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Bloomfield: Prepare for a ‘quite large’ winter Covid outbreak

It’s Friday, it’s May 13, it’s The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on

The agenda

  • Covid-19 latest: 29 new deaths, 398 in hospital, 7,441 more cases.
  • Te Pāti Māori won’t be standing any candidates in the upcoming Tauranga by-election, citing safety concerns.
  • Three people have been arrested in relation to the final day of the parliamentary occupation back on March 2.
blog may 13

Bloomfield: Prepare for a ‘quite large’ winter Covid outbreak

It’s Friday, it’s May 13, it’s The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on

The agenda

  • Covid-19 latest: 29 new deaths, 398 in hospital, 7,441 more cases.
  • Te Pāti Māori won’t be standing any candidates in the upcoming Tauranga by-election, citing safety concerns.
  • Three people have been arrested in relation to the final day of the parliamentary occupation back on March 2.
May 13 2022

‘Wrong’ to say MPs can’t sympathise with the concerns of renters – National deputy

Nicola Willis. (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National’s deputy leader Nicola Willis says it’s “wrong” to claim MPs can’t sympathise with the concerns of renters.

It was revealed this week that just five MPs currently in parliament aren’t homeowners, despite a far larger proportion of the country being stuck in the rental market.

In a Twitter thread, Willis said it was “reductive” to argue that the lack of renting MPs could be linked to a lack of action on housing.

“We live in our own home now but I’ve also been a tenant in 11 rental homes. I’ve never been a landlord,” wrote Willis. “I won’t easily forget the experience of being a Mum of three very young kids, pregnant and desperately searching for a new rental home because our landlord had decided it was time to sell.

“I am determined to help bring better more secure housing options to more people.”

Willis said she didn’t doubt the sincerity of her political opponents’ intentions, but was “appalled” that the government had made the housing crisis worse.

National leader Christopher Luxon faced headlines when he took on the top job over the fact he owned seven properties. The MPs that don’t own a property include Marama Davidson, Kieran McAnulty, Ibrahim Omer, and Damien Smith.

A message from our creative director, Toby Morris

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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!

Te Pāti Māori ‘needs to issue an apology to Tauranga’, says Act candidate

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

Te Pāti Māori’s been accused of “bad-mouthing” and “stereotyping” Tauranga after the party announced it wouldn’t be standing a candidate in the upcoming by-election over safety concerns.

A press release from the party’s president Che Wilson said Tauranga was “a hot spot for hate speech” and claimed a DIA report backed that up. A follow-up statement from Wilson dialled this back a bit. While he still called Tauranga a hate speech hot spot, the corrected statement did not connect this to the DIA report.

Act’s Tauranga candidate Cameron Luxton said the correction wasn’t good enough. “The Māori Party has been caught in a lie, trying to bad-mouth Tauranga by spreading misinformation and they owe our city an apology,” he said. “Like all cities, there are isolated incidents of racism. What we need is political leaders that reject racism and seek common ground. Instead the Māori Party is trying to fight racism by stereotyping a whole group of people.”

Tauranga had “wonderful people”, said Luxton, along with “one or two I’d rather not share a city”. The Act Party was against stereotyping whole groups of people, he said.

From our partners at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner: 

This week is Privacy Week, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner wants people to think about who holds their information – and agencies to honour the trust placed in them.  In the latest Privacy Report, issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, New Zealanders appear less concerned about their own privacy than they were two years ago. Yet, six out of 10 of us are worried about businesses sharing our personal information without permission. To help increase awareness of your right to request information about who holds your personal data, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has shared the full privacy report here.

Learn more about why it’s important to know where your information is going. Sponsored

Covid-19 latest: 29 new deaths, 398 in hospital, 7,441 more cases

Image: Toby Morris

The director general of health has warned we could be heading for another winter outbreak of Covid-19.

There are 29 new deaths of people with Covid-19 being reported today. That includes two people in their 20s, and brings the overall pandemic death toll up to 940. The deaths being reported today include 14 people who have died in the previous two days, and an additional 15 people who died between March 24 and May 7.  The seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 14.

There are now 398 people in hospital with Covid-19, with just six now in intensive care.

Another 7,441 community cases have been recorded.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health, Ashley Bloomfield said he thought the country’s case numbers would come back to a baseline of 3,000 to 5,000. They seem to have instead bottomed out at around 7,500. Bloomfield said it was possible we could be heading for “another quite large” outbreak of cases during winter.

