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Covid numbers could return to Winter peak

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 16, made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can reach me on

The agenda

  • New Zealand’s summer outlook looks “uncertain” when it comes to Covid-19, according to health experts.
  • Russia denies responsibility after missiles hit Poland.
  • It’s Grammy nominations day already!

Covid numbers could return to Winter peak

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 16, made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can reach me on

The agenda

  • New Zealand’s summer outlook looks “uncertain” when it comes to Covid-19, according to health experts.
  • Russia denies responsibility after missiles hit Poland.
  • It’s Grammy nominations day already!
Nov 16 2022

Eligibility for second Covid booster widened

Marama Lyall Barraball receives her vaccine from Dr Maia Melbourne-Wilcox (Photo: Supplied)

The Ministry of Health has widened the eligibility for a second dose of the Covid-19 booster vaccine.

Māori and Pacific peoples aged 40 to 49 will be able to get a second booster at least six months after their first. It means another 63,000 people will become eligible, alongside those who already qualify (anyone over the age of 50 and healthcare workers over 30). The second booster will be available for those newly eligible from this Friday.

“First and second boosters help to reduce the chance of more serious illness and hospitalisation, so we strongly recommend people book in for the vaccines they are eligible for,” said Dr Andrew Old, the head of the Public Health Agency.

“There is clear evidence that the burden from Covid-19 has fallen unevenly, and Māori and Pacific peoples are over-represented in Covid-19 hospitalisations with that risk increasing from the age of 40 years.”

Earlier today Old and other health officials fronted a Covid press briefing in Auckland where they outlined the likelihood of another wave of infections over summer.

Trump announces 2024 presidential run

One-term president  Donald Trump. (Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images)

Following on from a midterm election result that failed to generate the so-called “red wave” (you would barely call it a red trickle), Donald Trump has just confirmed his 2024 bid for the White House.

The former president was reportedly livid with the result of last week’s elections. But while many were blaming him for the lack of Republican success, Trump was said to be blaming everyone else – including, inexplicably, his wife Melania.

If, for some reason, you want to watch Trump’s announcement, you can do so below.

Costco roads aren’t built to handle traffic demands, admits AT

The queues at Costco on a Tuesday morning. Photo: Chris Schulz

Traffic jams forming on the roads around Auckland’s brand new Costco and the nearby NorthWest shopping mall are here to stay – and they’re likely to get much worse in the build-up to Christmas.

The frank admission from Auckland Transport comes after the publication of a Spinoff story covering Northwest Shopping Centre, which opened in 2015 and was dubbed a “ghost mall” for many years after it was built. The opening of Costco has changed that, bringing shoppers out to the West Auckland centre in their droves and causing traffic chaos on surrounding streets, especially on weekends.

NorthWest has requested support from Auckland Transport to alleviate the issue, but a spokesperson told The Spinoff this morning there was little they could do – especially when it came to a problematic and confusing “shared zone” on Maki Street used by pedestrians, cyclists, cars, trucks, courier drivers, cyclists and motorbikes.

“Having reviewed the network, there isn’t a lot we can do given the operating protocols established to protect the shared space section of Maki Street. This effectively reduces the ability of shoppers to exit out of the precinct efficiently,” a spokesperson said. “The road network does not appear to have been designed to cater for the demand experienced at present.”

Ghost mall
A troublesome “shared zone” at NorthWest Shopping Centre shared by adults, kids, cars, courier vans, trucks and cyclists. Photo: Chris Schulz

Auckland Transport admitted the problem wasn’t going away anytime soon. “We anticipate delays will get worse over the Christmas Shopping period and we have not even started implementing the signal timing changes to align with the desired operating protocols to protect the Shared Space section of Maki Street.

“Due to the lack of options and narrowness of the network, we are unlikely to implement any significant changes this side of Christmas. Our current response is to continue monitoring the network closely – particularly over the weekends.”

You might say the answer is to avoid weekend queues and head to Costco on weekday mornings, but when The Spinoff visited on Tuesday at 10.30am the queues were out the doors and down the street. “Once it starts moving, it will take about 20 minutes,” a Costco employee told us. The queue had not started moving.

