blog feb 17

Live UpdatesFeb 17 2022

Record 1,573 new community Covid-19 cases

Hello there and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 17. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


The latest

blog feb 17

Record 1,573 new community Covid-19 cases

Hello there and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 17. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


The latest

Feb 17 2022

All parties agree to no dialogue with protesters until roads cleared, tents removed

All parties in parliament have agreed to not talk with the protesters currently occupying parliament grounds until “the protest returns to one within the law”, according to a statement from Trevor Mallard, the speaker of the house.

That includes “the clearing of all illegally parked vehicles that are blocking, the removal of unauthorised structures, and the cessation of the intimidation of Wellingtonians”.

“We note that there is a history of parliamentarians attending peaceful protests or hearing from the leaders of groups who are at parliament peacefully,” said the statement.

‘This needs to stop’: National calls for protest ‘de-escalation strategy’

National leader Christopher Luxon has called on the government to set out a “clear de-escalation strategy” to end the anti-vaccine mandate parliament protest, now in its 10th day.

“New Zealanders are losing confidence that the government has a plan to resolve the protest,” said Luxon in a statement.  

“The gathering at parliament includes people showing a flagrant disregard for the law – blocking off streets, using drugs and abusing Wellingtonians. Seeing children used as tools to spread misinformation has been heartbreaking.

 “This needs to stop. National is the party of law and order and I will not be meeting with the protesters while this behaviour continues,” he said, adding that National would be willing to engage with protesters’ representatives “should they become peaceful and law abiding, clear Wellington’s streets, and stop their abusive behaviour”.

Luxon criticised the vaccine misinformation being spread by the protesters, but said “there are frustrations shared by law-abiding and well-intentioned people up and down the country about the government’s approach to Covid and its lack of a plan”, which the government shouldn’t dismiss out of hand.

He was also critical of the prime minister’s backing of speaker Trevor Mallard, who turned the parliament lawn sprinklers on and played annoying music over the loud speakers in an effort to get the protesters to leave, saying Mallard’s actions only inflamed the situation.

Victoria University claims protest activity on its campus has increased

Victoria University said protest action at its Pipitea campus has increased overnight, with tents surrounding the Old Government Buildings.

The central Wellington campus, near parliament buildings, has been a casualty of the growing rally around the Beehive.

In an email sent to staff, a university spokesperson said all staff and students at the Pipitea campus are strongly advised to continue to work remotely until tomorrow. “The increased activity on the Pipitea campus, and volatility of this situation, increases the risks for our community,” the email said.

“Currently, there are no pathways clear of protesters into either building on the Pipitea campus.”

Police said they would begin towing illegally parked vehicles around the streets yesterday, but this has yet to happen.

Broadcast network fined after ‘inaccurate and misleading’ Covid-19 discussion

A regional broadcast network and an American TV network have been fined by the broadcasting watchdog after airing a television programme that contained inaccurate comments, and conspiracies, about the Covid-19 pandemic.

A complaint was made to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about an episode of Marcus and Joni, a faith-based programme that airs on Daystar – an American Christian network whose programmes are broadcast via Mainland TV, based in Nelson.

The show is hosted by Marcus and Joni Lamb who, along with a pair of guests, discussed the pandemic and vaccinations on an August episode of the programme. During the broadcast, one of the guests claimed Covid-19 vaccines were “a synthetic, lab drawn synthetic virus in a synthetic lipid nanoparticle which mimics a virus”. Later, host Marcus Lamb referenced a “plandemic” and discussed theories relating to the establishment of a “new world order”.

Marcus Lamb died of Covid-19 in December.

In its ruling, the BSA said that while freedom of expression is important, the misleading statements about Covid-19 and vaccinations were presented as fact and not just opinion. It also found the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the programme was accurate, noting the guests were not recognised experts in the subjects discussed.

“There is no audience to which it is appropriate to target inaccurate, misleading or unbalanced news, current affairs or factual information – particularly in relation to critical matters of public health,” the BSA said.

Both Mainland and Daystar were fined. Daystar has also been ordered to air a statement summarising the BSA’s decision.

Read the full ruling here

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.

Foreign minister confirms three-country European trip

The foreign minister will this weekend travel to Europe for a number of talks as New Zealand attempts to reconnect with the world.

