blog upd march 15

Live UpdatesMar 15 2022

Simon Bridges quitting politics

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 15. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a news tip or just want to tell me how much petrol costs where you live? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • Today’s Covid-19 update: There are two more deaths, 960 people now in hospital and 21,616 new cases.
  • Simon Bridges has dropped a bombshell and announced he’ll be quitting politics and leaving parliament in the coming weeks.
  • Petrol prices have dropped at least 25 cents per litre overnight after the government cut excise duty in the face of a “global energy crisis”. The reduced prices will remain for at least three months.
  • Today is the third anniversary of the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch. Writing for The Spinoff, Anjum Rahman reflects on what has, and hasn’t, changed over the past 36 months. Toby Manhire looks at a new study that reveals there’s been a surge in Islamophobia in Australia and asks what that means for New Zealand.
blog upd march 15

Simon Bridges quitting politics

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 15. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a news tip or just want to tell me how much petrol costs where you live? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • Today’s Covid-19 update: There are two more deaths, 960 people now in hospital and 21,616 new cases.
  • Simon Bridges has dropped a bombshell and announced he’ll be quitting politics and leaving parliament in the coming weeks.
  • Petrol prices have dropped at least 25 cents per litre overnight after the government cut excise duty in the face of a “global energy crisis”. The reduced prices will remain for at least three months.
  • Today is the third anniversary of the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch. Writing for The Spinoff, Anjum Rahman reflects on what has, and hasn’t, changed over the past 36 months. Toby Manhire looks at a new study that reveals there’s been a surge in Islamophobia in Australia and asks what that means for New Zealand.
Mar 15 2022

‘In the top half’: Grant Robertson admits where he’d rank Simon Bridges

National’s outgoing finance spokesperson Simon Bridges has dedicated some of today’s question time to a very important subject: himself.

After announcing his resignation from politics earlier today, Bridges asked finance minister Grant Robertson during question time: “Will I always be his favourite National finance spokesperson?”

Robertson said he’d given significant thought to the matter. “I can confirm that among the six National finance spokespeople I’ve faced – he’s in the top half.”

Bridges followed that up by asking what Robertson will miss about him. “I will miss his ability to not take himself too seriously,” said Robertson. “And I look forward to him hosting the Country Calendar yak special.”

Watch the full exchange (including the boring, non-funny bits) here.

Is this the next big band to tour New Zealand?

At this point, I’ll pretty much buy tickets to any concert (except the Foo Fighters). The Covid pandemic has meant an absolute dearth of large scale touring shows over the past two years.

But that’s all about to change. With the borders open, big names are back on the touring circuit (we’ve already got Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish on their way this year).

It now looks like Coldplay could be next in line. The band uploaded a cryptic clue on their Spotify, that allegedly reveals a planned Australia and New Zealand tour.

Love them or hate them – they put on one hell of a show. Sign up to the official waitlist here.

Analysis of liquid thrown at police by parliament protesters ‘inconclusive’

It may never be definitively known what material was sprayed at police officers by protesters outside parliament on February 22.

Three officers involved in policing the protest were treated in hospital after a liquid substance was thrown at them. At the time, there were reports the liquid was a type of acid – but this was later disproven.

Wellington district commander Corrie Parnell said analysis of the material has been returned as inconclusive. “Two separate labs analysed material from the glo-vests worn by staff, with the tests showing no positive results for any form of chemical substance that could have caused the burning sensation,” he said.

“At the scene, all members were heavily washed down with a water and baking soda solution which likely washed away any evidence or form of a chemical substance.”

The police investigation into the protest itself continues.

Green MP resigns from Covid portfolio after taking plane instead of isolating

Green MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere has apologised for breaking Covid-19 restrictions by catching a plane to Wellington when she should have been in isolation as a household contact of a confirmed case, and resigned from the Covid-19 response portfolio.

“On Friday 11 March, a member of my household tested positive for Covid-19. On Sunday 13 March, after testing negative for three consecutive days, I flew from my home in Tairāwhiti to Wellington,” said Kerekere in a statement.

