blog final april 27

Live UpdatesApr 27 2022

Court sides with Grounded Kiwis over ‘unjustified’ MIQ

It’s Wednesday April 27, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The High Court has sided with Grounded Kiwis and ruled that the managed isolation lottery was an “unjustified limit” on the right of New Zealand citizens to enter the country.
  • The Covid-19 death toll has risen by 23, up to 710.
  • There are 9,830 new community cases and 473 currently in hospital with Covid-19. The seven-day rolling average of new community Covid cases has remained similar to a week ago, rather than dropping.
  • National’s blaming the government’s “soft on crime” approach for a rise in ram raids in Auckland.
  • We have no idea how much tax the wealthiest New Zealanders pay.
blog final april 27

Court sides with Grounded Kiwis over ‘unjustified’ MIQ

It’s Wednesday April 27, welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The High Court has sided with Grounded Kiwis and ruled that the managed isolation lottery was an “unjustified limit” on the right of New Zealand citizens to enter the country.
  • The Covid-19 death toll has risen by 23, up to 710.
  • There are 9,830 new community cases and 473 currently in hospital with Covid-19. The seven-day rolling average of new community Covid cases has remained similar to a week ago, rather than dropping.
  • National’s blaming the government’s “soft on crime” approach for a rise in ram raids in Auckland.
  • We have no idea how much tax the wealthiest New Zealanders pay.
Apr 27 2022

Investigation into port safety launched after two deaths in a week

An investigation into health and safety at New Zealand ports has been launched after two workers died within the space of a week.

On Monday morning, a worker at Lyttelton port was killed on a ship that was being loaded with coal for export. This followed stevedore Atiroa Tuaiti, 26, falling to his death while working on a ship at the Ports of Auckland last Tuesday. Unions had called for an inquiry following the first death, saying the second death reinforced the urgency.

Workplace relations and safety minister Michael Wood this afternoon announced that he had directed the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) to start an investigation into the deaths “to determine any system-wide lessons to improve safety”. He had also requested all port companies to review their operations, and asked the ports leadership group, which is made up of various union and industry representatives, to prepare advice on “additional priority actions for the minister to consider, including whether regulation changes are required”.

Maritime New Zealand officers and WorkSafe inspectors will also be assessing each of the 13 major international commercial ports around the country over the next fortnight, said Wood.

“The actions taken today will provide clarity on how we can reduce these serious incidents,” said Wood in a statement.

“We are sending a strong message to the port sector, every player must ensure they are doing all they can to reduce and manage risk.

“The TAIC investigation will provide an independent, safety-focused approach to identifying wider circumstances and causes of the accident.”

Yesterday, Wood told RNZ he had asked last year for Maritime NZ to work with unions and employers to look at the key issues underlying deaths and injuries in the sector. He said two key issues had already been identified: port worker fatigue, and that workers were dealing with heavy and potentially dangerous machinery.

An independent review published last year identified “systemic problems” at Ports of Auckland in health and safety risk management.

In a statement, National transport spokesperson Simeon Brown welcomed the launch of the investigation, but said the government should also look at “whether recent health and safety regulation is actually making these workplaces safer”.

TVNZ lands Hacks, the buzziest show we couldn’t (legally) watch

The acclaimed HBO Max comedy series Hacks will finally (yes, FINALLY) be hitting New Zealand screens (legally, at least).

The entire first season will land on TVNZ OnDemand from May 12, along with the first two episodes of the second season. New episodes will then arrive weekly.

Starring Jean Smart as an ageing stand-up comic, Hacks has been celebrated by critics globally and pulled in major awards buzz at both the Emmys and Golden Globes.

But despite the critical praise, as The Spinoff’s Chris Schulz wrote early this year, no New Zealand streamer had plans to air the show here. “I’ve been waiting seven months, and I’m likely to be waiting a lot longer,” he wrote at the time.

Finally, we have a date.

Hacks
Jean Smart stars as a fiery comic paired with a much younger assistant in Hacks. Image: Archi Banal

Government ‘carefully considering’ court’s MIQ decision – Hipkins

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has issued a statement in response to this afternoon’s High Court ruling that the managed isolation lottery was an “unjustified limit” on the right of New Zealand citizens to enter the country.

