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Live UpdatesJul 11 2022

Covid-related hospitalisations still climbing

It’s July 11, it’s Monday, it’s The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, bringing you the news you need to know from around New Zealand. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The PM has indicated she has no plans to tighten New Zealand’s current Covid-19 restrictions.
  • Covid-19 update: Hospitalisations jump again as 8,395 new cases announced.
  • Morning Report host Susie Ferguson has announced she’ll be stepping down from the RNZ breakfast programme.
  • The Pacific Islands Forum will be held in Fiji this week, the first time regional leaders have met in person since 2019.
blog-july-11.jpg

Covid-related hospitalisations still climbing

It’s July 11, it’s Monday, it’s The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, bringing you the news you need to know from around New Zealand. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The PM has indicated she has no plans to tighten New Zealand’s current Covid-19 restrictions.
  • Covid-19 update: Hospitalisations jump again as 8,395 new cases announced.
  • Morning Report host Susie Ferguson has announced she’ll be stepping down from the RNZ breakfast programme.
  • The Pacific Islands Forum will be held in Fiji this week, the first time regional leaders have met in person since 2019.
Jul 11 2022

NZ Media Council upholds a complaint against The Spinoff for a story about the dog walking industry

The NZ Media Council has upheld a complaint against The Spinoff for inaccuracies in a story about cowboys corrupting the dog walking industry and for taking too long to correct the errors.

In March this year the Spinoff ran a story during Pet Week, headlined “It’s the wild west: Has the dog walking industry become corrupted by cowboys?”

The article outlined the rise in popularity of businesses and services catering for dog owners, with a focus on dog walking as well as day care and grooming services. It also highlighted the rise of “cowboys” in an industry which is not regulated or licenced.

Amanda Easterbrook complained her dog walking business, “Sticks and Bones” was identified in the story as a new market entrant despite having been established for six years and by implication it was therefore a “cowboy” operator. Ms Easterbrook said the article “as it pertains to Sticks & Bones is inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair”. In early April she asked the Spinoff to remove the name of her business from the story and to compensate her for defamation.

The Spinoff initially declined to correct the story saying her business was “mentioned just once in a paragraph which sets up the nature of the industry as a whole – it is separated very clearly from the new entrants and their practices, and in no way implies anything other than that your business has a cheerful name related to the industry in which it operates…”.

Two months later in early June, the Spinoff corrected the story by stating clearly that Ms Easterbrook’s business had been established for six years and was therefore not a “cowboy” newcomer.

The Media Council considered that the offending paragraphs in the original story clearly meant that “Sticks & Bones” was new to the industry. “Those businesses” unmistakably referred to the “new” walkers referred to in the preceding two paragraphs, and the sentence that followed named three businesses including the complainant, which a reader would inevitably link to the “new” walkers previously referred to.

However the Council did not consider that the alleged implication that the complainant was one of the companies new to the market that were “cowboys” arose, as the reference to cowboys was in a separate stand-alone paragraph which did not mention the complainant and did not clearly refer to it.

A quick and full correction might have defused the complaint which appears to have arisen from no more than careless prose, but this was not done. Two members dissented saying the paragraph in question can be read two ways and sloppy sentence structure is not worthy of an uphold. The Council upheld the complaint on a majority vote of 9:2.

The full NZ Media Council ruling can be viewed at www.mediacouncil.org.nz

Luxon says comment on businesses ‘getting soft’ was taken out of context

National’s leader has responded to criticism of a speech in which he said business in New Zealand were “getting soft”.

The comments were made in a speech given last week in front of the right wing think tank Policy Exchange in London. Luxon visited the city as part of a 10-day policy tour around parts of Asia and Europe.

Speaking to media in West Auckland today, Luxon said those comments were made within the context of a broader policy speech. “It’s really tough to be a businessperson under this government,” he said. “The speech was about how do we unleash enterprise, and recognising we really want to back our companies. We hear a lot of businesses that are struggling with costs, compliance and red tape.”

