blog nov 22


Hamilton festival leads to five Covid infections

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 27, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a news tip? Get in touch with me on

Want to help support The Spinoff’s omicron coverage? Find out how you can join The Spinoff Members here.

The latest

  • There are 34 new community cases of the omicron variant, with 90 cases now confirmed.
  • There are now active omicron cases in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Palmerston North, and Nelson Tasman.
  • Five people have tested positive after attending the Soundsplash festival in Hamilton. So far, only one has been confirmed with omicron.
  • Inflation has soared to a 30 year high, triggered in part by pandemic-related supply chain issues.
blog nov 22

Hamilton festival leads to five Covid infections

Hello and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 27, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a news tip? Get in touch with me on

Want to help support The Spinoff’s omicron coverage? Find out how you can join The Spinoff Members here.

The latest

  • There are 34 new community cases of the omicron variant, with 90 cases now confirmed.
  • There are now active omicron cases in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Palmerston North, and Nelson Tasman.
  • Five people have tested positive after attending the Soundsplash festival in Hamilton. So far, only one has been confirmed with omicron.
  • Inflation has soared to a 30 year high, triggered in part by pandemic-related supply chain issues.
Jan 27 2022

National rises, Ardern drops in new poll

National has gained ground in a new 1News poll, up four to 32%, with Labour dropping one to 40%.

The first 1News Kantar Public poll for 2022 also has Jacinda Ardern’s support in the preferred prime minister stakes down four to 35%, her lowest rating since September 2017, with new National leader Christopher Luxon jumping 13 percentage points to 17%.

National appears to have clawed back some support that Act took from the party under Judith Collins, with David Seymour and co dropping three to 11%. Seymour was down five to 6% as preferred prime minister. The Greens remained steady on 9%, with Te Pāti Māori and The Opportunities both up one to 2%.

Speaking to 1News, Ardern said the result of the latest poll was “still a really strong showing for us as government despite some really hard calls having been made, but calls that have put us in the best possible position to continue to take on this pandemic”.

Luxon said National’s result was “positive and encouraging”.

Will we really see 50,000 daily omicron infections by Waitangi weekend?

This morning a headline on RNZ read “Omicron: Modelling suggests NZ could face peak of 80,000 daily infections”. The report, based on modelling by the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) began: “New Zealand could be facing 50,000 daily Omicron infections by Waitangi weekend”.

Auckland University statistician Thomas Lumley explains why the headline is technically correct – but not the best kind of correct. Click here to read more.

Over a third of properties sold last year went for $1 million-plus

Photo: Getty Images

2021 saw a sharp increase in the number of million-dollar properties sold nationwide, with over a third of properties that went under the hammer hitting seven figures.

New data from the Real Estate Institute showed the number of properties sold for over $1 million increased by 69.1% compared to 2020. There were 30,873 million-dollar-plus properties sold – up from 18,260 the year before.

Properties sold for over $1 million accounted for 35.2% of sales, up from 21.4% in 2020.

Click on the price buttons in the graph below to see the numbers.

In Auckland, the number of million-dollar-plus properties sold last year was more than 50% above 2020. When you take Auckland out of the equation, the number of properties sold rose by 116.8% on 2020.

Made with Flourish
Charts courtesy of The Spinoff’s head of data, Harkanwal Singh.

Canterbury DHB hits Māori vaccination milestone

Canterbury has become the third DHB to fully vaccinate more than 90% of its eligible Māori population.

Across the country, more than four million first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been administered to the 12+ population, reports the Ministry of Health. In addition, another 50,946 booster doses were administered yesterday – meaning 63% of those due for a third jab have now had one.

There were 13,995 paediatric doses administered yesterday, bringing the total to 124,155 (or 26% of the 5 to 11 age group). A further 25,596 are booked in for a first dose.

34 new omicron cases; five test positive after Soundsplash festival

Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The community omicron outbreak has grown by 34, with 90 cases now being confirmed with the highly infectious variant. That includes one person who attended the Soundsplash festival in Hamilton over the weekend and tested positive after returning to Auckland. Another four people who attended the event have also tested positive for Covid-19 in Auckland, and whole genome sequencing is under way to determine the variant.

