blog first dec 15

Live UpdatesDec 15 2021

Tauranga Covid case dies

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 15. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


Today’s headlines

  • A patient with Covid-19 in Tauranga Hospital has died.
  • There are 74 new Covid-19 cases. 15 alone are in Taranaki.
blog first dec 15

Tauranga Covid case dies

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 15. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


Today’s headlines

  • A patient with Covid-19 in Tauranga Hospital has died.
  • There are 74 new Covid-19 cases. 15 alone are in Taranaki.
Dec 15 2021

Luxon takes aim at government in final speech of the year

National leader Chris Luxon has used his final speech of the year to hit out at the government’s Covid response, calling it “complacent and incompetent” and the traffic light system “an exercise in utter confusion”.

Speaking during the adjournment debate, parliament’s final set piece of the year, Luxon said while the country handled Covid-19 pretty well in 2020, this year the government had “squandered those opportunities we worked so hard for”. 

Luxon said the new National caucus was struggling to think about heading off for the Christmas break because they were drawing so much energy from looking across to the Labour benches and seeing “worry staring back at us”. He quipped that the backbench MPs were probably “polishing up their LinkedIn profiles”.

The National leader shared his Christmas gift list for a number of parliamentary colleagues, including a Kookaburra cricket ball for Jacinda Ardern, who, said Luxon, made Black Caps record-breaking spinner Ajaz Patel “look very average because she took her spin game to the next level”. Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson would be getting a relaxing summer getaway to prepare him for being leader of the Labour Party, meanwhile, and Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins a copy of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits so he could “polish up the moonwalk and practise walking back with a bit more flair next year”.

‘Let’s keep going’: PM looks to 2022 in final speech of the year

Jacinda Ardern has wrapped up the parliamentary year with an optimistic look forward to 2022.

Speaking during today’s adjournment debate, the prime minister said while a lot of work had been achieved this year, there was more to do. “Let’s keep going,” she said.

Nobody was motivated to join politics because they thought they could fix a pandemic. Everyone was there to tackle other issues, said Ardern, citing areas like climate change and child poverty.

“We will be measured by what we do in a pandemic but also what we do in spite of it,” said Ardern. “I look to 2022 with optimism. We will rise to the challenge of whatever comes our way.”

After thanking parliamentary staff and her colleagues, Ardern signed off with a message to the public: “I wish you a wonderful break. You bloody deserve it.”

Disagreement over state of government accounts

The finance minister has proclaimed “strong government accounts and economic outlook” as Treasury releases its latest fiscal update.

That’s a very different interpretation of the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update compared with the opposition, who say the state of the economy is hurting New Zealanders.

“The New Zealand economy has performed well since the beginning of 2021, though that strength has been tested by the arrival of delta,” Grant Robertson said in a statement. “While the Treasury is forecasting a decline in GDP in the September quarter, the outlook is positive with a forecast bounce back in the December quarter of 3.7%.”

Inflation is forecast to peak in the March quarter next year, said Robertson, then fall across the rest of 2022 towards the Reserve Bank’s 2% mid-point over the rest of the forecast period.

Finance minister Grant Robertson delivering the budget on May 20, 2021 in parliament (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National’s finance spokesperson Simon Bridges said government spending is too high for a post-Covid society. “Core government spending is forecast to run a whopping 68% higher since Labour took office this year,” he said. “While elevated spending levels were appropriate through much of the pandemic, many economists and the likes of the Reserve Bank now confirm its an overheating economic picture where adjustments and some easing off is required.”

Inflation was being pushed up as a result of the increased spending, which Bridges said would hit New Zealanders in their back pocket. “Whether it’s the mum at the supermarket, the tradie at the petrol station or the young person trying to buy a first home, inflation is making things much, much harder,” he said.

NZ to hit 90% vaccinated ‘in next day or two’

Six DHBs are now 90% fully vaccinated, as Counties Manukau hit the milestone today. The following DHBs are all close, on 89% fully vaccinated with numbers required to get to 90% in brackets:

  • Midcentral (1,755 doses to go)
  • Wairarapa (395 to go)
  • Nelson Marlborough (1,905 to go)
  • South Canterbury (750 to go)

“We are 7,417 doses away from being nationally 90% fully vaccinated, which we expect to achieve in the next day or two,” said the Ministry of Health.

That means Mike Hosking is about to lose his bet with minister Stuart Nash and have to cough up for a case of fancy wine.

Meanwhile, as just 74 community cases were recorded today, here’s a look at how the outbreak is tracking.

Covid-19 patient dies in Tauranga; 74 new community cases

A patient with Covid-19 in Tauranga Hospital has died.

The Ministry of Health said that no further details will be released at this stage for privacy reasons. “Our thoughts are with the patient’s whānau and friends at this deeply sad time,” said a spokesperson.

