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blog dec 7


Luxon goes head-to-head with the PM

Good morning and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 7. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send me a message at

Today’s headlines

blog dec 7

Luxon goes head-to-head with the PM

Good morning and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 7. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send me a message at

Today’s headlines

Dec 7 2021

Silo Theatre’s 2022 programme promises ‘lively conversation’

Auckland’s Silo Theatre has just announced its 2022 programme, four works that promise to uphold the company’s reputation for cutting-edge and thought-provoking writing and performance.

“Art making has always been about imagining a better world,” said artistic director Sophie Roberts in a media release to accompany the announcement. “Our plays have a lot to say about that. These works are fractured, genre-bending, adventurous and pulsing with restless energy.”

The first of these, a partnership with the Auckland Arts Festival, is Live Live Cinema: Night of the Living Dead (which was postponed from September of this year). It will star Hayley Sproull (Have You Been Paying Attention) and Jack Buchanan (Lockdown Boogie) attempting to voice nearly every character from the iconic zombie film and create every sound effect.

Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner will return to its first home, Basement Theatre, and is a Gen-Z friendly exploration of what it means to be terminally online, while The Writer will bring the company back to Q Theatre’s Rangatira space for a ferocious evisceration of sexual politics in the theatre. Up and coming playwright Nahyeon Lee will close out the programme with her new play, The First Prime-Time Asian Sitcom, a comedy that examines race and representation in contemporary Aotearoa.

It’s an exciting return to form for the company, which has weathered the pandemic well, promising the same savvy mix of boundary-pushing new local work and acclaimed international shows that are a hallmark of Silo Theatre. If you see just one show (and you should see more!) next year, make it The Writer. I read it a few years ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s a genuinely mind-shattering piece of work.

A verdict on the first question time spar between Ardern and Luxon

Jacinda Ardern and Christopher Luxon have crossed swords for the first time in question time. Most first exchanges between prime minister and opposition leader lack for fire and this one wasn’t all that different. Luxon is still finding his footwork, he stumbled on some of his words and lost himself in his notes. As for Ardern, her jabs were sharp but understated. It really wouldn’t be appropriate to do any more.

The business of the questions focused on the government’s inability to fund and staff new ICU beds over the course of the pandemic. It’s a serious issue and laudable of Luxon to make it his focus. Whether he landed any shots is debatable. Luxon and National contend that it’s a sign of the government’s failure to manage the pandemic that more beds are not available. Ardern responded that they haven’t been needed, the country’s ICUs haven’t seen waves of cases because of the government’s handing of the pandemic.

Luxon also continued with a line of inquiry he started last Friday, when he seemed to wonder aloud while visiting watering-holes in Auckland why the city wasn’t put directly into the green level of the traffic light system. He pointed out a discrepancy between the logic of the system and the execution. The government’s online criteria says red is to be used when the health care system is at risk of buckling (see above for why that’s not happening). So if ICUs are fine, why not go to green? The prime minister’s response was that the new system is being eased in slowly and reality might not correspond to the criteria for a while. She reminded the house, that Luxon might have missed a similar caution when the country shifted to the alert levels. So he might not understand. Because he wasn’t there, because he’s new.

Verdict: Participation ribbons all around.

My MVP goes to Grant Robertson and Simon Bridges. Long before the two even stood for their first tête-à-tête in the house, National’s new finance spokesman was shouting at Labour from behind his mask. The speaker then warned MPs to stop pulling their masks down to interject. Robertson, sensing his opening: “It won’t make more sense if you pull it down, Mr. Bridges.”

Government pressed over traffic light rules

The government has been pressed to provide further clarity around when regions like Auckland might be able to leave the “red” setting of the traffic light framework.

The current framework settings will be reviewed once more this year but the government’s indicated the existing levels will remain in place across the Christmas and New Year period.

Asked by National’s Covid response spokesperson Chris Bishop about the criteria, minister Chris Hipkins said none had been decided on. As with the alert level system there was a need to consider a “balance” of factors, he said, and there was no hard and fast rules for changing.

Act’s David Seymour said that showed a lack of logic. “The government is making ad hoc Covid-19 decisions that don’t meet its own criteria. We need clarity, certainty and common sense for New Zealanders to buy into the traffic light system,” he said.

“The traffic light system says a region will be in red when the health system faces an ‘unsustainable number of hospitalisations’. It’s clear the health system isn’t being overwhelmed right now.”

The prime minister has said that while Auckland remains the epicentre of the outbreak it was likely to remain under tighter restrictions in order to limit any spread of delta out of the city.

Watch: Chris Luxon’s first question time as National leader

It’s National Party leader Christopher Luxon’s first question time in the top job. He’ll go head-to-head with the prime minister when he asks the fourth question of this afternoon’s proceedings.

You can watch the livestream here.

Fifth DHB hits 90% fully vaccinated

Southern has become the fifth DHB in New Zealand to be 90% fully vaccinated, reaching this key milestone early this morning.

There were 24,913 total vaccine doses administered yesterday, including 4,571 first doses and 10,652 second doses. To date, 93% of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 88% are fully vaccinated.

