Cyclone Gabrielle: State of emergency extended

It’s Monday, February 20 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – bringing you the latest on the Cyclone Gabrielle clean-up and more. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can reach me via

The latest

  • The national state of emergency will continue for a further seven days.
  • As the clean-up from Cyclone Gabrielle continues, PM Hipkins has pledged to “build back better”.
  • The death toll remains 11 but there are fears it could grow. A rāhui has been put in place in Hawke’s Bay.
  • An historic Auckland tower damaged in the cyclone will be demolished as it risks falling on nearby apartments.

Cyclone Gabrielle: State of emergency extended

It’s Monday, February 20 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – bringing you the latest on the Cyclone Gabrielle clean-up and more. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can reach me via

The latest

  • The national state of emergency will continue for a further seven days.
  • As the clean-up from Cyclone Gabrielle continues, PM Hipkins has pledged to “build back better”.
  • The death toll remains 11 but there are fears it could grow. A rāhui has been put in place in Hawke’s Bay.
  • An historic Auckland tower damaged in the cyclone will be demolished as it risks falling on nearby apartments.
Feb 20 2023

Listen: Ben Thomas joins Gone by Lunchtime from Wairoa

Gone By Lunchtime (Image: Tina Tiller)

A week after the cyclone ravaged swathes of the North Island, the northern Hawke’s Bay community of Wairoa is still assessing the damage and slowly, piece by piece, reconnecting to the world from which it was isolated. Ben Thomas, who has been in Wairoa since before the storm hit, called in to Gone By Lunchtime this afternoon to talk with Annabelle Lee-Mather and Toby Manhire about the experience, the response and the political ramifications.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.

State of emergency extended, new cyclone recovery minister appointed

Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson in Auckland (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The national state of emergency will continue for a further seven days, the prime minister Chris Hipkins has announced.

Speaking at parliament, Hipkins said extending the state of emergency would allow for a coordinated approach to the recovery phase. “We need strong and experienced coordination across all arms of government,” he said. “We are committed to a strong local voice informing recovery advice and priorities.”

A “lead minister” would be appointed to each of the most impacted regions. They will be asked to provide advice to the government from on the ground within a week.

A new cyclone recovery “task force”, led by Sir Brian Roche, will also be set up. “[It] will be structured similarly to that of Australia’s Queensland task force that was established in response to the floods,” said Hipkins. “It’s important to us that this recovery effort is led with direct input from those on the ground.”

Finance minister Grant Robertson will also become the new cyclone recovery minister. A new cabinet committee will be established to take decisions relevant to the recovery and it will include each of the ministers leading regional efforts.

“I saw first-hand the devastation in the Hawke’s Bay yesterday and I know other areas have also been hit hard,” Robertson said. “As finance minister I have been clear that we have the fiscal headroom to support our people and we will do that as we have done through all the other disasters we have guided this country though.”

Cabinet also agreed to a preliminary $50 million to get immediate support to cyclone-impacted businesses, workers and the primary sector.

“Ministers will finalise the distribution of this funding in the coming week, but this will include support to businesses to meet immediate costs and further assist with clean-up,” said Robertson. “We will coordinate the allocation of this funding with local business groups, iwi and local government in the affected regions.”

There will also be a $250 million top up to the emergency works budget of the land transport fund. This is short-term funding to help Waka Kotahi get the transport network operating again.

Transport minister Michael Wood said the government’s primary focus was on getting “lifeline roads open and reconnecting isolated communities”.

Robertson stressed that this was just initial financial support and there would almost certainly be more in the pipeline – potentially billions. Some of today’s funding comes from the forthcoming Budget.

Watch live: PM Hipkins details next steps in cycle recovery

Chris Hipkins speaks in Auckland on Feb 12 (Photo: Screenshot TVNZ)

Chris Hipkins is set to front a post-cabinet press conference from parliament, where he will explain next steps in the recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle.

You can tune in below and we’ll have a full write-up for you shortly.

‘Welfare drops’ delivered to isolated Auckland communities

A Muriwai home destroyed by a large landslide on Moututara Road. Photo: Getty

Civil Defence officials in Auckland have been ensuring “welfare drops” of essential items make it to the most isolated communities across the city.

