blog dec 3


Lowest number of new Covid cases in five weeks

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 3. And congratulations on making it through lockdown, Auckland! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on

The headlines

blog dec 3

Lowest number of new Covid cases in five weeks

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 3. And congratulations on making it through lockdown, Auckland! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on

The headlines

Dec 3 2021

Art Laureate award for queer artists announced

The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi o Aotearoa has announced that as of 2022, it will be handing out a new award as part of its regular Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureates specifically for queer artists. The award, named Toi Kō Iriiri, will recognise and celebrate an outstanding queer artist who meets their existing laureate criteria, and will support their mahi with a $30,000 gift.

The inaugural recipient will be announced alongside the other Arts Foundation Laureates in August 2022. The award, the first of its kind in this country, will celebrate an outstanding artist (or collective of artists) whose work is representative of the queer community and contributes to social change.

The award is funded by philanthropist Hall Cannon, who has committed to backing the award for the next 10 years. and its name was gifted by Green MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere.

Luxon says Auckland should have gone straight to green setting

Christopher Luxon has taken his comments about the traffic light framework even further, calling for Auckland to move straight to green. Currently, as the epicentre of the delta outbreak, Auckland is in red.

In an earlier press statement today, which I quoted from here, Luxon criticised the move into the red setting. However, he did not suggest that Auckland should be in green.

When questioned by media this afternoon in downtown Auckland while visiting local businesses, the new National Party leader said: “This sector here is ready for Auckland to go straight to green… there’s just no logic to his traffic light system.”

The National Party did not support the traffic light system, Luxon said, and the country should have opened up once vaccination rates hit high levels.

The Friday Quiz is on Instagram

Head to The Spinoff’s Instagram stories for this week’s edition of the thrilling and future-award-winning Friday News Quiz.

Sadly, due to some minor technical issues this week’s edition won’t be able to run here in the live updates feed but we’re hoping to have this problem fixed as soon as possible. Test your knowledge now!

The shape of the delta outbreak

There were 39,553 total vaccine doses administered yesterday, including 8,600 first doses and 16,641 second doses. To date, 93% of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 87% are fully vaccinated.

Here’s a look at how the outbreak’s shaping as we move into the traffic light framework. For more, visit our Covid Tracker page here.

92 new Covid-19 cases: the first sub-100 day in five weeks

There are 92 new Covid-19 cases in the community, a significant drop from the daily numbers recorded in recent weeks. It’s the first time since October 28 that daily cases have been below 100.

Of today’s cases, 80 in Auckland, two are in Waikato, one is Northland, five are Bay of Plenty, one is in Lakes DHB, one is in Nelson and two are in Taranaki.

Another three Taranaki cases will be officially added to the tally tomorrow. These cases are known contacts, bringing total of active cases in Taranaki to five. They are self-isolating across three separate households in New Plymouth, Rotorua and Waikato.

There are 79 people in hospital with Covid-19, including nine in intensive care.

Two more DHBs have hit the crucial 90% fully vaccinated threshold for the eligible population: Waitematā and Canterbury.

Speaking at parliament on the first day of the new traffic light framework, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson said 3.2 million people have now downloaded their vaccine pass. He said the country was only in the position to transition to the new framework because of the work we have done over the past two years of the pandemic.

“Some people have tried to portray us as a divided nation on vaccination,” said Robertson. “The numbers simply do not bear that out.”

Two Nelson schools are continuing to battle individual delta clusters, with more than a dozen Covid cases in the community. Despite this, there is no plan to move the area to the “red” setting of the traffic light framework. “At this stage there is no particular cause for alarm in Nelson/Marlborough,” said McElnay, adding that testing rates have been good.

The best way to read The Spinoff

As you will have noticed, The Spinoff has had a glow up – a full redesign and incredibly fast new platform across mobile and desktop (read Toby Morris explaining it here). What’s even better is our two amazing new apps, one for iPhone, the other Android. They’re probably the best way to stay across everything we’re doing – and if you turn on push notifications you’ll get the Covid-19 numbers as soon as they come out, plus our best story of the day, every day. Plus they’re totally free.

Watch: Covid numbers on day one of traffic light system to be announced

It’s the first day of the new traffic light framework but that doesn’t mean Covid’s gone away. In fact, it’s probably the opposite.

