blog dec 6


Collins bumped from National’s front bench

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 6. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Want to get in touch? Reach me on

Today’s headlines

blog dec 6

Collins bumped from National’s front bench

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 6. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Want to get in touch? Reach me on

Today’s headlines

Dec 6 2021

PM not fazed about first head-to-head with Luxon

Jacinda Ardern will face-off against Christopher Luxon for the first time tomorrow during question time at 2pm.

She doesn’t seem worried. “I’ve treated every single opposition leader exactly the same. It doesn’t change my job,” said Ardern at today’s post-cabinet press conference.

Asked whether his business experience could mean he’s a more “formidable foe” in the house, Ardern simply said she wished him well. “I don’t imagine it’s easy to manage a caucus where you have three past leaders within it, so I do wish him good luck.”

That wasn’t a dig, by the way. “It’s just a statement of fact,” said Ardern, laughing.

Read more: Has Chris Luxon shuffled up a winning pack? 

New Pfizer Covid-19 drug to be made available here in April

A new anti-viral drug produced by Pfizer, the manufacturers of our primary Covid-19 vaccine, will be rolled out to help combat the coronavirus.

Pharmac has secured 60,000 of the as-yet unnamed drug that, like the already funded molnupiravir, will make people less sick if they catch Covid-19.

Health minister Andrew Little said the new drug is likely to be made available from April next year. “Vaccinations and following the scan-mask-pass routine are still the best ways of stopping the spread of Covid-19, but it’s important we also have a range of medicines to treat those who do get sick,” said Little.

Health minister Andrew Little (Getty Images)

Pfizer’s antiviral drug inhibits replication by “preventing the cleavage of certain proteins necessary to create a fully functioning virus,” said the minister.

Other Covid-19 medicines secured by Pharmac are baricitinib, remdesivir, tocilizumab, and Ronapreve.

“We’ve made sure Pharmac can continue to secure early access to new and promising Covid medicines as soon as possible, with $175 million allocated for medicines and supply-chain costs and another $300 million available for purchasing more Covid-19 therapeutics.”

The drug is still subject to approval by Medsafe but Little said that trials look promising.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the new drug could be taken at the earliest onset of symptoms. However, The new drug is most effective at three to five days after infection, said Ardern, so “we need to maintain an effective contact tracing, testing and clinical assessment regime to make sure we can reach people in a timely way”.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s eligible population as a whole is projected to hit 90% full vaccination on the 14th or 15th of December, said Ardern, and all of Auckland’s DHBs are expected to reach the number at the same time.

Watch: Ardern and Bloomfield to speak

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will front this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference.

It’s the start of the first full week of the traffic light system after it officially launched on Friday morning nationwide.

Watch live below or we’ll keep you abreast of any important announcements.


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Todd Muller un-retires following caucus reshuffle

Todd Muller has backtracked on his decision to retire at the next election.

The National Party MP was pushed out of caucus under Judith Collins with reports she had forced him to resign.

He’s back in the fold now, however, today being announced as picking up two new portfolios under Christopher Luxon’s leadership. That move appears to have changed his mind about resigning. According to Newsroom’s Jo Moir, Muller will now be contesting his Bay of Plenty seat again at the 2023 election.

Today’s key Covid-19 numbers, charted

Just short of 12,000 vaccine doses were administered yesterday, including a mere 2,711 first doses, 6,757 second doses and 2,360 boosters.

The eligible population is now 88% fully vaccinated while just 7% have not got a single jab.

As always, here’s how the overall outbreak is tracking. For more, you can visit The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here.

135 new community delta cases

There are 135 new community cases of Covid-19 as the first full week of the new traffic light framework begins.

Of those, 125 are in Auckland, eight are in Waikato and two are in Canterbury. The Canterbury cases were first announced yesterday but are being officially reported in today’s figures.

There are also four new cases in Nelson-Marlborough, which will be officially reported in tomorrow’s figures.

There are 84 mystery cases among today’s total with 808 unlinked cases from the past fortnight. Covid-related hospitalisations are at 76 with seven people in intensive care.

Today’s case breakdown

In Auckland, health staff are now supporting 3,123 people to isolate at home, including 847 cases. 

