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blog april 29

Live UpdatesApr 29 2022

Rolling average of Covid case numbers drops

It’s Friday April 29! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. Have a question or just want to say hi? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The next steps in the controversial three waters plan have been revealed. The plan will go ahead after the “vast majority” of working group recommendations were accepted by the government.
  • The rolling average of new community Covid cases has dropped back, after a few days where the trend appeared to be heading up.
  • Rotorua District Council has hit “pause” on a controversial electoral bill.
  • The first shipment of Covid-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir arrived in the country yesterday.
blog april 29

Rolling average of Covid case numbers drops

It’s Friday April 29! Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. Have a question or just want to say hi? Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • The next steps in the controversial three waters plan have been revealed. The plan will go ahead after the “vast majority” of working group recommendations were accepted by the government.
  • The rolling average of new community Covid cases has dropped back, after a few days where the trend appeared to be heading up.
  • Rotorua District Council has hit “pause” on a controversial electoral bill.
  • The first shipment of Covid-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir arrived in the country yesterday.
Apr 29 2022

White supremacy makes up largest amount of illegal online content – DIA

Online white supremacy accounted for the largest amount of content investigated by New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.

The DIA has released an annual report into online extremism looking across 2021. The report was ordered partly in response to the Christchurch Call – the summit initiated by Jacinda Ardern in the wake of the 2019 mosque attack.

One finding of the report is that despite footage of the mosque shooting being outlawed by our chief censor, it continues to be shared online by white supremacists. As RNZ reports, Twitter was where the majority of content referred to the department was found – although the social media outlet did remove the content flagged as offensive.

Large companies, including Twitter and other social media sites like Facebook, were responsive, said the DIA. “If our agency contacts them and lets them know that there is something on their platform which contravenes our law, most of the time it also contravenes their own terms of services so they’re very happy in most instances to take that down,” the department’s director of digital safety Jared Mullen told RNZ.

Read more here

Schools return on Monday for the first time since shift to ‘orange’

School children will be back in the classroom on Monday for the first time since New Zealand shifted to the “orange” traffic light setting.

The country dropped down from red just in time for the school holidays, meaning children and teachers haven’t yet had to navigate the “new normal” during lessons and in the playground.

According to the official advice from the Ministry of Health, masks are not mandatory at school during orange. “Face masks are encouraged, but not required, when inside at school,” the guidelines stipulate. “All ākonga aged 12 and up must wear face masks on school transport. All parents, caregivers, whānau, and other visitors are encouraged to wear face masks on site at education services.”

Despite this, some schools have elected to maintain the mask mandate from next week. Auckland Point School in Nelson announced it would be staying in “red” for at least the first week back after the holidays, for example.

Photo: Getty Images; additional design by Tina Tiller

Most schools appear to be following the official rules but emphasising the importance of a mask. In Auckland, Takapuna Grammar has asked students to carry a face mask as they “may be required” in larger group settings. Point Chevalier School similarly said that while masks won’t be mandatory, “having a mask at school is important” and it was “strongly advised” that students wore one. “All of our staff have agreed that mask wearing for adults in class is still important,” the school added.

Earlier this week, an open letter signed by more than 150 doctors and scientists called for the government to adopt a stronger approach to dealing with the ongoing omicron outbreak – including tighter mask rules.

Gone By Lunchtime: Christopher Luxon and the giant melancholy kiwifruit

Five months in, how’s the new National leader faring? Annabelle Lee-Mather, Ben Thomas and Toby Manhire give their verdicts on the new Gone By Lunchtime. Plus: the Rotorua representation bill, grounded kiwis and existential kiwifruit garnish Ardern’s trip abroad.

Follow Gone By Lunchtime on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Police 10/7 rebranded after allegations of racial stereotyping

Police 10/7 will be rebranded as 10/7 Aotearoa, with radio broadcaster Sam Wallace brought in as a new co-host.

