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LIVE UPDATES

Covid legislation ‘wound back’, ability for lockdowns removed

It’s Tuesday, October 18 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. A huge thanks to our members. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • The government’s Covid-19 legislation has been ‘significantly narrowed’ – but isolation requirements will stay.
  • The consumers price index has increased 7.2% annually, compared with the 32-year high of 7.3% back in June.
  • Big news: Air New Zealand is finally going to offer dairy-free milk onboard.
  • For the sixth month in a row, national property prices have dropped.
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Covid legislation ‘wound back’, ability for lockdowns removed

It’s Tuesday, October 18 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. A huge thanks to our members. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • The government’s Covid-19 legislation has been ‘significantly narrowed’ – but isolation requirements will stay.
  • The consumers price index has increased 7.2% annually, compared with the 32-year high of 7.3% back in June.
  • Big news: Air New Zealand is finally going to offer dairy-free milk onboard.
  • For the sixth month in a row, national property prices have dropped.
Oct 18 2022

Rogue MP Gaurav Sharma quits parliament, triggers byelection

Gaurav Sharma in the halls of parliament (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Independent MP Gaurav Sharma has announced he will be quitting parliament, triggering a byelection in the electorate of Hamilton West.

However, Sharma, who was dramatically expelled from Labour earlier this year after making claims of bullying from within the party, has confirmed he will be running for parliament again in the byelection.

In a lengthy post on his favourite platform, Facebook, Sharma alleged that Labour was planning to use the waka jumping legislation six months before the next election. That would prevent a costly byelection but, said Sharma, “mean [the] people of Hamilton West will have no voice in parliament for six months preceding the next general election”. As such, Sharma intends to contest the byelection his resignation will trigger “because I do want to send a message to the government that you can’t silence the voice of the common man”.

He added: “[Labour has] tried to shut me up at every avenue but I will continue to fight and stand up – for myself, for my constituents and for people of this country.”

Sharma has also revealed plans to launch his own political party which he described as “a new centrist party with [a] focus on outcomes and action rather than on ideologies”. It currently has no name and Sharma provided no other details about this.

Gaurav Sharma on the day he was expelled from Labour (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

In a statement, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern denied the party had any intention to invoke the wake jumping rules. “Labour’s position on Gaurav Sharma and the waka jumping provisions have not changed. We have not, and are not, considering invoking the waka jumping provisions, nor do I know the basis of Gaurav Sharma’s speculation,” said Ardern.

“Gaurav may wish to reconsider his decision given he is unnecessarily costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars to trigger a byelection he then intends to stand in. We consider it unnecessary and wasteful given the general election is scheduled for 2023”.

Sharma’s statement included a lengthy defence for the cost of a byelection, comparing it to costs incurred by the government he was once a part of such as the TVNZ-RNZ merger and the scrapped Auckland harbour cycle crossing. “Labour will now try to spin my decision by talking about the cost of the byelection,” wrote Sharma.

“Over the years many Labour MPs have triggered by-elections for one reason or another – in fact Labour MP David Shearer resigning and triggering a by-election is how Jacinda Ardern won the Mt Albert electorate seat in 2017.”

Listen: A star-studded Gone by Lunchtime live special

Labour MP Jan Tinetti and the incoming mayor of Rotorua Tania Tapsell join the Gone by Lunchtime regulars before a live audience at the Escape Festival in Tauranga. On the agenda: the meaning of the local elections, the kind of election to expect in 2023, some wild predictions and more.

Listen below or wherever you get your pods

Sis producers leak own show in protest ahead of official release date

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Updated

On Monday night, the producers of comedy show Sis leaked their first season on Vimeo before its official release date. Sis is scheduled to be released on Comedy Central NZ today online. It will screen on the Comedy Central NZ channel in November then on Prime and Neon early 2023.*

The show, a satirical and sketch comedy series, revolves around the experiences of Māori and Pasifika women in the television industry. It’s a follow-up to a comedy special released on Prime and Comedy Central in 2020. The series received $2m of public funding from NZ on Air in September 2020, with Prime listed as the primary free-to-air platform.

In an Instagram live video released Monday night, the series producers read out a statement explaining the decision to leak the show. They cited not being given an equal seat at the table, and that they learned a week ago that the platform “could be trying to scam not only us, but more importantly, you”. Sky has been approached for comment.

