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blog march 11


Covid death toll rises by seven

It’s Friday! This is The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a tip or story? Just want to say hi? I’m on

The latest

  • Seven people have died overnight with Covid-19 – the highest daily total from the pandemic.
  • There are 856 people in hospital, 20 in intensive care and almost 21,000 new cases were registered today.
  • A new poll has National up above Labour for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Christopher Luxon responds to his soaring popularity here.
  • There’s some relief for first home buyers as the government loosens its controversial lending laws.
blog march 11

Covid death toll rises by seven

It’s Friday! This is The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a tip or story? Just want to say hi? I’m on

The latest

  • Seven people have died overnight with Covid-19 – the highest daily total from the pandemic.
  • There are 856 people in hospital, 20 in intensive care and almost 21,000 new cases were registered today.
  • A new poll has National up above Labour for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Christopher Luxon responds to his soaring popularity here.
  • There’s some relief for first home buyers as the government loosens its controversial lending laws.
Mar 11 2022

Long queues form at petrol stations amid warnings of imminent price rise

A queue of cars outside Gull on Marua Road in Ellerslie (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the below update about warnings of yet another price rise coming tonight, long queues of cars have been spotted outside Auckland petrol stations.

Live updates editor Stewart Sowman-Lund found himself accidentally stuck in a line of cars leading to the Gull on Marua Road in Ellerslie this afternoon. “It’s madness,” he said.

A queue of cars outside Gull on Marua Road in Ellerslie (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Long lines of cars have also been reported at petrol stations in Epsom and in Albany and Devonport on the North Shore.

Spotted a queue of cars outside a petrol station this afternoon? Tell us about it (with a pic, if possible) at

I’m sorry, but petrol prices are about to get a whole lot worse

The only way is up now for petrol prices. Image: Tina Tiller

Motorists have been warned to fill up their cars now, as petrol prices are set to get even worse from tonight. Yup, even worse.

Waitomo Group’s managing director Jimmy Osborne told Newshub of “unprecedented price increases” in the international market, which will make our fuel pricier. “We’ve been advised by our supplier that prices are increasing, with the biggest single jump in our wholesale price seen in my time,” he said.

“Despite keeping our own costs as low as we can, so we can deliver the fairest pump prices while ensuring we remain sustainable ourselves, we can’t absorb all that rise ourselves – so pump prices are going to have to respond.”

Getty Images

More of your views on the ‘cost of living crisis’

Petrol is just one element making the cost of living incredible expensive at the moment. Earlier today, Stats NZ confirmed food prices have soared in the past year.

Yesterday I asked for any comments our readers might have about the cost of living. Ruth, who earns just above minimum wage, told me that pandemic-related supply issues were having a “real impact” on her – as was the fact she believed less items were on sale at the supermarket. “You can’t aim to buy most things on special as us low income folks did pre-Covid,” she said. “I am just grateful if I am able to buy the brands I like at all (often they are out of stock) and they are on special far less often.”

And a handy tip from Jacqueline in Wellington, who reckoned the prices were lower at her local halal butcher and greengrocer than at the supermarket.  “Fresh free range chicken breasts are consistently $13.99 kg at the halal butchery. At both supermarket chains, the same product ranges from usual $22.99+ per kg to occasional $14.99 kg ‘on special’,” she said.

With last night’s poll result bringing a big win for National, expect a lot more discourse on the cost of living over the coming weeks.

How the Auckland outbreak compares with rest of NZ

TWLCm-omicron-outbreak-daily-cases-three-day-rolling-averages (1)

“Cautious optimism” was the watchword again today in relation to Tāmaki Makaurau appearing to have passed the peak of the omicron outbreak. What is beyond doubt is that the wave has crashed through New Zealand’s biggest city first, and is now washing across the remainder of the country.

How do the different curves look? Here’s the confirmed cases for Auckland, most from rapid antigen tests (and bearing in mind that the total number of infections is higher):

And here's the rest of the country:

And the three-day averages juxtaposed:

Two important caveats. First, the "rest of the country" is not a homogenous blob, and different regions will have differently timed waves. Second, hospitalisations lag, meaning those peaks tend to follow by around a week from case numbers.

‘Like a Wednesday night metal gig poster’: A truly bonkers local newspaper front page

Photo: Wairarapa Times-Age

The front page of any newspaper is a way to catch a prospective buyer, to draw them into the story and, if one local paper is to be believed, incite terror.

The Wairarapa Times-Age, the regional paper serving the Wairarapa region, has received mixed feedback on social media to today’s front page focusing on the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the banner of “health crisis”, the demonic figure of a coronavirus germ rises above an emergency room.

The Spinoff’s creative director Toby Morris said it “looks like a Wednesday night metal gig poster”. He added: “It’s absolutely unhinged and I’m kind of into it. But think of all the old people spitting out their tea sitting down to that in the morning.”

