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Hospitalisations from ‘SARS’ on the rise, 12 new Covid deaths

It’s Thursday – which this week is kind of a Friday – and welcome back to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on

The agenda

  • Covid-19 update: 12 deaths, 300 in hospital, 5,285 new community cases.
  • National Party president Peter Goodfellow to resign after 13 years.
  • Thousands could miss cost of living payment as IRD tracks down bank details.
  • The parliamentary grounds are reopening after the Feb-March protests.
  • RIP Le Snak.

Hospitalisations from ‘SARS’ on the rise, 12 new Covid deaths

It’s Thursday – which this week is kind of a Friday – and welcome back to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on

The agenda

  • Covid-19 update: 12 deaths, 300 in hospital, 5,285 new community cases.
  • National Party president Peter Goodfellow to resign after 13 years.
  • Thousands could miss cost of living payment as IRD tracks down bank details.
  • The parliamentary grounds are reopening after the Feb-March protests.
  • RIP Le Snak.
Jun 23 2022

Mānawatia a Matariki

I’m clocking off for the week and am about to head to the Bay of Plenty for (in my opinion) a well-deserved weekend away. I hope that you, wherever you are, will be doing precisely whatever you want to this Matariki weekend.

But if you want some help with what you could be doing, and how you could be celebrating, let The Spinoff’s Simon Day help you out. He’s written a guide for how to celebrate Matariki if you don’t know where to start (fundamentally, it’s “you do you”).

See you on Monday!

Announcing… Lynley Dodd: Writing the Pictures, Painting the Words


In 1983, a little dog Hairy MacLary from Donaldson’s dairy trotted into our lives, and children’s literature was never the same again. Get to know the inner workings of one of our most celebrated authors in Lynley Dodd: Writing the Pictures, Painting the Words.

Full documentary out July 5 on The Spinoff, made with the support of NZ On Air. 

Check out the trailer below.

Murrays Bay stabbing ‘random, isolated’ incident, four injured – police


A stabbing on Auckland’s North Shore that left four people injured was not believed to be a hate crime, police have announced.

The incident unfolded in Murrays Bay earlier today, with a lone offender apprehended by police – with help from members of the public – in nearby Mairangi Bay. There were no fatalities and the four people injured are in a moderate condition.

At a stand-up held shortly ago, police confirmed this was a “fast moving” and “random” attack. “I want to reassure the community that this was an isolated incident,” said superintendent Naila Hassan.

The offender, who is being treated in hospital, was a local armed with a “large knife”. Hassan would not provide further details about the offender.

RNZ-TVNZ merger to create ‘Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media’

(Photos: Supplied / RNZ)

RNZ and TVNZ are set to become subsidiaries of “Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media”.

The government’s long-awaited legislation to merge the existing media outlets will face its first vote on Tuesday.

Under the merger, the new public media outlet will become a Crown entity, with RNZ and TVNZ to exist beneath it as separate brands. RNZ and TVNZ employees – with the exception of the chief executives – will transfer to the new agency on the same terms and conditions, with no impact on their entitlements or continuity of service.

It’s unlikely TVNZ viewers and RNZ listeners will notice any major shifts when the merger is finalised next year. The bill reads: “The government intends that the transition from RNZ and TVNZ to Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media should be as efficient as possible, while providing certainty for employees and the broader media sector, providing continuity of service for audiences, and giving Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media adequate time and flexibility to resolve more complex contractual issues.”

It’s also stipulated that RNZ will remain commercial free and any agreements with international parties will remain with both outlets.

A cheese check-in

Image: Tina Tiller

In case you’ve somehow missed it, The Spinoff Cheese Index (TSCI) has been scrolling across the top of our lovely website for a few weeks now. So I thought it was time for a check-in on how prices have been fluctuating.

If you’re a fan of the finer cheeses (e.g. Mainland Tasty), the last few weeks have brought nothing but disappointment with prices remaining static at $20 per kg (at the supermarket monitored by TSCI). Alpine Colby eaters, however, have seen some noticeable fluctuations in price, with it dropping to as low as $9 per kg.

The Spinoff Cheese Index

Covid-19 update: 12 deaths, 300 in hospital, 5,285 new community cases

Image: Toby Morris

The Ministry of Health is today reporting 5,285 community cases, 300 current hospitalisations, and 12 deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 4,817. Last Thursday it was 5,451.

Today 31 previously reported deaths have been re-classified as unrelated to Covid-19. They occurred more than 28 days after those who died were reported as Covid-19 cases and while they were initially thought to be Covid-19 related, their formal cause of death classification has now been deemed unrelated.

Therefore, the new total of publicly reported Covid-19 deaths is 1,431. The seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 12.

The 12 deaths reported today occurred in the last five days, and include four people from Northland, one from the Auckland region, one from Bay of Plenty, two from Taranaki, one from MidCentral, one from the Wellington region, one from Canterbury, and one from Southern.

Two people were in their 50s, seven were in their 80s and three were aged over 90. Seven were male and five were female.

Impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection

The rate of hospitalisations due to Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI, also known as SARS) has been increasing for the last six weeks, the ministry says, and is higher than previous years for this time of year, with approximately nine hospitalisations per 100,000 people. It is too early to tell whether the current levels of hospitalisations indicate an early start to the SARI season or the start of a season with particularly high activity, according to ESR.

Among the hospitalised SARI cases in Auckland where detailed data is available, influenza was the most commonly detected virus. Those who haven’t yet had the flu vaccine this year should get vaccinated as soon as they can, the ministry says.

Government denies petrol tax cuts designed ‘on the hoof’

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

The government has pushed back after claims its cost of living crisis policy to cut back petrol tax and public transport fares was designed “on the hoof”.

Newsroom revealed yesterday that officials were made aware of the policy less than 24 hours before it was announced. They had roughly 20 hours – minus any time spent sleeping – to design the policy before Jacinda Ardern revealed it at a post-cabinet press conference.

But transport minister Michael Wood has since denied that was the first time officials had heard of the plan. “It was a relatively short period of time, but it was longer than 24 hours,’’ he said.

Ardern reiterated this, saying cabinet had been considering the changes for a while. “In order to make decisions we have to have advice from officials then it’s a matter of making the decision and then implementation,’’ she said.

Meanwhile, Newsroom has also revealed the government floated the idea of giving helicotper payments of $100 to all Aucklanders after last year’s lockdown. That, too, has been labelled “on the hoof” policy-making by the opposition.

Why it took three months for Chris Hipkins to apologise to Charlotte Bellis

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

The former Covid-19 response minister says the delay in publicly apologising to Charlotte Bellis was due to legal issues.

Chris Hipkins yesterday released a statement in which he admitted that comments he made about Bellis, a New Zealand journalist who at the time was in the Middle East, were “inaccurate”.

But the statement also included the detail that Hipkins’ apology was first made to Bellis back in mid-March.

Speaking to media yesterday, Hipkins said that the apology came after threat of a defamation suit against Hipkins. “We negotiated with her the public apology that has been released,” Hipkins said.

It was also revealed that the details the minister released in public about Bellis were never meant to be made public. “There was some information that got lost in translation in being communicated to me,” Hipkins said.

Kate Bush acknowledges viral Stranger Things hit in rare interview

British singer/general icon Kate Bush has given her first interview since the latest series of Stranger Things catapulted her back into the charts.

Her 1985 song Running up That Hill has become a chart topper around the world (including becoming her first US top five hit), after it featured in a crucial scene of the Netflix series.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Bush said it was “just extraordinary” and “quite shocking”.

“I mean, the whole world’s gone mad,” she said.

Travel tips for snow carvers and sun chasers

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

From our partners at GoSee Travel: 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 says for those travelling domestically, there are many things you can do to keep yourself safe while Covid is still in the community.

Keeping safe distance from others, wearing a mask and isolating if you’re sick are still effective precautions, and 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)

Willie Jackson signals focus on Facebook and Google in sustaining NZ media


A few days after picking up the ministerial warrant for broadcasting and media, Willie Jackson has hinted that he has the digital giants of Silicon Valley in his sights in the cause of supporting local media. Speaking at a parliamentary select committee, he said: “We’re looking at ways of supporting public interest journalism with regards to digital intermediaries such as Facebook and Google and to develop a strategic framework intended to provide a sustainable media sector.”

Support from the digital giants for media outlets in Australia directly followed legislative moves seeking to address the offshore companies’ domination of online revenues. New Zealand media companies have been provisionally cleared by the Commerce Commission to pursue collective negotiations with companies such as Facebook and Google, though NZME has subsequently gone its own way.

With the bill that will create a new public media entity merging RNZ and TVNZ due to go to a first reading in parliament next week, it was a “significant period of change for broadcasting and media”, Jackson told yesterday’s Social Services and Community Committee estimates hearing. In response to questions from National’s Melissa Lee, Jackson said he had no plans to make changes to the plan laid out by his predecessor Kris Faafoi, and did not intend to incorporate other Māori media programmes within the merged operation, saying “I am 100% behind the new entity and the new model”.

Jackson rejected claims that the $55m Public Interest Journalism Fund had bought pro-government coverage as “nonsense”. He said no further funding had been assigned to continue the scheme, but “we’ll all have a look at it, see the results that come back and if there’s an opportunity in future budgets.”

Summer music festivals confirm major line-ups

The Beths perform at Winter Best. (Photo: Chris Schulz / Treatment: Bianca Cross)

New Year’s music festival Northern Bass wasn’t allowed to go ahead last year, but the festival’s organiser said this year’s event is shaping up as “our best yet”.

With 2021’s event postponed, then cancelled, due to Covid, the line-up for this year’s festival was announced this morning and is bolstered by the inclusion of many international acts, including Pendulum, Chase & Status, Joey Bada$$, Sampa the Great and The Upbeats. Locals Ladi6, Salmonella Dub, Tali and DJ Sir-Vere round out the full line-up.

Held in Mangawhai from December 29-31, festival organiser Gareth Popham said he’s happy to finally be holding the festival’s 11th event with a fully fleshed-out line-up. “The last year has been particularly challenging for the whole events industry, but it also gives us the drive to work harder behind the scenes,” Popham said.

