blog april 14

Live UpdatesApr 14 2022

Ministry of Health issues Easter Covid warning

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 14. It’s Thursday but really it’s Friday and I’m super excited for a long weekend break. Want to get in touch with me? I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • There have been 16 more deaths linked to our Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Overall Covid case numbers continue to trend down nationwide.
  • The entire country has moved back to the orange setting of the traffic light framework overnight. That means no gathering limits and a slight change in the mask rules.
blog april 14

Ministry of Health issues Easter Covid warning

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 14. It’s Thursday but really it’s Friday and I’m super excited for a long weekend break. Want to get in touch with me? I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • There have been 16 more deaths linked to our Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Overall Covid case numbers continue to trend down nationwide.
  • The entire country has moved back to the orange setting of the traffic light framework overnight. That means no gathering limits and a slight change in the mask rules.
Apr 14 2022

‘This was not entirely my choice’: Louisa Wall makes valedictory speech to house

After 14 years as a Labour MP, Louisa Wall is addressing the house, maybe for the last time, in her valedictory speech. The former Manurewa representative and champion of the 2013 marriage equality bill has been a prominent figure within the Labour party despite never being made a minister.

“There are a few things I feel I need to address,” she began, wasting no time. She detailed how she was “forced out” of her Manurewa electorate in 2020, speaking of “unconstitutional actions” of the party president, Claire Szabó, and some members of the council (Labour’s governing body) in the selection process. “It is a result of that corrupt process that I’m standing to deliver my valedictory today.”

Wall has been in the media a lot this week, giving exit interviews and being candid about her reasons for resigning despite being considered one of the better-performing MPs Labour has had in many years. She told Q&A that there were “messages, probably not so subtle, that it wasn’t just that [the prime minister] didn’t want me in her cabinet. She was obviously very clear that she didn’t want me in her caucus.”

In the midst of thanking those who supported her in recent months, Wall confirmed what was widely assumed: that she didn’t necessarily want to leave. “I want to be very clear that this was not entirely my choice,” she said.

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson, who was in the house for the speech, was the subject of criticism for his alleged response to Wall’s advocacy for marriage equality at the time of her 2013 member’s bill. “While the deputy leader of caucus at the time wanted more recognition of civil unions, I believed that advocacy for marriage equality was based on fundamental human rights, and that civil unions became a stopgap measure because it was not clear that marriage would get over the line. When I expressed this view, I was told this would be the end of my career and I would be on my own,” she told parliament.

Wall thanked MPs from across the aisle for cooperating on issues with her, and implored a movement towards more cross-party collaboration. “We need to be more kaupapa, rather than personality, driven.”

Her 15-minute speech, which aptly ended with a sporting analogy (“I left it all on the field”) was met with a standing ovation and a waiata.

In the public gallery, friends and whānau wore rainbow masks, and a few MPs on the Labour side donned rainbow colours. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern was not present.

Man suspended as examiner by prestigious London college after Spinoff investigation

Trinity College of London has opened an “internal safeguarding inquiry” into a music examiner following The Spinoff’s reporting of his inappropriate relationship with a music student when she was 16 years old. “Our investigation is being pursued as a matter of the utmost importance as we consider our candidates’ wellbeing and safety to be our top priority,” the statement reads.

Erez Tocker, CEO at Trinity College London said: “We take the safeguarding of our candidates extremely seriously and will be responding to this as our utmost priority. We understand that these types of incidents can cause concern and distress and would like to reassure everyone in the Trinity network that we are doing everything to address any potential issues”.

The man has been suspended from all Trinity activities while the investigation is underway.

Read the full story here.

Wellington councillor admits to authoring anonymous Twitter account

Wellington City Councillor Sean Rush has admitted to being behind the anonymous Twitter account localbod1, after initially declining to state whether it was him.

“I’d have to check what it’s tweeted to see whether that’s appropriate,” Rush told Stuff on March 25, when asked if he was tweeting from the account.

