blog feb 10

Live UpdatesFeb 10 2022

120 arrests as parliament protest continues; record 306 new Covid-19 cases

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 10. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a story idea or just want to say hi? Get in touch with me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


What you need to know

blog feb 10

120 arrests as parliament protest continues; record 306 new Covid-19 cases

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 10. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a story idea or just want to say hi? Get in touch with me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


What you need to know

Feb 10 2022

‘Absence of leadership’ at protest, say police

Speaking at this afternoon’s media conference, Superintendent Corrie Parnell, the Wellington district commander, said discussions with protesters at parliament were not continuing as the occupation drags on. “There are so many different causes and groups here and to some degree there is an absence of leadership,” he said. “There were good negotiations with organisers in early stages, clear lines of communications, but we’ve transitioned beyond that.”

Parnell said the presence of children at the protest was “a significant risk factor”, adding that some protesters had been placing children in front of adults. Police had seen placard sticks used as weapons, as well as a knuckle duster, which “signalled the sentiment” of some of the protesters, he added.

Parnell declined to discuss operational tactics, but following the media briefing, police officers appeared to deliberately move back from the line they’d held all day, to jeers and claps from protesters. “We haven’t lost control,” he said. “It was always going to be a tall order. This is unprecedented for New Zealand. We’ve never had an occupation of this scale in terms of the tents on parliament grounds. So to some degree it’s uncharted waters. It was never going to be a short process.”

 

120 arrests as parliament protest expected to continue for days

The number of arrests at parliament, where an anti-vaccine mandate protest is in its third day, has risen to 120.

Superintendent Corrie Parnell, the Wellington district commander, told media police had now moved to “a state of enforcement action”, but expected the protest to continue “into the coming days”. He said additional officers were being brought in from all over the country in the next few days.

So far, 150 extra officers had been sent and Parnell said he would continue to add to that number.

He also confirmed that two officers had been assaulted and were recovering.

Discovery merger with Warner Media clears antitrust in US – putting Three among the giants

A department of justice review in the US has found no issue with a proposed merger of two enormous media conglomerates, with major implications for Three in New Zealand. Despite heightened antitrust scrutiny of technology companies under new federal trade commission chair Lina Khan, the merger will go ahead and is expected to close in the next few months. 

It creates a huge, diversified new player in what’s known as the streaming wars, packaging global brands like CNN and HBO with a massive reality TV trove into a new entity under the stewardship of CEO David Zaslav, who currently runs Discovery.

A key difference between the new business and competitors in streaming like Amazon’s Prime and Netflix is in the strength of its brands, the scale of its library and its linear television assets. HBO is the most powerful name in prestige scripted television, CNN a global leader in broadcast news, Discovery one of the biggest producers of unscripted television and it also holds a long tail of other assets, from sports channels in Europe to Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. This gives it the potential to build a streaming product which rivals the biggest players in streaming.

While current licensing deals have much of that content placed with other entities in New Zealand, such as Sky, as those deals expire there is clear potential for such shows to either screen on Three or revert to a new streaming service – likely an expanded version of HBO Max, which has started strongly in the US. It could also impact the local production industry, as Warners also produces much of reality TV and has a deep library of local franchises from Julie Christie’s Touchdown, including the likes of Popstars and Celebrity Treasure Island.

“It’s so exciting,” Discovery CEO Glen Kyne told The Fold when asked about the potential merger last year. “When you think about the scale of content that a merged organisation will be able to produce every year, it’s just mind-blowing.”


Follow The Fold on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Parliament protesters push against barricades; reports police officer injured

Protesters at parliament are pushing against police barricades and at least one police officer has been injured, according to reports. Live streams show protesters being pulled from the crowd and taken away by police, who have also been pulling tents and marquees down. RNZ understands a police officer was pinned down by protesters, other officers using pepper spray to get them off him.

Newsroom political editor Jo Moir, who is based at parliament, has tweeted about a police officer being assaulted:

Meanwhile, Wellington City Council parking wardens have begun ticketing protesters’ cars, which have been parked in the CBD since Tuesday, reports Stuff, and schools near parliament are seeking police help to protect students from protesters’ abuse, or getting staff to escort students home.

According to a protester on one livestream, Brett Powers, one of the three men arrested yesterday, is standing on the edge of parliament grounds with his briefcase, preparing to attempt again to serve citizen arrest papers to Andrew Little, and intends to repeat the exercise every day at 3pm.
Protesters resist police today (Photo: MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

WiiSports is back… kind of!

