blog march 10


National takes the lead in new TVNZ poll

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 10. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Need to get in touch? Reach me on

The latest

  • National has narrowly beaten Labour in the latest political poll.
  • There are now 773 people in hospital with Covid-19.
  • Over 21,000 new community cases were announced today.
  • TVNZ and RNZ will be merged into one public media entity, with a tentative launch date of July next year. Read all about that here.
  • Managed isolation facilities will largely have been phased out by the end of June, with just four hotels to still be hosting new arrivals.
blog march 10

National takes the lead in new TVNZ poll

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 10. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Need to get in touch? Reach me on

The latest

  • National has narrowly beaten Labour in the latest political poll.
  • There are now 773 people in hospital with Covid-19.
  • Over 21,000 new community cases were announced today.
  • TVNZ and RNZ will be merged into one public media entity, with a tentative launch date of July next year. Read all about that here.
  • Managed isolation facilities will largely have been phased out by the end of June, with just four hotels to still be hosting new arrivals.
Mar 10 2022

National takes the lead in new 1News poll

Image: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

National has come out on top in a new 1News Kantar Public Poll, narrowly ahead of Labour in the first poll since the 23-day parliament occupation and the violent scenes that ended it. It’s the first time National has been ahead of Labour since February 2020.

The party was up seven percentage points to 39%, coming in two ahead of Labour, which returned the lowest results it has since taking office, down three to 37%.

Labour leader and current PM Jacinda Ardern retained the top spot in the preferred prime minister stakes, dropping one point to 34%. But National leader Christopher Luxon rose eight points to 25%.

Among the smaller parties, the Greens remained steady on 9%, with Act down three to 8%. The Māori Party garnered 2% of the vote, as did New Zealand First, with TOP and the New Conservatives on 1% a piece.

For preferred prime minister, NZ First’s Winston Peters, who walked around the parliament protest, meeting with those involved, was up one to 2%, and Act leader David Seymour was down one to 5%.

1News political editor Jessica Mutch McKay reveals the numbers

As Stewart Sowman-Lund wrote this morning, this is not only the first TV poll since the parliament occupation, it’s the first since the Ukraine invasion, since petrol prices skyrocketed, since the opposition coined the phrase “cost of living crisis”, and since the omicron outbreak fully took hold in the community and case numbers surged.

The last TVNZ poll, in January, had Labour down one point to 40% with National jumping up four points to 32% (largely at the expense of Act). Since then, the Roy Morgan poll has had National above Labour, with the most recent results being 38% to 32%.

This evening’s poll results reflected in parliament seat entitlement would see National with 49, Labour with 47, Greens with 11, Act on 10 and Te Pāti Māori with three seats (assuming Rawiri Waititi holds the seat of Waiariki), reported 1News.

That would mean, should National and Act come together on 59, and Labour and Green Party come together with 58, Te Pāti Māori’s three seats would hold the balance of power.

If the results were to be reflected at the election, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told 1News the party they chose would have to “ensure they align with our policies and our values. Unfortunately in the past, National have not in the last leadership with Judith Collins.”

773 Covid cases in hospital today, not 845 – Ministry of Health issues correction

Image: Toby Morris

The Covid-19 hospitalisation figures for Northland, Auckland and Counties Manukau DHBs were incorrectly reported today due to “data issues”, which falsely inflated the nationwide total, and the Ministry of Health has issued a correction.

The correct figure for total hospitalisations across New Zealand today is 773, not the 845 reported in the Ministry of Health’s 1pm statement, and the figure for hospitalisations across the Auckland and Northland DHBs is 515, not the 587 announced by Ashley Bloomfield during this afternoon’s press conference.

In Northland, eight people with Covid are in hospital, with 158 in Auckland and 195 in Counties Manukau. The Waitematā figure remains 154, and all other regions’ totals are unaffected. The full details are here.

