blog upd march 9

Live UpdatesMar 9 2022

Cost of living debate continues

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 9. It’s a lovely sunny day in Tāmaki Makaurau and I hope it is where you are too. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – you can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • There have been four new Covid-related deaths. The number in hospital with the virus has eased slightly to 747. Over 22,000 new cases were recorded in the community. All the details are here.
  • The self-isolation period for Covid-19 cases and their household contacts will drop to seven days from Saturday.
  • The local government minister has welcomed a report on the controversial “three waters” proposal. Read more here.
  • And ICYMI: an incredible read on The Spinoff from yesterday. Alex Casey investigates the curious case of the $2,000 ham left on the side of the road in Hobsonville Point.
blog upd march 9

Cost of living debate continues

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 9. It’s a lovely sunny day in Tāmaki Makaurau and I hope it is where you are too. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – you can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • There have been four new Covid-related deaths. The number in hospital with the virus has eased slightly to 747. Over 22,000 new cases were recorded in the community. All the details are here.
  • The self-isolation period for Covid-19 cases and their household contacts will drop to seven days from Saturday.
  • The local government minister has welcomed a report on the controversial “three waters” proposal. Read more here.
  • And ICYMI: an incredible read on The Spinoff from yesterday. Alex Casey investigates the curious case of the $2,000 ham left on the side of the road in Hobsonville Point.
Mar 9 2022

Property of parliament protesters destroyed

Property removed from the streets surrounding parliament last Wednesday as police put an end to the 23-day occupation has now been destroyed.

A range of “camping and personal property” removed by police from “the northern end of Molesworth and Hill streets and some nearby private properties” was inspected by Porirua City Council health protection officers and found to be contaminated with human waste, dirt and hay, according to a police statement. It was classified as a health nuisance under Section 29 of the Health Act 1956 and destroyed.

Other property from the protest was removed by Wellington City Council and parliamentary security, said the statement.

Ardern again refuses to answer if there’s a cost of living crisis

Jacinda Ardern has once again refused to admit there is a cost of living crisis in New Zealand, going on the offensive in a debate against National’s Christopher Luxon.

The opposition has repeatedly pressed the prime minister on the matter, including in today’s question time.

Asked by the National Party leader whether prices rising twice as fast as wages signalled there was a crisis, Ardern did not say yes or no. Instead, she said she accepted there was an increase in the cost of living due to inflation and the war in Ukraine. “The debate we’re having in this house is whether a cut to the top tax rate… is the answer or whether, as we propose, continuing to support lower and middle income earners across a range of issues is the answer.”

Ardern then attacked National’s new tax policy. Over the weekend, Luxon announced that, as prime minister, he would remove all new taxes introduced by the Labour government. There was some confusion on whether that included the highest tax bracket of 39%, prompting Ardern to say: “I’m happy to have a debate with the member if he will choose to stick with a policy proposal we can actually debate.”

Ardern also reiterated claims made by her deputy Grant Robertson that National had a “massive fiscal hole” in their new policy.

Earlier in the week, Ardern told Newshub’s AM that she would not define the current rise in costs as a “crisis”.

Watch the full exchange here.

Do you think there’s a cost of living crisis? Let me know how much you’ve been spending at the supermarket lately.

Image: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

Covid-19 update: Death toll rises by four, 742 in hospital, over 22,000 new cases

Our Covid-19 death toll has risen by four.

The Ministry of Health has reported the deaths of four people with the virus: two in the Lakes DHB area, one in Tairāwhiti, and one in Counties Manukau. No further information has been released by the ministry.

There are now 742 people in hospital with Covid-19, a drop on the 757 recorded yesterday and the first time hospitalisations have lower since omicron first took hold in the community. However, the ministry said it was still waiting on updated figures for the Auckland and Northland DHBs, so this number could still rise.

The number in intensive care has risen up to 19. Covid minister Chris Hipkins said: “My understanding is some of the ICU patients are waiting to be transferred to a ward… that’s not a number that is causing any alarm.”

The current ICU rate represents 2.5% of current hospitalisations, said the ministry, or around one fifth of the rate seen at the peak of the delta outbreak when 13% of hospitalised people required ICU or HDU care.

Over 22,000 new community cases

Meanwhile, today there are 22,454 new community cases.

Once again, most cases today are a result of people reporting positive rapid antigen tests. “It is very important for people to record positive RAT results, either through ‘My Covid Record’ or by calling 0800 222 478,” said the ministry. You can read more on the importance of recording your results here.

Another 9,226 booster doses were administered yesterday, bumping the total number of boosters given out to 2,479,546. As reported earlier, the Novavax vaccine will be made available from tomorrow – the third vaccine variant able to be administered in New Zealand. It will, however, not be accessible as a booster dose.

For more, check out The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

Novavax vaccine available from tomorrow

Today’s Covid-19 case numbers are still being finalised – so in the meantime, some vaccine news.

New Zealanders will be able to book in for the Novavax jab from tomorrow, confirmed Chris Hipkins. A shipment of more than 250,000 Novavax vaccines has arrived in New Zealand and preparations are well advanced for some vaccination centres to be able to offer it next week.

