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Delivery of COL payment the biggest priority – Ardern

It’s a sunny Monday in Tāmaki Makaurau and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • “Delivery” of the cost of living payment was the priority, says Jacinda Ardern. This week’s second payment will be subject to new screening process.
  • National MP Sam Uffindell will remain in political limbo, with the report into his former conduct delayed.
  • Gaurav Sharma’s political future still up in the air.
  • Covid-19 update: Case numbers drop to lowest since February.
blog-aug-29.jpg

Delivery of COL payment the biggest priority – Ardern

It’s a sunny Monday in Tāmaki Makaurau and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • “Delivery” of the cost of living payment was the priority, says Jacinda Ardern. This week’s second payment will be subject to new screening process.
  • National MP Sam Uffindell will remain in political limbo, with the report into his former conduct delayed.
  • Gaurav Sharma’s political future still up in the air.
  • Covid-19 update: Case numbers drop to lowest since February.
Aug 29 2022

Taylor Swift announces new album ‘Midnights’

Taylor Swift’s new documentary is less the real Taylor Swift, and more the Taylor Swift she wants us to see.

Possibly the most prolific artist in mainstream music, Taylor Swift has announced her 10th album will be released in October.

Titled Midnights, it’s Swift’s first album of original material since 2020’s Evermore. Last year, she released two re-recorded albums as well.

In a post on social media, Swift said the album was the stories of “13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life”. Almost certainly intentionally, 13 is Swift’s favourite number.

“This is a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams,” wrote Swift.

The album was announced by Swift as she collected her MTV video music award for best music video.

Swift’s website has crashed since the album was announced.

‘Delivery’ of COL payment was the priority – Ardern

Jacinda Ardern. (Photo by Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern has pushed back at criticisms made by the auditor-general and levelled at the cost of living payment.

Earlier today it was announced the government would introduce new screening processes to reduce the number of ineligible New Zealanders who receive the second cost of living payment. It was then revealed the auditor-general had criticised the lack of care with paying it out.

Speaking at parliament, the prime minister said prioritising delivery of the payment was the government’s goal. “We haven’t really had anything of this nature that we’ve sought to do before for this number of people, so [IRD] had a clear focus on delivery,” said Ardern.

“There is no way to design a system that will be absolutely perfect but we prioritised, in these tough times, getting it to New Zealanders who need it the most. And we stand by that.”

Ardern said that in a “perfect world” the additional safeguards announced today would have been in place from the start, but the priority was getting the money out to people.

The second cost of living payment is due on September 1 – this coming Thursday.

Cost of living payment required ‘greater care’, says government watchdog

By April 1 next year main benefits will be between $32 and $55 per adult higher than they are now. Photo: Getty

Earlier today the government announced a new screening process for the second cost of living payment coming this Thursday. And now, it’s been revealed the government’s top spending watchdog gave a slap on the wrist over the number of payments sent out to ineligible New Zealanders.

In a letter to the commissioner of Inland Revenue, the auditor-general noted that “good stewardship of public money required greater care when designing and implementing the [cost of living payment].

A number of concerns were raised, including that Inland Revenue may not know how many ineligible New Zealanders received the first payment.

National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis, who wrote to the auditor-general with concerns over the payment, said that the response was damning. “It is clear that the auditor-general’s investigation has forced the government into making changes to the cost of living payment,” Willis said. 

“It’s shocking that it took a stern word from the auditor-general for the government to take taxpayers’ money seriously.”

National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis delivers a post budget address on May 20, 2022. (Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Unearthed report reveals fire service crisis isn’t new

Get them embers. Photo: Getty

A 2019 report into the state of the fire service in Auckland found the city could be at risk – and it appears little has been done to improve things since then.

Revealed by Today FM host Duncan Garner on his morning radio show, the investigation concluded that public safety was an issue simply because of how few firefighters wanted to work in Auckland.

“The wider pressures of living and working in Auckland is leading to resignations, transfer requests and recruitment challenges,” reads the report. “This is a major threat to Fire and Emergency’s ability to maintain enough qualified staff to serve communities and keep them safe.”

