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LIVE UPDATES

Covid cases continue to ease, rumours mask rules to be scrapped

We’ve made it to the end of another week: welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 2. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me via stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Woolworths signs first wholesale deal – but will it see prices drop?
  • Chris Bishop to run National’s 2023 election campaign.
  • The new Lord of the Rings TV series debuts today on Amazon Prime Video. It’s a good watch!
  • Covid-19 update: Cases drop back to 1,800, with 269 in hospital.
blog-sept-2.jpg

Covid cases continue to ease, rumours mask rules to be scrapped

We’ve made it to the end of another week: welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 2. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me via stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Woolworths signs first wholesale deal – but will it see prices drop?
  • Chris Bishop to run National’s 2023 election campaign.
  • The new Lord of the Rings TV series debuts today on Amazon Prime Video. It’s a good watch!
  • Covid-19 update: Cases drop back to 1,800, with 269 in hospital.
Sep 2 2022

Send this giant worm straight to hell please

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It’s nearly time for me to sign off for the week, so I thought I’d leave you with this absolute nightmare fuel out of Christchurch. 

Nine-year-old Barnaby Domigan found a metre-long (!!) worm in his garden this week, proudly posing with it in a photo taken by his dad Chris and shared via Stuff. Nothing a metre long is good unless it is meant to be a metre long – and this worm strongly proves that thesis.

Look away now if you don’t want to live with the image of a giant fleshy worm in your mind for eternity.

I hate this giant worm (Photo: Chris Domigan/Stuff)

Speaking to Stuff, Barnaby’s mum Jo rightfully described the worm as “ginormous” and “the stuff of nightmares”, but said her son was “most impressed” with the monstrosity.

“What a find, he thought it was wonderful,” she said.

If you’re wondering how likely it is you’ll stumble upon this dirty earthy snake the next time you’re gardening, it sounds like you’ll be safe. John Marris, curator of the University of Lincoln’s entomology research collection, said it would be rare to find one in a domestic garden. He also added, which seems concerning for a scientist, that the worm looked like “the creature from the black lagoon”. He’s not wrong, though.

Happy Friday, one and all.

Read more on the hell monster here

Com Com takes Vector to court over electricity supply

Electricity power pylons stand in Rangipo Desert near the State Highway 1 Desert Road on May 6, 2016 in Waiouru,  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins)

The Commerce Commission has announced legal action against Vector, alleging the company has failed to meet minimum standards of electricity supply.

Vector is the country’s largest distributor of electricity, and supplies half a million homes and businesses around Auckland alone.

It’s not the first time the commission has taken Vector to court: similar legal proceedings were initiated back in 2018.

In a statement, the commission said Vector would not challenge the legal claim.

Covid-19 update: Cases drop back to 1,800, with 269 in hospital

Image: Toby Morris

There are 1,800 new community cases of Covid-19 being announced today, one of the lowest daily figures since the omicron outbreak first took hold in the community.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers has also dropped back below 2,000 for the first time in months. Today it’s sitting at 1,948, while last Friday it was 2,855.

There are now 269 people in hospital with Covid-19, with just three now in intensive care. The seven-day rolling average of hospitalisations today is 307 – down from 400 one week ago.

There are now a total of 1,910 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average increase in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now six.

Overnight, the Covid death toll has risen by 10 which includes two deaths directly linked to the virus and eight that have not yet been attributed.

The Friday Quiz!

The Friday News Quiz

What better way to ease into the end of the week than testing yourself with 10 vaguely news-related questions written by me?

It’s time for The Friday Quiz!


PM confirms traffic light system under review

(Image / Getty)

Jacinda Ardern has welcomed back international students to New Zealand at an event at Auckland University today.

The prime minister said there had been 3,300 visa applications for international study and universities were back to 50% of pre-Covid international student enrolments. 

Before the pandemic, New Zealand had more than 100,000 international students and the sector was valued at $5.1 billion, New Zealand’s fourth biggest export. Covid border closures have had a significant effect on university revenue from international students. 

“There is a rich diversity that comes from exchange and links to other cultures,” said education minister Chris Hipkins, who also spoke at the event. He said that the lessons of international education through the pandemic, including for students who were studying online while overseas, was that New Zealand’s education sector was well set up for the future. 

Speaking to media after the event, Ardern and Hipkins were pushed primarily on rumoured changes to the current Covid traffic light settings. Ardern said that the government was seeking new advice about mandating masks on public transport and was looking at the traffic light settings more broadly as well. After nearly a year of the traffic light system, she said that the government was receiving the latest public health advice before making final decisions.

Woolworths signs first wholesale deal: could it bring lower prices?

