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blog feb 9


Three parliament protesters arrested; 204 new Covid-19 cases

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 9. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, and am quietly fuming over Lady Gaga’s Oscar snub. Want to sympathise? I’m on

Today’s headlines

blog feb 9

Three parliament protesters arrested; 204 new Covid-19 cases

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 9. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, and am quietly fuming over Lady Gaga’s Oscar snub. Want to sympathise? I’m on

Today’s headlines

Feb 9 2022

Police speak on attempt to breach the line at convoy protest

(Image / Justin Giovannetti)

Police have confirmed that three arrests were made at this afternoon’s convoy protest in Wellington, after a group attempted to break the police line and enter parliament buildings. “This is extremely disappointing as until this occurred, the activity of most of those present has been peaceful for the majority of the day,” said Wellington district commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell in a statement. “Police will maintain a presence at parliament tonight and will continue to monitor activity recognising that people had a right to peaceful protest.”

Wellington motorists are advised to expect further disruption this evening and to avoid the area around parliament grounds if possible.

Meanwhile, a police officer working outside parliament as a group of protesters attempted to breach the line and enter parliament has told The Spinoff that the discord within the protesters isn’t just online – there was infighting even within the crowd at the front. Despite the intensity of the moment, “funny thing was”, the officer told me, “typical Kiwi style, one dude who was going hard to get past us lost his hat, and later returned and asked for it back. Which we arranged.”

‘Heartbroken’ organisers cancel Womad for 2022

Womad has axed its 2022 event in Taranaki this March, citing Covid-19 as the major factor.

In a statement, organisers expressed sadness at cancelling the long-running world music event in New Plymouth for the second year in a row.

“With deep sadness, we are announcing Womad NZ is no longer going ahead for 2022,” the statement said.

“We all had great expectations of bringing the festival back to Taranaki after disruptions due to Covid-19 in 2021. It is heartbreaking to cancel for the second year in a row due to circumstances entirely out of our control.”

Organisers said they had been “forging ahead” with planning for this year’s March, but the rise in numbers of omicron cases, and changes to alert level red, meant the festival was no longer viable.

“The decision to cancel has not been made lightly. There is too much uncertainty surrounding large festivals and events, and what the growing threat of Omicron’s spread in the community means. Ensuring the safety of our festival and the people of Aotearoa continues to be at the forefront of our response.”

It’s another blow for the local music industry, with a mostly local line-up heading for Womad that included Avantdale Bowling Club, Fat Freddy’s Drop and the Topp Twins. It joins other festivals Bay Dreams, Northern Bass and Electric Avenue that have been cancelled this year.

Refunds are available, or ticketholders can hold on to their tickets for the 2023 event.

Police detain three protesters outside parliament

(Image / Justin Giovannetti)

At least three protesters have been detained by police outside parliament.

The Spinoff’s political editor Justin Giovannetti said protesters began trying to push through police lines and metal barricades towards the front doors of parliament just after 3pm. Inside parliament, there was a different kind of conflict as question time continued.

One of the protesters started yelling at nearby media as he was led away by police. “Traitors” he yelled. A man in the main crowd then joined him, “Traitors! Traitors!”

Giovannetti said the crowd of protesters immediately turned against the media as the arrests started. But, he added, a round of singing the national anthem seems to have calmed things.

(Image / Justin Giovannetti)

Earlier today, it had been claimed that protesters would attempt to breach the front doors of parliament at 3pm.

Homegrown becomes latest major event scrapped over Covid restrictions

Image: Archi Banal

It’s getting grim in the events world: another major event on the calendar has been canned due to the ongoing red light Covid restrictions.

Wellington’s Homegrown festival, usually attended by upwards of 22,000 people, will not go ahead next month. It’s only the second time the event has been scrapped – the first was in 2020 when Covid arrived on our shores.

Major local artists like The Beths and Drax Project had been announced on the festival’s bill.

