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Live UpdatesNov 30 2021

Christopher Luxon confirmed as National’s new leader

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 30. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


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Christopher Luxon confirmed as National’s new leader

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 30. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


Top stories:

Nov 30 2021

Rotorua case visited Wellington, hotel now location of interest

Anyone who visited the Brentwood Hotel in the Wellington suburb of Kilbirnie on November 22 or 23 is being asked to self-monitor for symptoms. According to the ministry of health, a positive case from Rotorua visited the capital during that time. The visit was not listed in the ministry’s daily Covid-19 update and was only detected by The Spinoff when a new location of interest in Wellington was listed by the ministry without fanfare.

The ministry did not provide any further details on when the person was in Wellington, for how long or where else they may have been. A case was detected in Wellington two weeks ago, in someone from Auckland working in the city. This case is unrelated.

‘We are the reset’ – Luxon makes pitch to National voters in first speech

Updated

Christopher Luxon has made a bold pitch to current – and former – National Party voters during his first speech as leader.

Flanked by his new deputy Nicola Willis, the former Air NZ chief called it an “incredible privilege and honour” to have been chosen for the top job.

“Much has been made of my relative newness to Parliament but to be honest, I see it as an advantage,” said Luxon, who was only elected to parliament in October 2020. “I bring a fresh set of eyes, and what I see is that this place and this country needs a shake-up. Nicola and I are fresh new faces for a revitalised National Party.

“We are the reset.”

Luxon said he was drawing a line under the events of the last four years. “If you are one of the 413,000 voters who moved away from us, my message to you is: from today, National is back.”

On repairing relationships in caucus following a series of controversies, Luxon said, “New Zealand’s over it, the National Party is over it and caucus is over it. 

“We are turning the page, putting the baggage aside, trusting each other. We know that will take work but we’re going to do that job incredibly well.”

New Zealand is at a critical cross-roads as we grapple with – and emerge from – Covid-19, said Luxon. “We have a choice: a choice between our current road to mediocrity, or a pathway to a more confident, aspirational and prosperous future,” he said.

“New Zealand needs an alternative now more than ever to take us in the right direction – because frankly, the country is heading the wrong way.”

Luxon has had a dramatic ascent into the role of National leader. Until a week ago, it was widely expected it would be Simon Bridges who would replace Judith Collins in the role. Ultimately, he could not manage the numbers needed within the National caucus and withdrew from the leadership race today.

Luxon told media this evening it was too early to speculate on which roles would be allocated to the likes of his predecessors Collins, Bridges and Todd Muller. He said there would be a role for every member of his caucus. “I am new to politics, and yes, I may make some mistakes along the way and I think that’s actually good,” he said. “But we have a team that is backing us up with complementary skills.”

Bridges, in particular, had a “key” role to play going forward, said Luxon.

On the place of his faith in parliament, Luxon said: “My faith has often been misrepresented and portrayed very negatively. My faith is actually something that has grounded me… I want to be very clear, we have separation between politics and faith. People shouldn’t be selecting an MP because of their faith and they shouldn’t not be selecting an MP because of their faith.”

Luxon said he was here to represent all New Zealanders, not just people of one faith or one interest.

“We’re going to build a high-performance team and make sure we have complementary skills. I come from a corporate world and an outside world, Nicola’s done incredible things in a political world for a very long time.”

Asked “who is Christopher Luxon”, he replied: “I’m a wannabe DIY guy, I spend too much time at Bunnings… I love waterskiing and I love country music, and that’s not cool to say and I apologise to New Zealand for saying it. I’m an extrovert and fundamentally I know how to lead people and how to lead teams.”

On speculation that former prime minister John Key had been working the phones behind the scenes, Luxon said that was false. He called the rumours “frustrating”.

“I am not John Key. I am Christopher Luxon,” he said.

Watch live: Luxon and Willis to speak

Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis will make their first official address as the new National Party leadership team at 4.15pm. The pair will speak from parliament’s banquet hall – a somewhat non-traditional location for a debut press conference.

You can tune into live coverage below or we’ll have rolling updates when they begin to speak.

Confirmed: Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis to lead National

It’s official: Christopher Luxon is the new leader of the National Party. He takes over from interim leader Shane Reti, who replaced Judith Collins last Thursday.

Nicola Willis, from National’s more liberal wing, will be Luxon’s deputy.

“It is a tremendous privilege to lead our great party, and I thank my colleagues for the confidence they have placed in me,” Luxon said in a statement. “I’m delighted the caucus has elected Nicola Willis as deputy leader. She will do an incredible job and we will be a formidable team.”

Luxon said the National Party he leads will be “unified” and “work every day to represent all New Zealanders, earn back their trust and confidence, and deliver for them”.