“I apologise profusely to my constituents, whānau and colleagues for my mistake, and to everyone who is making huge sacrifices to follow rules that are designed to keep us all safe.”

Kerekere also apologised for adding to the risk and stress that healthcare and essential workers face, and to people who are immunocompromised.

“I have discussed my mistake with the Green Party caucus and our co-leaders, and apologised to them also. I should have known better.

“Today I have resigned my Covid-19 response portfolio with immediate effect, and I will not hold the health portfolio or sit on the health select committee until further notice.

Kerekere said the Greens’ co-leaders had informed public health authorities of her actions, adding that she “will cooperate fully with the authorities for any next steps they might take”.

Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere (Photo: Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images)

Covid-19 update: Two deaths, 960 people in hospital, 21,616 new cases

Updated

Two more people with Covid-19 have died, the Ministry of Health has confirmed. Of these people, one death occurred in the Southern DHB and one in Capital and Coast. Both people, one man and one woman, were aged over 70.

There are now 960 people in hospital with Covid-19, including 22 people now in intensive care. In the Northern region, 559 people are in hospital with 40% of those aged 70 or over. The average age of hospitalised cases is 58.

The nationwide Covid-19 outbreak has grown by 21,616 new cases. “Today’s case number is higher than yesterday’s number however it’s not unexpected to see variability,” said the Ministry of Health. “It’s also not unusual to have a lower number of tests on a weekend compared to the number of tests on a weekday and this can have a follow on impact for cases identified. The three day rolling average of community cases is currently 17,136 and the seven day rolling average is 19,226.”


Speaking from the ministry, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the BA2 variant of omicron now made up 75 to 80% of cases that have been genomically sequenced. “This sub-variant… is about 30% more transmissible even than the BA1 sub-variant,” he said. This could actually help us in New Zealand, said Bloomfield, as it could mean we avoid a big second peak of omicron cases. Most overseas countries experiencing a second omicron wave were seeing a prevalence of the BA2 variant, Bloomfield added.

On the question of whether people are in hospital with Covid or because of Covid, Bloomfield said that between March 2 and 11 at Waikato Hospital, 19% of hospitalised cases with the virus were being treated for Covid-related symptoms.

36% were admitted for other medical care, some of whose underlying conditions may have been exacerbated by Covid; 23%  were on surgical wards for reasons other than Covid; 7% were being looked after by the obstetrics and gynaecology department; and 15% were children in the paediatric ward, some of whom where there because of Covid, and some for other reasons.

That means at least a third of people happened to have Covid but were not in hospital because of Covid.

Data from the northern region on March 8 showed just 16% of people admitted to hospital for Covid had had their booster shot. “It’s really, really clear that a booster protects people from being hospitalised,” said Bloomfield.

On the rise of cases in Wellington, Bloomfield said there was a “full on” the outbreak in the capital. He said it was similar to the increase in cases seen in Auckland. The DHB with the highest per capita case rate currently is Tairāwhiti.

‘National is in good hands’: Simon Bridges speaks after sudden decision to leave politics

A visibly emotional Simon Bridges has admitted he will miss being in parliament, but said now was the right time to leave.

In a bombshell announcement earlier today, the National MP of more than a decade announced he will be quitting politics in the coming weeks.

“For me personally, it’s time,” he told a press conference. “It’s not about National, but it’s a good time for National.”

Bridges said his children only know him as a father who leaves home on a Monday or Tuesday and returns in the weekend, and now was the time to be around a bit more. He reiterated his desire to explore commercial opportunities and possibly media projects once outside of politics.

Asked whether triggering a by-election and possibly rocking the boat for National was the right way to go about this, Bridges said yes. “I owed it to my colleagues… to be clear about all of this; if I’m going to go, to get out of the way to allow a new finance spokesperson to really take it to the government,” he said.

“There’s never a perfect time but when National has got wind in its sail is a better time. I feel I’m able to leave National in good hands and with momentum. That’s really important to me as a 30-year member of the party.”

