blog may 10

Live UpdatesMay 10 2022

14 new Covid deaths as one million total cases confirmed

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 10. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can contact me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • DGL boss Simon Henry has still not made contact with Nadia Lim as the fallout from his offensive comments continues.
  • New Zealand has hit a grim milestone: one million overall Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began.
  • There are 14 new deaths being added to our Covid death toll today.
  • Is congestion charging on the way? Motorists could soon be pinged for driving into Auckland’s city centre.
  • Plans to take on New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly should be going further, according to our consumer watchdog.
blog may 10

14 new Covid deaths as one million total cases confirmed

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 10. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can contact me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • DGL boss Simon Henry has still not made contact with Nadia Lim as the fallout from his offensive comments continues.
  • New Zealand has hit a grim milestone: one million overall Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began.
  • There are 14 new deaths being added to our Covid death toll today.
  • Is congestion charging on the way? Motorists could soon be pinged for driving into Auckland’s city centre.
  • Plans to take on New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly should be going further, according to our consumer watchdog.
May 10 2022

About those viral realtor ‘billboards’

Billboards purporting to advertise Wellington sales agency Lowe and Co have been popping all over social media today. And while at first glance they may look real, they’re definitely (truly) fake.

The (definitely fake) billboards come from an online generator that allows users to create their own Lowe and Co advert. “We know you love Lowe&Co billboards, so we’re giving you the chance to make your own,” the generator reads.

As for the brainchilds behind the generator, they’re staying low key. The Spinoff has yet to hear back after sending in some questions and their website simply has a sign off from “S + M + P”.

“This app was made by some Wellington friends who thought that bragging about being greedy middle-men in a housing crisis felt a bit off,” the creators write. “We thought about defacing billboards, but that takes effort (some of them are really high up). Then we realised we could give everyone the power to write their own messages; to shape our collective narrative.”

Lowe and Co has a lot of (definitely real) billboards around the capital, perhaps explaining why they have been targeted by this new online campaign.

‘I’m the last man standing’: Kim Dotcom on Megaupload pair’s extradition deal

Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk are no longer being sought for extradition to the US alongside their former Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom, after agreeing to instead face similar charges in a New Zealand court, according to a statement issued by the pair via their lawyer.

“New Zealand is our home now and we want to stay here,” said Ortmann and Van der Kolk. “The continuing uncertainty associated with the extradition case has taken a heavy toll on our lives and the time has come to move on. Accordingly, we have reached an agreement with the New Zealand government and the United States of America under which we have agreed to be charged in New Zealand for offences similar to those we face in the United States. Once those charges are heard by the New Zealand courts, the United States will withdraw its extradition proceedings against us.”

Last year the Supreme Court ruled that the men could be extradited, throwing the ball into the court of the justice minister, Kris Faafoi. His decision, however, which now will apply only to Kim Dotcom, is likely to spark further legal challenges.

Dotcom responded to the news by saying he was happy for the men but claiming they had agreed to “accept liability and to become witnesses against me”. Van der Kolk told The Spinoff they had nothing further to say in response to Dotcom’s claim.

Dotcom added: “I want to congratulate my former friends and partners to have found a case resolution. They can avoid the terrible US justice system. I’m happy for them. After 10 years of US lawfare I understand why they have given up. I don’t blame them and I sincerely wish them all the best. I’m now the last man standing in this fight and I will continue to fight because unlike my co-defendants I won’t accept the injustice we have been subjected to. If I have to go to jail for what Megaupload users did on our site then many Big Tech CEOs are in the same boat with me.”

The US last year dropped its request to extradite a fourth man, Finn Batato, for medical reasons.

Bram van der Kolk, Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Kim Dotcom in the District Court following an FBI-led raid on January 20, 2012. Photo by Michael Bradley/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

A message from our creative director, Toby Morris

Here at The Spinoff we’re proud to be a bit different. In the way we approach our journalism, in our tone, in the things we’re thinking about, all the way through to our design and our videos and our podcasts. We’d like to think we’re doing things in a way that no other New Zealand media organisations would. And it’s our beloved members who let us do that – both through their financial support, and the encouragement of their engagement. They’re readers who care like we care, who are also interested in seeing things done in a slightly different way.

If you like what we’re doing and want to see more of it, have a think about joining up, and help The Spinoff be The Spinoff. Join today!

Nadia Lim apology letter still with the courier

DGL boss Simon Henry has still not made contact with Nadia Lim, according to the crisis firm hired to represent his company’s board.

