‘Freedom’ protesters target school ribbon cutting

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Wednesday, June 15. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Want to get in touch? Flick me an email on

The latest


‘Freedom’ protesters target school ribbon cutting

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Wednesday, June 15. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Want to get in touch? Flick me an email on

The latest

Jun 15 2022

NZ’s richest man donated to NZ First while CGT was being considered

New Zealand’s richest man and his family donated to New Zealand First while the party was in coalition with Labour, it’s been revealed.

A Serious Fraud Office investigation into the New Zealand First party’s mysterious foundation has resulted in evidence from Graeme Hart being presented in court. As Newsroom reported, Hart, his son and son-in-law all donated to the New Zealand First Party – and all donated an amount that would typically guarantee anonymity.

The Harts were among 43 donors interviewed by the SFO, many of whom believed their money was going to New Zealand First as opposed to the separate foundation. It’s alleged that up to $750,000 raised through the foundation was spent by two men, whose names currently remain suppressed.

It appears that the donations by Hart and his family were provided to New Zealand First at a time when the government was considering implementing a capital gains tax. This was ultimately ruled out by prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Read the full report here

Pre-departure tests poised to be scrapped

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

Pre-departure tests for international arrivals could be scrapped as soon as next week.

An announcement, reports the Herald, is due to be made tomorrow by the new Covid-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall. She replaced Chris Hipkins in the pandemic portfolio in a reshuffle announced on Monday.

The future of pre-departure tests was discussed in cabinet earlier this week.

Act Party leader David Seymour welcomed the reported ditching of tests, but said Verrall should go further in updating our Covid response. “Seven-day isolation is simply too long if you’ve tested negative, businesses can’t afford to keep carrying the can as they battle huge staff shortages due to massive isolation periods,” he said.

Gone By Lunchtime: Gareth Hughes on Jeanette Fitzsimons and the future of the Greens

In a new bonus episode of Gone By Lunchtime, Toby Manhire talks to former Green MP Gareth Hughes about his new book on Jeanette Fitzsimons, a giant of green politics in New Zealand. They talk about her role in the Values Party, as co-leader of the Greens and within the Alliance in the formative years of MMP. Plus: what does he make of the Green Party in 2022?

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

Planned Oranga Tamariki oversight law should be scrapped, say Greens

The Green Party has reiterated its opposition to proposed legislation that would see the children’s commissioner replaced by a board in its monitoring of Oranga Tamariki.

The Oranga Tamariki oversight bill would also, as Stuff reports, shift responsibility for monitoring the agency to two organisations, including an “independent” monitor.

But Jan Logie, Green Party spokesperson for children, said the legislation should be withdrawn. “The minister needs to consider how children might negotiate this confusing new system, and what will give children confidence in their rights, rather than what looks good to her as a minister,” said Logie. 

The bill fails to put children at the heart, said Logie, and putting monitoring powers into a government agency would be “hugely concerning”.

The changes to the monitoring of Oranga Tamariki were recommended by a parliamentary select committee. Children’s commissioner Frances Eivers said the committee should first have waited for the final report from the Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care.

“Did we really want to listen to their insights, because we are still designing new legislation without even waiting to hear them?” she questioned.

Covid-19 update: 11 deaths, 368 in hospital, 5,554 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been 11 more deaths of people with Covid-19, bringing the pandemic death toll up to 1,359 and the seven-day rolling average number of deaths to 13.

The latest deaths were all people over the age of 60, with one person from Northland, two from the Auckland region, one from Waikato, one from Hawke’s Bay, one from MidCentral, one from the Wellington region, two from Canterbury and two from Southern.

There are currently 368 people in hospital with Covid-19, including seven in intensive care.

Another 5,554 new community cases have been recorded nationwide, with Auckland registering the high of 1,659.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 5,777 – last Wednesday it was 6,035.

Meanwhile, health officials have issued a warning as the winter months prepare to bring an influx of new illnesses. “We’ve been planning for a challenging winter and are working with our regional colleagues to manage capacity and demand, prioritise urgent care and deliver as much planned care as possible,” said the Ministry of Health.

“We need everyone to do their bit to help us get through winter. We’d like to encourage everyone to get their flu vaccine this year, which can help protect against four different strains of the virus and reduce the need for hospitalisation.”

‘Freedom’ protest had ‘zero effect’ on school visit, says Ardern

Jacinda Ardern. (Photo by Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

The prime minister said a large protest presence outside a Christchurch school today had “zero effect” on her visit to the campus.

