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Live UpdatesAug 2 2022

Drop in rolling Covid case total

It’s Tuesday, August 2 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The number of new home consents topped 50,000 in the year ending June 2022 for the fourth consecutive month.
  • Estimated 800,000 people missed out on cost of living payment.
  • Less than half of New Zealanders are happy with their power provider.
  • Former Black Cap Heath Davis is New Zealand’s first international cricketer to speak openly about his sexuality. You can watch the documentary here.
  • There are 7,113 new community cases of Covid-19, with 738 people currently in hospital.
blog-aug-2.png

Drop in rolling Covid case total

It’s Tuesday, August 2 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The number of new home consents topped 50,000 in the year ending June 2022 for the fourth consecutive month.
  • Estimated 800,000 people missed out on cost of living payment.
  • Less than half of New Zealanders are happy with their power provider.
  • Former Black Cap Heath Davis is New Zealand’s first international cricketer to speak openly about his sexuality. You can watch the documentary here.
  • There are 7,113 new community cases of Covid-19, with 738 people currently in hospital.
Aug 2 2022

Gerry Brownlee won’t contest Ilam seat in 2023

Long-serving National MP and former deputy leader Gerry Brownlee won’t be standing for the Ilam seat at next year’s election. He’s opted to run as a list-only MP.

Brownlee held the Ilam seat from 1996 through until the 2020 election when he was unseated by Labour’s Sarah Pallett.

“I want to contribute to a National government, and so will be a list only candidate in 2023,” said Brownlee in a brief written statement.

“I have no doubt National will find a strong candidate for Ilam, and that person will have my full support.”

National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee (Image: Getty Images/Tina Tiller)

New Zealand has its third monkeypox case

A third case of monkeypox has been confirmed in New Zealand – this time in the South Island.

The person recently returned from overseas and is currently isolating. The Ministry of Health said there is no evidence of any community transmission from the case.

“Public health staff have assessed the risk of transmission from this case as low,” said the Ministry of Health. “A test has returned a positive result and ESR is currently validating that result. This process is expected to be completed tomorrow afternoon.”

New Zealand’s two prior cases were also imported from overseas, but both in the Auckland region.

National drops 4% in new poll, Te Pāti Māori still poised to be kingmaker

A new Roy Morgan poll shows support for National dropped 4% in July, possibly due to leader Christopher Luxon’s unannounced – and overanalysed – holiday to Hawai’i.

The party has dipped to 35%, its lowest result since the start of the year. Some of those lost points went to likely coalition partner Act, which rose 1.5 points to 11%. Together, the parties sit on 46%.

That tightens the gap between the left and right, with National and Act sitting just 1.5 points ahead of a Labour-Greens government. Support for both Labour and the Greens individually increased by 0.5% each.

Some of National’s lost support has also ended up with Te Pāti Māori, rising by 2.5% up to 4% – its highest Roy Morgan result since April 2010. It puts Te Pāti Māori in the kingmaker position which would likely result in a Labour-led government (Act and the Māori Party have effectively ruled out going into government together).

National demands investigation into cost of living mis-payments

The National Party has called for an investigation into the cost of living payment.

Specifically, the opposition is concerned that potentially “hundreds of thousands of expat New Zealanders and former visa-holders” may have received the $116 first payment despite being ineligible. At this point, it’s not known how many overseas New Zealanders were paid the money.

Nicola Willis, National’s deputy and finance spokesperson, said the auditor-general should investigate. “The general policy statement for the cost of living legislation defines the eligibility criteria for the payment and says people will only be eligible for it if they are living here and present here for tax purposes,” Willis said.

“The legislation is also explicit that if payments are made to people who are ineligible, they will be required by law to repay it. “This puts New Zealanders overseas in an invidious position. They didn’t ask for this money to go into their account and now they’re in a situation where according to the law, they’re required to pay it back.”

Willis said many overseas New Zealanders mistakenly paid may not even know they had broken the law. “The scale of these issues could be massive,” she said. “We know that there are a million New Zealanders living overseas. We have had a report of someone who has lived in Dubai for 22 years has got it, and of people who have been living in Australia for many years receiving it.”

So far, revenue minister David Parker has estimated that a small number of ineligible New Zealanders received the payment but said he did not know the full extent.

National MP Nicola Willis at parliament on October 20, 2020 (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Covid-19 update: Rolling case average continues to fall, 738 in hospital

There are 7,113 new community cases of Covid-19, with 738 people currently in hospital.

