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Cancer Agency boss to replace Ashley Bloomfield

It’s Thursday June 2, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip or want to say hello? Reach me on

The latest

  • The head of the Cancer Control Agency will become acting director general of health when Ashley Bloomfield quits.
  • Broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria has quit social media after recent inappropriate behaviour allegations.
  • US jury finds both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamed each other – but one party came out on top.
  • Today’s Covid-19 numbers will be released, as always, at 1pm.

Cancer Agency boss to replace Ashley Bloomfield

It’s Thursday June 2, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip or want to say hello? Reach me on

The latest

  • The head of the Cancer Control Agency will become acting director general of health when Ashley Bloomfield quits.
  • Broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria has quit social media after recent inappropriate behaviour allegations.
  • US jury finds both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamed each other – but one party came out on top.
  • Today’s Covid-19 numbers will be released, as always, at 1pm.
Jun 2 2022

‘Huge honour’: Taskmaster NZ challenge replicated on UK original

Taskmaster UK (Image / Screenshot)

The worlds of Taskmaster collided on the most recent episode of the UK season in a moment that was incredibly exciting for Taskheads like myself.

The live “final task” of the episode involved the contestants constructing towers out of toilet roll, followed by a shoe-throwing competition to see whose tower could stay standing.

It was a moment of déjà vu for fans of our local version of Taskmaster, with an identical challenge airing in the first episode of Taskmaster NZ season two.

One of the task’s original creators, local comic Sam Smith, said he had no idea it had been replicated for the UK season until he watched the most recent episode. “It’s a huge honour,” he told The Spinoff. “It’s pretty great when the creator of the whole show that I love so much uses an idea we came up with.”

Taskmaster NZ producer Cam Bakker also said it was great to see. “We know Alex [Horne, Taskmaster creator] has mentioned before that they’ve taken inspiration from some of the New Zealand tasks which is great, as pretty much every task we’ve created has in some way been inspired by one of the UK tasks, so it’s nice to return the favour,” he said.

Taskmaster UK airs Wednesday nights on TVNZ2, with the third season of Taskmaster NZ set to air in the near future.

Housing minister’s Spinoff opinion piece scrutinised in parliament

Minister Megan Woods, photographed in her Beehive office by Michelle Langstone

A recent opinion piece by housing minister Megan Woods, published on The Spinoff, has been debated in parliament this afternoon.

In her piece, Woods described the government’s KiwiBuild policy as “still very much alive” and said fixing the housing crisis has been one of the government’s “top priorities”.

Those comments in particular drew criticism from her National Party counterpart Chris Bishop. In question time, he asked Woods whether she stood by the article. “I stand by the full statement,” said Woods. “We are making good process but the problems caused by decades of underinvestment in housing infrastructure, National’s gutting of public housing and failure to build more, and no action on growing affordable housing… it was never going to be fixed in a few years.”

On KiwiBuild specifically, Woods said it had seen 1,365 houses built with another 856 under construction.

Jacinda Ardern and Megan Woods arrive at a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on June 29, 2020. (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Woods’ article was written in response to a previously published Spinoff column by the Child Poverty Action Group’s Alan Johnson, who alleged that KiwiBuild had been “quietly laid to rest”. Woods said this was one of “a number of troubling inaccuracies and misconceptions” in Johnson’s article.

Chris Bishop called Woods’ opinion piece extraordinary. “The Spinoff is a typically funny news site, but Megan Woods’ recent op-ed defending KiwiBuild was filed under political opinion and not satire, where it clearly belongs,” he said. “KiwiBuild is the most significant public policy failure in recent New Zealand political history.”

Read Megan Woods’ full piece, published on the “typically funny” Spinoff, here.

$200m Silver Lake-NZ Rugby deal gets go ahead

All Blacks captain Sam Cane is one of the players leading opposition to the Silver Lake deal (Getty Images)

The controversial Silver Lake deal, that will see NZ Rugby sell a share of its commercial rights for $200 million, has been given the green light.