Nick Owens, a director at Australian-based PR company Sefiani, told The Spinoff live updates that he was unsure when an apology would actually be made. “The apology letter was sent on Friday by courier,” he said. “I can’t say for sure when it will arrive but I would think soon.”

Sefiani has been engaged directly by DGL’s board, not Henry himself. However, it appears all of DGL’s management are on media lockdown. Henry has so far not fronted for any media (we’ve made requests) and Owens told The Spinoff the board would not be doing any interviews at this stage either.

Covid-19 latest: NZ passes one million case milestone

New Zealand has recorded more than one million cases of Covid-19 across the two years of the pandemic.

Today there are another 9,173 community cases, bringing the overall pandemic total to 1,001,898. This time last year, our confirmed case total was 2,288.

“I would like to reiterate my thanks to everyone in New Zealand who has played their part to keep our case numbers and rates low when compared internationally, and for continuing to do their bit to follow public health advice and minimise the spread of Covid-19,” said director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

There are 14 new deaths being added to our Covid death toll today, bringing the overall number up to 876 and the seven-day rolling average to 14.

Of the people whose deaths are being reported today, one person was from Northland, two from Auckland, one from Waikato, one from MidCentral, one from Hawke’s Bay, one from the Wellington region, six from Canterbury and one from Southern. Six were in their 70s, three in their 80s and five were aged over 90. Nine were women and five were men.

There are 385 people in hospital with Covid-19 and 13 in ICU.

Auckland has recorded its highest case total in six weeks: 2,945. The region with the second highest number of new cases is Canterbury with 1,397.

DGL customer concerned by Simon Henry’s ‘unacceptable and offensive’ comments

A customer of the company led by Simon Henry has expressed concern over the “unacceptable and offensive” comments made about My Food Bag’s Nadia Lim.

Rich-lister and DGL chief Henry called Lim “Eurasian fluff” during an NBR profile that subsequently led to extensive media coverage and widespread condemnation. As The Spinoff broke on Saturday morning, Henry told his own staff he would apologise to Lim but that “sorry” has still not come.

Water treatment and chemical distribution company Ixom is a major customer of DGL. A spokesperson told The Spinoff live updates the company was aware of Henry’s comments and “shares the view of the DGL board that they are inappropriate, unacceptable and offensive”.

They continued: “Ixom is communicating its serious concern about Mr Henry’s conduct to the DGL board and is seeking further information from the board about DGL and Mr Henry’s response.”

The Spinoff has so far received no comment from DGL’s board or from Henry despite making several requests over the past week. The Spinoff has also approached the crisis PR firm hired to maintain DGL’s reputation but has so far heard nothing.

As for when Henry’s apology to Lim will come, that’s still not known. A DGL spokesperson blamed the postal system while a PR spokesperson implied Henry may have had the wrong phone number for Lim.

DGL chief executive Simon Henry (Image: Supplied / Tina Tiller)

Update: The Spinoff has received a response from Sefiani, the PR firm representing DGL’s board. More here.

‘We want things to change’: New family violence funding announced

Over $114 million will be spent over the next four years to help address family and sexual violence.

The funding, which comes from next week’s budget, includes $38 million for community-led responses, over $37 million for initiatives in Māori and Pacific communities, and almost $10 million for services that aid victims and perpetrators of family violence.

Marama Davidson, the minister overseeing the new funding, said things have to improve for victims of violence in New Zealand. “We are striving for change, we want things for change, we know things have to change,” she said, speaking at a press conference. “We want all people in Aotearoa striving… to live lives with peace.”

Addressing family violence was “one of the greatest opportunities to improve the wellbeing of children, whānau and communities”, she said. “The evidence shows us that to eliminate violence, government must enable primary prevention that changes social norms and behaviours.”

The budget will also include $8.1 million to address “cost pressures in the health system” and allow for more victims to have access to specialist services.

“There is a lot to do, there absolutely is,” said Davidson, who indicated further announcements are in the pipeline. “Together we can, and must, achieve change so that all people in Aotearoa New Zealand are thriving.”

Watch: Prince Harry launches kaitiakitanga-inspired sustainable travel campaign

Prince Harry chose Māori TV’s Te Ao with Moana to launch his new campaign inspired by local values.

In a video which premiered last night, Prince Harry explains how the sustainable travel campaign was influenced by kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga, and cites his most recent trip to New Zealand with wife Meghan Markle as a motivator. (That’s despite some reports suggesting the royals hated their visit to our shores…)

You can watch the full video below, which includes Prince Harry’s attempt at acting alongside our own Rhys Darby, Rena Owen, and Dave Fane.