National criticises ‘pointless’ plan to create new media entity

Melissa Lee in 2020 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The National Party has labelled today’s announcement that TVNZ and RNZ will be amalgamated into one new public media organisation a “wasteful and pointless move”.

The new, as-yet nameless, entity is expected to be running by the middle of next year.

But while representatives from both to-be-merged companies sent out press release supporting the announcement, as did industry body NZ On Air, National’s Melissa Lee has no love for the plan.

“The government has spent the last several years wasting millions of dollars on countless reviews, consultations and reports, only to now arrive at this mediocre conclusion,” the National media spokesperson said, in a press release. “The decision today is notably lacking details, including how much it is going to cost taxpayers. This is yet another example of wasteful spending from this Labour government.”

Lee, a former journalist and TVNZ employee, said that “merging RNZ and TVNZ into an unaccountable publicly funded monolith will only harm their long-term value to the taxpaying public”.

Melissa Lee in 2020 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The two outlets themselves appear to disagree. RNZ’s chairman Dr. Jim Mather said the merger was a once-in-a-generation opportunity. “At the heart of this new entity will be the unique voice of Aotearoa New Zealand with trusted news and current affairs as a cornerstone,” he said. “As a public service, not-for-profit media entity, with a charter and sustainable funding, it will benefit all New Zealanders, ensuring we stay connected, informed, and part of a cohesive democracy.”

TVNZ’s commercial director Jodi O’Donnell said she was pleased the announcement confirmed the dual funded nature of the new entity. “We expect the core of our business operations will remain the same, however the new structure will provide us with the opportunity to speed up some of our plans and ambitions.”

‘Zelenskiy Road’: Street of Wellington’s Russian Embassy ‘renamed’ for Ukraine president

Photo: Felix Marwick/Twitter

The Karori street of the Russian Embassy in Wellington has been “renamed” in support of Ukraine’s president.

Messines Road has been not-so-subtly dubbed “Zelenskiy Road” by an unknown supporter. While they managed to capture the font and colour, they could have worked on the size a little bit.

It’s not the first time people have attempted to turn street signs into a form of protest; in San Francisco, “numerous” signs have similarly been plastered. Local news source SFgate reported that signs on two intersections of “Russia Avenue” have been covered with the words “Ukraine” and “No War.”

Last month, about 100 protesters gathered outside the Russian embassy to protest the war.

Chris Rock returns to NZ after five years

With the borders being flung open comes the return of international tours – and today brought with it one of the biggest names in comedy. American stand-up/actor Chris Rock will perform in Auckland and Christchurch this August, as part of his “ego death” world tour.

The last time Rock entertained crowds on our shores, The Spinoff’s Leonie Hayden wrote: 

For me the night didn’t turn sour until he turned to his own recent divorce and custody battle, revealed his porn addiction and that he cheated on his partner multiple times, and then began to aggressively dole out… relationship advice.

“Men, you have to agree to everything a woman wants cos those bitches be crazy, amirite?!”

Not exactly cutting edge in 2017. We live in incredibly interesting times, and for $140 a ticket I expect comedians to say something new. I don’t even care if its offensive, just don’t use the same material you used in the 90s dude.

I asked Leonie whether she was going to be rushing for a ticket to Rock’s new tour. Her response? “No comment”.

Ticketing info available here.

Is this the wildest four minutes of radio we’ll hear in 2022?

(Image / Thames-Coromandel council)

Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie isn’t nervous about catching Covid-19 – and she has Australian singer John Farnham to thank.

Goudie became something of a household name last year when she publicly spoke out against the Covid-19 vaccine and said she would not be getting it. During the nationwide delta outbreak, Goudie also admitted to not using the Covid Tracer app and said she was waiting for the Novavax vaccine. Her reason for waiting for that jab was that she “reads a lot of information”.

The Novavax jab has, as of today, become part of our vaccine portfolio but despite that (and despite the “information” she was reading), Goudie has now confirmed to RNZ she will not be getting vaccinated at all.

