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Live UpdatesJul 27 2022

Have we passed the omicron peak (again)?

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


The agenda

  • National’s Christopher Luxon wants us all to move on from his Hawai’i social media gaffe.
  • The government is looking at updating our political donation laws in the wake of the NZ First Foundation fraud trial.
  • Property prices expected to keep dropping until mid-2023.
  • New Zealand may have dodged the worst case scenario for our current omicron wave, according to Ashley Bloomfield.
  • James Shaw has acknowledged some discontent within the Greens, as a new possible challenger for the co-leadership steps forward.
blog-july-27.jpg

Have we passed the omicron peak (again)?

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


The agenda

  • National’s Christopher Luxon wants us all to move on from his Hawai’i social media gaffe.
  • The government is looking at updating our political donation laws in the wake of the NZ First Foundation fraud trial.
  • Property prices expected to keep dropping until mid-2023.
  • New Zealand may have dodged the worst case scenario for our current omicron wave, according to Ashley Bloomfield.
  • James Shaw has acknowledged some discontent within the Greens, as a new possible challenger for the co-leadership steps forward.
Jul 27 2022

Trailer released for NZ-shot horror film ‘Pearl’

The first trailer for slasher film Pearl, shot last year in New Zealand, has debuted online today – and beware, it’s not for the faint hearted.

The film is a prequel to the erotic-horror X, also shot in the country, and stars Mia Goth (who had a dual role in X as well).

New Zealand was chosen as the location for the horror films because of our (at the time) lack of Covid-19 cases and restrictions. The films were shot back-to-back before last year’s lockdown, when the country was in a state of relative normality when compared with much of the world.

Many of the crew working on the Avatar sequels, also produced in New Zealand, helped with both X and Pearl.

Read more: How Whanganui became the backdrop for a 70s Texas porno slasher

Bloomfield racks up 307 (!) Covid pressers

Ashley Bloomfield gave his final Covid press conference today: his 307th.

In this very wholesome video shared by the Herald’s Michael Neilson, you can watch Ministry of Health staff applaud Bloomfield as he wrapped today’s briefing.

Bloomfield officially wraps up his tenure as health director general on Friday – so you can still expect to see him crop up quite a bit in the media until then.

Police still want help identifying parliamentary occupiers

Police have once again asked for help identifying people involved in the parliamentary protest earlier this year.

There have so far been 16 prosecutions linked to the violent final day of the occupation, and one person has been referred to Youth Service. A number of others were charged for their involvement during the 24 day-long protest.

Police are looking to identify eight people, seven of whom have already had their pictures published in the media. “We are nearing the conclusion of this phase in the investigation and urge anyone with information to get in touch with Police,” a statement read.

Read more: A week on the ground at the ‘freedom village’

Police hold riot shields as demonstrators against Covid-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions gather outside of the New Zealand Parliament grounds (Photo by DAVE LINTOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

The shape of the outbreak

There are 8,730 new community cases of Covid-19, with 808 people now in hospital. The rate of deaths where Covid is confirmed as a contributing factor now sits at 1,427, with a seven-day rolling average of 17.

Another possible Green co-leader contender steps forward

First term Green MP Teanau Tuiono hasn’t ruled out contesting the co-leadership.

Speaking to media today, Tuiono, who is the party’s Covid-19 spokesperson, confirmed he was considering going for the top job. He’d be up against incumbent James Shaw, who has been forced to reapply for the role.

Just half an hour before Tuiono fronted to media, Shaw released a lengthy statement on Facebook acknowledging the discontent from some Green members and pledged to work harder if he retained the co-leadership.

Tuiono said he would consult party members being deciding whether to formally run for the co-leadership.

 

Ardern ‘single source of truth’ comments prompt official factcheck

Jacinda Ardern’s comments about being the “single source of truth” have done the rounds on the internet once again, prompting an official factcheck from online service Snopes.