As Stuff reports, a vote by Provincial Unions and the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board took place at a special meeting in Auckland, with 89 votes in favour and just one against. NZR chairperson Stewart Mitchell described it as “a monumental moment in the history of rugby in New Zealand”.

It’s been a two-year process to get to this stage, with this final vote being the deciding moment. The vote required 75% approval for the sale to go ahead.

TVNZ’s head of news on leave in wake of Santamaria claims

Kamahl Santamaria (Photo: Supplied)

Paul Yurisich, TVNZ’s head of news, has gone on leave while the state broadcaster reviews its recruitment process.

It comes in the wake of the resignation of Breakfast co-host Kamahl Santamaria who is facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour both at TVNZ and his former workplace, Al Jazeera. Yurisich worked alongside Santamaria at Al Jazeera and subsequently oversaw his hiring at TVNZ after joining the network last year.

Concerns have since been raised into the process of Santamaria’s hiring for the Breakfast role.

TVNZ and Santamaria are yet to comment on the allegations.

Petition calling for Aotearoa to become official name backed by 70,000 people

Māori Party co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/ Getty Images; additional design by Tina Tiller)

A petition calling to change New Zealand’s official name to Aotearoa will be presented to parliament today.

Over 70,000 people have signed the petition, launched by Te Pāti Māori last year. It generated 25,000 signatures in its first 24 hours.

Along with renaming the country, the party want to see the original te reo Māori names for all towns, cities and places restored nationwide by 2026.

“People are hungry for change,” said party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. “There is a new generation of Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti who want to see themselves reflected in our country’s identity. Who recognise that the status quo is no longer consistent with who we are as a nation.”

Co-leader Rawiri Waititi said New Zealand is a Dutch name that has no connection to the country – and Tangata Whenua were sick of having their language ignored in the 21st century. “How many people in Aotearoa can even point to ‘old’ Zealand on a map?” he said. “Even the Dutch changed their name, from Holland to the Netherlands.”

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.

Covid-19 latest: 13 new deaths, 393 in hospital, 7,870 cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been another 13 deaths of people with Covid-19, including 11 over the past 48 hours. The remaining two are deaths from January that have only just been added to the pandemic death toll, now sitting at 1,197.

The seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 14. Of the deaths being reported today, four were from the Auckland region, four were from Canterbury, two from Southern, and one each from Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, and Wellington.

Four people were in their 60s, one was in their 70s, five were in their 80s, and three were aged over 90. Of these people, seven were male and six were female.

There are now 393 people in hospital with Covid-19, including eight in intensive care.

Another 7,870 community cases have been reported, with Auckland continuing to record the highest number of new cases – 2,456.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 6,937, a drop from last Thursday when it was 7,095.

Replacement for Ashley Bloomfield announced

Diana Sarfati with Jacinda Ardern and David Clark (Image / Wikipedia Jujansen)

The head of the Cancer Control Agency will take up the role of acting director general of health when Ashley Bloomfield steps down in July.

Diana Sarfati is a public health physician and cancer epidemiologist, and has a “world-leading reputation” in cancer control strategy and research.

“I am very pleased to appoint Dr Sarfati to this acting role. She has been an impressive leader at the Cancer Control Agency,” said deputy public service commissioner Helene Quilter. “Dr Sarfati has considerable experience and a sound understanding of New Zealand’s health system and has strong relationships across the sector.”

A permanent replacement for Bloomfield has not yet been confirmed.

Diana Sarfati with Jacinda Ardern and David Clark (Image / Wikipedia Jujansen)

Bloomfield announced earlier this year he’d be stepping down from the top Ministry of Health job to spend time with his family. He’s helped lead New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic, before finally catching the virus himself last week while in Geneva for work.

