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blog may 20


Covid death toll up by 17

It’s Friday! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, it’s May 20 and it’s the day after budget 2022. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The agenda

  • We’re still digesting elements of yesterday’s budget. We’ll have more on what budget 2022 means for you.
  • Grant Robertson has defended the 10 week wait for the new $350 cost of living payment. It’s also been revealed Treasury recommended against implementing it at all.
  • National MP Jacqui Dean will leave politics in 2o23.
  • Covid-19 latest: Rolling average of new cases still rising, 17 new deaths.
  • The town of Levin has woken up to the aftermath of a tornado that brought down trees, powerlines and damaged houses.
blog may 20

Covid death toll up by 17

It’s Friday! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, it’s May 20 and it’s the day after budget 2022. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The agenda

  • We’re still digesting elements of yesterday’s budget. We’ll have more on what budget 2022 means for you.
  • Grant Robertson has defended the 10 week wait for the new $350 cost of living payment. It’s also been revealed Treasury recommended against implementing it at all.
  • National MP Jacqui Dean will leave politics in 2o23.
  • Covid-19 latest: Rolling average of new cases still rising, 17 new deaths.
  • The town of Levin has woken up to the aftermath of a tornado that brought down trees, powerlines and damaged houses.
May 20 2022

Monkeypox makes it to Australia

The first probable case of monkeypox has been recorded in Australia.

It’s a man in his 40s who developed a “mild illness” after returning to New South Wales from Europe.

The risk to New Zealand is currently low, the health ministry told TVNZ. However: “The ministry is watching the international situation.”

While monkeypox is unlikely to be fatal, it can bring on severe chicken pox-esque symptoms such as lesions, fever and chills.

Cost of living payment should cover beneficiaries, under 18s – Greens

Former AAAP director Ricardo Menéndez March, pictured here at a rally organised by AAAP, left the organisation last year ater being elected to parliament. (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

The Greens want the government’s new flagship budget announcement to be widened.

Over two million New Zealanders are set to receive a $350 cost of living payment across three months from August. But it won’t apply to anyone already receiving government support, like the winter energy payment, with finance minister Grant Robertson saying it was targeted at middle New Zealand.

In a statement, Green Party social welfare spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said it should be paid out to “those most in need”.

“Labour can do that today by including people on the benefit as well as under 18’s on youth payment and in work,” he said. “Excluding people from the cost of living payment because they already receive government support means more families will be unable to make ends meet through the winter. It is punitive and unfair.”

March’s proposed amendment has been backed by Te Pāti Māori. In a tweet, the party said it was “disgusted” that Labour was excluding whānau on benefits. “There’s no excuse for it,” they wrote.

Mayor that refused Covid vaccine to step down: ‘I’m keen to retire’

(Image / Thames-Coromandel council)

The Thames mayor who controversially refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19, and spoke out against it, has resigned.

Sandra Goudie will step aside during the next local election, telling the Bay of Plenty Times she’s “keen to retire”.

When the Pfizer vaccine was being rolled out, Goudie told media she would wait for the Novavax jab. But when that vaccine was made available, Goudie said she had chosen not to get vaccinated at all.

Earlier this year, Goudie revealed she wasn’t scared of catching Covid-19 – and thanked singer John Farnham for it. “I was listening to a Johnny Farnham song, ‘You’re The Voice’, and it was absolutely fantastic. I think everybody should listen to it,” she said at the time.

The song’s lyrics include the line: “We’re not gonna sit in silence, we’re not gonna live with fear.”

Covid-19 latest: Rolling average of new cases still rising, 17 new deaths

Image: Toby Morris

The rolling average of new Covid-19 cases continues to rise. It’s sitting at 8,032 today compared with 7,548 last Friday.

However, the number of new cases recorded today has dropped from yesterday. There are 7,800 new cases today, with 2,755 of those in Auckland.

Another 17 deaths have been added to the country’s overall death toll, which now stands at 1,039. The seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 14.

Of the people whose deaths are being reporting today, three were from the Auckland region, three were from the Wellington region, two were from Northland, two were from Canterbury, two were from the Southern region, and one each from Waikato, Tairāwhiti, Mid Central, Hawke’s Bay, and Nelson Marlborough.

One person was in their 50s, one was in their 60s, four were in their 70s, five were in their 80s and six were over 90. Of these people, 13 were women and four were men.

