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Live UpdatesJul 8 2022

Covid cases steady on eve of school holidays

It’s Friday, July 8! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, bringing you what you need to know from around New Zealand. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Boris Johnson has confirmed he’s resigning as PM, but will stay on for now as a caretaker leader.
  • There were 9,318 new Covid cases today, with the Ministry of Health updating the total after earlier erroneously announcing more than 13,000.
  • Jacinda Ardern is wrapping her Australian trip and has faced tough questions about her “global celebrity” status.
  • The mystery of the Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate deepens.
blog-july-8.jpg

Covid cases steady on eve of school holidays

It’s Friday, July 8! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, bringing you what you need to know from around New Zealand. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Boris Johnson has confirmed he’s resigning as PM, but will stay on for now as a caretaker leader.
  • There were 9,318 new Covid cases today, with the Ministry of Health updating the total after earlier erroneously announcing more than 13,000.
  • Jacinda Ardern is wrapping her Australian trip and has faced tough questions about her “global celebrity” status.
  • The mystery of the Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate deepens.
Jul 8 2022

Today’s Covid case numbers not as high as earlier reported

There are 9,318 new Covid-19 cases in the community today, not the 13,344 reported earlier today, representing a slight decrease on the past two days’ figures.

The error was due to a Ministry of Health “computer glitch” that resulted in some cases already reported yesterday being double counted, according to a press release from the ministry.

You’ve heard of Corngate – but what about Grannygate?

After reading Duncan Greive’s excellent deep dive into the Corngate saga 20 years on, I went in search of other New Zealand “gates” that I could reminisce about.

Wikipedia has an incredibly comprehensive list, that seems to list all of the gates from around the world, including in entertainment (remember Bingate, Great British Bake Off fans?).

Anyway, according to the list there are three local “gates”. Along with Corngate, there is Ponytailgate – need I remind you – and… Grannygate??

It’s a term referring to several rugby-based scandals, including a 2006 event involving the eligibility of several league players. Essentially, it references scandals where players have been disallowed from playing for a particular team based on their residency – which is often linked back to the birthplace of their parent or grandparent.

The more you know.

Former Japanese PM in hospital after reported shooting

Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, has reportedly been shot and is currently being treated in hospital.

CNN has reported that Abe was rushed to hospital after collapsing during a speech in Nara. There were claims gunshots were heard at the same time.

Abe was prime minister for two separate tenures, his latest finishing in 2020.

Study claims thousands dying from air pollution in NZ

A study released earlier this week reveals just how harmful air pollution is for New Zealanders.

As RNZ reported, the research concluded about 3,300 people were dying every year because of air pollution – and much of that was because of cars. Thousands more were needing hospital treatment because of respiratory and cardiac illnesses, and many children were ending up with asthma as a result.

Auckland Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee chair, Richard Hills, said the results were especially bad in our biggest city. “Auckland has the fifth highest transport emissions per capita in the world, and our cars and light
commercial vehicles are the main source – 70%,” he said.

“Collectively, Aucklanders drive more than 10 billion kms each year, and likely unknown to many, over half of these journeys are under 6km long.”

Hills said Auckland Council remained committed to providing “more equitable and efficient” public transport around the city. “It is my hope that one day soon, our kids can ride or walk their bikes to school without fearing for their safety, as I was lucky enough to do when I was growing up,” he said.

This was the first time vehicle pollution data was included in the Health and Air Pollution NZ study, which has been conducted three times since 2012.

Have we just solved the Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate mystery?

It’s a Friday afternoon so hopefully you can indulge me a second live update on the (mystery) Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate. I think the mystery has been solved.

What we know so far

June 20: The mystery begins

On June 20, a Twitter user noticed an ad for a Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate block on Google. No product existed and no product has since been confirmed.

Also on this day: A photo shared to Facebook in a vegan food group allegedly showed that the oat milk chocolate had already been released in at least one store.

