b log upd may 24

Live UpdatesMay 24 2022

Greens urge Covid caution, while Act says time to ditch restrictions

It’s Tuesday May 24, and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • There’s no change to our Covid-19 traffic light setting. The next review is set for late June.
  • The Greens want tighter Covid restrictions in schools as we head for winter.
  • But Act says it’s time to ditch the traffic light framework entirely.
  • Covid-19 update: 15 new deaths, 327 in hospital, 8,435 new cases.
  • New Zealand has signed up to Indo-Pacific Economic framework.
b log upd may 24

Greens urge Covid caution, while Act says time to ditch restrictions

It’s Tuesday May 24, and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • There’s no change to our Covid-19 traffic light setting. The next review is set for late June.
  • The Greens want tighter Covid restrictions in schools as we head for winter.
  • But Act says it’s time to ditch the traffic light framework entirely.
  • Covid-19 update: 15 new deaths, 327 in hospital, 8,435 new cases.
  • New Zealand has signed up to Indo-Pacific Economic framework.
May 24 2022

Green MP hoping government will back her electoral reform bill despite review

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is hoping the government’s planned electoral law review won’t take away from her member’s bill dealing with the same area.

Earlier today the government confirmed the expert panel that would be helping review our existing electoral rules. Justice minister Kris Faafoi said issues like the voting age would be within the remit of the review, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

But just last week, Ghahraman’s Strengthening Democracy Bill was drawn from the ballot – meaning electoral review will be up for parliamentary debate in the near future.

“The government’s review shows that they are open to strengthening our democracy in Aotearoa, and a new independent panel is appropriate to consider new issues,” said Ghahraman.

“In the meantime, I would welcome Labour’s support for my Green Party member’s bill to go to select committee, where the public will have an opportunity to make their voices heard to all parties in parliament.”

The government’s review panel will be chaired by lawyer Deborah Hart, with members including electoral law expert Andrew Geddis and New Zealand election study co-lead Dr Lara Greaves.

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New trailer for Taika Waititi’s Thor sequel drops

The internet is about to be broken. The new trailer for Taika Waititi’s Thor sequel, subtitled Love and Thunder, has been released this afternoon.

It showcases the return of Natalie Portman’s Jane, who is set to inherit the role of Thor, along with the debut of Christian Bale’s villain Gorr. Russell Crowe also crops up because, well, why not?

As with anything Waititi touches, it looks pretty batshit. Check it out below.

Thor: Love and Thunder opens in New Zealand cinemas July 7.

I’ll be honest though I’m arguably more excited for the next Mission: Impossible film, with the release of the trailer for that today as well. Fresh off seeing the new Top Gun film at a preview last night, I’ll happily give my money to anything Tom Cruise is involved with (except Scientology).

Time to ditch ‘redundant, pointless’ Covid restrictions – David Seymour

The traffic light system is “totally redundant” and New Zealand should already be in green, according to Act’s David Seymour.

It was announced today that the entire country will stay in the orange setting for at least another month. At orange, mask wearing is mandatory in most indoor settings, such as on public transport, but there are no restrictions on gatherings. Covid-positive people and their close contacts are required to isolate for a week.

Seymour said the government has dismantled the traffic light system to the point it no longer should exist. “It was introduced to control crowd limits, encourage vaccination and for contact tracing. None of these elements are in play anymore,” he said.

The rationale behind extending the orange setting was the anticipated surge in Covid cases across winter. Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said the latest modelling showed a likely upswing in cases over the next few months.

But Seymour called the remaining restrictions “pointless” and questioned why anyone would want to come here if they might need to isolate. “These rules don’t make sense anymore but just constrain peoples’ everyday lives and make us a less attractive destination to tourists,” he said. “New Zealanders are fed up. It’s time to move on.”

The timing of the announcement was also questioned by Seymour, who said it was “conveniently timed” with the prime minister leaving the country this week to visit the United States.

Covid-19 update: 15 new deaths, 327 in hospital, 8,435 new cases

There have been 15 more deaths of people with Covid-19, bumping the country’s death toll to 1,079 and the seven-day rolling average to 13.

Of the deaths being reported today, three were from the Auckland region, one was from Waikato, one was from Taranaki, two were from the Wellington region, one was from Nelson-Marlborough, four were from Canterbury and three were from Southern.