In an extraordinary four minute interview, Goudie told reporter Sam Olley that 90% of her constituents had given her “the thumbs up” on her vaccine stance while 10% had been “somewhat aggressive”.

“That’s OK, that happens. It doesn’t matter what you do in council or what a council does, or what an individual does, people have that right to express their views. And they do.”

Asked whether she was fearful about catching the virus, Goudie said no: “I don’t live my life in fear. It is what it is,” she said. “Actually I was listening to a Johnny Farnham song, ‘You’re The Voice’, and it was absolutely fantastic. I think everybody should listen to it.”

The song’s lyrics include the line: “We’re not gonna sit in silence, we’re not gonna live with fear.”

She refused to sing it on the radio, however, but described a recent experience that sounds… almost out of body. “Oh god. It was quite fantastic, I heard it yesterday, it was quite amazing actually,” said Goudie. “It was quite an uplifting song I felt.”

As for the vaccine itself, Goudie suggested there was something “hazardous” about the “substance” being used to inoculate people. “Oh, no. Shouldn’t have said that,” she said, cackling.

I implore you to listen to the interview, in full, here.

Covid-19 update: 845 in hospital, 21,015 new community cases

Image: Toby Morris

There’s been a jump in Covid-related hospitalisations, with 845 people now seeking treatment. Of those, 16 are in intensive care – a drop from yesterday’s 19.  There are now more people in hospital with Covid-19 than at any other point over the last two years.

In the Northern region, 587 people are in hospital. It’s similar to the last couple of days, perhaps suggesting the numbers are levelling off there.

Nationally, of people hospitalised who had genome sequencing done since the beginning of the year, 21% had delta and 21% omicron. Of hospitalised patients in the last four weeks who had genome sequencing carried out, none had delta. The variant was last detected in a sequenced community sample in mid-February.

Of the most recent 47 cases in hospital who had genome sequencing done, 25 were the B.A.1 sub-variant and 22 the B.A.2 sub-variant of omicron. About two-thirds of the cases sequenced in the last two weeks were B.A.2 and at least 38 cases in the week ending March 5 were epidemiologically linked to the delta outbreak. “So it’s still out there,” said Bloomfield.

In Auckland, the positivity rate from rapid tests is about 40%, said Bloomfield.

From tomorrow, parents and caregivers can report RAT results for children and other dependents online and there will be increased capacity on the 0800 number.

More than 21,000 new community cases

There are 21,015 new community cases of Covid-19. That suggests that the outbreak has started to peak, with numbers remaining fairly stable each day for the past week.

New Zealand now has over 208,000 active cases.

Ashley Bloomfield said about 87% of reported cases have been diagnosed through rapid antigen tests since February 23. Of today’s cases, 97% were confirmed with rapid tests.

NZ’s Covid death total now 91

There will also be a change in the way Covid-related deaths are reported, putting us in line with countries like the UK. Deaths will be split into three groups: those who definitively died from the virus, those who died from another cause but after testing positive, and those whose cause of death remains undetermined.

The new definition of a Covid-related death is everyone who died within 28 days of a Covid diagnosis. An additional nine deaths have been recorded in the last two weeks but they haven’t been publicly announced as of yet.

“Our total number of Covid-related deaths now sits at 91,” said Bloomfield, including deaths now considered part of our pandemic statistics. “New Zealand’s number of deaths remains very low internationally… and New Zealand has a very low case fatality rate internationally, meaning those who get Covid here are getting the right kind of care.”

Whenever new deaths are publicly reported, the ministry will now include a new total of deaths in its 1pm statements.

Asked about the proportion of Covid cases in hospital because of the virus versus those there for other reasons who happen to have Covid, Bloomfield said the ministry was “trying to get a weekly estimate”. It was hard to get an accurate figure, especially in Auckland where there’s a high turnover patients.

