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blog feb 15


Police to start towing and seizing cars illegally parked around parliament

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 15. I hope it’s nice and sunny where you are too. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – get in touch with me here.

The latest

  • The response to the protest at parliament, now in its eighth day, is being ramped up, with police to start towing and seizing illegally parked cars.
  • The number of new Covid-19 cases has dropped from yesterday’s high, with 744 recorded in the community.
  • New Zealand will tonight move to “phase two” of the omicron response. You can read our handy explainer here.
blog feb 15

Police to start towing and seizing cars illegally parked around parliament

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 15. I hope it’s nice and sunny where you are too. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund – get in touch with me here.

The latest

  • The response to the protest at parliament, now in its eighth day, is being ramped up, with police to start towing and seizing illegally parked cars.
  • The number of new Covid-19 cases has dropped from yesterday’s high, with 744 recorded in the community.
  • New Zealand will tonight move to “phase two” of the omicron response. You can read our handy explainer here.
Feb 15 2022

Police to start towing and seizing illegally parked cars around parliament

Police commissioner Andrew Coster (Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

Police will start towing protesters’ vehicles blocking streets around parliament after their offer of alternative parking was ignored, indicating a ramping up of the police response to the ongoing occupation.

According to a statement from police commissioner Andrew Coster, the Major Operations Centre at Police National Headquarters has been activated to support the Wellington district operation, and will manage and coordinate resourcing, response options, logistics and health and safety.

“While police acknowledge the right to lawfully protest, the effect of this protest activity around the parliament grounds, on roads, residents, schools and businesses is no longer tenable,” said Coster in a statement.

Alternatives that would have enabled the roads to be cleared were offered as police considered it “unwise to escalate tensions”, said Coster, but “protesters have not taken up the offer and nor have they shown any concern for the negative impact of their activities”.

“Police will continue to give protesters the opportunity to remove their vehicles voluntarily, but time is fast running out for this to happen,” he added. “The roads need to be cleared now or we will be towing vehicles. Vehicles that are towed will be seized and not immediately released to those who have failed to move them.

“Those who obstruct police efforts to clear the roads can expect to be arrested and charged.”

Coster said openly communicating police intention showed “our ongoing willingness to work in good faith to allow lawful and reasonable protest while protecting the interests of others in the area”, but “the current manner of protest is both unreasonable and unfairly impacting others”.

Police commissioner Andrew Coster (Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

Breaking: there are two different Wordle words today

It’s time to say sorry (Image: Tina Tiller)

Despite the extremely angry expectation that nobody speak about the Wordle of the day lest they spoil it for someone yet to play, it’s been revealed that there are in fact two different Wordles being played today. This is due to some (read: most) players playing the popular word game from a browser that has redirected them to the New York Times url after the media giant purchased the game from its lone creator this month. For those still playing from the original poweroflanguage url, typically those who haven’t closed their original tab from 200 days ago, a different word is being played. The two words are similar, though one of them is a word that can’t even be played in the other version as it’s not considered a valid word (I won’t say which is which).

NYT removed six words from the Wordle word list this week, deeming some offensive, which may explain today’s discrepancy. But the “invalid” word doesn’t appear to be an offensive word so who knows what’s going on. One thing is for sure: one of the words is a lot easier to guess than the other so don’t trust anyone’s posted scores until you know which version they were playing.

Protesters react badly to parking fines – report

Cars parked near parliament during the protest, February 14, 2022 (Photo: Justin Giovannetti)

There are claims wardens have been verbally abused on the streets of Wellington as illegally parked vehicles are finally being ticketed.

The Herald reported that police have joined parking wardens in ticketing the vehicles, prompting some protesters to remove their number plates and registration or use fake plates entirely.

Protesters were yesterday offered free parking at the nearby Sky Stadium but chose to remain in place today.

Despite protest organisers asking for peace, there are reports that protesters have been reacting badly to being fined for their makeshift parking spots.

Meanwhile, at parliament, proceedings from within the House are being played on loud speakers to the surrounding crowd – who are trying to make even more noise through music and chanting.

Luxon supports Ardern’s decision not to meet with protesters

Christopher Luxon (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The prime minister’s found a key supporter of her decision not to address the protesters gathered outside the Beehive: opposition leader Christopher Luxon.

Jacinda Ardern was yesterday asked if she would meet a delegation from the protest, an offer she rejected. Luxon told media he was onboard with that decision.

“We respect people’s right to protest but we expect them do it within the rules – and that’s not been happening,” he said. “When you come here to talk about freedoms and then you impinge the freedoms of others … that’s not on.”

Luxon said he has temporarily boosted his security in response to the rally and has moved out of his Wellington apartment.

Labour invites Auckland mayoral hopefuls to seek its endorsement

The Labour Party has announced that in light of the decision by Mayor Phil Goff to leave politics at the local elections in October, it is seeking “expressions of interest from any Auckland mayoral candidates who wish to seek Labour’s endorsement”.

