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Blog may 17


Daily Auckland Covid cases highest in almost two months

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 17, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip? I’m on

The agenda

  • Covid-19 latest: Eight new deaths, 421 in hospital, 7,795 new cases.
  • Auckland’s Covid cases have taken a leap: There have been 3,442 new cases confirmed in the city.
  • Winston Peters is out of the running for the upcoming Tauranga by-election.
  • The health minister’s revealed a $100 million pre-budget boost for mental health.
  • Jacinda Ardern remains too sick to join question time today. Deputy PM Grant Robertson will step in to cover.
Blog may 17

Daily Auckland Covid cases highest in almost two months

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 17, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip? I’m on

The agenda

  • Covid-19 latest: Eight new deaths, 421 in hospital, 7,795 new cases.
  • Auckland’s Covid cases have taken a leap: There have been 3,442 new cases confirmed in the city.
  • Winston Peters is out of the running for the upcoming Tauranga by-election.
  • The health minister’s revealed a $100 million pre-budget boost for mental health.
  • Jacinda Ardern remains too sick to join question time today. Deputy PM Grant Robertson will step in to cover.
May 17 2022

How Ngāti Kuri are keeping an eye on the future

The legendary sand dunes at Te Paki (Photo: Don Rowe)

Stories From the Electric Highway is an ongoing series created by The Spinoff in partnership with BMW. Don Rowe’s been travelling Aotearoa in an all-electric BMW iX, seeing some of the country’s most spectacular sights and hearing some of its most interesting stories.

In last week’s instalment, he visited Ngāti Kuri kaitiaki in the far north to learn about the iwi’s conservation and preservation efforts – and how they’re helping the next generation. Read that story here, and catch up with the full series here. (Sponsored)

Twelve candidates on the ballot for Tauranga byelection

National’s Tauranga byelection candidate Sam Uffindell (Photo: Supplied)

With just over a month until voting closes in the the June 18 byelection sparked by Simon Bridges’ resignation, the Electoral Commission has issued the final list of candidates. In case you missed it earlier, Winston Peters confirmed this morning that he would not be among them.

The frontrunner is Sam Uffindell, who will be expected to return the seat to National’s grasp. Labour is represented by Jan Tinetti, a current list MP who stood in the electorate in 2020. Act continues its quest to confuse us with candidate homophones, standing Cameron Luxton in the seat. Neither the Greens, Te Pāti Māori nor New Zealand First has opted to put a candidate forward.

Among those likely to be seeking to harness the energies of the parliamentary occupation are NZ Outdoors & Freedom Party co-leader and prominent anti-vax lawyer Sue Grey, Andrew Hollis of the New Nation Party and New Conservative co-leader Helen Houghton.

Allan Cawood will be representing the ONE Party and Christopher Coker the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. Making up the list are independents Tony Corbett, Gordon Dickson, Yvette Lamare and Peter Wakeman.

Advance voting opens on June 4.

Robertson jibes Luxon over subsidies for Air NZ during climate debate

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

There’s been a fiery exchange in parliament over the Emissions Reduction Plan, with deputy PM Grant Robertson taunting National’s leader about his tenure at Air New Zealand.

The almost $3 billion plan to cut emissions was announced yesterday, with prime minister Jacinda Ardern calling it a “landmark day” for New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions future.

While the National Party has backed some elements of the plan, it’s been highly critical of others. Leader Christopher Luxon called it “corporate welfare” and said “too much of the new spending will go to more working groups”. He repeated a similar talking point in question time today, asking Robertson whether it was fair for New Zealanders to be subsiding “large corporates”.

Robertson, who is standing in for the prime minister this week, replied: “It’s really interesting to hear the National Party advocating for higher costs on businesses and higher costs on Kiwis by doing absolutely nothing.”

Referencing Luxon’s time as head of Air New Zealand, Robertson said there has always been a place in New Zealand politics for business and government working together. “For example, Air New Zealand being provided funding of $18,000 to provide filters in their Auckland Airport lounge in the period around 2014-2016,” he said, to a big laugh from his side of the house.

Asked why the Emissions Reduction Plan included changes to NCEA and a merger of polytechnics, Robertson said this question showed a “complete lack of understanding” from National on the issue of climate change. “If [Luxon] does not understand that climate change is going to mean that New Zealanders need to change jobs, move into high wage jobs, be supported to do that through the education system, [or] might actually lose their jobs… it just shows how out of touch the National Party is on the issue,” he said.

What’s up with Ticketmaster ‘in demand’ tickets?

This is a stock photo (Getty Images)

I was booking tickets to a concert recently when something confounded me: Ticketmaster was selling some tickets for twice the regular retail price, with no added benefit to the purchaser. These weren’t VIP tickets, for example, and you wouldn’t be getting merch or free drinks alongside entry.