Today’s cancellation announcement follows news from earlier that the Auckland Arts Festival was canning 51 live events from going ahead and the recent decision to shrink the New Zealand Festival of the Arts. The NZ Comedy Festival also today announced its Billy T Jams event, scheduled for later this month, will not go ahead.

NZ still suffering from ‘inherited’ housing crisis, says Ardern

Jacinda Ardern during question time in May 2020 (Photo: Dom Thomas – Pool/Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern has rejected National’s assertion that her government is driving up the cost of living.

In the first question time of 2022, National Party leader Christopher Luxon accused the government of creating a “cost of living crisis” with the recent record rise in inflation.

But the prime minister said that was a global issue. “What we have now is not something New Zealand is experiencing alone,” she said. “We join the likes of the UK and the United States – each identifying issues around building more houses and fuel prices.” Ardern said New Zealand is, in fact, experiencing a “long term housing crisis that we inherited”.

The government’s actions to support workers and businesses throughout the pandemic were not a driver of inflation, claimed Ardern.

More omicron cancellations: Auckland Arts Festival cans 51 events

A buzzing Civic Theatre (Photo: Dave Simpson/WireImage/Getty Images)

The Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) has announced that due to the current omicron outbreak, it has cancelled all of its live events and performances that will take place in venues, theatres, and outdoor spaces – 51 events in total. 

These include NZ Opera’s The Unruly Tourist, the anticipated original opera about the British tourists that took the country by storm, Silo Theatre’s Live Live Cinema: Night of the Living Dead, and many other events, exhibitions and gigs.

However, some events will go ahead, including Nightsong’s A Stab in the Dark, which will premiere online, Spoken Walls – A City in Verse, a poetry experience in the streets of Tamaki Makarau, and all visual arts exhibitions.

“The road to decision-making for each of our many shows and events has not been easy, but the first and most important element we kept in mind throughout the process was the health and safety of our artists, audiences, staff and crew,” said Shona McCullagh, artistic director of AAF.

“We are well aware of the short, medium, and long-term impacts this has on artists and the wider arts sector, who live to create, produce, and perform. This outcome – in which we cannot gather in person over a programme packed with joyful live performance and brilliant shared arts experiences – is deeply saddening.

“However, the Festival team and our artists are resilient, and endlessly creative, and we will deliver a very special suite of safe events for our audiences in March, while at the same time turning our focus to 2023 with optimism and gusto.”

This follows the “relaunch” of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts last week. The festival, which shares several events with AAF, cancelled or postponed over 20 of its events last week, only retaining outdoor art and visual arts exhibitions as part of its programme.

Ardern and Luxon face off for the first time in 2022

It’s a brand new parliamentary year – which means the same old question time. Yup, another 12 months of people asking other other people whether they stand by all their actions and statements.

Jacinda Ardern and Christopher Luxon will once again go toe-to-toe in the debating chamber, with the opposition leader likely tackling issues around the omicron response and rapid antigen testing.

His finance spokesperson, Simon Bridges, will aim to get answers out of the government on inflation and the cost of living, while transport spokesperson Simeon Brown is tackling the issue of Auckland’s light rail. David Seymour’s also got two questions on the billing.

You can watch question time here

204 new community Covid-19 cases as booster ‘week of action’ begins

Covid-19 tests being prepared for analysis in the laboratory at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside, England (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

There are 204 new community cases of Covid-19, with 135 of those in Auckland alone. Daily case numbers have remained fairly static since the peak of more than 240 over last week.

New cases were also confirmed in Northland, Waikato, Lakes, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, MidCentral, Wellington, the Hutt Valley, Nelson Marlborough and Canterbury.

At the border, 46 cases have been confirmed since yesterday.

There are currently 16 people in hospital with Covid-19, none of which are in intensive care. The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has slowly crept up since the beginning of the omicron outbreak.

On the vaccine front, the Ministry of Health said today marked the start of “The Big Boost” – a week of action aimed at driving up booster numbers. Just over 60,000 booster doses were administered nationwide yesterday.

