As the government prepares to push through with its controversial three waters reforms, it’s now committing additional funding to help with the transition.
Every local council will receive “at least” $350,000 in new funding, associate local government minister Kieran McAnulty has announced.
“This funding will allow local authorities to draw in expertise to support councils through the three waters transition period, and continue business as usual,” he said.
“This funding is an acknowledgement of the challenges facing councils in the short term to achieve long term benefits for their communities.”
The three waters reforms have been one of the more divisive issues proposed by the government during its term in office. The opposition has pledged to roll back the changes should they win the next election, and even the public has largely ended up against the plan.
McAnulty said the reforms will deliver clean drinking water at an affordable rate. “I’ve heard a range of opinions on three waters, but despite where councils stand they understand the need to reform the current system as it is no longer fit for purpose,” he said.
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Following on from today’s midday press conference with Ashley Bloomfield (you can read a full write-up here), the Ministry of Health has released its usual Covid-19 update. Here’s how the current outbreak is tracking.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has reiterated its usual messaging around Covid safety. “The case, death and hospitalisation numbers emphasise the importance of everybody doing the basics well to help prevent infection and serious illness. In particular, people should stay home if they are unwell, take a rapid antigen test (RAT) and upload the result on My Covid Record, and isolate if positive or while still symptomatic.” You can read the full update here.
The director general of health is reassured by the fact the sudden surge in new Covid-19 cases appears to have slowed.
Today there are 10,772 new community cases, with 788 people now in hospital with Covid-19 and 21 new deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 9,858, while it’s 764 for hospitalisations and 23 for deaths.
Speaking at a press conference, Ashley Bloomfield said the rolling averages have all risen over the past week. “We’ve seen rapidly increasing case rates however this does seem to have slowed,” he said. “At this stage we are still expecting increases in case numbers and hospitalisations.”
Bloomfield said there had been a 4.5% increase in cases over the past week compared with a 33% increase the week prior. Wastewater testing suggested case numbers are rising across the whole country.
Nearly one in 20 patients admitted to hospital are testing positive for Covid-19, with hospitalisation rates increasing by 28% in the past week.
While the March outbreak was most prominent among younger New Zealanders, rates are now much higher among over 65s and those in aged residential care.
Bloomfield said the surge in cases was largely due to the rise of the BA.5 subvariant of omicron. “This is entirely consistent with what is happening across the Tasman… and in many northern hemisphere countries.”
On the BA2.75 subvariant, Bloomfield confirmed two community cases in Auckland but both were linked to imported cases from returned travellers.
A “good rule of thumb”, said Bloomfield, was to wear a well fitting mask in all indoors settings outside of the home. Ventilation was important as well, which could simply mean opening a window.
Joining Bloomfield at today’s press conference was the new deputy director general for the Public Health Agency, Andrew Old. He said the Ministry of Health would be changing the way it reported Covid-related fatalities. “Today we’re shifting away from reporting all people who have died within 28 days of a Covid infection to people who died because of their Covid-19 infection or where it was reported as a contributing factor,” he said.
“It’s a better measure of the burden of the disease on the community.”
There has been some criticism of the ministry’s approach to reporting Covid deaths, with many of those included in the death total people who simply had Covid when they died but did not actually die from the virus.
Using the updated approach, as of July 19, there have been 1,252 deaths where Covid was the underlying or a contributing factor.
An additional 69 deaths are today being reported due to this change to the reinfection guidelines. In somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of cases who have died with Covid, that infection was either the cause of in some way contributed to their death, Old confirmed.
New Zealand has a lower cumulative Covid-19 death rate than other countries. “If we’d had the same total death rate per capita as the UK or US, we’d be reporting either over 13,500 or over 15,000 deaths respectively,” Old said.
Bloomfield added that New Zealand now had the systems to code deaths in a few days rather than a few months.
On how people can keep themselves safe, Bloomfield said he encouraged people holding gatherings to follow Covid-19 guidelines, saying his own leaving party set to be held tonight will now be a “modest” event with mask wearing and without any food or drink. Earlier today, the Greens announced their upcoming party AGM would be shifted online due to the rise in Covid infections.
Bloomfield said officials were asked to relook at whether masks should be made mandatory at schools. For “where we are at the moment” it was not necessary but schools were being strongly recommended to ask all students and staff to wear masks, and masks are being provided to support this, he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has announced plans to undertake widespread testing in an effort to understand how many undetected Covid cases were in the community. Around 1,000 New Zealanders each week will be asked to report on symptoms for six months, said Bloomfield. The other survey will test a number of people at a point in time to look at antibodies in the blood, to see how many people have immunity either from vaccines or previous infection.
Finally, Bloomfield was asked the most important question: will he be the next All Blacks coach? No, he won’t – but Bloomfield admitted his “hoarse throat” wasn’t due to a respiratory illness – but because he was yelling instructions at the team during Saturday’s match.
