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Live UpdatesJun 28 2022

Covid-19 case spike after long weekend

It’s June 28 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a news tip? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • Lobby group Family First won’t regain charitable status, the Supreme Court has ruled.
  • National MP Simon O’Connor stands by calling the Roe v Wade overturn “a good day” – and says he wasn’t “gagged” by his party’s leadership.
  • Winston Peters has launched legal proceedings against Trevor Mallard over a parliamentary trespass warning.
  • Jacinda Ardern arrives in Europe for free trade talks and her historic Nato address.
  • There’s been a spike in new Covid-19 infections following the Matariki long weekend.
blog-upd-june-28.jpg

Covid-19 case spike after long weekend

It’s June 28 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Got a news tip? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • Lobby group Family First won’t regain charitable status, the Supreme Court has ruled.
  • National MP Simon O’Connor stands by calling the Roe v Wade overturn “a good day” – and says he wasn’t “gagged” by his party’s leadership.
  • Winston Peters has launched legal proceedings against Trevor Mallard over a parliamentary trespass warning.
  • Jacinda Ardern arrives in Europe for free trade talks and her historic Nato address.
  • There’s been a spike in new Covid-19 infections following the Matariki long weekend.
Jun 28 2022

Vaccine mandates to end for border and corrections workers

From Saturday, border workers and corrections staff will no longer have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the government has announced.

The mandates had served their purpose well and it is now safe to remove them, said Covid-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall in a statement.

“The risk Covid-19 poses at the border is much lower than it was previously,” said Verrall. “Alongside high rates of vaccination amongst border workers, the number of passengers arriving by air with Covid-19 is less than 3%.”

As of June 23, 97% of active border workers were fully vaccinated, said the statement.

Corrections staff will also no longer be required to be vaccinated. Verrall said 100% of corrections staff in prison were fully vaccinated, as were 72% of people in prison.

“How we manage Covid-19 in Aotearoa continues to change and as certain protections are no longer required we have shown we will remove them,” said Verrall.

“We have high levels of vaccination amongst the general population and we have increasing protection in the population from prior infection, so tools like vaccine mandates in most settings are no longer necessary.”

Today’s announcement follows the removal of vaccine mandates for those working in schools and the police and defence forces on April 4.

Mandates remain in place for health and disability workers “as they continue to have close interactions with people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19”, said Verrall’s statement. “The settings for health and disability workers are reviewed regularly.”

Censor bans second part of conspiracy series on March 15 terror attack

The second part of a pseudo-documentary that uses footage from the Christchurch mosque attacks and posits the baseless theory of a “false flag” operation has been called in and banned by the New Zealand Classification Office. In February the first part of the “Three Faced Terrorist” series was ruled objectionable following pledges by the disinformation-laden platform Counterspin Media to distribute the material. According to a statement from the Classification Office the newly released video “uses extensive footage of the March 15 Mosque attacks livestream [and] includes edited clips from news coverage and interviews broadcast immediately after the attacks, accompanied by a voiceover claiming that the attacks were fabricated”.

Acting chief censor Rupert Ablett-Hampson said: “I am deeply sorry for the pain and distress that this publication and publicity around it will cause the families and friends of those who died in the March 15 Mosque attacks in Christchurch. The video uses extensive footage of the murders of the worshippers at the mosques on March 15 to advance a toxic strain of misinformation that claims the attacks did not happen, which must be very hurtful for those who lost loved ones. I have used my call-in power and the Office has issued a decision to ban the publication as objectionable, on an interim basis, under the Films, Videos, & Publications Classification Act 1993. It features extreme cruelty and violence and is degrading, dehumanising and demeaning to the victims.”

He added: “New Zealanders should not engage with this content, and they should report it to the Department of Internal Affairs if they see it. Downloading, sharing and viewing it is an offence, and we have let enforcement agencies know about our decision.”

A final decision will be issued within 20 days.

