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blog march 30


Daily Covid cases trending down

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 30, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The latest

  • There have been 14 more Covid-related deaths, with 817 people now in hospital with the virus. There are 15,918 new cases.
  • Transmission Gully has opened after years of planning, construction and delays. The first vehicles will be able to use the road tomorrow.
  • The next America’s Cup will not be held in New Zealand, with the regatta shifting to Barcelona.
  • The Foo Fighters have cancelled their world tour, including two New Zealand dates, after the death of band member Taylor Hawkins.
blog march 30

Daily Covid cases trending down

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 30, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The latest

  • There have been 14 more Covid-related deaths, with 817 people now in hospital with the virus. There are 15,918 new cases.
  • Transmission Gully has opened after years of planning, construction and delays. The first vehicles will be able to use the road tomorrow.
  • The next America’s Cup will not be held in New Zealand, with the regatta shifting to Barcelona.
  • The Foo Fighters have cancelled their world tour, including two New Zealand dates, after the death of band member Taylor Hawkins.
Mar 30 2022

Gone By Lunchtime on the beginning of the end of the Covid response

Vaccine mandates, passes and other restrictions are all on the way out. But our Covid numbers are worse than they’ve ever been. Leading pundit-podiologists Annabelle, Ben and Toby do the maths on this week’s Gone By Lunchtime. Plus: David Seymour and Act call for a referendum on Māori co-governance, Louisa Wall quits parliament, and a Solomon Islands defence deal with China causes alarm.

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

The Spinoff’s Pet of the Day: Ronnie and Reggie

From our friends at Pickle’s Pawtraits: Cats, dogs, feathered friends, critters and rodents – our pets, whatever shape they’re in, are our greatest companions. So why not honour your best friend with a personalised portrait?

The passionate team at Pickle’s Pawtraits design custom pet portraits for every animal – from fur to feathers, four legs to two. Digital artworks, prints, mugs, or make every day pet day with personalised stickers (so you can plaster your pet’s face on anything), all available through the Pickle’s Pawtraits website, which you can check out here.

Ronnie and Reggie (Image: Supplied)

Our first dynamic duo, courtesy of Ellen Lear, certainly threw the cats among us judging pigeons. “These cats have done something nefarious and they’ve a plan to do it again,” whimpered one judge. “They are judging the shit out of me and I love it,” said another. “Absolute gangsters,” another judge declared. “Certainly named after the infamous Kray brothers. Don’t get on their bad side imo.”

Some of the judges chose instead to focus on what differentiated Ronnie from Reggie. “Appears to me like a classic case of good cop (Ronnie) and bad cop (Reggie),” said one. “They would absolutely get me to confess to a murder I didn’t commit in less than two minutes, and I’d be glad to pat them all the way to my jail cell.” 

Another summed it up even more elegantly – “Ronnie is putting on the ritz… but Reggie is giving me the shits.” Five stars. 

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. Send your best, funniest, sleepiest, most glistening pet pics to our instagram or 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. Check out Pickle’s Pawtraits website here.

Watch: A Pet Week special edition of FIRST

In celebration of Pet Week on The Spinoff and the brand new season of our webseries FIRST, we’ve compiled a selection of the very best pet stories from the series so far. Examples include the time Simon Bridges accidentally killed his pet axolotl by feeding it “quite a long sliver of meat”, why Ladi6’s dog was maybe racist – and what happened when Creamerie’s Ally Xue didn’t feed her tadpoles.


Check out the complete FIRST box set here.

Leading the transition away from fossil fuels

Z safety, wellbeing and employee relations manager Rupali Patel (Photo: Dean Zillwood)

From our partners ZSince 2011, Z’s brand purpose has been “Z is for New Zealand”. More than a decade later they’re committed to showing that that’s not changed – even as their business and New Zealand changes. Z is moving with the times, evolving to reflect New Zealand’s own changing demographics and committing to put itself at the heart of solutions to challenges like climate change.