Parts of the west coast, including all of Bethells Beach, are still without power, while communities like Muriwai and Piha remain hard to reach by road.

Auckland emergency management deputy controller Rachel Kelleher said support for isolated communities was a priority. “We are continuing to respond to our communities’ needs, in particular our isolated communities, including the delivery of emergency provisions including bottled water, food and sanitary items and more,” she said.

Over the weekend, more than 20,000 litres of water was delivered (as well as a tanker for Muriwai), along with 11.25 tonnes of food, 1,850 litres of fuel, 100 boxes of nappies and 56 portable toilets.

A Muriwai home destroyed by a large landslide on Moututara Road. Photo: Getty

‘NOT a cancellation’: Lorde postpones Hawke’s Bay shows due to cyclone clean-up

Pictured: Actual celebrity Lorde at Lollapalooza Brazil on 5 April 2014 (Photo: Getty)

New Zealand pop star Lorde has promised her upcoming dates in Hawke’s Bay will be made up in the future, as the clean-up from Cyclone Gabrielle has forced her to cancel.

The Solar Power Tour will kick off tomorrow with two dates in Wellington and was due to visit Havelock North at the beginning of March.

But in a post on Instagram, the singer said that her Hawke’s Bay shows wouldn’t go ahead, on the advice of police, the venue and the promoter. “I would love to be there with you right now, but I can also read the room, and taking precious resources away from those who need them right now is not it.”

A post shared to Lorde’s Instagram

Lorde promised that – at least for now – this wasn’t a cancellation. “I’m working on something, and you’ll hear from me soon,” she teased. New music, or just new tour dates? Who knows.

The decision comes just hours after singer Sting bowed to public outcry and cancelled a Napier date for early March.

Sting cancels Napier show after outcry

Organisers have cancelled a planned concert by Sting in Napier next Month despite starting work on building a stage for the famed crooner to play on and saying the show would proceed as planned.

Promoters for the concert at Mission Estate Winery on March 4 had earlier taken to Facebook to say Sting’s concert would go ahead despite widespread damage in the region caused by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“We are lucky the Mission Estate Winery Concert site is in relatively good condition and is improving by the day,” organisers posted to Facebook. “We have commenced the programmed build with the view that the Sting concert will proceed on Saturday March 4.”

Sting’s concert at the Mission Estate Winery in Napier has been cancelled in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle. (Photo: Getty)

Many parts of the Hawke’s Bay are struggling to reconnect power supplies, while critical infrastructure has been damaged and washed away, and many homes rendered uninhabitable. A Sting concert was the last thing the region needed, said some on the Mission’s Facebook post. “Any outsider arriving now needs to bring food, water and human power to pitch in and help,” wrote one. “Let the community heal and rebuild like it needs to, then have outsider money come in.”

Organisers today changed their tune and pulled the plug on the show. “Out of respect to those affected by the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle and in the interest of focusing critical attention and resources on relief efforts, Sting’s concert on Saturday, March 4 at Mission Estate Winery in Napier will no longer proceed,” organisers said.

A donation was being made by Sting and Live Nation and the Hawke’s Bay Foundation’s Cyclone Relief Fund. Refunds are being organised for ticketholders. Sting’s Christchurch show, on March 1, is going ahead as planned.

Covid-19 latest: Person in their 20s among new pandemic deaths

Image: Toby Morris

Another 8,220 cases of Covid-19 have been added to the official tally.

The Ministry of Health reported a daily average of 1,160 over the past week, an increase on the week prior. There are 162 people in hospital with the virus and, as of midnight, four people in intensive care.

There have been 24 deaths over the past week, with 21 of these so far directly attributed to Covid-19. Among the latest deaths was a person in their 20s.

The overall pandemic death toll now sits at 2,534.

Earlier today, Stats NZ reported a 10% rise in the nationwide death toll in 2022 which was partly linked to the ongoing pandemic.

Historic Auckland tower near apartments to be demolished

The shot tower in Mount Eden

An historic building in the Auckland suburb of Mount Eden will be demolished this week after it was damaged during Cyclone Gabrielle, threatening a nearby apartment block.