National’s deputy ‘guarantees’ party won’t overturn abortion laws

National’s deputy leader Nicola Willis has given her personal “guarantee” New Zealand’s abortion laws won’t be upended should the party win the next election.

It’s a similar line to that given by party leader Christopher Luxon, who – though pro-life – has labelled our abortion legislation “settled” and said he wouldn’t tamper with it as prime minister.

While Luxon and a majority of those within National who voted on our abortion laws in 2019 are against the practice, Willis is pro-choice. She was one of 19 within her party that voted to decriminalise abortion. It’s possibly for this reason that a commenter on a recent Spinoff Instagram post tagged in Willis and asked her not to bow down to pressure from “the current National Party leader and the other pro-life MPs that surround her”.

Willis simply replied: “You have my guarantee.”

Nicola Willis responded to a comment on The Spinoff’s Instagram

Read more: How to channel your Roe v Wade rage from Aotearoa

Waiheke Island ferry could soon be cheaper

Auckland’s Waiheke Island ferry could soon be formally brought into the city’s public transport network, bringing with it cheaper fares.

The issue made headlines earlier this year when the country’s public transport prices were cut in half to counter the cost of living crisis. The Waiheke ferry, however, was left out of the scheme due to its commercial nature.

As Stuff reports, transport minister Michael Wood has started the process to remove an exemption for the Waiheke ferry that allows it to run outside the wider public transport system. “​​This exemption removal process will take some time,” said Wood. “I remain hopeful that [Auckland Transport and Fullers] will come to an agreement,” said Wood.

Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick has been a vocal advocate for getting the ferry service into the transport network. She tweeted the news and said she was “stoked” that progress had been made.

A vital message from The Spinoff’s publisher, Duncan Greive

If you’re reading this, you’re hopefully getting value out of The Spinoff. Yet like many publishers, we’ve suffered a significant drop in members, despite our costs continuing to increase. On one level I understand why our membership has dropped away. As the cost of living has reached new heights and the pandemic has become less of an urgent news event and more of a part of day-to-day life, it’s totally normal to feel like you don’t need to support your local media organisation.

The promise we’re making to you is that we’re actually better suited to times like this than the pandemic itself. Of course we will continue to write about Covid-19 and the many effects it’s having on society, but our plan now is to return to something more of what made us, which is coverage of culture, politics, business, te ao Māori and more with heart and humour.

But we can’t do it without you. We need your support more than we ever have. So please, if you can, click here to support The Spinoff by becoming a member today.

Covid-19 latest: Matariki case spike, person under 19 among new deaths

There’s been a spike in new Covid-19 infections following the Matariki long weekend, the Ministry of Health has announced.

Another 8,028 cases have been reported, almost double the number announced in recent days. It’s also pushed up the seven-day rolling average of new community cases, which today sits at 5,480 compared with 4,878 last Tuesday.

However, the ministry said it was not “unusual” to see a spike such as this after a long weekend. “It will take more time before we are able to determine if this is part of a trend,” said a spokesperson.

There have been 16 more deaths of people with Covid-19, including a person aged between 10 and 19 years-old. All of the latest deaths occurred over the last week.

It takes the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 1,488 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 12.

There are now 383 people in hospital with Covid-19, including seven in intensive care.

Covid Tracer app to ‘evolve’ in line with pandemic response

The ministry has also announced an update to the Covid-19 Tracer app that will see it lose the registration function.

While the app was a major part of our early pandemic response, it is no longer mandatory to use it and as such user numbers have rapidly dropped off in recent months.

Shayne Hunter, deputy director general of data and digital at the ministry, said while the app will still work, the personal information shared by people when they registered will now be deleted. “This is also part of our commitment to protect people’s personal data and it’s important to reassure people that contact tracers can still use other data sources if needed,” he said.

Family First says it was subject of ‘witch hunt’ by Charities Board

Family First has responded to the news it will lose its charitable status, calling it a “sad day” for freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court today ruled that the lobby group did not qualify to be a charity, almost a decade after the group was first stripped of that status.

