Petrol prices drop: It might be time to fill up

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, bringing you everything you need to know this Wednesday, July 20. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The agenda

  • Petrol prices take another dip – and one expert recommends you fill up now.
  • Jacinda Ardern’s maskless photo has drawn backlash, but not from National.
  • New poll shows support for National from women rises.
  • There have been 34 more deaths of people with Covid-19, all from the past six days.

Petrol prices drop: It might be time to fill up

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, bringing you everything you need to know this Wednesday, July 20. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The agenda

  • Petrol prices take another dip – and one expert recommends you fill up now.
  • Jacinda Ardern’s maskless photo has drawn backlash, but not from National.
  • New poll shows support for National from women rises.
  • There have been 34 more deaths of people with Covid-19, all from the past six days.
Jul 20 2022

The best of Bleed Week (so far)

Image by Tina Tiller

We’re on day three of Bleed Week and the content has been absolutely flowing. If you haven’t had time to get involved, here is what you have missed so far.

Documentary maker Rachel Judkins has shown us how to throw a period party, Tessa Duder has reflected on the casually groundbreaking period plot in the Alex novels and Siouxsie Wiles has examined how the Covid-19 vaccine has impacted our periods.

But wait, there’s more! Alice Webb-Liddall has interviewed AWWA founder Michele Wilson about using the maramataka to understand her ikura, and we took every burning question you had about periods to a panel of experts. Turns out that shark week is not a real thing, skipping the sugar pill won’t make your womb explode and elephant shrews get periods just like us.

Bloody fascinating, and that’s before we even get to the horror stories

Image by Tina Tiller

Environmentalists, mana whenua criticise PM’s ‘appalling’ gift to US president

The origins of a swamp kauri bowl gifted to the US President are causing controversy in Te Tai Tokerau. Here’s RNZ’s Sam Olley.

The prime minister gave the bowl to Joe Biden on her recent visit to Washington.

Her office has confirmed the wood came from businessman Nelson Parker.

But the chair of the Northland Environmental Protection Society Fiona Furrell told RNZ that was a “faux pas”.

A Ministry for Primary Industries report provided to RNZ shows Parker was investigated in 2019.

It found he likely contravened the Forests Act, exporting swamp kauri to China and calling it artwork. Products must be manufactured not just raw wood.

But the ministry decided not to prosecute because officials initially told Parker the kauri was compliant.

Furrell said the Prime Minister’s office needed to do more “investigating” when buying gifts for world-famous people, and had shown “a lack of care”.

“To us swamp kauri, of all things for a gift to America, is really not on. It’s shocking after all the work we’ve gone through to try and protect these wetlands that produce the swamp kauri.”

Read the full report here

‘Heartbreaking’: 94yo bronze statue stolen from Auckland’s St James Theatre


Advocates for the restoration of Auckland’s St James Theatre are heartbroken after a break-in that saw the theft of a 94-year-old bronze statue.

The central Auckland theatre has been empty for years, awaiting redevelopment.

On Facebook, the Save the St James group said the break-in happened earlier this week. Along with the statue, a copper bar front and copper wiring were stolen.

“This is incredibly devastating and we are asking anyone who may have information about the item’s whereabouts to get in touch,” the group said. “Please share these photos far and wide to help us track down these items immediately.”

The Spinoff’s Chris Schulz, who has written extensively about the St James Theatre, noted this week that the building’s exterior had been covered in lots of graffiti during the extended closure of the venue.

Read more: The St James is running out of time

Niuean premier to visit NZ, meet with Ardern

Jacinda Ardern at Nato (Photo: Getty Images)

The Niuean premier Dalton Tagelagi will be in the country later this week.

Tagelagi will officially be welcomed on Thursday and will undertake a number of official engagements and meetings including with Jacinda Ardern during his time here. He will also sign a refreshed Aotearoa New Zealand–Niue Statement of Partnership.

“I am delighted that premier Tagelagi’s first official bilateral overseas visit will be to Aotearoa New Zealand,” Ardern said.

“With 30,000 Niuean’s living in New Zealand our whakapapa connections as well as our special constitutional links makes Niue one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s closest partners.”

The new statement of partnership will reflect the “deep cooperation and connection” between our two countries, said Ardern.

Issues on the agenda will include climate change in the Pacific region, along with the impacts of Covid-19 and the ongoing economic recovery. It’s also likely the impact of China’s growing influence in the Pacific will be discussed.

