blog feb 14


981 new Covid-19 cases; hospitalisations also increase

Hello and welcome to another week on The Spinoff’s live updates. Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me on

The latest

  • There are 981 new community cases of Covid-19.
  • The occupation at parliament has entered its second week. Police remain stationed outside the Beehive.
blog feb 14

981 new Covid-19 cases; hospitalisations also increase

Hello and welcome to another week on The Spinoff’s live updates. Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me on

The latest

  • There are 981 new community cases of Covid-19.
  • The occupation at parliament has entered its second week. Police remain stationed outside the Beehive.
Feb 14 2022

‘Productive talks’ held with some parliament protesters, police say

Protesters’ cars blocking Molesworth St outside parliament (Photo: Justin Giovannetti)

Police have had “productive talks” with some protest groups at parliament today, and “attempts to connect with other factions are ongoing”, according to a statement from Superintendent Corrie Parnell, the Wellington district commander.

A lack of leadership at the occupation, in its seventh day, has been an ongoing problem for police, with reports of increasing division among protesters.

Police have been urging protesters whose cars are blocking streets around parliament to move their vehicles as soon as possible, and the nearby Sky Stadium has been offered up as an alternative parking venue from 6.30pm tonight (see 12.10pm update).

There were “no incidents of note” at the protest today, said Parnell, but “the number of children present continues to be a very real concern”.

“Police are fully aware of the disruption and frustration caused to the community – we all want to resolve this matter as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Parnell, describing the protest as “a difficult situation”.

Protesters’ vehicles blocking Molesworth St outside parliament (Photo: Justin Giovannetti)

Ardern won’t say whether turning sprinklers on protesters was ‘kind’

(Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images

Was the decision to turn parliament’s sprinklers on when protesters were gathered on the grass outside in line with Jacinda Ardern’s mantra of “being kind”?

The prime minister has chosen not to answer that question when asked today’s post-cabinet press conference. Instead, Ardern again reiterated her desire to see the protest end. She said the roles of the police and the speaker of parliament – who chose to turn the sprinklers on – were not hers to comment on. “I’m not here to pass judgement on the way that either do their job,” she said.

On whether anyone from government would meet a delegation from the protest, Ardern indicated that was unlikely.

Self-isolation period to drop as omicron ‘phase two’ kicks in

Image: Toby Morris

New Zealand will move to phase two of the omicron response plan from 11.59pm tomorrow night.

Speaking at parliament, Jacinda Ardern confirmed this would mean the self-isolation period for confirmed Covid-19 cases would drop to 10 days – including for household contacts.

Close contacts will need to self-isolate for seven days, instead of the current 10. This can be served concurrently, said Ardern, removing the potential for people in the same household to have to isolate for long periods of time unless they test positive themselves

Ardern said the move to phase two was triggered by the expected rise in community omicron infections.

Another key change of phase two is the introduction of the test to work scheme. That will mean that asymptomatic close contacts in critical workplaces will be able to continue going to work should they return a negative rapid antigen test.

Once again, the prime minister reminded everyone to get a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. “The third dose makes the difference,” she said. While many New Zealanders have been boosted, “the work is not yet done”.

Ardern said that the country is now embarking into a time when we will see a lot more Covid-19 in the community.

Watch: Ardern poised to reveal next steps as omicron cases surge

(Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern will front a post-cabinet press conference at parliament where she is expected to reveal whether New Zealand’s omicron response will move to “phase two”. That doesn’t entail extra restrictions, but rather signals that omicron has become more embedded in the community. As a result, changes to contact tracing and self-isolation requirements will kick in.

You can tune in below or follow along with our live coverage.

Press gallery journalist returns positive RAT result for Covid-19

Photo: Getty Images

Today’s post-cabinet press conference will be a bit quieter. A member of the press gallery at parliament has returned a positive rapid antigen result for Covid-19.

That means a number of political journalists based at parliament, deemed close contacts, will not be able to attend the scheduled 4pm press conference with Jacinda Ardern. The Spinoff’s political editor Justin Giovannetti is not considered a close contact.

The journalist who returned the positive RAT result must now seek a PCR test to verify the infection.