The comments were originally made at the very start of the Covid-19 outbreak, when the prime minister advised worried New Zealanders to follow official advice and not buy-in to online misinformation.

“We will continue to be your single source of truth,” said said. “Unless you hear it from us it is not the truth.”

As is typical for the Covid-era, those comments were then quickly dissected, shared online and became misinformation themselves.

Just yesterday, American right wing blog The Daily Wire shared an extract from Ardern’s 2020 messaging, initially omitting the fact the speech was given more than two years ago. The video also avoided the context – namely, that it was at the beginning of the pandemic and very much connected to Covid-related misinformation.

It prompted the video to be shared once again, and with even more misinformation.

In its fact check, Snopes said while the video showed real comments by Ardern, key context was missing. “The video that was shared on social media did not include around 27 seconds that preceded the clip, in which Ardern spoke more about not being fooled by potentially misleading information on social media in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

James Shaw admits difficulty balancing party and ministerial roles

James Shaw has issued a direct plea to Green Party members, taking to social media rather than sending a press release out to journalists.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Shaw, who has been forced to reapply for the role of Green co-leader, acknowledged “disaffection” with his performance. “I had understood that to be primarily amongst members who didn’t support the party’s decision to go into government, or the compromises that come with the progress,” he said.

“I want to acknowledge that I understand that the vote wasn’t just about that. If I’m honest, I’ve found it hard to get the mix right between being a minister and a co-leader and, quite clearly given the vote last weekend, I haven’t quite nailed it.”


Shaw admitted he had found some of the criticism about him frustrating, but said he needed to listen to party members and rebuild trust. “I am committed to doing that. I want to learn from this and be a better co-leader, a better MP and a better minister because of it,” he said.

Much of the criticism against Shaw appeared to be directed at his dual role as both a government minister and Green Party co-leader. In his post, Shaw said he thought that the best work he could do for the Greens was his work as climate minister. “I can see that I need to spend more time working on my role as co-leader. If members do choose to have me back, I will do that,” said Shaw.

“To those members who did vote to reopen nominations I want to say: I hear you. I hear your dissatisfaction with me and I want to take time to understand it, to address it and not to brush it off.”

He added: “I absolutely share the impatience for radical change to our society and our economy right now.”

Shaw is currently the only contender for the co-leader position, though not all his caucus colleagues have ruled out running against him.

James Shaw (Image: Getty Images)

Covid ‘worst case scenario’ now unlikely, says Bloomfield

New Zealand may have dodged the worst case scenario for our current omicron wave, according to director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

There are 8,730 new community cases of Covid-19, with 808 people now in hospital. The rate of deaths where Covid is confirmed as a contributing factor now sits at 1,427, with a seven-day rolling average of 17.

Bloomfield wraps up his tenure as director general this week and today will be his final – and 307th – Covid-19 briefing (pending disaster).

Speaking at the Ministry of Health, Bloomfield said there was international evidence that suggested a previous omicron infection could provide “stronger than expected” protection against a BA.5 infection. “We can see that while there is still a chance… that hospital occupancy could still reach 1,000, but we’re tracking closer to 850.”

Hospitalisations tend to a track about a week behind cases and we have seen cases dropping, he said. Modelling now showed that our peak of Covid infections would be closer to 12,000 as opposed to the previously modelled 16,000. We are tracking well below that at this stage, said Bloomfield.

The “worst case scenario” reported a few weeks back was now “unlikely”.

Joining Bloomfield at today’s briefing (via video link) was Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand’s interim national medical director Dr Pete Watson. He said that while case numbers and hospitalisations appeared to be easing, the pressure on our health system remained severe.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield speaking at an August 13 news conference (Getty Images)

Bloomfield orders fluoridation for 14 regions

More than a dozen local councils* will be forced to add fluoride to all or some of their water supply, under an order by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

It’s the first time this power has been used since the legislation was updated last year. An $11.3 million fund will be available to the 14 local authorities to help with any work required.