“Novavax will be available for people aged over 18,” said Hipkins. “It requires two doses, with a three week gap. It has not been approved as a booster dose.”

He added: “While the Pfizer vaccine remains the preferred Covid-19 vaccine in New Zealand, Novavax is now available for those people who would prefer, or require, an alternative.”

Speaking at parliament, Hipkins said that while had heard “anecdotal” reports of vaccine-hesitant people waiting for the Novavax jab, he was not expecting a rush in uptake. “The vaccines are safe, I would encourage everyone to be vaccinated,” he said.

Self-isolation period for Covid cases lowered to seven days

The isolation period for confirmed cases of Covid-19 and their household contacts will drop from from 10 days to seven.

Speaking from parliament, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said that as case numbers have increased, there are more people and their household contacts needing to isolate. “We’re seeing the impact that has on food supply chains and on businesses’ daily operations, so we’ve been looking closely at the advice around isolation,” he said.

The change will come into effect from Saturday.

“There needs to be a balance between effectively controlling the outbreak and the flow-on effect for business and essential goods and services such as transport and food supply,” Hipkins said. “The most up to date public health advice is that there is a decline in infectiousness of omicron over time, and that in most cases transmission occurs within seven days.”

But, according to a Japanese study that the government looked at, around 11% of Covid cases were still positive between days seven and nine, said Hipkins.

Household contacts will need to have a rapid antigen test on day three and day seven of their isolation period. If they become symptomatic they should also get a test, and if the result is positive, they are required to isolate for seven days from that point.

“Our primary objective is to stop the chain of transmission as much as possible to manage the spread of omicron,” added Hipkins. “Seven days isolation will break the vast majority of potential transmissions, while ensuring people can get back to work quicker and therefore reducing the impact on business operations.”

If a person is isolating and still has symptoms after seven days, they are advised to stay home until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

In addition, recovered cases will no longer need to self-isolate if they become a household contact within 90 days after having the virus – an increase from the current 28 days.


National seems to be onboard with the plan as well. The party’s Covid spokesperson, Chris Bishop, called it “good news” in a tweet, but said National had called for it to happen “over a month ago”.

Watch: Latest Covid numbers due

Covid response minister Chris Hipkins will today front the 1pm update and reveal whether our Covid-related hospitalisations have risen once again. Yesterday saw a record 757 people in hospital with the virus, while almost 24,000 new community cases were registered.

Tune in here or follow along with our live coverage from 1pm.

A note from Toby Manhire, editor at large

On Wednesday March 2, the 23-day occupation of parliament came to an end amid terrible and unprecedented scenes on the doorstep of New Zealand’s house of representatives. It was a lot to keep up with – and a lot to get our collective heads around. At the Spinoff we were able to call on Justin Giovannetti, our political editor, to report from the press gallery, while Stewart Sowman Lund travelled to Wellington to run our news updates on location.

More than any protest action in New Zealand history, it needed to be understood not just on the ground, but in the digital undergrowth. Dylan Reeve dived into a teachable moment; I surveyed the key figureheadsMadeleine Chapman raised the alarm on a puff piece. Annabelle Lee-Mather, Justin and I discussed it all on the latest edition of the Gone By Lunchtime podcast (listen here).

The story is far from over, and we’ll continue to pull on the threads: from the global context and conspiracy theories to misinformation, disinformation and social media’s role; from the arguments around mandates to social cohesion.
As we continue to struggle against commercial headwinds, contributions from our members are more critical than ever – we simply couldn’t do this work without their support. If you value what we do, please consider becoming a member today. Donate now.

National continues ‘cost of living crisis’ debate

Today’s question time oral questions have been released and, yes, the discussion over the so-called “cost of living crisis” will continue once again.

National leader Christopher Luxon will probe the prime minister on the matter, asking: “Does she stand by her statement, ‘The debate is not whether inflation has increased and is impacting people. The debate is what we should do about it’; if so, will she adjust the income tax brackets to account for the last four years of inflation to provide tax relief to Kiwis struggling with the cost of living?”

The decision by Jacinda Ardern not to admit to a cost of living crisis risks pushing her toward the territory of John Key and Bill English, who refused to admit there was a housing crisis while in government.

Yesterday, Luxon asked the PM to defend her statement that she wouldn’t define the current situation as a “crisis”. This was later followed by press releases from both Luxon and Act’s David Seymour calling Ardern “out of touch” with New Zealanders.

Rec Room: Your new telly binge and a handy Birkenstock tip

From this week’s edition of The Spinoff’s Rec Room newsletter: your new TV binge and a handy tip for Birkenstock wearers.


Reacher

Sam says: “Reacher on Amazon Prime Video asks the question: ‘What if Sherlock Holmes was American, 6 foot everything, and had hands like roasted hams?’ Based on Lee Child’s rightly popular Jack Reacher series of novels, it’s a big, silly sort of whodunnit with great fight scenes and even better scenes where Reacher explains exactly how he came to the conclusion he did in a deep, gruff baritone. Is it good? No. Is it great? Absolutely.”


