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blog dec 13


New Year’s in orange for all but Northland

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 13. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me at

Today’s traffic light decision + Covid headlines

  • Auckland will move to the orange level of the traffic light framework on December 30.
  • All other red regions, except Northland, will move on that date as well.
  • It will mark approximately four weeks since the traffic light framework came into effect (or two virus incubation cycles).
  • Today saw 101 new community delta cases, with 97 in Auckland.
  • There are 61 people in hospital with Covid-19, including four in intensive care.
blog dec 13

New Year’s in orange for all but Northland

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 13. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me at

Today’s traffic light decision + Covid headlines

  • Auckland will move to the orange level of the traffic light framework on December 30.
  • All other red regions, except Northland, will move on that date as well.
  • It will mark approximately four weeks since the traffic light framework came into effect (or two virus incubation cycles).
  • Today saw 101 new community delta cases, with 97 in Auckland.
  • There are 61 people in hospital with Covid-19, including four in intensive care.
Dec 13 2021

Bloomfield: Change to booster dose gap being considered

The Ministry of Health’s technical advisory group will be considering shortening the booster dose interval tomorrow, Ashley Bloomfield said at this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference.

Currently, people are only able to get a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine six months after their second. That means it is largely just frontline health workers and the most vulnerable who can currently access them.

Bloomfield said any new advice will be announced mid to late this week.

The call to shorten the gap comes in the face of the new omicron variant. Earlier today, the National Party argued for the interval to be brought forward. In the UK, the gap between the second dose and the booster is just three months.

PM Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield at yesterday's press conference (Getty Images)
PM Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield at a press conference (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, and also as a result of omicron’s emergence, cabinet will review the decision to open quarantine-free travel to New Zealanders in Australia on January 17 to see if there is any evidence it shouldn’t go ahead. This review will take place in the first week of the new year.

All red regions, except Northland, to shift to orange on December 30

Almost all of the country will see the start of 2022 in at level “orange”.

Auckland will move move down out of the red level of the traffic light framework on Thursday, December 30. That’s approximately four weeks after the traffic light system came into play and therefore two full transmission cycles of the virus.

All other “red” regions, except Northland, will move to orange on that same date as well.

Speaking at parliament, Jacinda Ardern said this decision was made based on the advice of director general of health Ashley Bloomfield. She said it took into account vaccination rates, the health system capacity and the status of the current outbreak.

It is encouraging to see the numbers in Auckland drop, said Ardern. “This lower case number in Auckland is good news for all of us,” said Ardern. “There is good cause for optimism.”

Acknowledging the fact that Northland will remain the only region in red, Ardern said she anticipates it too will move eventually. “This is just about being cautious,” she said.

Despite calls from the South Island, it too will remain in orange across the summer period. No part of the country is moving to green.

The next full review of the traffic lights will be January 17. A check-in regarding the new omicron variant will take place around this time as well.

Watch: Ardern to give traffic light update at 4pm

The final review of the traffic light framework for 2021 will be revealed at 4pm when Jacinda Ardern fronts this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference.

It’s been less than a fortnight – or, less than one Covid transmission cycle – since the framework was first introduced. Today’s review comes ahead of the Auckland border dropping on Wednesday night and will finalise what “colour” of the system each region is in for the Christmas and New Year period.

Here’s a livestream or keep the live updates feed open for rolling coverage from 4pm.

Read more: Toby Manhire on whether the Covid red lights could turn orange before Christmas

John Key’s former policy advisor headed back to parliament

National leader Christopher Luxon has brought back a former player from the John Key and Bill English years.

Cameron Burrows, who worked under Key and English as chief policy advisor, will join Luxon’s team as chief of staff. Burrows has most recently worked at the Electricity Retailers’ Association as chief executive.

“I’m delighted to have Cameron on board. He brings a great mix of policy, communications and political experience,” Luxon said in a statement.

Documents reveal contact between police boss and Brian Tamaki

A top police boss texted Brian Tamaki on the day the church leader hosted an anti-lockdown protest, reminding him to follow health rules.

Texts obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act show deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha sent a series of messages on Saturday, October 2 to the Destiny Church founder.

“Kia ora Brian. Can you ensure that the museum isn’t impacted,” said one message. “Brian you need to tell the people to social distance otherwise they are in breach of the Health Order and the organisers become liable for the rally,” read another.

Tamaki did not respond until the next day where he said that the rally went well.

He’s since been charged three times after appearing at similar protests in breach of Auckland’s health restrictions.

Tamaki had been in contact with Haumaha and police commissioner Andrew Coster in the weeks leading up to the first of several large rallies. As an organiser, Tamaki had promised to make sure Covid rules were followed, including mask use and QR code scanning, but many of those in attendance flagrantly went against them.

The shape of the delta outbreak

Here’s a look at how the delta outbreak is tracking ahead of this afternoon’s traffic light update. There were 101 new community cases today.

Note: the Ministry of Health has not yet provided the latest vaccination data and has stopped providing the number of mystery cases in its daily update.

101 new delta cases, including one in Christchurch

There are 101 new community cases of Covid-19, including one in Canterbury. The other new cases are spread across Auckland (97) and Bay of Plenty (one), with cases in Taranaki and Nelson officially added to the tally after being reported yesterday.

There are now 61 people in hospital with Covid-19, including four in intensive care.

The new Christchurch case is a household member of previously reported cases and was already in a managed isolation facility when they tested positive. 

The new Bay of Plenty case is in Tauranga. They are so far unlinked to the wider outbreak and are being investigated for any links to previously reported cases.

Contacts are being identified and will be contacted for testing and isolation advice.

The Ministry of Health has not been able to provide the latest vaccination data due to “a delay in reporting”. It will be made available later today.