I’m talking about “in demand” tickets, described by Ticketmaster as dynamically priced tickets “driven by demand from fans, similar to airline tickets and hotel rooms”.

For example, tickets for Florence and the Machine’s Auckland show were advertised at around $160 each. But for an “in demand” ticket, you could be paying up to $300.

While no one from Ticketmaster has responded to my request for more information on these in demand tickets, the retailer says on its website that these aren’t resale tickets.

“In demand tickets are tickets offering sought after views and seats from Ticketmaster. The prices are adjusted according to supply and demand,” Ticketmaster said. “The goal is to give the most passionate fans fair and safe access to in demand tickets, while allowing the artists and everyone involved in staging live events to price tickets closer to their true value.”

I was still a bit confused by whether this was fair or whether people were getting ripped off. I asked Consumer NZ to clarify. Spokesperson Raksha Nand  told The Spinoff it was possible people could be paying significantly higher prices for tickets as a result.

“While this isn’t ideal from a consumer perspective, there’s nothing illegal about the practice,” she said. “And Ticketmaster isn’t the only company using this type of pricing. However, any company that adjusts it prices based on demand will need to ensure it’s upfront about its pricing and that it isn’t misleading its customers by advertising prices that are unattainable.”

Consumer has just had one complaint about this so far, Nand confirmed. However, the return of live events in the post-Covid world could see more people question how much they’re paying for a ticket.

Covid-19 latest: Eight new deaths, 421 in hospital, 7,795 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

The number of Covid-19 deaths has risen by eight, the Ministry of Health has announced.

It brings the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 986 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 16. Of the people whose deaths have been reported today, three were from the Southern region, two were from Auckland, two were from Northland, and one was from Canterbury.

One person was in their 60s, four people were in their 70s, and three were aged over 90.

Of these people, four were women and four were men.

The number of hospitalisations is continuing its upward trend, with 421 being reported today. Just 10 days ago, on May 7, there were 339 people in hospital with Covid.

Currently, 10 people are being treated in intensive care.

Another 9,843 community cases have been confirmed today. While that number is higher than recent days, the seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 7,795 – down from last Tuesday’s 7,927.

Auckland’s Covid cases have taken a leap, however. There have been 3,442 new cases confirmed in the city overnight. That’s the highest total in almost two months.

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Scratched is back to celebrate more New Zealand sporting legends

Scratched s3 (The Spinoff)

The award-winning series Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends returns for a third season, celebrating five more New Zealand athletes whose incredible achievements have been forgotten by history. 

The new season drops on The Spinoff today, with episodes recognising the feats of triathlete Erin Baker, the nine-time world champion who won 104 of the 112 races she competed in; Sheree Taylor, one of New Zealand’s first woman woodchoppers; pole dancing warrior Ryoko (Koko) Ibraki; Samoan-New Zealand professional boxer Ali Afakasi, who was tipped to become world champion; and track runner Marise Chamberlain, who competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Made with the support of NZ On Air.

Here’s your first look at the budget

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – MAY 17: Finance Minister Grant Robertson poses with a copy of the Wellbeing Budget 2022 during a photo opportunity at Parliament on May 17, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. Finance Minister Grant Robertson will deliver Budget 2022 on Thursday 19 May, 2022. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Budget 2022 has officially been unveiled, with finance minister Grant Robertson showing off the lengthy tome to media today.

But while the cover has now been confirmed, nobody – not even media – will get a first look inside until Thursday morning. The details will then be released to the public from 2pm onwards.

Grant Robertson with budget 2022 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Robertson told media he had taken the cover photo of the budget himself. Possibly that’s to avoid a repeat of the unfortunate story from 2019 where the woman pictured on the cover of the budget revealed she had actually moved away from New Zealand for a better life.

However, possibly the biggest confirmation from Robertson’s media appearance is that the blurry document snapped on Jacinda Ardern’s desk in a recent Instagram photo was not the budget.

Budget 2022: $100m boost for mental health announced

Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little 
(Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The health minister’s revealed a $100 million pre-budget boost for mental health.

A quarter of the new cash – around $27 million – is going to community crisis services, while $18.7 million will be spent on enhancing specialist child and adolescent services. Another $10 million will go to workforce development. The rest of the funding has not yet been allocated.

Andrew Little said the Labour government was the first to take mental health seriously. “In three years we’ve made the biggest ever investment to build a solid foundation for a whole new mental health and addiction system.”

Also announced today: a $90 million boost to the school-based Mana Ake programme, which is set to roll out services across more of the country.

The 2019 budget included a $1.9 billion package for mental health, including over $200m for building mental health and addiction facilities. But as the Herald noted, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission found there had been little change in access to specialist mental health services.

Health is, along with the climate, expected to be the area that receives the biggest cash injection come Thursday’s budget being released in full. Yesterday’s climate change announcement almost totalled $3 billion in funding.