Nanaia Mahuta will visit London, for bilateral talks, Paris, to represent New Zealand at the Indo-Pacific Forum, and Geneva, to participate in the UN Human Rights Council.

The roughly 10-day long international trip is one of the first by an MP since the pandemic took hold in 2020. Jacinda Ardern announced she will resume international trips this year as well, visiting the US, UK and Asia.

“This trip is an important step in reconnecting New Zealand to the world, and an opportunity to present our values and interests to key partners as we move forward in a post-Covid world,” Mahuta said.

Covid-19 update: 1,573 new community cases

The number of community Covid-19 cases has risen by 1,573, another record day for infections.

Most of today’s cases – 1,140 (almost as many as yesterday’s nationwide total) – were located in Auckland.

Other new cases were confirmed in Northland (31), Waikato (143), Bay of Plenty (29), Lakes (35), Hawke’s Bay (2), MidCentral (3), Whanganui (11), Taranaki (8), Tairāwhiti (8), Wairarapa (30), Capital and Coast (20), Hutt Valley (22), Nelson Marlborough (49), Canterbury (7) and the Southern DHB (35).

That bumps the number of active community cases up to 8,147.

Hospitalisations have also risen, with 63 people currently seeking treatment for Covid-19. There are no cases in intensive care.

At the border, another 15 new cases were registered.

The number of people tested for Covid-19 yesterday was about 8,000 above the seven-day average, with 32,285 seeking a test. There are currently 7.3 million rapid antigen tests available in the country, with more than three million distributed to critical workers so far as “phase two” of the omicron response begins.

Yesterday also saw 40,452 booster doses administered nationwide, bringing the total so far to more than two million doses.

For more: Visit our handy Covid-19 Tracker here.

Police delay towing, choose to focus on ‘engagement with protest leaders’

Police have not yet starting towing illegally parked vehicles around parliament, saying they are exercising “careful judgement”.

It was expected the vehicles of protesters would be impounded yesterday after police issued a warning on Tuesday night.

But, in a new statement, police said that “for the time being” the focus remained on engaging with protest leaders. “Having observed the response from protestors and noting the ongoing dynamics of similar situations overseas, police is continuing to exercise careful judgement about when to commence a towing phase,” said a spokesperson.

“Police recognises the ongoing significant impacts of the protest on residents and users of the central city, and acknowledges the patience of all concerned while we work to a peaceful de-escalation and resolution.”

There was now “significantly increased tow capacity” available, said the spokesperson, after several tow companies refused to assist police following threats.

Meanwhile, police said they remained at parliament grounds overnight monitoring the activity of protesters. No arrests were made, however one protester suffered a medical event inside parliament grounds. Emergency services were unable to drive directly to her because of the parked vehicles blocking roads.

New and improved: The Spinoff’s interactive vaccination map

The Spinoff’s vaccination data map, showing the vax rates for every suburb in New Zealand on an interactive map, has been freshly updated by our head of data, Harkanwal Singh.

Made using Ministry of Health data on the vaccination uptake across the country, the maps provide a powerful insight into the rollout of the Covid jab.

The maps display the most recent available data, which was released today.

Check out the page here.

Greens back call for new Rainbow Ministry

The Green Party reckons it’s now time for a Ministry for Rainbow Communities.

It comes in the week that conversion therapy was officially outlawed in New Zealand with near unanimous parliamentary support.

A Rainbow Ministry would, said the Greens’ Elizabeth Kerekere, provide a voice across government to help uphold the rights of the queer community. “Many of our friends and whānau identify as having diverse genders, sexualities and sex characteristics,” she said. “A dedicated ministry would address the legislative barriers and institutional discrimination they still face on a day-to-day basis.”

Last year, in an opinion piece for The Spinoff after the 2021 Budget, Auckland Pride director Max Tweedie made a similar argument. “I’ve long been a supporter of a Rainbow Ministry, and I believe that we wouldn’t have been left invisible from a budget that allocated our communities 0.004% of the government’s spending if we’d had one,” he wrote.

The Greens have today launched a petition which you can view here.

A remix on 90s nostalgia TV is here thanks to our partners at TVNZ

Will Smith’s comedic journey from the streets of Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air was a staple of the 90s TV diet. Now, in a reworked modern version of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Smith’s life is given a deeper, more serious twist. 

