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Blog dec 8


Another sub-100 Covid case day

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 8, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Flick me an email to

Today’s top stories

Blog dec 8

Another sub-100 Covid case day

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 8, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Flick me an email to

Today’s top stories

Dec 8 2021

Charges filed against Lake Alice staff member; two others, including Selwyn Leeks, found unfit to stand trial

Lake Alice psychiatric hospital (Photo: Wikicommons)

An 89-year-old former staff member of the Lake Alice psychiatric hospital has been charged with wilful ill treatment of a child following a police investigation into allegations involving children and young people at the facility in the 1970s. They are expected to appear in Whanganui District Court next Tuesday.

Police found sufficient evidence to charge two other former staff members with the same offence, including 92-year-old former child psychiatrist Selwyn Leeks, who was in charge of the child and adolescent unit at the Manawatū-Whanganui hospital over several decades, but both have been deemed medically unfit to stand trial.

“It is important to note that this finding does not mean Mr Leeks is guilty of the alleged offence – he cannot be charged as he is unable to defend himself in court,” said a police media statement announcing the conclusion of the investigation into Lake Alice. The investigation into the long-standing allegations, which began in February 2020, included interviews with former staff, 63 former patients, and over 46,000 pages of documentary evidence, said the statement.

“Police acknowledges the enormous impact these events have had on the lives of those former patients who were children and young people at Lake Alice in the 1970s, and the frustration of those who have been waiting for us to complete this investigation,” said detective superintendent Tom Fitzgerald in the statement.
“This operation involved unprecedented mass allegations, with complex legal arguments and expert medical evidence, so it was vital that we undertook a methodical and meticulous approach with thorough consideration of culpability.”

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, meanwhile, issued a statement saying it understood survivors would be disappointed by police’s decision not to charge Leeks, but it “has not and will not deter the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry from making adverse findings about Dr Leeks, about survivors’ allegations against him”.

“Importantly, we will also make findings about how the allegations were dealt with by authorities, including NZ Police,” said Coral Shaw, chair of the royal commission, in the statement.

“Lake Alice survivors, their whānau and supporters have been seeking accountability for a long time. Many survivors have shared their experiences with us and these have helped inform our work and the reports that will follow,” said the statement.

The royal commission’s interim report was submitted to the governor-general on December 1 and will be made public next week, after it is tabled in parliament by the minister of internal affairs. Its full report on Lake Alice will be released mid-next year.

NZ Post brings forward Christmas shipping cut-off

You have just over a week to get your Christmas cards in the mail to ensure Grandma’s not disappointed.

NZ Post’s economy cut-off period for Christmas has been brought forward to December 16, while you will have until December 20 to post any parcels via courier.

“If you miss these dates, you can still send your parcels and we’ll do everything we can to deliver them in time for the big day,” said NZ Post in an email to customers today.

14 arrested, millions of dollars seized, after drug smuggling bust

Police have arrested another 14 people in connection with alleged drug smuggling at the New Zealand border, with millions of dollars worth of assets seized.

A total of 24 people have now been charged in relation to Operation Selena. Police said 19 search warrants were carried out today across Auckland with officers seizing two properties, five vehicles including a 2019 Ford Raptor valued at more than $60,000, and a Harley Davidson.

Bank accounts totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars have also been restrained while thousands of dollars in cash and small quantities of methamphetamine were also recovered.

Today’s key Covid-19 numbers, charted

There were 24,142 total vaccine doses administered yesterday, including 4,387 first doses and 10,093 second doses. To date, 94% of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 88% are fully vaccinated.

Here’s a look at the shape of the delta outbreak, thanks to The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page.

PM defends keeping Auckland border despite Bloomfield’s advice

Jacinda Ardern has defended the decision to keep Auckland’s boundary in place until December 15, despite Ashley Bloomfield recommending it be ditched when the traffic light framework started.

Questioned on the issue by National Party leader Christopher Luxon in parliament, Ardern said the boundary had kept people safe throughout the outbreak and stopped Covid-19 spreading far out of Auckland. “We have taken onboard the advice of our public health officials but we’ve also weighed that against the best interests of New Zealanders,” she said.

There would be a large amount of movement over summer, said Ardern, and it was the government’s view that keeping the boundary in place would help prevent delta flaring up around the country.

Today marked Luxon’s second question time as leader of the opposition.

Watch: Luxon goes for round two against the PM

Christopher Luxon is up for his second back-and-forth with the prime minister in today’s question time.

Yesterday, the new National leader stumbled over one of his questions but generally gave a pretty solid, if unmemorable, performance. He told media today he would do better on his second attempt.

You can watch parliament TV live here.

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Help The Spinoff keep on top of the top stories

2021 will be remembered for the spread of delta, creating one of the most challenging stories – and commercial environments – in recent memory. It made us rely even more heavily on the support of our members. If you love what we do, please consider donating today.

Want another way to support us? Invite your friends and whānau to read The Spinoff and keep them across Aotearoa’s biggest stories.

Ellerslie rest home staffer catches Covid-19

A staff member at the Ellerslie Gardens Aged Residential Care facility in Auckland has tested positive for Covid-19. It’s the first confirmed case at the facility. 