A number of the journalists now potentially exposed to Covid-19 will also have been in contact with protesters at the rally outside parliament – many of whom are likely unvaccinated.

Aucklanders urged to avoid unnecessary Covid tests as pressure on testing centres grows

Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Aucklanders are being urged to follow public health advice on whether they need to get a Covid test as unprecedented case numbers put testing centres and labs under increased pressure.

“With the high numbers of daily cases in Auckland we understand that people may be feeling anxious, but we are asking everyone to follow this advice and help us ensure the right people get access to testing,” said Dr Andrew Old, chief clinical officer for Northern Regional Health Coordination, which operates the Covid response of the three Auckland DHBs, in a statement.

“If you have no symptoms of Covid-19 and do not meet any other criteria, you do not need to be tested.  In order to manage demand, people who do not meet the criteria may be turned away.”

Today Auckland recorded 768 new cases, 78% of the nationwide tally, and a sizeable increase on previous daily numbers.

According to the statement, the only people who need to be tested currently are those who:

  • have Covid-19 symptoms (eg a fever, new or worsening cough, sore or scratchy throat, shortness of breath, sneezing and running nose);
  • are a close contact of someone who has Covid-19;
  • have had a positive rapid antigen test;
  • are required to have a test under a mandatory testing order (eg a border or MIQ worker);
  • work directly with Covid-19 patients;
  • are attending a procedure or appointment at a public hospital, and have been asked to get a test; or
  • have been told to get a test by a health official

“We understand that extended waiting times can be frustrating but we ask that you are patient with our testing staff who are working as quickly and as carefully as they can,” said Old.

“You are also required to stay home until you get a negative result. Although most results are returned within one to days, results can take longer so please be patient. If you have not been notified of your result after five days, contact your GP or primary care provider.”

Cars queuing for a Covid test at Balmoral testing centre in Auckland today (Photo: Jane Yee)

Watch: First trailer for Lord of the Rings series released

Galadriel, commander of the Northern Armies. (MATT GRACE/AMAZON STUDIOS.)

It’s here! The first teaser trailer for Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings series has been released.

Subtitled “The Rings of the Power”, the New Zealand-shot series will premiere on Amazon Prime in September.

Oh, and if you’re in the mood for trailers… These two just look really cool:

Justin Giovannetti: the Wellington protest at one week

Photo: Justin Giovannetti

The protest around parliament has begun to settle into place as it turns a week old, with tents and tables springing up on the streets around the Beehive. Walking down Molesworth Street and along Lambton Quay, the atmosphere is constantly in flux. At some points it feels like a sodden music festival, at others a family camp in the middle of the city. Then it suddenly shifts, with tension bubbling and hard eyes looking at you. You best keep walking, quickly and not look too interested.

The local streets are now a collection of utes and camper vans. In some places, the sidewalks are home to camping stoves, children and dogs. The only place left to walk is down the middle of the street, where cars have been parked for days. It would usually take me about a minute to get from my desk at parliament to the Backbencher pub across the street. Today, it took me about 15 minutes. There were barricades, from both the protesters and police requiring a significant detour. I then had to pick my way down Molesworth Street, around a mobile soup kitchen, outdoor bathrooms and some of the new occupants who made it very clear I wasn’t welcome. I didn’t introduce myself as a journalist, but I wore a mask. That’s trouble enough.

(Image: Justin Giovannetti)

Most Wellingtonians now know to stay away from the area around parliament. The civil service has told employees to stay home. Businesses are closed and the tunnel connecting the area to Wellington station has been shuttered and padlocked. You’re either in the protest, in which case, “Freedom!”, grab a sausage and one of the many political signs. Or you’re not part of the protest. You’re wearing a mask and haven’t figured out yet that this part of Wellington isn’t yours anymore. Leave quickly before you join the hundreds of stories of people harassed and abused.

The area around parliament is both a friendly mass of people, who offer hugs and yoga, as well as an unruly and potentially dangerous mob. It depends on who you are. The police have brought in concrete barricades and an overwhelming presence. The protesters have made their beds. Both sides are dug in.