Despite being a three-year-old report, the state of the fire service remains in crisis in 2022. On Friday morning, a second round of strike action saw all members of the New Zealand Professional Firefighters’ Union step off the job for an hour.

“This is an unprecedented step that has not been taken lightly but reflects the gravity of the situation,” the NZPFU said in a statement. “NZPFU members need enforceable and guaranteed protections to ensure they are appropriately staffed and resourced to protect the community.

Last week, former All Black turned firefighter Steve Devine told Garner that the country’s fire service was in crisis.

Covid-19 update: Case numbers drop to lowest since February

Image: Toby Morris

The number of new Covid-19 cases reported has dipped below 2,000 – something not seen since the start of the first omicron wave.

Today, there are 1,653 new community infections, while 341 people are now in hospital with Covid-19. There are just three cases in intensive care. The most hospitalisations, 61, are in Waitematā.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 2,425 – last Monday it was 3,655. Meanwhile, the seven-day rolling average of hospitalisations today is 351, down from 472 one week ago.

The Ministry of Health has also reported the weekend’s Covid case count: there were 1,304 yesterday, the lowest number since February, and 2,141 on Saturday.

There are now a total of 1,869 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average increase in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now six.

Overnight, the death toll has risen by six although none of these have yet been linked directly to the virus.

Sam Uffindell investigation delayed

Sam Uffindell in his Tauranga electorate (Photo: RNZ/Supplied)

National MP Sam Uffindell will remain in political limbo for a few more weeks, with the report into his former conduct delayed.

The Tauranga MP was suspended from caucus after allegations of bullying and harassment were levelled at him by a former flatmate from Otago University. Those allegations had followed a report by Stuff into a violent attack by Uffindell on a younger student during his tenure at King’s College.

While Uffindell admitted the King’s College incident, he denied aspects of the claims made about his time at Otago Uni.

According to the Herald, the investigation – being led by Maria Dew QC – could take until mid-September. It was originally expected to take just two weeks, meaning it should have been completed this week.

The reason for the delay has not yet been confirmed.

Attention all local election candidates and candidate-adjacent people

Illustration: Ezra Whittaker-Powley

Huge news: this week sees the launch on The Spinoff of Policy.nz, the complete guide to the 2022 local elections. Collecting the policy positions, pledges, and a lick of personality from candidates standing across the many hundreds of elections that are hurtling towards us, there’s nothing quite like it. All candidates are invited to share their positions via Policy, and they’ve been flowing rapidly in, but we want more, more, more.

Three years ago, one in every 20 voters used Policy.nz, and its profile has grown since. If you know a candidate who might not know about it already, please give them a nudge. Questions? Hit up candidates@policy.nz.

Illustration: Ezra Whittaker-Powley

Second cost of living payment will be subject to new screening process

The (Image: Getty Images)

The government’s announced new screening measures ahead of the second cost of living payment due this Thursday.

The $350 payment, split across three instalments, is only available to middle and lower income earners who are currently resident in New Zealand. However, a number of overseas New Zealanders received the first payment at the start of August. That prompted criticism from the opposition, who said the government was wasting taxpayer money.

Revenue minister David Parker said the refinements to the payment related to implementation rather than eligibility. “Officials have continued to develop further screening tests to ensure, where we have incomplete information, we reduce the chances the payment reaches those who don’t meet the criteria,” Parker said.

The extra screening will cross match other data and look for where an overseas IP address has been used to log into myIR, or where a non-resident individual income tax return has been filed for the 2021-22 year. 

As a result of that extra screening some people will now need to confirm they are living in New Zealand. “This might apply, for example, to people who have been overseas for more than six months with a student loan, or have filed a non-resident tax return,” Parker said.  

“Of course, if any of these people have been earning wages in New Zealand recently, or receiving Working for Families, they will still get the payment automatically.” 

Most New Zealanders won’t need to do anything to get the second payment if they’re eligible, added Parker.

Gaurav Sharma’s political future still up in the air

Gaurav Sharma speaks to media prior to a Labour Party caucus meeting (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Exiled former Labour MP Gaurav Sharma still hasn’t decided whether he’ll stay on as an independent MP until next year’s election or trigger a by-election.