After noting that the ruling found the requirement for returnees to undergo MIQ was not in itself unjustified, Hipkins’ statement acknowledges the court’s finding that “for some citizens, the virtual lobby system as it operated between 1 September and 17 December 2021, may have infringed their right to enter New Zealand. We are carefully considering the court’s decision.

“We have long acknowledged the difficult trade-offs we’ve had to make in our Covid-19 response to save lives and the effects of those decisions on all New Zealanders, particularly those living abroad,” said Hipkins. “This was particularly challenging for those applying for MIQ places between September and December 2021.

“MIQ was always the least worst option to help keep Covid-19 from entering and spreading in New Zealand.”

Chris Hipkins (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

FIRST: Urzila Carlson’s first joke

The comedian tells FIRST about cracking up her teachers and accidentally getting into stand-up.

Read more from Urzila here

‘State sponsored cruelty’: National calls MIQ ruling a ‘victory’

The National Party is celebrating a court ruling that sided with Grounded Kiwis against the government on the issue of managed isolation.

The High Court called the MIQ system “unjustified” and agreed that the virtual lobby system was “flawed” and akin to a lottery.

Chris Bishop, National’s Covid spokesperson, said the court ruling was a “victory” for the many New Zealanders who wanted to come home during the delta outbreak, and called managed isolation an example of “state sponsored cruelty”.

He added: “Month after month, New Zealanders were shocked at the extraordinary suffering inflicted on many people because of the MIQ lottery.”

The government should, said Bishop, have adopted a “points-based system” like that proposed by National. “It remains a mystery why the government didn’t take this up and instead insisted on a largely one-size-fits-all system that didn’t prioritise people returning home, even those in desperate situations,” said Bishop.

We’re yet to hear from the government over today’s ruling. Stay tuned.

Court rules MIQ an ‘unjustified limit’ on New Zealanders, lottery system ‘flawed’

The government’s been dealt a blow after the High Court ruled the managed isolation lottery was an “unjustified limit” on the right of New Zealand citizens to enter the country.

The court sided with lobby group Grounded Kiwis who have been fighting to prove MIQ, and specifically the need for a voucher to enter New Zealand, was unfair.

In a lengthy judgment released this afternoon, Justice Mallon accepted that some form of managed isolation was necessary to protect the health of New Zealanders. She also said that mitigating movement was “sufficiently important to justify the curtailment of the right of some citizens to return to New Zealand”.

However: “Although MIQ was a critical component of the government’s elimination strategy that was highly successful in achieving positive health outcomes, the combination of the virtual lobby and the narrow emergency criteria operated in a way that meant New Zealanders’ right to enter their country could be infringed in some instances in a manner that was not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” Mallon said.

The court defended the government’s decision to allow certain sports teams and entertainers into the country due to the possible economic benefits. However, Mallon said that if sports teams were able to secure entry, the MIQ system should also have had “a mechanism to ensure that overseas New Zealanders do not experience unreasonable delay in exercising their right to return”.

On the virtual lobby itself – referred to by the opposition throughout the delta outbreak as a “lottery of human misery” – Mallon said it was a “flawed system”. She also agreed that the comparison to a lottery was fair, saying it would have been an acceptable way of getting “a ‘green card’ in the United States or for members of the public to obtain Wimbledon tennis tickets”.

She added: “Here, however, those seeking that supply were seeking to exercise a fundamental right and some had greater call on that right than others. A lottery for the majority of places was not appropriate and other reasonable alternatives should have been pursued.”

In her final summary, Mallon acknowledged the public health risks that had to be navigated by the government and officials throughout the Covid pandemic. She said she was aware that the government had sought “a good deal of advice” about potential human rights concerns connected to managed isolation. Mallon, however, said that “the system did not sufficiently allow individual circumstances to be considered and prioritised where necessary” and that managed isolation “operated as an unjustified limit on the right of New Zealand citizens to enter their country”.

It’s not clear what redress will be provided to Grounded Kiwis and its members, but the court acknowledged that some sort of “relief” was appropriate in the circumstances. We’re anticipating comment from both Grounded Kiwis and the government will be provided shortly.

