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blog april 1


Covid death toll grows by 17

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 1. Yes, it’s already April. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The latest

  • Covid-19 latest: 17 more deaths, 764 in hospital, 13,475 community cases.
  • Police reinforcements have been called to Wellington ahead of planned protest action by anti-vaccine demonstrators.
  • A number of benefit increases have come into effect today. Public transport is now also half price for three months.
blog april 1

Covid death toll grows by 17

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 1. Yes, it’s already April. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The latest

  • Covid-19 latest: 17 more deaths, 764 in hospital, 13,475 community cases.
  • Police reinforcements have been called to Wellington ahead of planned protest action by anti-vaccine demonstrators.
  • A number of benefit increases have come into effect today. Public transport is now also half price for three months.
Apr 1 2022

The Spinoff’s Pet of the Day: Bailey, Luna and Fenrir

From our friends at Pickle’s Pawtraits: Cats, dogs, feathered friends, critters and rodents – our pets, whatever shape they’re in, are our greatest companions. So why not honour your best friend with a personalised portrait?

The passionate team at Pickle’s Pawtraits design custom pet portraits for every animal – from fur to feathers, four legs to two. Digital artworks, prints, mugs, or make every day pet day with personalised stickers (so you can plaster your pet’s face on anything), all available through the Pickle’s Pawtraits website.

Exquisite (Image: Supplied)

“Bailey, Luna and Fenrir – they gon’ ride!” said one of our judges on this esteemed trio of pooches. “Hanging out the passenger side of their best friend’s ride, they wouldn’t dare holler at anyone, though might offer a friendly woof. If a more iconic trio exists I’d like to see it.” So would I, but surely that’s not possible? 

Earlier in Pet Week we reminisced about that time dogs drove on Campbell Live – but this is definitively the only proof you need? “I believe dogs can drive,” said one of our judging panel, while another simply described them as a “gorgeous trio of good dogs”. 

There was a fair amount of tongue chatter among our judges, with one stating “tongue game is strong”. Another said they assumed Fenrir was shocked because of the width of Luna’s tongue, or the length of Bailey’s front legs. “Either way, I agree,” they said. “Also, the gradient is astounding across these three. Perfect.”

It’s also possible this photo was staged entirely as a means of disproving the lyrics to the TLC classic No Scrubs. “This charming trio proves not all who hang out the passenger side of their best friend’s ride are scrubs.” There’s no way to argue with that.

A ‘Where’s Clarke?’ banner is flying over Auckland. Here’s why

Where’s Clarke? (Photo / Twitter)

This morning a plane pulling a banner that asked “Where’s Clarke?” was spotted over Auckland.

The question, referring to Jacinda Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford, is popular among the Convoy protest crowd, who believe the answer is “in jail for drug trafficking”. A spokesperson for the prime minister reiterated to The Spinoff that the claim is untrue and is part of a disinformation campaign targeting Gayford.

The Spinoff has spoken with the commissioner of the sky high controversial question, Dave Ruck of Stump Busters, and can reveal it’s actually a novel marketing technique. “We just needed to do a promotion, and we saw there were a lot of people out there who were asking that question,” said Ruck. “If we flew a banner around Auckland that said ‘Stump Busters,’ no-one’s gonna pay any attention to it.”

View post on TikTok

If you follow the banner’s URL you’ll end up on the Stump Busters website, where you can do a quiz about Gayford’s whereabouts in exchange for 10% off stump grinding. Ruck is closing down half his arborist business due to losing international staff. “I’m going back to stumps, which is how I started,” he said.

The “Where’s Clarke?” campaign was a way to get eyes on stumps. “Worst case it’s a brand awareness program, best case we get some work out of it,” he said. It’s too early to tell whether the campaign is working. “We’ve obviously picked up some emails so we’ll starting marketing [at them], and we’ve still got a Facebook campaign running for another four days,” said Ruck.

“It’s been a bit of a laugh,” he said. “It’s April Fools’ Day.

This post has been updated to include the response from the prime minister’s office.

A song, and a music video, for your Friday

Pop star Harry Styles is back with the lead single from his upcoming third solo studio album Harry’s House.

The debut single, As It Was, dropped earlier today along with a glossy music video. I thought it seemed pretty good, but I checked in with superfan Lucy Blakiston from Shit You Should Care About to confirm. She was lost for words, initially. “This song is predictably fucking amazing,” she said. “And as someone who’s built a business off of stanning Harry Styles, thank god.”

She followed that up with: “IT’S SO GOOD.”