The ‘strict-warm’ London school that Christopher Luxon admires

Christopher Luxon visits Michaela Community School in London. Photo: Facebook

The London charter school visited and feted by National Party leader Christopher Luxon during his recent overseas trip is “extremely strict”, according to the education editor of the Guardian newspaper. Speaking on a special episode of the Spinoff’s Gone By Lunchtime podcast, which also covered the recent political upheavals in the UK, Richard Adams said of Michaela Community School: “It is very, very strict, to the extent that children are not allowed to speak when moving between classrooms during the school day.” Teachers describe their approach as “strict-warm”.

Routinely characterised as “Britain’s strictest school”, Michaela has scored highly under review by government inspectors. They were “phenomenally good results”, said Adams. “And I’m not surprised, having seen the school, having seen it in action.” The question, he added, was whether the approach would work when replicated in other schools, or whether it heavily relied on the motivations of the parents who choose to send their children there. The message to parents was: “If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”

“It was awesome to see firsthand their high standards of education and how positive the kids were,” said Luxon in a Facebook post on his visit to the school. In his speech at the Policy Exchange thinktank in London, he said: “They’re doing an excellent job of making sure they teach kids to be numerate and literate.” He said he’d been impressed by British educational achievements from which New Zealand could learn, including on truancy. From a British perspective, said Adams, New Zealand’s absence rates were “a real concern”.

Luxon has said he would bring back charter schools (or “free schools” in the British parlance) were National to win the next election. The return of the schools was one of the demands laid out by David Seymour in his Act Party conference for the first 100 days of a National-Act coalition.

Christopher Luxon visits Michaela Community School in London. Photo: Facebook

Covid-19 update: 34 more deaths, 10,320 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been 34 more deaths of people with Covid-19, all from the past six days.

All of the latest deaths were people over the age of 50. The total number of publicly reported deaths now stands at 1,904 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 24. The Ministry of Health yesterday announced it would be changing the way it reported Covid-related deaths, so this number will likely drop in the coming days.

There are 744 people now in hospital with Covid-19, including 17 in intensive care. Most of the hospitalisations – 102 – are in the Auckland Hospital area, with 98 in Waitematā and 57 in Counties Manukau.

Another 10,320 community cases have been reported, bringing the seven-day rolling average of community case numbers to 9,367. That’s slightly lower than one week ago when it was 9,710.

National to hold annual conference in person, despite winter Covid surge

National’s upcoming annual general meeting will take place in person, the party’s deputy leader has confirmed.

With growing Covid-19 cases, a number of events have opted to move online in recent weeks. That includes the Green Party conference (though that also comes amid scrutiny over co-leader James Shaw).

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Nicola Willis said National intended to gather together.

“I think New Zealand has had a really hard time with Covid restrictions and we’re enjoying the opportunity to be physically together and I don’t want to take that away from people when actually there are other steps we can take to take personal responsibility for our health,” she said.

“I will be wearing masks whenever I’m in a crowded room that’s got lots of people in it, absolutely, I’ll be doing that.”

Jacinda Ardern has faced criticism after a photo of her indoors with about 100 youth MPs was shared yesterday.

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Petrol prices take another dip, expert recommends you fill up now

The pain at the pump is real (Image / Tina Tiller & Getty Images)

I mentioned on Monday that fuel prices had dropped fairly substantially, with a number of gas stations around Auckland displaying prices under $3 a litre (which has been unheard of for some time).

Well, today, things have got even better – with prices around the $2.70 a mark for 91 being recorded in the super city. If you’re filling up for $3 a litre today, you’re doing it wrong.

Someone suggested to me on Monday that I had conflated petrol being “cheap” with petrol “not being $3.50 a litre” – and I guess that’s kind of true. $2.70 isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot better than things have been recently.

And according to AA’s principal policy adviser Terry Collins, this is about as good as it’s going to get. “I don’t see them coming down much more than this,” he said. “I would say fill up now if you can. Take advantage of all the loyalty programmes that the companies offer, and try to look for the best deal.”

The dip in prices follows a letter sent by energy minister Megan Woods to fuel companies over the weekend. Woods, according to 1News, said she expected to see “the recent decrease in importer costs to be passed through to consumers at the pump in the coming weeks”.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

A Z spokesperson confirmed that it had responded to a recent declines in Brent Crude prices and had reduced petrol prices across the network, “bringing all sites under $3 on 91 and diesel”.