The account’s first tweet was an accusation that The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti had unfairly paraphrased Rush’s words at a council meeting, and it went on to post a series of tweets defending Rush and sharing controversial opinions on political issues.

According to Stuff, “other tweets from localbod1 include: decelerating for a pedestrian crossing will increase carbon emissions, climate change is “massively overstated”, male politicians are likely to receive more political abuse, and suggesting Māori co-governance is not part of the Treaty of Waitangi.”

Today Rush released a letter of apology addressed mayor Andy Foster, in which he wrote: “I thoroughly regret this whole sorry saga and hope you will put it down to political naivety from which I will learn.”

PSA: You can’t buy booze tomorrow (or Sunday)

It’s almost time to chuck that “out of office” email on and relax into the fact you’ve got four days off work. But here’s a reminder: you’re not allowed to buy alcohol on Good Friday or Easter Sunday.

For three and-a-half days every year, New Zealand’s restricted trading laws prohibit the sale of alcohol – unless it’s with a meal. That includes at supermarkets. So if you want to grab a pint, make sure you’re also buying a full meal.

I think the reason I remember this every year is that I once made the mistake of hosting my birthday party on Good Friday and half the guests forgot they had no alcohol and… well. Anyway.

Just another good reason to consider abolishing our Easter trading rules altogether.

Applications to open for $9m Covid research fund

Applications are set to open for a new $9 million fund to support research into future pandemic responses.

The research will look into what we can learn from New Zealand’s existing response to Covid-19 and take “key lessons” forward in case a future pandemic arises.

Chief science advisor for the ministry, Ian Town, said the funded projects will address gaps in our knowledge. “We are particularly interested in research that will help the ministry improve its support for Māori, Pacific and disabled people and communities,” he said.

In relation to the vaccination programme, Town said the research will help ensure more equitable access to and greater uptake of vaccines in the future. “The pandemic continues to have far-reaching impacts on New Zealand society. We are looking to fund research projects that enable rapid application of national and international evidence to New Zealand.”

A request for proposals will open on April 19 and close on June 10.

Landmark Supreme Court ruling could see man sent back to China for murder trial

The Supreme Court is facing criticism after a precedent setting ruling that could see a man sent back to China to face a murder trial.

As The Guardian reported, New Zealand’s courts have, over the past 12 years, blocked the extradition of Kyung Yup Kim, who’s accused of killing a woman in Shanghai in 2009. Kim is a New Zealand permanent resident who first came to the country in 1989.

The latest court ruling would make it the first time New Zealand has sent a resident to China for trial, despite no extradition treaty being in place. Kim’s lawyer Tony Ellis told the Herald the Supreme Court’s decision was a major backwards step for international human rights law.

“Imagine being locked in a Chinese jail with all this,” he said. “It’s mind-bogglingly frightening.”

In the court’s ruling, it stated that the government could trust assurances from China that Kim and any other extradited defendants would not be at risk of human rights abuses or torture. Dr Anna High from Otago University’s centre for law and society told The Guardian this was concerning.

“There are grave and well-documented problems with China’s criminal justice system – the idea that a diplomatic promise is a sufficient basis for surrendering someone into that system seems, at best, incredibly naive,” she said.

Dolphins! In Wellington!

It’s a lovely sunny afternoon in the capital (according to the internet, I am not actually there) and a pod of dolphins have swum in to enjoy it.

As this person on Twitter rightly points out, the dolphins are currently “being awesome”.

Rihanna’s fashion designer embarks on a mission to keep pets safe with hi-vis high fashion

Fashion, but make it ~safe~ (Image: Supplied)

From our friends at Southern Cross Pet Insurance: Shorter days mean evening dog walks are getting darker – but that doesn’t mean you or your pets should be unsafe around roads.

Southern Cross Pet Insurance has enlisted the talents of fashion designer Matthew Adams Dolan to create a line of pet clothing that’s hi-vis and in vogue. Dolan, who has created pieces for the likes of Gigi Hadid, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, worked closely with his dog Maisie to fine-tune the road safety collection.