Make Lucy proud, check out the video below.


Go one better than a pet pic, with a personalised ‘pawtrait’

Ralph and Ryder: best of models, best of friends (Image: Supplied)

From our friends at Pickle’s Pawtraits: We get it, you’re obsessed with your furbabies, and luckily so are the team at Pickle’s Pawtraits! They want to help immortalise your best friends with one-of-a-kind artworks made just for you.

Pickle’s Pawtraits know how much people’s pets mean to them. The small team of Harley, Abbey and sausage doggo CEO Pickle love to be a part of creating memories.

Whether you’re wanting something special to remember a lost pet, or just a daily reminder of how much you love your animal sidekick, they’d love to help. Offering digital portraits, prints, mugs and sticker sheets the Pickle’s Pawtraits team will work with you to capture your pet’s unique personality.

To find out more, check out their website.

Covid-19 latest: 17 more deaths, 764 in hospital, 13,475 community cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been 17 more deaths from Covid-19, bringing the nationwide death toll up to 355 and the seven-day rolling average to 17.

Of today’s deaths, 15 were recorded in the past two days while the remaining two were from the past week. Seven were from the Auckland region, two from Waikato, one from Bay of Plenty, one from Lakes DHB, one from Hawke’s Bay, one from the Wellington region, one from Canterbury, one from the West Coast, and two from Southern.

Two people were in their 50s, four people were in their 60s, five people were in their 70s, three in their 80s and three were over-90. Fifteen were male and two were female.

There are now 764 people in hospital with Covid-19, with 31 currently in intensive care.

Another 13,475 community cases have been confirmed, once again indicating the overall number of new cases is on the decline.  Today’s seven-day rolling average is 14,171, while the seven-day rolling average of cases as at last Friday was 17,197.

“Getting boosted continues to be one of the most important ways people can protect themselves from omicron and severe illness,” reminded the Ministry of Health.

On the vaccination front, the ministry said this weekend is going to be big for the Bay of Plenty. There will be a number of iwi-led Covid-19 vaccination events supported by the local DHB. “Tomorrow there will be tamariki-focused events in Katikati, Tauranga, Te Puke, Kawerau, Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne. Tauranga and Whakatāne will have events on Sunday as well,” said the ministry.

Get ready, it’s The Friday Quiz

The Friday News Quiz

How well have you been keeping your eyes on the news this week? Test your knowledge in The Spinoff’s weekly news quiz.

Pursuing formal education doesn’t mean putting your career on pause

The percentage of mature New Zealand adults formally learning in any given year is represented by a single-digit number. (Illustration: Gary Venn)

From our partners at The Mind Lab: The world around us is changing fast but for many New Zealanders formal learning stops way too soon. At The Mind Lab and Tech Futures Lab they’ve built courses designed to keep you learning while you work.

The Leading Beyond Sustainability and Disruptive Technologies micro-credentials are eight to ten weeks long and run through self-paced learning with live-facilitated Zoom classes. They’re based around practical learning and projects relevant to and immediately applicable to your world. And the credits can stack to build towards a Masters degree.

Sign up to Leading Beyond Sustainability or Disruptive Technologies now.

Extra flu shots to arrive in time for winter

Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little 
(Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

There will be 40% more flu shots available in time for winter – and more people will be able to get them for free.

It’s part of the government’s Covid-19 response and will see two million flu jabs on offer, 600,000 more than are usually accessed by New Zealanders.

Health minister Andrew Little said eligibility for a free flu shot will be widened to include Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over, an extra 39,000 people.

“With the omicron wave still working its way through the country, we need to protect our most vulnerable from getting the flu as well, and our health system from coming under more pressure,” Little said. “In an ordinary year, flu kills more than 500 New Zealanders. And this is no ordinary year.”

The Government is ramping up the flu vaccination campaign which starts today, with 40 per cent more flu shots available this year as part of the COVID-19 winter plan.

New Zealand usually uses about 1.4 million flu vaccines a year. This year, the Government is making two million available and is widening eligibility for people to get vaccinated for free.

Little urged people to get a flu jab even if they normally wouldn’t. “For the past two years, with the country closed to the rest of the world because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve been largely free of colds and flu.”

The extra jabs come at a cost of $12 million which Little said has been funded by the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

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National deputy rejects claims of bullying culture within the party

National Party leader Christopher Luxon and deputy leader Nicola Willis (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National’s deputy leader has rejected an assertion the party has a bullying culture.

Two members of the party, who are part of the Young Nats, have resigned after allegations of bullying and online harassment of female politicians. Jesse MacKenzie subsequently outed himself as the individual responsible. 

