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‘Precautionary’ evacuations ordered in Hawke’s Bay

It’s Friday, February 24 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Today: the prime minister visits cyclone-hit Northland, rain slows the recovery on the East Coast, and Lorde helps out with Antarctic research.

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‘Precautionary’ evacuations ordered in Hawke’s Bay

It’s Friday, February 24 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Today: the prime minister visits cyclone-hit Northland, rain slows the recovery on the East Coast, and Lorde helps out with Antarctic research.

Get in touch with me on

The agenda

Feb 24 2023

Te Matatini finalists announced

Te Matatini 2023 at Ngā Ana Wai Eden Park.(Image: Charlotte Muru-Lanning)

The crowd wasn’t deterred by the rain today as the remaining 15 groups took the stage at Te Matatini ahead of the finals tomorrow. Over the last three days, 45 of the country’s top kapa haka rōpū have charmed onlookers with cheeky poi, bouncy waiata-ā-ringa and goosebump-inducing haka. This evening, Te Matatini chairman Selwyn Parata announced the 12 groups who will go on to perform one more time tomorrow, competing to be crowned Toa Whakaihuwaka, the winners of Te Matatini 2023.

The 12 groups who will compete in the finals tomorrow are:

  • Te Hekenga ā Rangi
  • Te Pou a Mangataawhiri
  • Whāngārā Mai Tawhiti
  • Ngā Tūmanako (defending champions)
  • Te Iti Kahurangi
  • Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai
  • Te Whānau a Apanui
  • Ngāti Rangiwewehi
  • Angitū
  • Waihīre
  • Te Mātārae I Ōrehu
  • Ngati Whakaue

Across the three preliminary days, the competition was split into three pools. The four rōpu with the highest combined marks from each pool will compete tomorrow. These twelve finalists will be judged, once again, to determine Te To a Whakaihuwaka – the overall winner of Te Matatini. The first group will take the stage at 8.15am and the winner will be announced tomorrow evening.

You can buy tickets online or watch live tomorrow on TVNZ+.

Aucklanders warned of flash flooding: ‘Take care when travelling’

It’s wet people (Photo: MetService)

Before 3pm this afternoon I wrote a live update about forecast heavy rain in Auckland. Now, come 4.20pm, that rain has well and truly arrived.

Auckland Transport has urged drivers travelling tonight to take care on the roads. “Roads already damaged by the Auckland Floods and Cyclone Gabrielle are especially vulnerable,” they said on Twitter.

MetService, meanwhile, has warned of flash flooding as thunder storms and heavy rain bucket down.

In a statement, Auckland Emergency Management added that people should keep an eye on the weather and, if they feel “unsafe”, have an evacuation plan in place. “If your home is in an area prone to floods or landslips… consider staying with friends or whanau,” officials said.

More heavy rain forecast for Auckland

Flooding at the Redwood Park Golf Club in Swanson, West Auckland, January 2023 (Photo: Genna Hukui/Supplied to Stuff)

Buckle in for another wet weekend, Auckland.

It’s already drizzling out there now, but Metservice has warned of severe thunderstorms moving across the city before heading south.

“The main risk is between about 1pm and 10pm today (Friday), starting in the north (north of Warkworth and Helensville), then spreading southwards in the late afternoon and evening,” the forecaster said.

“Rainfall of this intensity can cause surface and/or flash flooding, especially about low-lying areas such as streams, rivers or narrow valleys, and may also lead to slips.”

Localised downpours of 25-40mm per hour are possible.


Esk Valley ordered to re-evacuate due to heavy rain

A submerged paddock in the Esk Valley in February (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Napier’s Esk Valley has been forced to evacuate once again, less than a fortnight after Cyclone Gabrielle flooded the coast.

Heavy rain has been falling for much of the past 24 hours, with an orange rain warning still in place.

In a post on Facebook, the local Civil Defence called the evacuations “precautionary” and said the evacuation order will be in place from 1pm which is when people must leave their homes.

“The timing is to ensure people can evacuate safely and in good time BEFORE the impacts rather than during,” the post read. “The impacts are expected late tonight which is why we are doing this during daylight hours to ensure everyone’s safety, including our emergency responders.”

A number of Civil Defence hubs have been set-up, including at the Flaxmere Community Centre and the Waipawa Municipal Theatre. The Centennial Memorial Hall in Napier will be open from 4pm.

Routes into Piha and Bethells closed to ‘manage safety risks’

Flood and slip damage in Piha caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. (Photo: Valentina Rocca)

The main routes into two coastal communities in Auckland will be closed today to allow for repairs after Cyclone Gabrielle.

Piha Road will be closed to everyone other than residents and emergency services from by a cordon at Lone Kauri Road. Meanwhile, Bethells Road will be closed to all road users until 5pm today so the section of the road that has been washed out can be repaired. It will reopen for residents, just briefly, around now.

This closure will continue at the same times throughout the weekend until the work is completed.

Auckland Emergency Management said the cordons will be staffed around the clock until the roads are reopened and residents have been asked not to try and walk their way through.

“We urge Aucklanders to help by continuing to stay away from areas that are cordoned off. We also anticipate a large number of visitors to the region this weekend, so it is important these messages are passed on to them as well,” a statement said.

Along with the safety risks in the area, AEM said the cordons would help avoid stress on infrastructure and public facilities, such as water and toilets,  and help prevent further distress to local residents.

