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Covid hospitalisations take big drop

It’s Thursday, August 25 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me via email on

The agenda

  • A New Zealand soldier, who was not on active duty, has been killed in Ukraine.
  • Parliament has a new speaker: Adrian Rurawhe.
  • Covid-19 latest: Hospitalisations continue to drop, 2,780 new cases.
  • And the prime minister has visited New Zealand’s first – and currently unopened – Costco store.

Covid hospitalisations take big drop

It’s Thursday, August 25 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me via email on

The agenda

  • A New Zealand soldier, who was not on active duty, has been killed in Ukraine.
  • Parliament has a new speaker: Adrian Rurawhe.
  • Covid-19 latest: Hospitalisations continue to drop, 2,780 new cases.
  • And the prime minister has visited New Zealand’s first – and currently unopened – Costco store.
Aug 25 2022

Trevor Mallard apologises to Winston Peters over parliamentary protest trespass

Winston Peters speaks to media at Parliament on June 17, 2020. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Former Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has issued public apology to ex-deputy prime minister Winston Peters for a trespass notice issued after the parliamentary occupation in March.

Peters attended the protest, maskless, for one day of the three-week long occupation. He did not speak, but met with key protest organisers. He, along with several other identifiable attendees, was later trespassed from parliament grounds.

In a statement, Peters said the apology followed legal action taken against Mallard. “This action was taken not for myself, but on behalf of the people of New Zealand to make a stand and fight for our fundamental freedoms, rights, and to protect our democracy,” he said.

“Mr Mallard has admitted to the High Court that his actions were unreasonable and irrational when he trespassed me from parliament.  It was clearly unjustified and a direct attack on every New Zealander’s freedoms which are protected under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.”

Winston Peters at parliament on Feb 22 (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Mallard resigned as speaker this week in order to take up a diplomatic posting in the new year. Peters said that was a “staggering insult”.

“What is astonishing, is that the prime minister announced Mr Mallard’s appointment despite knowing all of the details behind his apology – including his self-admitted irrational and unreasonable behaviour.”

Mallard’s apology, issued in a statement by new speaker Adrian Rurawhe, noted that comments made about Peters in May were now retracted.

So kia ora? Viv Beck defends new stance on co-governance


Auckland mayoral candidate Viv Beck has defended her decision to campaign “against co-governance”, following new social media ads contrasting her position with that of rivals Efeso Collins and Wayne Brown. Following the appearance of the ads on Twitter and Facebook, she told a mayoral event, “I’m worried that we are going back a bit now, because people are getting angry,” Stuff reported.

At a marae-hosted debate five weeks ago, Beck, who opposes three waters, had “responded broadly in favour of co-governance”, according to Stuff. At last night’s Karangahape Road event, she “pointed out that her husband was Māori, that they had married on Waitangi Day, and that ‘it’s important that historic grievances are settled’.” The remarks recall Judith Collins’ aside during a debate in the 2020 election campaign: “My husband is Samoan, so talofa.”

Beck stood by the new posts when contacted by Stuff’s Todd Niall today, saying: “That was a way of illustrating under the current scenario that phrase is becoming really polarising.”

Data from Facebook

Beck was revealed in recent days to have been in dispute with her previous social media agency over Facebook advertising costs. She has since changed agencies to The Campaign Company, owned by Jordan Williams, which had previously been contracted by Leo Molloy’s now defunct campaign. Beck has promoted the new ads on Facebook, though less than $100 has been expended to date.

In the most recent public poll, Beck was trailing in fourth place behind Efeso Collins, Wayne Brown and Leo Molloy, who has since withdrawn.

Ardern to visit unopened Costco store

SEATTLE, UNITED STATES – 2021/07/24: The Costco logo is seen on the exterior of a store in Seattle. 
The American big box retailer is opening new locations in the United States and internationally. (Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The day after announcing a stronger crackdown on the supermarket duopoly, Jacinda Ardern will pay a visit to New Zealand’s first Costco store.

The West Auckland warehouse hasn’t confirmed an opening date, but it’s widely predicted to be in the coming weeks or months. The nearby petrol station opened several months back, offering significantly cheaper fuel than in the surrounding area.

Speaking at parliament yesterday, Ardern and commerce minister David Clark announced that the duopoly of Foodstuffs and Countdown will be forced to sell groceries to their competitors at set prices and terms – if they fail to voluntarily open up their wholesale stockpile.

“No ifs or buts, greater competition, a wider range and cheaper products will be provided to New Zealanders through these changes,” Clark said.

Costco fuel in Westgate (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Covid-19 latest: Hospitalisations continue to drop, 2,780 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There’s been another big dip in the number of current Covid-related hospitalisations.

Currently, 336 people are in hospital with the virus, down from 373 yesterday. It’s the lowest number in about two months. The seven-day rolling average of hospitalisations today is 416 – last Thursday it was 527.

Most of the hospitalisations – 58 – remain in the Waikato region.

Another 2,780 community cases of Covid-19 have been reported today. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 3,061, down from last Thursday when it was 3,928.

There are now a total of 1,845 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average increase in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now seven.

Overnight, the death toll rose by 20. That includes a person in their 30s. It’s not known how many of the latest deaths were directly linked to the virus.

Image: Toby Morris

Air NZ reports major financial loss as fuel prices rise

Air New Zealand flight NZ1942 touches down at Auckland Airport after evacuating almost 200 people from Wuhan, China. (Photo by Dean Purcell-Pool/Getty Images)

The surging cost of fuel has brought bad news for Air New Zealand.