While Z is responsible for 9% of New Zealand’s total emissions it believes it is uniquely placed to lead the transition away from fossil fuels. With initiatives like electric vehicle charging stations and ongoing partnerships with organisations like Trees that Count, Z wants to become a true “transport energy company” built for the future.

To read more about how they plan to get there, check out Jihee Junn’s piece about the past, present and future of Z.

Workplace vaccination requirements to reduce as mandates end

PM Ardern getting her second dose of the vaccine, at an event in Hamilton (Getty Images)

Workplace vaccination requirements will be significantly narrowed as mandates largely come to an end from next week.

As of Tuesday, vaccine mandates will only be required for health and disability, aged care, prison and border workforces.

Michael Wood, the minister for workplace relations, said that will mean fewer vaccination requirements in most workplace. “The new workplace guidance is centred on public health advice, which suggests that requiring vaccination in the workplace should only be permitted if its deemed an employee is at higher risk of catching and spreading Covid-19 while at work, than they would otherwise be in the community,” he said.

“Employers may still be able to maintain vaccination requirements where they continue to be supported by a workplace health and safety risk assessment, but the reason will need to be specific to their role and set of circumstances,” he said. “This will “significantly” reduce the use of vaccine requirements in most settings, said Wood, and the circumstances are likely to be “more limited” than they have in the past now that omicron is in the community.

Workplaces should now complete their workplace health and safety risk assessments to determine whether they can retain a vaccination requirement. Wood said regular employment law continues to apply, meaning businesses should be “fair and reasonable” in their employment decisions and “work in good faith with employees and unions” before taking any actions in relation to unvaccinated employees.

More information can be found on the Worksafe website.

Covid-19 latest: 14 more deaths, 817 in hospital, 15,918 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been 14 more deaths of people with Covid-19. These deaths, which include people who died over the past six days, take the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 317 and the seven-day rolling average to 15.

Of the latest deaths, four were from the Auckland region, four from Waikato, one from the Lakes DHB, one from the Wellington region, one from Nelson Marlborough, one from Canterbury, one from South Canterbury and one from Southern.

Five people were in their 70s, six in their 80s and three were in their 90s. One was female and thirteen were male.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said there would continue to be spikes in both case numbers and Covid-related deaths. “The series of peaks and troughs is not unexpected,” he said. “The overall trend is heading down – the seven-day rolling average of cases continues to decline”.

There are now 817 people in hospital, 24 of whom are in intensive care.

Another 15,918 community cases have been confirmed today. Today’s seven day rolling average is 14,969, comparing with an average last Wednesday of 17,111. “It’s encouraging to see case numbers continuing to decline,” said the Ministry of Health.

Next Monday will see further loosening of our Covid restrictions and a review of the traffic light system. Hipkins said he “didn’t want to get ahead” of that review, but said he’d had “some conversations” with the Ministry of Health about it. “I don’t have a firm leaning on where that might end up,” he said, when asked whether a move to orange was possible.

Asked about when, or if, booster doses will be available for children, Hipkins said it was unlikely to be rolled out for the 5-11 group “for some time”. As for 12 to 17s, Hipkins said officials were waiting on the advice from our technical experts. Verrall clarified that a “new application” from Pfizer had been made on the basis there had been further trial information made available.

Rural communities get easier access to rapid antigen tests

Chris Hipkins (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

Rapid antigen tests are being made even more accessible, particularly for our rural communities.

The government has launched a new targeted service that will provide rapid tests to remote areas.

Currently, more than 95% of New Zealanders are within a 20 minute drive of a RAT access point. But Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said that meant 250,000 people were missing out on easy access to testing.

“Now that the purpose of testing has shifted away from trying to find every case, RATs provide intelligence on the spread and size of the outbreak, alert people to the support available to them and help bring a sense of normality to people’s lives, ” said Hipkins

Watch: Chris Hipkins give the Covid-19 update

Associate health minister Ayesha Verrall said that DHBs already have initiatives under way to reach their rural communities, so the service launched this week would connect households up with those initiatives. “If there are no existing initiatives in the area, then the RATs will be couriered directly to the household,” Verrall said.