“A booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine provides a higher level of protection against severe disease or hospitalisation from the omicron variant than the two-dose course,” said the Ministry of Health. “Being fully vaccinated with two shots provides great protection against delta, but boosters are the best way to fight omicron.”

The Big Boost campaign will see pop-up vaccination centres opened and existing centres operating for longer hours.

Today’s case details

Auckland continues to be the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak with 135 new cases in the community. Health and welfare providers are now supporting 3,177 people in the region to isolate at home, including 1,218 cases.

There are eight new cases in Northland, five of these are in Kerikeri and three are in Whangārei. All eight remain under investigation to determine any possible links to previously confirmed cases.

There are 35 new cases in Waikato. Of these, 21 are linked to previous cases and 14 are under investigation. Twenty-two are in Hamilton, five in Cambridge, two in Ōhaupō, one in Taupiri, and one in Morrinsville. The locations of the remaining four are currently being confirmed.

There are two new cases in the Lakes DHB area – one of which is in Rotorua and one in Taupō. Both these cases have links to previously reported cases.

In Bay of Plenty, 11 new cases were registered overnight: all are either in Tauranga or the wider Western Bay of Plenty. Eight of these cases are linked to previously reported cases, with the remaining three still under investigation.

There’s one new case to report in New Plymouth. Public health staff are continuing to investigate links to existing cases.

Two new cases are in Palmerston North – both household contacts of existing cases.

There are six new cases in the Wellington region today. Three are in Porirua and public health staff are investigating any potential links to previously confirmed cases. There are also three cases to report in Hutt Valley – these are household contacts of existing cases.

There’s one new case in Nelson-Marlborough. Today’s case is linked to a previously reported case.

Finally, there are three new cases in the region. “The third had registered a former Christchurch address but currently lives in Auckland and is being supported by public health staff there.” The other two cases are based in Christchurch, said the ministry, and both cases are still being investigated for links to previous cases.

Luxon’s solution for petrol prices: cut the tax

(Radio NZ, Dan Cook)

With petrol prices soaring to record highs, National’s leader reckons he knows how to slow down the growth: cut tax.

Premium fuel prices have already risen above the $3 per litre mark, and 91 looks set to reach that milestone as well.

Christopher Luxon told Newshub’s AM that there’s a “cost of living crisis” in New Zealand. “We’ve got inflation and the cost of stuff going up twice the rate of wages… there’s not a lot that you can do about fuel prices because they’re dictated globally – but the bit the government could control is the tax component of that,” he said.

“If you really want to do everything to keep as much cash in Kiwis’ pockets, the right thing to do is to actually see if you can reduce that tax.”

Domestic tax and excise and levies make up about $1.25 of every litre of petrol.

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Rapid test manufacturer sets record straight on supply issue

An at-home rapid antigen test, or RAT, for Covid-19 (Photo: Getty Images)

A manufacturer of rapid antigen tests has backed the government narrative and denied that its tests were diverted away from the private sector.

Jacinda Ardern yesterday said no rapid tests had been snatched up by the government, despite media reports claiming kits made by Roche had been requisitioned.

The manufacturer has now set the record straight, telling media that the company was simply fulfilling orders in the sequence they were purchased. “We would like to make it clear that no Roche rapid antigen test kits were requisitioned by the government,” a Roche spokesperson said. “No supplies destined for private customers were, or will be, diverted to fulfil government orders.”

National’s Chris Bishop rejected this, saying he has evidence that customers were missing out because of the government. “I have multiple companies saying that to me and I’ve seen the email proof of what I’ve been told,” he told Stuff.

Police move onto parliament grounds, block protesters

Image from iOS

A large contingent of police officers moved onto parliament’s forecourt just before 10am, moving protesters away from the front steps of parliament and installing barricades to block access to the forecourt. The protest, numbering a few hundred, began singing the national anthem in response.

It had been a sleepy morning before the arrival of police, with many of the protesters sitting on lawn chairs and tents on the grounds of parliament and in their camper vans parked on the streets around the precinct.