TVNZ has announced the new iteration of the show, which has been on air since 2002, will launch on May 5 with “a refreshed look at policing in New Zealand”.

The show came under fire last year over allegations of racism, with Auckland councillor turned mayoral candidate Efeso Collins saying it “feeds on racial stereotypes”. A later review into the show determined that Māori and Pacific people who participated in the show were fairly portrayed, but that the programme did little to discourage negative stereotypes.

10/7 Aotearoa will launch in May (Image: TVNZ / supplied)

In a press statement, TVNZ said the new version of the popular reality show will “highlight the vital work of the New Zealand police” while the new name signified “the programme’s increased focus in featuring a broader range of communities around New Zealand”.

Detective senior sergeant Rob Lemoto, co-host of the show since 2014, will return alongside Wallace.

‘Time to get this done’: Ngāi Tahu welcomes three waters green light

Ngāi Tahu has welcomed the government’s announced plan to forge ahead with three waters.

It was confirmed today that almost all recommendations made by the three waters working group will be adopted by the government. That means councils will be given control of the new entities via a shareholding agreement, while most of the previously announced co-governance arrangements will stay intact.

In a statement, Ngāi Tahu said it was pleased with the outcome. “The ministers have agreed that regional sub-committees will feed into the water service entities’ regional representative oversight groups, ensuring local councils and iwi/hapū have their voices heard on the matters that most affect them,” it said.

The task of implementing the reforms will be challenging for the government, said Ngāi Tahu, but they are “urgently” needed for environmental protection, financial sustainability, and human health.

“The working group is to be commended for its insightful recommendations to improve governance and accountability. The government is to be commended for accepting the advice, while not taking its eye off the ultimate goal of equitable, safe, affordable water services. It’s now time to get this done.”

Love The Godfather? Now, watch the troubled story of how it was created

(Image: Supplied)

If you liked the Godfather, TVNZ OnDemand has an offer you can’t refuse. Based on Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy’s experience making the iconic flick, The Offer is the never-told story of The Godfather – from studio setbacks to director dramas.

Starring Miles Teller – star of Whiplash, War Dogs and the Divergent series – as Al Ruddy, learn about the journey to bring Mario Puza’s epic crime novel The Godfather to life on the big screen.

Fraught with struggle from the start with actors turning down roles, directors not wanting to touch the project and fights with the studio, The Offer will show you what it really takes to make a great film.

Watch the full series now on TVNZ OnDemand. (Sponsored)

Covid-19 latest: 14 more deaths, 480 now in hospital, 8,242 new cases

The Covid-19 death toll has risen once again, but the rolling average of new community cases has dropped back.

There have been 14 new deaths linked to the Covid-19 outbreak. Eleven of the deaths being reported today are for people who have died over the previous week, with three deaths between April 12 and 17. It brings the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 737 and the seven-day rolling average to 13.

Of the people whose deaths are being reported today, two people were from the Auckland region, one from Bay of Plenty, one from Waikato, one from Taranaki, one from Whanganui, one from MidCentral, one from the Wellington region, five from Canterbury and one from Southern.

One person was in their 50s, two in their 70s, seven in their 80s, and four were over 90. Eight were women and six were men.

There are now 480 people in hospital with the virus, including 15 in intensive care. Auckland Hospital is treating the most people with Covid-19: 101.

Another 8,242 new community cases have been confirmed. However, the seven-day rolling average of case numbers has dropped to 7,540 – a reduction from last Friday when it was 8,166.

“With ongoing community transmission across the motu it is important we all remain vigilant,” said the Ministry of Health in its 1pm statement. “Please continue to follow public health advice to stay at home, away from school or work if you’re feeling unwell.”

Case numbers in Auckland remain in the mid-200os, with 2,446 announced today. The region with the second highest number of new cases was Canterbury with 1,462 and then Southern with 888.

