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Live UpdatesJun 13 2022

Cabinet reshuffle sees Poto Williams stripped of police role

It’s Monday June 13 and this is The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Trevor Mallard and Kris Faafoi will leave parliament, it has been announced.
  • Poto Williams has been stripped of the police portfolio. Chris Hipkins will take on the role.
  • Sāmoan prime minister arrives in NZ for bilateral talks with Ardern.
  • The anticipated “ad free” tier of TVNZ OnDemand has not been launched despite a fancy rebrand of the service.
  • Covid-19 update: Rolling case numbers drop below 6,000, five new deaths.
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Cabinet reshuffle sees Poto Williams stripped of police role

It’s Monday June 13 and this is The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • Trevor Mallard and Kris Faafoi will leave parliament, it has been announced.
  • Poto Williams has been stripped of the police portfolio. Chris Hipkins will take on the role.
  • Sāmoan prime minister arrives in NZ for bilateral talks with Ardern.
  • The anticipated “ad free” tier of TVNZ OnDemand has not been launched despite a fancy rebrand of the service.
  • Covid-19 update: Rolling case numbers drop below 6,000, five new deaths.
Jun 13 2022

Closure of last MIQ facilities brought forward, again

The final three remaining managed isolation and quarantine facilities will close by June 30, the government has announced.

“We are currently still operating three facilities for refugees, returnees from Afghanistan and a small number of community cases. However, from the end of June no new arrivals at the border are expected to enter MIQ,” said head of MIQ Andrew Milne in a statement.

In early March, as the border began to gradually reopen, the decommissioning of MIQ facilities began, and it was announced that just four facilities – the Holiday Inn, Jet Park and Waipuna hotels in Auckland, and a facility in Christchurch – would have their contracts extended beyond the end of June. In early May it was announced these four would be wound up by the end of August. Today’s statement said the Christchurch facility had already closed, and the three Auckland facilities would follow by June 30.

Milne said in the two years the system had been running, MIQ had caught more than 4,600 cases of Covid at the border, and has housed 230,000 returning travellers and nearly 5,000 community cases. At its height, there were 32 facilities employing more than 4,000 workers at any one time.

Photo: RNZ

‘An honour’: Outgoing minister Kris Faafoi says now is ‘the right time’ to leave

Kris Faafoi, the outgoing minister of immigration, justice and broadcasting, says he’ll leave parliament with a “heavy heart”. But, after 12 years, he thinks now is the “right time” to bow out of politics.

It was announced this afternoon that Faafoi, along with Speaker Trevor Mallard, will be leaving politics. Faafoi had previously signalled his intention to leave before the 2020 election, but was persuaded to stay on by senior leadership.

In a statement, Faafoi thanked Jacinda Ardern for the “privilege” of serving as a minister. “It’s been an honour to serve New Zealanders as a minister and as a member of parliament, but it is right for me to give more time to my family and for opportunities that allow that,” he said.

“I am the father of George, Fred and Theo who say they want to see more of their Dad, which is something I think is a reasonable ask.”

Faafoi said Ardern was aware of his intention to leave, and he formally indicated he’d be stepping down during a conversation with her in the last school holidays. “I thank her for being supportive and allowing me to call time on my political career. I remain in awe of her strength and leadership,” he said.

“While I leave as a list MP, I did serve 10 years as the Labour member of parliament for Mana, I wish to thank and acknowledge the people of Mana for backing me for a decade. It was rewarding, challenging and a privilege that I never took for granted.”

After first arriving at parliament as a press gallery journalist, Faafoi went on to become a staffer before an MP, then whip, and a minister. “It is fair to say I’ve seen many aspects of parliament first hand and I will truly miss the energy and the people,” he said.

Trevor Mallard and Kris Faafoi to leave parliament, Poto Williams demoted

Minister Kris Faafoi and Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard have announced they are departing politics. And, as predicted, police minister Poto Williams will lose her police portfolio.

Mallard has been in politics for more than three decades but has faced growing criticism over his handling of the parliamentary occupation earlier this year.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, prime minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Mallard would take up a diplomatic posting in Europe once leaving politics in mid-August. “After the 2020 election, Trevor told me he wanted to transition out of his role as speaker,” said Ardern.

Adrian Rurawhe will be nominated as Mallard’s replacement. Mallard becomes the third of the most recent five speakers to take up diplomatic roles abroad.

Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Faafoi will leave politics to spend more time with his family as his son starts school, said Ardern. “He had intended to leave 18 months ago but I asked him to give another year.” Ardern thanked him for his “valuable” work in the immigration and broadcasting portfolios. “We can never miss him as much as his family already has, and I think him for the gift of his time.”

With Williams being pulled from her police role, minister Chris Hipkins will move into the portfolio. Kiri Allan will become justice minister, replacing Faafoi, and take up an associate finance position. “Kiri is a very capable minister… she has a big future ahead of her,” said Ardern.

