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blog april 26


Daily Covid cases on the up, but ministry says fluctuation not unexpected

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 26, I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me on

The latest

  • Four more people with Covid-19 have died over the past 48 hours.
  • There’s been an increase to the rolling weekly average of new Covid-19 community cases.
  • Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and the world’s richest man, has bought social media site Twitter for over $40 billion USD.
  • Police say the Anzac weekend’s road toll of 11 was “unacceptable” and people need to take responsibility for their actions on the road.
blog april 26

Daily Covid cases on the up, but ministry says fluctuation not unexpected

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 26, I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can get in touch with me on

The latest

  • Four more people with Covid-19 have died over the past 48 hours.
  • There’s been an increase to the rolling weekly average of new Covid-19 community cases.
  • Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and the world’s richest man, has bought social media site Twitter for over $40 billion USD.
  • Police say the Anzac weekend’s road toll of 11 was “unacceptable” and people need to take responsibility for their actions on the road.
Apr 26 2022

‘Common law sheriffs’ accused of hijacking Anzac Day service

A walk-out at an Anzac Day service took place after a group of self-proclaimed “common law sheriffs” went up to the podium to speak.

According to Stuff, around 2,000 people were in attendance at the Paraparaumu service when the sheriffs tried to “hijack” the event. The group had been given permission to speak initially, however they were told to step away from the podium when their address stopped being “based in fact”.

“I think it’s outrageous they would be given a platform at an Anzac ceremony,” said attendee Jake Roos.

Writing for The Spinoff in February, Dylan Reeve explained that the use of the “common law” is often linked to the sovereign citizen movement. “Such attempts have included doctors and pharmacists being issued ‘cease and desist’ letters, high-profile vaccine promoters ‘served’ bogus legal documents, demands police shut down vaccine centres and even an attempt to arrest (kidnap) a school principal,” wrote Reeve.

Arrest warrant issued for man charged with threatening to kill PM Ardern

Richard Sivell outside the Tauranga District Court, in a video posted online. Image: Screengrab

A man charged with threatening to kill prime minister Jacinda Ardern has failed to turn up for his court date.

An arrest warrant has today been issued for 39-year-old Richard Sivell, reports Stuff, after he didn’t show at the Tauranga District Court.

Sivell was arrested late last month at an address in Te Puke. He was later released on bail on the condition that he not post messages on channels run by the conspiracy theory fuelled outlet Counterspin.

During a later court appearance on April 4, Sivell was reportedly hauled into the dock. Sivell made various statements drawing on his belief in the pseudo-legal gibberish of the “sovereign citizen” movement. The case was adjourned, with Sivell bailed on conditions including not using a device capable of connecting to the internet.

Richard Sivell outside the Tauranga District Court, in a video posted online. Image: Screengrab

New study aims to inform blood donation policy

Rainbow flag showing support for the LGBT community with people at the pride event

A new local study aims to inform blood donation policy for gay, bisexual, takatāpui and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

The Sex and Prevention of Transmission Study (SPOTS) is our largest ever nationwide study for MSM and is targeted around HIV prevention, sexual health, and blood donation policy.

Currently, MSM in New Zealand are restricted from donating blood until three months after their last sexual contact. Many see this restriction as increasingly discriminatory given the advances in HIV prevention in recent decades. Lead investigator Dr Peter Saxton, from the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health, noted that “the NZ Blood service agrees that some MSM present a low risk for donating blood, but the organisation lacks evidence to improve the policy further”.

The study will address this gap in evidence through a survey of 4,000 MSM on safe sex practices and views on blood donation policy. It combines an online questionnaire with an option for participants to send in a dried blood spot using a fingerprick device and card. The sample will then be tested for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis C. Participants who send in a sample can either choose to receive their results or send in their sample anonymously. By cross-referencing the results of the lab test with the self-reported questionnaire, researchers will be able to estimate the prevalence of undiagnosed blood borne infections in MSM, which will inform future blood donation policy. 

Dr Sarah Morley, chief medical officer at the New Zealand Blood Service, added that the study will provide a “better understanding of the influences on sexual health and the status of HIV prevention in the MSM community across Aotearoa… This study is a real opportunity to help effect change, and we encourage all eligible people to take part”. 

Those eligible include MSM cis and trans men aged 16 or over living in Aotearoa New Zealand as well as trans women or non-binary people who have sex with MSM and gay, bisexual, queer or pansexual men who have not had sex with a man. Participants can be of any HIV status, ethnicity, region, and relationship status. 

SPOTS is funded by the Health Research Council and the Ministry of Health, and run in partnership across the University of Auckland, the University of Otago, NZ AIDS foundation, Body Positive, Te Whāriki Takapou and the New Zealand Blood Service.