In today’s Nintendo Direct, a semi-regular livestream where the company reveals their upcoming slate of games, the biggest and most welcome surprise had to be that WiiSports would be getting a sequel on the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo Switch Sports will come out on the 29th April, and include all the sports from the original (tennis, bowling, golf, chamber) but also include soccer, badminton and volleyball.

Similar to how Wii Sports used the Wii remote’s motion-tracking technology to follow your swing or throw, the Switch will use the console’s detachable Joy-Con controllers to track movement. Wii Sports is the fourth best selling video game of all time, at a whopping 82 million games sold, putting it behind Tetris and ahead of PUBG: Battlegrounds.

As is the case with these streams, a lot of other stuff was announced, with my picks being:

  • 48 paid DLC courses for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, released over six waves, starting March 18
  • Cult 90s RPGs Earthbound and Earthbound Beginnings, out now
  • Even more cult RPG Live a Live is being remade, out July 22
  • A remake of Chrono Cross, out April 7
  • Splatoon 3, out this winter 
  • Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, a Fire Emblem Musou game, out June 24
  • Ports of Portal 1 and 2, Assassin’s Creed: Ezio Collection, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, No Man’s Sky, and all the Kingdom Hearts games.

You can watch the stream here.

National MP Maureen Pugh deletes Facebook post thanking protesters

National MP Maureen Pugh has deleted a Facebook post in which she thanked the convoy protesters currently camping outside parliament, telling Stuff she hadn’t realised many were opposed to Covid-19 vaccination.

In the post, Pugh talked about a businesswoman under strain who had been supported by the public, saying “Good on her for finding her mojo again thanks to the support of Nelson and Convoy 2022”, according to the report.

Pugh edited and then deleted the post, telling Stuff she had not appreciated that Convoy 2022 protesters were spreading anti-vaccination messages. The protest is ostensibly against vaccine mandates, but placards and social media posts suggest many participants are opposed to the vaccine itself, and some promote QAnon conspiracy ideas and violent rhetoric against politicians and the media.

“I made the post a few days ago intending to support a local business doing it tough. I hadn’t initially appreciated the anti-vaccination message being spread by Convoy 2022, so I edited and ultimately deleted the post once they arrived, and I saw some of their signs and messaging,” Pugh said.

“I do not support the message and actions being taken by Convoy 2022. People shouldn’t be breaking rules, getting aggressive or impinging on other people’s freedoms.”

Pugh was among the last few MPs to get the Covid-19 vaccination, saying she was awaiting medical advice. In 2016, she backtracked on comments made in support of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, but said she didn’t believe in pharmaceutical drugs.

Pugh isn’t the first National MP to delete social media posts that have attracted criticism for suggesting sympathy with groups opposed to Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates, with Harete Hipango deleting photos of herself at a rally last month.

Richard Hills says no to mayoralty run, opening way for Efeso Collins

Auckland councillor Richard Hills has announced that he will not be seeking the mayoralty in this year’s Auckland local elections. His decision, he said in a Facebook post, was influenced by a recent family arrival. “I’m only three months into this important role as a parent and as a result, I won’t be putting my name forward as a candidate in the mayoral election,” he said. “I had considered this role in the event Mayor Phil Goff retires from politics and am thankful for the support and approaches I received, but the timing just isn’t right for my family and I.” He will seek re-election as a councillor representing North Shore.

The decision comes after weeks of speculation that he was in poll position to win Labour’s endorsement, and Goff’s support as his successor. The announcement boosts the prospect for high-profile councillor Efeso Collins, who announced in a Spinoff interview last month that he was eager for Labour’s backing, but was committed to running for mayor either way. Goff has yet to announce his plans, but is widely thought to be on the verge of announcing he will not seek a third term as mayor. The Labour Party meanwhile says it will not be making any decisions around endorsements until, or if, Goff announces his intentions.

The outspoken hospitality operator and provocateur Leo Molloy announced last year he would be running for the mayoralty, while Viv Beck, another centre-right prospect, is expected to announce her decision soon.

Chris Hipkins answers parliamentary question with… a meme

Chris Hipkins may have become the first MP to answer a parliamentary question via a meme.

The minister, with his education portfolio hat on, was asked in a written question by National’s Erica Stanford last year: “Has the Minister met with the Minister for Covid-19 response to request that MIQ spots be allocated to teachers granted a border exception; and if so, on what date, if not, why not?”

Hipkins responded simply: “Please refer attached.”.

The minister’s response.