Jacinda Ardern formally opened the newly rebuilt Te Aratai (formerly Linwood) College today in Christchurch. About 100 so-called “freedom” protesters attempted to derail the visit.

Speaking at a press conference, Ardern said it wasn’t up to her “what driveway” she went down to get onto the school. She wasn’t concerned by the protest action. “From time to time [protests take place] but it very rarely has any impact on the events themselves that we’re a part of,” she said.

New chief censor announced

Caroline Flora will be the new chief censor, replacing David Shanks who finished up in the role early last month.

Internal affairs minister Jan Tinetti, who made the announcement, said Flora’s leadership, relationship management and communication skills will be of great benefit to the Classification Office.

“Flora will carry on the vital work of protecting New Zealanders from material likely to cause harm, while balancing the important right to freedom of expression,” Tinetti said.

The role of the censor has become more prominent in recent years, with the rise of online extremist content. In 2019, the censor’s office moved swiftly to outlaw the livestream of the Christchurch massacre. The killer’s so-called “manifesto” was later banned as well. More recently, in May of this year, the censor similarly banned a white supremacist “manifesto” believed to be written by the 18-year-old accused of an attack in Buffalo, New York.

Flora, whose term will officially commence on July 20, is a public servant who most recently held an associate role at the Ministry of Health.

Ardern cuts ribbon at new Christchurch School

In contrast to the scenes outside (see below), the mood inside Te Aratai College for its official opening by the prime minister was “joyful” this morning, according to one Christchurch Labour MP.

The school opened its doors to students about a month ago, and replaces Linwood College, which was demolished after sustaining earthquake damage. Protesters have now largely dispersed, with Jacinda Ardern and her aides arriving and departing through a side entrance.

‘Freedom’ protesters target Christchurch school opening


A crowd of around 100 protesters has gathered this morning outside the newly rebuilt Te Aratai (formerly Linwood) College, which Jacinda Ardern is expected to formally open today. Watched by at least 10 police officers, the demonstrators have been hollering various slogans about mandates, vaccines, politicians, police and the media. 

“Gestapo!” some shouted at the officers, with one declaring police were “working for a corrupt, Masonic corporation”. Another shouted at a photographer: “Look at what happened after the nuremberg trials, to all the lying media!”

Among those in attendance are Derek Tait of The Freedom and Rights Coalition, Pastor Carl Bromley, and Lee Williams, who was last year fired after posting racist videos. On a Facebook livestream from outside the school he falsely claimed that “the Ardern government is trying to ban livestreaming”.

Ardern’s visit to the high school, which was rebuilt after Linwood College was destroyed owing to earthquake damage, was nominated as a target for “freedom movement” protesters across messages on Facebook, YouTube and Telegram yesterday, with Brian Tamaki’s Freedom and Rights Coalition declaring it an “Emergency Protest”. One who encouraged participation was the white supremacist Philip Arps. On a social network where he posts under the username “Antisemite”, he claimed his son, a student at the school, was questioned by security “when he mentioned if [Ardern] will be behind bulletproof glass”.

The ‘Old Gays’ join Tova

If you’ve never heard of the Old Gays, you’ve been missing out. The group of four from California have found internet fame through their TikTok account, where they post dances, challenges and hilarious Q+A videos, and with over 7.3m followers, they’re more popular on the social media app than even Kim Kardashian.

Robert Reeves, Jessay Martin, Bill Lyons and Mick Peterson call themselves the Old Gays, and they joined Tova on Today FM on Thursday morning to talk fame, friendship and having fun in old age. Listen to the interview here. (Sponsored)

Houses prices drop, properties taking longer to sell – new figures

Photo: Getty Images

Houses are taking longer to sell as prices across the country decline, according to latest figures from the real estate institute.

Median house prices dropped in May, down from $875,000 in April to $840,000. That’s still a 2.4% increase on 12 months before, however, when the average house price nationwide was $820,000.

If you take Auckland out of the equation, the median price fell from $755,000 in April to $730,000 in May.

Jen Baird, chief executive at REINZ, said the drop from April to May was “greater” than anticipated. “With the exception of the West Coast, median prices in the regions have come off their peak,” she said. “Auckland was the only region to see an annual decrease in median price — down 2.2% on the same period last year.”

Auckland has seen a “significant shift” in market dynamics, said Baird, with the median price across the region decreasing 13.5% since its November 2021 peak of $1.3 million.