Change have been announced to the MIQ system, while the High Court has ordered MBIE to reconsider a refusal to exempt. Photo: RNZ

New mask exemption will be ‘hard’ to get dishonestly – ministry

It will be “hard” for someone to obtain the new face mask exemption card dishonestly, according the Ministry of Health.

From the end of May, people with a valid health reason will be able to apply for the new “legally recognised” exemption card. It’s intended to make it easier for both people with exemptions and businesses where mask use is still mandated (such as retail and on public transport).

In response to questions from The Spinoff, the Ministry of Health explained that it would be difficult for someone to game the system and acquire a mask exemption without valid reasons. “For a start, to receive a card, applicants would first need to make a legal declaration that they would meet a range of eligibility criteria,” a ministry spokesperson told me. “The cards will be anchored to the person’s National Health Index (NHI) number, and will have the person’s name printed on them.  This allows for the person’s declaration to be checked in the event that someone complains about presentation of a fraudulently-obtained card.”

There will also be a “legal backing” behind the exemption cards, said the ministry spokesperson, and anyone who fraudulently misuses the application process could face a six month prison sentence or a fine of up to $12,000 for an individual or $15,000 for a business.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders have already shown they want to do the right thing to protect themselves and their communities, and to support the rights of their fellow Kiwis during the pandemic response,” said the ministry. “It’s only a small minority who’ve sought to seek to misuse the existing system and it would be extremely disappointing if they chose to do so again.”

Anyone who is concerned about fraudulent mask exemption can contact police or make a report here.

Draft plan to address impacts of climate change open for consultation

New Zealanders are being encouraged to have their say on a proposed government plan to address the impacts of climate change.

The draft National Adaptation Plan has been released today and outlines actions the government will take over the next six years. It’s in response to the climate-related risks identified in the 2020 National Climate Change Risk Assessment.

Climate change minister James Shaw said central government is not wholly responsible for addressing environmental issues. “The consultation asks how best to share risks and costs between property and asset owners, insurers, banks and local government as well,” he said. “It also asks for views on managed retreat and flood insurance, to ensure a joined-up approach to climate change adaptation.

The plan has been called “highly overdue” by one expert in the field. Professor Anita Wreford from Lincoln University said the proposal represents an improvement from New Zealand’s current “reactive” approach to environmental hazards. “The [National Adaptation Plan] emphasises proactive action, anticipating changes and consideration of the long term,” she said. It also recognises the importance of flexibility and revisiting and adjusting actions over time as more information becomes available, which is critical.”

You can make a submission here

Covid-19 latest: 23 new deaths, hospitalisations drop to 473, another 9,830 cases

There have been 23 new deaths of people with Covid-19.

The deaths being reported today include people who have all died over the previous six days apart from one death on April 3. “The increase in deaths reported today follows a similar pattern often seen after weekends or public holidays,” said the Ministry of Health in its 1pm statement.

There have now been 710 reported Covid-19 deaths in New Zealand. and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 14.

Of the people whose deaths are being reported today, two people were from the Auckland region, four from Bay of Plenty, three from Waikato, two from Taranaki, two from MidCentral, two from Hawke’s Bay, one from Hutt Valley, one from Capital and Coast, five from Canterbury and one from South Canterbury.

One was in their 40s, two in their 60s, seven in their 70s, seven in their 80s, and six were over 90. Seven were women and 16 were men.

Hospitalisations have dipped to their lowest in almost two months, with 473 people with Covid-19 currently being treated. There are 17 people now in intensive care.

Another 9,830 community cases of Covid-19 have been reported while the average daily number of cases has remained in line with a week ago: 7,884 – similar to last Wednesday, when it was 7,834.

Are we headed for another wave of Covid-19 cases?

Today’s 1pm Covid-19 update will paint a clearer picture of whether or not Covid-19 cases are truly back on the up.

Over the past few days we’ve seen an increase in the rolling seven-day average of new cases. For example, yesterday, the rolling average of case numbers was 8,085. The Tuesday before it was 7,585.

There are a few possible reasons for this rise in cases. Firstly, the easing of our Covid-19 restrictions down to orange. That brought with it the end of gathering restrictions for indoor venues, the end of the seated/separated rule for hospitality and the end of mask use for places where you can order food.