Hospitalisations have levelled off at the mid 300s, but could be heading back up as well.

The number of new cases continued to fluctuate, said Bloomfield. The most “important” number to consider was the rolling average of new cases. That number is today 7,548 – last Friday it was slightly higher at 7,555.

Bloomfield said the ministry was very nearly through the work of categorising all the reported deaths into those that were clearly from Covid-19, where it was a contributing factor and where it was incidental. “Then those details will be provided daily,” he said.

Auckland’s Covid numbers continue to be higher than all other regions, but it has dropped back from yesterday. Bloomfield said while Northern region case rates are creeping up, “we haven’t seen an increase in the virus in wastewater or the positivity rate of people presenting to hospital”. In Auckland, there are now 183 in hospital with Covid compared to 137 a week ago.

The higher cases could be because more people are reporting positive results. “It’s believed probably about half of cases are actually being reported,” said Bloomfield.

An update was expected “soon” on a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. “Eligibility criteria and rollout details are being finalised,” said Bloomfield. “We’re very keen that people, especially the elderly, have peak immunity of that fourth dose right at the time of the winter peak of omicron, predicted to be in July or August, meaning June will be the right time to roll out the vaccine.”

For people who have been infected with omicron but haven’t had a booster dose, research shows getting a booster (after a gap of three months) protects very well against reinfection.

Asked about New Zealand’s fairly low booster rate, Bloomfield said this was “vexing us”.

He added: “We’re looking at how we can get those rates up. Our approach is really positioning it around getting ready for winter.” There were no plans so far for a “Super Saturday” type vaccination event.

Meanwhile, Bloomfield said influenza A has already been confirmed in the student population in Dunedin and in Queenstown. The current flu vaccine affords a good level of protection, he said, but there is expected to be a surge in hospitalisations when RSV, influenza and Covid outbreaks coincide.

Bloomfield said he won’t be reconsidering his decision to step down as director general even if Covid cases start to surge again.

Watch: Bloomfield back with first 1pm update in weeks

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 23: Director general of health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield during the press conference with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, after she announced the country will move to red traffic light settings, at the Beehive in Parliament on January 23, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will hold a 1pm Covid-19 update today, his first press conference on the pandemic in several weeks.

It’s not expected to be bad news, with the Ministry of Health saying Bloomfield will “provide updates on the response to the Omicron outbreak”.

Test yourself with our weekly news quiz

The Friday News Quiz

It’s Friday which means it’s time to buckle yourself into the hot seat of news knowledge. How much have you been paying attention this week? Test yourself below.

Meet five more New Zealand sporting icons in the new season trailer for Scratched

Scratched is back!

If you loved the first two seasons of the award-winning series Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends, you won’t want to miss the new trailer for season three.  

Scratched celebrates New Zealand sporting legends whose achievements have been forgotten by history, and season three – available on The Spinoff on Tuesday May 17 – recognises five more outstanding athletes. The trailer introduces us to the remarkable stories of triathlete Erin Baker, woodchopper Sheree Taylor, pole dancer Ryoko (Koko) Ibraki, boxer Ali Afakasi and runner Marise Chamberlain, as they look back on their sporting careers and the moments that defined their lives. Made with the support of NZ on Air.

Petrol hits record prices – and it could just be the beginning

The pain at the pump is real (Image / Tina Tiller & Getty Images)

Petrol has hit record prices in Auckland, despite the governments attempts to curb the cost of living crisis.

As we reported yesterday at least one petrol station is selling 91 fuel for $3.15 per litre – an all time high – while many stations are recording prices above $3.

The AA’s fuel prices spokesperson Terry Collins told The Spinoff this could just be the start. “It’s primarily driven by the uncertainty around Russia,” he said. “It’s still volatile. [Oil has] been jumping between, in the last two weeks, $100 and $112 a barrel. That’s really up and down.”

Collins said he sees the price for a barrel sitting around the $105 to $115 mark for a barrel for the next while, “but if it gets to $150 a barrel we could be in for $3.50 or $4 a litre”.

It’s anticipated that some sort of cost of living relief will be announced in next week’s budget, although finance minister Grant Robertson has indicated climate and health are the areas being focused on the most. If the tax cut gets taken off, Collins said there “won’t be a petrol grade under $3”.

