On the new episode of our politics podcast Gone ByLunchtime: Ben Thomas, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Toby Manhire dress head to toe in union jacks to assess Jacinda Ardern’s US visit and the furious Chinese response to her joint statement with Joe Biden on the Pacific. Plus: the prime minister returns to sobering domestic polls, a word for Queen Elizabeth, and the prospects of a King Charles.
A former governor general will head the independent inquiry into abuse at Auckland’s Dilworth School.
Dame Silvia Cartwright, who was governor general between 2001 and 2006, will work alongside senior barrister Frances Joychild QC to investigate the numerous reported claims of abuse at the boarding school.
Board chairman, Aaron Snodgrass, called the appointments a a “milestone” in the school’s efforts to confront the history of abuse.
“The appointees’ experience and exemplary community service ensures that the work of the independent inquiry will be conducted with the utmost rigour, integrity and care,” he said.
“The Dilworth Trust Board and our school are committed to learning from the independent inquiry’s findings and recommendations to further enhance and ensure the care, safety and protection of both our current and future students.”
According to 1News, 12 men connected to the school have so far been charged in connection to abuse.
St John Ambulance has made a plea for people only to call 111 for “life or limb threatening emergencies”.
The service said it was experiencing “extremely high demand” across the country, with incident numbers now exceeding those at the height of the Covid-19 omicron outbreak.
“While high demand during winter is not unusual, this sustained increase in workload has come six weeks earlier than predicted,” said Dan Ohs, St John deputy chief executive for ambulance operations.
Over the last three weeks there has been a 13% increase – or over 1,500 more calls – than expected for this time of year. “This is combined with an increase in winter illness, with 100 staff on average being off work each day – which is compounded by 130 vacancies nationally,” said Ohs.
The rise in demand has led to delays respond to emergency calls. “For this reason, we are asking the public to call their GP or Healthline for non-life-threatening problems,” he said.
The government’s been warned to delay infrastructure and other spending in order to tackle the surging cost of living.
A report by the OECD recommended the government target its spending more and consider pushing back costly building projects.
“In order to avoid fuelling inflationary pressure in the near term, any additional fiscal support against higher living costs should be more targeted,” said the OECD.
There was also a grim warning for the future. While “private consumption” was expected to recover throughout the year, the OECD warned a “more virulent Covid-19 variant could stifle recovery” and “a further escalation in the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia could bring about higher and more persistent inflation and weaker external demand”.
Earlier today, justice minister Kris Faafoi said the government wanted to amend the current rules which require Māori voters to choose their electoral roll once every five to six years. It would allow Māori to change rolls at any time, up to and including on polling day.
Waititi’s member’s bill, similarly, would allow voters to change rolls at any time. It would also change the requirement to redraw electoral boundaries to a set date two years after each general election and automatically place Māori voters on the Māori electoral roll if they don’t choose a roll.
In a statement, Waititi said that progressing his bilkl would be a “bottom line” for Te Pāti Māori heading into next year’s election.
“This bill will change the face of politics as we know it in Aotearoa,” said Waititi. “It will restore the balance of power in the political arena and give Māori a fairer chance at having their collective voices heard.”
Having it as a bottom line could work in Labour’s favour, should Te Pāti Māori hold the balance of power at next year’s election, considering the government bill covers similar ground. National, on the other hand, has already expressed concern about allowing Māori voters to change rolls so close to a general election.
The government’s got its sights set on turning around New Zealand’s surging school truancy rates.
A new attendance strategy aims to have at least 70% of children regularly attending school by 2024, and up to 75% two years later. That would be a big bump on the 60% currently in class as of 2021.
The targets, launched by associate education minister Jan Tinetti this afternoon, also hope to decrease the number of “moderate” and “chronic” absences, with the latter aimed at being brought down from 7.7% last year to just 3% in 2026.
“School attendance is a long term challenge and many will be surprised to know it has been gradually declining across-the-board since 2015,” said Tinetti.
