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Covid-linked death toll rises by 28

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 28, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch on

The agenda

  • Over 164,000 people will currently miss the first cost of living payment next week.
  • Ex-National MP Nick Smith running for Nelson mayor.
  • NZ Rugby needs to review itself, says ex-All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
  • Covid-19 latest: Cases easing, virus-linked death toll grows by 28.

Covid-linked death toll rises by 28

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 28, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch on

The agenda

  • Over 164,000 people will currently miss the first cost of living payment next week.
  • Ex-National MP Nick Smith running for Nelson mayor.
  • NZ Rugby needs to review itself, says ex-All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
  • Covid-19 latest: Cases easing, virus-linked death toll grows by 28.
Jul 28 2022

Auckland mayoral poll reveals name recognition and candidate favourability

Left to right: Craig Lord, axViv Beck

A second Curia poll on the Auckland mayoralty shows the field remains crowded, with Efeso Collins leading over Leo Molloy in second. The undecided number in the poll, commissioned by the Ratepayers’ Alliance lobby group and conducted in the week to July 10, remains more than one in three, though that’s a drop by a third since the first survey a month earlier. 

And a reminder of the June numbers:

The poll also measured name recognition and positive-negative sentiment. On that score Molloy came out on top of his competitors for recognition (67%) but also registered the most conspicuous net-negative result (-5%).

Only 35% of registered voters cast a vote in the 2019 Auckland local elections. The top line of the July poll was reported a fortnight ago, but further details are drawn from the document subsequently released by the Ratepayers Alliance.

Read more: Tame scrambles to restore order after egging at mayoral debate

Plasterboard taskforce brings in Gib substitutes – but is it enough?

Housing minister Megan Woods (Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

The government’s sensationally named “Plasterboard Taskforce” has secured four Gib alternatives that will be made available in New Zealand.

Building minister and taskforce head honcho, Megan Woods, said 12 plasterboard importers now have 100 containers of product heading to the country – enough for about 440 houses.

“Taskforce members agreed when we met last week that plasterboard constraints appear to be easing, and some larger developers have been able to get product into the country,” said Woods. “It will take a couple more months before more product is widely available through merchants.”

It’s, of course, a good start – the plasterboard crisis has been one of a number of shortages that have dogged New Zealand in the wake of Covid-19. But the Act Party said the taskforce’s update was pitiful and represented just three days’ worth of plasterboard supply – or enough for 0.9% of the consents issued in the year to May. Deputy leader Brooke van Velden said more help was needed. “We have a building materials crisis. We need more plasterboard than three days’ worth,” she said.

Covid-19 latest: Cases easing, virus-linked death toll grows by 28

Image: Toby Morris

There are 7,627 new community Covid-19 cases across the country, as the omicron wave continues to ease. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 7,776 – several thousand below where it was just a few weeks back.

The Covid-19 death toll, however, continues to grow. There are now a total of 1,455 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average of the increase in deaths attributable to COVID-19 is now 18.

Of the 38 latest Covid deaths being reported, 28 have been attributed to the virus.

There are now 827 people in hospital with Covid-19, including 24 in intensive care.

Second wave of threats against schools


Police are once again investigating phone threats toward schools across the country.

The threats were made against schools in Masterton, Kaikoura, Greymouth, Queenstown, Levin, Whanganui, Rolleston, Takaka, Geraldine, Dunstan, Ashburton and Palmerston North.

“Police take threats of this nature extremely seriously and is making enquiries to determine the source of the calls,” said a statement from a police spokesperson. “At this stage Police do not believe there is a safety risk.”

On Wednesday, similar threats were made against schools in Waikato, Thames, and Gisborne.

Like house prices, new figures show rent is dropping too

No matter where refugees are being sponsored, finding appropriate and affordable housing is a major stressor for community groups (Photo: Getty Images; additional design: Tina Tiller)

The national median rent has dropped for the second month in a row, according to new Trade Me figures.

The 1% month-on-month decline took the average rent price t0 $570 and represents the first time there has been a decline in two consecutive months.

It comes as house prices also appear to be easing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trade Me’s Gavin Lloyd said the median rent is now $10 less than the all-time high seen in April. “It’s clear we are no longer in the same market as we were last year, where rents grew relentlessly as supply struggled to keep up with demand,” he said.

The largest rent drops were seen in the Wellington and Southland regions, said Lloyd, where rents fell 2% from the month before. The Auckland, Otago, Tasman and Northland regions saw no change.

Minister confirms Pasifika-run broadcasting safe in upcoming media merger

Māori development minister Willie Jackson (Photo: Dom Thomas/RNZ)

The publicly-funded broadcaster that runs radio networks 531pi and Niu FM may be able to expand its services beyond radio, perhaps even into linear TV.

The Minister for Broadcasting and Media Willie Jackson didn’t rule it out, in response to a piece in The Spinoff last week that revealed community broadcaster Pacific Media Network (PMN) may have no choice but to succumb to the government’s new public media entity. The minister had previously been unavailable for comment.

For some time, the National Pacific Radio Trust (NPRT), the organisation that oversees PMN, had wanted its trust deed altered allowing it to meet the challenges of today’s changing media environment. Minister Jackson was asked whether NPRT would be permitted to update its deed, allowing it to offer multimedia services, including potentially linear TV.

