The National Party is unhappy with the sanctions so far introduced by the government against Russia.
Overnight another 36 high profile Russians were added to the sanctions list, meaning they cannot travel here or use New Zealand for their finances.
But National’s foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee wants more done. He’d like to see the government target financial institutions. “Entities like the biggest Russian banks and financial service providers are noticeably absent,” he said. “New Zealand has sanctioned only one bank, Promsvyazbank, under the Act and it’s not even Russia’s largest.
Our overseas partners are, according to Brownlee, doing more to target Russia through financial sanctions. He said the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and European Union have frozen the assets of Russia’s major banks, institutions and individuals. “To date, of the 488 individuals sanctioned, only 49 have been subject to asset freezes,” Brownlee said.
Brian Tamaki’s been labelled a “political prisoner” by the group he backed to fight vaccine mandates.
After 78 days, the Destiny Church leader has had his bail conditions eased meaning he is now able to leave his house. Tamaki was first arrested in mid-January for breaching bail in relation to previous attendance at Covid-19 protests in breach of health rules. He then spent 10 days at the Mount Eden Remand Centre, followed by over two months at home under an around the clock curfew.
In a statement, the Freedoms and Rights Coalition – one of the most visible groups at the parliament occupation – questioned whether Tamaki’s penalties for breaching bail were fair. “Essentially he was imprisoned for a ‘fine-only’ offence,” said the group. “This is not supposed to happen under NZ law. And if it can happen to him, it could happen to you next!”
As the Herald reports, Tamaki was at home with other pastors from his church when he found out the news. “We are celebrating the wonderful, wonderful liberties that Christ has set us free,” said Tamaki’s wife Hannah in a Facebook livestream. “Well in actual fact today the judge set us fee today – so that’s really cool.”
The loosening of Tamaki’s bail conditions are largely because it’s unlikely he will break further Covid rules; outdoor gatherings have been permitted since late March. “The landscape informing Mr Tamaki’s bail conditions has changed since they were imposed,” said Justice Downs in his judgment.
Another 23 people with Covid-19 have died over the past nine days, the Ministry of Health has announced. That brings our pandemic death toll to 428 and drops the seven-day rolling average of deaths down to 18.
Of the latest deaths, eight people were from the Auckland region, six from Waikato, two from Bay of Plenty, two from Lakes, one from Whanganui, two from the Wellington region, one from Canterbury, and one from Southern.
One person was in their 40s, five in their 60s, two in their 70s, eight in their 80s, and seven were over 90. Ten were women and 13 were men.
There are now 692 people in hospital with 30 in intensive care.
Another 14,120 community cases have been announced, a rise on yesterday, but the weekly trend continues to drop – the seven-day case average is now 12,785 compared to 15,565 last Tuesday.
Auckland continues to have the highest number of daily cases, 2,351, but Canterbury is catching up with 2,225 new cases today.
We need your help! The Spinoff’s independent, homegrown journalism is only possible because of our members. As we struggle against the continued erosion of the media business by big tech platforms and now the commercial uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, reader support is critical.
The Auckland suburb of Ellerslie seemed busier than usual today as vaccine pass requirements were dropped overnight.
Gone were the outdoor waiting areas that have surrounded cafes and hospitality venues throughout the delta and omicron outbreak. Instead, people were ordering and queuing indoors without the need to show a pass.
The businesses spoken to by The Spinoff were pleased with the easing of restrictions overnight. However, the government has said the infrastructure for vaccine passes remained in place should businesses choose to use them. There appeared to be no eateries in Ellerslie that had taken up the government’s offer on that.
Olivia Carter from Soul Bar in downtown Auckland told RNZ that the end of vaccine pass requirements meant the venue no longer had to roster on extra staff to double-check patrons’ vaccination status.
“It’s quite a big cost to the business and while I think the mandates had a time and place, it’s good that it’s something that is now not involved and we can focus on welcoming people and getting them to seats to have food and drink, as really, that’s what everybody’s coming out and trying to do and support us in that way.”