A party statement reads: “Labour’s New Zealand Council will consult with party members before deciding which candidate to endorse. We expect to make a decision in the coming weeks.” Would-be candidates haven’t been given long to make up their minds; the deadline is set for February 17. Claire Szabo, the Labour Party president, said that should there be more than one candidate, they will be invited to present to the party’s local government committee in Auckland and to “interested party members from the area”. An indicative vote and feedback will then be provided to the NZ Council, the party’s governing body, which will “help in determining any endorsement”.

Efeso Collins, who after Goff’s announcement and fellow councillor Richard Hills’ decision not to stand is the most prominent centre-left candidate to have declared, has previously called for a “fair, robust and transparent” primary process for those seeking the Labour endorsement.

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.

744 new community Covid-19 cases; hospitalisations rise to 40

Image: Toby Morris

The number of new Covid-19 cases has dropped from yesterday’s high, with 744 recorded in the community.

Once again, the majority were detected in Auckland, 535, with the city remaining the epicentre of the omicron outbreak. Other new cases were registered in Northland (43), Waikato (69), Bay of Plenty (8), Lakes (10), Hawke’s Bay (1), MidCentral (6), Taranaki (2), Tairāwhiti (7), Wairarapa (1), Capital and Coast (5), Hutt Valley (1), Nelson Marlborough (9), Canterbury (9), Southern (30).

Tonight at 11.59pm New Zealand shifts to phase two of its omicron response. That will mean home isolation periods drop and see wider use of rapid antigen tests.

There are currently 40 people with Covid-19 in hospital – the sixth consecutive rise in the daily hospitalisation rate. Nobody is currently being treated in intensive care.

Yesterday, 47,573 booster doses were administered nationwide – around twice as many as on Sunday – and brings the total so far to almost two million doses. Additionally, Whanganui DHB yesterday reached the milestone of its eligible population being 90% fully vaccinated.

The number of active community cases of Covid-19 has increased to 5,636.

Once again, the Ministry of Health has reminded people to only get tested for Covid-19 if they are symptomatic, have been at a location of interest, or have been asked by a health official to get tested. “We are anticipating continued high demand at our Covid-19 testing sites, so our request is to, please, be patient,” said a spokesperson. “Our frontline staff across the health sector are doing the best they can to help in a timely way.”

Earlier today, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre said testing would be based on “priority needs” in Auckland, saying demand for testing had reached the height of the delta outbreak.

There is good testing capacity throughout the country, said the ministry, but unnecessary testing could delay results for those who urgently need them.

For more pandemic-related charts and analysis, visit The Spinoff Covid Tracker here

What impact investing really looks like

Illustration: Rachel Salazar

A word on sustainable investing from our partners Harbour Asset Management

As the science becomes ever more settled and the projections ever more serious, the need for the world to think of a future beyond fossil fuels is more urgent than ever. But for investors looking to ensure their money goes to businesses and organisations whose ethical and environmental beliefs align with their own, the challenge of choosing a fund can be an imposing one.

Harbour Asset Management believes impact investors have the power to use their capital to push companies to an improved and more sustainable future. To learn more about how Harbour operates – and how business is responding to this moment – read Jihee Junn’s feature here.

Covid spreads to 164 schools, kura, ECE

Covid-19 cases have been detected in 164 schools, kura and early childhood centres across the country.

Yesterday saw a record 981 community cases, with expectations that number will today jump above 1,000.

According to Stuff, most of the schools affected – 93 – are in Auckland, with 44 primary schools part of the total. At Balmoral School, 170 students are currently in self-isolation after two positive cases were recorded last week.

In Wellington, 17 schools have recorded Covid cases.

The Spinoff’s first new series of the year has arrived


Takeout Kids, directed by Julie Zhu and produced by Sophie Dowson, is a four-part observational documentary series following the lives of kids who grow up in family-run takeaway shops and restaurants across New Zealand. The series documents each child as they move between home and school – sometimes juggling multiple languages, always juggling multiple responsibilities – and the small moments that bring them joy, disappointment, fear and hope. Takeout Kids is an intimate and unique series that encourages us all to take a look into our relationships with the families that run our favourite takeaway shops.

Takeout Kids is streaming now on The Spinoff.

Details of home isolation scheme for international arrivals revealed

Passengers from New Zealand arriving at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport on October 16, 2020 (Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

More details have been released about how international arrivals will self-isolate at home when the requirement to stay in MIQ gets ditched.

From February 28, New Zealanders in Australia will be able to bypass managed isolation, if they are vaccinated, and spend a short stint self-isolating at home. This will be extended out to other international travellers in the coming months.

The new home isolation scheme roughly breaks down into three elements, which Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said would “lower the risk of Covid-19 entering the community while allowing more families to reunite”.

