Pharmac review released

It’s Wednesday and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for June 1 – yes, it’s already June! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can get in touch with me on

The agenda

  • Jacinda Ardern has met with US president Joe Biden for a face-to-face meeting at the White House.
  • The 90 minute meeting was deemed a success by Ardern, who said Biden had committed to work with New Zealand on a range of issues.
  • The government-ordered review of Pharmac has been released.
  • Covid-19 latest: 13 deaths, 373 in hospital, 8,182 new cases.

Pharmac review released

It’s Wednesday and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for June 1 – yes, it’s already June! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can get in touch with me on

The agenda

  • Jacinda Ardern has met with US president Joe Biden for a face-to-face meeting at the White House.
  • The 90 minute meeting was deemed a success by Ardern, who said Biden had committed to work with New Zealand on a range of issues.
  • The government-ordered review of Pharmac has been released.
  • Covid-19 latest: 13 deaths, 373 in hospital, 8,182 new cases.
Jun 1 2022

Only 11.7% of eligible under 18s have had their vaccine booster

A vaccine being administered in South Auckland. (Photo: Supplied)

Latest Covid-19 vaccination data has revealed just how few eligible teenagers have had their booster shot.

Booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine were made available for 16 and 17-year-olds from early April. However, since then, just 11.7% – or 10,777 people – have had their third dose.

That number drops even more dramatically when looking at two key demographics. Just 995 Māori and 557 Pacific within the age groups have had a booster, representing 5.9% from each eligible population.

Despite New Zealand’s incredibly high vaccine uptake for the initial two doses, booster numbers have always been fairly low across the board. Of the eligible 18+ population, 72.6% have so far had their booster compared with 95.2% being double dosed.

Covid-19 latest: 13 deaths, 373 in hospital, 8,182 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

The seven-day rolling average of community case continues to decline. It currently sits at 6,893 – last Wednesday, it was 7,308.

There are 8,182 community cases across the country today, with 2,534 of those in Auckland.

Another 13 people with Covid-19 have died in the past five days, bringing the nationwide pandemic death toll up to 1,185 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 14. Four were from the Auckland region, two were from Canterbury, and one each from Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke’s Bay, Hutt Valley, Capital and Coast, Nelson Marlborough, and Southern.

One person was in their 40s, two were in their 70s, five were in their 80s, and five were aged over 90. Of these people, six were female and seven were male.

There are now 373 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including eight in intensive care.

A message from senior writer Alex Casey

Earlier in the year we published When the Lessons End, an in-depth examination of one woman’s experience at the hands of her private music teacher, and the impact it had on the rest of her life. Stories like these take months of rigorous reporting, travel costs and hefty legal fees to get to publication stage, all of which was only possible thanks to our members.

I feel so lucky to work for an organisation that encourages long-form investigative journalism, but the reality is that this work is impossible without the ongoing support of our readers.  If you can, please support our work by donating today.

Why is 2degrees giving away $222,000?


All New Zealand babies born today – June 1, 2022 – are eligible for free money from 2degrees. Yes, you read that correctly.

A $222,000 cash pool will be equally divided up among all June 1 children whose parents register online. With about 60,000 children born every year – or roughly 168 every day – that means they’ll end up with a $1,400-ish bonus.

The telco announced the scheme as it prepares to merge with Vocus to “create the next generation of 2degrees”. The merger was approved earlier this year.

“2degrees is here to support the next generation of Kiwis as we continue with our fight for fair,” said chief executive Mark Callander. “What better way to celebrate our commitment to a fairer future for all New Zealanders, than by giving a bonus to those Kiwis who share this milestone day with us.”

To find out more – including how to register your newborn – visit

Introducing Manawarahi, Fiona Pardington’s move into the NFT market

(Image: Fiona Pardington)

Artist Fiona Pardington’s photography of huia has served to preserve the beauty and sacredness of the extinct native bird and acted as a warning about the fragility of our indigenous species. In an unexpected shift, her new artwork, Manawarahi: Female and Male Huia Lovers MTG Hawke’s Bay (2022) was released as an NFT exclusively with Glorious Marketplace last night.

In a two part release, the first image of the huia is available immediately to purchasers and a second yet to be revealed image will drop within 12 months.

Manawarahi features an edition of just 100, priced at $2000.

