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blog march 28


Jane Campion takes out directing Oscar

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 28, bringing you latest breaking news and other stories from around NZ. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, get in touch with me on

Our news coverage couldn’t happen without the support of The Spinoff Members

The agenda

  • There have been 11 more deaths from Covid-19, with 861 people now in hospital. Another 12,882 community cases were confirmed.
  • Jane Campion has won best director at the Oscars – moments after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock live on stage.
  • Defence Force staff have been deployed to assist with Ukraine war “intelligence work”, PM Ardern has announced.
blog march 28

Jane Campion takes out directing Oscar

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 28, bringing you latest breaking news and other stories from around NZ. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, get in touch with me on

Our news coverage couldn’t happen without the support of The Spinoff Members

The agenda

  • There have been 11 more deaths from Covid-19, with 861 people now in hospital. Another 12,882 community cases were confirmed.
  • Jane Campion has won best director at the Oscars – moments after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock live on stage.
  • Defence Force staff have been deployed to assist with Ukraine war “intelligence work”, PM Ardern has announced.
Mar 28 2022

Coda scoops best picture, beats The Power of the Dog

The cast of Coda (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Apple TV’s Coda has taken out best picture at today’s Oscars, sweeping all three categories it was nominated for.

While not totally unexpected (I predicted Coda’s win, as did a lot of people), it’s something that seemed hugely unlikely when nominations were first released. For one, it was only nominated in three categories and did not get a best director nod. Secondly, it was a relatively unknown film and had made almost no splash when released on Apple’s streaming service last August. Thirdly, until recently, it had been losing most of the awards it was nominated for.

The slightly left field win is also totally in line with the chaos that was today’s Oscars (although if this really was a fever dream, Don’t Look Up would have scored big).

Coda also won best adapted screenplay for writer/director Sian Heder and best supporting actor for Troy Kotsur.

My predictions of the key categories were all correct (for once), including best actor for Will Smith, best actress for Jessica Chastain, and Jane Campion scoring best director. I did not predict the punch.

Defence Force staff deployed to assist with Ukraine war ‘intelligence work’

Cabinet has confirmed an immediate deployment of nine New Zealand Defence Force personnel to the United Kingdom and Belgium to support our partners in intelligence and engagement work for the next three months.

Seven intelligence analysts will go to the UK to assist with the heightened demand for intelligence assessments, some of whom will directly assist with intelligence work on the Ukraine war, with others working on other projects to free up capability in the UK team.

Two other officers will go to the UK and Belgium. One will work with the existing defence attache to Nato and the other will work within the UK’s permanent joint headquarters.

Jane Campion wins best director Oscar

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 10: Director Jane Campion speaks onstage during the Netflix Power Of The Dog Live-to-Screen Performance on March 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Netflix)

New Zealand director Jane Campion has taken out best director at the Oscars for her Netflix western The Power of the Dog.

Campion was widely tipped to take out the prize for the locally-shot film, which is also in the running for best picture.

“Kia ora Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia,” said Campion. “I want to say big love to my fellow nominees… it could have been any of you.”

The director thanked her “brilliant producers”, the film’s stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, and Netflix for “embracing this story”. Campion also singled out her daughter and partner, and “the person I never met” novelist Thomas Savage, who wrote the original book.

Campion read most of her speech from a piece of paper, possibly due to the backlash to her ad libbed joke about Venus and Serena Williams at the Critics’ Choice Awards.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern, speaking in Wellington, congratulated Campion on her win. “It speaks to her skill and talent, but she has used that to put New Zealand on the world stage, and we just cannot underestimate the impact of that,” she said.

Members of the NZ Film Commission are in the US trying to attract additional productions to New Zealand to leverage off the success of The Power of the Dog.

Will Smith assaults Chris Rock live at the Oscars. Really.

The moment

If you thought the moment a Zack Snyder film won some sort of weird fan-voted Oscar would be the most strange event at today’s Academy Awards, think again.