Today’s Covid-19 cases will be revealed by deputy PM Grant Robertson and public health director Caroline McElnay around 1pm. As always, we’ll have rolling coverage in the live updates feed or you can tune into the presser below.

Red setting offers few comforts for Aucklanders, says Luxon

National’s new leader is in Auckland today, visiting local businesses on the first day of the new traffic light city.

It’s been 107 days since most businesses could operate as normal, with vaccine passes now required to visit a number of venues.

But while Christopher Luxon said it’s good news that Auckland has moved out of lockdown, he has argued that the “red” setting offers few comforts.

“Auckland has done the heavy lifting for the country and endured over 100 days in lockdown, but their reward is just to go into a ‘red’ setting,” he said. “This is harsh news for bars and restaurants across Auckland who suffered 100 days of lockdown and who now will be unable to host large Christmas and New Years’ events.”

Luxon said the government needs to provide more evidence as to why Auckland is in red, despite the city being highly vaccinated and the health system coping with the pandemic. Earlier this week, Jacinda Ardern said as the epicentre of the delta outbreak it was important some restrictions stayed in place in Auckland over summer.

Christopher Luxon (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Just announced: More comedy and drama on the way for Three in 2022

Today, Discovery has announced their slate of drama and comedy for 2022, which includes a new partnership with The New Zealand Comedy Trust. The partnerships marks a return to the network (albeit under new management) for the Trust after a three year stint with TVNZ, and will see the network produce four televised comedy events during the 2022 NZ International Comedy Festival.

Discovery’s senior director of programming, Juliet Peterson, said: “Our local programming slate across drama, documentary and comedy for next year is truly phenomenal. I am particularly proud of the incredible comedy strategy Three will kick off the new year with.  There is no doubt we are taking ownership of the comedy space on television next year and we look forward to sharing more on our comedy programming line up in the new year.”

The other series coming to Discovery included two new comedy series (Double Parked by Chris Parker and Alice Snedden, Homebound by 3.0 by Sam Wang), and a new drama called Far North from South Pacific Pictures. The network has also confirmed new seasons of New Zealand Today, Mean Mums, Patrick Gower On, David Lomas Investigates and Piri’s Tiki Tour.

Less than a month ago, Discovery’s slate for 2022 was noted by our features editor Chris Schulz for its shortage of drama and comedy.

The four televised specials are the Comedy Gala, the Great Comedy Debate, Last Laughs (where the Billy T Awarded is announced) and a special live episode of 7 Days. All will be filmed in front of live audiences during the Comedy Festival.

For some analysis, this is a great branding move for the new network and the Comedy Festival partnership, alongside Three mainstay Dai Henwood migrating to TVNZ for Lego Masters next year, hopefully signals the end of the dated, petty philosophy of network talent exclusivity.

Council in Covid response minister’s electorate moves against vaccine passes

Upper Hutt council’s holding an emergency meeting after it chose not to require vaccine passes for use of council facilities.

According to the Herald, it’s the odd one out among Wellington councils with the rest requiring patrons to be fully vaccinated in order to visit libraries and pools.

The council is in the middle of Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins’ Remutaka electorate, with his office on Upper Hutt’s main street.

“The region has very high vaccination rates – about 98 per cent first dose and 92 per cent double,” said Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy. “This is about getting people back, we’re trying not to stay in that siege mentality and get back to normal as soon as possible.”

Councillor Dylan Bentley said he disagreed with the decision. “The vaccine passes are all about protecting the vulnerable in our communities – children who can’t get vaccinated, the immunocompromised and the elderly,” he said.

“Our facilities are actually patronised mostly by those groups and by not having vax passes we’re basically saying fair game anyone can go there doesn’t matter if you’re un-vaccinated which in my opinion is not sending the right signal to those who seriously can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons and it’s not protecting them.”

Spinoff podcast among Apple’s top 10 new shows for 2021

The Spinoff’s politics and economics podcast When the Facts Change has been named one of Apple Podcasts’ top 10 new shows in Aotearoa for 2021.

Each year, Apple recognises the best and most popular podcasts for their exceptional content, unique ability to engage audiences and innovation in craft, spanning production, presentation, sound design and more, that expand the definition of podcasting and deepen its impact on listeners worldwide.