The meme is a reference to the fact Hipkins is both the minister for education and the minister for Covid-19 response.

Hipkins’ response was first picked up by Stuff political reporter Henry Cooke, who suggested it could be a reference to a previous comment about the minister’s pair of portfolios.

While it’s possibly the first written example of a meme being shared in parliament, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick made global headlines in 2019 for her “OK boomer” retort to National’s Todd Muller.

Record 306 community Covid-19 cases

There are 306 new community cases of Covid-19 – a new pandemic record for New Zealand. It’s the first time cases have risen into the 300s, with the previous record being 243.

The bump in cases came on the same day 50 people were arrested outside parliament, many in protest of vaccinations or vaccination mandates.

The majority of today’s cases, 216, are in Auckland with the rest scattered around the country. New cases have also been registered in Northland (12), Waikato (48), Tairāwhiti (four), Bay of Plenty (seven), Lakes (six), MidCentral (two), Taranaki (five), Hutt Valley (three) and Capital and Coast (three) – and, for the first time this outbreak, in the Southern DHB.

“A case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Queenstown this morning,” said the Ministry of Health. “The case was notified after our cut off period so will be added to official figures tomorrow. Investigations into any potential connections between this case and existing cases outside Southland are under way.”

The ministry said anyone in the Queenstown area who had cold or flu like symptoms, even if they were vaccinated, or had been at a location of interest, should get tested. “Please stay home or at your accommodation until you return a negative Covid-19 test result, and you are symptom free.”

Nationwide, there were 27,425 people tested for Covid-19. That’s about 8,000 above the seven day average.

At the border, 30 new cases were recorded. There are now 12 people in hospital with Covid-19 – with nobody in intensive care.

On the vaccine front: 56,257 booster doses were administered across New Zealand yesterday, bringing the total so far to more than 1.7 million.

Finally, the Ministry of Health has stopped providing a daily case breakdown due to the growing outbreak. “As cases of omicron continue to be identified around the country, it’s important New Zealanders are as ready as they can be if they contract the virus or come into contact with someone else who has the virus,” said the ministry.

More than 50 parliament protesters arrested

Police have confirmed more than 50 protesters have been arrested outside parliament.

The precinct around the Beehive was officially closed to the public earlier today, but a number of protesters have refused to leave the grounds.

Those arrested face charges including trespass and obstruction and will be bailed to appear in court, said police. They will also be formally served trespass notices from parliament grounds.

A warning has also been issued to owners of the vehicles illegally blocking streets around Wellington: remove them immediately, or face enforcement action.

“Wellingtonians have the right to conduct their lives and go about their business without the interference of ongoing unlawful activity,” said superintendent Corrie Parnell. “Additional resources will be deployed from around the country as long as is necessary to ensure public safety.”

(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

New Covid-19 case in Queenstown believed to be omicron

The omicron variant has arrived in Queenstown.

The Southern District Health Board has confirmed to media that a case of Covid-19, believed to be highly transmissible variant, was detected in the resort city.

Investigations into the origins of the case are ongoing, reports the Otago Daily Times.

Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult said the confirmed case would be a wake-up call for the region.

“Having been notified of the possibility of a case late last night, I want to uphold my commitment to the local community to make them aware at the earliest opportunity,” he said. “Whilst we’ve all done great work in getting vaccination and booster numbers up and following CPF red setting practice, it’s time to double down and keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy.”

The latest locations of interest are for a Queenstown to Auckland flight, the Queenstown gondola and Queenstown Airport.

More information will be released by the Ministry of Health around 1pm.

Auckland diners told to eat outside

With omicron case numbers rising, Auckland eateries are being encouraged to take over foot paths and carparks to expand outdoor dining options for diners. 

Following worldwide outdoor dining trends to help limit the spread of Covid-19, Auckland Council says it is fast-tracking applications and waiving fees for restaurants and cafes wanting to offer or extend outdoor dining spaces.  It is also giving away $100 vouchers to diners to encourage them to visit venues safely.

Offering patrons seats outside is vital for both safety and the survival of the restaurant industry in alert level red, says one councillor.

“Currently the safest place to dine and socialise is outside, so it’s great to see businesses taking up this opportunity,” said councillor Richard Hills. “The current outbreak could last months, so we see these measures helping communities support local businesses safely.”

More than 30 businesses have already been supported to make this transition, and at least one says it’s working.

“The new outdoor tables have been a big hit with our customers. They have been pretty much constantly full since we put them out,” said Jonny McKessar, from Scratch Bakers.