Bel-Air promises reimagined versions of all our favourite characters – what does Hilary Banks’ character look like in the age of social media? How is Carlton’s pompousness reflected in today’s political climate?

It’s the fresh prince as we’ve never seen him before, and you can watch it now on TVNZ On Demand.

Crisis talks under way as parliament occupation enters 10th day

The government’s in crisis talks over the ongoing occupation of parliament grounds.

The protest, which ostensibly is about vaccination mandates, has continued now for 10 days – with no end in sight.

According to Stuff’s Thomas Manch, top-ranking government officials have convened the Officials’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination in order to discuss the protest and the response to it.

The committee has previously met to deal with cyberattacks on the stock exchange, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the March 15 terror attack in 2019.

“The national security system is convening a meeting of a group of chief executives (ODESC) on Thursday to discuss issues related to the ongoing protest,” a spokeswoman told Stuff in a statement. “The meeting will ensure there’s a shared understanding of the situation and that all risks and potential implications have been identified.”

How a far right activist filmed the protest from a parliament construction site

On Friday last week, the Aotearoa extremism-research collective Paparoa shared a still image from a video that had been posted to the Telegram channel of white supremacist group Action Zealandia. The video, of protesters and police clashing in front of Parliament, appeared to have been taken from Bowen House — a government owned building that forms part of the parliamentary office complex and has secure access to the Beehive and parliament house.

Speaker Trevor Mallard was made aware of the video and made changes to security that closed access to Bowen House, which is currently undergoing a large renovation. Subsequently, police superintendent Corrie Parnell told RNZ’s Checkpoint that Action Zealander members did not have access to parliament.

Today the same group, Paparoa, provided further context on the video, stating that it was taken by Action Zealandia member Max Newsome who was at the time (and is no longer) working for LT McGuinness, the construction firm that’s overseeing the Bowen House renovation.

Newsome, know within the group as ‘Matt’, has previously been been the subject of an investigation by Newsroom into planned terrorism and was previously a member of the Army

Approached for comment by The Spinoff, LT McGuinness provided the following statement: “We have been advised that the subcontractor’s employee who posted the video is no longer on site.”

Police Association head: Parliament occupation could last ‘three months’

The occupation at parliament could last three months.

That’s according to the head of the Police Association, Chris Cahill, who told Newstalk ZB the protest had become a “dog’s breakfast”.

Cahill said he’s been down and spoken to the officers working at parliament and acknowledged the work ahead of them was difficult. “When they did try a bit of proactive moving on Thursday last week, it didn’t work. It just swelled the numbers dramatically,” he said.

There will be lessons to be learned from what has happened here, he said. “If you let these things build, they get totally out of control.”

NZ reaches ‘in principle’ deal to resettle Australian refugees

As many as 150 Australian refugees could soon be calling New Zealand home each year, with an “in principle” deal reached between the two countries.

The offer to house people from Australia’s offshore detention regime has been on the table for nine years, but was routinely knocked back by the Australian government.

Meg de Ronde, executive director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, said it’s a hard-earned win for human rights. “We’re relieved that for hundreds of people, the torture is nearly over and soon they will get to begin rebuilding their lives.”

She added: “I hope the stories of courageous, resilient people who, after years of limbo, may now rebuild their lives gets as much coverage as a tennis star visiting Australia.

Amnesty International Australia refugee adviser Graham Thom told the Sydney Morning Herald that too many people have been “traumatised” and “lost years of their lives” in Australia’s immigration system. “It’s past time they’re given a chance to rebuild their lives in safety and freedom,” he said.

It’s understood that the decision is currently with cabinet for final approval. The Spinoff has asked for confirmation of this.

Auckland Starship Hospital facing Covid outbreak

There are 12 cases of Covid-19 linked to Starship children’s hospital in Auckland, reports the Herald.

Six staff and six patients have so far tested positive for the virus, with the outbreak thought to have been linked to a Covid case in the general paediatrics ward.

Yesterday saw record numbers of new positive infections: 1,160 nationwide, with over 800 of those in Auckland alone.

“As we’re now seeing very high numbers of Covid-19 cases in the community, it’s not unexpected for some of our workforce to contract Covid-19 and to see high numbers of people with Covid-19 in our hospitals,” said Auckland DHB’s director of provider services Mike Shepherd.

All staff at the hospital were vaccinated, said Shepherd, and further testing is now under way.