While prices soared across much of 2021, recent government action has seen this recede. “Measures introduced… including the reintroduction of LVRs and changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA, and the Reserve
Bank OCR hikes, have affected market dynamics, and we are now seeing the reverse play out,” she said.

All Whites not going to World Cup

(Photo / Getty Images)

An almost too-angry-for-words Calum Henderson was forced to write the following. 

The New Zealand men’s football team has failed to qualify for the 2022 Fifa World Cup, losing 1-0 to Costa Rica in an intercontinental qualifier marred by poor officiating. After conceding a soft goal to former Arsenal striker Joel Campbell in the 3rd minute, the All Whites equalised in the 38th minute when striker Chris Wood put a deflected cross from Matthew Garbett past Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas.

The goal was overturned by referee Mohammed Abdulla Hassan Mohamed, who upon reviewing the footage several in slow motion decided Garbett had committed a foul in the lead-up to the goal.

(Photo / Getty Images)

Unlike previous World Cup qualifiers against higher-rated opposition, the All Whites dominated the match after going behind early, but were unable to convert any of the gilt-edged chances that fell to Wood, his strike partner Alex Greive and midfielder Clayton Lewis, whose curling left-footed shot from outside the box forced a diving save from Navas in the second half.

Speaking after the game, All Whites coach Danny Hay said Fifa “made a mistake” with its refereeing appointment. “They have let us down in putting somebody in charge who has clearly not officiated at this sort of level.”

Important supplementary reading: It’s time to remove all umpiring technology from sport

Monkeypox could be declared a global health threat

 Close-up of monkeypox lesions on the arm and leg of young girl, Liberia (Photo: CDC/Public Domain)

Monkeypox could be declared a global threat as early as next week.

The World Health Organisation’s emergency committee will be meeting to decide whether the virus should be deemed a public health emergency of international concern. According to Politico, that is the highest health alert possible and would place monkeypox on the same level as Covid-19.

New Zealand has yet to record a confirmed monkeypox case, however the Ministry of Health has added it to its list of notifiable diseases. At least 39 countries have so far recorded a case, with roughly 1,600 confirmed cases. Deaths have only been reported in the seven nations of which monkeypox is endemic.

The WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the virus was now behaving “unusually” from how it used to. “We believe that it needs also some coordinated response because of the geographic spread,” he said.

Close-up of monkeypox lesions on the arm and leg of young girl, Liberia (Photo: CDC/Public Domain)

The Bulletin: Winston Peters takes legal action against Trevor Mallard

Winston Peters at parliament on Feb 22 (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Mallard’s departure from parliament and expected move overseas now seem like a happy coincidence. Winston Peters has instructed lawyers to take legal action against Mallard after Peters was trespassed from parliament following his visit to the grounds during the protests in March. Mallard didn’t respond to RNZ’s request for comment as he is undergoing a medical procedure.

Peters said that Mallard’s planned departure, announced yesterday, was not the “full truth” and Mallard was leaving because of his threat of legal action. The prime minister has denied this. Mallard will have to deal with Peters’ litigious approach at some stage but at least the Speaker’s departure from our shores will mean it won’t cause too much unnecessary distraction for the government. Peters was last in court in December over the leaking of a superannuation overpayment he received. The Supreme Court dismissed his application for leave to appeal and ordered him to pay $2,500 to the respondents.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

New police minister takes aim at National’s ‘rhetoric’

Chris Hipkins (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

The new police minister has criticised the opposition’s plans for tackling growing gun and gang violence in New Zealand.

Chris Hipkins, the former Covid response minister, has taken over the police portfolio after a cabinet reshuffle on Monday saw Poto Williams demoted. Hipkins retains his education role, though some responsibilities have been reallocated to his associate minister.

As 1News reported, Hipkins has not held back from criticising his new National counterpart, Mark Mitchell, who appeared over the weekend on TVNZ’s Q&A. “They’re trying to do something they tried to do before and it was a failure,” said Hipkins of National’s new gangs policy announced over the weekend.

Under National, police would have the power to stop gang members gathering and wearing patches in public.

Hipkins doesn’t buy it. “I’m far more interested in solutions that work than rhetoric,” he said. “Let’s make sure they’re in education, employment, training. Those things are going to choke off the supply of gang recruits.”

The previous National government was “closing police stations” because the force was underfunded, said Hipkins.