Here’s how it’s going to work:

Before departure

  • Travellers will have the option of three types of pre-departure test: a PCR test within 48 hours of flying, or a supervised RAT or LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) test within 24 hours.
  • From the end of March, travellers will need to complete an online declaration prior to travel and upload evidence of vaccination and a negative pre departure test. Before then, they will be manually checked by airline staff at check-in and by Customs staff on arrival.

On arrival in New Zealand

  • Arrivals will be given three rapid tests. They will then have to travel directly to their accommodation, wear a mask until they arrive, sanitise their hands regularly, and maintain physical distancing where possible.


  • Arrivals will need to self-isolate for seven full days and report the results of two rapid antigen tests on day zero/one and day five/six.
  • A positive result will need to be followed with a PCR test to monitor for any new Covid-19 variants.
  • Travellers can form a bubble with family or friends, who can continue to go to work or school, but must minimise contact with others as much as possible. No visitors are allowed.
  • Travellers will be able to temporarily leave self-isolation in special circumstances, such as visiting terminally ill relatives, to access urgent healthcare or to attend court hearings, but will be encouraged to take a rapid antigen test if visiting a high risk location such as a hospital or aged care facility and need to follow public health measures.
  • Eligible groups approved by Sports NZ or the Ministry of Culture and Heritage may train or rehearse outside of their place of self-isolation. Any approval may have specific requirements and guidance.

Winston Peters calls for end to mandates, denies being ‘opportunistic’

Winston Peters after the 2020 election (Photo: Getty Images)

Former deputy prime minister Winston Peters has weighed into the debate surrounding vaccine mandates, saying they should be removed.

In a press release, the New Zealand First leader labelled mandates “unnecessarily damaging” and said all New Zealanders should be able to work. “There needs to be an end to scaremongering and despotic enforcement, and a return of common sense and balance to this debacle that Labour has created,” he said.

“Many thousands have unnecessarily lost their jobs, their freedoms, and their way of life.”

While Peters does not outwardly back the protesters at parliament, he equally has not condemned them.

Some have speculated that Peters’ decision to come out against mandates was “opportunistic”. Asked about this by Newshub, Peters said: “stop your woke troll behaviour”.

In an opinion piece for Newstalk ZB, political reporter Jason Walls speculated that the Peters may try and use the anti-mandate movement to generate support for New Zealand First.

Several hour queues for Covid tests as omicron numbers surge

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

As daily omicron numbers are expected to hit 1,000 today, wait times for Covid-19 tests have escalated.

The queue for the Balmoral drive through testing centre in central Auckland snakes around the carpark and out onto the main road, causing traffic problems for morning commuters. One Spinoff staffer reported wait times were three hours, with Newshub last night showing people jumping the queues due to frustration.

Time In The Line, an online service that estimates wait times based on user reports, shows similarly long queues at other testing sites around Auckland.

Aucklanders were yesterday asked to only get tested if they were symptomatic or had been identified as a close contact.

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

Parliament press gallery escapes Covid scare

A parliamentary reporter who returned a positive rapid antigen test for Covid-19 has tested negative after a follow-up PCR swab.

The journalist, later confirmed to be Stuff’s political editor Luke Malpass, tested positive during a training session for the rapid tests yesterday afternoon. It triggered a chain reaction of self-isolation among the press gallery, with a number of journalists forced to go home, delaying a scheduled press conference by Jacinda Ardern.

Malpass subsequently returned a negative PCR test on Monday evening.

Protesters turn down offer to move cars

Cars parked near parliament during the protest, February 14, 2022 (Photo: Justin Giovannetti)

Cars continue to block main streets around the parliamentary precinct in Wellington, despite free alternative parking before offered to those protesting.

The nearby Sky Stadium had offered up its carpark to protesters from 6.30pm last night. Police said they were confident most vehicles would be moved willingly.

But as the sun rose of Wellington this morning, it became clear that offer was largely ignored. Newshub reporter Ashleigh McCaul told AM that only a “handful” of vehicles had been moved. Photos from this morning showed that protesters appeared to have been partying throughout the night, with the Herald reporting the streets had been turned into a “rave”.

Ardern confirms first overseas trip since pandemic began

Jacinda Ardern prepares to speak at the Labour Party Annual Conference on November 6, 2021. (Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

With the end of MIQ in sight, Jacinda Ardern has confirmed her first overseas trip since the pandemic began.

The prime minister will visit the US in May, reports Stuff, for a “trade-focused” trip. She will also give Harvard University’s commencement address.

Ardern said New Zealand was in demand internationally. “A priority for our international engagement is to focus on trade opportunities that accelerate our recovery; raise New Zealand’s profile in key export markets.”

The trade trip marks Ardern’s first trip outside the country since Covid-19 first appeared in our community. She was meant to visit Australia last year while the trans-Tasman travel bubble was open, but this was later canned due to the spread of delta.