Another 36 Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin’s regime have been added to the government’s sanctions list overnight.
It includes some of Russia’s richest businesspeople, as well as chairs and chief executives of some of Russia’s biggest companies.
It’s the second round of sanctions implemented by the government since it passed a bill specifically addressed at punishing Russia for its actions in Ukraine. “New Zealand is appalled at reports over the weekend showing the targeted killing and abuse of civilians, as Russian troops withdraw from areas of Ukraine,” said foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta.
“Through our sanctions, we are working with the international community to put real pressure on those supporting Putin and his regime, and send a clear message that this illegal invasion cannot continue, and that the brutality and inhumane acts from Russian troops cannot be tolerated.”
Those on the sanctions list will be barred from travelling to New Zealand or using our financial systems to hide from sanctions imposed by other countries.
Much like the prime minister, Mahuta has not gone so far as to label Putin a war criminal. But, she told RNZ that Putin’s actions were creating war crimes. “There’s no word to describe the abhorrent images and descriptions of civilians that have recently been decimated at Bucha,” she said.
Expelling the Russian ambassador to New Zealand was still a possibility, said Mahuta, but New Zealand was currently keeping diplomatic options open.
The full effects of the omicron response and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on New Zealand’s economy aren’t known just yet.
The finance minister has taken a look at the books and said the economy has shown resilience to the impacts of the Covid outbreak, registering a better than expected result.
But, Grant Robertson said the overall impacts of the pandemic have yet to be accounted for and this will affect Crown expenses in the current year.
“This result shows the strength of the economy despite the volatility and uncertainty surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic,” he said.
The Crown Accounts for the eight months to the end of February were better than anticipated; the Operating Balance before Gains and Losses (OBEGAL) deficit was $8.3 billion, about $4.4 billion below forecasts.
Tax revenue was $1.8 billion above forecast at $68 billion, while core Crown expenses were $84.4 billion – $1.4 billion less than forecast. Net core Crown debt stood at 35.2% of GDP, $1.9 billion less than forecast.
“New Zealand is in a strong fiscal position, with lower than expected deficits and debt levels well below that of other countries we compare ourselves with,” said Robertson.
A claim that Jacinda Adern (sic), when “asked why New Zealand does not suffer from the rage of older white men like in other western Anglo countries, replied, “Because we’ve never allowed Rupert Murdoch to set up a media outlet here”, is codswallop. That was obvious to anyone who follows politics in New Zealand, but it has been confirmed by the Associated Press’s fact checking squad after the erroneous quote circled the globe on social media.
“Posts sharing the bogus claim that Ardern made the comment about the News Corp founder circulated widely on social media on Saturday and Sunday,” is the AP finding. “The quote is fabricated. There is no record of Ardern making such comments, and a spokesperson for her office confirmed she did not.” The original post of the false quote has now been “liked” more than 200,000 times and viewed by millions more.
The seed from which the false quote may have grown is a comment by commentator and PR guy David Cormack, who told the Guardian in 2020: “A huge reason that our politics is not so extremely polarised and so far out there is because we no longer have Murdoch-owned press in New Zealand, and it’s never taken a foothold.”
Murdoch’s company has over the decades had stakes in a number of newspapers in New Zealand as well as Sky TV.
More than 65,000 retweets on this imaginary Jacinda Ardern quote, repeated by a bunch of accounts all misspelling the name of the prime minister who didn’t say it pic.twitter.com/zDPG3UM5aQ
Today marks the end of vaccine passes and most vaccine mandates.
That means anyone, including people who have not had a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, can visit hospitality venues, cinemas, have their hair cut or use council-run venues.
It’s a major shift in our Covid response, with mandates and passes having been in place for much of the delta and omicron outbreaks.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said mandates will remain in place for health and care workers and prison staff because “they come into contact with a lot of people who are at high risk of serious illness from Covid-19” and for border workers “because they are the first people who would likely be exposed to any new variant of concern that emerges internationally”.