A message from editor Madeleine Chapman

Times are tough for a lot of people at the moment. The Spinoff is both experiencing the pinch and working hard to tell the stories from every sector. If you aren’t in a position to make a contribution right now, ask your boss to consider an organisation membership.

Share the load and help us continue telling stories from all around Aotearoa –  for more info on how to donate as an organisation.

Protest groups form alliance, co-sign letter to MPs and send Counterspin in a spin

Image: Facebook grab

In an attempt to present a united front from a demonstration that has shown signs of factional splintering, a speaker at the occupation of parliament grounds has spoken to the crown of around 2,000 people, announcing a coalition of anti-mandate and anti-vaccine groups and their demands to the government. Flanked by upside-down New Zealand and United Tribes flags, he listed the alliance “representing the majority of groups at parliament today” as: Convoy 2022 NZ, Voices for Freedom, NZ Doctors Speaking Out with Science, the Freedom Alliance, the Outdoors Freedom Movement, and the Destiny-Church-backed Freedom and Rights Coalition. 

Reading from the letter, he said: “All agree that the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act and all the orders and mandates made under that legislation must be revoked immediately. Those represented request an urgent meeting with senior cabinet ministers to open dialogue.” He falsely claimed that Covid was no more serious than influenza. 

Not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, however: on the event livestream of the conspiracy-peddling Counterspin NZ, concerns were quickly raised about whether “the people” had been consulted, the political motivations of the Brian Tamaki launched Freedom and Rights Coalition’s role, and whether the letter’s demands went far enough. “The crowd should have been spoken to before they started making deals,” said the studio anchor. “It doesn’t seem like they’re particularly concerned with ending the whole of the tyranny,” lamented the Counterspin correspondent at parliament.

981 new community Covid-19 cases

Image: Toby Morris

The number of community Covid-19 cases has risen once again, with 981 recorded nationwide yesterday. That’s up from yesterday’s high of 810.

Most of the cases – 768 of them – were registered in Auckland, with the city remaining the epicentre of the community outbreak. In addition, 21 cases were confirmed in Northland, 82 in Waikato, 23 in Bay of Plenty, 12 in the Lakes DHB area, five in Hawke’s Bay, five in MidCentral, one in Taranaki, six in Tairawhiti, 12 in Wairarapa, six in Wellington, 14 in the Hutt Valley, two in Nelson Marlborough, four in Canterbury, one in South Canterbury and 19 in the Southern DHB area.

The rise in cases was despite a decrease in the number of tests taken yesterday, with 17,616 recorded in the past 24 hours (down on the seven day average of 20,732).

At the border, another 25 cases – including eight historical – were confirmed.

The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has also increased to 39, although none are in intensive care.

Today’s case numbers mean a move to “phase two” of the omicron response is likely in the coming days. That would see the isolation period for cases drop to 10 days and seven days for contacts. More information is expected at today’s 4pm post-cabinet press conference.

“Once again, the further increase in new cases today is another reminder that, as expected, the highly transmissible omicron variant is now spreading in our communities as we have seen in other countries,” said the Ministry of Health.

“That’s why as well as getting vaccinated and boosted, it’s vitally important that people also continue to do the basics well – staying home if you’re unwell, wearing a mask, physical distancing and scanning in using the NZ Covid Tracer app when you’re out and about.”

Yesterday, 21,588 boosters doses were administered despite the weather.

For more: Visit The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here

Parliament protesters offered nearby Sky Stadium as a carpark

(Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

Protesters outside parliament will be able to park their cars at Sky Stadium in order to ease congestion in Wellington, police have announced.

Many of the streets surrounding parliament remain inaccessible to commuters and emergency services as they are currently being used as a carpark.

Superintendent Corrie Parnell said from 6.30pm tonight, vehicles can be moved to the nearby stadium. “The disruption to residents, schools and places of work, is creating real stress and concern, and people are feeling unsafe,” he said. “Overnight some protesters did move vehicles that were obstructing the roads which is greatly appreciated by police and the public.”