VIS – The Road Safety Collection is part of the pet insurer’s mission to tackle the issue of pet safety around roads. Check out the full collection and be in to win VIS prizes here.

Covid-19 update: 16 deaths, 528 in hospital, another 9,563 new cases

Another 16 people with Covid-19 have died, bringing New Zealand’s death toll up to 547.

Today’s death toll includes 12 people who died over the past two days and four who died within the past 13 days.

Of the people whose deaths being reported today, five were from the Auckland region, four from Waikato, two from Bay of Plenty, one from Lakes DHB area, one from MidCentral, one from Whanganui, and two from Canterbury.

Two people were aged in their 60s, six in their 70s, four in their 80s, and four over 90. Nine were female and seven were male.

There are now 528 people in hospital with Covid-19, including 28 in intensive care.

Another 9,563 community cases have been recorded, once again showing the overall trend in new cases is heading down. The seven-day rolling average of cases is now 8,990 – last Thursday it was 11,791.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has warned people travelling around the country for the Easter long weekend to be prepared to self-isolate.

“If you have used your own vehicle to travel, you can travel back to your home to isolate, taking public health measures to ensure you don’t infect anyone on your way home – such as maintaining social distance and using self-service petrol stations,” said the ministry.

“However, if you have used public transport or travelled between islands, you won’t be able to isolate at your home. So it is important you have a plan and the ability to isolate where you are holidaying, if you need to do so.”

Nurses Organisation backtracks on support for government pay deal

The Nurses Organisation has backtracked on its support for the government’s proposed pay deal.

The pay equity settlement, which was reached in December, was expected to be put forward for a vote to the 40,000 nurses and healthcare workers covered by the agreement.

Health minister Andrew Little said that the unions and district health boards agreed that it would be put to nurses to vote on next week. “Last night, I was notified that the Nurses Organisation would not now do this,” he said. “Obviously I am concerned about this. There is a binding agreement in place between the parties and it should be honoured.”

The deal would have added over $520 million to the health payroll every year, said Little. It follows around four years of pay negotiations by DHBs who had hoped to boost the incomes of nurses, a largely female-dominated profession.

“This government is committed to addressing this injustice and is the first prepared to put a significant amount of money into doing so,” he said. “The process has been long and difficult, and in August I intervened to tell the Ministry of Health and district health boards to progress the claim with urgency.”

Little said he urged all parties to this settlement to “act in good faith, to honour the commitments they have made” and to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

According to Stuff, the boss of the Nurses Organisation, Paul Goulter, said he had commissioned a “full legal review” of the deal before it would be released for a vote. The lack of back pay was a major issue, he said. Little claimed this would add “hundreds of millions of dollars on top of the agreement already”.

Is it time to scrap our Easter trading rules?

The Act Party wants to see our “antiquated” Easter trading laws dropped.

Just as gathering restrictions are eased today after months in the red, many businesses will face a penalty should they choose to open on Good Friday or Easter Sunday. Chris Baillie, Act’s small business spokesperson, has submitted a member’s bill that would see the rules removed.

“It’s quite simple – if you want to trade, you can,” he said. “That’s how a free society should operate. The bill also looks after workers as it retains the existing employee protections that apply in respect of Easter Sunday and extends these protections to Good Friday.”

Baillie will likely have a fair amount of support for his proposal. Newshub’s AM host Ryan Bridge launched a petition this week calling for the government to “turn a blind eye” to breaches of the trading rules this year. It’s currently got over 1,600 signatories and climbing.

“I just think what the government needs to do is give us a wink or a nudge or a gentlemen’s agreement and just say you know what, this weekend we are not going to enforce our Easter trading weekend rules,” he said.

The Spinoff has approached small business minister Stuart Nash for comment.

Air NZ drops ‘no jab, no fly’ policy

Air New Zealand has ditched its vaccination requirement for domestic travellers.