In a statement, Family First director Bob McCoskrie said today’s ruling was the culmination of a “witch hunt” by the Charities Board to deregister the group.

“It also appears that certain views of marriage and family are now deemed out-of-bounds by the state,” he said. “Deregistration of Family First is a legal victory for those ideologues who want to take power away from the family and give it to the state.”

McCoskrie questioned whether other groups would now be similarly lose their charitable status, specifically those left of the political divide. “This decision today will only embolden us, because it reveals just how far the state is overreaching their control and power to attempt to shut down free speech and certain points of view that it doesn’t like,” he said.

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Stocktake is The Spinoff’s new weekly business newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and produced in partnership with Kiwibank, Stocktake will feature the people behind the businesses driving Aotearoa and insight on how the forces affecting the economy will impact the lives of New Zealanders.

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Simon O’Connor stands by calling Roe v Wade overturn ‘a good day’

National MP Simon O’Connor says he stands by his “pro-life” beliefs and a Facebook post about the Roe v Wade decision that landed him in hot water with his party’s leader.

The Tāmaki MP posted “today is a good day” on Saturday, following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Roe v Wade ruling that provided a constitutional right to abortion.

The post was later deleted after National leader Christopher Luxon said it did not represent the values of the National Party.

But after two days of silence, O’Connor has told media he stands by the sentiment of the post – but pulled it after reading the comments. “The comments were just spiralling. It was getting worse and worse and it was very clear to me that people were distressed and it was important to pull that back,” he said, denying he had been “gagged” by party leadership.

“I made the choice to bring it down because the distress it was causing, particularly through the comments, was getting pretty bad. I respected and enjoyed the conversation with Christopher and other colleagues to help guide my decisions. Let me be absolutely clear, I have not been gagged.”

The MP will apologise to his caucus colleagues today and admitted the post was a “misstep” on his part.

O’Connor said he had no intention of putting forward a member’s bill on the subject of abortion and stood by Luxon’s call that New Zealand’s existing laws would not be tampered with should National win the next election.

He encouraged those who both agreed or disagreed with his anti-abortion stance to “speak up”.

National MP Simon O’Connor. (Photo: VNP / Phil Smith RNZ)

Lobby group Family First won’t regain charitable status, Supreme Court rules

Conservative lobby group Family First will remain without charitable status after a ruling by the Supreme Court that labelled the group as having a “discriminatory” purpose.

The Christian group, which promotes marriage as being between a man and a woman, and has campaigned against abortion and euthanasia, was a charity from 2007 until 2013. It was stripped of this status by the Charities Registration Board after it decided Family First’s main purpose was political and not educational. But after a later court ruling determined that political purpose was no longer a bar to charitable status, the group once again qualified for charitable status in 2020.

Now, the Supreme Court has overturned that decision and unanimously determined that Family First will not regain its charitable status.

In its ruling, the court rejected Family First’s assertion that it should qualify as a charity because it provided benefit to the community. It labelled Family First’s purposes as “discriminatory”, citing its advocacy of marriage being between a man and a woman. “A purpose to discriminate (or a purpose that includes discriminatory elements) is not compatible with a charitable purpose,” the court stated.

Family First’s claim of advancing education was also shut down. “The activities of Family First do not support the proposition that its purpose is educational,” wrote Justice O’Regan. “Most of the material put forward by Family First suggests its primary object is to advocate rather than to educate.”

The court noted that many of Family First’s research papers “lack the balance or neutrality” to be educational. “Where the means by which education is said to be advanced do not involve balance or general objectivity but are instead characterised by bias towards a particular outcome, that may indicate that the line between education and advocacy has been crossed.”

Justice Williams added that Family First’s advocacy was “plainly too one-sided and therefore too self-referential to be education in the charitable sense”.

On Twitter, Family First director Bob McCoskrie shared a brief message in response to the court’s ruling: “de-registered but we will not be defeated”.

