One Question Quiz


Two new omicron subvariants confirmed

It’s Friday June 3, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – get in touch with me on

The latest

  • Two new omicron subvariants have been detected in the community – though there is little cause for concern.
  • The rolling average of new cases has declined, while 14 new deaths have been announced.
  • Road deaths shouldn’t be “inevitable”, warns minister ahead of the long weekend.

Two new omicron subvariants confirmed

It’s Friday June 3, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – get in touch with me on

The latest

  • Two new omicron subvariants have been detected in the community – though there is little cause for concern.
  • The rolling average of new cases has declined, while 14 new deaths have been announced.
  • Road deaths shouldn’t be “inevitable”, warns minister ahead of the long weekend.
Jun 3 2022

Local research centre focused on preventing violent extremism opens

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

A new research facility targeted at combating terrorism in the wake of the March 15 terror attacks has officially opened today.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has launched the new Centre of Research Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, He Whenua Taurikura, and said it will fund local studies on the causes of, and measures to prevent, further terror attacks.

“After the tragedy of March 15 it was clear to all New Zealanders that we had to do everything in our power to stop this ever happening again,” Ardern said. “I believe this centre will help us to be a more resilient, inclusive and safer Aotearoa New Zealand.”

The centre was established following recommendations made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 attack.

While the Inquiry report suggested supporting research into extremism in New Zealand, establishing a dedicated centre is a step beyond this, said Ardern. “Implementing all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry report… is a priority for the government,” she added.

Voting to begin in Tauranga byelection


Advance voting for the Tauranga byelection will begin tomorrow, ahead of election day on June 18.

The byelection was triggered by the resignation of National’s long-serving MP Simon Bridges. Based on the voting history in Tauranga, this is National’s byelection to lose. However, candidates from most major parties are standing.

“If you’re enrolled in the Tauranga electorate, you can vote at an advance voting place from Saturday June 4. You don’t need to wait until election day to vote,” said Graeme Astle from the Electoral Commission.

“Look out for your EasyVote pack in the mail. The pack includes your EasyVote card which makes voting faster. It also includes a list of voting places and opening hours. Opening hours for advance voting places vary, so make sure you check before you go to vote.”

Voting closes at 7pm on election night.

Candidates vying to enter parliament include National’s Sam Uffindell, Labour minister Jan Tinetti and Act’s Cameron Luxton (not Luxon). The Greens and Te Pāti Māori are not standing in Tauranga.

Make a Covid plan for the long weekend, says ministry

An at-home rapid antigen test, or RAT, for Covid-19 (Photo: Getty Images)

Health officials are urging New Zealanders travelling this weekend to have a plan in place should Covid-19 make an unwelcome appearance.

If you contract Covid-19 while on holiday, you will still need to follow existing health rules and self-isolate. “If you have used your own vehicle to travel, you can travel back to your home to isolate, taking public health measures to ensure you don’t infect anyone on your way home,” said the Ministry of Health.

However: if you have used public transport or travelled between islands, you won’t be able to isolate at your home. “So it is important you have a plan and the ability to isolate where you are holidaying, if you need to do so.”

Another 6,232 community cases were announced in today’s 1pm update.

Covid-19 latest: Two new omicron subvariants detected in the community

Image: Toby Morris

Two new subvariants of the omicron Covid-19 strain have been detected in the community.

These are the first confirmed BA.4 and BA.5 cases, and there has so far been no confirmed link to the border. However, it’s worth remembering that very few cases in New Zealand are being genome sequenced currently because the vast majority of positive infections are confirmed via rapid antigen tests.

“These omicron subvariants are prevalent overseas and have been detected at our border for many weeks,” said the Ministry of Health. “Their presence in the community is not unexpected and further cases are expected.” There are four cases of BA.5 and one case of the BA.4 in the community, all based on whole genome sequencing.