The Hamilton West MP was dumped from Labour’s caucus last week after breaching the trust of his colleagues by leaking details of private conversations. Those conversations were linked to his allegations of bullying within the party, all denied by the prime minister.

Sharma told 1News he wanted to consult more with his constituents first before deciding on his political future. He said he’s received a positive reception at events in the Hamilton West area over the past few days, but would provide an update on social media either today or tomorrow.

Gaurav Sharma, independent MP (Screenshot)

PM standing by controversial Oranga Tamariki reforms

Jacinda Ardern prepares to speak at the Labour Party Annual Conference on November 6, 2021. (Photo: Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

The prime minister is standing by her government’s new Oranga Tamariki reforms, despite unanimous condemnation from within parliament.

The Oranga Tamariki Oversight Bill passed its third reading last week, meaning it will become law. It was only backed by Labour, and faced opposition from National, the Greens, Act and Te Pāti Māori. Controversially, the new legislation will see the Children’s Commissioner role ditched in favour of a new system.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast today, Jacinda Ardern said that it was widely agreed that oversight of Oranga Tamariki was needed. “There’s been a number of reports for a long time that say we need greater independent oversight, there’s different views on who should be doing that job but I think we all agree that oversight’s required,” she said.

Just eight of the 403 submissions that were made on the bill were in favour, with over 300 opposed. Acknowledging the criticism, Ardern said the law will be reviewed in three years’ time. “We’re open in the future,” the prime minister said. “But let’s just get that oversight in place, that feels like the most important thing to me.”

Teeks announces first solo arena show

Singer Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi, known as ‘Teeks’ (Ngāpuhi, Ngai Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui) in front of his Spark 5G ‘Street Museum’ exhibit (Photo: Supplied)

New Zealand singer-songwriter Teeks will play his biggest solo show later this year: Auckland’s Spark Arena.

Announced this morning, the November 12 show will be held in-the-round – think Adele at Mount Smart in 2017 – with Teeks placed in the centre of the arena. It will be, according to a press release, an “immersive, up-close and personal” performance and Teeks as “you’ve never seen him before”.

I saw Teeks perform at the Civic last year and can confirm that if anyone is able to make Spark Arena feel “up-close and personal” it’ll be him.

Tickets for the new show go on sale at 11am tomorrow from Live Nation.

Singer Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi, known as ‘Teeks’ (Ngāpuhi, Ngai Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui) in front of his Spark 5G ‘Street Museum’ exhibit (Photo: Supplied)

The Bulletin: ‘People who have ideologies of hate shouldn’t be allowed on school boards’

In an interview with Q&A’s Jack Tame, associate education minister Jan Tinetti said “people who have ideologies of hate shouldn’t be allowed on school boards”. Tame had asked if white supremacicts should be allowed on school boards, a question no doubt prompted by the news that white supremacist Philip Arps is standing for a position on a school board for a multicultural Christchurch school. Arps was sentenced to 21 months’ jail for sharing footage of the Christchurch terror attack.

Tinetti is currently seeking urgent advice about school board elections. The advice relates to a code of conduct being developed by school boards and whether or not the eligibility component of that code can be afforded more heft via legislation.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

‘Slave-like conditions’: Ex-Gloriavale members heading to court

gloriavale

Former Gloriavale members are headed to the Employment Court today, in a bid to prove they were forced to live in slave-like conditions and not remunerated fairly for work.

As RNZ reported, the six women have alleged they only received one morning off work every eight days and just one week of leave per year. They were not paid in cash, but provided food and accommodation at the elusive commune. If they refused to work, they would be subject to severe consequences including denial of food or public shaming.

The “work” began as soon as they finished Gloriavale’s school at the age of 15.

The women’s case aims to prove that they were employees and not “volunteers” during their time at Gloriavale.

“The thrust of the plaintiffs’ case is that they and all women in Gloriavale live in ‘slave-like conditions’,” court documents read.

Gloriavale leaders have denied the claim, saying the women could choose to work or leave the commune if they wanted.