“Anyone who attended the festival is asked to self-monitor for symptoms for ten days following exposure at the event, which is until Wednesday, February 2,” said the ministry.

So far, 68 people who attended the festival have been identified as close contacts, and this number is expected to increase. “Contact tracing staff are contacting these individuals, who are required to follow all public health advice regarding isolation and testing.”

Festival organisers said the event operated under the orange traffic light setting and vaccine passes were required. “There were minimal reports of individuals attempting to unlawfully enter the event,” said a spokesperson. A “small handful of instances” were notified to police present at the event.

Overall, including both delta and omicron cases, there are 45 new community infections being reported today while 51 new cases were detected at the border.

There are now active cases being treated as omicron in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Palmerston North, and Nelson Tasman. New cases were also confirmed in the community overnight in Canterbury and Gisborne. Neither have so far been linked to either the delta or omicron outbreaks and the numbers will be included in tomorrow’s Covid update.

“Public health teams are continuing to manage omicron cases in the community through rapidly isolating cases and contacts, contact tracing, and testing to slow the spread,” said the Ministry of Health.

Some of the cases now included in the omicron tally have been retrospectively linked to the variant through genomic sequencing, the ministry said. “Therefore, many are not included in today’s reported new Covid-19 community cases.”

Despite a pair of locations of interest in Queenstown, the ministry has not reported any omicron cases in the region.

In Tauranga, three more cases have been confirmed with links to an exposure event at the early childhood centre BestStart Pyes Pa on January 19. All three are being treated as omicron.

Meanwhile, the Wellington case reported yesterday has been confirmed as the delta variant.

Five people remain in hospital with Covid-19, including one person in intensive care in Rotorua.

Fifty-one new Covid-19 cases have been detected in MIQ facilities.

Meet the Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year semi-finalists

Five of the Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year semi-finalists (Images: Supplied; additional design: Tina Tiller)

A note from our partners Kiwibank: Every year, communities around the motu are propped up by extraordinary people taking time out of their own lives to make a difference. The Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year – Te Pou Toko o te Tau, recognises these people, and this year’s group of 10 semi-finalists is as strong as ever. 

From advocating for food rescue, to helping in the fight to end domestic violence and child poverty, each semi-finalist epitomises kindness, aroha and selfless dedication. During a tough couple of years for Aotearoa, they have connected people, given them a purpose, and given them hope at a time when those values were often in short supply. 

Meet the group of Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year semi-finalists here.

Spotify chooses vaccine misinformation over Neil Young

Neil Young’s back catalogue is being removed from streaming service Spotify after the singer issued an ultimatum: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

The demand was made in an open letter published on Young’s website in which he asked Spotify to choose between its ongoing deal with the Joe Rogan Experience podcast or Young’s own music. The singer was unhappy with vaccine misinformation being promulgated by Rogan, who fronts the world’s most successful podcast.

“I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” said Young.

Among his Covid-related controversies, Rogan has promoted the unproven treatment Ivermectin, suggested young people do not need to be vaccinated, and spoken to guests that criticise the safety of vaccinations.

Spotify sided with Rogan, saying the streamer has policies in place to deal with Covid misinformation. “We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”

National MP admits having her Wikipedia edited to remove ‘controversies’

(Image / Harete Hipango)

National MP Harete Hipango is back in the news, this time after admitting she’d asked a staffer to edit controversies out of her Wikipedia page.

The Herald – who described Hipango as “gaffe-prone” – was made aware by some Wikipedia editors that the “controversies” section of Hipango’s page had been removed. There were several entries under the heading, including her appearances at recent anti-vaccination protests and allegations about her misuse of parliamentary funds.

(Image / Harete Hipango)

It was discovered that a Parliamentary Services IP was responsible for the editing, making it likely a staffer was to blame.

When first approached by the Herald, Hipango said she would make “inquiries” into the editing. But she later admitted she was responsible and had directed the staffer to make the changes.