New poll shows support for National from women rises

Christopher Luxon (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Despite recent polling that showed Christopher Luxon’s personal rating took a hit following his bungled handling of the Roe v Wade fallout, new data has revealed women voters were probably not responsible.

The National Party leader dropped around five points in the preferred prime minister stakes, according to the latest Taxpayers’ Union-Curia Poll. The dive was attributed by the pollsters to Luxon’s comments around abortion in the wake of the Roe v Wade overturn.

However, new data from the same poll, leaked to the Herald, showed support from women voters for the National Party actually rose (although just by 1%). It puts the party ahead of Labour when looking at women voters alone.

As Thomas Coughlan points out, the one point rise isn’t the surprising thing – it’s the fact support from women didn’t collapse after the abortion controversy. You also have to ask why the data, which comes from National’s pollster, was leaked to the Herald at all.

The Bulletin: Government is making changes to its Kiwibuild policy

As 1News’ Katie Bradford reports, price and income caps are changing for the Kiwibuild scheme and in some instances being removed. For multiple buyers, the income threshold will be lifted from $180,000 to $200,000. For individuals with dependants, an income cap of $150,000 is being created. Those that need bigger or more accessible homes will have caps removed entirely. To quote Lizzo, I expect many will be saying “it’s about damn time”.

A new rental build scheme also kicks in soon which will allow not-for-profit organisations to build rental developments for lower income people who cannot afford a market rent but can’t access public housing. Despite a record drop in house prices in June, the average asking price for a property in New Zealand is still $925,150.

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.  

Backlash to Jacinda Ardern’s maskless photo

Ardern Instagram

A photo of Jacinda Ardern posing maskless, indoors, and surrounded by over a hundred people has drawn backlash – including from a former prime minister.

Jacinda Ardern shared the snap, of herself along with a delegation of youth MPs, on her own Instagram. Just one person can be spotted wearing a mask, despite being indoors and on parliament grounds (which maintains strong masking rules).


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)

Epidemiologist Michael Baker said he was “shocked” by the picture. It was a “missed opportunity to promote mask-use”, he told Newshub – a point echoed by Newshub reporter Amelia Wade, who said Ardern should be leading by example.

There was a similarly outraged response from several politicians, including ex-PM Helen Clark who said “what on earth are they thinking”. Former deputy PM Winston Peters called it “hypocrisy”, while Act leader David Seymour said Ardern should be following her own rules.

Just last week government officials including Covid-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall urged New Zealanders to wear masks at every opportunity while indoors. The advice provided every day by the Ministry of Health in its 1pm Covid updates reiterates this. “As a general rule, the ministry urges people to wear a mask in public indoor settings outside the home and in poorly ventilated spaces, or when it is hard to physically distance from other people,” the ministry said yesterday.

A spokesperson for the prime minister told media she had been wearing a mask the rest of the day but took it off briefly for the photo at the request of the photographer. This is backed up by other images shared by Ardern.

Conspicuously, the PM hasn’t been criticised by the National Party. In fact, deputy Nicola Willis today told RNZ that we needed to be practical. “Let’s be sensible, I think many people have taken their mask off for a photo… and I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” she said. “I think we just need to give the prime minister a break,” she added while on Newshub’s AM.

National’s leader Christopher Luxon was last week questioned on his mask use while overseas (though the rules abroad are notably different to our own).

Elton John is coming to Christchurch

Elton John (Image: Supplied)

Christchurch might not have its new stadium just yet but that won’t be stopping music legend Elton John from heading to the city next year.

John has confirmed a new show at Christchurch’s OrangeTheory Stadium on January 24. This is in addition to the two concerts already announced for Auckland (these have been pushed back since before Covid-19).

The concert will be part of John’s never ending Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour – his final world tour and as such his final visits to New Zealand. The Christchurch show will mark John’s first concert in the city in about 30 years.

“Elton John was who I grew up with!” said Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel. “I’m so grateful he’s chosen to include Ōtautahi
Christchurch in his farewell tour. I know that people are going to come out in their droves to be part of this historic event.”

A presale begins on July 28, tickets are on sale for all on August 1.

Elton John (Image: Supplied)