One person was in their 40s, two were in their 60s, one was in their 70s, three were in their 80s and eight were aged over 90. Nine were female and six was male.

There are currently 327 people in hospital with Covid-19 and 10 in intensive care.

Another 8,435 community cases have been reported today, with the seven-day rolling average of community case numbers dropping to 7,507. Last Tuesday it was 7,795.

Earlier today it was confirmed all of New Zealand will stay in the orange setting of the traffic light framework for at least one more month, as Covid cases are expected to spike throughout winter.

The music industry fundraiser upcycling unsold merch for charity

A new initiative has transformed merchandise from New Zealand performers Six60, Benee and Drax Project into limited-edition bags to help raise funds for musicians affected by pandemic restrictions.

Universal Music NZ has partnered with charity MusicHelps for the project, called “Beats to Bags”, offering 1,000 exclusive bags made from new, leftover T-shirts from some of New Zealand’s biggest music acts. “We were stoked to donate some merch to help raise funds for those in the music industry that have been heavily affected by the pandemic over the last couple of years,” said Drax Project, one of the artists involved. “Get amongst!”

The new gear comes in two kinds – drawstring and tote bags. Tamariki from Kingsford Primary School in Māngere received the drawstring bags from Six60 to use as book and sports bags, while 790 tote bags will be sold online for $30 each. 100% of proceeds will go to MusicHelps.

Beats to bags (Supplied)

Taika Waititi cracks Time 100 list of most influential people

New Zealand director, writer and actor Taika Waititi has made it onto the Time 100 list of the most influential people of 2022.

Waititi became a household name around the world after directing the 2017 Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok. He later went on to win an Oscar for his 2019 dramedy Jojo Rabbit. Of course, us in New Zealand have known about him for a lot longer.

Writing about Waititi for Time Magazine is Borat star Sacha Baron-Cohen, who says he’s been a fan since 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows. “It was brilliantly comic yet somehow made me care passionately about the fate of a bunch of murderous vampires. So I set about trying to meet Taika and convince him to work with me, which he obviously refused to do,” writes Baron-Cohen.

“He represents the best of the bygone era of wild, rock-star Hollywood types, mixed with the brilliance of a top auteur.”

As always with a Time list, the collection of people is fairly eclectic. Waititi is featured alongside the likes of Adele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Oprah, Joe Biden and… Vladimir Putin.

No change to traffic light settings as NZ readies for winter

New Zealand will remain in orange for at least another month, the Covid-19 response minister has confirmed.

With case numbers expected to rise over the winter months, a move out of orange seemed incredibly unlikely. The Greens, on the flipside, have called for a tightening of Covid restrictions, particularly at schools.

Chris Hipkins said the latest Covid modelling backed up that a second wave of cases was likely. “While daily cases numbers have flattened nationally, they are again beginning to increase in the Northern region and hospitalisation rates have also increased slightly over the past month,” he said.

At orange, masks remain mandatory indoors and on public transport (except at hospitality venues). Gatherings are not limited.

“The Covid-19 Protection Framework has effectively managed the omicron outbreak at orange,” said Hipkins. “By following public health advice to remain at that setting, we can maintain some protections while ensuring businesses can continue to operate.”

The next review of the traffic light settings will be in late June.

Meet the panel set to review our electoral laws

The government has confirmed the panel of experts lined up to review the country’s electoral laws.

The 18-month review, announced last year, will accompany “targeted changes” ahead of next year’s general election.

The panel will be chaired by lawyer Deborah Hart, with members including electoral law expert Andrew Geddis, former chief electoral officer Robert Peden and New Zealand election study co-lead Dr Lara Greaves.

Justice minister Kris Faafoi said the review will look at the issue of New Zealand’s voting age, amid calls from some to lower it to 16. It will also consider the funding of political parties, the length of the parliamentary term, and changes to the party vote threshold rule.

“Maintaining public confidence in elections is critical for our democracy. This review is a once-in-a generation opportunity to consider how to make our electoral laws clearer, fairer, and more accessible,” Faafoi said.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern was yesterday asked to give her view on whether the voting age should be lowered after a member’s bill by Green MP Golriz Ghahraman was selected for debate. Ardern steered clear of giving a definitive response, but signalled that the government’s electoral review would allow for similar change to occur.