“We are leaking Sis ourselves, we understand there may be legal and financial consequences to this,” the Sis creatives said. “But we give this show to you, the people, free to access, around the world.”

The leak is accompanied by an open letter and a petition asking for equity and justice for all in the Aotearoa screen sector, as well as a public meeting with the relevant ministers.

*This post has been updated to amend today’s release platform from Neon to Comedy Central NZ, and to include further release dates on Prime and Neon.

Watch: Alice Snedden’s Bad News vs NZ Rugby’s culture of silence

Photo: Alice Snedden’s Bad News

In the season finale of Alice Snedden’s Bad News, the comedian takes aim at rugby culture in Aotearoa, and what NZ Rugby is doing to combat toxic masculinity and right historic wrongs. For example, the All Blacks are a cultural institution in Aotearoa, so why have they still never fronted a domestic violence campaign? Featuring New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson, sports journalist Dylan Cleaver, criminologist Dr Lynzi Armstrong and former first XV player Joe Daymond, this episode reveals just how pervasive the “culture of silence” around rugby in Aotearoa really is. No spoilers, but let’s just say this is not the first time Alice Snedden has tried to make an episode about rugby…

Covid-19 legislation ‘significantly narrowed’, isolation requirements to stay

Chris Hipkins (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

The legislation required for emergency Covid-19 restrictions will be “wound down”, the government has announced, though isolation periods will stay in place for now.

A basic legal framework will stay in place, meaning people who test positive for Covid-19 will still be required to isolate for a week and mask-wearing will be required in certain health settings. However, the government will no longer have the ability to reinstate lockdowns, managed isolation, vaccine mandates, gathering limits or mandatory contact tracing.

The New Zealand traveller declaration for incoming arrivals will also be dropped from this Thursday. 

“Today is a significant milestone,” said the acting Covid response minister Chris Hipkins. “The government has been clear that the measures used to contain the spread of Covid-19 need to be proportionate to the risk of the virus, so it’s appropriate to wind down many of the extraordinary powers that are no longer needed.”

Under the new plan, if other measures – beyond isolation periods, mask-wearing and traveller requirements – were needed, the government would have to pass new legislation.

“The government’s plan before the end of the year is to remove the most restrictive powers from the Act that are no longer required for the response, while still ensuring we can practically manage the ongoing impact of Covid-19,” said Hipkins.

“It will retain an ability to put in place case isolation periods and mask-wearing requirements and if necessary, requirements on travellers that can be called on if things change and we need to step up our response, but most other measures, including lockdowns, will be removed.”

Acting Covid minister Chris Hipkins (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

The next review of the measures staying in place will be in a month’s time, said Hipkins, owing to the slight uptick in Covid infections and hospitalisations. “These core measures remain important, with indications of an upward trend in cases and growing concern about new omicron subvariants that are driving waves of infection overseas.”

Meanwhile, the government has given its strongest indication yet that it will allow a review of its Covid-19 response. “A continuation of these powers enables time for extensive public and stakeholder engagement on the design of a future enduring legislative framework for the management of pandemics,” said a note in the press release outlining the legislative changes.”The continuation period will ensure findings from the inquiry into the Government’s response to Covid-19 can inform the design of this future framework.”

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Annual inflation at near record 7.2%

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Annual inflation has slipped ever so slightly back in the September quarter from its peak, according to new figures from Stats NZ. But it remains at a near record high.

The consumers price index has increased 7.2% annually, compared with the rise of 7.3% back in June – that was a 32-year high. Back in March, inflation rose by 6.9%.

The main driver for the inflation rise was housing and household utilities due to rising prices for construction, rentals for housing, and local authority rates.

“Prices for the construction of a new house increased 17% in the September 2022 quarter compared with the September 2021 quarter,” said Stats NZ.

“The cost to construct a new house has continued to rise with supply-chain issues, labour costs, and higher demand, all of which combine to push up prices.”

Petrol prices increased 19% in the year to the September 2022 quarter, while diesel prices were up a mammoth 72% over the same period.

Meanwhile, quarterly inflation rose 2.2% in the September 2022 quarter compared with the June 2022 quarter, mainly influenced by the food group and the housing and household utilities group.