There are now 401 people in hospital with Covid-19, including 14 in intensive care.

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QUIZ: Have you been paying attention this week?

The Friday News Quiz

Are you a big budget-head? Have you been keeping up with Dancing with the Stars? Test your knowledge of the week that’s been with The Spinoff’s Friday news quiz.

‘Extremely disappointed’: Treasury investigates after serious budget breach

Treasury is investigating after a major budget breach yesterday.

The Wall Street Journal broke the strict 2pm budget embargo by about an hour. The publication was quick to inform officials of what had happened, but not before details of the 2022 budget were published online and shared via Dow Jones newswires.

“We are extremely disappointed with this serious breach of lock-up protocol. The embargoed information made available to the 200-odd people who attended the event was both restricted and sensitive,” said Treasury’s Struan Little.

“We are working with the Wall Street Journal to clarify and understand the action that led to the embargo being breached. Once we are confident that we have established the facts, we will advise the Wall Street Journal of the consequences of their actions.”

An internal investigation into the incident is also under way. The terms of reference for this will include reviewing the existing protocols to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose for future lock-ups.

Travel tips for snow carvers and sun chasers

The holiday road trip is back (Image: Supplied; additional design: Alice Webb-Liddall)

For the last two years, travel has been restricted internationally and domestically. Now, with Covid measures loosening, it could be a great time to think about your next trip. 

GoSee CEO Darren Linton wrote about what open borders will mean for New Zealand – for those wanting to escape, and those wanting to explore. 

There are many things you can do to keep yourself safe while Covid is still in the community. With GoSee, you can even use the enhanced cleaning filter when picking your rental vehicle.

Visit GoSee today to find the rental vehicle to fit your holiday, and get ready to explore. (Sponsored)

Treasury recommended against $350 cost of living payment

The (Image: Getty Images)

The government’s economic advisors recommended against the flagship budget policy of paying out $350 to 2.1 million New Zealanders.

The cost of living payment is the biggest headline grabber in yesterday’s budget.

But Treasury, as noted in comments shared by Stuff’s Henry Cooke, suggested the government introduce a more targeted form of support for lower income New Zealanders, noting it could exacerbate rising inflation.

“Inflation has risen over the past year and is expected to be widespread and to persist in the future. This makes a one-off payment a poor mechanism for supporting households with a longer-term problem,” Treasury said.

“A broad-based one-off payment of this magnitude would add to inflationary pressures in the short-term, although the risk to longer-term inflationary pressures is relatively small assuming any interventions of this nature were temporary.”

In a statement, National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said Treasury’s comments confirmed the cost of living payment would be “band-aid economics”.

“Treasury said the advice was prepared with such urgency that it may not have identified all of the problems it will create,” she said. “National’s plan for indexation of tax thresholds would not only be easier for Inland Revenue to administer, it would also deliver more relief, permanently, to more people, with median wage workers receiving $800 a year.”

National MP Jacqui Dean to leave politics at next election

National MP Jacqui Dean in 2016 (Image / Getty Images)

National MP Jacqui Dean will leave politics at the 2023 election.

The Waitaki MP has been in parliament for 17 years, following a career in local government. “National is in a fantastic position and I will do everything I can in the next 18 months to support Christopher Luxon, Nicola Willis and my caucus colleagues to ensure National wins the 2023 election,” Dean said in a statement.

“Waitaki is one of the largest electorates in New Zealand covering Central Otago, the Mackenzie District, Waitaki and parts of South Canterbury. It’s a vast electorate and I have loved representing every inch of it.”

Leader Christopher Luxon thanked Dean for her contribution to New Zealand politics, saying she has done “a tremendous job” over her career.

“As National’s current spokesperson for conservation, I have seen Jacqui’s passion for preserving New Zealand’s outdoors for future generations,” he said. “Her parliamentary experience and procedural knowledge has also made her an excellent Assistant Speaker.”

National MP Jacqui Dean in 2016 (Image / Getty Images)

Dean made headlines late last year when it was revealed she was the MP who had been upset by comments Simon Bridges made five years earlier. Those comments were the catalyst for then-leader Judith Collins to catastrophically oust Bridges from the front bench and strip him of his portfolios. Collins was subsequently replaced as leader by Luxon.