Throughout the day, police will be providing the owners of vehicles currently blocking roads with information on how and when they can relocate their vehicles to the stadium. “We would like to thank Sky Stadium for providing a solution that we believe will work for protesters and allow our Wellington community the ability to move freely through their city again,” said Parnell.

In the meantime, police are once again asking protesters to relocate their vehicles from the road and into legitimate parking as soon as possible.

Phil Goff announces retirement from politics

Phil Goff (Photo: Getty Images)

The Auckland mayor and former leader of the Labour Party, Phil Goff, has announced that he will not seek a third term leading the supercity council and will leave politics in October, confirming months of speculation that he would call it a day. Goff was first elected to parliament in 1981 and led the Labour Party from 2008 to 2011 before switching to local government.

“It’s more than 40 years since I was first elected to office as MP for Roskill in 1981 and I believe it’s time to pass the baton to a new generation of leadership,” said Goff in a statement. “It has been an absolute privilege to serve two terms as the mayor of Auckland, the city I grew up in and that I love.” He added: “I would like to thank my wife Mary, and our family for tolerating my absences at family occasions when council work has taken precedence, and my mayoral office staff who have worked hard and competently … While the pandemic has created huge challenges, the city has made real progress over the last five and half years. We have made the biggest investments Auckland has ever seen in infrastructure for transport and water. This has reversed decades of underinvestment, where infrastructure spending did not keep up with population growth … I am proud that I have been able to lead councillors to work collaboratively and constructively to meet the challenges of the pandemic and work towards our vision of creating a sustainable, inclusive and world-class city.”

Goff said he would “continue to give the role of mayor my full energy and commitment for the next seven months” and “consider options for my future in due course”. Reports have suggested he may be in line for an ambassadorial position.

The decision opens a vacancy for a Labour-endorsed candidate. Efeso Collins announced in a Spinoff interview last month that he will run. Last week another centre-left councillor, Richard Hills, said he would not be entering the race. Last month, the Labour Party president, Claire Szabó, told The Spinoff that it would “not be appropriate” to consider endorsements as long as Goff remained the presumed candidate. “We will announce a process should it be required. Then through that process Labour would form a position on who it supported for Auckland mayor, she said.

Phil Goff (Photo: Getty Images)

The Spinoff launches debut brand campaign


After seven years in the biz, The Spinoff has launched its first brand campaign: “Aotearoa Published Daily”.

Moving on from our previous reputation as “the mid-shelf red wine of New Zealand journalism”, this new direction marks a significant levelling up in the sophistication of The Spinoff’s offering.

“Aotearoa Published Daily speaks to the vibrantly different way we operate as a 21st century media company, from our dedicated te ao Māori coverage and live reports from the Beehive, to our slower, more in-depth publication cycle,” said Madeleine Chapman, The Spinoff’s editor. “It’s great to finally have a guiding star that encapsulates our work.”

You might spot some of our digital billboards or street posters around the country. Feel free to send me in a selfie with one if you do!

Trevor Mallard blames protesters after he’s signed up to PornHub

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

Trevor Mallard’s been signed up for PornHub – and he suspects protesters were responsible.

The speaker of the house has spent much of the weekend actively trolling those gathered outside the Beehive. He switched the parliament sprinkler system on and followed that up with a rotating playlist of infuriating earworms, like the Macarena.

Now, Mallard appears to have been given a taste of his own medicine. In addition to the PornHub sub, the speaker said he received emails thanking him for joining both the National and Act Party.

He told the Herald it was amusing, but said “all three of those are equally unlikely”.

In pictures: trampolines and pets after the wild weekend storm

image0 (1)

Much of New Zealand spent the weekend stuck indoors as the remnants of Cyclone Dovi slammed the country. For Aucklanders, it came amid a sweltering humidity wave that left many of us confused as we were both simultaneously very hot and very windswept. For other parts of the country, the storm brought freezing winter temperatures and even snow.

Here at The Spinoff, we issued a very specific request to our readers: send us photos of trampolines and/or animals caught up in the wild weather. Any photos that featured humans or inanimate objects other than trampolines would not be considered.