Going Global: The Spinoff’s new podcast about Aotearoa businesses taking on the world

Business is Boring presents Going Global

Together with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, The Spinoff Podcast Network is proud to announce the launch of Going Global, a six part pop-up series in the Business is Boring feed. The series is hosted by Brianne West, founder and CEO of international beauty brand Ethique, and Business is Boring’s Simon Pound.

Join Simon and Brianne as they chat to Laura Bell from SafeStack Academy to discuss everything from the export market for digital products to how SafeStack Academy found itself helping world-class companies like Sky, TradeMe and ASB with their cyber security training.

Listen to Going Global on The Spinoff Podcast Network. (Sponsored)

Rhys Darby’s HBO pirate comedy gets a second season

Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi in Our Flag Means Death (Image / HBO and Archi Banal)

Our Flag Means Death, the HBO pirate comedy starring Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi, will return for a second season.

The show was something of a sleeper hit when it first debuted earlier this year. While it received generally good reviews early on, it developed a strong online fan base that has been begging for a second sailing.

As I wrote for The Spinoff in March, the show morphed from a bizarre sea-based sitcom into a full blown rom com across the 10 episode season. It also drew praise for its diverse cast and an absence of “queer baiting”.

Unsurprisingly, #OurFlagMeansDeathseason2 is trending on Twitter.

Read more: The internet is in love with Our Flag Means Death

Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi in Our Flag Means Death (Image / HBO and Archi Banal)

Kamahl Santamaria quits social media after inappropriate behaviour claims

Kamahl Santamaria (Photo: Supplied)

Short-lived TVNZ co-host Kamahl Santamaria, who is facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour both in New Zealand and at his former employer, has left social media.

Accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – including a private account allegedly used to message women – have all been deactivated. A LinkedIn page remains, though with no mention of TVNZ in the work experience section.

A personal website, that up until recently included contact details and information about Santamaria, has also been taken offline.

What you see on Kamahl Santamaria’s Facebook

Santamaria has not responded to the allegations levelled at him by former colleagues. Stuff reported yesterday that a top boss at Al Jazeera, where Santamaria worked for over a decade, has addressed staff via an email titled “Working in a Safe Environment”.

Meanwhile, the social media accounts for TVNZ Breakfast have replaced promotional photos that included Santamaria with designs featuring none of the presenting team.

Duncan Greive: Why the Kamahl Santamaria saga could cause even bigger problems for TVNZ

The Bulletin: Christchurch stadium to cost nearly $700m

As Stuff’s Steven Walton reports, Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel “gasped” when she heard the figure. The new cost is $200m more than its initial budget and has been attributed to the increase in construction costs caused by global supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine. The stadium’s opening date has also been pushed to April 2026. The council will consult the public on what should be done next, giving them three options: increase the budget and take on risks of further cost increase, scale back the project or halt the project.

Talking to residents, RNZ reports that people are split on what should be done. City councillors also have differing views. Council staff said that if the budget increase was approved a significant increase in rates could be needed to bridge the cost gap.

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.  

US jury finds both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamed each other

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial concludes (Image / Getty Images)

The verdict in the highly publicised defamation trial between actors and ex-partners Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has resulted in victories for both parties. However, Depp has come away with a more decisive result and has been awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million dollars in punitive damages after the jury found his ex-wife had defamed him.

The jury awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages and no money for punitive damages after ruling that comments by Depp’s attorney were defamatory. Depp sought $50 million in damages and Heard sought $100 million.

The defamation lawsuits brought against each other were initially sparked by a 2018 opinion piece Heard wrote for The Washington Post in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Depp was not named in the article but claimed it was enough for him to lose acting roles.

In a statement, reported by CNN, Heard said she was disappointed “beyond words” by the verdict. “I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband,” Heard said.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial concludes (Image / Getty Images)

“I’m even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women… It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”

She continued: “I believe Johnny’s attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of freedom of speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the UK,” Heard said. “I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly.”

While Heard was present for the verdict, Depp was not in court.