Actor Will Smith, who is almost certainly about to win an Oscar for best actor, went on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock after taking issue with a joke about wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. He then yelled at Rock: “Leave my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The altercation happened after Rock said Pinkett-Smith looked like she was starring in GI Jane 2 because of her short hair. In reality, Pinkett-Smith suffers from the autoimmune illness alopecia.

Rock carried on seemingly unfazed despite the slap. “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me. That was the greatest night in the history of television,” he added.

The moment was aired uncensored here in New Zealand and in some other countries, but was bleeped by broadcasters in the United States.

Cost of living crisis: The changes coming April 1

The (Image: Getty Images)

Thousands of New Zealanders will have extra money in their pocket come this Friday, April 1, when a number of changes come into effect.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and finance minister Grant Robertson have been using the changes as evidence of the government’s support during the so-called cost of living crisis. That includes an increase of the minimum wage, up to $21.20 an hour from the current $20.

There will also be main benefit increases along with a boost for childcare assistance, orphan’s benefit and unsupported child’s benefit. Working for Families tax credits will automatically be increased as well.

April 1 is also the day when public transport fares will be halved for a three month period, following on from recent cuts to fuel tax.

Superannuation will increase by $52 per fortnight for a single person, and $80 for a couple.

Is your pet the cutest, weirdest, most talented pet in Aotearoa?

(Design: Bianca Cross)

From our friends at Pickle’s Pawtraits: Remember when you would bring your pet to school as a kid and everyone would get a prize? Throughout the week, we will be awarding your pets with the rarest prize of all: the chance to appear on The Spinoff. At the end of the week, one lucky winner will receive a Pet Lovers Gift Box from our friends at Pickle’s Pawtraits, including a custom digital pet portrait, mug and stickers. 

Got a showstopping photo of your pet being weird, gorgeous or funny that you want to share with the country? Send it to us on Instagram or to

Covid-19 latest: 11 more deaths, 861 in hospital, 12,882 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been 11 more deaths linked to the Covid pandemic.

It takes the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 269 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 12. Of the nine deaths we have full details for, two were from the Auckland region, five from Waikato and one each from MidCentral and Nelson Marlborough.

Three people were in their 70s, three in their 80s and three people were in their 90s. Seven were men and two were women.

There are now 861 people in hospital with Covid-19, a slight bump on yesterday’s numbers but still down on the recent peak. Currently, 21 people are in ICU. Most hospitalisations remain in the Auckland region: there are 141 in North Shore Hospital, 188 in Middlemore and 144 in Auckland Hospital.

“The Ministry of Health continues to encourage people to be up to date with their vaccinations – including being boosted as the booster restores vaccine effectiveness for Omicron to 90% after it declines following your second dose,” said today’s 1pm statement.

There are 12,882 new community cases of Covid-19. Of those, 2,300 are in Auckland and 2,119 are in Canterbury.

The Ministry of Health said it has updated its advice for critical healthcare workers wishing to return to work if they have Covid-19 or are a household contact. “The healthcare worker guidance has been updated to enable healthcare staff who are cases or contacts to return to work if they choose to, are well and have regular negative rapid antigen tests,” said the ministry.

My final Oscar predictions

(Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP)

In true form, I’ve left this to the last minute. Here are my top picks for the big categories at today’s Academy Awards.

Best picture:

  • Will win: Coda
  • Could win (and should win): The Power of the Dog.

You can’t deny the surge and Coda has been winning awards everywhere over the past few weeks. After its record-breaking Sundance deal over a year ago, the narrative has led us to a Coda win (even if it should be Jane Campion’s Power of the Dog).

Best director:

  • Will win: Jane Campion
  • Could win: Steven Spielberg

If Power of the Dog has a bad night, or Jane Campion’s faux pas about the Williams sisters last week actually had an impact, then this category opens up.

Best actor:

  • Will win: Will Smith
  • Could win: N/A

This is Will Smith’s to lose.