Read more: How Costco ruined my beloved ‘ghost mall’

Video of the day: Fazerdaze’s Winter


I very nearly just put the trailer for John Wick 4 here because everybody needs to see that, but then Fazerdaze dropped a new video from her excellent EP Break.

Fazerdaze is going on tour next week and will also be opening for Lorde on her upcoming summer tour of New Zealand. Here’s the new video for Winter.

Listen: Gone By Lunchtime on poll numbers, banks and the RMA

As Labour lurches from upbeat conference to buzzkill poll, Gone By Lunchtime‘s Ben, Annabelle and Toby look at how the party is changing its tactical approach to National. Plus: Jacinda Ardern’s verbal salvo at the banks, the Adrian Orr war of independence and David Parker launches a ream raid on the RMA.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

National leader defends MP advertising on ‘anti-vax’ website


The leader of the National Party has defended one of his MPs advertising on a local website that’s been labelled “anti-vax” and “unethical”.

A Spinoff report published today found adverts for Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds prominently displayed on the What’s On Invers website, an offshoot from a Southland-based community Facebook page of the same name. While the website claims to be a news source, it’s drawn criticism from locals concerned about its promotion of conspiracy theories and misinformation.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Christopher Luxon told The Spinoff that it was important for National MPs to engage with as many people in their electorates as possible. “[What’s On Invers] is a community website used by a large number of people in Invercargill,” the spokesperson said.

“Placing advertisements or opinion pieces with any publication does not imply agreement with everything it says.”

Simmonds herself has so far refused to respond to The Spinoff’s questions.

The Spinoff also revealed today that RNZ ended a republication agreement with What’s On Invers back in 2021 following concern about the Covid-19 content being shared.

Read more: National MP advertising on What’s On Invers, the ‘anti-vax’ website blacklisted by RNZ

Image: Bianca Cross

Covid-19 case numbers could return to 11,000 a day

Image: Toby Morris

New Zealand’s summer outlook looks “uncertain” when it comes to Covid-19, according to health experts.

Officials have held their first Covid-19 briefing in about two months as case numbers continue to rise following the end of restrictions.

Public Health Agency lead Dr Andrew Old said the mix of omicron subvariants has made it more challenging to predict the future shape of the outbreak. However, there is nothing to suggest the new variants bring harsher illness. “These new subvariants are now starting to outcompete more established variants, internationally and now at home,” he said. BA.5 now represents almost 80% of cases, but it’s “losing ground” to BQ.1.1.

“The model shows daily cases could rise to a peak similar to in July, between 10 and 11,000 cases a day,” said Old. Hospitalisations could peak at about 100 admissions a day, which would be slightly lower than the winter peak. “These are not predictions… but plausible models,” added Old.

Reinfection rates were also climbing, said Old, and now accounted for up to 20% of daily infections. However, just 1% of these reinfections had tested positive within the previous 90 days.

Watch: Health officials give first Covid briefing in months

Image: Toby Morris

I’d almost forgotten what it was like to tune in for a Covid briefing.

Lead of the Public Health Agency Dr Andrew Old will be joined by other health officials for the first live Covid-19 update in about two months.

Tune in below.


‘Great for New Zealanders’: Labour celebrates National ‘u-turn’ on clean car scheme

Christopher Luxon (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National’s leader appears to have had a change of heart related to the government’s clean car discount… or has he?

Appearing on Newshub’s AM this morning, Christopher Luxon said that he would “keep the clean car discount” in order to ensure low emissions vehicles are used on our roads. That’s despite previously going on the offensive regarding the policy, which National had labelled a “ute tax”.

In a statement from the Labour Party, transport spokesperson Michael Wood thanked Luxon for his support. “This u-turn is great news for New Zealanders. We all know what sitting on our hands on this issue will do – and it’s catastrophic,” said Wood.

“National voted against the scheme, and misrepresented it as a ute tax. This flip flop shows the Nats are all over the place with climate policy.”

It followed an earlier statement released this morning from the Labour Party that suggested National’s position on climate change verged on overall denial.

