The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 continues to climb. There are currently 417 people with the virus being treated, with seven now in intensive care.
Most of those in hospital are across the Auckland region: 88 are in Waitematā, 40 are in Counties Manukau and 55 are in Auckland.
In its 1pm statement, the Ministry of Health said the spread of “traditional winter illnesses” alongside Covid-19 was putting significant strain on the health system. “Health services have been planning for a challenging winter and are working regionally to manage capacity and demand, prioritise urgent care and deliver as much planned care as possible,” said a spokesperson.
“It helps our health services if everyone does their bit to help us get through winter. The best thing New Zealanders can do to ensure they and their families don’t end up in hospital is to be up-to-date with their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.”
There are 6,984 new community cases of Covid-19. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today now sits at 6,422, up from 4,817 before the Matariki long weekend.
Another eight people with Covid-19 have died, all over the past week. It brings the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 1,529 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is now 12.
The new overarching health agency has officially launched, and the new names have been unveiled as well: Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand and Te Aka Whai Ora – the Māori Health Authority.
In a press release heralding a “new era” for health in New Zealand, Andrew Little said today’s reforms were about seeing the end of the postcode lottery.
“The launch of the new health system is the start of Pae Ora (healthy futures) and means we will have fewer people getting so sick they need to go to hospital. We will be able to better support our health workforce and take advantage of new technologies,” he said.
“Today is just the start. The next step is to develop the healthcare plan that will guide and determine service delivery across the country and the health charter for our health workforce.”
The new health agency means the end of the country’s 20 district health boards, which have all had their deficits wiped. There will now be 82,000 people directly employed by Health NZ, which is set to have a $24 billion budget this year.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has rejected rumours he was planning an alliance with Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki.
An article in the Listener, republished today by the Herald, suggests Tamaki was in talks to merge his freedom movement with New Zealand First in an effort to secure at least 5% in the next election. There is little in the article to back up the claim, which instead analyses whether this would be a viable partnership.
In response, Peters has labelled the story a “preposterous lie” and said there has “never been any talks between myself and Brian Tamaki”. To suggest this would be, said Peters, “underhanded political dirt”.
Peters claims Jane Clifton, the author of the Listener piece, both failed to “fact and spell check” the article (I have not yet picked up the alleged spelling error).
“Whilst New Zealand First has always been open to conversations with all New Zealanders on issues that concern them, we do not intend to give this journalistic deceit the oxygen of respectability,” said Peters. “The statement is false and all Jane Clifton had to do to confirm that was to contact me. She didn’t because a simple fact check would have upset her intended narrative and purpose. Many readers will have worked out why for themselves.”
While all eyes are today on the launch of the new Health NZ – more on that to come around 11am – another major health development takes a step forward today.
Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People has officially been launched, set to represent the approximately 1.1 million disabled people in New Zealand.
Carmel Sepuloni, the minister for social development, said the disabled community has waited “decades” for this moment. “That’s why work will continue to ensure the new Ministry has the time to get its people and systems established so that it’s well placed to get the transformation right,” she said.
The new ministry is set to become the first to have a Sign Language name as well as a name in Te Reo and English.
All current and a number of former MPs have been asked to reveal how they would vote on abortion law reform in 2022.
It comes after the highly controversial and upsetting overturn of the Roe v Wade decision in the US last weekend.
In response to that news, The Spinoff approached all our current MPs, and those who were in the House during our abortion law reform debate in 2020, asking them how they would vote on New Zealand’s existing legislation.
Largely, those who responded reiterated their previously expressed opinions. That includes those who hold anti-abortion views, like Labour’s Jamie Strange who said: “Abortion is a multifaceted, complex area, and I stand by my 2020 conscience vote on this issue.”
Most National MPs chose not to respond to The Spinoff’s request. However, one National spokesperson, replying on behalf of Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, criticised news stories on abortion.
The spokesperson initially gave a no comment response, but, in a follow-up text mistakenly sent to The Spinoff, they said: “World is going to hell in a handcart but this is the most important story of the week??!!!!! Gimme strength!”
The spokesperson then followed up to apologise for the text, which she said was meant for a team member, adding: “It has been quite the topic of the week despite all the other challenges going on around the world and the comment was mine and mine alone.”