Political veteran Mike Lee eyes return to local politics

Former Auckland councillor Mike Lee is considering a return to local politics, according to the Herald.

The long-serving councillor, who most recently represented the Waitematā and Gulf Ward, lost to Pippa Coom in 2019. He lost by just 300 votes, and would likely go up against Coom again should he choose to stand this year.

“I’m aware Auckland Council is not a very pleasant place to work. In addition to the quasi-bankrupt state of the city’s finances, a toxic political culture now dominates,” Lee told the Herald.

“Dissenters around the council table are being bullied into silence and even the public itself is being bossed around by people who are meant to serve them.”

In 2020, I wrote about Lee’s 2016 campaign. The councillor’s former campaign manager Jeremy Greenbrook-Held told me the campaign was dominated by conspiracy theories and “trivial crap”.

“Part way through… he blocked me on Facebook,” Greenbrook-Held told me at the time. “I was his campaign manager and he blocked me on Facebook.”

Alongside Lee, the Herald has reported that political old-hands Maurice Williamson and George Wood are also contemplating comebacks.

The Bulletin: Poverty reduction targets fail to account for pandemic or cost of living crisis

Kate Prickett, Director of the Roy McKenzie Centre for the study of families and children, says “urgent and bold” budget decisions will be needed “if we are to get serious about the cost of living crisis and what it means for families and children living in or on the edge of poverty”. Prickett says declines in child poverty have slowed in the past year on multiple indicators and one measure, the proportion of children living in households with less than 50% of the median disposable household income, has risen. The Salvation Army has called on the government to urgently increase housing support payments in Thursday’s budget.

‘Brain drain’ underway

Stats NZ released their latest population figures yesterday for the year ending March 31 2022. The population has increased to 5,127,100 despite more people leaving than arriving. The figures do point to the beginnings of the heralded “brain drain” – that is young people leaving to go overseas to live and work. A fairly natural thing to expect after two years of closed borders but it may present challenges in the current climate. The working age population shrank 0.2% with a 3.1% reduction in the number of people in their 20s. The number of people aged 25 to 29 dropped by 4%.

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‘Hard target’ for banning new petrol vehicles up in the air – Shaw

Green Party co-leader James Shaw October 13, 2017 (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The climate change minister says cabinet still has further decisions to make around additional action in the wake of yesterday’s Emissions Reduction Plan.

The multi-billion dollar plan was released ahead of this Thursday’s budget, and includes a scheme to dump and replace some high emitting vehicles, funding for new cycleways and cash to help decarbonise public transport.

But, as noted by many (including Spinoff contributor Bernard Hickey), one glaring omission was the lack of a plan to ban imports of petrol and diesel-powered cars by any date. That’s despite it being recommended by the Climate Commission.

James Shaw told RNZ it could still be in the pipeline. “Those sort of hard targets may still be coming,” he said. Shaw said he personally believed a move like this should be implemented “sometime” between 2030 and 2035. “If you wanted to avoid New Zealand being a dumping ground then you should peg it to what other markets are doing,” he said.

The lack of movement in some areas, and the pace of others, led ex-Green MP Catherine Delahunty to accuse the government of being afraid to lose the election. Shaw said that, in a way, that was true. “Every government is afraid of losing an election and the whole point of a democracy is you need to keep your eye on the social licence that you have,” he said.

However, he believed that social licence was a lot stronger now than it was even a year ago. “There is a hunger for the government to move faster on a lot of these commitments,” he said.

Bernard Hickey writes: A tame, tentative and too thin Emissions Reduction Plan

Confirmed: Winston Peters not running in Tauranga by-election

Winston Peters speaks to media at Parliament on June 17, 2020. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Winston Peters has confirmed he won’t be standing in the upcoming Tauranga by-election.

The New Zealand First leader – a former MP for Tauranga – had been tipped by many to throw his hat into the ring in the hopes of securing an easy route back to parliament next year.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of National’s Simon Bridges, who left parliament to focus on his family and possible commercial opportunities.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking, Peters said the by-election was “purely a political matter” and a waste of money. “When you have a three-year contract as an MP at election time, you’re promising the electorate you’re going to be there for three years,” he said.

“At a time when we’ve got so much wasteful spending, here we’ve got another example of a waste and no political party in parliament think it’s of any concern at all.”

Peters denied that he was choosing not to stand because he thought he wouldn’t win. However, he said he will be back in 2023. “New Zealand First will be standing in the 2023 election and most certainly I will be. All our efforts are going into that.”

Nominations for the Tauranga by-election close at midday today. Candidates confirmed so far include Labour’s Jan Tinetti and National’s Sam Uffindell. Te Pāti Māori said it would not be standing a candidate, citing safety concerns.