“Earlier this week I asked a staff member to edit my Wikipedia page,” Hipango said in a statement. “I recognise that this was an unwise decision and I regret that it may be distracting from what we should be focused on, which is holding the government to account.”

The Wikipedia-editing gaffe has now made it to Hipango’s own Wikipedia, under controversies.

(Image / Wikipedia)

Christopher Luxon, National’s leader, would not comment.

Tonight: First TV poll since Luxon took National leadership

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Tonight will see the first televised political poll since Christopher Luxon took over the National Party leadership.

The TVNZ Kantar Public poll (formerly the Colmar Brunton poll) will be the first major temperature check of Luxon’s tenure in the role. Recent online polls have suggested a minor surge for Luxon and National since he scored the leadership, but there was little evidence of any “Luxonmania” to combat Jacinda Ardern’s popularity.

The poll will air at 6pm tonight.

51-hour location of interest: Concerns over ‘superspreader’ festival

(Image / FB)

Hamilton’s Soundsplash festival has been listed as a Covid-19 location of interest for a 51 hour period over last weekend.

The Ministry of Health has yet to confirm how many cases of the omicron variant have been linked to the event, but confirmed that a “number” of people attended the festival while infectious. There have since been reports of linked cases popping up on Auckland’s North Shore.

The ministry has advised that anyone who attended the festival between 6am last Friday and 9.15am on Sunday morning self-monitor for Covid symptoms for the next 10 days. No close contacts have so far been identified meaning attendees do not need to isolate or get tested unless Covid symptoms present.

It’s been reported as many as 8,000 people attend the annual event, sparking fears of a superspreader event. 

The next official Covid-19 update is scheduled for 1pm.

Supply chain issues help drive inflation to 30-year high

The (Image: Getty Images)

Annual inflation has soared to its highest in 30 years, rising 5.9% from the December 2020 quarter to the December 2021 quarter.

That’s the biggest move since a 7.6% annual increase in June 1990, triggered by the introduction of new Reserve Bank legislation the year prior.

Despite the surge, Stats NZ’s Aaron Beck said New Zealand is not alone in experiencing higher inflation than recent decades. “Price increases were widespread with 10 out of 11 main groups in the [consumer price index] basket increasing in the year, with only the communications group decreasing,”

The main driver of the rise in inflation was housing and household utilities, said Beck, with prices for construction and rentals for housing increasing in the year to the December 2021 quarter. “Construction firms have been experiencing supply-chain issues, higher labour costs, and also higher demand, which have pushed up the cost of building new houses,” Beck said.

Opposition MPs said the high cost of living was hurting New Zealanders. “It’s a thief in New Zealanders’ pockets, and it’s the least well-off Kiwis who will be doing it the toughest,” said National’s finance spokesperson Simon Bridges. “Parents will have to put food back at the supermarket, workers will only be able to partly fill up at the petrol station, and there’s even less hope for young people trying to buy their first home.”

Act’s David Seymour agreed, saying New Zealanders were feeling the “hangover” from the past two years of Covid-related restrictions.

“Labour bought into the delusion that sealing ourselves off from the world for two years would cost us nothing. If the economy seems buoyant, it’s only because of enormous borrowing propped up by artificially low interest rates – that’s now pushing up the price of everything,” he said.

Reports of North Shore Covid-19 cases linked to Soundsplash festival

The Covid-19 testing centre in Ōtara (Photo: RNZ/Dom Thomas)

There are reports on social media that omicron may have made it to Auckland’s North Shore.

It’s being claimed that young people who attended the Soundsplash festival in Hamilton have tested positive for Covid-19 after returning home. The festival has been linked to “a number” of Covid cases, the Ministry of Health said, although just how many has not yet been revealed.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles warned people to prepare themselves for a surge in cases linked to the event. “Looks like might have had a very big superspreader event,” she said. “Word of warning – nasal swabs may miss about 1/10 positives with omicron so if you have symptoms and test negative you may still be infected.”

The next official Covid-19 update is due around 1pm.

National outraged after half of Auckland fuel tax stockpile unspent

Getty Images

Half of the money pulled in by Auckland’s regional fuel tax has been left unspent, reports the Herald.