A spokesperson for Luxon told Newsroom’s Marc Daalder that Luxon had meant to say the clean car “standard” – not discount – during his appearance on AM today.

Russia denies responsibility after missiles hit Poland

The Ukrainian flag (Photo: Getty Images)

Some major news from the Ukraine conflict this morning, with reports a pair of missiles have hit Poland.

According to CNN, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed the two missiles landed in the neighbouring nation of Poland. However, Polish authorities have not yet confirmed this information.

Russia has denied involvement. The defence ministry said there were “no strikes made on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border”.

There are reports that two people were killed in the in attack.

Nato has confirmed it is looking into the incident, telling CNN it was coordinating with “our ally Poland”.

There’s been no word from our government yet on the attack, though National’s foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said the missile strike had “put the world on edge”.

Yup, it’s Grammy time again: Here are the nominees

Beyonce at Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival (Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

It seems unbelievable that we’re already talking about the 2023 Grammy Awards and yet here we are.

Unsurprisingly – and also totally deservingly – Beyonce leads the field this year with nine nominations. That includes nods in the big three categories of album (Renaissance), song and record (Break my Soul). Other bangers from her album are scattered through the dance and R&B categories. It makes Beyonce the most nominated artist of all time, equal with her partner Jay-Z. Both have received 88 nominations overall.

In what looks set to be a repeat of 2017, Adele is also in the mix with nominations for her album 30 and hit single Easy on Me. Kendrick Lamar scored eight nominations, while others with several possibilities of success include Harry Styles, Lizzo, Brandi Carlisle and, yes, Abba (the band only secured their first nomination last year – now they’re up for the top award among others).

A very familiar Grammy name, Taylor Swift, managed to pick up four nominations including for song of the year for her lengthy 10 minute version of All Too Well. She missed out on an album nod for her re-recorded version of Red.

Oh and just to end this on a sour note: both Dave Chappelle and Louis CK picked up nominations for best comedy album. *melting face emoji*.

The Grammys will be held in February. Check out the full nominations list (which somehow includes Coldplay) here.

The Bulletin: Up to 25% of residential property listings could sell at a loss

CoreLogic research shows almost 3% of properties were sold at a loss in the three months to September, compared with nearly 1% in the fourth quarter of 2021. Chief property economist Kelvin Davidson says he expected the decline to accelerate. Davidson is predicting up to a quarter of residential property listings will sell at a loss if interest rates continue their upward trajectory and unemployment rates lift.

Auckland’s share of profit-making re-sales reduced by 2.6%, the lowest figure since the last quarter of 2019. Some perspective though: most people were still getting a price well above what they originally paid. Figures show profits of more than $400,000 in Tauranga, Auckland, and Wellington.

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.  

‘Climate denial’ or a ‘desperate beat-up? National and Labour in climate face-off

October 20, 2021: Todd Muller on his first day back in Parliament after resigning the leadership (Photo: Lynn Grieveson via Getty Images; Design: Tina Tiller)

The National Party has hit back at a scathing statement released by the Labour Party this morning that suggested the opposition was on the verge of downright climate denial.

Released by Labour’s climate change spokesperson Megan Woods – noticeably on Labour Party letterhead and not the government’s – the statement was headlined: “National’s climate policy might as well be denial”.

As detailed in The Bulletin, the statement includes new figures from the Ministry of Environment that showed “the net effect of constantly opposing policies to reduce emissions leaves Christopher Luxon with a hole greater than Auckland’s annual emissions twice over if he keeps New Zealand’s climate targets”.

But National’s climate change spokesman Todd Muller refuted the claims and said they amounted to nothing more than a beat-up.

“National is absolutely committed to Net Zero by 2050. Climate change is real and New Zealand will rise to the challenge of responding to climate change under a National-led government,” Muller said, as reported by the Herald.

“We are committed to emissions targets and support the government’s emissions budgets. We agree on the ends, but differ on the means.

“New Zealand needs policy that works and to achieve Net Zero by 2050 in the most cost-effective way possible. That means relying heavily on the Emissions Trading Scheme, as that drives the cheapest emissions reductions – not spraying taxpayer money at subsidies for Teslas or big corporates that were already investing in climate change.”