Overseas studies suggest three-quarters of people with Covid in hospital are there because of Covid, but in Auckland, because of the high incidence of Covid in the community, the proportion of people there for other reasons is likely to be higher.

Ashley Bloomfield to reveal today’s Covid numbers

Ashley Bloomfield finishes as director general of health at the end of July. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Ashley Bloomfield is fronting today’s Covid-19 update where he will reveal whether the number of hospitalisations has risen overnight. He’ll also release today’s Covid case numbers after another 22,000 were confirmed yesterday.

Watch below:

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.

Confirmed: New public media entity will merge RNZ and TVNZ

Image: Tina Tiller

It’s finally been confirmed that RNZ and TVNZ will be merged into a new public media entity, with a tentative launch date of July 2023.

“Essentially the announcement only tells us what we already have known for a while – that the government likes this, and it’s going to happen,” The Spinoff’s media expert Duncan Greive told me after hearing the news. “All the fine detail of execution, how much extra funding it will have, who will run it, how the hybrid business model will work remains to be seen. So it’s both an enormous, historic day for our media, but also something of a vacuum.”

Duncan’s written all about today’s announcement. Here’s an extract from his piece.

The biggest reveals, both long-rumoured, are the return of a charter to TVNZ, scrapped by the previous National government, and a not-for-profit status – a major change from the current system, which sees TVNZ aiming to return a dividend to the Crown. 

While the confirmation itself is new, beyond that there is little concrete in the announcement. A press release attributed to Faafoi said it will continue to operate all existing media channels, including TVNZ 1, TVNZ OnDemand, RNZ National and RNZ Concert under their current formats. It also acknowledged that despite progress into digital, radio and linear television remain the dominant cultures in their respective organisations, and that the legislation underpinning them would be updated to reflect the modern environment. Faafoi asked us to imagine “a new organisation by the middle of next year, built on the best of RNZ and TVNZ, to future-proof public media for New Zealanders for decades to come.”

It will start from an imposing position, with an annual revenue baseline of almost $400m – making it significantly larger than any other New Zealand media business this side of Sky – but makes reference to this year’s budget, which presumably will provide still more funding for the expanded ambitions and scope.

Read Duncan’s full report – with more analysis – here.

Image: Tina Tiller

Speaking at the announcement, broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi said the establishment board will have representation from both RNZ and TVNZ. “I intend to ensure there will be some representation of people from the shop floor – someone who understands the media and the issues that are important to staff as we work through this transition,” said Faafoi.

RNZ and TVNZ staff had received an early heads up on the details of the announcement “I know this kind of change will cause some unease but the future under a new entity with the ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities that our local media face will give you a stronger foundation to do what public media has done for decades, and that is to tell our stories,” said Faafoi.

Watch live: Broadcasting minister to unveil future of public media

Former broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi is about to announce the future shape of New Zealand’s public media. It’s expected he will confirm a merger of TVNZ and RNZ, following a rumoured cabinet decision on the matter last month.

We’ll have full analysis on The Spinoff once the announcement’s been made. You can tune in here from midday.

How are musicians holding up after another summer of cancellations?

We’re coming up to the end of summer, a time when musicians all over the motu should be wrapping up their busy touring and festival schedules. This week’s episode of Nē? checks in with kaiwaiata Anna Coddington and Te Kahureremoa Taumata to find out what the hustle looks like after another year of cancellations.

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

Is there actually a cost of living ‘crisis’?

The (Image: Getty Images)

We’ve heard a lot in recent days about a cost of living “crisis” and it’s likely we’ll continue hearing about that in the coming days/weeks/months.

Just today, I walked past my local Z petrol station and saw the price for 91 had risen by 20 cents per litre in less than a week – up to $3.33. Looks like those predictions of $3.50 fuel are pretty much already here.

Then there’s the supermarket. A block of cheese can set you back around $18 now (and not even for the good stuff).

