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LIVE UPDATES

Latest numbers: Covid cases back on the rise

Welcome back to another week of live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. A big thanks to our members. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • There have been a lot of headlines on Shakespeare’s “cancellation”. But is that the case?
  • Jacinda Ardern has shut down criticisms lobbed by her former deputy prime minister, calling Winston Peters’ comments “politicking”.
  • The latest Covid numbers show cases are back on the rise.
  • The PM will front her weekly post-cabinet press conference at 4pm.
blog-oct-17.jpg

Latest numbers: Covid cases back on the rise

Welcome back to another week of live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. A big thanks to our members. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • There have been a lot of headlines on Shakespeare’s “cancellation”. But is that the case?
  • Jacinda Ardern has shut down criticisms lobbed by her former deputy prime minister, calling Winston Peters’ comments “politicking”.
  • The latest Covid numbers show cases are back on the rise.
  • The PM will front her weekly post-cabinet press conference at 4pm.
Oct 17 2022

Wayne Brown tells Watercare to stop all work on Three Waters

Wayne Brown. Photo: Supplied

Auckland’s mayor-elect, Wayne Brown, has written to the chair of Watercare advising that any work under way on preparation for Three Waters reforms should halt. It comes ahead of a scheduled meeting between Brown and the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Thursday. Brown campaigned in opposition to the national water infrastructure overhaul, as did the retiring mayor, Phil Goff, and indeed a large majority of mayors across the country.

In the letter to Watercare’s Margaret Devlin, Brown writes: “The proposal has not been passed by parliament and after last weekend’s local government elections throughout the country has no chance of proceeding this side of next year’s general election. It is not in the best interests of Watercare, its shareholder or its customers for it to spend any more money on the doomed proposal – and that is also true of Auckland Council.”

Watercare is a council-controlled organisation, 100% owned by Auckland Council. Ardern said last week the government will pursue the reforms, which would see the delivery of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater overseen by four entities across the country, but that they are open to improvements to the legislation, which is currently at the select committee stage.

Ministry underreported Covid hospitalisations by 5,000 across pandemic

Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

The overall number of people hospitalised from Covid-19 across the pandemic was underreported by about 5,000.

The Ministry of Health, via tweet, has revealed that the total number of hospitalisations was actually 19,476 and not 14,043 as originally reported. “This is due to a coding issue that has resulted in an undercount of case data used to identify patterns of hospitalisation,” the ministry said.

“The ministry continues to review and improve Covid-19 data collection and reporting as we gain greater insights from complex data sources.”

Today saw a jump in new reported Covid infections, with roughly 500 new cases being recorded every day over the past week compared to the week before.

Speaking at today’s post-cabinet press conference, Jacinda Ardern said that isolating Covid-19 cases remained an important part of our response to the pandemic. The uptick in new cases was expected, Ardern said, and modelling suggested a new wave would not be as severe as what New Zealand had previously seen.

Will Laneway Festival upsize? ‘It’s being discussed, for sure’

Laneway Auckland’s main Albert Park stage. (photo supplied)

When Laneway made its comeback after three years away, demand for tickets caught everyone by surprise. Pre-sale tickets to the Australasian festival, held in Auckland every January, sold out in an hour. When they went on general release two days later, they were snapped up in another 80 minutes.

That’s 13,000 tickets sold in just over two hours, a record festival co-founder and director Danny Rogers calls “unprecedented”. Surely, with demand that high, organisers are looking to expand to a second day, or a bigger venue? “Oh, absolutely,” admits Rogers to The Spinoff. “When you sell out in two hours after being out of the market for three years … it’s definitely something that’s being discussed, for sure.”

The St Jerome’s Laneway music festival began in Melbourne in 2005 and expanded to Auckland in 2010, shifting from Britomart to Aotea Square and Silo Park before landing in Albert Park in 2017. Over that time, Laneway has put a wide range of overseas acts, including The 1975, Grimes, Billie Eilish and Charlie XCX, on stages next to an eclectic line-up of local acts like Marlon Williams, Lorde and Jess B.

Laneway cancelled its 2021 and 2022 festivals, saying it wasn’t possible to deliver it appropriately during a worldwide pandemic. But its 2023 event, scheduled to be held in Auckland on January 30, is looking like its biggest yet, with Haim, Phoebe Bridges, Turnstile and Slowthai headlining the bill.

The Laneway vibes featuring Mac DeMarco (Photo: Connor Crawford photography).