Best actress:

  • Will win: Jessica Chastain
  • Could win: Penelope Cruz

The hardest category on the ballot to pick, Chastain has emerged as the late frontrunner – but there’s been a recent vocal shift in support of Cruz. The hair and makeup win for the Eyes of Tammy Faye moments ago would appear to secure Chastain’s win.

Best supporting actress

  • Will win: Ariana DeBose
  • Could win: Kirsten Dunst

If Power of the Dog has a good night, it’s feasible that the locked-in frontrunner of DeBose could be dethroned. It’s unlikely, though, and DeBose deserves this

Best support actor:

  • Will win: Troy Kotsur
  • Could win: Kodi Smit-McPhee.
(Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP)

Ombudsman backs concerns over Erebus memorial consultation



The chief ombudsman has raised concerns about a lack of government consultation over a proposed Erebus memorial in Auckland.

The Dove-Myer Robinson Park in Parnell has been the site of protests and occupiers since the Erebus memorial was first announced. Those upset say the park is inappropriate for a memorial.

In a statement, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier said that the Ministry for Culture and Heritage should have consulted the wider
local community and all Tāmaki Makaurau iwi comprising the mana whenua before forming a preference for any site in  Auckland.

“To not do so is surprising given the Crown’s partnership obligations under Te Tiriti/Treaty of Waitangi and obligations at an international level to consult with indigenous peoples,” he said. “There is now some considerable grievance within the community which, if the development is to go ahead, could reasonably be seen as tainting the memorial and undermining the government’s objectives in erecting one,” he said.

However, Boshier added that most of his concerns happened three years ago during initial consultations on the project – and he said the preference for the Parnell site was not wrong. “My recommendation is that before a decision is made to begin construction on the site the ministry undertakes reasonable steps to attempt to resolve the sense of grievance that the failure to consult more widely has created.”

Dame Naida Glavish, one of those opposed to the memorial, said the consultation was not in the spirit of natural justice. “The risk to Te Hā, the ancient Pōhutukawa is simply unacceptable,” she said. “The whakapapa of the whenua dates back to the very beginning of time and the whakapapa of this tupuna rākau dates back to the signing of Te Tiriti/Treaty of Waitangi. The ministry has treated the tupuna rākau as an afterthought, not as tuākana.”

A Ministry of Culture spokesperson said there was “no factual basis for the assertion that the tree is at risk from the memorial”.

The project has been delayed from its most recently announced October 2021 start date because of Covid-19 and the Ombudsman’s investigation delayed. “We will begin construction on the project as soon as possible. For the time being we are carefully considering the report and its recommendations,” said the ministry.

I’ve had Covid and here’s my advice

From The Spinoff Weekend: A curated collection of the best stories published on our site every week.

Keep a diary. Rest. Purchase a point-and-shoot thermometer. Rest. Build a network of friends to bring you supplies. More rest. They’re the tips Emily Writes received after asking her newsletter readers for help on surviving a case of Covid. Emily hasn’t had it, but she’s worried about getting it. “I have a fair bit of anxiety around Covid-19,” she writes. “I have an immune compromised child and I’m very worried about how he will cope. Not only that, but my husband and I are worried about how we’ll be able to manage his medications and treatments if we get sick.” If you’re wondering how to prepare, you can read her story here, and join her Substack newsletter (it’s great) here.

Sign up to The Spinoff Weekend 

Biden calls Putin a ‘butcher’, Russia walks back ambitions in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden struck his most combative tone since the war in Ukraine began, seeming to back regime change in Russia during a historic speech in Poland. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” said Biden. The Observer reports that Russian missiles hit Lviv, the Ukrainian city closest to Poland, in defiance. The White House later clarified that Biden wasn’t calling for regime change. According to Newsweek, Biden meant that Russian president Vladimir Putin couldn’t continue to exercise power over his neighbours. On the weekend, the Russian military said that its mission in Ukraine was almost over and its ambitions were limited to the eastern Donbas region. It could be the first sign of face-saving spin for what has been a disastrous military failure.