There are 74 new community cases of delta today across Auckland, Waikato, Lakes and Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki. It marks another drop in the daily number of cases being reported. However, of today’s cases, 15 have been reported in Taranaki alone – all in one township.

Sixty-one people with Covid-19 are in hospital, with four in intensive care.

Today’s case details

There are 56 new cases being reported in Auckland. “The number of community cases in the Auckland region decreased for the third consecutive week, with 22% fewer cases than the week prior,” said the Ministry of Health. “This decline is mirrored across all three Auckland Metro DHBs.”

Health and welfare providers are now supporting 1,971 people to isolate at home, including 474 cases.

In the Waikato nine new cases were reported overnight: five are in Te Kūiti and four are in Hamilton. All are currently under investigation for links to previous cases.

There are seven cases to report in Tauranga today. Four are linked to previously reported cases, while the other cases are still being investigated for potential links. Contacts are being identified and will be contacted for testing and isolation advice.

The one new case in the Lakes DHB area is in Rotorua. Links to other cases are being investigated.

Fifteen new cases have been reported in the Taranaki township of Eltham. As these 15 cases were reported overnight, they will be officially added to our case figures tomorrow. “The cases are self-isolating and initial interviews suggest they are all linked to the Eltham case reported on Sunday – with links to four of these new cases already confirmed,” said the ministry. 

The majority of these new cases are in pupils who usually attend a school in Eltham, which is now closed for the summer break. Local public health officials are already working with the school on public health advice for the school community, including isolation and testing for some individuals.

All three Auckland DHBs hit 90% fully vaccinated

All three of Auckland’s DHBs have hit 90% fully vaccinated.

Counties Manukau, which has the second biggest eligible Māori population for a DHB and the biggest eligible Pacific population in the country, hit the crucial milestone today. It joined Auckland and Waitematā DHBs.

Counties Manukau DHB chief executive Margie Apa said it was an enormous feat. “Our DHB is home to the most diverse communities in New Zealand and we want to thank everyone for coming together to support and protect each other,” she said.

“This tremendous result is testament to the uniquely Counties approach that has seen DHB health teams supported by our regional colleagues, Māori and Pacific health provider partners and community NGOs work collaboratively especially over the last few months to seek out the harder-to-reach pockets in the community.”

NRHCC vaccination programme director Matt Hannant said it was great news for Auckland – but there was still work to do. “While its great to see the city reach double dose, our job isn’t done until we achieve better than 90% for Māori, Pacific and communities that are vulnerable to the poor outcomes of Covid-19,” he said.

Covid numbers due imminently

The latest Covid-19 numbers are due any minute now from the Ministry of Health. They’ll come, as is tradition, via a written statement.

All you need to know will be here as soon as it comes to hand.

Vaccinated people with no symptoms urged not to seek out a Covid test

Vaccinated people with no Covid-19 symptoms are being urged not to try and get tested, even if they plan to leave Auckland.

The city’s border lifted at midnight and travellers need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test. However, for some, the thought of visiting vulnerable relatives or travelling to an area with low vaccination still feels risky.

In a statement to The Spinoff, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre asked asymptomatic vaccinated travellers to skip getting a surveillance test.

“There is no requirement for people who are vaccinated to get a test to travel domestically, so long as they carry their My Vaccine Passport,” said a spokesperson. “It would be appreciated it if the testing resources provided at community testing centres, GPs and urgent care could be preserved for symptomatic people.”

Read more: Why should only the unvaxxed benefit from rapid tests?

Unvaccinated people with no symptoms are asked to get a rapid antigen test from a pharmacy.

The number of people being tested at community testing centres today across the metro-Auckland region had remained steady, said the NRHCC spokesperson, although there was a slight decline this morning.

The Spinoff has approached the Ministry of Health for further clarification.

Abuse in care inquiry calls for ‘survivor-focused redress system’

A new survivor-led redress system will be developed by the government in response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.

The new system will be designed from the ground up in collaboration with Māori, who were heavily over-represented in state and faith-based care.

Public services minister Chris Hipkins said the government has listened to the concerns expressed by survivors. “The collaborative design will also be guided by the views of survivors and key communities, including Pacific peoples and disabled people,” he said.

“We acknowledge the Royal Commission’s findings that there have been failings in the Crown’s approach to providing redress. We are therefore making an immediate and clear commitment to change.”

Hipkins said the government was moving to quickly implement some of the commission’s recommendations . “We want to minimise delays for survivors who are waiting for their claims to be resolved. We are conscious of the age and ill-health of many of the survivors who suffered abuse at a time when care was heavily institutionalised,” he said.