“I am committed to ensuring that the NPRT deed is fit for purpose and that PMN can deliver for its audience on the platforms that are most relevant to them,” Jackson said in a carefully worded statement that didn’t rule out the possibility of linear TV.

“It’s important that PMN has the tools to allow it to meet the challenges facing media organisations today and I will support PMN to continue to deliver world class content for our Pacific communities.”

Broadcasting minister Willie Jackson (Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)

Jackson also confirmed that the NPRT/PMN won’t be taken over by the new public media Aotearoa NZ Public Media (ANZPM) entity that will oversee the merged RNZ-TVNZ operation. “NPRT/PMN successfully engages with Pacific communities and reaches audiences that are traditionally underserved by mainstream media and there is no intention for ANZPM to change this,” he said.

“The legislation requires ANZPM to work collaboratively across the media sector, wherever appropriate, to support a diverse and resilient media sector and will be required to have regard to the funding policies of NZ on Air and Te Māngai Pāho to avoid gaps or duplication in the provision of content.”

Jackson added: “there isn’t any duplication of functions, and there is no intention for the functions of NPRT/PMN to be taken over by ANZPM.”

NZ Rugby needs to review itself, says ex-All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen and his assistant turned head coach Ian Foster

Former All Black coach Steve Hansen has lambasted the governing body of rugby union in New Zealand, suggesting that while the spotlight has been trained on the coaching team and players after the historic series defeat to Ireland, what had been overlooked was the deterioration of the relationship between the most senior figures at NZ Rugby and players, which today is “probably the worst it’s ever been”.

Speaking to Tova O’Brien on Today FM, Hansen, who was head coach of the All Blacks for eight years and led the team to World Cup victory in 2015, said: “Their job as an organisation is, yes, run it with strength and leadership, but do it in a way that you’re looking after the people that work for you. Otherwise you’ll end up with a high turnover of staff, which I think they’re having at the moment. The relationship between the board and the executive with the players at the moment is probably the worst it’s ever been.”

Noting the handling of the deal with US private equity firm Silver Lake, during which players complained of being ignored, Hansen said: “I don’t think they’re doing their job right at the moment.”

Steve Hansen and his assistant turned head coach Ian Foster

Hansen, who has previously backed his former assistant, Ian Foster, to lead the All Blacks through to at least the 2023 World Cup, suggested NZ Rugby needed to look hard in the mirror. “There’s been a lot of reviews done recently – you know, [former Black Ferns coach] Glenn Moore and Ian Foster, on their coaching abilities,” he said. “When did NZ Rugby do a review of itself? Our high performance department at the moment has to be squirming about our record at under-20 level.” New Zealand won the first four annual world titles from 2008, he noted, but has only won twice since, finishing seventh and fourth in the last two editions. “England and France have dominated the tournaments. Are we getting that side of our business right? I don’t think so.”

He also questioned some of the attacks on the team and coach in mainstream and social media. While criticism was to be expected, he said, “it’s not acceptable to write or say things on social media that are cruel, nasty, malicious, spiteful, vicious, straight out bullying, really … We talk a lot about mental health, yet we’re not showing a lot of it.”

Ex-National MP Nick Smith running for Nelson mayor

Former National MP Nick Smith (Image / Getty Images)

Former National MP Nick Smith has announced he’s running to be Nelson’s next mayor.

It’s barely been more than a year since Smith dramatically quit politics under a cloud of allegations around a verbal assault on a staffer. At the time there were questions around what really occurred behind closed doors in Smith’s office and whether his decision to stand down had been executed by then-leader Judith Collins.

But what difference 12 months makes: Smith took to Facebook earlier this week to confirm his mayoral aspirations.

“I love Nelson and worry our Council has lost it’s way,” he wrote. “I’m offering my governance experience and my energy to provide the city with a positive new direction.”

Smith said he has taken two months leave from his Smith Cranes company and engineering work so that he an campaign. “I will launch my campaign in a few weeks where I will outline my detailed plans for the Council and city,” said Smith. “My vision is for Nelson to be a vibrant, affordable city that is a great place to live, work, grow a business, raise a family, and retire.”

The Bulletin: Long wait for heart patients

As RNZ’s Rowan Quinn reports, acute health patients are facing long waits in hospitals for surgery. Hospitals have been delaying non-urgent surgery due to the pressure Covid and other winter illnesses have created in the health system. Cardiac Society chairperson and cardiologist Selwyn Wong said patients needing urgent procedures were now waiting much longer than normal.

Part of the issue relates to a shortage of ICU beds, which are often needed by heart patients after surgery. A shortage of ward beds means surgical patients are staying longer in ICU and beds can’t be freed up for new patients.

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Thousands set to miss cost of living payment

The (Image: Getty Images)

You might have forgotten, but on Monday next week you may find a little extra in your bank account thanks to the government’s cost of living payment.

The first of three $116 cost of living payments will appear in the accounts of more than two million middle and lower income earners.

But according to the IRD, thousands of New Zealanders will miss out because they haven’t updated their bank details. As RNZ reported, over 164,000 people will likely not receive the money.

Revenue minister David Parker denied the government had rushed the scheme and said it had been promoted in as many ways as possible.

“The most common way that people update their details with IRD these days is on the internet, [at] myIRD, but we do have telephone services and we have many hundreds of people that are engaged with this task,” he said.

Anyone who misses out on the payments can still claim them until the end of March, you’ll just need to update your details.