While it marks a slight rise in the number of new cases when compared with yesterday, the overall trend is heading down. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 6,683 – last Tuesday, it was 8,335.

There are now a total of 1,563 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now 22.

Overnight, another 33 deaths have been added to the overall toll. All were people over the age of 60. Further detail on the latest deaths is available here.

Estimated 800,000 people missed out on cost of living payment

About 800,000 fewer people than planned received the first of three cost of living payments.

According to the Herald, the payment – of roughly $116 – was expected to be paid out to 2.1 million New Zealanders. Instead, about 800,000 received it.

The figures were confirmed just a day after it was reported overseas New Zealanders received the payment, intended to help tackle the domestic cost of living crisis, in error.

It’s possible the 2.1 million eligibility figure was an overestimation by IRD. The agency has so far recorded 1.4 million people met the criteria, but the details for hundreds of thousands were potentially missing.

An IRD spokesperson told the Herald it would be running eligibility checks every day the number of people who met the criteria  for the payment would likely increase towards the 2.1 million “over time”.

About 1,000 people have so far opted out of the payment, likely those living overseas and technically ineligible for the scheme.

Road user charge honesty system failed

It turns out the government’s “honesty system” for discounted road user charges may not have worked as well as planned.

When the government dropped petrol tax earlier this year, it chose to reduce road user charges for diesel drivers as well. These are purchased in units and the government hoped that drivers would only purchase charges that they required for a particular period.

According to Newsroom’s Jo Moir, that hasn’t quite panned out. The transport minister Michael Wood confirmed that 1,028 large purchases were identified in the past three months through spot checks by Waka Kotahi, with 73% of these found to be “likely excessive”.

So far, just 21 people pinged by the transport agency have reversed their purchase.

Wood told Newsroom that Waka Kotahi was keeping a close eye on all large purchases. “While there will always be those who try to take advantage of the system, I am confident that this is a relatively small number of potentially excessive purchases, when compared with the overall number of RUC purchases,” he said.

NZ and Sāmoa to work together on climate resilience

Jacinda Ardern says it was “fitting” to sit alongside political representatives from across New Zealand’s parliament during her trip to Sāmoa.

The prime minister, along with senior ministers and senior MPs from all parties, has visited Sāmoa to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Sāmoan leader Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, Ardern acknowledged it was “unusual” to have travelled with political foes like Christopher Luxon and David Seymour. However, she said “it was fitting on this occasion” as the trip was not about politics but about friendship between our two countries.

Sāmoan PM Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and Jacinda Ardern pose for a photo earlier this year (Photo / Getty Images)

During a bilateral meeting this morning, Ardern and Mata’afa discussed “additional project work” that New Zealand and Sāmoa could work on together. This included redeveloping a waterfront market that was damaged in a fire. Ardern said this would help small business owners in Sāmoa, including many women.

“As Samoa transitions from Covid-19 lockdowns and reopens to the world, the rebuilding of the market signifies our focus on economic recovery through support to small business, local enterprise, and women’s entrepreneurship,” Ardern said.

“The market was renowned as a hub for local crafts and food, run primarily by women small business owners. It is at the heart of Apia’s community and economic life, as well as formerly being a major tourist attraction.”

New Zealand and Sāmoa will also work together on climate resilience and adaptation, which Ardern said was important to her government and the wider region.

New Zealand will provide $15 million to help Sāmoa with its climate priorities. “This funding will help build Samoa’s resilience to the impacts of climate change and its transition to a low emissions economy,” said Ardern.

Greens, Act join forces to condemn planned Oranga Tamariki law

There’s been a rare moment of unity from across the political spectrum on Newshub’s AM this morning, when the Greens and Act came together to criticise a controversial piece of government legislation.

The government’s proposed Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill would get rid of the Children’s Commissioner and install a monitor of the welfare agency instead.

It’s prompted condemnation from all parties in parliament – aside from Labour. A new report released today appears to back up some of the opposition’s concerns, saying the bill risks creating a “cycle” of harm for children.

Speaking to Newshub, Act’s children’s spokesperson Karen Chhour said she came to parliament to advocate for young New Zealanders. “I can tell you from experience, dealing with Child, Youth and Family growing up, the worst thing you can do as an organisation is losing trust in the youth because to come forward takes huge courage and why would you come forward if you don’t trust the system,” Chhour said.