Spinoff live updates reader Caley, from Whangārei, told me things are getting tough. “We spend about $300 on groceries per week, for a family of four,” he said. “We don’t buy any meat (we’re vegetarian) and rarely any alcohol.”

Caley said both adults in her household work full time and are bringing in twice the income than when they were in Scotland. “But living costs are so much higher here… We’re hardly on the breadline, but if we find it hard then how the heck do people cope on minimum wage?”

It’s a good question. On RNZ Checkpoint last night, residents of the Northland town of Kaikohe described the cost of living as “crazy”, “shocking”, and “horrible”. A third of households in the area earn less than $30,000 a year. Jeanette said her partner had left his forestry job because of the $200-a-week petrol costs.

“We do hope that he will find local work where he doesn’t have to drive or someone else is able to pick him up, or carpool, but it’s just too hard at the moment,” she said.

Yesterday in parliament, prime minister Jacinda Ardern once again refused to define the current situation as a “crisis” and instead went on the defensive, criticising National’s newly announced tax policy.

Noticed any especially extraordinary prices during your weekly shop? Let me know.

It’s poll day – and this one could be crucial

Photo: Getty Images

Today is poll day. TVNZ’s political editor Jessica Mutch-McKay announced bright and early this morning on Twitter that a new 1News poll would be revealed tonight at 6pm.

It’s set to be a biggie. It’s the first TV poll since hundreds of anti-mandate/anti-something protesters occupied parliament grounds for 23 days. It’s the first TV poll since the Ukraine invasion saw petrol prices skyrocket. It’s the first TV poll since the opposition coined the phrase “cost of living crisis” and pushed it into everybody’s minds. It’s the first TV poll since the omicron outbreak fully took hold in the community and case numbers surged.

The last TVNZ poll, in January, had Labour down one point to 40% with National jumping up four points to 32% (largely at the expense of Act). Since then, the Roy Morgan poll has had National above Labour, with the most recent results being 38% to 32%.

All will be revealed at 6pm.

The most exciting trailer I’ve watched this year

Apologies for the clickbait, it’s just a Star Wars trailer. But my excitement levels are through the roof.

The Disney machine has pumped out another show hinged heavily on nostalgia, this time based around Ewen McGregor’s iteration of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The thing is… It looks really great. The six part miniseries is set to release in late May and if the trailer below doesn’t win you over then I doubt anything will.

If Star Wars isn’t your thing, maybe you’re more hyped by a film in which Nicholas Cage plays a fictionalised version of himself and has to… become a spy? Idk but it looks insane.

Unanimous support for Russian sanctions bill

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta talks to media during a press conference at Parliament on April 22, 2021 in Wellington, (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The government’s Russian sanctions regime passed under urgency last night with the unanimous support of MPs.

The bespoke law was crafted in order to allow New Zealand to target those linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine or who are of economic or strategic importance to president Vladimir Putin.

“The act means we could for example, stop the purchase or sale of property, the movement of ships and planes in New Zealand’s waters or airspace, stop imports and exports, lending of money, or the movement of money,” said foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The first tranche of sanctions are being worked on, said Mahuta, and are expected in the next week.

Just four MIQ hotels to remain by July, but purpose-built facility not being ruled out

Photo: RNZ

As managed isolation facilities start to wind down, the government hasn’t ruled out a purpose-built facility to cater for those who still need to isolate on arrival. Unvaccinated people will, for the foreseeable future, still be required to spend time in a facility when entering New Zealand.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins today announced that, by the end of June, 28 of the current 32 MIQ facilities will return to being hotels – meaning New Zealand will have just four managed isolation hotels still operating.

Rydges Auckland will be the first facility to leave the network, said Hipkins, as its contract comes to a natural end on April 30. Conversations with other facilities are ongoing, and further details will be made public in due course.