All-weather trampolining

Trampolining in the rain can be fun – but less so when the tramp creates some sort of floating island in the middle of your backyard.

(Image: supplied)

A tramp catastrophe in Pukekohe

Deborah sent us this pic of a trampoline that had ended up very much where it was not intended to be.

(Image: supplied)

A windswept pooch

Who’s a good boy/girl? This boy/girl on a hill, braving the wind.

Tramp on a hill

It’s a trampoline! On a hill!

Another windswept pooch

The Spinoff’s very own Stanley made a brief trip outdoors for a poo.

Image: The Spinoff

And here he is post-poo, looking happy to be back indoors.

Huge thanks to our trampolining and dog-owning readers. Stay safe out there!

Booster rollout in aged care facilities completed

Ayesha Verrall, with Chris Hipkins in the background (Photo: Getty Images)

The rollout of the booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in aged care facilities has been completed.

Associate health minister Ayesha Verrall said completing the vaccine rollout for our most vulnerable New Zealanders meant we were “well prepared” for omicron numbers to rise.

“The most important thing anyone, including seniors can do to protect themselves and their loved ones is get boosted,” said Verrall. “That’s why we rolled out boosters to older New Zealanders early.”

99% of people over the age of 65 have now been fully vaccinated and 85% have been boosted.

This week on The Fold: Joe Daymond is building a comedy empire

In the space of a few short years, Joe Daymond went from sleeping on a mate’s couch to selling out the Sky City Theatre with his stand-up show, all driven by a very smart and analytical use of social media. But as he tells Duncan Greive in this week’s episode of The Fold, his plan was always to build a TV empire – and with production company West Park, he’s already well on his way.

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

Are we nearing ‘phase two’ of the omicron response?

An at-home rapid antigen test, or RAT, for Covid-19 (Photo: Getty Images)

Yesterday’s record 810 new community cases of Covid-19 has pushed us closer to the next phase in the government’s omicron response. Currently, we’re in phase one of our omicron response – or what’s been dubbed the “stamp it out” phase. It’s similar to how we dealt with the delta outbreak and involves the same use of contact tracing and isolation.

The government announced that phase two of the response would kick in when we hit around 1,000 daily new cases of Covid-19.

But what actually is phase two? Let’s recap.

  • Phase two will begin when case numbers surge to around 1,000 every day. The objective becomes to slow the spread of the virus and protect our vulnerable communities.
  • The isolation period for cases will drop to 10 days and for contacts to seven days in line with “best practice” overseas.
  • Household contacts will actively be managed by contact tracing services, with close contacts requiring a PCR test on day five.
  • Rapid antigen tests will become more widely used through the “test to work” scheme. Asymptomatic contacts in critical workforces who receive a negative rapid antigen test result can return to work without the need to stay in self-isolation.
  • More information is available here.

Speaking to Newshub, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said cabinet would today be considering a move to phase two – and businesses could expect us to move within “days”.

‘We want them to leave’: Ardern on parliament protesters as occupation enters week two

(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has given her strongest indication yet that she wants the protest at parliament to end. But, she has once again refused to comment on the efforts of police to make that happen.

Today is day seven of the occupation, with parliament grounds still filled with tents and neighbouring streets still being used as a carpark.

Speaking to RNZ, Ardern said of the protesters: “We all want them to leave.”

This was not a form of protest that she had seen before, said Ardern. “New Zealand is a place where protest is who we are… but what I’m seeing is some kind of imported kind of protest.”

Ardern said her job was to address the growing omicron outbreak and not to intervene in a police operation. “It is absolutely for the police to determine how they manage any form of occupation or protest,” she said.

As for speaker Trevor Mallard, who used annoying music, vaccination adverts and sprinklers to try and shift protesters, Ardern also would not comment. “The speaker exists on behalf of all parliamentarians,” she said.

Asked whether she would support, or be part of, a cross-party group of politicians that addressed protesters and their concerns, Ardern said she did not believe this would be beneficial. “The messages coming from the group I’ve seen have ultimately been anti-vaccination messages more than anything else,” she said. “It’s difficult to navigate a space where some people seem to be protesting based on misinformation.”