The Ministry of Health said public health staff are supporting the residents and staff at the privately-owned facility. Testing is under way with residents and staff as part of the outbreak management plan.

“There continues to be a daily review of testing numbers and testing locations to ensure good coverage of risk areas,” said a ministry spokesperson.

In Auckland, 3,112 people are now self-isolating at home, including 813 cases.

90 new Covid-19 cases, third positive wastewater result in Gisborne

There are 90 community cases of Covid-19 today, the Ministry of Health has reported in its (early) 1pm update. It marks another day with less than 100 cases, a week out from Auckland’s border reopening.

Of today’s cases, 71 are in Auckland, nine are in Waikato, five are in Bay of Plenty, three are in Northland, and both Lakes DHB and Nelson have one new case.

Wastewater testing in Gisborne has once again shown traces of Covid-19, but no cases have been confirmed in the area. The latest wastewater testing was taken on December 6, following earlier positive results on December 1 and 2.

“Public health officials are not aware of any recovered cases in the region who may be shedding the virus,” said the Ministry of Health. “A third positive detection strongly indicates that there is at least one undetected case in the community.”

There are now 74 people in hospital with Covid-19, including six in intensive care.

Meanwhile, the border-related case reported in the Southern DHB remains under investigation. The case returned a weak positive after leaving managed isolation in Christchurch but has subsequently tested negative. Officials cannot rule out the infection being historic.

Public health staff have identified 14 close contacts including a household contact. All contacts are currently isolating and will be tested. The Green Lake Hut in the Fiordland National Park remains the only location of interest.

Today’s case details

Today’s new Northland case tested positive in Kaitaia after travelling from Bay of Plenty. This case has been transferred to Bay of Plenty DHB and will be recorded in their case numbers once interviews have been completed.

Two further cases announced yesterday are counted in today’s numbers. They have both been linked to known cases.

There were nine new cases confirmed in the Waikato overnight, with six in Te Kūiti, one in Ōtorohanga, and two locations under investigation. All are under investigation for links to previous cases.  

There is one Covid-19 positive patient in Waikato Hospital ICU.

The five new Bay of Plenty cases are all in the Tauranga area. Public health staff are currently interviewing the cases to determine links to existing cases.

Contacts are being identified and will be contacted for testing and isolation advice.

There is one new case to report in the Lakes DHB region today. This case is in Rotorua. Investigations are continuing today to determine any links to existing cases and any locations of interest.

Finally, There is one new case being reported in Nelson-Tasman today. This case is linked to an existing case. This takes the number of active cases in the Nelson area to 20, after one case has recovered.

Today’s Covid numbers due at 1pm

You know the drill: it’s a 1pm written statement today after the regular press conference was cancelled (simply because there was nothing to announce).

Today’s numbers will arrive in my inbox sometime after 1pm. I’ll have all the details when they arrive.

Give a gift that lasts a lifetime

A note from our partners WordSmart: This Christmas, give the children in your world something extra-special: the life affirming gift of reading. The WordSmart app is a present they will use long into the future as it teaches them to learn to love reading.

Humans are wired for oral storytelling and neuroscience tells us that the parts of our brain that process emotions are where our long-term memories reside. That’s why WordSmart taps into our passion for stories to help develop reading skills. It uses adventure and humour to tell stories about how the letters get their sounds.

Kids love the app, it gives all beginner readers a head start and it’s having a significant positive impact for children with reading barriers. 

This Christmas give the children in your life the gift that will change their lives.

Proposed law would allow Māori voters to switch between electoral rolls at any time

The Māori Party wants to allow Māori voters to switch between the Māori and non-Māori electoral rolls at any time.

Co-leader Rawiri Waititi has submitted a member’s bill that would change the existing “archaic” rules.

“Our electoral law is archaic. It’s discriminatory. It’s anti-democratic. It’s racist,” Waititi said. “There are only two opportunities for Māori to choose electoral rolls; either at the time of initial enrolment or during the Māori electoral option period, which takes place over a four month period every five to six years.”

Waititi said the current rules are designed to disenfranchise Māori voters from exercising their choice.

The bill would also change the requirement to redraw electoral boundaries to a set date two years after each general election, put all enrolling Māori that don’t choose an electoral roll on the Māori roll by default and change the name of “general electoral district” to “non-Māori electoral district”.

State-owned media ask to join collective bargaining with Facebook and Google

State-owned media organisations TVNZ and RNZ want to join other media organisations, including The Spinoff, in collectively negotiating with Facebook and Google over payment for their content.

As reported on by The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive last month, local media outlets are seeking Commerce Commission approval to collectively bargain with the tech giants following a similar deal in Australia. The Australian government has introduced a bargaining code that led to meaningful deals between the likes of Facebook and the media. These hold the promise of a sustainable media that does not rely on government subsidies for news.

Both TVNZ and RNZ said they shared the same issues as other media and called for a broader approach that would allow them to participate.