“A national Māori-led distribution channel has grown in size to 1,000 community partners which include Māori health, social and disability providers, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori, Te Kohanga Reo, marae and most vulnerable Māori.”

There are now 12 approved rapid antigen tests variants in New Zealand, with the “Biocredit Covid-19 Ag Home Test” the most recent added to the list. There are now 31.5 million RATs in stock with a further 48.4 million confirmed for delivery over the next four weeks.

PM, Auckland mayor, disappointed America’s Cup shifting offshore

There’s disappointment from the prime minister and Auckland’s mayor over the news the America’s Cup will next be held in Barcelona.

New Zealand won the regatta last year and it had been hoped that would mean we could defend the Auld Mug on our waters.

Mayor Phil Goff told RNZ that Aucklanders would feel let down. “Every Cup challenger has said to me personally ‘this was a great venue, we’d love to have it back here, this is the place where it should be’ – every contender in the race, that is, except Team New Zealand, which has some irony.”

Despite Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton saying funding was to blame, Jacinda Ardern said the government had offered up enough. “I am disappointed around the decision that’s been made on where the America’s Cup will be held,” she told media today.

Grant Robertson, the sports minister, said the government had been cautious not to get into a bidding war.

“We’d put $136 million into the hosting of America’s Cup 36, and we had an offer on the table of close to $100 million with the Auckland Council. We felt like that was a reasonable offer.”

On the future of Auckland

In today’s Bulletin

Today is Justin Latif’s last day as The Spinoff’s South Auckland editor. He’s been one of this country’s most dedicated local democracy reporters and his enterprising work has helped me better understand the vital region he has covered. Much of New Zealand’s future is in South Auckland and getting it right requires people like Justin. I’ll be sad to see him go. But first, I had to ask him for his thoughts about Auckland. Consider this his exit interview:

“Having reported on Auckland politics for the last decade and a half, including my two year stint here at The Spinoff, I can appreciate the outrage expressed by many towards Auckland council and its departing mayor, including by the smattering of new faces to Auckland’s political scene who are promising to turn things around.

And the city is undoubtedly in a state of flux, as it grapples with a massive infrastructure deficit that is making life in this beautiful region less and less enjoyable.

But what frustrates me is the wilful ignorance in our political discourse, perpetuated by us in the media, that presumes these issues are relatively easy to solve, while requiring virtually no serious investment from central government or ratepayers.

They say Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump invented the “nothing is true and everything is possible” style of politics, but you could argue it’s been plaguing Auckland for generations, given the obsession with keeping rates low, while convincing ourselves we can fix all our issues with another motorway lane.

If Auckland is to move forward, council’s unyielding civil service needs to be brought to heel to some extent. But it’s not going to take more fake bravado or angry rhetoric. While I haven’t agreed with mayor Phil Goff’s approach in all situations, his greatest achievement was his steady determination to unravel and unwind the intransigent attitudes within Auckland council towards any kind of change. The job is clearly not done, so whoever does get the top gig in October will have to be prepared to continue to tackle this beast that is Auckland in a way that unites, collaborates and gets results rather than sows dissension and division.”

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.

Pixies return to NZ in December

The return of live music continues, with alternative rockers Pixies today announcing a three-date tour of New Zealand this December.

It’s a continuation of a tour scuppered by Covid, and includes dates in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. “We are thrilled to be able to announce our return to New Zealand in December following the untimely postponement of some of these shows back in 2020,” said the band in a statement.

In Wellington and Christchurch the band will perform their albums Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa in their entirety, while in Auckland the setlist will comprise songs from across the band’s catalogue – including some brand new tracks.