Secondly, we’ve just gone through two long weekends. People will have been travelling more than usual and possibly bringing Covid-19 with them. Compounding that, it’s been the school holidays. Many children are still unvaccinated.

Thirdly, we’ve just recently had our first confirmed case in New Zealand of the potentially more transmissible XE sub-variant of omicron.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker told Stuff that today’s Covid numbers could be crucial for knowing whether we’re in for another surge in cases. “This may be the start of the second wave,” Baker said. “I think cases will reach an equilibrium by more infectious variants arriving. We also have the issues of waning immunity from the vaccines and winter coming, which means we’ll be indoors more.”

As usual, we’re awaiting the Ministry of Health’s 1pm Covid statement and we’ll have all the details for you when it arrives.

Wicked musical to become two-part film

In news that should excite nobody, the perfectly adequate stage musical Wicked will be adapted into not one, but two, films.

Director Jon Chu, who most recently helmed the incredible In The Heights, announced on Twitter that the task of adapting Wicked into just one feature film was impossible. On stage, Wicked runs for about two-and-a-half hours when you take out the intermission which kind of implies the films will be… really short?

“As we tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material,” Chu claimed, forgetting that Wicked has a handful of good songs and a lot of filler.

The first part of Wicked is due out next year at Christmas, with part two due a year later. Pop star Ariana Grande leads the cast alongside actress and singer Cynthia Erivo.

New ‘legally recognised’ mask exemption card to be made available

A new personalised – and “legally recognised” – exemption card aims to remove uncertainty around who has a genuine reason for not masking up.

Under the current orange setting, face masks are still required in retail settings and on public transport. However, some people are able to avoid these rules due to valid health reasons.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the new process will make sure people who have legitimate reasons for not wearing a mask can easily demonstrate that. “For the business community, the new cards will mean evidence that a person with the new card is exempt from the requirement to wear a mask, removing uncertainty that businesses have been dealing with,” he said.

“We’ve recognised that for some people an impairment, health conditions, a physical disability or mental health reasons can mean wearing a mask isn’t possible. These reasons aren’t always obvious or easy to explain and that’s left some New Zealanders who’re genuinely unable to wear a mask not being able to access the businesses and services they normally would.”

It’s also caused, said Hipkins, some uncomfortable situations for people who have had to explain their exemption to concerned shoppers in public without proof they are allowed not to wear a face covering. “The new process will be administered by the Ministry of Health and allows people who can’t wear a mask to get a personalised card to help them access businesses and services where wearing a mask is required.”

However, Hipkins said the cards will be optional. “We will not be cancelling the old cards or requiring affected people to go through the process of getting a new card if they don’t want to, however the old cards will not have the legitimacy of the new cards,” said Hipkins.

It’s not clear whether people need to provide any proof of why they should be exempt. The Spinoff has asked for clarification from minister Hipkins on whether the system could be gamed by people simply choosing not to wear a mask in a required setting.

People will be able to apply for a card through the Ministry of Health website from the end of May.

Shut, open, then shut again: What’s up with Event Cinemas Broadway?

It closed its doors because of Covid in 2020, reopened with great fanfare in 2021, and now it’s closed again. If you’re a little confused about the state of Event Broadway, the fabled Auckland movie theatre with a history dating back decades, you wouldn’t be the only one.

With eight screens, a grand staircase, bar and huge foyer, the Newmarket cinema was once among the city’s most popular theatres, hosting many major movie premieres, including The Matrix Reloaded in 2003, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit in 2019, and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2016.

But, as chronicled in this detailed Stuff story, it’s faced a rocky road over the past couple of years, being shuttered indefinitely in 2020 because of Covid-19, then re-opening in December last year for three days a week. A larger, shinier, newer, prettier cinema on top of Newmarket’s Westfield mall hasn’t helped its fate.

Event Broadway
Event Broadway says it’s open – but is it? Photo: Chris Schulz

On a recent weekend visit, the doors were once again shut tight, but no signs stated that the cinema was closed. “Broadway open — check website for details” said the big sign above the doors. Its website says it is “temporarily closed”.

An Event Cinemas spokesperson told The Spinoff the cinema would “re-open early June after the recent omicron disruption”. That’s two months away. Our fingers are crossed.