Anyone with Covid symptoms, no matter their vaccination status or location, is asked to get a test.

Latest Covid numbers due at 1pm

As is the norm for a Monday, we’re expecting the latest Covid-19 numbers via written statement around 1pm. I’ll have all the details for you as soon as they arrive in my inbox.

Today’s Covid updates is the final one cabinet will consider before this afternoon’s traffic light update.

We’ve seen a noticeable drop in Covid cases over the past week or so. Here’s hoping that trend continues today.

National calls for booster shot gap to be reduced

National’s calling for booster shots to be made available earlier in preparation for the arrival of omicron.

The UK recently halved the gap that booster shots should be taken after the second vaccine dose from six months to three months.

Chris Bishop, National’s Covid response spokesperson, said we should follow suit. “The emerging evidence is that there is a reduction in antibodies that fight omicron in people who have just two doses of Pfizer, whereas a third dose restores protection to its full level,” he said.  

“On top of that, is it now very clear that a booster dose on top of the initial two doses substantially boosts protection against delta, which is still the dominant strain in New Zealand.”

Extremely Online: In defence of stans

Why are young women screaming at a One Direction concert looked down on as hysterical, but grown men screaming at a game on TV is just seen as part of being a sports fan? The Shit You Should Care About team stands up for stans in this week’s episode of Extremely Online.

Transmission Gully reopening pushed back again

The long-awaited Transmission Gully highway north of Wellington will not open in time for Christmas.

According to Stuff, it’s the fifth launch date missed by the motorway since it was first planned to be open in April 2020.

Waka Kotahi board chair Brian Roche said all the tasks necessary for the road to open this year could not be done in time. “With many outstanding issues yet to be addressed, tests to be met and consent tasks to complete, there is a lack of sufficient assurance that road opening pre-Christmas is achievable,” Roche said.

A mid-January 2022 date is now possible.

The Fold’s year in Aotearoa media

For the final episode of The Fold this year, Duncan Greive has attempted to summarise the last 12 months in the New Zealand media industry with a trademark monopod. What were the biggest stories, strongest themes and most significant changes? How have all the big players been performing, and what does it all mean? Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

PM admits she wants house prices to drop in 2022

The prime minister has admitted she wants house prices to fall in 2022.

While house prices have skyrocketed under her leadership, Jacinda Ardern had previously chosen not to say whether she wanted them to drop. But, in an end of year interview with RNZ, Ardern appeared to change her stance.

“We need [the market] to stop heading in the direction it is,” she said. “Even if you saw [prices] come away, in many cases it would be bringing [them] back to levels that we were at only a year or two ago.”

Simply asked whether she wanted prices to decrease, Ardern said “yes”.

However, she did not want to see the market collapse. “The reason that we cannot afford to have a housing market collapse is because, of course, this is the most significant asset that most New Zealanders have,” she said. “But I think everyone would agree we cannot continue to see what we’re seeing at the moment.”

Staffer at centre of Nick Smith bullying claim feels let down by ex-employer

A former parliamentary staffer who claims he was bullied by ex-National MP Nick Smith feels let down by those who said they would protect him.

Both Newsroom and Stuff are today running interviews with the anonymous staffer who was at the centre of an incident that led to Smith’s resignation earlier this year. The staffer claims he was harassed and bullying by the National MP and eventually made a complaint about it to the Parliamentary Service, whose chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero had promised to look after him.

According to a draft report into the incident, Smith yelled and swore at the staffer in July 2020. He’s reported as saying: “I am the member of parliament, I’m an elected official … and you’re just a f…ing secretary”.

The draft report was released to both the staffer and Smith, but the latter resigned before the final report could be completed.

The staffer’s version of events is largely backed up by the report, despite Smith having filed a counter-claim shortly after the original complaint was made. Smith claimed that the staffer had sworn back at him but the report found this to be “unlikely”.

Since the report was first released, the staffer feels let down by his former employer. “Parliamentary Service encouraged me to speak out and all they have done is hide behind me,” he told Newsroom. “I think it has affected my career. Well, I’m not [at Parliament] anymore. That’s what I studied – I spent three years studying politics at university, I spent a year [in local politics] and then I spent a year in parliament,” he said.

Outgoing National MP Nick Smith
Former National MP Nick Smith (Image / Getty Images)

Traffic light decision day: can Auckland shift to orange?

It’s possible parts of the country could move from red to orange, or from orange to green, in time for the Christmas and New Year break.

Another traffic light announcement is due at 4pm today, after cabinet meets this afternoon to make its final planned Covid decision of the year. Currently, Auckland, Northland, Taupō, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts are all in the “red” setting with the rest of the country at orange.

Phil Goff, the mayor of Auckland, was hopeful of a move to orange ahead of Christmas but admitted it was likely still in the balance. “But there are a number of things aligning that would make it perfectly possible and desirable to go into orange. So my hope is that we will go into orange, but I’m not absolutely certain the government is ready to take that step yet,” he told the Herald. 

“The government has a track record of being quite cautious, and I suppose we should be grateful for that. But I think we are on the cusp of going into orange.”

Covid-19 cases have generally been trending downward over the past 10 days, since the move into the new framework. Yesterday there were 103 cases but Saturday saw the lowest number of new cases in six weeks.

Taupō mayor David Trewavas told RNZ that several key events hinged on a move to orange, and he was keeping his fingers crossed it would be announced today. “We’d dearly love to be in orange and I think we deserve it. Then we can go ahead with the races, and the Greenstone concerts, and all those activities that Taupō is world famous for,” he said.

Today’s Covid-19 cases will be released at 1pm while Jacinda Ardern will make the traffic light announcement at 4pm.