QUIZ: Test your knowledge on the news of the week

It’s been a short week but one packed with news. From three waters, to a shock Dancing with the Stars elimination, to Elon Musk imploding the internet. Have you been paying attention?

Test your news knowledge below:


National, Act, Winston Peters unify in opposition to ‘divisive’ three waters

Political reaction to today’s three waters announcement has started to trickle in – with much of it focusing on the decision to retain co-governance arrangements in the reforms.

While the government ruled out co-governance for the four water entities, there will be an agreement between mana whenua and councils for the overarching regional representative group. The government stressed this would not influence operations,  something the opposition does not seem to believe.

National’s Simon Watts, the party’s local government spokesperson, called this morning’s announcement a “slap in the face” for people concerned about three waters. He said the tweaks announced today don’t address key concerns people have with the reforms.

“According to the government, local councils will still be the ‘owners’ of their assets – but they won’t actually have any control over them. It’s like saying you own a house but don’t get to decide where to put the furniture,” Watts claimed. “Local councils and communities will still lose control of their assets, and the unproductive and divisive co-governance structure remains.”

Going a step further in their criticism was the Act Party, with local government spokesperson Simon Court saying the reforms will be scrapped if the party enters government. “Any government Act is a part of will reverse Labour’s wildly unpopular three water reforms,” said Court, implying it could be a bottom line for any coalition negotiations.

“The worst aspect of the reforms is divisive co-governance. It’s totally inappropriate to give iwi a seat at the table just because of who their ancestors were. All New Zealanders want clean and safe water, not just iwi.”

Also concerned by the co-governance issue is former deputy prime minister Winston Peters. He called today’s announcement the “manifestation of Labour’s race-based co-governance agenda” and said it will lead New Zealand to “become a separatist state”.

Three waters to go ahead with councils to take ownership

The government is moving forward with the controversial three waters plan, agreeing to implement “the vast majority” of the working group’s recommendations. Specifically, 45 of the 47 recommendations will be actioned – including the introduction of a shareholding model.

Under the plan, the 67 existing council-controlled authorities responsible for managing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) would be merged into four big regional entities. However, in response to criticism from councils, the government has now agreed to give local councils ownership of the water entities through a shareholding agreement. That was one of the primary recommendations of the working group after councils expressed concern they would have little control over how water was delivered to their constituents.

Shares will be allocated to councils based on the size of their communities, with Auckland Council set to acquire 35 shares – by the far the most of any area – in the northern entity.

Watch live

On the issue of co-governance, cabinet has ruled out co-governance on the board of the four water entities. Instead, this will be based on skill. However, the proposed co-governance arrangements for the overarching regional representative group remains.

Infrastructure minister Grant Robertson said that the reforms are, fundamentally, about delivering clean and safe drinking water at an affordable price for New Zealanders. “Everyone accepts the need for change. You only have to look at the number of burst pipes, boil water notices and the volume of sewerage spewing into our harbours to see we can’t carry on as we are and that our water infrastructure is crumbling,” he said.

Robertson said the government has listened to the councils’ concerns over ownership and voice. “With the key issues now addressed we cannot afford to wait any longer.”

The governance structure of three waters is slightly complex. In brief: a “regional representative group” will oversee the overall system. Beneath this will be a “water service entity board” responsible for operational management of the entities. Fially, the water service entities themselves will deliver the day-to-day services New Zealanders rely on.

Three waters (Supplied)

The government has also agreed to recognise and embrace Te Mana o te Wai  – the health and wellbeing of our waterways and waterbodies – as a principle that applies across the water services framework. The role of the regional representative group has been strengthened to include oversight from local councils and mana whenua to ensure community voice and provide tighter accountability.

On the subject of co-governance, one of the arguably more controversial elements of the proposal, local government minister Nanaia Mahuta ruled out the boards of the four entities being co-governed. However, the regional representative group will have co-governance principles with both council and mana whenua membership.