Commenters on the newspaper’s Facebook page were unsure. “Wow what a fearful image, this will surely make you feel sick,” wrote one, while another joked: “looks like you guys need to call Ghostbusters.”

Covid-19 update: Seven deaths, 856 in hospital, almost 21,000 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

Seven people have died with Covid-19 overnight, the highest number of deaths reported in a single day since the start of the pandemic. Of those, five were in Auckland, one in the Waikato and one in the Southern DHB area. One person was in their fifties, four were in their 70s, one was in their 80s, and one person was in their 90s. Four were male and three were female.

Speaking from Auckland, NRHCC’s clinical lead Dr Andrew Old said it highlighted that while omicron was mild for many, it could be more severe for others.

In its release, the Ministry of Health added: “Covid-19 related deaths can lag behind a rise in cases and hospitalisations and an increase in deaths was not unexpected given the high number of cases over the past two weeks.”

Hospitalisations have also risen today up to 856, with 601 of those in Auckland. There are now 20 people in intensive care.

There are 20,989 new community cases, with 7,172 of those in Auckland. Old said that he remained “cautiously optimistic” the omicron outbreak may now have peaked, but it was still too early to say definitively. The three day rolling average in Auckland has been about 8,500 per day.

“We were expecting hospitalisations to increase this week, and they have,” said Old. Hospitalisations remain about half a percent of current cases, he said.

On vaccinations: the current health advice was to wait three months to get your Covid booster if you have caught Covid-19. Children, who are unable to be boosted but can have the regular two doses, should wait three months before either their first or second dose if they have caught the virus.

Auckland testing sites have now handed out two million rapid antigen tests since March 1, with half a million results being reported. Positivity rates range from 28% for supervised tests at GPs, to 46% for self-reported results.

The Friday News Quiz!

The Friday News Quiz

It’s Friday, it’s 12.30pm and that means it’s time for The Spinoff’s Friday News Quiz!

So pull up a chair, grab your lunch and test your knowledge below.

Dancing with the Stars to return – with a new host

Clint Randell and Sharyn Casey (Image / Supplied)

TV3’s Dancing with the Stars will finally return to our screens this year, after two years of Covid-related delays.

The show last aired in 2019, and despite production being well under way on both 2020 and 2021 runs, neither were filmed due to the difficulties of the pandemic.

In a press release, it was also announced Clint Randell will join the show as host, doing double duty with his role on the Masked Singer. Sharyn Casey will return as co-host.

Former host Dai Henwood has headed over to TVNZ where he will front this year’s new season of Lego Masters NZ.

The celebrity line-up for Dancing with the Stars and an airdate are yet to be announced.

Clint Randell and Sharyn Casey (Image / Supplied)

Titanic iceberg price surge

The produce aisle: now with less plastic (Photo: Supplied by Countdown)

Food prices rose 6.8% in the past year, the largest annual increase since July 2011.

According to Stats NZ, fruit and vegetable prices increased by 17% – the largest driver of the overall price move. Since 2016, the price of a lettuce has more than doubled from $2.93 per kg up to $6.99. Broccoli has risen from $1.83 up to $4.17.

Two-litre bottles of standard milk, eat-in lunch meals, and 1-kilo blocks of mild cheese also contributed to the annual increase, said Stats NZ.

Despite the growing price of food and petrol, the government has so far refused to label it as a “cost of living crisis”.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader on being king or queen maker in 2023

Māori Party co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/ Getty Images; additional design by Tina Tiller)

Last night’s TVNZ poll brought with it several surprises. The headline grabbers were of course the results for National and Christopher Luxon. But, one other result stood out: there’s a new king or queen maker.

On current polling, the Māori Party would decide the next prime minister, falling into the same position that Winston Peters and New Zealand First held in 2017.

Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told The Spinoff live updates that there’s still a long way to go until election night 2023. “As humbling as it is to see the recognition of the hard work, we’ve still got so much to do,” the Taranaki-based MP said. “We’re focused on holding the government to account and keeping the opposition fair.”

Being in this position next year will rely on winning at least one electorate seat again. Ngarewa-Packer said that has always been the party’s strategy, but she doesn’t take their current position for granted. “We won an electorate seat in the midst of a red tsunami,” she said. “So we’re not really distracted by ‘who would you go with, who won’t you go with’. We must address equality and equity.”

Māori Party co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/ Getty Images; additional design by Tina Tiller)

At the outset of our chat, Ngarewa-Packer asked me (I think, jokingly) not to enquire about the “left or right” pick that her party might have to make in 18 months time. But I couldn’t resist – this is very much a decision the party may have to make. “We can only work those who are committed to a Te Tiriti-centric Aotearoa,” Ngarewa-Packer said. “It’s about those who are going to be confident and courageous to redirect investment to bring our Māori models. We all get the same system but there are not equal outcomes. We can’t deviate from our values.”