Piers Morgan is back on TV… as Alan Partridge?

Piers Morgan has been everywhere this week after the launch of his new TV talk show “Uncensored”.

The former Good Morning Britain host has been grabbing headlines due to an extended interview with ex-president Donald Trump that resulted in a bit of a public feud. He’s also been sparring with Nigel Farage and the likes of Caitlyn Jenner, which just makes me wonder if I’m living in some sort of multiverse.

Anyway – most of the clips from Morgan’s new show have been blocked in New Zealand for copyright reasons, but we can all enjoy the Uncensored title sequence. It’s… basically straight from the Alan Partridge playbook.

And NZ’s most trusted brand is…

Whittaker’s is once again the most trusted brand in New Zealand. For the 11th year in a row, the local chocolate producers have taken out the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands survey.

That puts them ahead of brands like St John (number two), Mitre 10 (number three) and Panadol (number 11). Yes, we trust chocolate more than a healthcare charity.

Other companies on the list include Tip Top and Mainland, at numbers four and five, and Cookie Time rounding out the top 20.

“Trust in consumer brands takes years of careful planning, execution and nurturing,” said Reader’s Digest editor-in-chief, Louise Waterson. “But during challenging times, and the past year has been one of the most difficult on record, we’ve seen quality brands live up to their promises to their customers. These brands have been able to win and retain the trust of their customers.”

Check out the full list here

What’s causing the rise in ram raids?

National’s blaming the government’s “soft on crime” approach for a rise in ram raids in Auckland.

Earlier this week, a trio of vehicles raided an Auckland shopping mall and took off with a car load of stolen goods.. It follows a spate of similar ram raids throughout the city, mainly targeting malls or high end shops like Louis Vuitton.

Mark Mitchell, National’s police spokesperson, told Newshub that it was the government’s fault. “I’ve never seen it as bad as it currently is,” he said of crime in New Zealand. “The problem is you’ve got these juvenile and youth offenders that, because of the pursuit policy, know they can commit crime or violence and get away with a high likelihood of escaping.”

In a press release issued a week ago, Mitchell made similar assertions. “Offenders have realised they can steal a car or flee the scene of a crime without the risk of being pursued or stopped by the police,” he claimed.

“As a result of this government’s soft on crime approach, youth offenders, gang members and organised crime groups behave as if they can act with impunity. This has created a violent crime wave in New Zealand which puts our police and the community they protect in more danger.”

During last night’s Newshub interview, Mitchell conceded there had been some positive impact from the change in the pursuit policy. “In some ways it’s good because it’s reduced serious injuries and fatalities… but they’ve got to put a lot more work into a better pursuit policy that actually means there are consequences for offenders who choose not to stop for police.”

National’s Simeon Brown, who is no longer police spokesperson but continues to be vocal on the subject, tweeted that “crime is out of control under Labour’s soft on crime approach to law and order”.

But a possible future Auckland mayor, Labour-endorsed candidate Efeso Collins, has another belief as to why ram raids are becoming more common. He told RNZ this morning that youth poverty was to blame. “The police association have said that more police on the beat… isn’t going to solve this issue,” said Collins. “Immediately what we need to be doing is talking to the business association, getting a really good understanding of what they believe is going to assist, and then walking alongside youth workers and social services.”

He said that the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns meant people spent a lot of time “cooped up” and not interacting with one another. “I’m of the view that poverty is driving much of this behaviour which is why we need an all of society approach,” Collins said. “We’ve got to respond to that poverty which means making sure people are housed, our young people are in school and in training, and that’s going to take time.”

We have no idea how much tax the wealthiest New Zealanders pay

Revenue minister David Parker delivered a speech on tax fairness yesterday. He called GST a “regressive” tax that hits low income earners the hardest, and said we don’t actually know how much tax the wealthiest New Zealanders pay. He will introduce a Tax Principles bill. Thomas Coughlan at the NZ Herald (paywalled) asks whether Parker could be hinting at the introduction of a wealth tax. Labour’s 2020 manifesto promised no new taxes and Parker said the government didn’t have any secret plans to introduce any. He did say the government was currently collecting data that’s previously been described as “patchy” and acknowledged the research would feed into Labour policy at the next election.

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