Luxon said we have to unlock business growth, calling that the “lifeblood of New Zealand”.

Christopher Luxon (Photographer: Birgit Krippner/Bloomberg)

The National Party leader was also asked for his views on Covid-19 restrictions amid rising infections and related hospitalisations. Luxon said that in the places he visited overseas, many – particularly Ireland – had ditched restrictions, including masks. “The rest of the world is moving on,” Luxon said. “There wasn’t a single Covid conversation I had in Ireland.”

Pushed for his views on mask wearing here in New Zealand, Luxon said he’d like to see a new risk assessment conducted. “Let’s work out what we need to do, and let’s be clear about communicating it to the New Zealand people. Complexing it with a traffic light system… isn’t the right way to go about it,” he said. “If we think we need to change the masking rules… and the health advice says let’s do that, we should certainly look at it.”

The biggest news story of the day?

First I saw the tweet.

“#BREAKING”, it started, followed by: “‘This thing just charged him’.” I was interested. And then I read: “Cow on the run in Whanganui”.

And I was hooked.

Then I clicked the link and read the story and I realised this was the biggest news of the day, no the week. It’s parliamentary recess, there’s not a lot going on. But there is a cow on the loose and there are lots of pictures.

Read the only story you need to read here

Covid-19 update: Hospitalisations jump again as 8,395 new cases announced

The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital has risen again overnight. There are now 689 people seeking treatment, up from 662 yesterday, with 13 in intensive care.

In its 1pm statement, the Ministry of Health said the jump in hospitalisations emphasised the importance of “doing the basics” across the winter months. “In particular, people should stay home if they are unwell, take a rapid antigen test and upload the result on MyCovidRecord, and isolate if positive or while still symptomatic,” said a spokesperson.

“Wearing a mask remains one of our best measures to reduce transmission against infectious respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19.” People were encouraged to wear a mask in all public indoor settings “outside the home and in poorly ventilated spaces”.

Meanwhile, there are 8,395 new Covid-19 cases across the country, while the rolling average of daily infections now sits at 9,279. A week ago that figure was 7,053.

Another 17 people with Covid-19 have died, taking the total number of publicly reported deaths to 1,688 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 17. All of the latest deaths were people over the age of 70.

James Shaw may face leadership challenge from youth wing members

James Shaw may face a challenge to his co-leadership at the upcoming Green Party annual general meeting.

Salient has reported that a faction of Young Greens have discussed an attempt to oust Shaw, citing that “a lot” were “unhappy” with the co-leader. The claim was made in a youth wing Facebook group accessibly only by paying members.

Earlier this year, the Greens changed their party rules and dropped the requirement for a male co-leader. That could pave the way for a female duo to lead the party, or for a gender diverse co-leader.

The call from the youth wing members would not strictly constitute a no confidence vote in the technical sense. A Green spokesperson said that as the co-leaders are up for reelection each year, delegates are able to vote to re-open nominations. “That’s in the rules and every year a few people do vote that way. It’s not a ‘no confidence’ vote. It is part of the normal process of a Green Party AGM.”

In 2021, Shaw faced a leadership challenge from Dunedin activist James Cockle. Shaw won overwhelmingly, with 116 of the 140 votes overall – or 83% support from party delegates.

Green Party co-leader and climate change minister James Shaw. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

No sign that New Zealand will move back to red

The prime minister has once again indicated she has no plans to tighten New Zealand’s current Covid-19 restrictions.

New Zealand has been in the orange setting of the traffic light framework for several months now. That means restrictions are largely focused on mask wearing, though this is only mandatory on public transport and in certain indoor settings like retail.

Our time in orange has seen Covid-19 cases drop dramatically – and now climb back up rapidly.

And despite the fact we’re registering around 10,000 new infections a day, Jacinda Ardern does not seem to be actively looking at moving us to the red.

“Mask use and vaccination continue to be the most effective things we can be doing,” the prime minister told RNZ today. “They reman critical so it’s a role we can all play to keep assisting with what is at the moment a not unexpected surge but a difficult one of B4 and B5 in New Zealand.”