The party will continue to represent its community, on the ground, until the next election. “It’s hard not to be on the ground when we’ve been in a two year pandemic which has impacted our whānau,” she said. “I think Te Pāti Māori has the liberation to do that because we haven’t been part of the government machinery.”

Bernard Hickey: Unpacking our supermarkets’ superprofits

In a new report published earlier this week, the Commerce Commission found New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly of Foodstuffs and Countdown has been using its market power to suck profits from either side of the grocery supply chain, making an estimated $430m a year in superprofits. This week’s When the Facts Change unpacks the report, with Bernard Hickey talking to Sarah Balle, the founder of online grocery startup, about how hard it is going up against such a powerful duopoly, and Food and Grocery Council CEO Katherine Rich explaining the fight supermarket suppliers face to be treated fairly.

Follow When the Facts Change on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Also new this week on The Spinoff Podcast Network…

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. 

For the second episode of On Site, Jay and Brooke are joined by Amanda Williams, principal advisor for women at BCITO, and Genevieve Black, a builder from Tāmaki Makaurau. Together they talk about women in the trades – what the industry offers, where there’s still work to do and how we can get more wāhine on the tools.

Listen to On Site on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Te Pūnaha Matatini research fellow Sanjana Hattotuwa has been studying information disorder for two decades. Over the last month he watched the occupation at parliament spread and outrate the mainstream media in venues like Facebook Live and Telegram. On this week’s episode of The Fold, he told Duncan Greive why Aotearoa has to view this as a sign of things to come.

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

And it was off to the movies as the families beamed in for Feedback Week on Married at First Sight Australia this week. As always, The Real Pod dissected and discussed all the drama.

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

‘People want strong economic leadership’: Luxon reacts to new poll

Christopher Luxon (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The National Party leader reckons New Zealanders have woken up to a realisation their country is headed in the wrong direction.

A new poll from TVNZ has National back on top for the first time in two years, with Labour falling to its lowest result since taking office. On these results, the Māori Party becomes kingmaker and holds the balance of power, with both the left and right blocs just short of a majority. And on a direct head-to-head between Christopher Luxon and Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister was only up by one point.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Luxon said people feel New Zealand has lost its way. “There is a cost of living crisis… people are doing it tough, they want strong economic leadership and the government’s got no plan,” he said. “This is what really matters.”

Luxon said his party wanted the country to realise its maximum potential. “We want every individual, every five-year-old in this country to have a shot at whatever they want to do in life.”

Internal polling conducted by National showed a similar upward trend in support, said Luxon, and he was now focused on continuing to provide a credible alternative to the government. “We’ve got to oppose the government strongly but we’ve also got to propose ideas,” he said.

“It’s a pretty exciting future for this country if we can work our way through the challenges and get focused on winning again.”

Yesterday was Luxon’s 100th day as opposition leader, after he became the fourth person to head the National Party in two years.

Read more: Ben Thomas on what went right for National 

Easing of controversial lending rules announced

Commerce minister David Clark (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The government has moved to fix its controversial lending laws after criticism they made it even harder for first home buyers to make it into the property market.

Commerce minister David Clark has announced “practical amendments” to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act. Despite being introduced to protect vulnerable borrowers, the law ended up seeing people turned down for home loans over Kmart purchases and takeaways.

“These initial changes ensure borrower-ready Kiwis can still access credit while we continue to protect those most at risk from predatory and irresponsible lending,” said Clark.

“There is no question that the banks, budget advisers and government are all on the same page when it comes to supporting the intention of the law – we want to stop vulnerable people from finding themselves with unaffordable debt.”

Today’s changes are not “the final word”, said Clark, and further changes to credit laws will be considered as part of an ongoing MBIE-led investigation which is due next month.

The changes are:

  • Removing regular “savings” and “investments” as examples of outgoings that lenders need to inquire into when assessing the borrower’s future expenses.
  • Clarifying that when borrowers provide a detailed breakdown of their future living expenses, and these are benchmarked against robust statistical data, there is no need to also inquire into their current living expenses from recent bank transactions.
  • Clarifying that where lenders choose to estimate future expenses from recent bank transaction records, they are permitted to obtaining information about how their current expenses are likely to change once the contract is entered into.
  • Clarifying that the requirement to obtain information in ‘sufficient detail’ only relates to information provided by borrowers directly (e.g. ensuring that expense categories on application forms are sufficiently detailed) rather than relating to information from bank transaction records.
  • Providing further guidance on when a lender needs to allow for a ‘reasonable surplus’ (the amount left over when the borrower’s estimated expenses are subtracted from their income) and how lenders should set surplus requirements.
  • Providing alternative guidance and examples for when it is ‘obvious’ that a loan is affordable, such that a full income and expense assessment is not required.

Read more: Our new lending rules have everyone confused. What went wrong?