There are eight new cases being reported today in Waikato, with five in Te Kūiti and one each in Huntly, Ōtorohanga and Ngāruawāhia. All eight new cases have been linked to previous cases.

The four new Nelson cases, which will be included in tomorrow’s case tally, include three linked cases and one with “possible connections”. “Public health officials continue to manage several hundred contacts associated with exposures at two schools in Nelson,” said the Ministry of Health. “No further cases have been identified from these school exposures to date.”

Collins drops 18 spots as Luxon unveils new shadow cabinet

Judith Collins remains in National’s shadow cabinet, but has been pushed off the front bench. She’s suffered an 18 spot demotion after losing the party’s leadership less than two weeks ago.

New leader Christopher Luxon has this afternoon unveiled his caucus reshuffle, placing Collins in spot 19 with just the research and science portfolio.

Meanwhile, National’s new front bench includes Chris Bishop in fourth spot, retaining his Covid spokesperson role and picking back up his shadow leader of the house position. Shane Reti, former deputy leader, lands in fifth. He comes out relatively unscathed after his role in Collins’ move against Simon Bridges and retains the health portfolio.

Louise Upston is in sixth, followed by Erica Stanford – moving up 18 places into seventh spot– who becomes education spokesperson. Matt Doocey is eighth and Simeon Brown, who loses his police portfolio, is in ninth. Barbara Kuriger is number 10.

National’s new top 10 under Christopher Luxon (Supplied)

Former leader Todd Muller, who had previously announced his intention to retire ahead of the next election, has not been ranked but has been given two roles: oceans and fisheries, and internal affairs.

Luxon called his new line-up a fresh, energised alternative government ready to deliver in 2023. “I have deliberately selected a shadow cabinet of 20 members to match the government’s cabinet. I’m confident that when you put any of National’s shadow ministers against their Labour counterparts, you’ll see that National’s MPs have the deep experience, the political skills, the work ethic and the intellectual grunt to come out on top every time,” he said.

Other notable moves include demoting Collins’ finance team of Andrew Bayly and Michael Woodhouse, dropping them down into spots 15 and 18 respectively. Potential National leadership contender Mark Mitchell sits in 14th spot, picking up Simeon Brown’s police portfolio. Todd McClay has been dumped from the shadow cabinet entirely, moving from spot six under Collins to an unranked role with the portfolios of trade and tourism.

Covid numbers due around 1pm

It’s a Monday which means today’s Covid-19 numbers are due via written statement from the Ministry of Health. Not to rub it in, but our top class data analysis last week showed the press release tends to land a little later than the scheduled 1pm. No matter though, we’ll have all the details as soon as they land.

We’ll also have a livestream of National leader Christopher Luxon from 1pm as he outlines his new shadow cabinet.

It’s Lord of the Rings week on The Spinoff

In case you have somehow missed it: it’s Lord of the Rings week here at The Spinoff!

Here’s what our features editor Chris Schulz has to say:

“20 years on from The Fellowship of the Ring’s theatrical premiere, we’re going to embark on an epic quest of our own. Here at The Spinoff, we’re going to spend the week celebrating Lord of the Rings. We’re going to look at the impact Jackson’s trilogy has had on Aotearoa, and why it’s still our biggest tourism drawcard. We’re going to ask what happens when the inevitable trilogy reboot occurs. We’re going to visit Hobbiton to find out what state it’s in after the lockdowns. We’re going to analyse the film’s best action scene, and the impact Orlando Bloom’s iconic orange tee had on local fashion brand Huffer.”

There’s a lot to come and it’s all very exciting. For starters, go check out this piece all about who could star in the inevitable reboot trilogy.

Extremely Online: Why is the internet so obsessed with cats?

Want to go viral? Get yourself a cat – preferably one that looks grumpy or loves jumping into boxes. What is it with the internet and cat videos? Why are we so obsessed? The Shit You Should Care About team explores our feline fervour in this week’s episode of Extremely Online.

Takeaway staff can be unvaccinated after mandate flip flop

A vaccine mandate u-turn will mean hospitality businesses in the “red” setting can operate with unvaccinated staffers if they are takeaway only.

Until recently, all food and drink outlets were told they could only operate at red if all staff were jabbed. That even applied to contactless takeaway outlets, despite rules allowing retail businesses to operate contactless. After backlash from some businesses, the rules were quietly updated last week.