Speaking to RNZ, Nicola Willis said that this was simply the actions of one individual. “Behaviour of people using anonymous identities is widespread across the political spectrum – it’s not something that is confined to one party or another.”

When pressed on the fact that this is not the first time bullying accusations have been levelled within the party, Willis denied a culture of bullying. “This is not behaviour that is condoned by the National Party,” she said. “I was on the phone yesterday to the president of the Young Nats yesterday… and she was aghast.”

In 2018, the party faced criticism of its culture after it was revealed ex-MP Maggie Barry had been accused of bullying. Last year, claims were addressed at MP Nick Smith for bullying, harassing and swearing at staffers.

Willis said she would challenge any political party to put their hand on their heart and say they don’t have any members who are conducting online behaviour that falls short of the standards they expect.

The best April Fools’ joke

I, like many of you I assume, tend to hate April Fools’ day. Except for that one time the joke I fell for actually led to me winning free return flights to Hawaii. But generally, I hate it. Yes, McDonald’s, a sundae made with Big Mac sauce – very clever.

Anyway, kudos to TVNZ for coming up with the best joke I’ve seen today.

I’d watch it, you’d watch it, we’d all watch it.

Benefits rise, public transport fares halved – but is it enough?

Masks will become mandatory on public transport around the country (Getty Images)

The government is touting today’s April 1 cost of living package as an example of how it’s helping New Zealanders cover things like rent and transport.

A suite of benefit increases come into effect from today, along with a rise in the minimum wage and a three month fare price on public transport.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the government had taken “swift action” to combat a surge in the cost of living. “The whole world is dealing with inflation as a result of Covid costs, supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine,” she said. “There’s no silver bullet that will fix the current situation, which is why this government is being responsive by implementing a range of changes to reduce costs on families who need it most.”

But the Greens don’t think today’s changes go far enough. The party’s social development spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said the welfare system needs to be simplified. “Complicated rules known as abatement thresholds mean that supplementary payments many people receive – such as help to pay the rent – can be reduced… if their main benefit increases. In other words, as the main benefit goes up, other essential income support comes down,” he said.

On the flipside, National reckons today’s announcements won’t help the “squeezed middle” – that is, middle-income households not receiving government support.

Young Nat admits harassing female politicians online

Jesse MacKenzie outed himself yesterday as the person responsible for misogynistic messages sent to female politicians. He made the admission a day after the courts linked the messages to an IP addressed owned by his flatmate, Bryce Beattie. As Stuff reports, Beattie had said he knew nothing about the messages when approached by reporters. MacKenzie had targeted Christchurch councillor Sara Templeton, Labour’s Megan Woods and Ilam MP Sarah Pallett. Beattie, also a Young Nat, had planned to run for a local community board but has dropped those plans.

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Extra police called to Wellington as protesters plan 14-day demonstration

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – MARCH 3: Police officers climb the graffiti covered steps to the Beehive inside the cordoned off area of Wellington city around Parliament buildings as the clean up continues on March 03, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. Police broke up the anti-COVID-19 mandate protester encampment yesterday after weeks of conflict in the …  Read more

Police in Wellington are preparing for the possibility of another protest outside parliament today.

A group called Unite, which splintered out of the recent parliament occupation, intends to demonstrate in the capital for the next 14 days. Protesters are expected to gather at the Pukeahu National War Memorial this afternoon.

In preparation, additional police have been called in from outside the Wellington region. “Police have a low tolerance of any activity that could lead to disruption of Parliament, critical roads or residents,” said a statement. “While police will respect the right to lawful protest, any behaviour deemed unlawful or that disrupts people from going about their lawful business will not be tolerated.”

As vaccine mandates are largely ending next week, it may seem unnecessary for protesters to demonstrate yet again. But, according to the Unite group, it’s a “common misconception” that mandates are being scrapped on April 4. “Instead, these mandates which make up part of the ‘Covid-19 Public Response Act 2020’ are, in fact, being put on hold rather than being removed in their entirety,” said a post on the Unite website. “Rather than giving us security, this gives the government the ability to reintroduce mandates at any point.”

The group appears to be largely anti-government, accusing our political leaders of “tyrannical control”.

A “small group” of about 15 protesters gathered outside parliament yesterday. All but one left peacefully, with prominent protester Brett Power arrested for breaching his bail conditions. Cannabis plants were also uncovered growing in parliament’s rose garden – a remnant of the protesters of yestermonth.