Rogers, who spoke to The Spinoff while visiting Auckland as the promoter for Tame Impala’s Spark Arena show on Saturday night, says sales are also strong in Australia, but New Zealand had “set the bar”. He called it his favourite of all the festival’s sites. “Laneway New Zealand is probably my favourite show. The crowd … is really diverse. Just music fans, whoever they are, from wherever they are.”

He put demand down to a lack of competition and its history. “I don’t think there are many festivals in New Zealand like Laneway,” he says. “There’s just nothing out there that’s done what we’ve done and done it consistently.”

Rogers admitted it was tempting to expand Laneway after the drama of the past two years. “It’s cost us a lot of money to keep the team together and a lot of energy and time while we were unable to do a show.” But he wouldn’t yet be drawn on specifics. “We’re exploring some options,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that for the moment because it’s still not clear.”

BBC publishes new allegations against ex-TVNZ host Kamahl Santamaria

Kamahl Santamaria (Photo: Supplied)

A major BBC investigation has revealed further allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace behaviour by short-lived Breakfast co-host Kamahl Santamaria, this time from his tenure at Al Jazeera.

Santamaria appeared on TVNZ’s Breakfast for about a month before mysteriously disappearing from the show in May. It was later revealed he was facing accusations of harassment from within the state broadcaster, claims Santamaria has since denied.

According to the BBC, similar behaviour had taken place during Santamaria’s 16-year stint at Al Jazeera. One former staffer, Tory, described how Santamaria would message her on Twitter saying he was available for a cuddle and question why she hadn’t invited him on holidays. “Then came the touching in the office,” Tory told the BBC. “A hand on the shoulder, a weird hug, and the worst: the kiss on the cheek. On more than one occasion I had to go to the bathroom to wipe Kamahl’s saliva from my face.”

The BBC sent Al Jazeera a list of 22 allegations it had received about Santamaria. “As an international organisation with over 95 nationalities, we continually strive to build a healthy and constructive work environment for all,” the outlet responded.

Last week, Santamaria pre-empted today’s report in a statement posted to his own website. He apologised for “any and all behaviour that may have made anyone feel uncomfortable”, though added that the allegations were “broad and with no particulars”.

At the time of writing this, the report on Santamaria was the lead story on the BBC’s news website.

Read the full BBC report here

Image of the Day: The Very Hungry Vaperpiller

(Photo: Supplied)

Today’s image of the day is by Wellington fashion student Jessica Kitchen, from Alex Casey’s excellent story about about the colossal amount of trash created by the rise of disposable plastic vapes.

(Photo: Supplied)

Jessica, who has vaped since high school, has been working on a project crocheting cocoons around vape waste and hanging them from houseplants. “I was drawn to humans’ relationship with nature,” she explains. “How do we even intertwine with anything these days? People my age look at it and say, ‘that’s kind of funny’ or ‘that’s so random’, but older generations seem to find it kind of disturbing.”

Read the full story here

Covid-19 latest: Average daily number of new cases up by 500

Image: Toby Morris

The average number of new daily Covid-19 cases has jumped by about 500 over the past week.

The Ministry of Health’s latest weekly Covid update has reported the average number of new infections each day as 2,041, up from about 1,500 last Monday. Overall, 14,311 cases have been confirmed over the past week (including 1,465 reinfections).

Meanwhile, there are 185 Covid-related hospitalisations as of last night, with just two now in intensive care.

The average number of daily Covid deaths has dropped to one, although the official Covid death toll has gone up by 34 over the past week. That included 10 Covid-attributed cases and 24 that have not yet been confirmed as directly linked to the virus.

Image: Toby Morris

Is Creative NZ really ‘cancelling’ Shakespeare?

Not to be, thanks. (Image Design: Archi Banal)

There have been a lot of headlines on Shakespeare’s ‘cancellation’. But is that the case? Sam Brooks writes:

During an interview with Today FM’s Tova O’Brien this morning, Dawn Sanders, the current CEO of the Shakespeare’s Globe Centre New Zealand, confirmed that the organisation had not received funding from Creative New Zealand that would have gone towards an executive assistant and a succession plan.

“I wanted succession planning, I wanted a proper EA so I don’t have to work the insane number of hours, 65 or more, a week that I do,” she said. “Sharing that workload was part of the whole application as well.”

Sanders also mentioned that she’s had offers of support from all around the world, who were “outraged” at the funding cut.

The organisation, which has run the popular Sheilah Winn Competition for 31 years, has been in the headlines for a few weeks after not receiving $31,000 in funding from Creative New Zealand. That funding makes up just over 10% of their annual $300,000 budget, and the organisation is not reliant on funding from the agency to operate. Sanders also confirmed that the amount asked for was $110,000 over three years, which is how the Toi Te Uru Kahikatea funding stream is allocated. CNZ currently funds 58 arts organisations through the fund.