Winston Peters takes Trevor Mallard to court over protest trespass order

Winston Peters has launched legal proceedings against outgoing Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard.

It follows a trespass order issued by Mallard against Peters in late April, barring the former deputy prime minister from parliament grounds for two years. The trespass, which stemmed from Peters’ brief attendance at the anti-mandate occupation in February, was subsequently withdrawn.

Peters said that the trespass was issued for improper purposes and claims Mallard’s actions were “unlawful, unreasonable, and irrational”. The New Zealand First leader said he “never posed any risk of threat” during his visit to the parliamentary occupation.

The actions of the Speaker raised “significant questions of importance in a democracy and those actions should be scrutinised by the High Court in judicial review”.

Mallard, who is set to wrap up his 30-year career in parliament later this year, has yet to respond to Peters. When approached by The Spinoff, Mallard said he hadn’t seen the legal challenge and had no comment on it.

Winston Peters speaking to protesters at parliament this afternoon (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

‘Status quo’ on political donations has worked, no need for change – National MP

Opposition MPs have expressed concern about the government’s plans to overhaul the rules around political donations in time for the 2023 election.

New justice minister Kiri Allan announced yesterday that the government intended to lower the threshold for disclosure of a political donation down from $15,000 to $5,000. That’s still above the $1,500 recommended by a Ministry of Justice panel, but is a fairly major change.

While it’s been welcomed by the Greens – who actually want to take the revamp further – both National and Act have criticised the move.

National’s spokesperson for electoral law, Chris Penk, told RNZ that the status quo had worked well. “We don’t see the system as broken and that it needs to be fixed,” he said.

Penk said that the current limits allowed people to participate in a democracy without facing public criticism or comment. When asked whether the rules were currently tilted toward the wealthy, Penk said there was also going to need to be a line drawn. “We want to respect the ability of people to contribute to a system in which they are members and affected by and that goes across the board for all political parties,” he said.

The government’s proposed changes come at the same time as a series of high profile court cases on the subject of donations. Investigations into donations made to National and Labour both resulted in court hearings currently set down for later this year, while New Zealand First is facing scrutiny at the moment in the High Court. Penk said thi showed the system as it operated was robust. “When the rules are not followed consequences flow from that.”

The Bulletin: Changes to NCEA to be announced this week

Newsroom’s political editor Jo Moir has spoken to associate education minister Jan Tinetti ahead of expected announcements about changes to NCEA this week. In the recent cabinet reshuffle, Tinetti picked up more responsibility within the education portfolio as Chris Hipkins was made police minister. Tinetti already had oversight of learning support, the curriculum refresh, NCEA changes and the attendance and engagement strategy. The reshuffle sees her taking up responsibility for schooling network and operation decisions and Tomorrow’s Schools reforms.

Of the coming changes to NCEA, the government says it is looking to reduce the workload of teachers. The Invercargill Primary Principals Association recently published an open letter to Hipkins calling for a two-year halt to this “incessant change” to allow teachers to help students catch up.

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Ardern arrives in Europe for free trade talks, Nato address

Jacinda Ardern has landed in Europe after 25 hours of travelling, and is due to meet with Spanish leader Pedro Sánchez and French president Emmanuel Macron later today.

They’re the first meetings on what will be a busy schedule for the prime minister this week. She’s on a week-long trade and tourism tour, which will include an address at a Nato conference and bilateral meetings with several international counterparts.

As the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan explains, Ardern’s first meetings today will see her push the case for a free trade agreement with the European Union. Standing on the sidelines of Nato will give the PM opportunities for many face-to-face meetings with important European allies. It’s also likely the subject of the Christchurch Call will be discussed, given Macron’s support of it in the past.

Whether or not a free trade deal is achieved, Ardern’s visit to Nato remains historic. She’s become the first New Zealand invited to attend the Leaders’ Summit. Later in the week she’ll travel to Belgium and the UK, before a quick visit home and then onto Australia for further meetings.

PM Jacinda Ardern during her recent overseas trip to the US (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)