NZ and Australia worried about Chinese influence in Solomons.

Foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta is warning that a leaked security deal between the Solomon Islands and China could destabilise the region’s security. 1News explains that unrest in the islands has been historically handled by New Zealand and Australia. Both countries had to send troops to quell unrest in November. The new security deal could extend to giving China military and naval access to the country. The BBC reports that the deal sets out how Beijing could deploy troops to the country to protect Chinese projects and personnel. Why does this matter? The Solomon Islands control the main shipping routes to Australia and New Zealand.

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.

It’s Apple vs Netflix in streaming battle to win best picture Oscar

The cast of Coda (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

It’s highly likely a streaming service will pick up the top award at today’s Oscars for the first time in history.

Netflix’s The Power of the Dog, directed by New Zealand’s Jane Campion, has been the frontrunner throughout much of the awards season. But over the past couple of weeks, Apple’s heartwarming dramedy Coda has surged with many now putting that at the top of their ballots.

It follows the film taking out slightly unexpected top prizes at the Producers Guild Awards and Writers Guild Awards. Coda also won the ensemble prize given out by the Screen Actors Guild – often a key precursor to Oscar glory.

The cast of Coda (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Another hit against Power of the Dog is Campion’s controversial “joke” about Venus and Serena Williams, made as she accepted best director at the Critics Choice Awards. However, it’s likely this primarily impacted Campion’s popularity on Twitter and may not have dented her Oscar chances.

New York Times awards correspondent Kyle Buchanan told the Herald that the comments were unlikely to have an impact. “Sometimes these controversies pass people right by, as they did when Green Book won best picture, despite a lot of faux pas along the way,” he said. “Within the Academy, it’s a much slower awards body. They go more on emotion and feeling than Twitter conflagrations, so I don’t think it does affect her too much with the Academy.”

While best picture appears to be a two-horse race, some categories are more locked in. The supporting actor categories are almost guaranteed for Coda’s Troy Kotsur and West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose, while Jane Campion is expected to win her first best director Oscar.

Weather watch in place for flood-hit Tairāwhiti

Metservice weather watch (Photo / Screenshot)

The flood-stricken East Coast could be in for further bad weather to start this week. A heavy rain watch is back in place for the Tairāwhiti region from this morning until 9pm tomorrow night.

According to Metservice, the anticipated rainfall could be bad enough to reach “weather warning” criteria. The service is predicting peak rates of five to 10 millimetres of rain per hour, but this could reach 15 millimetres “for a time” overnight through until tomorrow morning.

Over the weekend, prime minister Jacinda Ardern visited the East Coast to assess damage and meet with locals. Ardern has not committed to further government support on top of the $175,000 mayoral relief fund announced last week. However, residents in Tokomaru Bay – a township cut off by flood waters – demanded further help from central government.

Te Whanau a Ruataupare and Te Whanau a Te Aotawarirangi representative Lillian Ward told RNZ that urgent assistance was required. “Every time there is a weather event, there’s at least one community on the East Coast that is cut off from the community and services,” she said. “That’s not good enough. State Highway 35 needs lot of investment by the government.”

It’s Pet Week on The Spinoff

Given that Aotearoa is home to more than 4.35 million pets, we think the least we can do is dedicate an entire week to our shaggy, slithering, slobbering friends. Running from today until Sunday, and made in cahoots with Animates, our cavalcade of critter content will celebrate our pets and the lives that we share with them. 

We’re going to tackle some big questions – how did the “oodle” take over the dog world? Where do animals go when their owners flee domestic violence? How hard is it to walk a dozen dogs at once? What do you do if you are anxious around pets? When we all fall asleep, where do our cats go? When is a pet actually a pest? And why are our cargo planes jam-packed with bees? 

Make sure you also watch The Project on Three this week as they celebrate some of our Pet Week stories through the magic of television, and keep an eye on our Instagram to see how you can get involved in The Spinoff’s first virtual pet day (remember those?!).

Image: Toby Morris/Tina Tiller