Grocery shopping can be used as a form of control. Photo: Getty

One of the two biggest supermarket players in the country has announced its first wholesale deal – with a small organics grocer.

Woolworths NZ, which operates Countdown, will open up its wholesale stock to Huckleberry, a health and wellness business that currently has four stores in the North Island.

It follows the government’s announcement that it would be forcing the supermarket duopoly to provide wholesale stock to smaller players in the market, unless they willingly made the move first.

Huckleberry’s managing director said the government’s push had been the impetus needed. ”The partnership with Woolworths’ wholesale business is a big win for our customers as we can access a much broader organics range at better prices thanks to their volumes and scale,” said Darren Guo.

“We have always had a steadfast commitment to products and produce from New Zealand, plus now we can add so much more variety from around the world.”

Chris Bishop to run National election campaign

Pictured: Chris Bishop not telling The Spinoff which charity advised him on policy (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National MP Chris Bishop will be in charge of stewarding the party through its upcoming election campaign.

Newsroom’s Jo Moir has reported that the list MP will take over the campaign chair role from Gerry Brownlee, who guided National’s disastrous 2020 run for office.

Bishop will be joined at the helm by Jo de Joux, the former campaign manager who, along with ex-minister Steven Joyce, successfully took National to power under John Key.

National’s leader Christopher Luxon said Bishop was his choice and he was just waiting sign-off from the board. “That’s a conversation we’re having with our board right now,” he said.

While Bishop is currently a list MP based in Hutt South, he managed to take the seat from Labour in 2017 before the landslide of 2020 saw the seat flip back.

Meanwhile, Newsroom’s claimed that Labour’s 2020 team of minister Megan Woods and former staffer-turned PR consultant Hayden Munro will be back for the 2023 campaign.

New Lord of the Rings gets the Kath and Kim treatment

Elrond and Galadriel share a moment in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Photo: Ben Rothstein/Amazon Prime Video)

Amazon’s expensive new Lord of the Rings series The Rings of Power drops its first two episodes later today on Prime Video. I got a sneak preview of the premiere episodes and can confirm: it’s good. The Spinoff’s Sam Brooks has also attested to this, writing in his review this morning that while the series is very different to Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, it is “a delightful, really expensive looking fantasy series”.

But before you can watch the show, enjoy the fact it’s already been given the meme treatment.

A video, purported to be the show’s opening titles (it’s not), went viral on Twitter this week. It’s so bad you have to see it to believe it.

It didn’t take long for people to work out that what that video needed more than anything was the Kath and Kim theme song. Enjoy.

When the Facts Change: A tale of two epic tax fails

Revenue minister David Parker steered the government into a political minefield this week with his extension of GST to all Kiwisaver fees that was gone by lunchtime within a day. On the latest episode of When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey talks with tax expert and historian Terry Baucher about why this epic fail pales in comparison to another from 33 years ago when Labour’s David Caygill failed to introduce a capital gains tax to match our “perfect” GST and income tax systems.

Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts

The Bulletin: Report finds China has committed possible crimes against humanity

A new and long awaited report from the United Nations has found that China has committed possible crimes against humanity and “serious human rights violations” of the Uyghur people. Foreign minster Nanaia Mahuta has called on China to act and expressed grave concerns. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet​, urged China to promptly release all people “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty” in training camps, prisons or other detention facilities.

Meanwhile, as Ben McKay reports, the opposition has downplayed the report with National Party foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee saying “What’s most poignant for me (about the report) is that it has recognised that some of the activities of the Chinese government has been about defeating terrorist activity in Xinjiang.”

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.  

Are mask mandates set to go?

Face masks will be mandatory for public transport passengers from alert level two and up (Photo: Getty Images)

Earlier this week, the prime minister signalled that it would be a couple of weeks before the next review of our Covid-19 settings. Now The Otago Daily Times has revealed work is under way to ditch many of the country’s mask mandates.

The outlet’s reported that masks may soon only be required in the most high-risk settings. That would mean an end to covering up when you pop down to the dairy or to The Warehouse. There would also be no legal mask requirement in lower-risk health settings, like dentists, physiotherapists, optometrists, audiologists or counselling.

You would, however, still be required to wear a mask in primary care, urgent care, hospitals, residential aged care and disability-related residential care.

Some of this remains speculation. As the ODT reported, the disability support providers were this week asked for feedback on masks by the Ministry of Disabled People. The sector believed that if masks were going to be dumped in certain health settings, then it would make no sense for them to remain in place in a retail setting.

Covid-19 cases and related hospitalisations have dropped rapidly in recent weeks and are now sitting at about where they were at the very start of the omicron community outbreak. The country has been in the orange traffic light setting for most of 2022.

Face masks will be mandatory for public transport passengers from alert level two and up (Photo: Getty Images)