Extending the excise tax cut and the reduction in public transport fares would be an obvious solution for the government, said Collins.

The 91 national average is now sitting at $2.85 a litre, a 23 cent rise in less than a month.

Vaccine passes set for booster update

Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

An updated vaccine pass will be available from May 24, taking into account that over 60% of the country has now had a booster dose.

While vaccine passes are no longer mandatory, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said it was a good idea for people to update theirs nonetheless. “Some businesses may be voluntarily keeping My Vaccine Pass requirements as a condition of entry,” he said.

“For this reason, it is a good idea to have an up-to-date My Vaccine Pass handy in case you are asked for it. I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with their vaccinations and download their updated pass as it’s an important record of their vaccination status.”

Like the existing certificate, the updated My Vaccine Passes will have an expiry date six months from the date of issue. It will look slightly different to the current pass but retain the same QR code.

Sources say merged RNZ/TVNZ entity likely to break away from NZ On Air

We’ve got a little more insight into what might be revealed in next week’s 2022 budget. Multiple sources have told The Spinoff the merger of TVNZ and RNZ is set to break it away from NZ On Air, a seismic event in the history of our media. Duncan Greive has the details:

Since its creation in the late 1980s, NZ on Air has been the most important player by far in delivering public funding for local television, radio and, latterly, digital media. Next week’s budget is likely to signal the end of that extraordinary dominance, however, several well-placed sources have told The Spinoff, with the merger of TVNZ and RNZ into a single, super-sized public broadcaster. The new public media entity – or “PME”, in the shorthand of government and media circles – is expected to be funded directly by government to support local content that cannot be fully commercially bankrolled, they say.

Read Duncan’s full report here.

Image: Tina Tiller

‘Hot spot for hate speech’: Te Pāti Māori not standing Tauranga candidate

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi  (Photo by Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Te Pāti Māori won’t be standing any candidates in the upcoming Tauranga by-election, citing safety concerns.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of National’s Simon Bridges, and a handful of hopefuls have since been announced as standing for the seat.

But Che Wilson, the president of Te Pāti Māori, said a recent DIA report made it clear Tauranga was a “hot spot for hate speech” from online white supremacists.

“Whilst this by-election could be an opportunity for Te Pāti Māori to advance our cause for a more just, equitable, equal, Tiriti-centric Aotearoa, we have made the decision to not stand a candidate,” Wilson said. “The first hate-speech conviction and the belittling of te reo Māori at a public event took place in Tauranga, even our co-leaders have been the recipient of threats and hate speech by Tauranga residents.”

Standing in the by-election would require “consciously sending our people into an unsafe environment”, Wilson said.

Those confirmed to be standing include banker Sam Uffindell for National, Act’s 2020 candidate Cameron Luxton, and Labour minister Jan Tinetti.

The Bulletin: Historic decision from church

The Presbytarian church has reached a decision to offer iwi first right of refusal on any future sale of church-owned land. The church owns a lot of land in New Zealand and its assets are estimated to be worth $1.5 billion. Much of their land was acquired through land sales and gifts, but as Te Aniwa Hurihanganui reports for 1 News, other areas are thought to have been inherited by the Crown following the New Zealand Land Wars. Land was confiscated from tribes who had rebelled against the government and from those who had fought alongside the government. Religious historian professor Peter Lineham said  “Those confiscations are a very black mark against the New Zealand government and all that inherited the land.”

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 arrested over parliament occupation riot

A rioter throws a desk on to a fire by the parliamentary playground at the end of the parliament occupation, March 2, 2022. (Photo: Marty Melville / AFP via Getty Images)

Three people have been arrested in relation to the final day of the parliamentary occupation back on March 2.

Police in Tasman executed two search warrants in Golden Bay yesterday, where two people – a 29-year-old man and 29-year-old woman – were arrested. The man has been charged with intentional damage and doing a dangerous act with intent, both related to the fires set on parliament grounds.

The woman has been charged with doing a dangerous act with intent and rioting.

Meanwhile, a 50-year-old man was also arrested in Nelson and will face charges of assault with a weapon, doing a dangerous act with intent and rioting.

Police said further arrests are expected as the investigation progresses. “A dedicated investigation team continues to work towards identifying anyone involved in violent criminal offending,” said a police spokesperson.

A man throws a desk onto a fire that rages on the grounds in front of parliament (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)