For more on how our MPs would vote on abortion law in 2022, click here
Why do so few of our small businesses make the leap to become bigger, faster-growing engine rooms for economic growth and higher wages? Curiously, Aotearoa also has a long tail of older business owners that seem comfortable bumbling along with sub-scale firms that would do better with bigger and more ambitious owners.
This week on When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey talks to ABC Business Sales MD Chris Small about why so many business owners won’t jump up, or out, and why it’s holding back the nation as a whole.
After months of planning, all of New Zealand’s district health boards have today been ditched in favour of two new overarching organisations: Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority.
Today’s edition of The Bulletin has an excellent overview of all the key changes. Here’s an extract:
“This reform programme was first signalled in the 2020 Health and disability system review. The review recommended that 20 DHBs be reduced to between eight and 12 within five years. In 2021, the government announced that all 20 DHBs would be replaced by one national organisation, Health NZ, and that a Māori Health Authority would be created. Today, the Pae Ora bill comes into force and those entities begin steering the health system through the transition. Heading the two new agencies are Margie Apa (Health NZ) and Riana Manuel (Māori Health Authority – MHA). Toby Manhire spoke with both of them at length in March.”
Last minute negotiations in Brussels have helped secure a major, $1.8 billion free trade deal with the European Union.
It follows four years of discussions between New Zealand and the Union, and comes just days after prime minister Jacinda Ardern admitted a deal may not make it over the line. The PM had told reporters she was “very willing to come away from Europe without final conclusion” if the deal on the table did not meet her expectations.
But shortly before 2am New Zealand time, confirmation arrived that the deal had been secured.
“Our EU-NZ FTA is expected to increase the value of New Zealand’s exports to the EU by up to $1.8 billion per year from 2035,” said Ardern. “For comparison that’s more lucrative than the benefits derived from our recent UK FTA. It’s a strategically important and economically beneficial deal that comes at a crucial time in our export led Covid-19 recovery.”
Key elements of the deal include:
Duty-free access on 97% of New Zealand’s current exports to the EU, with over 91% being removed the day the FTA comes into force.
New Zealand exporters are set to save approximately $110 million per annum on tariff elimination, with $100 million slashed from day one.
Immediate tariff elimination for all kiwifruit, wine, onions, apples, mānuka honey and manufactured goods, as well as almost all fish and seafood, and other horticulture products.
A Māori Trade and Economic Cooperation chapter to enhance the ability for Māori to access the benefits from the FTA, including through the development of business links between Māori and EU enterprises (with a particular emphasis on SMEs), and focusing on science, research and innovation.
“The complete removal of duties on the majority of products New Zealand exports to the EU is a major achievement in a deal that covers market access into 27 European countries,” Ardern added.
But while many sectors will be thrilled with the total removal of tariffs, it’s left our major red meat and dairy industries “extremely disappointed”. The deal did not include “commercially meaningful access for our exporters”, according to Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association.
Trade minister Damien O’Connor, who has spent the last week in Brussels, said he’d “fought hard” for dairy and beef exporters. “The deal could deliver up to $600 million in additional export revenue if access is used and once the agreement is fully in effect,” he said.
“We’ve secured an eight-fold increase in the volume of beef we can export into the EU. We have also secured improved access for our butter and cheese producers, some of which will now be able to be trade with the EU for the first time in many years.”
Ardern admitted agriculture had been the reason this agreement took so long to get over the line, but believed any compromises were worth it.
One element that’s also irked dairy producers is the loss of the name “feta”, with local producers of the cheese forced to ditch the name in nine years time. Other well known varieties, like camembert, gouda, halloumi, mozzarella and brie, are safe in the deal. But there has also been a limitation on parmesan: producers who are currently making the cheese can continue to use the name, but no new producers will be permitted once the deal kicks in.
New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association chair Catherine McNamara said it had left local producers worried. “The loss of a generic name like feta gives us grave concerns that other generic traditional cheese names such as havarti and haloumi will soon be up for discussion too,” she said.
“It creates an uncertain environment for New Zealand specialist cheesemakers. We are now calling on the government to support industry and to work with us to create a New Zealand naming system which can be protected and invested in.”