Over the weekend, more articles were posted, with the news reaching the Guardian and the Telegraph, with people arguing for and against Shakespeare and the funding of the organisation. Broadly speaking, the gist was that Creative New Zealand was “cancelling” Shakespeare by not funding the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand, with reporting glossing over or not taking into account the fact that the festival would still go ahead without that funding.

One of the reasons given by an assessor in feedback, which created particular outrage, was that Shakespeare was “located within a canon of imperialism”. It’s worth noting that this piece of feedback was excerpted from an open letter calling for an inquiry into Creative New Zealand, and does not reflect the entirety of the feedback the Centre received on their application, nor does it form the sole basis of the council’s decision.

In a later interview with O’Brien, Creative New Zealand CEO Stephen Wainwright noted that it was less about the proposal itself and “more about other proposals that were deemed more attractive”. In that funding round, four organisations were let go from the funding stream, including the Globe Centre and Arts on Tour, and four organisations were added (Te Rākau Hua o te Wao Tapu, Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival, Kia Mau Festival and Toi Ngāpuhi).

“If we weren’t to fund people like Jacob Rajan, then that’s not going to happen anywhere else in the world,” he went onto say. “We’ve got a Royal Shakespeare company, we’ve got thousands of hours of Shakespeare available online.” He indicated that there were other avenues for the Centre to get funding from CNZ. In the interim, the SGCNZ have started a Give a Little page to raise funds.

Smaller players outranking big names in customer telco survey

Half the internet crashed last night (Image / Getty)

A new Consumer NZ survey has found customers with smaller mobile and internet providers feel more satisfaction than those paying for plans with bigger companies.

Almost 2,000 people were asked for their thoughts on their telcos, revealing Now Broadband and Skinny were the most popular internet providers, while 2Degrees, Warehouse Mobile and Skinny were the people’s choice for mobile.

Bigger players like Spark and Vodafone received below-average satisfaction scores for mobile, with Vodafone in particular earning the lowest or joint-lowest satisfaction scores in every aspect surveyed for its internet service.

“The results speak for themselves,” said Consumer NZ investigative writer Ruairi O’Shea. “The vast majority of Now and Skinny customers are very satisfied with their service provider – these are relatively small operators. On the other hand, only 51% of Vodafone’s customers are very satisfied with their internet service.”

In terms of internet service, 45% of consumers surveyed had experienced a problem with their provider over the past year., including disconnection, dropouts and slower-than-expected speeds. Orcon was the worst culprit for internet service issues, concluded Consumer.

The Bulletin: Concerns about biosecurity staffing at our borders uncovered

Our biosecurity systems and border controls are often described as world class. The work of Ministry of Primary Industries staff protects the country from invasive diseases and pests that could devastate the economy, our native species and our natural environment.

Newshub’s Michael Morrah reports on emerging concerns about staffing at the border. A chief quarantine officer warned that the key inspection teams have been “gutted”, rosters are “not fit for purpose” and workers are facing “burnout”. In July, 560 hours of overtime was racked up to “meet deficiencies”. A new roster system requires staff to work across multiple sites. Staff surveys obtained by Newshub, reveal criticism of the plan with concern about site specific knowledge being lost and the difficulties of staying competent in multiple areas.

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.  

‘Winston Peters is trying to get headlines’: Ardern hits back at former deputy

Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern has shut down criticisms lobbed by her former deputy prime minister, calling his comments “politicking”, “grandiose” and suggesting he just wants to make the news.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters yesterday headlined his party’s conference in Christchurch, where he took aim at the government’s “woke” agenda. It’s a similar line to what we heard from Peters toward the end of his tenure as deputy PM in 2020, when he and his party were ousted from parliament.

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Peters doubled down on this claims and said that the supposed “virtue signalling” New Zealand was not the New Zealand he recognised (despite being reminded by host Guyon Espiner that Peters had spent years making claims of separatism).

Ardern was later asked to respond to Peters’ claim that the government was “scattering the seeds of apartheid”, telling RNZ it was wrong. “I always put these things in context. We heard similar statements and hyperbole last election, there is a cycle to these things,” she said. “I’m always mindful of the fact it’s about getting headlines so I won’t be party to that.”

She added: “What Winston Peters is trying to do is to get headlines by making grandiose statements. I’m not here to fulfil his wish.”

However, despite this, Ardern would not rule out the prospect of once again working with Peters in government. “That only becomes an issue if New Zealand voters put him in the position where any major political party needs to consider that,” she said. “We’re not at that stage yet.”

Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)