Just a great Succession read

I’m going to assume everyone reading these live updates also watches Succession because if you read the live updates you clearly have good taste. Anyway, Succession – which is available to stream on Neon – wraps up its incredible third season next week and I’m not quite ready. I’ve been digesting any content I can find, which includes this oddly bleak but also funny profile of cast member Jeremy Strong in the New Yorker. If you’re on Twitter you’ve probably already read but if not, enjoy!

The cast of Succession return triumphantly for season three. (Photo: HBO, Design: Tina Tiller)

Dunedin Countdown stabber admits he tried to kill four people

A man who went on a stabbing spree in a Dunedin Countdown supermarket has admitted he tried to kill four people.

The May 10 attack saw two Countdown staff members and a husband and wife injured at the Dunedin Central Countdown.

As 1 News reports, 42-year-old Luke James Lambert has today entered a guilty plea for the attack.

Countdown’s director of corporate affairs Kiri Hannifin said she was pleased the attacker had admitted the attack. “It was an incredibly impactful incident for [our Dunedin staff]. We’ve checked in on them this morning and they are feeling very relieved. We remain immensely grateful to the Dunedin Police for not only their quick actions on the day of this awful event, but in the days, weeks and months since.”

Potential Covid case linked to DOC hut could be historic infection

A potential Covid case who visited a DOC hut in the Fiordland National Park could be an historic infection.

The hut was listed as a “high risk” location of interest by the Ministry of Health yesterday. In the 1pm statement, the ministry said the case, in the Southern DHB area, was linked to the border.

In response to questions from The Spinoff, the ministry confirmed the case had been tested in the community following a full stint in managed isolation in Christchurch. “While the case is being treated as current, locations such as Green Lake Hut would be considered a high risk location of interest. By treating it as such, the public health staff expect any potential onward transmission may be prevented,” said a spokesperson.

“If the case investigation finds the case was historical, the location will be removed and the contacts will be able to be released from isolation.”

The environment of the hut means that if the case was infectious there’d be a high risk of transmission to the other parties in the hut, said the ministry.

The person consistently tested negative during their managed isolation stay but returned a weak positive result from a swab taken on December 6 followed by a negative retest yesterday.

Revealed: Ashley Bloomfield recommended Auckland’s border be ditched earlier

It’s just a week until Aucklanders can (almost) freely leave the city, about 120 days after the city went back into lockdown in August.

But newly released health advice revealed by the Herald showed the Ministry of Health believed Auckland’s border should have been ditched on the same day the traffic light system came into force. The ministry paper also showed a recommendation to have just Auckland and Northland in the “red” setting with the rest of the country at orange.

The advice was provided in a written affidavit by Ashley Bloomfield to the Waitangi Tribunal as it considers whether the traffic light framework is consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi.

“Our advice was that the ‘hard or enforced’ boundary around Auckland should be removed when Auckland and the rest of the country move to the [traffic light system]” said Bloomfield.

“This is because there will be no public health justification to maintain a boundary around Auckland under [the traffic light system]. Put another way, the boundary around Auckland has served its purpose. It has been effective, alongside other public health measures, in greatly reducing the risk of the virus ‘escaping’ Auckland.”

National’s leader Christopher Luxon said this showed the government had ignored ministry advice and called for the border to be dropped immediately. “If the public health advice is that frankly Auckland doesn’t need a border, because we’ve got very high vaccination rates, I can tell you now Aucklanders, having been an Auckland-based MP, having been in lockdown, having seen people up close and personal around their businesses, their mental health, I think that border should be released,” he told Newshub’s the AM Show.

The Real Pod on how to get free* Nando’s chips this week

Would you rather get snowed in at a Danish Ikea or a British pub with an Oasis cover band? Does the Briscoes lady have the perfect work-life balance? And what happened when Jane tried to do a Great Kiwi Bake Off technical challenge at home? Hear all this and more discussed on this week’s episode of The Real Pod, available now wherever you listen to podcasts. You’ll also find out how to get (*practically) free chips this week thanks to The Real Pod’s beloved sponsor! It’s Cans For Chips week at Nando’s – head into your local branch with a can of non-perishable food, and they’ll swap it for some regular PERi-PERi chips. All cans are being donated to the Auckland City Mission and other local food rescue partners.

‘Mini MIQs’ to be operated around the country over summer

DHBs are preparing for an influx of holidaymakers over summer by setting aside “mini-MIQ” facilities for any Covid outbreaks.

In Queenstown, reported RNZ, two motel units have been set aside in case someone tests positive for delta and cannot return to their home. In Northland, a mixture of accommodation types, including motel units and old hospital housing, will be used.

But there’s concern from some that not enough accommodation is being made available for any possible delta flare ups. Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult said two units was not enough. “Ten days away from when we think we’ll see folk from Auckland arrive here in numbers… we’ve got to get this up and running,” he said.

“[Two units] would only cater for two families and we don’t think that is adequate and we have asked that consideration be given to bigger facilities.”

Boult said some hotel operators had expressed concern about what they would do if a guest had Covid-19 and could not travel back home. “Obviously they can’t get in an aeroplane and fly back to Auckland so they need to be isolated,” he said.

Auckland’s border will lift on December 15, when only proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test will be required to leave the city.