It feels like Ashley Bloomfield should be on his well-deserved retirement holiday by now – but instead he’s hosting a 12pm Covid-19 press conference today.
The outgoing director general of health will be joined by deputy director general for the Public Health Agency, Andrew Old.
According to Newshub, the press conference will include an announcement that widespread Covid-19 testing is going to be undertaken in an effort to understand the prevalence of the outbreak.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told Newshub it would be conducting “an infection prevalence survey to identity the number of New Zealanders who have Covid-19 at a specific point in time and across six months”. Then, serology testing will be used “to understand the level of immunity against Covid-19 in the population”.
Growing a business is hard in the first place, but when it’s one that falls under strict advertising rules and social stigmas, it’s surely even harder. Girls Get Off is a sex toy brand founded by Viv Conway and Jo Cummins in 2020 with a goal to empower wāhine in their sexual health. Viv Conway joined Simon Pound on Business is Boring to talk about what makes their brand better for women, and how they’ve found success in spite of taboos.
Property prices have taken a 3% hit according to new data from TradeMe.
The national average asking price for a property saw a record-breaking drop in June, falling by $24,550 in four weeks. That makes the average asking price $925,150 – the lowest it’s been since October 2021. It also marks the second record-breaking price drop in a row following a 2 point drop in May.
Trade Me property sales director Gavin Lloyd said this applied around the country. “In the Auckland region, the average asking price fell 4% month-on-month, while the Wellington region was not far behind with a 3% drop,” he said.
There were two regions that went against the trend, however. Lloyd said Otago and Taranaki saw their average asking prices increase by 2% and 1% compared with May.
There is, of course, global uncertainty around areas like the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. But according to the opposition, the government has also failed to rein in spending at home that could have lessened the inflation surge.
Speaking to RNZ, Grant Robertson said the best thing the government could do is target the causes of inflation. “That’s exactly what we’ve done with the petrol tax cut. Inflation would be higher in the June quarter if we had not done that,” he said.
“This is a global issue – every government in the world is dealing with this. Austerity measures… will only lead to less money being spent in areas like health and education.”
Robertson acknowledged there had been a spike in petrol prices in recent weeks despite the government’s attempts to bring costs down. He said fuel companies had blamed global “volatility” for this jump, but that following conversations with the government prices had eased this week.
It seems the government’s move to make rapid antigen tests (RATs) and masks free is driving greater demand for them. RNZ reporter Louise Ternouth spent some time at an Auckland testing centre yesterday and found that it was looking busier than it has in a while, with people eager to get their tests and free masks. One woman said it wasn’t really feasible for them to buy the tests but that they’d recently been to a gig and had come to pick some up.
There is general consensus that the reported number of Covid cases each day is an undercount. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder reports that the Ministry of Health will launch a survey of random Covid testing to determine the true community prevalence of the virus in the “coming weeks”.
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The Green Party’s annual general meeting, scheduled for this weekend, has been moved online due to the surge in Covid-19 cases.
It also comes amid scrutiny over co-leader James Shaw’s leadership, with reports he will face a leadership challenge at the meeting (though it’s incredibly unlikely he will lose).
The AGM was expected to be held in Christchurch, but Shaw and co-leader Marama Davidson said that having party members travel could be unsafe. “It became clear that asking our members to travel to Ōtautahi Christchurch from around the country and the risk they may face as a result would be a barrier to everyone participating at the AGM on an equal basis,” Shaw and Davidson said.
“The risk of North Island members testing positive and having to isolate in Ōtautahi Christchurch away from their families, as well as the additional burden this could place on the health system, was also too great.”
As a result of the move, speeches by the co-leaders will not take place as originally planned. The AGM will instead focus on party business.
Shaw yesterday batted away reports he could face a leadership challenge at the AGM, delivering this incredible quote: “There has been a small group of people who have been wanting to see the back of me ever since they saw the front of me.”
We all heard or read about the rise in gun crime violence in Auckland. Now the Herald has confirmed its extent, reporting that there were 109 gun crimes in the month of May alone.
Data supplied under the Official Information Act has shown just how much firearms incidents spiked this year. Until the end of April, Auckland saw an average of 54 offences involving a gun per month, with a high of 76 in March and a low of 37 in February. But in May, that number surged due to tensions between two gangs.
In the year to June 26, reports the Herald, Auckland’s three police districts together recorded 368 firearms offences.
Since the May spike, the number of reported gun crimes has dropped off again. Just last week the government moved to take action by introducing a new offence targeted at “intimidation” with a firearm.
Meanwhile, here on The Spinoff, data viz whizz Emma Vitz has taken a look at New Zealand’s crime numbers across the board and compared the stats to pre-pandemic. In short: crime has increased in Auckland since before the pandemic – but it has also increased in almost every other part of the country.