Residents in buildings surrounding the Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower on Normanby Road were evacuated last week after the century-old structure was at risk of collapse.

According to Auckland Council’s director of regulatory services, Craig Hobbs, the shot tower will have to be demolished.

“We have been advised by MBIE that minister Megan Woods has given approval for the shot tower to be demolished,” Hobbs said. “Work will begin tomorrow and our contractors expect it will take approximately seven days to complete. ”

Nearby residents who were evacuated ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle hitting Auckland won’t be able to move back into their homes until the works are finished. “We are working at pace so that we can safely get people back into their homes,” said Hobbs.

And for those who might not know what a “shot tower” is, here is the definition (per Wikipedia): “A tower designed for the production of small-diameter shot balls by free fall of molten lead, which is then caught in a water basin.”

The shot tower in Mount Eden

Rāhui in place for Hawke’s Bay as cyclone clean-up continues

Extent of flooding in Wairoa surveyed from the air, February 15, 2023. (Image: Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group)

A 10-day rāhui is in place for Hawke’s Bay as the region continues to deal with the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle – and amid fears the death toll could continue to rise.

1News reported that the rāhui was instigated due to “the disturbance to our whenua” triggered by the extreme weather.

“Tangata whenua are still recovering tūpāpaku [bodies] from the ‘still missing list’ from Tangaroa,” the Mana Ahuriri Trust said. “We also believe kōiwi from flooded urupā have been carried through the floods to sea.”

The death toll is currently 11, mostly in Hawke’s Bay and on the East Coast. Unconfirmed reports have been circulating online of further deaths, though prime minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday that the public would be made aware when any new deaths had been verified.

Covid-19 pushes annual death toll up 10%

Image: Getty Images; additional design by Tina Tiller

There was a 10% increase in the nationwide number of deaths in 2022, according to Stats NZ.

That’s, in part, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stats NZ said there were 38,574 deaths in 2022, compared with 34,932 the year prior.

Just under 2,400 deaths in 2022 were identified as people who died with the cause of death being attributable to Covid-19.

“The increase in deaths also partly reflects our ageing population – there are increasing numbers and proportions of the population in older ages, where most deaths occur,” said Stats NZ population estimates and projections manager Michael MacAskill.

New Zealand’s life expectancy has plateaued, MacAskill said, while in recent years it has dropped in many countries, including Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

The Bulletin: Fired Up Stilettos take on employers over unlawful termination

Calendar Girls dancers told not to come back to work via a Facebook post after requesting better contracts are picketing outside their workplace and lobbying parliament over their rights as independent contractors. For the unfamiliar, Calendar Girls is a strip club. Unite Union legal officer Lauren McGee believes the dancers were subjected to “an unlawful termination” under the contract they had with the club.

The 19 dancers have formed a group called the Fired Up Stilettos and are meeting with Green MP Jan Logie in March. There is currently a gap in the legislative framework for many types of contracting work and experts have urged that changes be made. If you’re a Billy Bragg fan, you might like to know he joined the workers in their protest after his Wellington show on Saturday night.

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.  

Lawlessness on the rise in flood-hit communities, 42 arrested

Stuart Nash delivering the speech on immigration in place of Kris Faafoi. (Radio NZ/Dom Thomas)

As the East Coast recovers from Cyclone Gabrielle, some locals have had to contend with looters and thieves seeking to take advantage of the state of emergency.

Police have arrested 42 people in the Hawke’s Bay and 17 in across the Gisborne area for looting and dishonesty offending.

On Newshub last night, host Samantha Hayes reported on the extent of the rising crime wave. One checkpoint traffic officer said they had a gun pulled on them by the driver of a vehicle, while people have reported having food and even generators stolen.

When asked about the situation, police minister Stuart Nash said he had no idea how bad it was. He had a simple message for any gang members responsible for threats: “Get your bloody patches off, go and get a whole lot of wheelbarrows and shovels and start helping people instead of adding to already super-high levels of stress.”

Nash ruled out evening curfews, but said getting more police officers into the worst-hit regions was a demand he could help with. “Whatever the district commander needs to keep law and order, all she’s got to do is ask but I need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.