Confidence appears to be returning across the festival industry, with Listen In confirming a September 30 event at Mt Smart Stadium, including big name rappers Roddie Rich, Trippie Redd and Polo G, as well as UK dance veterans Disclosure. Bay Dreams has confirmed it will return “like the good old days” to Nelson and Mount Maunganui in 2023, and Rhythm & Vines said tickets were selling well for its long-running Gisborne event.

Many major acts have also confirmed tours over the coming months, including Billie Eilish, Tyler, the Creator, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, Kings of Leon and The Killers.

However, some music fans still seem reluctant to head out in winter. Winter Best, a free outdoor festival held in West Auckland last weekend headlined by The Beths and Leisure, gave away more than 8000 tickets, but only 3200 turned up on a drizzly night that faced competition with the sold out Blues vs Crusaders match across town.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow to resign

Re-elected party president Peter Goodfellow and National leader Judith Collins (Getty Images)

National Party president Peter Goodfellow will resign at the upcoming party conference, after 13 years in the role.

A new president will be elected at the August party conference, while Goodfellow said he will remain as a director on the board for a final term.

Goodfellow called his time as president an honour and a privilege. “I’ve seen highs and lows, and after much reflection, I feel the time is now right for someone else to take National into the future as president,” he said.

“Some may remember that I intended to retire in 2016, but with the resignation of prime minister John Key, I was convinced to remain in the role to help ensure a stable transition of leadership to Bill English and to deliver our 2017 general election campaign.”

Re-elected party president Peter Goodfellow and National leader Judith Collins (Getty Images)

Goodfellow said that over the past four years he has worked to diversify the skillset of the board and to revitalise the party and its systems. Acknowledging the party turmoil within National over the past few years – including the departure of three leaders – Goodfellow said he worked to unite the party “after a very public period of instability and distraction”.

He added: “During my time, I’ve always had the best interests of the party at heart.” Goodfellow said was confident National would be elected in 2023 and that he looked forward to supporting “the new president, board of directors, parliamentary leaders, and campaign team”.

While Goodfellow has enjoyed a relatively successful tenure, particularly throughout the Key-English years, he has faced some criticism from within his own camp during the party’s time in opposition. Last year, he survived a challenge to his role as president after former National MP David Carter expressed “no confidence” in Goodfellow.

“The review of the campaign last year said that the two major faults were that the governance was not good and the fundraising was inadequate,” Carter said at the time, citing Goodfellow’s leadership throughout this period.

Christopher Luxon, National party leader, thanked Goodfellow for his service. “I have found Peter’s experience, knowledge and wise counsel invaluable in the time that I have been leader,” he said. “Peter has made an immense contribution to the National Party, and on behalf of the parliamentary caucus I have thanked him for his more than 13 years of stellar service as president.”

Le Snak the latest victim of discontinue culture


We’ve had Ernest Adams, Coke Zero and Bernadino – now iconic children’s lunchbox staple Le Snak (pronounced with a faux French accent, obvs) has been pulled from the shelves.

According to Stuff, the crackers-and-very-fake-cheese have been discontinued because of falling sales. “Over time we’ve seen demand for the product decline as consumers’ taste preferences have changed,” said a Bluebird spokesperson.

“We ceased production in May so there would be very limited stock available at this point in time.”

Can we make it a “one out, one in” rule for discontinued products? In other words, let’s bring back Snifters now!

Thousands could miss cost of living payment as IRD tracks down bank details

Always useful when you have a new baby.

Thousands of New Zealanders risk missing out on the government’s new cost of living payment because the Inland Reveue doesn’t have their bank details.

Announced in the budget, more than two million middle and lower income earners are due a $350 sweetener split across monthly instalments from August 1.

But, as the Herald’s Jenée Tibshraeny reported, the IRD is still tracking down the bank accounts of about 170,000 eligible New Zealanders.

Since the policy was announced, the department’s managed to locate about 130,000 accounts it did not previously have. Of those still to be found, it’s estimated 11,000 may miss out.

IRD’s chief executive Cath Atkins said 300 staff have been contracted for a five-month period to deal with enquiries from the public about the scheme, with about 750 staff expected to be required to administer the payments at peak times.

The Bulletin: The worst time in 65 years to be a first home buyer

Housing hits the print front pages of the NZ Herald, the Dominion Post and The Christchurch Press today. In the Dominion Post, Ethan Te Ora reports on house price downturns in the capital. The Press is running Liz McDonald’s story on the record number of new homes being approved for Christchurch. The Herald has new research from Infometrics that concludes right now is indeed the worst time to be a first home buyer. The worst time in 65 years in fact. Infometrics has compared the total payments made by homeowners over the lifetime of their mortgage against the value of the property when the loan has been repaid. The approach, says report author Gareth Kiernan “takes better account of total housing affordability than simple comparisons of incomes to house prices or incomes to servicing costs in the first year of borrowing”.

For what it’s worth, I am acutely aware of the stream of bad news at the moment. As I round off another item that fits that bill, I commend Duncan Greive’s piece on the Spinoff today to you.

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