July 7: A new contender hits the market

It’s June 7 and Whittaker’s has still not announced an oat milk block. However, Wellington Chocolate Factory has announced a limited edition run of an oat milk choccie. As The Spinoff’s Alice Neville said in our Slack chat: “take that Whittaker’s!”

July 8: The plot thickens

A Farro Fresh listing for the Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate appeared online and was removed when The Spinoff reached out with questions. “This should not have been on the website yet and has since been removed,” said a customer care spokesperson.

“Yet.”

The new developments

Since we reported on the intriguing Farro Fresh link earlier today, The Spinoff has been sent further mysterious clues that suggest the impending arrival of a Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate.

Let’s take a look at the new clues.

Firstly, an eagle-eyed Spinoff reader pointed out that the Whittaker’s website now includes an oat field.

OATS

Then there’s this display, from outside Otago University, sent in by another Spinoff reader. If you look closely you’ll notice that the word “totally” is spelt incorrectly. Coincidence? Maybe.

tOATally (Image: Supplied)

And, finally, we look at Karl Urban’s Instagram. The New Zealand actor is currently starring in an ad campaign for one Whittaker’s chocolate. Look at the caption on this recent snap.

“#toatally”

Suspicious.

We do have to take this particular clue with a grain of salt, however. Karl Urban has a history of bad spelling on Instagram. A series of recent posts on Instagram show Urban misspelling the name of an episode of a TV show in which he is the main character. (It’s Herogasm).

Nevertheless, the evidence is compelling.

The Spinoff has asked Whittaker’s for comment and awaits either a response or some free oat milk chocolate for cracking the case.

In the meantime, can we get a release date please?

New Zealanders in Australia to get streamlined pathway to citizenship

New Zealanders living in Australia will soon have a more streamlined pathway to citizenship, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

Ardern is wrapping up her week-long visit to Australia today. Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Ardern said Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese had committed to providing options for a citizenship pathway by Anzac Day next year.

“It was great to meet with prime minister Albanese again further cementing the close renewed relationship between Australia and New Zealand,” Ardern said.

“It is important that we are able to continue to communicate freely and coordinate across the full spectrum of domestic and international issues.”

Ardern signalled that this commitment was a “step-change” to the way New Zealanders had been treated under the prior Scott Morrison administration.

Similarly, on the subject of 501 deportations, Ardern said she was pleased to know that Australia would be treating the issue with “common sense” and as a “friend”. Albanese reiterated his commitment to look at the issue and indicated that deportations would be less likely to happen when the person being deported had no connection to New Zealand.

The two leaders also pledged to have closer contact between senior ministers going forward. Annual meetings will now be held between New Zealand and Australia’s ministers for finance, foreign affairs and climate change. Climate change remained, reiterated Ardern, the number one issue impacting the Pacific region.

“New Zealand is a proud pacific nation, and with the Pacific Islands Forum next week, we discussed in detail our shared view that the perspectives and priorities of Pacific island countries need to guide all regional engagement,” said Ardern.

“New Zealand has also reiterated our commitment to support Covid-19 recovery, regional prosperity and security, including through joint support for high-quality, climate-resilient infrastructure, and will be discussing with other pacific countries how we can continue to support the region.”

When the Facts Change: Is the housing market’s tide really turning?

Quotable Value’s house price index shows average values fell 3.4% in the three months ended June to $1.01 million, compared with the 2.2 percent fall in the May quarter. But annually, the average property value was up 7.2% from a year ago, down from the 10.5% growth last month. For decades we’ve been warned of major slumps that never happened, but the Reserve Bank’s new chief economist Paul Conway says this time, it’s different.

With a history of central bank governors and finance ministers making similar predictions that never came to pass, Bernard Hickey challenges Conway’s view that the housing market’s ever-upward tide may be turning in this week’s episode of When the Facts Change.