“The trend has been further accelerated by Covid-19… “We need to make sure that as we get through the pandemic, kids are encouraged to return to school and their communities are supporting them to do that.”
While there is no “silver bullet” to turning around poor school attendance, Tinetti said “evidence-based solutions” were the cornerstone of the plan.
“Examples of best practice include an Auckland school that turned attendance around from 35% to 91%, with a ‘Kids Back to School’ campaign,” she said. “School work and food packs were delivered for those in isolation, and a liaison person checked in regularly with follow up from teachers.”
The strategy has three key parts: clear expectations for everyone involved, ambitious targets for attendance levels, and bold actions. That includes schools provide a welcoming and engaging environment and developing “educationally powerful connections with ākonga (students) and whānau”.
The official pandemic death toll has risen by 27, including 22 people who have died in the past five days and an additional five who have died since March 29. It brings the number of New Zealanders who have died with Covid-19 up to 1,294 and the rolling seven-day average to 14.
Of the deaths being reported today, all were over the age of 40. Fourteen were women and 13 were men.
There are now 393 people in hospital with Covid-19 – an increase of almost 30 on yesterday – with 12 currently in intensive care.
Another 7,927 community cases have been confirmed nationwide today – a rise on yesterday (however after a long weekend this was not unexpected). Auckland remains the omicron epicentre with 2,239 new cases since yesterday.
Once again, the rolling average of new cases being reported has dropped noticeably. The seven-day average is 6,059 – last Thursday, it was 6,937.
Māori voters could soon be able to switch electoral rolls at any time, under a proposed new law poised to pass in time for next year’s election.
Justice minister Kris Faafoi has confirmed the Māori Electoral Option Bill will be brought to parliament “in the coming weeks”. It will amend the current rules which require Māori voters to choose their electoral roll once every five to six years.
However, the required law change would need support from across parliament. As the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan explained, the part of the law the government wants to change is a “reserved provision”, meaning a 75% parliamentary majority would be needed.
National has so far expressed concern by the proposed change and could scupper any legislative change. The party’s justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said he had concerns. “We’re open to greater flexibility in the system, but we think that needs to be an exclusion around three or four months around a general election,” he said.
Faafoi, however, said now was the time for change. “By allowing Māori to change rolls at any time, up to and including on polling day, it provides Māori with flexibility and promotes participation in New Zealand’s democracy.”
The government’s faced pressure on the matter from others within the political sphere. Both Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi and Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman have had members’ bills drawn that would make switching rolls easier for Māori (in a major coincidence, Waititi’s was drawn earlier today).
Faafoi said the bill was written after “targeted engagement” last year, with the Ministry of Justice meeting academics and interested groups to discuss the Maori electoral roll.
“The feedback from the engagement overwhelmingly supported a shift to a continuous model to remove the restrictions on Māori voters’ electoral rights,” he said. “The current restrictions on timing and frequency of the option are unjustified, unfair, and often difficult to understand.”
Former Labour minister and Auckland mayoral hopeful John Tamihere has been named the new president of Te Pāti Māori. He replaces Che Wilson who has stepped down to spend more time with family and his business.
“I am pleased to leave the pāti with a president that was elected as the sole candidate and can help advance and lift our pāti to the next level, ready for 2023,” said Wilson. “I continue to tautoko our pāti and our kaupapa as the only unapologetic expression of mana motuhake in the system and that truly expresses the promise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.
Tamihere said while Te Pāti Māori was in “total disarray” following the 2017 general election, it has since developed into an “an enduring consistent Māori political force for the good of Aotearoa”.
He added: “Our people are awakening to their rights and we are seeing more Māori movement on the streets.”
In the 2020 election, Tamihere stood as co-leader of Te Pāti Māori alongside Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. However, due to his list placement he did not make it into parliament and was ultimately replaced as co-leader by current MP Rawiri Waititi.