“Customers seem to be enjoying being outdoors under the sun umbrellas. The tables also have been great at drawing people into the cafe as they drive past and see a busy outdoor area.”

Among the eateries offering outdoor dining are Homeland, The Conservatory, Botswana Butchery, The Kimchi Project, Federal Delicatessen, Ortolana and The Fish Market.

State of emergency declared in Buller

A state of emergency has been declared in Buller after heavy rainfall.

Civil Defence has advised anyone feeling unsafe to “self-evacuate” from the area. “The evacuation centre at South School Hall will welcome you and your pet,” said a post on social media.

The district has been left isolated after an “under forecast” weather event left roads closed and caused people to shift to higher ground where possible.”This event was not forecast to have the impacts it has had, but the emergency response is in hand, and the Emergency Operations Centre is here to help those who cannot help themselves,” said Controller Bob Dickson.

“Due to our current isolation, we don’t currently have the additional resource present in the district last week. We encourage people to help themselves and their neighbours. Anyone who needs special assistance should contact the Emergency Operations Centre on 0800 234 533.”

Ardern: It’s time for the protesters to move on

Jacinda Ardern has told protesters at parliament it’s time to move on.

Up until now, the prime minister has generally avoided discussing the ongoing rally, signalling that it was a police matter.

She reiterated that view today, but told media that she did believe the protesters should leave the parliament grounds.

New Zealanders have a right to protest, said Ardern, but there are rules around parliament’s forecourt and there are expectations that other people can get on with their lives too.

The remaining protesters can currently be heard chanting: “what do we want? Freedom”.

The protest is nearing a conclusion at parliament

A dispatch from the front line:

Some tents have started coming down on the parliament grounds as organisers behind the “Freedom Convoy” have appealed to their supporters to leave. On the streets around the government precinct, protesters are standing by their vehicles, looking around for the tow trucks they expect to see at any moment.

While none has yet to appear, many in the convoy are blocked in by dozens of other utes and camper vans and can’t drive away. Outdoor toilets brought in by protest leaders are overflowing and running down Molesworth street.

In front of parliament, a small group of protesters continues to resist police calls to leave, despite a growing number of arrests. Stifling heat and humidity set over the capital this morning and the sun is beating down on them. Police are quickly being shuffled off the line, both to reapply sunscreen and cool down after facing an onslaught of taunts and insults since early this morning.

Groups that can avoid lengthy self-isolation period confirmed

Critical workers in areas like food production, emergency services and transport will be able to avoid lengthy stays in self-isolation should they come into contact with Covid-19.

More details about the test to work scheme have been unveiled, confirming wider use of rapid antigen tests. Close contacts will be able to continue going to work, instead of isolating, if they return a negative rapid antigen test.

“We’ve seen overseas that a combination of high rates of omicron alongside isolation periods for contacts has put severe strain on supply chains and the provision of important services,” Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said.

“The government has for weeks been working with industry bodies and critical services to set up a workable scheme that gives their workers an exemption from close contact isolation requirements, if they return daily negative tests.”

Businesses and organisations can register online as a critical service from today – if they think they meet the criteria. Critical services include food production and its supply chain, key public services like health and emergency services, lifeline utilities such as power and water supplies, transport, critical financial services, news media and social welfare. It also includes human and animal health and welfare.

Associate health minister Ayesha Verrall said it will be up to businesses to self-assess and decide if they want to participate in the scheme. “In doing so there needs to be an awareness that bringing close contacts into the workplace will come with risks,” she said.

“The scheme will be supported by rapid antigen tests supplied either directly by the business or service, or through our health system in an easy and accessible way.”

Associate health minister Dr Ayesha Verrall (Photo: Getty Images)

Any workers identified for the scheme will need to be vaccinated and, should they return a positive rapid result, will need to take a PCR test and isolate.

“Those businesses that decide to register will be issued with a letter that, when New Zealand shifts to phase 2 of our omicron response, will enable eligible workers to either use rapid antigen tests that their employers may hold, or collect rapid antigen tests from a collection site,” said Verrall.

Workers will get enough testing kits to cover the period they would’ve been isolating, and the places they can pick them up from will be put on the Healthpoint website. Workers will also be expected to remain in isolation outside of work hours as they will in many instances be living with household members who have Omicron, said Verrall.