Official advice now reads that if vaccine passes are not used by a business at red, they can only operate “as a takeaway service”.

One business owner told Stuff the flip flop from the government wasn’t good enough. “This is meant to be about Covid and keeping healthy. The mental health distress that they have caused far exceeds any Covid concerns.”

The Fold: Guy Williams has a podcast now

On this week’s episode of The Fold, comedian and “volunteer journalist” Guy Williams joins Duncan Greive to talk about making his TV series New Zealand Today, why as a “mediocre white man” turning it into a podcast is his logical next step, and his friendship with co-host Karen Hill (of viral “wants her $20 back” fame). Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Survey reveals who New Zealanders blame for soaring house prices

Almost two thirds of the country think house prices are “much too high”, a new survey has revealed.

The OneRoof-Kantar Housing Survey also showed that another 20% think they are “slightly” too high, meaning more than 80% of those surveyed think houses are too expensive.

Bleakly, 16% of people above 60 think house prices are just right compared to 11% overall.

Most New Zealanders – 62% – blame property investors for the skyrocketing price of property. However 35% blame the incumbent Labour government and 24% blame the former National government. More than half of people think overseas buyers are responsible.

Independent economist and OneRoof columnist Tony Alexander said it’s surprising how many people blame overseas buyers. “There has been a ban on almost all foreign buying since late-2018 and only 40% of the price doubling since 2014 occurred before the ban,” he said. “A larger 62% of people blame investors for house prices doubling and that seems accurate from my own analysis.”

PM confident ahead of Auckland border reopening

Jacinda Ardern has confidence in the new traffic light system ahead of Auckland’s border reopening next week.

The super city moved out of lockdown on Friday after 107 days but travel through the boundary won’t be allowed by holidaymakers until December 15.

The prime minister told RNZ that feedback to the traffic light framework has so far been really positive. “There will be the odd thing we need to iron out,” she said. The government would be keeping in touch with the likes of the Restaurant Association to ensure things were working for hospitality, said Ardern.

Auckland is the country’s most highly vaccinated area, Ardern said when asked by TVNZ’s Breakfast about next week’s reopening. “So a very, very vaccinated population with an overall decreasing number of cases, a requirement that in order to leave you must either be double vaccinated or have returned a negative test prior to departure,” she said.

“These are all safety checks we’ve put in place to make people as safe as possible over this summer period. Then as an extra layer where you may be going into an area where there may not be as high vaccination rates, they will be in red with those extra controls there too. We’ve put in place those measures to make it as safe as possible so people can move around the country.”

Jacinda Ardern prepares to speak at the Labour Party Annual Conference on November 6, 2021. (Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

Similarly, Ardern told The Bulletin that the systems put in place were to keep people safe. “We haven’t left anything to chance, nor have we created a system reliant on other people to add additional layers for people to be protected,” said Ardern. “For us, we’ve always built that into the system. We want people to be able to make choices, in the security that we’ve thought through the impact of movements.”

Ardern said she had seen the “odd report” about fake vaccine passes – as reported on by The Spinoff last week – but said nothing was believed to be widespread.

Christopher Luxon set to reveal caucus reshuffle today

National’s new leader Christopher Luxon will today unveil the shadow cabinet he thinks can take on Jacinda Ardern and the government.

Luxon officially became party leader last Tuesday, with Nicola Willis as his deputy. Later in the week, he confirmed former leader Simon Bridges would take the number three spot and the finance portfolio.

Now, all eyes are on where Luxon puts the other leaders of recent years – Judith Collins and Todd Muller – along with which new talent he chooses to promote.

Auckland University political scientist Lara Greaves told Newshub she was interested to see what Luxon did with the likes of Simeon Brown and Erica Stanford. “This is really one of the first tests of his leadership as to how he will balance various competing factions and various potential rivals,” she said.

“We see National in the past, it’s called a broad church, they have to try to have different parts of the electorate voting for them. It’s important for him to try to appeal to farmers, the urban liberals, the more social conservative parts of the party.”

Greaves said it’s a good thing for Luxon that more senior MPs like Bridges and Collins were staying on with the party as it could deflect from his lack of political experience.