Covid-19 update: Big jump in new infections

There’s been another big jump in reported Covid-19 infections and people hospitalised with the virus.

The Ministry of Health has reported 13,344 new community cases, about 2,500 more than yesterday and the highest number of new infections in several months.

Update, 5pm: The Ministry of Health has issued a correction to the previously stated case numbers for today, blaming a “computer glitch”. The updated total of community cases is 9,318.

It brings the seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today to 8,313.

There are now 587 people in hospital with Covid-19, about 30 more than yesterday. Waitematā continues to record the highest number of hospitalisations with 128, followed by Waikato with 57.

Nine people are now in intensive care.

Another 23 people with Covid-19 have died, with 18 of those since the start of July. Four others occurred in May and June, while there is one death from January last year now being reported following a cause of death assessment.

“Today’s new cases of Covid-19 show a further rise in case numbers,” said the ministry. “We are continuing to keep our response to the current community outbreak of Covid-19 under review and will adapt it as the outbreak and pandemic evolve, and as part of our resurgence planning.”

The government has so far signalled that it will not be tightening Covid-19 restrictions, with minister Ayesha Verrall saying in recent days that the orange setting provided sufficient protection.

Today is the last Friday of the school term, meaning many families will be travelling around the country over the next fortnight. The ministry said it is normal for children to have “8-10 viral illnesses each year” and has provided some suggestions for keeping tamariki healthy over the break.

Friday Quiz: Have you been paying attention?

It’s been a big week of news. We’ve had BoJo’s resignation, Andy Foster’s Wellington re-election campaign launched, Jacinda Ardern’s Aussie trip, and a mysterious viral masked baby.

Test how well you’ve been following the news with our weekly quiz.


Ardern confident UK-NZ relationship will stay strong after Johnson resignation

Jacinda Ardern has acknowledged the resignation of Boris Johnson as UK prime minister, but refused to comment on the news itself.

In a statement, Ardern said she was aware of the planned transition from Johnson to a new prime minister. “While obviously I won’t comment on the domestic political affairs of another country, Kiwis should be reassured that New Zealand has an exceptionally strong relationship with the United Kingdom,” she said.

“Over the course of our time in office, we’ve worked incredibly well with both Theresa May, and then Boris Johnson, securing an incredibly important free trade agreement with the UK. I fully expect this cooperation to continue.”

Ardern met with Johnson just last week during her visit to Europe, where the pair solidified details of a UK free trade agreement. Almost 10 years ago, in a tweet that goes viral at least once a year, Ardern referred to Johnson as the “gaffe man”.

Boris Johnson and Jacinda Ardern in 2019 at the UN (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

Another clue to the Whittaker’s oat milk chocolate puzzle

Whittaker’s has yet to formally announce its rumoured oat milk chocolate – yet another clue to its existence has popped up online.

A listing, with no image, for the mystery chocolate has appeared on the Farro Fresh website. It even says you can add it to your trolley.

The chocolate was first leaked via a New World ad spotted by a Twitter user last month. The advert was quickly pulled from Google, though the mystery of the oat milk choccie lived on. Since then, Whittaker’s has not confirmed nor denied the existence of the chocolate. There is no mention of it anywhere on its website.

Image: Tina Tiller

As Stuff reported, Whittaker’s has been beaten to the oat milk market by Wellington Chocolate Factory. They’ve launched a very limited edition run of oat milk chocolate bars this week.

The Spinoff has reached out to Farro and Whittaker’s for further comment.

Know more? stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

Update: About 30 minutes after this was published, Farro Fresh told me they had removed the oat milk chocolate from their website. “This should not have been on the website yet,” a customer service spokesperson said.

Yet. Yet.

The plot thickens.

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Luxon meets with Theresa May on same day as Johnson resignation

Christopher Luxon has met with former UK prime minister Theresa May – though one suspects she may have been a little distracted with current events.