Ardern said despite Williams losing her role, she retained confidence in her as a minister. “Poto and I share a view that at this time it’s critical that our focus is on supporting the police… that focus currently has been lost,” said Ardern. “Poto is a capable minister and retains my confidence – that’s why she is still in cabinet – but change is required.”

Williams picks up the conservation and disability issues roles.

Police minister Poto Williams (Image / Getty Images)

To free Hipkins up for his new role, Ardern said “a significant part” of his education portfolio will move to Jan Tinetti, the associate minister. He also loses the Covid-19 response minister to Ayesha Verrall, who has been heavily involved in the Covid-19 response. “Having moved from the emergency to the ongoing response now is the right time for her to pick up the Covid-19 response portfolio,” said Ardern. She also picks up research, science and innovation.

Michael Wood has been named immigration minister. Willie Jackson will move into the broadcasting role.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan is moving into cabinet, retaining all current portfolios and picking up associate workplace relations with a focus on migrant exploitation. Kieran McAnulty becomes a minister outside of cabinet, with a specific focus on regional issues. He will also become associate transport and associate local government minister, and pick up emergency management
and racing portfolios. He also becomes deputy leader of house.

Finally, Meka Whaitiri moves into the food safety portfolio. Ardern said she has done an “excellent” job as minister for customs.

Today’s cabinet reshuffle was advertised by the prime minister’s office as “minor”. Despite this, a number of fairly major changes have been announced. Ardern said today’s announcement is “an acknowledgement of our two departing colleagues but they’re also a nod to the future”.

She added: “Even with just two departures, the knock-on effect of reallocating portfolios can give the appearance of quite a bit of movement but no I don’t consider this to be an overwhelming reshuffle.”

At the beginning of 2023 there will be a more comprehensive review of the lineup.

Asked whether Mallard’s departure was linked to public pressure, Ardern said no. “It was his intention over the course of this term to move someone else into the role,” she said. “Trevor’s had a very hard job, exacerbated by some issues that no other speaker has had to face. This is not the reason for his departure.”

She defended his personality when asked if he had the “temperament” for a diplomatic position. “He is well placed to take on a further role on behalf of New Zealand,” Ardern said.

Cabinet reshuffle sparked by Mallard, Faafoi resignations – report

Updated

It’s being reported that two senior Labour MPs will be quitting politics, triggering this afternoon’s “minor” cabinet reshuffle.

According to Newsroom’s Jo Moir, Kris Faafoi will be leaving ahead of next year’s general election. RNZ reported that Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard, who has faced a wave of criticism over his handling of the parliament occupation in February, will be going too.

Many expected today’s reshuffle would see under fire minister Poto Williams dumped from her police portfolio, but she’s now likely to be safe.

Faafoi, the immigration, justice and broadcasting minister, had previously signalled his intention to quit politics, though it was expected this would happen at the next election.

As a list MP, any decision by Faafoi to leave politics during a term of office would not trigger a costly byelection.

As immigration minister, Faafoi has been dealing with the reopening of the New Zealand border. With his broadcasting hat on, he’s been fronting the merger of TVNZ and RNZ that’s not set to be completed until mid-2023.

The rumoured departure of Mallard is something of a surprise. Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly defended his performance as speaker despite calls by the opposition – as recently as this morning – for him to be dumped. Labour MP Adrian Rurawhe, the deputy speaker, would likely step up to replace Mallard (with the support of National, too).

The decision to use today’s reshuffle to reallocate Faafoi’s roles would likely indicate that ministers Poto Williams and Nanaia Mahuta, who has also faced significant scrutiny for her performance in the local government and foreign affairs roles, are safe for the time being.

Faafoi had previously wished to leave politics at the 2020 election but was persuaded to stay on by senior leadership.

Jacinda Ardern will speak at 3pm and we’ll have all the details.

Covid-19 update: Rolling case numbers drop below 6,000, five new deaths

The average number of new Covid-19 cases has dropped again after the weekend. It’s sitting at 5,921 – this time last week, it was 6,574.

Today the Ministry of Health has reported another 4,413 new community infections across the country. Of those, 1,312 were in Auckland. The number of new Covid-19 cases is, however, typically lower after a weekend.

Another five people with Covid-19 have died, bringing New Zealand’s pandemic death toll up to 1,325 and the rolling average over the past week to 13.

All of today’s deaths were people over the age of 60, with two from Auckland, one from Waikato, one from Bay of Plenty and one from Canterbury.

There are 352 people in hospital with Covid-19, including nine in intensive care.

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Squid Game back for season two, confirms Netflix

It was widely speculated that Netflix’s hugely popular South Korean drama Squid Game would be back for a second round (it was green lit last year). But now, the show’s creator and the streaming service have confirmed it.