View the survey and find out more here

Covid-19 update: Four more deaths, 508 in hospital, 6,380 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

Four people with Covid-19 have died over the last two days, the Ministry of Health has announced.

These deaths take the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 687 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 12.

The latest deaths are two people from Taranaki and two from Canterbury. Two were in their 70s and two were over 90. Two were women and two were men.

There are now 508 people in hospital with Covid-19, while 16 people remain in intensive care.

The ministry’s announced 6,380 new community cases of Covid-19 and an increase to the rolling weekly average. It’s sitting on 8,085 today, up from 7,585 last Tuesday. “Although this is an increase from last week, the number of reported community cases is expected to continue to fluctuate day to day and the overall trend remains a reduction in reported cases,” said the ministry.

It’s worth noting the past week has included both the Easter and Anzac long weekends along with the school holidays.

Electric ferries on the way for Auckland Harbour

Is help coming for Auckland businesses? Photo: Getty Images

Two 200 person electric ferries will set sail on Auckland Harbour in 2024.

The government’s confirmed speculation it will help fund the construction of the ferries and associated infrastructure through a $27 million grant to Auckland Transport. That funding, which will cover around 75% of construction costs, will come from the government’s Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Energy and resources minister Megan Woods said the current ferries contribute around 20% of Auckland’s public transport emissions. Electrification will “dramatically reduce” the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“This project will be a major boost to the rapidly developing maritime clean technology sector in New Zealand and will further upskill the maritime transport sector in New Zealand,” Wood said. “This is a boost for our climate goals and our economy, which is especially vital as we continue our economic recovery from Covid-19.”

The ferries will match the top speeds set by the existing diesel ferries, 25 knots, and will have a range of 40 kilometres.

‘Technical error’ caused Dancing with the Stars elimination spoiler

Sonia Gray and Aaron Gilmore dance a rumba. (Photo: Three)

A “technical error” caused some Dancing with the Stars voters to have last night’s elimination spoiled.

Sonia Gray, inexplicably, became the first contestant sent home from the TV dancing competition after just two nights. That’s despite her generally pretty impressive routine and positive critiques from the judges.

However, before Gray had sashayed away, some on social media had already reported her elimination. That’s because they’d received an automated text after trying to vote for her that revealed her time on the dance floor was over.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery, the producers of Dancing with the Stars, told The Spinoff live updates it apologised for the unintentional spoiler. “The technical issue did not have any impact on the final result,” the spokesperson said. “For the rest of the season, our hosts will be making it very clear when voting closes.”

Read our Dancing with the Stars power ranking for week one here.

National is committed to ‘diversity and inclusion’, says Luxon

QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 01: National Party leader Christopher Luxon addresses members of the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce and media during the annual New Zealand National Party caucus retreat on February 01, 2022 in Queenstown, New Zealand. The retreat brings all National Party MPs together ahead of the new parliamentary year. (Photo by James Allan/Getty Images)

National’s leader Christopher Luxon has batted away criticism about a lack of diversity in his party ahead of the announcement of who will stand in the Tauranga by-election.

According to Today FM’s Tova O’Brien, the shortlisted four candidates of who could run for National in Tauranga are all white men. The MP vacating that seat, Simon Bridges, is one of only three Māori currently in the National caucus.

Luxon told O’Brien that it “may well be the case” that a white man runs for National in Tauranga. “But don’t doubt that there is a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the National Party,” he said.

“We have put new processes in place… so we can work out how to get more diverse candidates into the National Party, we’re having great conversations with people, there are diverse candidates exploring candidacy with us.”

The party, said Luxon, still has a lot of work to do ahead of the 2023 election in terms of diversity. “But we’re working our way through it.” The current lack of diversity was due to the party’s terrible 2020 election result, he said.

Asked whether he would rule out introducing Act’s policy to remove all mentions of the Treaty of Waitangi from legislation, Luxon chose not to answer. It’s possible Luxon could need Act’s support if he wants to become prime minister. “I’m talking to you about what we’re trying to do in the National Party,” Luxon said.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon (Photo by James Allan/Getty Images)

Fans fire up over Foo Fighters refund delays

Foo Fighters fans are still waiting for their concert refunds. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ticketmaster has apologised and blamed “an issue with our payment provider” for major delays in processing refunds for fans who purchased Foo Fighters tickets for up to $200 each.

It’s been nearly four weeks since New Zealand’s Foo Fighters concert at Western Springs in December was cancelled after the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins, but so far no refunds have been issued. Ticketmaster says payments were processed on April 8 when the error occurred, but didn’t communicate this with fans until Friday at 6pm.