Chinese Languages in Aotearoa is a project created by Te Papa to highlight the complexity of cultural identity within Chinese New Zealand communities. In partnership with Te Papa, here we feature a panel from a new short comic created for the project. To learn more about the project read our interview with curator Grace Gassin.
“Xixi’s story is one of strength and grace. I was drawn to the way that relearning her mother tongues is playing a part in a larger process of reconnection and healing. With this comic, I tried to strike a balance — while many of Xixi’s experiences have been difficult (reflecting challenges that migrant communities and children sometimes face), I wanted to make sure I also included some of the positive relationships and moments that have shaped Xixi’s life.”
K Emma Ng (吴佩賢). To read the full comic, click here. (Sponsored)
Burnett’s legacy has now been immortalised, with the NZAF this week changing its name to the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa. It’s a “big deal” for an organisation that has kept Aids in its name for 37 years, says new chief executive Joe Rich. The foundation heard feedback that Aids was losing relevance as the organisation addresses different needs, and any name change had to honour “the sheer bravery and the incredible work that was done in the early days, where it was really a crisis in every sense of the word”, Rich says. “It was a real fight for people to survive, to create the social environment where we could even talk about gay men having safe sex.”
Jacinda Ardern will travel to Sydney later today for her first face-to-face meeting with new Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese.
It’s not only the first time the pair have met since Albanese took office, but Ardern will become the first foreign leader to meet with the new Australian PM on Australian soil.
It’s expected, reports Sky News Australia, that the 501 deportation scheme will be at the forefront of discussions. “This is also an opportunity for new conversations to be had on aspects of the bilateral relationship that have been difficult for a number of years,” she told a press conference on Tuesday.
The pair will meet for an informal dinner tonight followed by bilateral talks tomorrow.
Ardern also signalled that she will raise issues impacting the Pacific like climate change, the Indo Pacific Economic Framework, AUKUS, and the upcoming Pacific Island Forum.
Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has dodged questions about his handling of the parliament protest earlier this year.
Mallard fronted to a select committee yesterday, ostensibly to answer questions on parliament’s budget for 2022. But, as both RNZ and Newshub detailed, he was primarily questioned by opposition MPs over his decisions around the anti-mandate occupation.
Mallard faced criticism for, among other actions, turning the sprinklers on those camped out and for planning loud music on repeat. He also faced the threat of legal action after trespass notices were initially sent to former MPs including Winston Peters.
During the committee, Mallard insisted the matter was not in the public interest.
“I’m certainly not going to get into that area because as I’ve made clear there are over 200 court cases, there’s an IPCA (Independent Police Conduct Authority) inquiry into a number of police, and a general inquiry, and I’m not going to prejudice,” he said.
“It’s not in the public interest to prejudice any of those and I’m not going to be commenting on that for those reasons.”
When leaving the committee, the speaker issued a firm no comment to the waiting group of reporters. (You can watch footage of this on Newshub).
National’s Chris Bishop said that was unacceptable. “The fact that he basically just refused to answer questions about it I found pretty astonishing,” he said.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer similarly called for more transparency from Mallard. “We have ex-MPs who have been affected and asking us for opinions and it’s like ‘well, we can’t have an opinion where we’re not shared what on Earth he’s doing’.”
Mallard arrived back at parliament this week after a European tour with backbench MPs, including ex-National leader Judith Collins.
The trial of two men accused of operating a scheme to fraudulently conceal nearly $750,000 of party donations started in the High Court in Auckland on Tuesday. In his opening address, Paul Wicks QC, acting for the Serious Fraud Office, said “between 2015 and 2020, about 40 donors to the New Zealand First Party believed their donations were going to the party, but they didn’t because of a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem by the defendants.” The two men still have name suppression despite multiple attempts by the media to oppose it.
As reported by the Herald’s Sam Hurley, yesterday’s proceedings saw political consultant Apirana Dawson give evidence. Dawson said party leader Winston Peters was often frustrated at a lack of fundraising efforts, and a lack of a steady stream of donations was one of the reasons the foundation was created.
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