Head to the Glorious Marketplace for more information and read more about Pardington’s work on The Spinoff(Sponsored)

Pharmac review concludes drug agency not doing enough for Māori

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

A review of drug buying agency Pharmac has found that it contributed to inequitable health outcomes for Māori and Pacific peoples.

The review, a pre-election pledge by Labour, was released today by health minister Andrew Little, who had been under pressure to reveal the panel’s findings.

In a statement, the review panel said that Māori and Pacific peoples had received “a lower share of subsidised medicines than would be expected”, especially of new medicines funded over the last decade. “Many factors outside Pharmac contribute to this low share, however Pharmac’s decision processes do not give the due weight to equity considerations that is needed,” the panel concluded.

In its recommendations, the panel said Andrew Little should “make explicit the expectation that in seeking the best health and equity outcomes, Pharmac must work collaboratively with the Ministry, Health NZ, and the Māori Health Authority”.

On the subject of cancer medications, an area which often results in headlines about Pharmac, the panel recommended that these be considered like other pharmaceuticals. “The emphasis needs to be on severity of disease, clinical alternatives and cost for benefit,” said the panel.

In his response, Little said that the government accepted “most” of the panel’s 33 recommendations. “As a result of this review, Pharmac will have a much greater focus on improving the health of Māori, Pacific peoples, disabled people and other groups who do not yet share equitably in the benefits Pharmac provides,” he said.

“This will mean stronger relationships with Māori to honour te tiriti o Waitangi, that Pharmac is more inclusive of people with health needs, and explains its work more openly for the public.”

The Pae Ora Bill, the legislation that reforms the health system and merges the existing DHBs, will put into action many aspects of the recommendations, said Little.

Health minister Andrew Little (Getty Images)

On the recommendations not being accepted by the government, Little said this was primarily because events had overtaken them. “There is a small number of recommendations where the government takes a different view, for example where the health reforms will address the underlying issues now or in the future,” he said.

Little said the review affirmed that Pharmac’s model “has delivered significant benefits”, but the government would now work to make sure these benefits were shared more equitably.

Pharmac itself has accepted the recommendations.

A Biden tweet of approval

Then candidate Joe Biden lays out his economic policy plan during a campaign stop on October 23, 2019 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Rick Loomis/Getty Images)

Remember how ex-US president Barack Obama never sent his endorsement tweet following his trip to New Zealand in 2018?

Well, Joe Biden has not let us down. The sitting US president has tweeted about his meeting with Jacinda Ardern, which took place in the early hours of this morning (NZ time).

Biden said it was an honour to welcome Ardern to the White House, and said the pair “worked to advance the US-New Zealand partnership”.

As for Obama, it’s not too late for that tweet.

The Bulletin: Emergency departments overwhelmed

Several reports from hospitals around the country point to emergency departments being extremely stretched. Hutt Hospital’s emergency department is asking patients not to turn up unless they need urgent attention. Dr John Bonning of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine said unwell health staff was one of the main factors in the “challenging” situation many district healths boards faced right now. Canterbury District Health Board (DHB) had over 170 of its staff off sick with Covid-19 yesterday.

The Herald has also reported that a woman with typhoid fever had to sleep in her car overnight because of bed shortages at Middlemore hospital.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

More women allege inappropriate behaviour by Kamahl Santamaria

Kamahl Santamaria (Photo: Supplied)

Two more women have come forward to the media with allegations of inappropriate behaviour by ex-TVNZ broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria.

The Breakfast host resigned from the show over the weekend, roughly a month after he first joined as co-host. Since then, women at TVNZ and his former employer, Al Jazeera, have alleged that Santamaria behaved inappropriately with them in person or online.

The latest claims come from the Herald who has spoken to two unlinked women. One worked with Santamaria during his career at TV3 many years ago and claims he messaged her out of the blue several years ago saying he used to “watch her” in the newsroom.

“I was a little bit taken aback. It just seemed kind of out of character from the person I had worked with, and had liked a lot,” she said of the message, which Santamaria sent via LinkedIn. “It went on to say something else, which I can’t remember the exact wording of, to the effect of I thought you were …. really hot or gorgeous or something like that.”

Another woman said Santamaria sent her messages, that made her feel uncomfortable, from a private Instagram account.

Know more? Contact

Kamahl Santamaria (Photo: Supplied)

Meanwhile, a TVNZ boss has responded angrily after an email from chief executive Simon Power was leaked to media yesterday. Power had announced a review would take place of TVNZ’s recruitment processes following the Santamaria saga. But after that message was quickly published by several media outlets, story production and operations general manager Andrew Fernie sent a furious email to TVNZ staff.