The national carrier today reported a net loss of $591 million in the year to June, up from $292 million in the prior financial year.

As the Herald reported, that loss was in part due to higher fuel costs – up from $311 million to $560 million. The airline’s expenses rose from just under $2.20 billion up to $2.73 billion.

“For customers, we’ve been focused on restoring services, maintaining a choice of fares and launching innovations to improve their journey with us,” said chief executive Greg Foran.

The airline hiked fare prices back in June this year, blaming a rise in costs.

AUT ‘unreservedly’ apologises to academic over handling of harassment claim

An Auckland university has “unreservedly” apologised for how it handled claims of sexual harassment made by a former academic against their colleague.

In 2020, a Stuff report revealed that Dr Marisa Paterson, now a politician in Australia, had laid a complaint against AUT’s pro vice chancellor Max Abbott about alleged stalking and harassment.

Despite Paterson providing extensive evidence of Abbott’s behaviour, AUT refused to investigate for almost a year. Eventually, a major review was then ordered by the university into its own culture.

In a statement issued via the Human Rights Commission, Paterson said the decision to lodge a formal complaint at the time was made in desperation. “The independent report that was commissioned by AUT and this apology, are public recognition that I did not experience the appropriate or adequate response to the harm I experienced,” she said.

“In addition to the sexual harassment, the harm that is imposed on an individual to fight an institution for an adequate response, in public, is significant. I have suffered long-term distress and implications from what I experienced and what I had to do to seek justice and resolution.”

In its apology, AUT acknowledged its investigation into Paterson’s complaint was “not adequate” and communication throughout the process “failed to recognise and reflect the very sensitive and serious nature” of the issues.

“We would also like to recognise your courage in coming forward, and to thank you for providing the opportunity for AUT to learn from this and initiate a process of culture change which we are confident will improve the experience of people learning and working in the university,” the statement said.

NZer killed in Ukraine spoke just last week to Tova O’Brien

The people of Ukraine need our help (Image: Supplied)

The New Zealand soldier killed in Ukraine overnight has been named as Dominic Abelen. But to New Zealand journalist Tova O’Brien, he was known only as Tolkien.

O’Brien returned last week from Ukraine after visiting the war torn country for an interview with president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and to meet New Zealanders on the ground.

During her trip, the broadcaster managed to get in contact with a soldier who identified as Tolkien. Writing for Today FM, O’Brien said Tolkien was “brave and honest and determined and caring.”

She wrote: “He talked to me about the need to try to help Ukraine keep its land and push Russia back. That it was a clear fight for good versus evil. He said he had the skills to help and that it was better to share those skills and input than having to send more poorly trained civilians to dangerous situations.”

You can listen to their interview filmed in Ukraine here.

New speaker Adrian Rurawhe striving for fairness

New Speaker Adrian Rurawhe (in ceremonial cloak) poses with fellow Labour MPs under the portrait of the Queen at Government House after his confirmation ceremony (Photo by Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Parliament has a new speaker: Adrian Rurawhe.

He took on the role officially yesterday afternoon, after long-serving MP Trevor Mallard stepped down from the role ahead of a diplomatic posting to begin in the new year.

Mallard was very unpopular among opposition MPs, who criticised him for the way he ran proceedings in the house and his conduct during events like the parliamentary occupation (who could forget the Barry Manilow).

In an interview this morning with RNZ, Rurawhe pledged that he would be a fair arbiter. “I don’t mind if there’s more robust debate in the house but as I said yesterday… as long as it’s fair, you can be as robust as you like.”

He also said he’d try and curtail lengthy speeches from the government, who often try and use self-congratulatory “patsy questions” to waffle on.

“I’m going to be really clear that my expectations on non-political straight-up questions to ministers need straight-up answers,” Rurawhe said.

New Speaker Adrian Rurawhe poses after his confirmation ceremony (Photo by Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Report confirms the link between care and incarceration

A report tabled at the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry yesterday shows one in three young people placed in residential care by the state between 1950 and 1999 went on to serve a prison sentence. This report was billed as shocking and startling, and what it says is, but it’s not entirely new information. In 2015, then-chief youth court judge Andrew Becroft determined there was a “staggering and profoundly concerning link” between children who have been in care and crime.

Back in 2019, youth justice advocacy group JustSpeak issued a statement where Khylee Quince pointed out then that “70% of our prison population has a care and protection background” and “children in care are 107 times more likely to be imprisoned by age 20 than other children.” Always good to have another evidentiary log thrown on this horrendous fire, I guess.

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NZ soldier killed while on leave in Ukraine

The Ukrainian flag (Photo: Getty Images)

A New Zealand soldier, who was not on active duty, has been killed in Ukraine.

The Defence Force confirmed last night that it had received reports of the death, saying the individual was “on a period of leave without pay” during their time in Ukraine.

While New Zealand soldiers have helped with the war effort, none of our deployments have been to Ukraine itself. “At this early stage, there is still more information to be gathered in order to understand the circumstances fully,” the NZDF added.

Defence minister Peeni Henare expressed his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the soldier. “I have been advised the New Zealand Army are supporting the soldier’s family through this difficult time.”

This morning, the soldier has been named publicly in several media outlets.

According to Stuff, the soldier was on the frontline in Ukraine and was killed while attempting to retake a trench system from Russian forces.