Up until then, fans had flooded Ticketmaster’s Facebook page asking for updates and posting angry comments requesting their money back. Under a post about an upcoming Teeks concert, one said: “What is happening with our Foo Fighters refunds?” Another said: “[This] puts me off buying another ticket from you.”

A third claimed the same thing had happened with a cancelled concert by Jimmy Barnes.

Foo Fighters fans are still waiting for their concert refunds. (Photo: Getty Images)

On Friday, ahead of the long weekend, Ticketmaster finally apologised, pleading with fans to “bear with us” and promising refunds would be issued shortly.

“We have investigated and found an issue with our payment provider who experienced an outage when trying to process a bulk of refunds on April 8,” the message said. “We have urged the payment provider to process the remaining refunds as soon as possible today but it’s looking [like] funds won’t hit your account until after the weekend and public holiday.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience. Rest assured we are doing everything possible at our end to get refunds back to fans.”

This didn’t seem to appease fans, with one saying: “Have been so stressed out thinking my money had disappeared.”

This morning, another fan posted: “Nothing in my account this morning.”

About those Lorde ‘shushing’ videos

Pictured: Actual celebrity Lorde at Lollapalooza Brazil on 5 April 2014 (Photo: Getty)

New Zealand pop star Lorde has released a video (via a fan site) in response to viral clips of her “shushing” her own crowd during a gig.

The clips show the singer telling audience members to be quiet during an a cappella rendition of her track Writer in the Dark, from her album Melodrama.

Despite the clips being from her 2017 tour, they’ve only gone viral in the past week as Lorde heads out on the road to promote her latest album Solar Power.

In her response video, Lorde said she had only instructed her crowd to be quiet during”one song, a couple of times” so that she could sing off the microphone.


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A post shared by lorde fanpage (@lordecontent)

“If you come to my shows, you know it’s like an hour and a half of all of us singing and screaming together,” Lorde explained.

As someone who witnessed the controversial shushing during Lorde’s Powerstation gig in late 2017, I can confirm: it wasn’t really that bad.

Lorde will be back on our shores in early 2023 for Solar Power tour.

‘Grande victoire, grands défis’: Macron secures French presidency

One of the top global stories from the weekend, as reported by Anna Rawhiti-Connell in today’s edition of The Bulletin:

Great victory, great challenges. That was the headline from France’s centre-right newspaper, Le Figaro, following Emmanuel Macron’s election win over far-right opponent Marine Le Pen. He became, on some technicalities, the first president of the Fifth Republic to win re-election. Centre-left newspaper, Le Monde, were less enthusiastic, calling it a “tepid victory”. Macron picked up 58.5% of the vote, Le Pen 41.5%, while 28.1% of people abstained from voting, close to the record high set during the 1969 election. For anyone concerned about stability in Europe, Macron’s victory will be a relief, but most global coverage is running with some strong caveats about the increase in votes for Le Pen.

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.

Anzac weekend road toll of 11 ‘unacceptable’ – police

(Photo: RNZ)

It was a devastating long weekend on New Zealand’s road, with 11 people killed.

Police have labelled the Anzac death toll “unacceptable” and said people need to take responsibility and make good decisions every time they are on the road.

“We accept as police that we have an important role to play in keeping people safe on the road,” said assistant commissioner for police Bruce O’Brien.

“That is why we are out there unapologetically focusing on people speeding and pulling over drivers who are clearly not focused on what they are doing. Make no mistake, we will continue to do that, and we have committed to lifting our performance even more.”

On top of the deaths, O’Brien said the weekend has left survivors who will have “life-changing injuries” and some who will never recover.

“The fact is, drivers and riders need to take some responsibility. Police can’t be on every single street corner or every stretch of highway,” he said. “Every road user needs to play their part in getting to where they are going safely. It’s not hard and I’m struggling to understand how we are still having this conversation.”

The Anzac weekend death toll is almost three times that of Easter, when four people were killed on the roads.

Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, buys Twitter

Elon Musk of Tesla (Photo: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

Billionaire Elon Musk will soon be in charge of social media site Twitter.

The world’s richest man will buy the service for around $44 billion USD, about $66b in New Zealand dollars.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement. “Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

It’s the culmination of a slightly strange month of news regarding Musk and Twitter. Less than a month ago, the Tesla boss became one of Twitter’s largest shareholders. He was then offered and turned down a seat on its board and announced his bid to buy the company.

A statement from Twitter’s independent board chair Bret Taylor said the company conducted a “thoughtful and comprehensive process” to evaluate Musk’s proposal.

So what could the deal mean for Twitter users? Musk has claimed he wants to “unlock Twitter’s potential” while also allowing for free speech rights on the platform. His statement said he plans to “make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”

The deal’s expected to be finalised later this year.

Elon Musk of Tesla (Photo: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)