That means, from today, anyone moving around New Zealand via our local carrier won’t need to be jabbed or have proof of a negative Covid-19 test. The no jab, no fly policy will also be dropped for international flights from May 1.

However, masks will not be ditched anytime soon.

In an email sent to customers, the airline’s chief executive Greg Foran said the measures were temporary as part of the omicron response. “After a careful risk assessment, we feel now is the right time to step back some of those measures,” he said. “New Zealand and the world is moving back towards a sense of normality.”

From tomorrow, food and beverages will once again be served onboard as Foran said that’s something customers look forward to when they travel.

“We’re expecting a bumper Easter with an increase in customers travelling to, from and around Aotearoa. We recommend you arrive early to the airport to ensure a seamless journey with us,” Foran said.

“I would like to send a heartfelt thanks to our customers for the support you’ve shown us throughout the pandemic.”

The timing of the announcement is in line with the government’s easing of domestic Covid restrictions overnight, with gathering limits gone and some mask rules adjusted.

The Bulletin: Justin signs off for the last time

The Bulletin’s going to look a little different from next week as new editor Anna Rawhiti-Connell takes over the reins.

That means saying goodbye to current editor Justin Giovannetti, who is also our Wellington-based political editor, as he prepares to shift back to Canada. I’m going to miss him a lot! His proximity to the Beehive has been an outstanding addition to these live updates over the past two years and I loved briefly sharing his press gallery office when I visited Wellington to cover the occupation earlier this year. Good luck for everything that comes next.

In the meantime you can – and should – read his final Bulletin here.

And here’s how signed off: “If I can make one last request of you, it’s to not turn away from the news. It is difficult and uncomfortable and often hard. But keep at it, bear witness to the struggles of others. Be there for the people who need you. You aren’t alone.”

Retail group upset as masks ditched for hospo but not retail outlets

As mask rules are ditched for hospitality patrons, one group is calling the decision to keep them in place for retail customers “nonsensical”.

Retail NZ said the newly announced move to orange brings in mask regulations that make no sense.

“While it is good news that the country is moving to orange, it is absurd that the government is removing mask requirements in the hospitality and education sectors, but keeping them for retail,” Retail NZ’s chief executive Greg Harford said.

“It’s just nonsensical to suggest that there is greater risk in socially-distanced retail settings than in crowded nightclubs, school classrooms or cafés.  The situation is even more absurd given that the government has been unable to deal with ongoing issues around mask exemptions which render the rules almost meaningless.”

Harford claimed that masks are a source of “significant anger and aggression from members of the public” and said that Retail NZ had been asking for the mask exemption rules to be fixed. “It is deeply disappointing that no action has been taken,” he said.

Writing for The Spinoff today, Covid communicator Siouxsie Wiles said we shouldn’t be thinking of mask wearing as a restriction. “Think of it as a public health measure that is enabling others in your community to do things that you take for granted.”

What it would take to move us back to ‘red’

The Covid minister said it’s possible we could move back to the red setting, but it requires one thing to happen.

The entire country moved overnight into the orange setting of the traffic light framework. That means gathering restrictions are gone and mask use will be slightly less widespread.

Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB he wouldn’t put an exact number on the likelihood of us going back to red. “What I’d be looking for there is a double whammy of a surge in Covid cases and a surge in influenza cases,” he said.

“You’d have to have a peak of covid and of influenza. The thing unknown there is [hospitals] haven’t had to deal with that peak the last couple of winters to the same extent… because of the border.”

A number of health experts, including Siouxsie Wiles, expressed concern at the new mask rules. Hipkins said it’s all about risk, explaining that masks are necessary at supermarkets because they are a place everyone has to go. When you go to a nightclub, for example, you are choosing to have that “added risk”.

“There are going to be people at the supermarket who are elderly or immunocompromised,” he said. Hospitality workers still have to wear a mask, which Hipkins said would help to “turn down the risk” as they move between various patrons.