New local film festival to raise money for Ukraine

A new Ukrainian film festival is launching later this month in Auckland, with two thirds of all proceeds going to charity.

Launched by Elena Stejko and Dasha Volga, both Ukrainian born actresses, the festival will celebrate films from their home country. It’s set to run over three weeks at The Vic Theatre in Auckland’s Devonport, from May 29 to June 12.

The pair hope to bring the festival around the country and are planning future fundraising dates. “I am beyond the tears and the shock and I now want to do something that enables my fellow New Zealanders to appreciate the art and the culture of Ukraine,” said Stejko.

“What’s great is that by buying a ticket to one of these sessions, Kiwi film lovers will also be donating to some important charities that are supporting the victims of this horrific war”. $20 from every $30 ticket will go to charities supporting Ukraine.

The festival line-up includes two Ukrainian feature films and a collection of shorts. More details are available via The Vic website.

First look at Avatar sequel released after 13 years

The teaser trailer for Avatar sequel The Way of Water has finally been released, more than a decade after the original film broke box office records.

Avatar was released in 2009 and went on to become an awards contender as well as the highest grossing film of all time.

The upcoming sequel is the first of four new Avatar movies, and is set for release this December.

Congestion charge tipped for Auckland’s CBD

Motorists could soon be charged for driving into Auckland’s city centre.

The Herald’s Thomas Coughlan has reported that a congestion charge scheme for our biggest city will be announced next week, as the government reveals its plans for curbing carbon emissions.

Congestion charging has been backed across the political spectrum, with the Greens, Act and National all having expressed support at some time. Auckland’s mayor Phil Goff is on board too, but told the Herald he wanted to see improved public transport first.

A new report published this morning by think tank the Helen Clark Foundation talked up the benefits of congestion charging, saying it could bring “up to 30% less traffic, reduced congestion, lower emissions, and revenue from the scheme improving transport options”. However, the report added that the government needed to be aware that lower income New Zealanders could be disproportionately hit by additional costs.


In other transport news: The government has been called out for spending $10,000 on a pair of oversized “zeros” used for a promotional campaign. The props were used for the Road to Zero campaign aimed at reducing our deadly road toll. But National’s transport spokesperson Simeon Brown told Newstalk ZB the cost of the prop zeros was emblematic of the government’s addiction to spending.

In a quote I never expected to read, Brown said: “Anyone could make a big red zero for less money than what the government spent.” His suggestion? They could have been made out of polystyrene.

The Bulletin: The birds are back in town

new study shows that restoration of urban forests is returning native birds to our cities. The study tracked changes in native bird communities in 25 restored forests in Hamilton and New Plymouth. In some of the forests, there were as many species of native birds as could be found in untouched native forest remnants. Wellington city councillors are discussing a plan to double the number of trees in the central city on Thursday. Oneroa on Waiheke Island isn’t a dense urban area but I was there over the weekend, and spotted a Tūī in the tree outside my window. The study’s authors say “urban restoration of forests provides a renewed link between people and native environments”. I have ten terrible photos of my Tūī in the tree and I do feel somewhat closer to our native environment after the sighting.

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.  

More should be done to break up supermarket duopoly, says Consumer NZ

Plans to take on New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly should be going further, according to our consumer watchdog.

A recent Commerce Commission report, commissioned by the government, ultimately concluded that there was no need to break up the supermarket chain dominance. Instead, the report advocated for a series of codes of conduct that would require more transparency in the way the two major grocers operate.

But Consumer NZ said that’s not enough. It’s launched a petition calling for government officials to consider regulating access to wholesale supply or, in a more dramatic move, setting up a state-owned wholesaler. “The duopoly has had ample time to alter its behaviour in the 20 years leading up to the commission’s study, but has actually moved in the opposite direction over time,” the petition reads.

“New Zealand consumers are facing this problem now and need brave solutions that will increase competition in the short to medium term.”

A state-owned wholesaler would, said Consumer, provide certainty for existing smaller players to expand or to support new market entrants. It would also enable the provision of a wider selection of groceries to the public and compete with the increasing dominance of the duopoly’s home brands.

The Commerce Commission dismissed the idea of establishing a new supermarket brand in its report. “However, we believe there is considerable merit in state involvement in an essential sector that is currently failing consumers and suppliers,” said Consumer.

Read more: A deep dive into the Countdown price freeze