People who work alone will, added Hipkins, be able to continue operating in a “bubble of one” if they are identified as a close contact. “That means for instance farmers, or sole traders including plumbers and residential builders, who operate out of their own space and work alone can continue to do that as long as they are vaccinated, don’t have symptoms and don’t have contact with anyone else,” he said. These guidelines apply to any workers, not just critical workers, and do not require them to return regular tests.

All parliament protesters officially trespassed

All protesters at parliament have been trespassed, police confirmed.

Live footage from outside the Beehive this morning showed several more protesters being taken after three were charged with obstruction last night. According to Stuff, more than 20 people were arrested this morning.

Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard officially closed the parliament grounds today.

The police line was slowly moving the rally further away from the steps of parliament, about 15 metres over the past hour towards the lawn.

“Police have appealed repeatedly to protestors to leave the grounds and have begun evicting people from the precinct,” said superintendent Corrie Parnell. “While police acknowledges people’s right to protest, this needs to be conducted in a way that do not unfairly impact on the wider public.”

More than 100 additional police staff have been called in, including from other districts, to support the operation.

Traffic delays around the parliamentary precinct are expected to continue and the public are asked to avoid the area if possible.

More arrests outside parliament as police close in

There are reports of more arrests outside parliament as police close in on protesters.

It’s the third day of action at the Beehive, with protesters camping out on the grounds of parliament. Surrounding streets remain closed to the public as illegally parked vehicles block access into the city.

One livestream viewed by The Spinoff shows supporters of the protest questioning where the organisers are and asking people to remain peaceful. Protesters can be heard yelling at police who have formed a tight line in front of those gathered, moving them further away from the steps of parliament.

Rally organisers, via online messages, have been instructing protesters to retreat back to the road.

Children can still be seen on the parliamentary precinct, despite Facebook comments asking for young people to be evacuated.

In another video, police could be seen dismantling several protesters’ tents.

Earlier, at least two other people were pulled out of the protest and taken away by police.

A protester is held down by police (Image / FB)

This week on Nē?: What does ‘going home’ mean to you?

As Māori we talk a lot about our connection to whenua, but most of us live away from our ancestral lands. In this week’s episode of Nē? we talk to Joe Pihema and Karen Leef about what “going home” means to them, the history of our urban communities and how to be good manuhiri on someone else’s land.

Follow Nē? on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider. 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Labour hasn’t yet decided who to back in Auckland’s race for mayor

From today’s edition of The Bulletin:

Phil Goff is expected to announce later this month that he won’t be seeking another term, opening up a race that has no clear front-runner. As the NZ Herald’s Bernard Orsman (paywalled) writes, there’s a behind-the-scenes contest between councillors Efeso Collins and Richard Hills for the party’s backing. Collins has called for a democratic process to select Labour’s next candidate, while the party hasn’t wanted to confirm how it’ll choose to back someone.


Fears mount that some farmers might not get tested for Covid. The Otago Daily Times has spoken with farmers in Southland who say farm staff have been told not to be tested if they show symptoms. They are concerned that isolation rules would take them off work for a week or more, which would have a significant impact on operations. The agriculture minister has said farmers who operate in a bubble and don’t have contact with other people might be able to keep working despite contracting Covid-19.

Across the economy there are growing concerns that testing rates over the past week, which are lower than they had been during the delta outbreak, reflect fatigue with the virus and worries about long self-isolation. The government is expected to unveil today which workers have critical status and will have access to rapid tests that allow them to quickly return to work.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

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.  

Three protesters arrested outside parliament for ‘obstruction’

Three protesters arrested outside parliament yesterday have been charged with obstruction, police have confirmed. The men – aged 61, 57 and 50 – have all been trespassed from parliament grounds and will appear in court on Monday.

Today marks the third day of action outside the Beehive, with tents still pitched around the grounds despite warnings from speaker of the house Trevor Mallard. Nearby Wellington streets remain makeshift parking lots, but no tickets have been issued for illegally parked vehicles.

Police said no other people have been trespassed from parliament grounds since the protest activity began. “Police and parliamentary security staff made an approach to identified organisers earlier [yesterday], on behalf of the speaker of the house, to request the removal of tents and all structures within parliament grounds,” said a spokesperson.

Wellington mayor Andy Foster told Newstalk ZB the situation was “volatile” – and that was why vehicles had so far not been towed. “Marching in there issuing a few tickets doesn’t move vehicles and clearly I think you can see the volatile situation we’d end up with our staff being putting themselves in danger,” he said.

“You’ve got a lot of people down there and they’ve [police] got to work out safely how this can be resolved and to make sure it’s done without unnecessary people getting hurt.”