A valuable Birkenstocks tip

Alice says: “Do you absolutely thrash your Birkenstocks? Have you had them for some time? If you answered yes to either of these questions, have I got a life hack for you: tighten the straps. Oh, you thought they were as tight as they could go, because you set them just perfectly when you first got them? Turns out those buggers loosen up over time, and you’re probably walking along with them all loose and flappy without even realising. Ever had a Birk fall off your foot in the middle of a pedestrian crossing, requiring you to run back sheepishly, one foot bare, and grab it as the cars rev their engines and laugh at you? I have. Tightening them will put an end to that shameful scenario and revolutionise your stupid little walks in all sorts of other ways, giving you a new sense of security as you pound the pavements, and perhaps even putting a literal spring in your step.”


Rec Room: A guide to all the pop culture we’ve been enjoying lately, plus links to the latest video and podcasts from The Spinoff. Sign up here.

Decision on TVNZ/RNZ merger expected this week

The future of public media will be unveiled by broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi this week.

Reports suggest cabinet made a decision on the possible merger of RNZ and TVNZ last month and, now, the outcome is set to be made public.

A working group, led by former minister Tracey Martin, was established early in 2021 with the goal of looking at a possible new media entity. Last June, she told RNZ that the group was considering a model that would see the individual brands of RNZ and TVNZ retained but under an umbrella organisation.

“You wouldn’t do away with those, they deliver really, really well – this is not being done because there’s a problem with RNZ or TVNZ, this work is being done because there’s a change going on both nationally and internationally, inside the media ecosystem,” she said.

We’ll have all the details for you when they’re revealed – stay tuned!

The collapse of ‘camp freedom’

Here’s a really great lunchtime read for you.

It’s been a week since the riot outside parliament, where protesters and police violently clashed after a 23 day long occupation.

Today, Stuff has released an incredible interactive report tracing the day, March 2, as it happened. It’s a remarkable achievement considering reporters were routinely harassed for daring to cover the protest accurately (although here at The Spinoff we were simply handed a trespass notice during our week of coverage on the ground).

Check out Stuff’s interactive here.

A fire burns in a rubbish skip outside the law school near parliament yesterday (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

 

MPs to debate Russian sanctions bill

The government’s bespoke Russian sanctions regime is set to face parliamentary scrutiny today, but is expected to pass with support from across the house.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that she intended to bring the bill to parliament today and have it passed under urgency. Sanctions, which include the ability to freeze assets and bar Russian yachts from our waters, could be in place by next week.

Meanwhile, the government yesterday announced it was fast-tracking measures to support Ukrainians in New Zealand and to help Ukrainian-New Zealanders return here immediately. “New Zealand was one of the first to give humanitarian support to Ukrainians when Russia invaded, and although we know the numbers are small we are fast-tracking support for Ukrainians to remain in or return to New Zealand immediately,” immigration minister Kris Faafoi said.

The government will also consider further border exemptions for the wider family members of Ukrainians in New Zealand. An Act Party petition released yesterday called for that to happen immediately.

Three waters working group proposes significant changes

The local government minister has welcomed a report on the controversial “three waters” proposal from the working group drawn up to scrutinise it.

Made up of nine mayors, eight Māori representatives and led by public sector advisor Doug Martin, the working group was formed in November last year after widespread backlash, including from councils, to the three waters proposal – which would see all 67 council-controlled authorities responsible for managing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) merged into four big regional entities.

Nanaia Mahuta is the minister responsible for three waters (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Released overnight, the group’s key recommendation would see a “public shareholding model”, with councils owning all the shares in the new Water Services Entities on behalf of their communities. “A major concern we heard from our communities, iwi and hapū was about the privatisation of New Zealand’s water services,” said working group chair Doug Martin.

“The public shareholding model will strengthen protections against privatisation requiring unanimous shareholder approval for any such proposal.” Shares would be divvied up based on population – one share per 50,000 people.

Another recommendation would see tighter accountability from each Water Services Entity Board to the community, through new and stronger mechanisms. The establishment of a “water ombudsman” would help oversee interactions between these new entities and water users. Each regional representative group would be co-chaired by one council and one iwi/hapū  representative.

But one of those on the working group, Auckland mayor Phil Goff, was critical of the proposed changes. While he said the group had suggested “positive changes”, he believed Auckland could have been excluded. “Auckland contributes 93% of the assets and 90% of the population served by the new Water Services Entity A. However, Aucklanders, through their elected representatives, are relegated to a minority position in the proposed governance of the entity. We do not accept this,” he said.

“Submissions received from Aucklanders on the reform, and an independent and representative opinion poll, demonstrate that Aucklanders overwhelmingly want control over water services to remain with them through their elected representatives.”

Phil Goff (Photo: Getty Images)

Nanaia Mahuta, minister responsible for three waters, said cabinet would now consider the recommendations in today’s report before finalising reform plans and introducing legislation. “We know it is important to get this reform right for every New Zealander,” she said.

“We are committed to ensuring local councils continue to have a vital three waters role by representing the interests of their communities at the highest level of each new water services entity alongside mana whenua, and by owning these entities on behalf of their communities.”