Read more: Siouxsie Wiles on what we know about the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants

The ministry has also confirmed an additional seven cases of the “marginally more transmissible” BA.2.12.1 subvariant in the community, from whole genome sequencing of tests returned on May 18.

“The vast majority of recently sequenced cases in New Zealand continue to be of the omicron BA.2 sub-variant, with small number of cases with the BA.1 sub-variant,” said the ministry.

In addition to the community testing, wastewater results returned in the past week have detected BA.4 or BA.5 in Auckland, New Plymouth and Porirua and BA.2.12.1 in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Palmerston North and Taupō. “Together the community cases and wastewater results suggest that the BA.4/5 and BA.2.12.1 Omicron subvariants are circulating in parts of the community in New Zealand,” the ministry.

There has been no recommended change to our existing Covid-19 health settings, the ministry said.

Rolling average of cases declines, 14 new deaths announced

Meanwhile, the rolling average of new Covid-19 community cases has once again declined, though only slightly. It’s sitting at 6,850 today, while last Friday it was 6,960.

There are 6,232 new cases being reported today, with 1,907 in Auckland.

Another 14 people with Covid-19 have died, the ministry reported. Thirteen people have died in the past eight days, while an historical death from late 2020 has also been added to the death toll.

“This case had recovered at the time of death but was recently classified as having Covid-19 as a contributory cause of their death,” the ministry explained. “This will continue to happen occasionally due to the timing of the mortality coding process, particularly in instances where deaths where Covid-19 is a contributory cause, and the death falls outside of the 28 day period of testing positive for Covid.”

The official pandemic death toll has risen to 1,210 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths sits at 12.

Of the people whose deaths are being reporting today, one was from Northland, three were from the Auckland region, one was from Taranaki, one from Whanganui; one from the Wellington region, one from Nelson-Marlborough, four from Canterbury, one from South Canterbury and one from Southern. Four were women and ten were men.

There are 390 people in hospital with Covid-19, 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.

QUIZ: How much news have you consumed?

The Friday News Quiz

It’s back! After a brief one week hiatus, The Spinoff’s Friday News Quiz is back in all its topical glory.

Road deaths shouldn’t be ‘inevitable’, warns minister ahead of long weekend


There’s a reminder for drivers travelling around the country this long weekend: keep safety front of mind.

Both police and the government have urged drivers to stay safe while behind the wheel over Queen’s Birthday weekend, following a “devastating Anzac weekend” that saw 12 road-related deaths.

Michael Wood, transport minister and one of the figureheads of the government’s “road to zero” campaign, said that, on average, one person is killed every day on New Zealand’s roads. “We need to stop accepting that deaths on our roads are inevitable. Each death is a person who leaves behind a family, a workplace, a community,” he said.

“They are not simply a toll that we pay when we decide to turn the key. Together we need to work to change our long-held attitudes to driving.”

Police labelled the Anzac road toll “unacceptable” at the time. Now, superintendent Steve Greally said it can’t be repeated. “We don’t want any more people in our communities to face the consequences of a bad decision on the road.”

Te Papa’s new project highlighting diversity within Chinese New Zealand communities

(Image: Ronia Ibrahim)

Chinese Languages in Aotearoa is a project by Te Papa to highlight the complexity of cultural identity within Chinese New Zealand communities. To learn more about the project read our interview with curator Grace Gassin. In partnership with Te Papa, featured above is a panel from a new short comic created for the project by Ronia Ibrahim.

Choosing to tell Wanwan’s story came naturally for me – we were both Taiwanese, both Newtown residents, and her passion for bilingualism in the classroom was fascinating to encounter. We bonded over Hakka and Mandarin, racism in schooling systems, diasporic guilt, and our fading mother tongues. As much as I helped bring Wanwan’s story to life in pictures, her passion, commitment and vision was also a source of inner healing for me. I have hope for future migrant and bilingual children in Aotearoa, knowing that there are mentors like Wanwan leading the way.”