(Photo by Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Bridges said he will look back at his time in politics with fondness, despite a rocky two-year stint as leader and a second failed attempt at the top job. There are highs and lows, Bridges said, but “I’ve loved it”.

There was definitively no scandal that prompted the sudden decision to leave, said Bridges. “If there was I would probably tough it out,” he said.

Simon Bridges to quit politics and leave parliament ‘in the coming weeks’

National’s finance spokesperson Simon Bridges has announced he’s quitting politics and will leave parliament in the coming weeks.

In a press release issued minutes ago, Bridges – the former party leader and current number three – said it’s been a privilege to be MP for Tauranga since 2008.

“I will formally hand in my resignation to the speaker in the coming weeks,” said Bridges. “I love the National Party and this year I will have been a proud member for 30 years. For the first time in a while, National is in a good place under Chris Luxon’s leadership with momentum heading into the next election.”

Bridges said he has “every confidence” that National will win next year’s election.

No official reason is given for Bridges sudden decision to leave politics, but in an exclusive interview with the Herald he ruled out a scandal. “Life moves on. I leave National in great heart and with momentum for the first time in a while,” he said.

Bridges said he would be exploring commercial opportunities “and maybe a media project or two”.

The decision by Bridges to leave parliament so far out from the general election will trigger a by-election in the Tauranga electorate.

Party leader Christopher Luxon has paid tribute to Bridges, thanking him for his contribution to politics. “Simon has been an absolute champion for Tauranga, for New Zealanders and for the National Party over his 14 year career in parliament,” he said.

“He was an excellent local MP, minister, leader of the National Party and colleague.”

We’ll have more from Bridges as he holds a press conference at midday.

New visa announced for 4,000 family members of Ukrainian New Zealanders

Around 4,000 family members of Ukrainian born New Zealand citizens and residents will be offered shelter here.

The government has announced additional humanitarian support as the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows no signs of slowing down.

The new visa category will be the the largest special visa category New Zealand has ever established to support an international humanitarian effort. Immigration minister Kris Faafoi said New Zealand has acted urgently to respond to Russia’s hostility.

“The 2022 Special Ukraine Policy will be open for a year and allow the estimated 1,600 Ukrainian-born citizens and residents in New Zealand to sponsor parents, grand-parents and adult siblings or adult children and their immediate family who are ordinarily resident in Ukraine to shelter safely here,” he said.

“It’s a two year visa to help people escape the current conflict and to shelter here in the hope they can return home when the war ends.”

Successful applicants will also have work rights or study rights if they are 18 years old or younger, said Faafoi. Eligible sponsors can now contact Immigration New Zealand, who will prioritise sponsorship requests and visa applications. Once visa are granted, visa holders will have nine months to travel here.

“Immigration NZ will quickly assess the sponsorship requests and then invite visa applications,” the minister said. “Given the situation on the ground, applications can be completed by sponsors here and there will be a streamlined process for applicants. They will need to declare that they meet health and character requirements but documentation will not be required. No fees will be charged,” Kris Faafoi said.

In addition, another $4 million will go toward the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, meaning government contributions now total $6 million.

All hail Melanie Lynskey

She’s the legend we didn’t know we deserved (or maybe we did).

New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey went home with an award for best actress at yesterday’s Critics’ Choice Awards, scoring a legion of new fans thanks to her endearing and, err, not tone deaf speech.

Winning the award for her role in drama series Yellowjackets, Lynskey used her speech to thank her husband, her daughter – and even their nanny. “Sally, I love her. She’s an absolute angel. She’s with my child and I know my child is safe and taken care of and she allows me to go and do my work. Thank you, Sally, I love you so much.”

If you need more Lysnkey in your life: either check out her performance in Yellowjackets or listen to her incredible chat on RNZ last month.

Poll of Māori voters shows support for Labour slipping

A new poll of Māori voters showed support for the Labour Party has dropped since the 2020 election.

The Hui poll, conducted by Horizon Research, found that 37% of respondents would back Labour if an election was held tomorrow. That’s a 17 point decline from the 54% of respondents who gave their party vote to Labour in 2020.