Business Is Boring, in proud partnership with Spark Lab

(Design: Sophie Tse)

When Simran Kaur and Sonia Gupthan founded Girls that Invest two years ago, they didn’t expect that it would expand into the brand it is now, with one of the world’s most popular finance podcasts, over 150,000 instagram followers and now even an international book deal.

This week, Simran Kaur joined Simon Pound on Business is Boring to talk about her fight to dismantle the patriarchy through financial literacy.

Listen to the podcast here.

It’s traffic light review day: will anywhere move from orange?

The government’s set to reveal whether any parts of the country will entirely drop Covid-19 restrictions as a review of our traffic light framework takes place.

All of New Zealand remains in orange. With that brings mask requirements indoors (except at hospitality venues), but no gathering limits are in place.

While Covid-19 cases appear to have bottomed out, as noted by Ashley Bloomfield this month, we’re still regularly registering 7,000 to 9,000 cases a day. Auckland is bearing the brunt, with around 2,500 to 3,000 cases a day.

As such, a nationwide move to the green setting, just as New Zealand readies for an anticipated winter Covid surge, seems unlikely. A move back into red, even for Auckland, seems equally unlikely as the mood of the country has shifted away from a lockdown mentality.

As the Herald’s Derek Cheng notes, any traffic light review is inherently political. “Political decisions on traffic light settings are always a balancing act, and today’s context is a Labour Party that’s been sliding in the polls and a population that is well and truly over Covid,” he writes.

While case numbers have remained fairly high, but stable, over recent weeks, hospitalisations have generally remained low – although there has been a noticeable rise over the past 10 or so days. Whether the government sees this as starting to put pressure on the health system, especially as flu season begins, will factor into today’s decision.

We’re expecting the traffic light announcement via written statement in about an hour’s time and will have all the details for you.

Image: Tina Tiller

Greens want mandatory masks at schools, specific winter plan

The Greens want a return to mandatory mask wearing at schools, along with a specific Covid-19 plan for the education sector as we head into the winter months.

While Covid-19 infections appear to have stabilised, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said earlier this month that he anticipated a winter surge across the country.

Teanau Tuiono, the Green Party Covid-19 response spokesperson, said more should be done to support schools and families. “Opening classroom windows as the outside temperatures plummet is not a good enough plan to keep children, young people, their teachers and whānau safe,” he said.

“Communities need an expert-led plan to support children’s access to education, and protect children, school staff, and their families from Covid-19 and other winter respiratory infections.”

The Greens’ plan would include mandatory mask use in schools and free N95s for both teachers and students. “We need a better approach as COVID-19 is still very much present in our communities. Now more than ever, with the risk of long COVID, we need to make sure support is equitable,” said Tuiono.

A review of our traffic light framework is expected today. With it could come additional information for avoiding infection across winter.

The Bulletin: New Zealand signs up to Indo-Pacific Economic framework

World leaders are very busy catching up right now. US President Joe Biden and newly sworn in Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese, were in Japan to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Jacinda Ardern zoomed in from the airport on her way to New York and signed us up too.

The framework is not as ambitious as the CPTPP, the region-wide free trade agreement, and instead focuses on increased cooperation on areas like clean energy and internet policy. Katherine Tai, a top U.S. trade official travelling with Biden, told The Associated Press that the new framework is intended to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific region.

If Ardern is able to meet with Biden on her travels to the US, “the Pacific’s geopolitical jigsaw puzzle” as Geoffrey Miller put it, will travel with her.

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.  

Almost $500m set aside for possible fourth vaccine dose

The government is preparing for a possible future roll-out of more Covid-19 vaccines.

The Herald’s Thomas Coughlan has reported that $473 million has been set aside by the government to cover the cost of a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose, along with additional Covid treatments next year.

There’s so far been no announcement on whether a fourth dose will be rolled out in New Zealand. Some countries have made an additional vaccine available for their older populations, while Israel allowed all adults to access another dose.

Back in March, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said he was considering the evidence. “We are looking at the role for a possible fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine for vulnerable groups, including older people and I’m expecting advice on that this week,” Bloomfield said on March 22. Despite this, no information has been publicly revealed since.

“We are seeing overseas that effectiveness of that third shot does start to wane, thinking of those groups who got it first, our older people, vulnerable people and our health workforce,” Bloomfield said at the time.

Since March, the country’s omicron outbreak has hit its apparent wall – though it’s far higher than officials, including Bloomfield, anticipated.

A spokesperson for Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins told the Herald that no decision had been made so far.