Squid Game became Netflix’s biggest show ever when it launched last year. While a launch date for season two has not been announced, it’s expected to not be for a while – maybe 2024.

In a post online, creator Hwang Dong-hyuk thanked the show’s fans for making Squid Game so successful within two weeks of launching on Netflix last September. “Join us once more for a whole new round,” he wrote.

Keeping up with housing needs in NZ’s biggest city

(Image: Richard Parry)

Auckland is in a perpetual cycle of growth and change, and right now its residents are demanding more variety in housing options. But how will the city keep up with the demands of its growing population?

Ben Fahy wrote for The Spinoff about what makes a city liveable, and how we begin to make Auckland a place with housing options for everyone.

Read the full piece here. (Sponsored)

Sāmoan prime minister arrives in NZ for bilateral talks with Ardern

Sāmoa’s prime minister has arrived in New Zealand ahead of a series of engagements – and an official meeting with Jacinda Ardern.

1News reported that Fiame Naomi Mata’afa landed in the country last night. She’s set to meet with Ardern tomorrow during a visit to Wellington. It will be her first bilateral since becoming leader of Sāmoa about a year ago and comes as tensions in the Pacific grow over China’s spreading influence.

It’s Ardern’s third major political meeting in as many weeks, following a high profile visit to the White House to visit president Joe Biden and last week’s trip to Australia for a face-to-face with Anthony Albanese.

This year marks 60 years since Sāmoan independence and the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between Sāmoa and New Zealand.

PM to announce ‘minor’ cabinet reshuffle today

The prime minister will announce a cabinet reshuffle this afternoon.

It comes as the performance of ministers like Poto Williams, Nanaia Mahuta and Kris Faafoi have faced increasing scrutiny in the media and attacks from the opposition.

A statement from the prime minister’s office confirmed a “minor cabinet reshuffle” would be announced at 3pm today. No further details were announced.

Writing for Newsroom, Jo Moir said it was “understood” that Poto Williams would lose the police portfolio as tensions grow over a rise in gun and gang violence. Moir speculated that a “safe pair of hands” like senior minister Megan Woods could be brought in to take over the role, or it could be gifted back to former police minister Stuart Nash.

The reshuffle follows a spree of political polls that have placed National ahead of Labour, though few show the opposition would be able to govern without the unlikely support of Te Pāti Māori.

TVNZ OnDemand rebrands – but ads remain

TVNZ OnDemand has become TVNZ+.

The state broadcaster’s online streaming service has been given a fresh coat of paint, with a new website and app available on compatible devices.

But despite persistent rumours, and a pledge from the company’s ex-CEO during an interview with The Spinoff, no ad-free subscription tier has been revealed today.

TVNZ+ is here (Supplied)

The new service was designed in-house at TVNZ and will “firmly cement the platform’s position as a comprehensive streaming destination”, according to a press release.

Further changes have been teased, with TVNZ saying today’s rebrand was part of a “multi-year digital transformation” that was focused on “redesigning TVNZ for a digital future”.

The new homepage of TVNZ+ (Screenshot)

The Bulletin: Consultation on Christchurch stadium more popular than budget

The Christchurch city council had received 3000 submissions by late Friday on the future of the proposed stadium after opening consultation at midday that same day. They received 500 submissions on its latest budget over the course of a month. The council is consulting the public after the forecast costs to build the stadium increased from $533m to $683m. Things are getting heated with Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan questioning mayor Lianne Dalziel’s commitment to the project, while Dalziel has said she is frustrated at the nature of some of the debate.

In other stadium and sportsground news, New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park may need a serious upgrade if they want to continue hosting cricket and the trust behind Wellington’s Sky Stadium has had to scale back its insurance cover due to rising insurance costs.

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 hopeful movement can still be made on Australia’s 501 deportation policy

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern remains confident progress will be made in getting Australia to tone down its controversial 501 deportation policy.

That’s despite a face-to-face meeting between Ardern and Australian PM Anthony Albanese before the weekend yielding no change on the issue.

Following the meeting, Albanese said he would be maintaining the policy but acknowledged Ardern’s “forceful” argument for an amendment.

Ardern told RNZ that her concerns had been listened to – and called her meeting with Albanese a “reset” of the trans-Tasman relationship. “Anthony Albanese has expressed that [deportations] is an area that he will look at,” she said.

The pair next meet at a ministerial conference in Sydney in July. Despite this, Ardern said she wasn’t necessarily anticipating that meeting would be when any progress was made either. “I’m realistic about timelines,” she said. “For me I’ll be looking for signs that this continues to be taken seriously.”

New Zealand had struggled to make any ground on the issues “for a number of years”, said Ardern, but there was now a chance for a shift in the policy. “We’re not asking Australia to stop deporting because we deport,” Ardern added. “I won’t make a judgement until we see the final outcome of those talks.”

Ardo and Albo (Photo / Getty Images)