“A small number of hotels will remain part of the system while the government works through what might be needed in terms of a national quarantine capacity in the future,” he said. “This could include retaining hotels or purpose-built facilities. I expect to receive formal advice on this later in 2022.”

Hipkins said many MIQ staff, “who have done an incredible and tireless job over the last two years”, have begun returning to their original roles in the workforce. “Already over 300 healthcare workers and nurses and over 230 police have returned to frontline duties, and over 600 defence personnel involved in the MIQ response will now return to their units.”

Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins announced new measures to deal with Omicron at a Beehive press conference. (Photo: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the government today announced it was establishing an award to recognise people who have contributed to New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, with MIQ staff first to receive the new honour.

“Our MIQ workforce has demonstrated care and professionalism, often at considerable personal risk and sacrifice and are worthy recipients of this award and our gratitude,” said prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

“The award will take the form of a lapel pin. Officials are working on design, eligibility and criteria with further details to come as the work progresses.”

Has Auckland passed its omicron peak?

A health worker hands out rapid antigen tests at a testing centre in West Auckland on February 24 (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Last week, Auckland’s Covid response team was hopeful that the peak of the omicron outbreak had been reached.

As we reported on Friday, Andrew Old, chief clinical officer for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre, said: “We are cautiously optimistic that our case numbers – around that 13-14,000 level – might represent the peak for us in Auckland. Based on our modelling and what we have seen from overseas we expect that we might be about to turn the corner.”

Auckland’s peak is expected to come a few weeks before the rest of the country’s, so other parts of the motu will be watching closely to see how the wave might roll through. And to the layperson it’s certainly been looking like the corner referenced by Old has indeed been turned: last Wednesday there were 13,231 new cases in Tāmaki Makaurau, with 13,237 on Thursday and 13,252 on Friday. Since then the daily tallies have remained under 10,000, with 9,789 and 7,226 at the weekend, and 7,639 and 9,881 on Monday and Tuesday respectively. Today saw 8,529 new cases in the Auckland region.

According to yesterday’s Covid statement from the Ministry of Health, from February 27 to March 5 (Sunday to Saturday last week), 56% of the total new Covid-19 cases in the country were in Auckland – down from 61% from February 24 to March 2.

“This number is still high,” said the ministry of the 8,529 cases recorded yesterday, “and the outbreak is still very active in the Auckland region, but numbers have levelled off recently.

“We will know in the next few days if this signals that the outbreak has peaked there.”

But Te Pūnaha Matatini modellers aren't putting any money on it yet. "Eight percent of Auckland has now been confirmed as having had Covid," the University of Canterbury's Michael Plank told The Spinoff. "That’s quite a bit higher than the point at which places like Queensland and South Australia peaked.

"So it’s possible Auckland has peaked, but certainly it depends on testing and I’d want to see a consistent downward trend in average daily cases (or hospitalisations) sustained for several days to be more certain."

The University of Auckland's Dion O'Neale, another TPM Covid modeller, also said it was only possible that Auckland had passed its peak. "I worry that the case numbers are telling us more about being past the peak of Aucklanders’ inclination to get tested or their ability to find a test when they need one," he said. "We can’t tell whether the numbers are because infections in the community are starting to drop, or because cases are not being confirmed while infection numbers continue to climb.

"In the absence of an infection prevalence survey [such as that carried out by the UK's Office of National Statistics], the way we’ll find out which scenario we’re really in will be based on the numbers of people who end up in hospital."

O'Neale also pointed out that the jump in confirmed cases when rapid antigen tests were first introduced may have reflected a "short-term surge" in people getting tested when a new method became available, but that that behaviour was limited to a proportion of the population.

Hospitalisations lag a week or so behind case numbers, so pressure on Auckland's hospitals is not expected to let up just yet. Yesterday there were 507 Covid-19 cases in hospitals in the region, according to the Ministry of Health's statement – a slight drop on the day before. But the statement also said "Please note we are waiting on hospital data for Northland and Auckland DHBs".