The Bulletin: Inflation rate picked to fall

Economists expect the latest consumer price index (CPI) data to show that inflation has peaked. The CPI update will be out this morning. The Reserve Bank has forecast that the annual rate of inflation will fall to 6.4%, from 7.3% recorded last quarter. Various banks are picking a rate between 6.5% to 6.9%.

As Stuff’s Susan Edmunds reports, relief for households is still a way off though, with Kiwibank economists expecting that spikes in food prices and council rates will be a feature of today’s figures. ASB’s economists said core inflation was likely to prove difficult to dislodge and that markets were pricing in a 5% official cash rate by mid-2023.

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.  

Finally, Air New Zealand is going to offer dairy-free milk onboard

Bring on the soy

In big news for vegans across the nation, Air New Zealand has confirmed it will soon be offering a dairy-free milk alternative as part of its regular in-flight service.

The Spinoff this week queried why the national carrier was still only offering regular milk on its domestic flights and was told, coincidentally, that plans for were very much in motion for a change.

“We are constantly reviewing our offerings on all our services and closely monitor customer feedback. One thing our customers have told us is that they’d enjoy an alternative milk option, so we have been trialling soy milk on some of our domestic jet flights,” an Air New Zealand spokesperson revealed to The Spinoff.

“We have had an overwhelming positive response to this and so will be offering this option on all our Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown jet services from October 30.”

Soy was trialled as part of the airline’s snack service for a week back in May, said Air New Zealand.

It’s a long time coming for travellers who have been craving more than just dairy milk. The Spinoff searched through Air New Zealand’s Facebook page and found calls for alternative milk options dating back a decade. “I can go into a café nearly anywhere in NZ and get soy milk in my coffee, but not on Air NZ,” wrote one customer in 2013. At the time, the airline said it would take the feedback onboard.

As for those who prefer oat/almond/cashew/another milk, Air New Zealand told The Spinoff that “soy was chosen based on customer feedback”.

And for those who love their regular cow milk, don’t you worry. Air New Zealand confirmed soy will be offered alongside regular milk, though admitted “weight restrictions also need to be considered”.

Bring on the soy

House prices drop for the sixth month in a row

Photo: Getty Images

For the sixth month in a row, national property prices have dropped.

It’s the first time on record that prices have come down for six consecutive months and sees the national average asking price fall to $896,200, according to new Trade Me Property data.

Of course, the six month drop brings prices down from outrageously expensive to just very expensive. Prices are now the lowest they have been since October last year and are about $3,000 cheaper than last month. “While September’s month-on-month price drop was smaller than what we saw in previous months, the consistent decline says a lot about what’s happening in the market,” said Trade Me Property sales director Gavin Lloyd.

Marlborough, Otago, and Taranaki saw the largest drops in September, said Lloyd, with their average asking price all down 2% month-on-month. There were, however, some exceptions. “The Nelson/Tasman region saw a 2% increase in average asking price, while the Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Southland and Canterbury regions all saw a 1% increase in their average asking price when compared with the month prior.”

In the Auckland region, the average asking price in September was $1,124,100, making it the only region in the country over $1 million.

Legislation behind Covid restrictions set to be extended – report

Jacinda Ardern announcing quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will start on April 19 at the Beehive yesterday (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Some developing news from last night in case you missed it.

Newshub’s Jenna Lynch has reported that the government will extend the legislation responsible for Covid-19 rules and restrictions. That’s according to a proposal, from the department of prime minister and cabinet, leaked to her.

At the moment the legislation set to expire in May 2023, but according to Lynch it will be pushed out for another two years until 2025.

While major measures like lockdowns remain off the table, this is the legislation that allows those and other restrictions to be implemented quickly.

A spokesperson for Jacinda Ardern said ministers have been reviewing the Covid-19 Act to ensure it is fit for purpose now that New Zealand was through the emergency response. “The government’s plan is to remove powers from the Act that are no longer required for the response, while still ensuring we can practically manage the ongoing impact of Covid,” they said.

“We intend to announce the next steps shortly.”

Act’s David Seymour said the proposal showed how “desperate and delusional” the Ardern-led government was. “The whole world is moving on and Jacinda Ardern is clinging to the last time she was ahead in the polls,” said Seymour.