This, too, was quickly leaked. “When I read ‘TVNZ chief executive Simon Power, in an email to staff obtained by the Herald’ on the Herald website, I feel so embarrassed and frankly quite disgusted. This is the time that we should be sticking together,” he said in the leaked message.

“We’ll get through this together, but together should not include the wider media. Look around the room. There’s a team of loyal, hard-working professionals trying to do their jobs. Don’t make it harder.”

Jacinda Ardern meets Joe Biden at the White House

Jacinda Ardern and Joe Biden in the Oval Office (Image / Getty Images)

Trade, Ukraine and gun violence were all on the agenda this morning as prime minister Jacinda Ardern met with US president Joe Biden.

The pair met on the final day of Ardern’s US trade tour, which has seen her visit several cities and push the message that New Zealand is open for business and open for tourists. The all-important White House meeting was delayed due to Ardern’s recent Covid infection, though the prime minister maintained that US officials were always keen for a face-to-face to happen.

The meeting, scheduled for an hour, ran for 90 minutes – a big win for New Zealand’s interests.

It’s the first White House meeting for a New Zealand leader since John Key met with president Barack Obama in 2014. Ardern previously met with president Donald Trump for a brief “pull aside” conversation at the United Nations.

Ardern described New Zealand’s relationship with the US as “very very close” and said her and Biden committed to work together on a number of challenges facing both the world and the Pacific. “The meeting with president Biden came at a critical moment. We recommitted to working together, and alongside others, in the pursuit of peace and stability, and in defence of the international rules-based order,” Ardern said.

The conversation between the pair was “warm and friendly” and Ardern said she was “greatly heartened” by how it went.

During brief remarks to media, Biden said it was “good to see a not-so-old, but a good friend” and “we are really delighted to have you here.”

A key focus of the trip, said Ardern, had been to reconnect New Zealand with the United States. “While we recognises the domestic complexities in the US in terms of free trade agreements, I urged the president to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP),” she said.

“The CPTPP is the best way the United States can support the economic resilience of our region, so on that basis I encouraged the president to look at the CPTTP as more than a trade agreement.”

The United States withdrew from the CPTPP, formally the Trans-Pacific Partnership, during the presidency of Donald Trump. It had been supported by his predecessor, president Barack Obama.

Jacinda Ardern and Joe Biden in the Oval Office (Image / Getty Images)

Ardern said both she and Biden condemned the actions of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and said New Zealand would help the US to “stand up to Russia’s aggression”.

Biden thanked New Zealand for its “significant” support of Ukraine. “This is more than just a regional war,” he said.

The early days of the prime minister’s visit to the US became dominated by talk of gun violence and law reform in the wake of yet another devastating school shooting, this time in Texas. Ardern told Biden she could share New Zealand’s experience of tackling the issue following the 2019 mosque attack in Christchurch, and the pair remained committed to the Christchurch Call.

“While in New Zealand we know we have more work to do on the issue of gun crime, we can share what we have learned through the changes we made to ensure the weapons most often used for mass killings, military style semi-automatic weapons, were quickly taken out of circulation,” Ardern said.

Biden said there has been “an awful lot of suffering” in the US and he believed he had already been to “more mass shooting aftermaths than any president in American history.”

Issues in the Pacific were also raised, with Ardern saying New Zealand was happy to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity – “but we do want it to be meaningful.”

She added: “We believe it can assist with the removal of non-tariff barriers and seed greater economic cooperation and integration.”

It was about “working together”, said Biden. “We are not coming to dictate or lay down the law. We have more work to do in those Pacific Islands.”

Jacinda Ardern fronts to media after her White House meeting (Image / Getty Images)

Separately, Ardern met with vice president Kamala Harris where the pair finalised a Space Framework Agreement between the US and New Zealand. “One of the most innovative developments in Aotearoa New Zealand has been the emergence of a world-leading space sector,” said Ardern. “In recent years, we have had the fourth highest number of launches, while New Zealand space companies and research institutes have made significant technology advances.”

Ardern welcomed both Biden and Harris to visit New Zealand, telling media “you know me”.

“I often extend invitations and today was no different.”

Read more on the Ardern-Biden meeting in today’s edition of The Bulletin. Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.