blog-aug-3.jpg

Live UpdatesAug 3 2022

Average of 22 Covid-attributed deaths every day

It’s Wednesday, August 3 and this is The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • New Zealand’s climate adaptation plan has been released. It’s the government’s first six-year plan to tackle climate change.
  • Unemployment figures have risen slightly, despite predictions they would fall.
  • National’s leader Christopher Luxon has labelled the rollout of the cost of living payment an “utter shambles”.
  • Covid-19 update: 704 people in hospital, 28 new deaths.
blog-aug-3.jpg

Average of 22 Covid-attributed deaths every day

It’s Wednesday, August 3 and this is The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • New Zealand’s climate adaptation plan has been released. It’s the government’s first six-year plan to tackle climate change.
  • Unemployment figures have risen slightly, despite predictions they would fall.
  • National’s leader Christopher Luxon has labelled the rollout of the cost of living payment an “utter shambles”.
  • Covid-19 update: 704 people in hospital, 28 new deaths.
Aug 3 2022

School lockdown rumours ‘uneducated schoolyard gossip’

Suggestions that the government intends to lock down New Zealand schools with children inside are baseless, the Australian Associated Press fact-checking service has found. “Dozens of similarly worded Facebook posts” viewed by the AAP claim, without evidence, that plans are afoot to implement school lockdowns and keep children from their parents. Some of the posts say, again without any evidence, that children could be forcibly vaccinated, and fundamentally misrepresent the existing laws.

Screenshot via AAP

“This information is incorrect. There have been no recent changes to Covid-19 Health Orders and the government has no new powers to lock schools down or detain children,” a Ministry of Health spokesperson told AAP. “Such misinformation is extremely disappointing. Immunisation is not compulsory in New Zealand. It’s important that parents and caregivers make an informed choice for their child.”

The false claims have spread in misinformation circles online and cross-pollinated with demands from conspiracy-infused, self-appointed “sheriffs”, who have emailed hundreds of schools across New Zealand, signed in ink and red thumbprint, and threatening to arrest principals. One example, provided to the Spinoff, is pictured below with a still from a video posted online issuing warnings from a group of “Manawatu county sheriffs” who predicate their status on a nonsensical interpretation of “common law” and, based on some of the material they have sent to schools around the country, believe the year is 2020.

Overseas New Zealanders who got the cost of living payment won’t need to give it back

Overseas New Zealanders inadvertently paid the cost of living payment this week won’t be forced to give it back.

National’s Nicola Willis questioned the revenue minister David Parker on the issue in parliament today. Despite a section of the government’s own bill stipulating incorrect payments must be returned, Parker said this was not his understanding.

“The advice that I’ve received is that if the payment was made legitimately, on the basis of the screening that Inland Revenue have [done], there is no obligation on the tax department to chase it nor the taxpayer to pay them back, though we would encourage them to do it,” said Parker.

However, if someone was aware they weren’t entitled to the payment but somehow “encouraged” it to be made, then Parker said this could amount to fraud.

It’s not yet known how many ineligible New Zealanders have received the cost of living payment, though the government maintains it is a very small amount.

Christopher Luxon’s got bills he’s gotta pay

Christopher Luxon has evoked his idol John Key by choosing to sing when he is fully aware there are live microphones in front of him.

The National Party leader is preparing to be inducted into the Backbencher pub’s puppet hall of fame. A caricatured version of himself will be unveiled later tonight.

Fronting for media this afternoon, Luxon revealed what song he’ll have playing as his entrance music – and debuted a little extract.

It’s a scene reminiscent of the time John Key sang All I Want for Christmas on The Edge, which you can also enjoy watch below.

Trump endorses unspecified ‘Eric’ in senate race with two Erics

Donald Trump is used to wielding power when it comes to endorsements for particular senate campaigns. But this time his influence may have helped (or hindered) two candidates – and they’re both called Eric.

The former president took to his social media platform Truth Social this week to endorse “Eric” for the Missouri Republican primary. “I am… proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” wrote Trump, who I can only imagine shouted the name ERIC very loudly.

The trouble is there are two Erics running in that race and both think they’ve secured Trump’s support.

“I’m honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement,” said Eric Greitens, first to tweet his thanks. “From the beginning, I’ve been the true MAGA Champion fighting against the RINO establishment backing Schmitt. President Trump said it best when he characterized Schmitt’s campaign as ‘great dishonesty in politics.'”

Not long after, the aforementioned “dishonest” Eric Schmitt chimed in: “I’m grateful for President Trump’s endorsement. As the only America First candidate who has actually fought for election integrity, border security & against the Left’s indoctrination of our kids—I’ll take that fight to the Senate to SAVE AMERICA!”