For complete tour and ticketing information, head to

Business is Boring learns the secrets of metaverse success

We’ve been hearing a lot about the metaverse lately – the virtual worlds some predict we’ll be spending a lot more time in one day. For Sam Ramlu, the co-founder of pioneering VR studio Method, that day is already here. On this week’s Business is Boring, Sam talks to Simon Pound about how we can make sure the metaverse future is better than our tech present.

Follow Business is Boring on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Te Puke extremist released on bail

A grab from video of the police operation near Te Puke.

Richard Sivell, the far-right participant in the parliamentary occupation who was arrested yesterday after a stand-off with police in Te Puke, has been released on bail, according to a voice message he posted online last night. Bail conditions, he said, included not being able to post messages on channels run by the conspiracy theory fuelled outlet Counterspin.

Sivell, who has made numerous demands for the execution of the prime minister, politicians, police, the media and others, said officers had seized his phone, laptop and air rifle, and “ransacked my caravan”. He said the charges were “bullshit”, he was a “man of peace” and that police were “guilty of all the crimes against humanity in history, and that following orders is not an excuse under the Nuremberg code”. 

Police said yesterday a man had been charged with obstructing police after a search warrant was executed in Te Puke and that other charges are under consideration.

Foo Fighters cancel NZ tour after death of band member Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters fans are still waiting for their concert refunds. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Foo Fighters have cancelled all their upcoming tour dates, including two scheduled for New Zealand, after the death of band member Taylor Hawkins.

The band was set to play stadium shows in both Auckland and Wellington this December, alongside local group Dick Move. In a statement published on social media, the Foo Fighters said they need time to grieve. “We’re sorry for and share in the disappointment that we won’t be seeing one another as planned,” the statement read.

Hawkins died last week at the age of 50. According to reports, he had been suffering from chest pain before his death and was later found unresponsive with 10 substances in his system.

The America’s Cup is now Barcelona’s Cup

Kiwi technology at the top of the world (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images).

The next America’s Cup will be held in Barcelona, despite New Zealand taking home the trophy in 2021.

While disappointing for local sailing fans, it’s not entirely unexpected that the 2024 regatta would be held off-shore. Team New Zealand had previously indicated that funding difficulties following the last competition would make it difficult to defend the Auld Mug on our waters.

Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton told Newstalk ZB the team must always come first. “Of course the event is immensely important, but sustaining a team that has the possibility of winning was always our key objective,” he said.

“If you don’t have enough money, and that’s a fact of the America’s Cup, you just crumble and it’s been said you’d be better to lose at home than win offshore. I just can’t get my head around that. The point is if you lose onshore it will never come home. And here’s a chance that we’ll be funded well enough to take a realistic chance of defending it so we can bring it home.”

(Photo by GILLES MARTIN-RAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

Ribbon cut on long-awaited Transmission Gully highway

Transmission Gully in 2020 (Image / NZTA)

The ribbon’s officially been cut on the long-awaited Transmission Gully motorway near Wellington.

The 27 kilometre highway, which connects the capital with Kāpiti and could cut 15 minutes off peak hour commutes, will open to its first vehicles from tomorrow.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the road will transform the Wellington region. “The seven to 15-minute shorter journey for about 25,000 vehicles a day means a productivity gain of 1,640 hours – meaning less time spent in cars and more time at work and with family,” she said.

“This road represents the largest government investment in New Zealand’s infrastructure in a generation.”

It’s been a long road (ha) to get here; Transmission Gully has been mooted for decades and was first committed to by the National government over a decade ago. Construction officially began in 2014 and an opening date has been pushed out several times. Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson blamed National for the delays, citing the “botched” Public Private Partnership.

“We have cleaned up their mess so commuters going in and out of Wellington will finally be able to use the alternative route,” said Robertson. “It’s important we learn from National’s mistakes, and we’ve asked the Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga to revise New Zealand’s PPP guidance to make sure any future PPPs don’t encounter these same issues.”

Transmission Gully includes four new interchanges and 25 major structures including Te Ara a Toa, a 230 metre-long bridge.