However, it’s still 26 points ahead of National and Te Pāti Māori – both are on 11%. The Greens are on 9% and Act is on 5%.

Producer of The Hui and Gone By Lunchtime co-host Annabelle Lee-Mather said the result was interesting. “I think the main takeaway is that despite the prevailing myth that Māori only vote Labour, they are in fact tactful and mobile voters and all parties will have to put real thought into their policies to win them over,” she told me.

A preferred prime minister poll showed Jacinda Ardern on 47%, well above her nearest competitor Christopher Luxon on 12%.

Full results available here.


Follow Gone By Lunchtime on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

‘I love Serena and Venus’: Jane Campion apologises for ‘thoughtless’ comment

Director Jane Campion has apologised after comments she made at the Critics’ Choice Awards about tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams went viral.

Accepting the trophy for best director for her Netflix western the Power of the Dog, Campion said: “Venus and Serena, you’re such marvels. However, you don’t play against the guys, like I have to.”

The Williams sisters were at the awards in support of the film “King Richard”, a biopic about their father starring Will Smith in the title role.

Campion’s comments quickly went viral on Twitter, with claims of racism and white privilege.

In an apology published via Variety, Campion called her joke “thoughtless”.

“I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes,” she continued.

“The fact is the Williams sisters have, actually, squared off against men on the court (and off), and they have both raised the bar and opened doors for what is possible for women in this world. The last thing I would ever want to do is minimize remarkable women. I love Serena and Venus. Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologize and completely celebrate you.”

Campion is widely seen as the frontrunner for the best director prize at the Oscars, assuming her speedy apology here has fixed any PR damage.

Jane Campion speaks onstage during the Netflix Power Of The Dog Live-to-Screen Performance on March 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Netflix)

Māori Health Authority reveals $22m funding package

The interim Māori Health Authority is now able to fund providers to deliver services, using $22 million of cash it was given in last year’s Budget.

Specific areas that will be targeted include $6 million to support Māori providers with innovation and sustainability and $5 million to support kaupapa Māori approaches to population health. 

The Māori Health Authority will work in partnership with the new Health New Zealand agency. Both are expected to replace our current district health board system from July this year.

Associate health minister Peeni Henare said the new agency will fix a health system that has failed to address the disproportionate health outcomes that Māori face. “On average, Māori die seven years younger than other population groups. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.” Henare said.

National, Act and Greens all say petrol excise cuts not good enough

Political parties from across the spectrum have criticised the government’s plan to slash petrol excise tax by 25 cents a litre for the next three months, saying that won’t go far enough to help struggling New Zealanders.

Across the country, petrol prices have today returned back to where they were about a month ago. Here in Auckland, that means the Gull near my house is advertising 91 at about $2.75 (while my local Z is still near the $3 mark).

But while last night’s announcement was talked up by the government as a short term fix to a “global energy crisis”, it hasn’t received an endorsement from the other parties in parliament – including the Greens.

In a statement, co-leader James Shaw said while he was thrilled with the plan to halve public transport fares, the petrol tax cuts are the wrong approach to take. “Providing direct payments to people through the welfare system or via a tax credit would have given people the support they need to pay the bills, whether it’s putting petrol in the car or feeding their whānau,” said co-leader James Shaw.

“Urgent action is clearly needed to address the worsening inequality crisis in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Green Party co-leader and climate change minister James Shaw. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National’s Christopher Luxon was on a similar page, calling the excise cut a “tweak” that won’t solve the broader cost of living crisis. “It’s not just petrol prices that are going up. Food prices are up more than 13 per cent and weekly rent is up $150,” he said.

Inflation also meant New Zealanders were paying more income tax “despite going backwards under Labour”, he added.

Luxon talked up his party’s own tax bracket adjustment policy, that would see the average earner keep an extra $870 a year – but has been criticised by some for helping richer New Zealanders more than poorer. 

The Act Party also backed its own policy, saying a Carbon Tax Refund would have helped more New Zealanders than a “trim” to the petrol excise duty.