According to The Guardian, both Erics have thanked Trump by phone (there’s no suggestion the president then identified which Eric was his actual favourite).

Of course, it’s entirely possible president Trump had simply lost his mind and was blindly endorsing his own son, Eric, who had not announced plans to run in Missouri. Or maybe he just didn’t want to decide on his favourite Eric. Either way, there’s one thing we know for sure: “ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

(Update: moments after publishing it was confirmed that Eric Schmitt had won the primary. It is still unclear which Eric was endorsed by Trump).

Covid-19 update: 704 people in hospital, 28 new deaths

The number of daily new Covid-19 infections and those in hospital with the virus continues to fall.

There are now 704 people with Covid-19 being treated in hospital, including 11 in intensive care. The average of those in hospital is 65 and most cases – 97 – are in Waikato.

According to the Ministry of Health, 331 of the new Covid-positive hospital admissions over the past week have been people who are fully vaccinated (including the booster). There were 54 unvaccinated people admitted to hospital. Considering New Zealand’s high vaccination rate, it’s not surprising there are more vaccinated than unvaccinated people being treated as it’s a much larger pool of people.

There are 6,440 new community cases of Covid-19 to report, a drop on yesterday. The seven-day rolling average of new community cases continues has also reduced. Today it sits at 6,355 while last Wednesday it was 8,111.

The overall Covid-19 death toll has risen by 28 overnight, with 26 of these attributed to the virus. The youngest of the new deaths was a person in their 40s.

In the past seven days there have been an average of 22 deaths confirmed each day as being attributable to Covid-19.

Government touts low unemployment, but opposition says it’s not the full story

The government has celebrated the release of new unemployment figures that showed little change over the past few months.

Stats NZ reported unemployment had risen by just 0.1% since the March quarter, to 3.3%. This defied predictions that the figures would drop, with some expecting unemployment to be as low as 2.8%.

Employment minister Carmel Sepuloni said the stability showed the government’s economic plan was working. “New Zealand is well positioned to respond to a challenging global situation dominated by high inflation, the ongoing pandemic and related supply chain disruptions,” she said. “Our economy has come through the pandemic better than nearly anywhere in the world, with growth up 5.1 percent on a year ago and debt among the lowest in the OECD.”

Neither National nor Act were convinced – and both suggested there was more to the matter than just unemployment numbers. Louise Upston, National’s spokesperson for unemployment, said the statistics hid the rise in people on the jobseeker benefit. “Low unemployment is only positive if more people have jobs and fewer people depend on benefits. But that’s not what we’re seeing under this government,” she said.

During his morning media round today, leader Christopher Luxon said his focus was getting people into jobs. “You’re not going to get rich sitting on welfare and being confined to welfare all your life,” he said.

Meanwhile, Act’s David Seymour questioned how unemployment was able to rise while the country was in a labour crisis. “With the borders opening, Labour can’t get more people in employment but they’ve managed to increase unemployment,” he said. The number of New Zealanders “flocking overseas” had, said Seymour, voided any benefit to the border opening.

Unemployment rate rises slightly, bucking predictions

It was widely predicted that New Zealand’s unemployment rate would drop to around or below 3% today. Instead, it’s risen ever so slightly.

It’s moved up just 0.1 points from the March quarter to 3.3% while the underutilisation rate rises from 9.2% to 9.3%.

The unemployment rate for women was 3.5% compared with 3.4% last quarter. The unemployment rate for men stayed at 3.1%.

Meanwhile, annual wage inflation has risen to 3.4% – the largest increase since late 2008. “Over the year, a steadily increasing number of wages have been raised to better match market rates, as well as attracting or retaining staff,” Stats NZ’s business employment insights manager Sue Chapman said.

“Nearly two-thirds of roles surveyed… saw an increase in ordinary-time wage rates in the year ended June 2022 – the highest level since this series began in 1993.”

(Image: Tina Tiller)

New climate adaptation plan will embed ‘resilience’ into government policy

The climate change minister has unveiled New Zealand’s first official climate adaptation plan, a long-term strategy for dealing with the inevitable impacts of global warming.

Speaking from the waterfront in Wellington’s Owhiro Bay, a location that will likely suffer from rising sea levels, James Shaw said the adaptation plan would prepare communities. “Severe weather events that had previously seemed unthinkable, even only a few years ago, are now happening at a pace and intensity we have never experienced before,” said Shaw.

“And when they happen, everything from the roads we rely on, to our drains and water supplies, to getting the kids’ to school can be severely disrupted.”