Mahuta said the concept of co-governance is not actually anything new – and it’s not about ownership. “Many councils already have co-governance arrangements in place, and acknowledge the importance and benefit of such arrangements,” Mahuta said. “For example the Waikato River Authority set up by the previous government, established fifty-fifty co-governance around the Waikato River and is a good working model of shared decision making to improve the health of the river.”

She added: “The regional representative group is not about ownership but rather ensuring community inclusion and voices are heard, securing a kaitiaki or guardianship role for the protection of our environment, and maintaining the focus on the long-term planning required for national infrastructure. It’s a model that makes sense and is already working well.”

Nanaia Mahuta (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Speaking at a launch event in Porirua, Robertson reiterated that while the regional representative groups will have an aspect of joint local government and mana whenua representation, this will not influence anything at an operational level.

Law expert suggests MIQ ruling actually a victory for the government

Earlier this week a High Court ruling concluded that lobby group Grounded Kiwis had won its case against the government over the issue of managed isolation.

Many reported this decision as bad news for the government. But one legal academic, Auckland University’s Jane Norton, told the Herald she viewed it differently.

“I think this is a win for the government in many ways,” she told the Front Page podcast. “If you look at the entirety of the 140-page judgment, the government has won on all the major points. And in fact, the court rejected most of Grounded Kiwis’ submissions.”

The official ruling laid out by the court did say Grounded Kiwis had succeeded in their claim. However, while the court agreed that the so-called MIQ “lottery” was flawed, it acknowledged that some form of managed isolation was justified. “The MIQ spots are limited. It’s a finite pool of resources,” said Norton. “The judge’s concern was that it didn’t sufficiently take into account individual circumstances.”

Read more here

‘Local government reporting is boring’ … ‘Are you sure of that?’

When local democracy reporter for the Rotorua Daily Post, Felix Desmarais tweeted this story he said “Whenever a junior reporter says local government reporting is boring, I say “are you sure of that?” Desmarais was reporting on a Rotorua District Council meeting yesterday where councillor Peter Bentley resigned following what was described as a “fiery exchange with mayor Steve Chadwick.” It comes after attorney general David Parker said the Rotorua District Council Representation Arrangements Bill cannot be justified and discriminates against general roll voters. The bill would have increased Māori representation on the council. In response, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi accused Parker of “caucasity”. The ward restructure has now been paused.

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Next steps for controversial three waters to be announced today

It’s understood the next steps for the controversial three waters proposal will be announced this morning.

The infrastructure programme involves the government taking over control of the country’s water assets. The 67 council-controlled authorities responsible for managing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater (the three waters) would, under the plan, be merged into four big regional entities.

But the proposal has faced a wall of opposition from within parliament and from many local councils.

Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta and infrastructure minister Grant Robertson will, at 11am, announce what happens next with three waters. That depends on what direction the government has chosen to go in, based on recommendations made by the three waters working group.

New Covid antiviral drug lands in the country

The first shipment of Covid-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir arrived in the country yesterday, meaning there are now six medicines available to treat people who contract the virus.

Molnupiravir is the second oral anti-viral that’s arrived in New Zealand and can help prevent people with mild Covid symptoms from needing hospitalisation. Health minister Andrew Little said while vaccination remains the best defence, it’s important to have other treatments available.

“We already have four medicines – Baricitinib, Ronapreve, Remdesivir and Tocilizumab – being used in hospitals, and this month another anti-viral, Paxlovid, started being used to treat people at home,” he said. “Adding molnupiravir into the mix means doctors have got a range of medicines to combat the worst symptoms of Covid-19 and protect people who are immunocompromised or have complex health conditions. It also helps prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.”

People who test positive for Covid-19 will be able to be prescribed molnupiravir from early next month. Under its brand name Lageviro, it will involve people taking four tablets every 12 hours for five days.

There are more drugs on the way, too. Evusheld, a prophylactic treatment which can prevent people who can’t have vaccines from getting Covid-19, is awaiting Medsafe approval.