And here’s a look at how the outbreak is tracking. For more, visit The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here.

Police to man two checkpoints north of Auckland when border lifts

Police will manage two checkpoints north of Auckland once the border disbands on December 15.

These will be located on state highway one at Uretiti and the second on state highway 12 near Maungaturoto and will focus on northbound traffic only. Police said they will be “very mindful of traffic flows” but that the public can expect to be stopped and spoken to by police to ensure they are abiding by health rules.

“This means travellers into the region will need to show proof of vaccination status or a negative Covid-19 test,” said Northland district commander superintendent Tony Hill.

“These checkpoints will operate 24/7 short term, police will then move to a new model which will involve having random checkpoints and spot checks across the district to check that people are continuing to comply with the travel restrictions.”

In total, police will have 74 staff working on a roster to operate the checkpoints while the Tai Tokerau Border Control will assist with checking vaccine passes or negative Covid tests.

Like Auckland’s southern boundary, the checkpoints will not be stopping every car.

98 new community delta cases; Southern DHB case ‘under investigation’

There are 98 new community cases of Covid-19: 74 in Auckland, 10 in Waikato, eight in Bay of Plenty, one in Taranaki and five in Nelson Marlborough.

There is also a border case currently under investigation in the Southern DHB area. This person returned an initial weak positive test and a second test has returned a negative result. “Public health staff are currently awaiting serology results for the person,” said the Ministry of Health. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Ministry of Health has published one location of interest.”

There are currently 66 people in hospital with Covid-19, including seven in intensive care.

Of today’s cases, 48 are currently unlinked to the wider delta outbreak with 752 mystery cases across the past fortnight.

Meanwhile, the ministry has warned of potential Covid spread linked to Carrington Estate in the Karikari Peninsula. Anyone who visited on Saturday November 20, and who became unwell subsequently is encouraged to get tested, even if they no longer have symptoms.

Today’s case details

The two new Northland cases are both in Kaitaia and will be officially counted in tomorrow’s numbers. Case interviews are under way and links to extended whānau in the area are being investigated.

There were 10 new cases confirmed in the Waikato overnight, with three in Te Kūiti, two in Ōtorohanga, two in Huntly, two in Tokoroa, and one in Hamilton.

One of today’s cases has been formally linked to previous cases with the remainder under investigation to confirm links.

All eight of the Bay of Plenty cases are in the Tauranga area and are all household contacts of previously confirmed cases. Some were already in isolation, said the ministry.

There is one new case to report in Taranaki today. The new case is a household contact of a current case and they have been in isolation since last week. They are based in New Plymouth.

Only details for one of today’s new Nelson cases has so far been revealed. They are linked to a known school exposure event. There are now 20 active cases in the Nelson area. Investigations into the source of infections are ongoing.

Details about the other four Nelson cases will be reported tomorrow.

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Latest Covid numbers coming around 1pm

As per usual, today’s Covid-19 numbers will be released by the Ministry of Health anytime between roughly 1.00pm and 1.45pm. I’m paid to keep my eyes glued to my inbox so you don’t have to – all you need to know will be here when the press release lands.

Also coming up this afternoon: Christopher Luxon makes his debut as National Party leader in question time shortly after 2pm. I’ll have a livestream for you and we’ll have on the ground analysis from our political editor Justin Giovannetti.

That’s coming up this afternoon.

Luxon pipped by Seymour in first question time as leader

David Seymour will get to volley with the prime minister before new National Party leader Christopher Luxon in today’s question time.

It’s Luxon’s first chance to go toe-to-toe with Jacinda Ardern since becoming leader last Tuesday. But he’s been allocated the fourth question, after Seymour’s second.

According to the list of oral questions, both Seymour and Luxon will ask the same question: the traditional “does she stand by all of her government’s statements and policies?”

Here’s hoping Luxon has some different statements and policies he hopes to pick apart. Question time begins at 2pm.

Chris Penk elected National whip

National MP Chris Penk has been elected as the party’s senior whip.

Leader Christopher Luxon said Penk, who is the Kaipara ki Mahurangi MP, was elected unopposed. Maureen Pugh is the party’s junior whip.

“Chris and Maureen bring the integrity, experience and commitment to make a fantastic whips team, and I look forward to seeing them flourish in their new roles,” said Luxon.

National MP Chris Penk
Chris Penk (Image : Supplied)

How to ham this Christmas

(Image: Supplied/Bobo Doodles)

A note on Christmas lunch from our partners Freedom Farms: This Christmas, whether you’re going all-out or keeping it low-key, hosting the family at yours or gathering in a park, acing the ham is essential – and easy!  

Start with a ham you feel good about eating. We source our hams from a group of farmers in Aotearoa who value the same things we do: a farming system that is kinder for farm animals, takes it easy on the environment, and supports a food system that we feel really, really proud of.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t really take much work to nail the ham game – just a bit of know-how and a glorious glaze recipe… we can lend a hand with that! Just follow these easy steps.

DOC hut listed as ‘high risk’ location of interest

A Department of Conservation hut in the Fiordland national park has been listed as a “high risk” location of interest by the Ministry of Health.