The citywide fuel tax was introduced by the government in 2018 to help the local council fund transport projects. The additional 10 cents per litre added onto fuel has so far raked in $515 million, but as of December last year, around $285 million remained unspent.

National’s transport spokesperson Simeon Brown said Aucklanders were being fleeced at the pump as petrol prices head closer to $3 a litre. “The regional fuel tax should be scrapped given the revenue isn’t being used,” said Brown. “This will also benefit Aucklanders who are hurting from the cost of rapidly increasing fuel prices and high inflation.”

Brown accused the government of failing to deliver on promised transport projects and said Aucklanders will be “scratching their heads” as to why they are continuing to pay more for fuel.

Nē?: The other side of the Treaty partnership

On this week’s episode of Nē? we’re talking about the other side of the Treaty partnership. You know… the non-Māori one. Leonie, Meriana and Te Kuru chat to filmmaker Julie Zhu about the group Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga, and producer Lillian Hanly about growing up Pākehā in te ao Māori, and what being Tangata Tiriti means to them.

Follow Nē? on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider. 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

Omicron arrives in Queenstown; two locations of interest reported

Queenstown. Photo: Getty Images

A suspected case of the omicron variant has been detected in Queenstown, with two locations of interest so far reported.

Anyone who was at the Hotel St Moritz on Saturday morning, or Queenstown Airport later that day, is asked to self-monitor for Covid-related symptoms for the next 10 days. As there are no close contacts, testing and self-isolation will only be required should symptoms develop.

This marks the first case of omicron south of the Nelson region, where a family of nine first tested positive last week.

The next Covid-19 update is due around 1pm and will confirm any new cases in the Queenstown area.

TVNZ dominates nominees for favourite television personality

The 2021 cast of Celebrity Treasure Island (Photo: TVNZ)

Nominations are now open for the 2021 New Zealand television personality of the year, with reality TV stars, news personalities and an Olympian all up for the prize.

It’s the only publicly-voted category at the annual television awards and the winner is set to be revealed at a ceremony in March.

Celebrity Treasure Island’s Chris Parker and Edna Swart are among those nominated, along with RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under breakout star Anita Wigl’it. AM Show host Ryan Bridge and Prime News presenter Eric Young, along with the Breakfast trio of Jenny-May Clarkson, Jenny Suo and Matty McLean (unofficially known as Breakfast’s Child) also made the cut.

Breaking it down by network and both Māori TV and Three are on level pegging with two nominees each, while TVNZ races ahead with six.

The full list

  • Anita Wigl’it – Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under (TVNZ 2)
  • Chris Parker – Celebrity Treasure Island (TVNZ 2), Instagram
  • Edna Swart – Celebrity Treasure Island (TVNZ 2), Boss Babes (TVNZ OnDemand)
  • Eric Young – Prime News (Prime)
  • Jenny-May Clarkson, Jenny Suo, Matty McLean – Breakfast (TVNZ 1), TikTok
  • Moana Maniapoto – Te Ao with Moana (Māori Television)
  • Nix Adams – Terei Tonight (Māori Television)
  • Reuben Milner – Shortland Street (TVNZ 2)
  • Ruby Tui – Olympic Games Tokyo 2021 (TVNZ 1)
  • Ryan Bridge – The AM Show (Discovery, Three)
  • Sharyn Casey – The Masked Singer (Discovery, Three)

Click here to vote

Covid-19 cases attended Soundsplash festival

Image: Tina Tiller

“A number” of Covid-infected people attended a large festival in Hamilton over the weekend, hours before the shift to the red setting came into effect.

The Ministry of Health, according to Stuff, said it has been made of cases linked to the Soundsplash festival. While 8000 people were in attendance, it’s not yet known whether the virus has spread through others at the event.

“Public health officials are currently assessing the exposure and expect to publish a location of interest early [today], which will include health advice for those who were there at the event,” said a ministry spokesperson. That location has so far not been published on the ministry website.

Soundsplash representatives were waiting for more information from officials.