Tornado hits Levin, locals advised to stay home


Trees have been downed and roofs torn from houses in the Horowhenua town of Levin.

A tornado swept through the town at about 6.30am this morning, with major roads in and out now blocked by fallen trees and debris. That includes state highway one south of the Durham Street intersection, which is closed until further notice.

Power lines were also brought down and Civil Defence has warned locals to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary.

Other streets closed include Oxford Street, Cambridge Street (from Liverpool to Bath Street), Tawa Street, Wilton Street, Gladstone Road and Mako Mako Road.

Local MP Terisa Ngobi said the back wall of her electorate office had “completely disappeared” and trees were down in the Main Street. “Emergency services are already doing a great job and Horowhenua District Council is swinging into action,” she wrote on Facebook.

The Spinoff’s Levin correspondent (my aunt) Sue Lund told me that the town “was a mess” and that while her house was OK, there were “trees down everywhere”.

“It probably wasn’t even 30 seconds and it has wrecked Levin,” she said.

South of Levin, a major lightning display was witnessed across the Kāpiti Coast while a large hail storm also hit the region.

The Bulletin: Australia votes tomorrow

It’s compulsory to vote and people get democracy sausages. Polls did have Labor candidate Anthony Albanese out in front but as more undecided voters make up their mind, the gap between him and incumbent Scott Morrison has closed. One of the more interesting features of the election campaign has been what’s been dubbed “the teal wave” – independent candidates, often women, who lean centre-right but are focused on climate change. RNZ’s Canberra correspondent Kerry-Anne Walsh says there’s a chance of a hung parliament. If you missed Scott Morrison accidentally tackling a kid to the ground – here you go. Satirical news website The Betoota Advocate has a ruling on the tackle.

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.

Robertson defends 10 week wait for cost of living payment to kick in

Grant Robertson (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Work started on the newly announced cost of living payment around the same time cuts to petrol tax and public transport fares were made in March. But, the government has more to do to make sure it can be paid out from August.

Around 2.1 million New Zealanders – anyone earning under $70,000 who is not receiving an existing benefit – will be paid $350 to help with cost of living pressures. The first of three monthly payments is set for the start of August.

Finance minister Grant Robertson told Newshub’s AM that after previous policies were targeted at lower income New Zealanders, this payment was specifically aimed at middle income earners. “We thought there was a wider group of New Zealanders who needed additional support,” he said. “We think this is an important contribution we can make.”

Parliament is expected to pass the legislation required for the payment today. It will allow Inland Revenue to make the payments. “Inland Revenue’s never really had a payment like this before,” said Robertson.

Grant Robertson (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Robertson defended the fact that people will still need to wait about 10 weeks to get their payment, despite living costs being high for the past few months. “We have been supporting New Zealanders the whole time we have been in office,” he said. “This is a big deal, it does take time to get the systems right. We’ve got to pass the law.”

It would also, said Robertson, be more beneficial for middle New Zealanders than the proposed National Party tax cuts. “What Mr Luxon has been articulating is a tax cut would give people like me far more money,” he said.

Asked why the cost of living payment was not available to anyone already receiving the winter energy payment, Robertson defended the government’s track record of supporting lower income New Zealanders. “We feel we have been supporting those on the lower incomes, we’ve got other initiatives in this budget that do that… we think we’ve got the balance about right,” he told RNZ.

The Bulletin: Key reads on the biggest budget ever

Confirmed: Simon Bridges heading to Auckland Business Chamber

Simon Bridges in 2020 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images; additional design by Archi Banal)

Recently departed National MP Simon Bridges has been named as the next CEO of the Auckland Business Chamber. He’ll replace Michael Barnett, who is set to leave the role in August.

Bridges left parliament earlier this month, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and consider possible commercial opportunities. His new appointment comes alongside news he’ll be writing a new column for NBR and hosting a podcast for Stuff.

It’s a major shake-up for the Business Chamber, with Barnett having been in the role since 1991. After stepping down he’s set to maintain a role “driving key Chamber projects”.

The Chamber’s chair, Charlotte Parkhill, said Barnett’s contribution over the past three decades has been enormous. “He has been instrumental in promoting business interests and securing support for the sector from a financial, resourcing and mental health perspective,” she said. “The Chamber board has been consistently impressed with the voice that Michael has given to business and his entrepreneurial approach to issues faced by the sector.”