This year’s local list, as selected by Apple Podcasts, sees When the Facts Change featured alongside two other locally produced series, Red Line (RNZ) and Collapse (Stuff). The rest of the list comprises international hit series including West Cork, Bed of Lies, Absolutely Mental and We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle.

A new episode of When the Facts Change was released this morning. 

Report from life at red: An Aucklander goes out for breakfast

Having a lovely time

Call me a stereotypical-entitled-smashed-avocado-scoffing millennial all you like, but I do like going to cafes. And by god, it’s been a long 107 days without such small pleasures here in Tāmaki Makaurau.

So today, on the first day of life under the traffic light system, I went out for breakfast and it was bloody great. A flat white in ceramic. A lovely dish of cilbir eggs on a nice plate. People topping up my water glass. Honestly, I felt light-headed with excitement even before taking a seat.

There were only a few tables filled when my colleague and Grey Lynn neighbour Leonie Hayden and I arrived at Honey Bones at about 8.30am, but by the time we left it was getting pretty busy. The manager Andy was out front asking to see customers’ vaccine passes as they arrived, which seemed to be going fine – though people don’t seem to be in the habit yet of having it ready to go, so there was a bit of fumbling in pockets and scrolling through phones.

The only mishap was in all the excitement, I forgot to scan the QR code on my Covid tracer app – but don’t worry, I’ve since added a manual diary entry.

In sum: Welcome back, Auckland hospitality! I missed you a lot. A+ experience, would cafe again.

Having a lovely time

When the Facts Change on housing affordability and the market

This week new National leader Chris Luxon was asked a question that was posed to Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins before last year’s election: Do you want house prices to fall? It’s a curly one for politicians to answer – how do they make housing more affordable while at the same time preventing the market from collapsing? In this week’s When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey attempts to figure out how it could be done, and how long it might take to happen. He talks to Sense Partners economist Kirdan Lees, who co-wrote the ground-breaking analysis of the bipartisan ‘Townhouse Nation’ accord, architect and urban design writer Jade Kake and Green MP for Auckland Central Chlöe Swarbrick.


When the Facts Change is brought to you by The Spinoff Podcast Network together with Kiwibank. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

How often does the Covid-19 ‘1pm’ update actually arrive at 1pm? We investigate

If, like me, you’ve been following the daily Covid-19 briefings closely throughout lockdown – you might have been wondering how often they actually arrived on time.

Our data expert Harkanwal Singh graphed the arrival of the Ministry of Health press release from across the entire delta lockdown. As you can see, timings varied a lot but were generally pretty close to 1pm throughout the middle weeks of lockdown. At the beginning and end, it’s a slightly different story.

The ‘1pm’ updates (Graph / Harkanwal Singh)

Read more: Auckland’s almost-four-month lockdown, in numbers

The Bulletin: Pharmac focused on money over lives, says new report

A review of Pharmac has diagnosed a ‘fortress mentality’ too focused on cost. The drug-buying agency is putting savings over lives, an interim review of Pharmac has concluded. It’s a damning report according to Newshub, that has found too little transparency and compassion at the agency. Stuff’s Bridie Witton reports that Māori, Pasifika, disabled people and those with rare disorders are also disadvantaged by Pharmac’s practices. A final report is due in February and the health minister said he noted concerns raised in the interim findings.

This is part of The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s must-read daily news wrap. To sign up for free, simply enter your email address below

New Covid case in Coromandel

A new case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Coromandel, on the first day of the new traffic light framework.

Little information is currently known but, according to media reports, the DHB believes the new case is low risk. They have been fully vaccinated.


Thousands of vaccine pass exemptions sent out for first day of traffic lights

The Ministry of Health has been forced to send out temporary vaccine pass exemptions for some people who were unable to download theirs in time for the traffic light system.

Around 70,000 people had requested assistance accessing their pass, including those who need to add international vaccinations to their New Zealand record, people who need their name changed and people whose records have other errors that need to be corrected.

“While this represents a small percentage of the three million My Vaccine Passes that have been issued to date, it is important these individuals are not unfairly disadvantaged when New Zealand moves to the Covid Protection Framework,” said Michael Dreyer, group manager national digital services.

More than 95% of people who requested their pass received it on time. “The temporary exemption is a pragmatic measure in response to the unprecedented demand our call centres are facing. We have scaled up our processing team significantly, but it is likely that not every request will be able to be resolved [in time for today].”

People should have received their exemption overnight.