The plan, which covers an initial six year period through until 2028, will see climate change resilience embedded into government policy. It also calls for a wide-ranging approach to climate adaptation as opposed to leaving all responsibility with the government.

“Central government, local government, iwi, hapū, whānau, the private sector, the research and scientific community, and communities and individuals all have different but complementary roles in our risk management system,” the report reads.

“Central government cannot bear all of the costs of adaptation.”

One key element of the plan is the possibility of “managed retreat”, where communities would be forced to relocate if climate change threats become intolerable. In some highly exposed areas, the risk from natural hazard and climate impacts may become intolerable,” the plan reads.

“Inundation of buildings and infrastructure will start to occur, leading to direct damage and loss of some facilities like roads or other lifeline services, and public open space. In some cases, the risks may reach a threshold where relocation will need to be considered.”

The long-awaited resource management act reform will be key to seeing how things like managed retreat can be used. Additional legislation will also be required.

Shaw acknowledged the “incredibly frustrating” pace at which government has dealt with issues like climate change, but said that having a new legislative plan in place will see momentum build. “I do share people’s frustration that it has taken us a very long time to get started as a country.”

Read more in today’s edition of The Bulletin

Homophobia in sport still an ‘ongoing issue’ in New Zealand

Yesterday The Spinoff released the final episode of Scratched season three, focusing on former Black Cap star Heath Davis. The episode’s revelation that Davis was gay – making him the first Black Cap to be openly queer – prompted an incredible reaction. The episode’s already racked up thousands of views and you can check out it out here if you haven’t seen it.

Of course, the fact that New Zealand only has one openly gay top level male cricketer is both shocking and unsurprising. Craig Watson, from rainbow sporting group Proud to Play, told Stuff that homophobia in sport remained an “ongoing issue”.

“At a guess, we’d say there are lots of these sports stars out there at the moment – professional athletes who are closeted and that are gay. “Statistically we know they’re there,” he said.

Watson said the fact Davis had publicly revealed he was gay could show that New Zealand was now a safer place for sports stars to come out – although the fact it was after his retirement may counter that.

In the same article, sports scientist Sally Shaw from Otago University acknowledged that, traditionally, sport was “not a very inclusive space for same-sex couples or non-heterosexual people”. This is a point referenced in an op-ed by Today FM’s Lloyd Burr, who questioned why it remained “taboo” to be openly gay in high level sports.

Climate adaptation plan to be released today

The government’s long-touted climate adaptation plan will finally be unveiled in Wellington today.

The minister in charge, James Shaw, is due to front a press conference from Owhiro Bay later this morning – likely setting the scene for discussion of how New Zealand will cope with rising sea levels.

As RNZ reported this morning, the plan could see certain communities abandoned as climate change drives people further inland. The technical term is a “managed retreat”.

We’ll have all the details as they’re released. In the meantime, you can read more about the impacts of climate change on coastal communities in today’s edition of The Bulletin.

The Bulletin: Demand for student and tourist visas on first day of applications opening

As RNZ’s Gill Bonnett reports, 3559 people applied for student and visitor visas on August 1, the day our borders opened to those from non-visa waiver countries. The number of student applications were double that of a similar time in 2019, while visitor visa applications were up by more than 70% on the same time in 2019.

The University of Auckland’s Ainslie Moore is asking for Immigration New Zealand to prioritise visa applications from students who want to come soon. Representatives of the tertiary education sector have said it will take several years to rebuild the $5b international student industry.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

Luxon says government becoming a ‘version of The Office’

National’s Christopher Luxon has labelled the government a “version of The Office” after the cost of living payment went to fewer people than estimated – including a number of overseas New Zealanders.

The quip was dropped by the opposition leader across his morning media run today (at least on both RNZ and Newshub), with Luxon also calling the cost of living payment rollout a “joke” and an “utter shambles”.

So far, the government has defended this week’s $116 payout, although acting prime minister Kelvin Davis admitted yesterday the government did not know how many ineligible New Zealanders had received it. Roughly 800,000 people fewer than expected received the payment domestically.

“It’s another piece of rubbish implementation from the government,” Luxon told RNZ. “[It’s] really disrespectful of taxpayer’s money.”

Luxon reiterated his plan for tackling the cost of living crisis: simply to adjust the existing tax thresholds (a policy that has faced its fair share of criticism as well). “We really have a government that has lost the plot and it’s not just on this issue it’s on education, it’s on health, it’s on housing, it’s on crime, it’s now on the economy,” added Luxon on Newshub. “They literally cannot get anything done.”