Over on TVNZ’s Breakfast show, Ardern reiterated that the restrictions available at orange were the most important for slowing Covid’s spread. She did, however, acknowledge that the health workforce was operating under “challenging circumstances”.

Yesterday saw 662 people in hospital with Covid-19 – a significant jump on the 570 being treated the day before.

Covid modeller Michael Plank predicted today that the winter peak of Covid-19 could see 20,000 new cases every day. That would be “significantly higher” than the March omicron wave, he said.

Susie Ferguson leaving Morning Report, will stay with RNZ

Long-time Morning Report host Susie Ferguson has announced she’ll be stepping down from the RNZ breakfast programme.

She’s presented the show since 2014, first with Guyon Espiner and then Corin Dann, five years after she joined the network.

Despite leaving the programme, Ferguson won’t be leaving RNZ entirely. She’ll step into a new senior presenter role which will see her voice across a number of projects, in the vein of Newshub’s Patrick Gower and TVNZ’s John Campbell.

RNZ’s head of news Richard Sutherland said Ferguson had done a brilliant job on Morning Report. “Susie is a talented presenter and journalist and we’re delighted that this new role allows us to keep her at RNZ after an outstanding eight years for Morning Report. I know listeners will enjoy hearing her covering different shows, as well as her other projects.”

Susie Ferguson interviewing prime minister Bill English. Photo: RNZ

The Bulletin: $110m deficit forecast at new mega polytech

As Stuff’s Mike Mather reports, the newly merged mega polytech Te Pūkenga is facing problems before it’s begun to function properly. In a memo sent to education minister Chris Hipkins, Tertiary Education Commission deputy chief executive Gillian Dudgeon has outlined concerns about a forecasted $110m deficit, a lack of progress and declining enrolments. In notes in the margin of the memo published on the commission’s website late last week, Hipkins shares the concerns, writing “I’d like an urgent update on what Te Pūkenga is doing to trim costs now (underlined twice) in response to lower enrolments.

I’d like to see a plan for some early wins re: network efficiencies ASAP.” It was announced on Friday that Te Pūkenga chief executive Stephen Town had gone on “personal leave” for unspecified reasons.

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.  

Ardern heading to Pacific Islands Forum at ‘crucial time’ for the region

Jacinda Ardern has confirmed she’ll be heading to the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji this week, the latest in a series of overseas trips undertaken by the prime minister since our borders opened.

It’s the first time Pacific leaders will have met face-to-face since the Covid-19 pandemic and comes at a crucial time for the region, with the rise in China’s influence, a resurgence in Covid-19 and climate change concerns.

Along with the traditional leaders’ retreat, Ardern will hold several bilateral meetings with her Pacific counterparts throughout her 72 hour visit. (Kiribati announced last night it would be pulling out of the forum).

Jacinda Ardern at Nato (Photo: Getty Images)

Ardern said the meeting was about the Pacific region establishing its own priorities and working together collectively to achieve them. “The centrepiece of the forum will be the release of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. It delivers the priorities of the Pacific with a unified voice, and acts as the reference point for Pacific regionalism,” the prime minister said.

“The Pacific is our foreign policy priority, with a strategy of building Pacific resilience. To achieve this we’ve lifted our support to the region by 45 percent over the past three years.”

During her visit to Sydney last week, Ardern signalled that climate change in the Pacific was of particular importance to her. “While we all have a concern, and rightly so, about any moves towards militarisation of our region, that must surely be matched by a concern for those who experience the violence of climate change,” she told the Lowy Institute.

That message was reiterated by Ardern today, who said climate change was an “existential threat” to many in the Pacific. “Our Pacific region has a proud history of responding to and meeting one another’s needs be it environmental, economic, health or security,” Ardern said.

“I look forward to this year’s Forum and the opportunity it brings to sends a clear message that the Pacific is rising to the unique challenges of the 21st century and addressing them in our own Pacific way.”

Ardern will be in Fiji from tomorrow until Thursday.