Bloomfield said fluoridation is safe, affordable and effective – and will benefit everyone. “Water fluoridation helps prevent tooth decay, along with brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, eating healthy food and avoiding sugary drinks,” he said.

“The role of fluoride in water has been well examined around the world – including in New Zealand – over the past 60 years.”

Adding fluoride to the water supply in these 14 local authority areas will increase the number of New Zealanders receiving fluoridated water from 51% to around 60%, added Bloomfield. Further fluoridation orders could come later this year.

Councils will have between six months and three years to follow through on the health order.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 23: Director general of health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield during the press conference with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, after she announced the country will move to red traffic light settings, at the Beehive in Parliament on January 23, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

* The 14 local authorities that have received directives are: Whangārei District Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Waitaki District Council, Waipa District Council, Tauranga City Council, Taurua District Council, Rotorua Lakes Council, New Plymouth District Council, Nelson City Council, Kawerau District Council, Horowhenua District Council, Hastings District Council, Far North District and Auckland Council

Moves to tighten political donation laws in wake of fraud trial

The government is looking at updating New Zealand’s political donation laws in the wake of a trial that ended with a not guilty verdict.

The New Zealand First Foundation fraud trial effectively concluded that it is legal for a party to set up a shadow funding enterprise to pay for all its activities – a loophole that experts want addressed now.

On Monday, prime minister Jacinda Ardern signalled that while the government was looking at tightening the rules, it was unlikely to happen in time for next year’s election given the “complexity of electoral laws”.

But justice minister Kiri Allan told media she was expediting official advice on the matter to see if things could happen quicker.

“I’m definitely taking a very close look at this because transparency is key,” Allan said. “What we do know though is that whatever reforms we make in this area we don’t want to make a brash job of it. It needs to be done right so that’s essentially the guts of the advice that I’m seeking right now.”

Justice minister Kiritapu Allan (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Work is already under way to update our broader electoral laws, including plans to lower the threshold for secret donations.

‘I own that one’: Luxon wants to move on from Hawai’i gaffe

Christopher Luxon is trying to move the discussion on from a social media gaffe that dogged his first day back at parliament yesterday.

The National Party leader was outed as having been in Hawai’i, when his Facebook claimed he was in “kiwifruit country” – Te Puke.

It prompted mockery in parliament and numerous headlines (even in Australia).

Speaking to media today, Luxon said he owned up for the mistake. “We should have posted it much sooner and we should have actually captioned the post to say it was in recent days, not implying that it was on the day,” he told Newshub’s AM.

“I’m definitely in Wellington today and back into the reality of New Zealand – we have big things to focus on.”

Much of Luxon’s RNZ interview this morning wad dedicated to the gaffe, with host Susie Ferguson suggesting it may have been a “cover-up” – a point Luxon denied.

Read more: Hawai’i or Te Puke – Where should you go on your next holiday?

The Bulletin: Smokefree bill would increase life expectancy for Māori women

Modelling by the University of Otago’s ASPIRE 2025 research centre found that if the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill was passed, there would be a dramatic increase in life expectancy for Māori women. The bill was introduced to parliament by associate health minister Ayesha Verrall and had its first reading yesterday. If it is passed, it will mean anyone born on or after January 1, 2009, will never be able to purchase tobacco products.

It has the backing of the vast majority of MPs with National, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori supporting it at first reading.

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Property prices expected to keep dropping until mid-2023

We’ve all heard about property prices dropping (not that it really feels like it if you’re a renter) and new stats show we might only be halfway through the trend.

CoreLogic data has estimated that the national average property value will drop by 10 to 15% by the middle of next year. Chief property economist Kelvin Davidson said that means we’re “potentially halfway through this correction in both duration and scale.”

He added: “The sharp post-Covid upswing in values has now given way to a firm correction, and the falls already seen to date have been spread across most geographical areas and price brackets.”

New Zealand’s property values have fallen for three consecutive months, said Davidson and now average just over $1 million – down 2.3% from the peak.