“The Royal Commission has flagged areas where urgent action is needed before a new system is in place, such as advance payments for older or terminally ill survivors. They will be prioritised.”

Writing for The Spinoff, Auckland University’s Stephen Winter called the inquiry report a turning point for historic abuse claimants. “Unsparingly critical of successive governments and other organisations’ existing redress processes, He Purapura Ora outlines an ambitious roadmap for improvement,” he said.

“Reflecting international best practice, the report should be lauded. Then the hard work of implementation must begin.”

Read more: A turning point for abuse in care survivors – but the work is just beginning

Luxon: More freedom now, even if we need restrictions again later

National’s Christopher Luxon thinks New Zealanders should have more freedoms now – even if it means reimposing Covid restrictions again in the future.

Luxon has been questioning why Auckland is in the “red” setting of the traffic light framework, despite high vaccination rates and the lack of pressure on healthcare. He told Stuff that with a risk-based approach, you could easily move up and down levels depending on the threat.

“The point is that you should be able to go up and down a system based on the risk you see. If the risk is lower – which I would put to you in New Zealand in the last few months, it has been, why don’t we loosen restrictions, when the risk goes up, we tighten restrictions – it’s pretty pragmatic about it,” he said.

Under a National government, some restrictions – like mask use and vaccine passes – would remain.

Details of victims’ sex life no longer able to be used in court trials

A new law will make the court process less traumatising for victims of sexual assault.

The Sexual Violence Legislation Bill passed its third reading last night, changing how the court handles cases dealing with sexual violence.

Key changes include allowing sexual violence complainants to pre-record their cross-examination evidence in certain cases, and limiting the circumstances when details of a complainant’s past sex life can be used against them.

“As well as reducing unnecessary harm, the changes will see cases based on relevant information, and not myths about sexual violence, such as a victim somehow asking for it,” said justice minister Kris Faafoi.

“We know that victims of sexual violence often don’t come forward because they fear the process of seeking justice will end up doing them more harm. Over time, the changes in this bill will help to address this issue,” Kris Faafoi said.

 Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson welcomed the law change. “This bill is an important step and we must reduce the re-traumatisation sexual violence victims experience in court, lift reporting rates, and build confidence in the justice system’s ability to appropriately deal with sexual offending,” she said.

Cross-party housing plan to become law

A housing plan backed by both Labour and National will become law after passing its third reading last night.

It will allow three homes of up to three storeys to be built on most sites, paving the way for thousands of properties to be built in the coming decades.

Just Act voted against the bill, accusing those in support of rushing the bill through without considering sensible alternatives.

Housing minister Megan Woods said passing the bill with cross-party support would lead to enduring change. This gives New Zealand homeowners, councils, developers and investors greater certainty,” Woods said.

“These changes address the overly restrictive planning rules that limit the types of homes people can build and where they can build them. These changes to the Resource Management Act will allow more affordable homes to be built more easily in areas with good access to jobs, transport, and community facilities like schools and hospitals.”

New Taranaki Covid cluster emerging at school

A new cluster of delta cases has emerged in Taranaki, with reports 11 cases have now been confirmed at one school.

Recently, one case in Hāwera and one in Eltham had been reported. But, according to Stuff, the cluster has now ballooned.

South Taranaki mayor Phil Nixon said there was a link between the Hāwera case and the previously reported case in Eltham. ‘’According to the DHB there are 11 students all from the same class. It’s a real little cluster,” he said.

‘’Everyone needs to be so careful, wearing masks, scanning in, so we can do contact tracing. People need to be vigilant in getting vaccinated.’’

The Eltham case was confirmed on December 11 and all cases have been linked.

Auckland border lifts: police report ‘minimal’ delays at checkpoints

After well over 100 days, Aucklanders are finally able to freely leave the city. The border lifted at midnight, allowing travel in and out for the first time since August 17.

Police will be stationed at both the south and north borders of Tāmaki Makaurau through until January 17 when restrictions will drop entirely. While not all travellers south will be checked, every vehicle heading to Northland can expect to be stopped.

In a statement, police said the lifting of the boundary went smoothly with minimal delays to traffic. “There was a small queue of cars waiting from between 11pm and midnight. Police estimate less than 100 cars at each of the main borders,” said a spokesperson.

“This morning traffic appears to be flowing freely however, we expect it to start building as normal for peak hour traffic.”

Northland police district commander Tony Hill told Newstalk ZB that it’s been a slow morning so far. He expected to check every vehicle, at least until that becomes untenable. “Absolutely if we could check every car coming out of Auckland that would be ideal, but as we get busy we will see how that goes,” he said.

The Act Party’s David Seymour has criticised plans to stop every traveller heading north, calling it a farce. “These checkpoints are a waste of police time and resources and police should never have been bullied into setting them up by iwi and Labour,” he said.