In a post on his Instagram, Luxon said the pair discussed current events in both New Zealand and the UK. “Knowing Theresa’s love of cricket, that was a point of discussion as well,” he added.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Christopher Luxon (@christopherluxon)

The meeting took place against the backdrop of Boris Johnson’s resignation as UK prime minister. Johnson ousted May as PM back in 2019.

And while she was surely very engaged in any cricket banter with Luxon, it’s clear she was still keeping a close eye on developing news.

(Photo: Instagram)

Luxon’s been on a whirlwind policy tour, visiting parts of Europe and Asia. He’s expected back in the country this week.

Jacinda Ardern questioned on her ‘global celebrity’ status

Jacinda Ardern generally receives a rapturous reception whenever she is on an overseas trip. Generally speaking, her current Australian tour has been no different. However, when appearing on ABC’s 730 programme yesterday, Ardern was confronted about her perceived celebrity status – and how that compared to her popularity at home.

“How does it feel to be more popular abroad than at home?” host Sarah Ferguson asked.

“I don’t think I would describe myself in that way,” replied Ardern. “For me, I will always first and foremost be the prime minister of New Zealand… My total focus is at home. That’s what matters to me.”

On latest polling, next year’s general election is set to be an especially tight competition. While Labour won in a landslide in 2020, buoyed by Covid-19, latest polling shows a possible National-Act coalition could feasibly win next year.

Ardern maintained that popularity abroad was simply a reflection of her role as New Zealand’s ambassador. “If by virtue of just doing that job to the very best of my ability, there is some interest in what New Zealand does and how we do it – then I will always reflect that back to the fact that all I do is magnify the Kiwi spirit,” she said.

You can watch an extract of the interview on the Herald or read more about Ardern’s appearance on the ABC.

For a succinct round-up of Ardern’s Australian trip, check out today’s edition of The Bulletin.

The Bulletin: A better defined mask policy instead of the red traffic light setting

Throughout the very difficult times over the last two years, I always found Keith Lynch’s Covid explainers over on Stuff very comforting and useful. He’s got a new one on why the government is doing (almost) nothing about Covid. It appropriately veers away from explaining the hard science of Covid or the blacks and whites of the rules and regulations we’ve been observing, and charts the trickier water we navigate now.

Lynch suggests the traffic light system “was born in an era of tight suppression, mandates and Auckland boundaries” and that it’s arguably counterproductive now. “Why not instead introduce a much better-defined masking policy without the concept of a ‘Red’ setting hanging over the population?” he asks.

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

Boris Johnson quits – but he’s not going anywhere yet

Boris Johnson has confirmed he will step down as British prime minister. But, much to the dissatisfaction of many, including from within his own party, it could take three months for him to leave Downing Street.

A lot happened overnight in British politics, so let’s try and break it down. 

At about 8.30pm NZT, speculation reached the British media that Johnson was preparing his resignation speech after being unable to fill vacant cabinet spots caused by the vast number of resignations (well over 40).

Over the next four hours, sources within Downing Street fed the media details of what was taking place. The narrative changed from “Johnson is resigning” to “Johnson could become a caretaker prime minister”. It was speculated on Newshub last night that Johnson wanted to become a caretaker leader as a last ditch effort to hold onto power. October is the month being thrown around, when Conservative MPs meet for a party conference.

Boris Johnson resigns (Photo: Getty Images)

Then, sometime after midnight, Johnson finally fronted. In his speech, which notably excluded any apology, the prime minister did not explicitly confirm when he will leave office. “I’ve agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now. The timetable will be announced next week and I’ve today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place,” he said.

Some MPs – and many commentators – have called for Johnson to step down sooner. Many have suggested his deputy Dominic Raab could take over temporarily.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said if Johnson does not leave office immediately, he would call a vote of no confidence. This is unlikely to succeed as it would require a majority of Conservative MPs to vote against their own government.

And remember how many British MPs quit in recent days? This was sent to me on Twitter and it’s… great.