Flood and slip damage in Piha caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. (Photo: Valentina Rocca)

PM Hipkins visits Northland, meets with local leaders

Chris Hipkins disembarks in Napier. Photo: George Heard/Herald/Pool 

The prime minister has continued his tour of flood-ravaged parts of the North Island.

He’s in Northland today to meet with local mayors in Whangārei and assess damage in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle. While the meeting this morning will take place behind closed doors, Chris Hipkins will then visit the Tai Timu Tai Pari Collective team – a group of organisations that deliver health, education and social services across the region.

It’s after this that he’ll speak to media (we’ll try find a livestream for you).

Meanwhile, in Hawke’s Bay, where Hipkins visited yesterday, rain has continued to fall since yesterday morning. Metservice said a heavy rain watch remained in place for parts of the country worst hit by the cyclone, including Napier and Gisborne.

It’s going to be a long road ahead for locals trying to repair after the extreme weather and there are growing fears that this additional downpour could cause further damage.

Read more: Ten days on from Gabrielle, Napier is still picking up the pieces 

Lorde helps fund Antarctica climate research scholarship


Lorde has donated $120,000 to fund a climate change research scholarship in Antarctica.

Along with some of her own money, it includes the proceeds from a photographic book she produced after a visit to the continent in 2019 with the Antarctica New Zealand Community Engagement Programme. While there, she visited scientists in the field, learnt about Antarctica’s role in the global earth system and the impact climate change is having.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Sarah Williamson said it was critical to support this area of research. “New Zealand’s Antarctic scientists are world-leading, and scholarships like this ensure we attract the best minds to help solve some of the planet’s most difficult questions” she said.

Tonight, Lorde joins other New Zealand music icons in Christchurch for a fundraising concert to help those impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Lorde visits Antarctica in 2019 (Photo: Harry Were / supplied)

Yes, Harry Styles will have to do the Census


A bit of (legal) fun for your Friday: pop star Harry Styles will technically have to complete our 2023 Census.

He’s in the country for his Mount Smart Stadium gig on March 7, the same day we’ll all be filling out the national population survey. And yes, even visitors to New Zealand have to complete it.

This was confirmed after a question by pop culture magazine Coup De Main shared to Twitter. In response, the Census’s Twitter account replied: “Everyone who is in Aotearoa New Zealand on census night (Tuesday 7 March), needs to be counted in the census. This includes tourists, visitors, and former members of One Direction.”

Listen: Will we change in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle?

Amongst the tragedy of Aotearoa’s recent climate disasters is an opportunity to enact lasting legislation to prevent it happening again. Climate policy academic David Hall is tasked with finding the economically and politically sensible ways that we can adapt to the climate crisis. He talks with Bernard Hickey on the latest episode of When the Facts Change about gnarly politicking and the changes we need to make to avoid environmental disaster.

Listen below or wherever you get your pods

The Bulletin: New six-month recovery visa to assist with cyclone recovery

As BusinessDesk’s Jem Traylen reports (paywalled), the government announced a new six-month recovery visa yesterday, saying it will do what it takes to get the migrant workers needed for the cyclone recovery amid global labour shortages. The National Party put out a proposal for a three-year visa for workers to assist with the recovery the day before.

Immigration minister Michael Wood also announced a fast-tracking of recovery visa processing with an aim of processing them within seven days. By way of imperfect comparison, 10,000 workers arrived on special rebuild visas in Christchurch after the quakes. The issuing of those visas peaked in 2015, four years after the February 2011 quake.

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.  

Rod Stewart to rock (the dock) in Auckland

He is sailing. Screengrab: TVNZ

Our favourite dock rocker Sir Rod Stewart will return to Auckland for a one-off show in April. It’s in addition to already announced gigs in Napier and Dunedin.

Sir Rod was forced to cancel his planned “Hits Tour” in 2022 due to Covid-19, saying he felt “cheated by this evil disease”. But Live Nation has confirmed he’ll be making up for it over Easter Weekend this year.

“I’m so excited to return to your heart-stoppingly beautiful country,” the singer said in a statement.

He’ll be joined in Auckland, as for the rest of his tour, by Cyndi Lauper.

Tickets for the April 9 show at Spark Arena go on sale next Friday at 10am.

Rod Stewart sailing during the America’s Cup. (Screengrab: TVNZ)

More sanctions mark one year from start of Ukraine war

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – APRIL 22: Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta talks to media during a press conference at Parliament on April 22, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne is on a two-day visit to New Zealand for formal foreign policy discussions with New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta.  It is the first face-to-face Foreign Ministers’ consulations since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand has announced another round of sanctions against Russia to mark one year since the devastating conflict in Ukraine began.

It’s the second largest tranche of sanctions and one which foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta said further demonstrated our “strong condemnation” of the war.

There are 87 Russian individuals targeted by the sanctions. “The group includes political actors who have strategic relevance to Russia, and proximity to Putin,” said Mahuta. “It also includes members of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, who sought to legitimise the attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty through sham referenda in the illegally annexed regions of Ukraine.”

The military personnel included in the sanctions have “had active roles in the conflict”, Mahuta added.

Newshub’s Europe correspondent Lisette Reymer said this morning that there were a lot of “understandable nerves” on the ground in Ukraine on the one-year anniversary of the conflict. “We know that the Russian president does like anniversaries… and that is when he chooses to really target Ukraine and fully unleash on this country.”