Despite these restrictions being dropped, prime minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed yesterday that the entire country will remain within the red setting of the traffic light framework until at least April 14. That means mask wearing is mandatory in many settings and indoor gatherings are limited to 200 people.
John Campbell has announced he’s stepping down from TVNZ’s Breakfast and will head out into the field in a new “chief correspondent” position.
After joining TVNZ from RNZ, Campbell has spent three years co-hosting Breakfast. He’ll be replaced by ex-Al Jazeera broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria, who started his career at TV3 more than two decades ago.
“I’ve loved being part of Breakfast and part of a team that’s helped re-shape breakfast television, to make it more inclusive, more representative, and more prepared to talk about things like inequality, the environment, and how we might better enable people to live lives of dignity and participation,” said Campbell.
Campbell called his co-hosts “wonderful people” and said: “we’re friends, and that matters when you’re starting work at 4am, and doing three hours, live, each morning in their company. I’ll miss them, but I’ll be back on Breakfast at regular intervals.”
As chief correspondent – a role akin to Newshub’s national correspondent Patrick Gower – Campbell will help produce documentaries and broadcast specials, file stories for Sunday and 1News, and help with breaking news.
1. A small ☺️ announcement in the form of a thread!
After 3 years on @Breakfaston1, I'm finishing with that lovely team on Friday, to start a new role as TVNZ's Chief Correspondent.
That's really what I came to TVNZ (in 2018) to do (before Breakfast happened), it's work that…
Santamaria, who will join Breakfast in a few weeks time, said after 20 years away from New Zealand, he’s excited to come home. “It feels like things have come full circle, and I’m thrilled to be joining TVNZ’s news and current affairs department at such a pivotal time for the industry,” he said.
“20 years is a long time to be away, but it’s the challenge of Breakfast and three hours of live, on-your-feet broadcasting every morning which has brought me back.”
National’s leader Christopher Luxon has detailed his plan to scrap the newly founded Māori Health Authority should he become prime minister in 2023.
According to Luxon, having two distinct health agencies would deliver worse outcomes than an improved single system. That’s despite the Māori Health Agency only being created after a new report revealed that Māori health outcomes were significantly worse than other New Zealanders.
Appearing on Three’s programme The Hui, Luxon said he acknowledged the current system wasn’t delivering – but didn’t believe creating a second agency was the right approach. “Our systems are imperfect, but we have to keep working at perfecting them,” he said.
“What I’m telling you now is creating a separate Māori Health Authority with amalgamation, more centralisation, more bureaucracy isn’t the way in which you get outcomes.”
It would be better, Luxon claimed, to try and perfect the existing single system. “There are ways to do it in terms of having a Māori health directorate within the Ministry of Health, there’s ways to do it within terms of iwi partnership,” he said.
“We’ve added 14,000 bureaucrats to Wellington over the last four years and we haven’t delivered better health outcomes, better educational outcomes, better economical poverty outcomes in New Zealand.”
The climate change minister says New Zealand can’t hold back on cutting its emissions.
A new report released overnight from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that 83% of net growth in greenhouse gases since 2010 has occurred in Asia and the Pacific. Of that, the group comprising New Zealand, Australia and Japan had some of the highest emission rates, per capita, in 2019. The report indicated countries must act now, not later, to limit warming.
James Shaw said addressing climate change isn’t a nice to have – it’s essential. “The severity with which we will experience climate change can be lessened if we do all we can, right now, to limit warming,” he said.
Domestic action was important, but Shaw said the report noted international co-operation was essential if we are to reduce emissions. “The challenge ahead may feel daunting, but the report also highlights a number of effective and innovative ways we can lower emissions and limit the effects of climate change,” he said.
The government’s Emissions Reduction Plan will be published next month, setting out how New Zealand can reduce emissions across every sector of the economy. “Over the last four years the government has taken more climate action than in the previous three decades combined. And those actions have lowered the future trajectory of our emissions, but we must go further to get us on the path to net-zero,” said Shaw.
The IPCC’s report dispelled the myth that New Zealand was too small to be counted, said Shaw. “We are part of the problem and we must be part of the solution.”