On the edges of the crowd, people were streaming and dictating the proceedings to their audiences elsewhere. “These people have their rights. Despicable,” said one woman.

On the streets around parliament, Wellingtonians were nearly uniformly wearing masks and shuffling past. They generally seemed bemused, if curious by all the shouting.

(Image / Justin Giovannetti)

Last night, speaker Trevor Mallard warned protesters they could be trespassed if they did not take their tents down and evacuate.

Power of the Dog leads 2022 Oscar nominations, Jane Campion makes history


The Power of the Dog leads this year’s Oscar nominations with 12 (including best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actor and best supporting actress), trailed by Dune with 10 nominations, and then by Belfast and West Side Story with seven nominations apiece.

New Zealander Jane Campion also made history, being the first woman to be nominated for best director twice. She is widely assumed to be the frontrunner in the category, which would make her only the third woman to win the best director Oscar after Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009 and last year’s winner Chloé Zhao.

Broadly speaking, this year was a win for streamers, who have historically found it hard to break into the best picture category. Both Power of the Dog and Don’t Look Up are Netflix films, while CODA made history this time last year when Apple acquired it for an eye-watering $25 million.

The full best picture lineup consists of Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog and West Side Story.

As an Oscar trivia nerd, it’s a refreshing slate of nominees. This is the first year ever that two out queer people have been nominated in the acting categories (Kristen Stewart for Spencer and Ariana DeBose for West Side Story), the first year that two couples have been nominated across the four acting categories (Penelope Cruz for Parallel Mothers and Javier Bardem for Being the Ricardos for the lead acting categories, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons for the supporting acting categories) and it’s only the second time ever that a woman has been nominated for Best Cinematography (Ari Wegner for Power of the Dog).

You can check out the full list of nominees right here.

One step closer to conversion therapy ban

The bill to ban conversion therapy passed its second reading in parliament last night with almost unanimous support.

Every MP from Labour, the Greens, Act and the Māori Party voted in support of the ban. As The Bulletin report, just seven National MPs chose to vote against the bill: Simon Bridges, Simeon Brown, Melissa Lee, Simon O’Connor, Shane Reti, Louise Upston and Michael Woodhouse.

National leader Christopher Luxon chose to make the bill a conscience issue for his MPs after it became a divisive issue for the party under Judith Collins. In the end, Collins voted for the bill at its second reading.

Simon O’Connor, one of those to vote against the bill, implied it could curtail on freedom of speech. He said he had “lesbian and gay friends” who were concerned about the bill and wondered whether it would stop “biological women who want to use biological terms like she or her?”

According to 1News, there were 107,000 public submissions on the proposed law – a record.

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Parliament protesters told to leave grounds – but no action taken yet

Protesters outside parliament on February 8, 2022.

Protesters camping on the front lawn of parliament were told to move on last night or risk being served with a trespass notice. But, as of this morning, no action has been taken.

A convoy of anti-mandate protesters arrived in Wellington yesterday after travelling from both ends of the country. It caused traffic chaos in the capital, with many of those protesting simply leaving their vehicles parked up illegally on main streets.

Newshub reports that speaker of the house Trevor Mallard issued a letter to those who chose to stay on parliament grounds overnight, reminding them of the rules.

The notice orders protesters to “disperse from the grounds in an orderly manner” and warns against interfering with people trying to enter or exit the premises. After reports of people smoking and drinking, the letter also reminded protesters that parliament is smoke and alcohol free.

“The breach of the above policies and failure to carry out the actions may result in trespass notices being issued,” the letter warned.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon told RNZ this morning that the protesters should vacate the grounds. “Everyone has the right to protest but what we’re seeing here is a lot of anti-social behaviour,” he said. “When you’re blocking up roads where we need emergency services… and you’re inconveniencing a lot of people to get to work, it’s impinging on the freedoms of others.”

Luxon said it was now an operational issue for police, but added that he was “not supportive” of the protesters at all.