To read the full comic, click here(Sponsored)

Good news, coffee drinkers – you might live longer

People who visited during the timeframes are not required to start self-isolating unless they feel unwell or start to develop COVID-19 symptoms. Photo: Getty

A new study has found that coffee drinkers could be at a lower risk of death.

Researchers analysed data from medical database the UK Biobank, collected from more than 170,000 people between the ages of 37 and 73 over an average follow-up period of seven years.

As the New York Times explains, the results have brought good news for caffeine fiends. People who consumed one-and-a-half to three-and-a-half cups of coffee each day, including those who added sugar, were up to 30% less likely to die (during the study period).

Three cup drinkers had the lowest risk of death when compared with people who didn’t drink any coffee.

Interestingly, even decaffeinated coffee drinkers saw a lower mortality rate. The data was inconclusive for people who added artificial sweeteners.

Read more here

Work to begin on $1.5b Dunedin Hospital build

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

Construction on “one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in New Zealand” is about to get under way.

A ceremony in Dunedin is marking the start of work on the city’s new hospital.

Health minister Andrew Little said the hospital, covering two city blocks, will open in stages in 2025 and 2028. “These are major projects, requiring a great deal of planning and preparation, and it is a real pleasure to be in Dunedin today to see work on the new hospital under way,” Little said.

With a price tag of nearly $1.5 billion, the hospital’s set to hold 421 beds, 16 theatres and 30 high-dependency beds. The building will meet 5 Star Green Star accreditation, and have “features like double-glazing and low-energy intelligent lighting systems” that use natural daylight instead of artificial lighting whenever possible.

Meanwhile, Dunedin’s existing hospital has closed to the public due to a rise in Covid-19 infections. All wards have been shut to visits from about 6pm last night. “We understand that this will be distressing for patients and their families, and we thank you for your patience and understanding,” said a statement.

“We appreciate you supporting our health care team to keep our community safe.”

Queen pulls out of Jubilee event after experiencing ‘discomfort’

The Queen and senior royals watch the parade on day one of Jubilee celebrations (Photo / Getty Images)

The Queen has been forced to pull out of today’s Jubilee service at St Paul’s Cathedral for health reasons.

Four days of events in the UK will mark the Queen’s 70 years as head of the Commonwealth. That kicked off overnight (NZ time), with a military parade watched by thousands on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace.

The Queen was one of those spectators. The BBC reported she appeared twice at Buckingham Palace balcony, flanked by other senior royals, to watch the event and wave to loyal royalists.

However, in the hours since that ceremony, the palace has confirmed the monarch would not be attending the next event on her busy Jubilee schedule.

“The Queen greatly enjoyed today’s birthday parade and flypast but did experience some discomfort,” said a statement. “Taking into account the journey and activity required to participate in tomorrow’s National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, Her Majesty with great reluctance has concluded that she will not attend.”

The Queen and senior royals watch the parade on day one of Jubilee celebrations (Photo / Getty Images)

The 96-year-old Queen has made few public appearances in recent months, with concerns about her health (although she did attend the Chelsea Flower Show in a snazzy buggy).

Other headlines from the first major Jubilee event: Prince Louis “stole the show”, writes the Daily Telegraph. And yes, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were in attendance – though they were only spotted by eagled-eyed photographers.

And in some suspicious timing: Prince Andrew has tested positive for Covid-19.

The Bulletin: Concerns raised by ministry about Louisa Wall’s diplomatic role

A good investigation from Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva here that raises questions about former Labour MP Louisa Wall’s new role. Wall was announced as a new ambassador for gender equality in the Pacific two weeks after she announced she was resigning from parliament. Documents obtained through the Official Information Act show foreign affairs officials had reservations about the role’s value. Concerns were raised about managing the risk of Pacific partners viewing the appointment as a “diminution of their political access”.

There was an expectation they would be able to engage with their elected counterparts –“ideally with the prime minister or the minister of foreign affairs”. There was also concern about duplication of existing work and a note that the role lent itself to be “less than full-time”.

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.