“I think 90% of what’s going to make this system work is trust and all this bill is going to do is destroy the trust that our youth have currently with the Children’s Commissioner.”

(Photo: Newshub)

Chhour acknowledged that she often did not politically align with the Greens, but on this issue was fully in agreement with the party.

Green Party children’s spokesperson Jan Logie said the government was ignoring expert advice. “They’ve just got to stop and go back and start building the relationships with Māori, with our child rights advocacy groups, and most importantly, with the kids in care, and work this out together to ensure the safety of our children,” she said.

“We know that there are actually increasing reports of harm within Oranga Tamariki. So this is not something to take lightly.”

The commissioner herself has been vocal against the government’s bill, saying it could see children exposed to more abuse.

Consents for new multi-unit homes remain above standalone houses

The number of new home consents topped 50,000 in the year ending June 2022 for the fourth consecutive month.

There were 50,736 consents over the June year, up 14% from the same month in 2021, but slightly down on the 51,015 consented in the year ending May.

Interestingly, the majority of the new home consents were multi-unit homes, like townhouses and apartments, which surpassed the number of standalones consented (26,823 to 23,913).

“Home consents have remained near historically high levels, with a decrease in stand-alone houses being largely offset by high levels of consenting activity for multi-unit homes,” said Stats NZ’s property statistics manager Michael Heslop.

The housing minister has celebrated the figures, saying it was a sharp turnaround from the former National government. “A decade ago under National, in the year ended June 2012, the annual number of new homes consented was 15,414,” Megan Woods said.

“This government is continuing to make up for lost time under National to deliver on the homes New Zealand urgently needs.”

Less than half of New Zealanders happy with their power provider

A new customer survey by Consumer NZ has revealed just how unhappy people are with their power providers.

Just over half – 52% – of surveyed New Zealanders said they were “very satisfied” with their power company. The worst of the bunch was Contact Energy, where only 45% of customers were happy with the company, criticising its pricing, customer service and ability to resolve problems quickly.

Customers rated Genesis below par on almost all performance questions, said Consumer, while Trustpower was rated among the worst for competitive pricing and value for money. Trustpower’s customers rated it well below average for helping with selecting the most appropriate plan. Almost a third of Trustpower customers said they would consider changing providers within the next year.

“The survey results show the small players are doing a better job of keeping their customers satisfied while bigger power companies have comparatively lower scores for customer service,” said Paul Fuge from Consumer.

“This will come as a disappointment to some larger retailers who have made efforts to up their customer service game since last year’s survey results were announced. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues next year.”

The top rated power company was also one of the country’s smallest: Powershop. It rated above average for competitive pricing, helping with saving energy, helping to select an appropriate plan, value for money and customer support.

The Bulletin: Reducing Covid isolation period ‘under active consideration’

As Newsroom’s Jo Moir reports, the cabinet committee that reviews Covid settings is scheduled to do so early this month. The committee will consider shorter isolation periods, a test-to-work regime and widening the critical services list which allows household contacts to continue working if they meet certain criteria. Critical health care workers have been able to return to work before the end of their seven day isolation period but many haven’t been well enough to do so and uptake of the provision has been limited.

Covid response minister Ayesha Verrall said that “In terms of the hypothesised economic benefit from reducing absenteeism in that way, we’re not sure that’s really there”. The committee will consider whether a testing-to-work regime would work better.

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Heath Davis, the first gay Black Cap

Selected for the Black Caps in 1994 at just 22 and one of the fiercest pace bowlers in the world, Heath Davis had the talent and charisma to be a superstar. But behind the scenes was a life he kept hidden. During the days on tour, Davis opened the bowling. At night he went looking for sex in places where nobody would know him. Playing at home in Wellington, Davis kept his two lives separate until moving away from the city – and eventually the country – was the only way he could live openly as himself. 

Away from the public eye since his retirement from first class cricket in 2004, Davis shares the truth behind his career, his infamous antics and the lonely life of the first gay Black Cap.

Davis spoke candidly with director, and editor of The Spinoff, Madeleine Chapman for the Scratched series. Infamous rumours – like the claim that he played a first class match while on acid – were discussed, as well as more recent changes in his life.

Veteran sports reporter Dylan Cleaver remembers growing up with the myth of Heath Davis, which mostly meant being terrified of facing him. And  Alice Soper explores the unsupported queerness in all sports, through the lens of gay women who often play alongside their own partners.

Scratched: Heath Davis is on The Spinoff today and made with the support of NZ On Air.