons.

“The science is unequivocal that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Reopening the door to offshore oil and gas exploration in the middle of a climate crisis is not only irresponsible, but makes us an embarrassment on the world stage,” Kingdon-Bebb said.

“We’ve already heard concerns from our neighbours in the Pacific and our trading partners won’t react kindly either if New Zealand doesn’t play its part in the global response to climate change.

“I urge the Government to wake up to the calls of the international community and abandon this ill-thought-out decision.”

The Bulletin: Health worker arrested over Covid vaccine data breach

A 56-year-old Te Whatu Ora staff member has been arrested in connection with a mass privacy breach of Covid-19 vaccination data and will appear in Wellington District Court today on a charge of accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes. The employee had no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge, according to Te Whatu Ora chief executive Margie Apa, and “appear[ed] to be trying to spread misinformation” using the data.

Last week a man believed to be a Te Whatu Ora staff member was interviewed on a New Zealand conspiracy theory site, where he claimed he developed a database for the vaccine rollout and quoted from that work, the Herald reports. He said the data backed up his claims of “excess mortality” due to the vaccine. Said Apa following the arrest, “What this individual is trying to claim about vaccines is completely wrong and ill-informed, and their comments demonstrate this.”

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 39,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture. 

‘We got it wrong’: The smoking issue that just won’t go away for PM Luxon

Christopher Luxon was sworn in as prime minister yesterday (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

A week on from being sworn in and the issue of smoking continues to dog the new government.

Prime minister Christopher Luxon admitted yesterday he had got it wrong after he and other senior ministers persistently said just one retailer in Northland would be able to sell cigarettes under the current plan to reduce smoking rates.

That figures was first raised by Luxon at a post-cabinet press conference last week, and yesterday morning saw Chris Bishop repeat it multiple times on TVNZ’s Q&A even after being told he was incorrect.

The correct number was 35, though Luxon told RNZ this morning that it didn’t change his government’s opposition to the proposed smoke free plans.

“We got our numbers wrong, but the meta, macro point remains,” said Luxon, adding that he believed concentrating cigarette supply into a smaller number of venues would create a “massive magnet for crime”.

While Luxon said it was fair for the media to criticise the government for this error, he told Newstalk ZB he believed there was some “nitpicking” going on from reporters as well.

“What I want people to understand is we are deeply committed to reducing smoking rates,” said Luxon. His government would maintain the status quo, which he admitted would not reduce smoking rates as quickly as the proposed regulations.

“What I’ve said is we got [the numbers] wrong, we’ve spoken to our team to make sure we fact check information. We want to make sure we’ve got really robust processes in place.” Luxon wouldn’t elaborate on what these processes would be.

Luxon said he didn’t believe the Labour government had a “guaranteed model” to show the impacts of its smoking rules either, but remained “proud” of what his government had announced as part of its 100-day plan.

The other issue continuing to stick around after a week in government remains the comments by deputy prime minister Winston Peters on media independence. Luxon told TVNZ that it was simply the result of having a three-way coalition. “We’re in a coalition government… It’s got three different parties. It’s got different personalities, different players,” he said. “We will all say and express things differently, and that is OK.”


Greens pick Renters United president Geordie Rogers for Wellington council byelection


Renter’s United President Geordie Rogers has been selected as the Green party candidate for the Wellington city council byelection in Lambton Ward.

The byelection is being held to replace outgoing councillor Tamatha Paul, now the MP for Wellington Central.

“I’m honoured to have just been selected as the Green Party candidate for the Wellington City Council. Thanks for everyone who showed up. The real work starts now and we need all the help we can get!” Rogers said on X/Twitter.

Rogers told The Spinoff in October he was shoulder-tapped to run while he was at Paul’s campaign part on election night. 

He currently heads Renters United, an advocacy group focused on changing laws to support renters. He gained national attention in April this year after a TV debate with National’s housing spokesperson Chris Bishop.

The Green party nomination makes Rogers the presumptive favourite in Lambton Ward, a young area which covers the entire centre city, including both Victoria and Massey University campuses.

Paul was the top polling candidate in Lambton by a considerable margin in 2022, with 5,206, compared with 3,209 for second-placing Nicola Young. Lambton ward elected the top three polling candidates on an STV system.

The byelection could prove crucial for ensuring mayor Tory Whanau has the votes to pursue her policy agenda. With Tamatha Paul gone, the left-wing bloc has eight votes, while the right has six. However, these aren’t hard-and-fast factions and votes can flip based on issues, particularly housing. With the district plan up for debate early next year, this by-election will be a crucial swing vote.

Dec 1 2023

$33,000 pledged to support journalism and new rewards added

PledgeMe new rewards

A week ago we launched our PledgeMe campaign to help fund What’s eating Aotearoa, a longform journalism project focused on food and how it shapes this country. We’ve just passed the $33k mark.

With PledgeMe it’s all or nothing, and we need to hit our goal of $50,000. If you’ve already pledged, we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you. If you aren’t in a position to support with a pledge or by buying a reward, a simple share of the link to our PledgeMe page or any of our social media posts about the campaign would be greatly appreciated. 

So many of our rewards have sold out, so we’ve just added three brand new ones.

  • Exclusive tips to create a dating profile from our resident expert Madeleine Holden after her custom dating profiles sold out.
  • Next year we’re turning 10! So we’ve added a couple of tickets to the birthday party so that you can join us. A decade of the Spinoff is worthy of a huge celebration.
  • We’ve also added a custom Spinoff “homepage”. When a Spinoff staff member leaves, we create a version of our homepage all about them. This is your chance to be part of an exclusive club of Spinoff legends. The final file will be sent to you ready to print, frame and treasure.

What’s eating Aotearoa is an ambitious editorial planned for 2024 that will explore the intersection of food with politics, culture, business and climate change. 

The Spinoff scores at NZ Podcast Awards

Gone By Lunchtime (Image: Tina Tiller)

The Spinoff Podcast Network picked up three gongs at this year’s NZ Podcast Awards. 

Our politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime won best current affairs podcast for the second year in a row, while This Is Kiwi scored silver in best branded podcast and Business Is Boring placed third in best business podcast.

You can find all of The Spinoff’s podcasts here.

Gone By Lunchtime (Image: Tina Tiller)

Te Whatu Ora takes aim at ‘conspiracy theorists’ spreading vaccine ‘misinformation’

(Image: Tina Tiller)

Te Whatu Ora’s issued a reminder to the public over vaccine safety, citing “misinformation” being spread by a “health agency staff member”.

The health agency’s chief executive, Margie Apa, said the staff member had “no clinical background or expert vaccine knowledge” and what he was claiming was “completely wrong and ill-informed”.

“Sadly, we have continued to see conspiracy theorists disseminating false and harmful misinformation,” said Apa in a statement.

“We assure people there is no evidence whatsoever that vaccination is responsible for excess mortality in New Zealand and that they can continue to have confidence in vaccines.”

Apa said that public data showed four deaths in New Zealand were possibly linked to the vaccine, while over 3,300 people had been directly attributed to Covid-19. “By chance and separate to a prior Covid-19 vaccination event, some people will experience new illnesses or die from a pre-existing condition shortly after vaccination, especially if they are elderly,” said Apa.