The hut was visited by a confirmed Covid-19 case on December 4 and 5. Official advice for anyone at the location is to self-isolate and be tested for Covid immediately.

The ministry has been approached for more information.

Two omicron cases confirmed in Fiji

Two cases of the Covid-19 omicron variant have been confirmed in Fiji.

Health officials say both cases arrived from South Africa where the strain originated. They arrived in Fiji late last month and tested positive in managed isolation. Genomic testing subsequently confirmed they were positive for the new variant.

“The two travellers are Fijian citizens who had travelled back into Fiji from Nigeria, arriving on Fiji Airways flight FJ1392 from Hong Kong on November 25th – the day the discovery of the Omicron variant was announced internationally,” said Fiji’s health secretary James Fong.

“The four passengers on the flight who were from a travel partner country have tested negative.”

In recent days, omicron has been confirmed in Australia, the UK and the US. There are no known cases in New Zealand.

Māori health agency wins second court battle against ministry

The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has had its second court victory over the Ministry of Health, but is calling it “bittersweet”.

The agency had taken legal action asking for data identifying unvaccinated Māori in the North Island so they could try to bolster vaccination rates. The ministry had refused and instead offered to work with Whānau Ora to find people who need vaccinating.

While the latest court decision does not order the ministry to release all data, it requires it to review its decision to provide data in relation to Māori in the North Island who have had only a first dose but not a second.

The agency’s chairwoman Merepeka Raukawa-Tait told Stuff the High Court decision was a bittersweet victory because while it won the case, it won’t have time to use the data before the Auckland borders reopen next week. “We need to keep our whānau safe. This requires the data for us to target our teams and resources. We know what is at stake,” she said.

Axing internal polling was a mistake for National – Luxon

Christopher Luxon says he’ll reinstate regular internal polling for the National Party, and has suggested it was a mistake to ditch it in the first place.

It’s a week since the former Air NZ boss took over leadership of the opposition and a day after he unveiled his revamped caucus line-up.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Luxon said the party hasn’t been polling since he took over the job. “We don’t do any internal polling at the moment which I think has been some of our problems,” he said. “It got axed when we came to [parliament] with a lot less resources than we’d had in the previous term.”

Luxon said it’s something he’s looking to bring back in order to ensure the party understands issues well and can articulate them to the public.

Consumer: The sunscreens you should avoid

Three out of nine sunscreens tested by Consumer NZ did not meet their claimed SPF protection – and were all repeat offenders from last year.

Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30, Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30, and Banana Boat Daily Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ all failed to meet the claims of their label. The latter two also didn’t meet broad-spectrum requirements meaning they may not fully protect against UVA and UVB rays.

“We’re pleased that the majority of sunscreens met their claims in Consumer NZ’s first round of sunscreen testing,” said Consumer NZ senior writer Belinda Castles. “It’s important that New Zealanders can make informed choices this summer and trust label claims. The Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard is voluntary in New Zealand, which means products sold  here could meet other standards – such as those in the US or EU – or may not have been tested at all.”

The sunscreens tested that met their claims were:

  • Cetaphil Sun Kids Liposomal Lotion SPF50+
  • Eau Thermale Avene Face & Body Lotion SPF50+
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Lotion Sunscreen SPF50+
  • UV Guard Max Sunscreen SPF50+
  • Reef Coconut Sunscreen Dry-Touch Lotion SPF50
  • Skinnies Sungel SPF30

Another round of testing will be released in due course.

Tickets on sale for new Auckland film festival

Tickets are now on sale for a new Auckland film festival billed as a replacement for the cancelled Auckland leg of the NZ International Film Festival.

In The Shade boasts over 50 films, including the New Zealand premieres of 2022 Oscar hopefuls Nightmare Alley, Licorice Pizza and C’mon C’mon. It’s line-up is shared between the Hollywood in Avondale and the Academy in Auckland CBD.

“We want to add to the overall summer experience for Aucklanders” said Dos Ojosthe collective behind the festival, in a statement. “Imagine a great day with friends at the beach, followed by a sunset dinner before going to see world class acclaimed cinema – topped off with a refreshing beverage in our beer garden.”

It sounds ideal and I’ve already booked in for three films with many more to come. Bring on January.

You can find out more info about In The Shade here

Te Aorerekura: 25-year plan launched to eliminate sexual violence

A new 25-year strategy aims to eliminate family and sexual violence in New Zealand.

Called Te Aorerekura, it will see 10 agencies working together to tackle intergenerational violence in New Zealand.

“Te Aorerekura sets a collective ambition to create peaceful homes where children, families and whānau thrive; to enable safe communities where all people are respected, and support the wellbeing of our nation,” said Marama Davidson, who is the minister for the prevention of family violence and sexual violence.

“The strategy and action plan represent an evolution in our journey to address violence in our homes and communities. This is an important step towards ensuring the wellbeing of all people.”

Cabinet has also agreed to establish a Tangata Whenua advisory group to provide independent advice and guidance to Davidson.

“This governance input is a crucial improvement to the system and will ensure that te ao Māori informs our implementation of the strategy,” she said.

A series of engagement hui will take place in 2022 between agencies and communities, said Davidson.

(Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)