He added: “Now, more than ever, New Zealand needs the National Party to offer them hope, ambition and drive to meet the challenges of the coming decade.”

Luxon has ascended to become leader of a major political party quicker than anyone else in our political history: just 409 days. He was elected to the Botany electorate in the 2020 election.

“I came to politics because I know how to solve problems and get things done,” said Luxon. “I have built a career out of reversing the fortunes of under-performing companies and I’ll bring that real-world experience to this role.

 “We are the new National Party that New Zealand needs.”

Luxon and Willis will make their first official address at a 4.15pm press conference.

Who the hell is Christopher Luxon?

A very reasonable question! Let’s try and answer it for you.

Christopher Luxon is:

  • About to become the next leader of the National Party. He’s set to be formally elected during a caucus meeting happening right this moment. Simon Bridges dropped out of the leadership race earlier this afternoon.
  • 51-years-old. He was born in 1970.
  • A former Air New Zealand chief executive. He left the company in 2019 with clear hints he was planning a move into politics.
  • A very new MP. He was only elected in the 2020 election. It’s the shortest ascension to leader in our political history, topping Don Brash who became leader after 15 months in parliament.
  • A close friend of former PM John Key. The pair keep in close contact.
  • An evangelical Christian. Luxon has taken socially conservative stances on several issues, including abortion, euthanasia and cannabis law reform.
  • Gloriously bald. Just, stunning.

Christopher Luxon is not:

  • Matt Doocey.

Justin Giovannetti: Deeply divided National rallies behind Luxon

National MPs rolled into parliament today promising that this would be a “good day” for the party and that unity would erase the divisions of the past week. Behind the well-practiced smiles and assurances of the opposition’s politicians, there were deep divisions between two camps forming within National: MPs backing the return of a more relaxed Simon Bridges and those looking to bet the party’s future on an untested rookie in Chris Luxon.

The division grew comical just after lunch when it appeared that the party had booked two venues for the future leader to speak at this afternoon. Chairs and flags were set up at the Beehive’s banquet hall, a large and somewhat cold space used for events and big announcements, as requested by Team Luxon. While more chairs and flags were ready at parliament’s legislative council chamber, an ornate room often used by the opposition leader, for Team Bridges.

Before the divisions could grow wider, Bridges threw his support behind Luxon just before 2pm. Reflecting whispers that he was a few MPs short of Luxon and wasn’t likely to win the leadership in a deeply divided party. It’s likely we’ll learn in a few hours what Bridges was offered for his support. Luxon is now set to become the head of a major party faster than anyone else in New Zealand history, first entering parliament as an MP only 409 days ago. 

(Radio NZ, Dan Cook)

Today’s key Covid-19 numbers

Here’s a look at how the outbreak’s shaping up as we head ever closer toward this Friday’s shift to the traffic light system.

Luxon set to be next National leader after Bridges exits the race

Simon Bridges has announced he’s withdrawing from the National Party leadership contest, paving the way for Christopher Luxon to get the top job.

In a tweet, Bridges said he will now be backing Luxon. “He will make a brilliant National leader,” he wrote.

Until last week, it had been widely understood that Bridges was planning to mount a leadership challenge against Judith Collins. However, his image was left tarnished after Collins dramatically demoted Bridges due to historic inappropriate comments.

National’s caucus will now meet at 3pm to formally vote Luxon into his new role and to determine a deputy.

134 new Covid-19 cases, another two confirmed in Nelson area

There are 134 new community cases of Covid-19 today. The majority, 116, are in Auckland. One is in Northland, eight are in Waikato and six are in Bay of Plenty.

So far, 71 of these cases remain unlinked to the wider outbreak. There are now 933 mystery cases from the past fortnight.

There are also two additional cases in Nelson-Tasman region, bringing the number of cases in the region to three. However: “due to a technical error, these three confirmed cases in Nelson-Tasman will be officially included in our figures tomorrow,” said the Ministry of Health.

“All three cases are in isolation, with investigations into the source of infection ongoing. So far, initial case interviews have identified a small number of close contacts, who are also isolating with testing arranged.”

There are now 89 people in hospital with Covid-19, a slight decrease from yesterday. Nine people are in intensive care.

Today’s case details

In Northland, today’s new case has been confirmed in Kaitaia. Public health interviews are under way to identify a link.

There are eight new cases in Waikato: four are in Te Kūiti, one in Huntly, one in Hamilton, one in Ngāruawāhia, and one in Te Awamutu. Five of today’s cases have been linked to previous cases and the remaining three are under investigation.

Finally, there are nine new cases in the Bay of Plenty. Of these cases, one is in the Whakatāne district, three are in Tauranga city, and five are in the wider Western Bay of Plenty.

“All are close contacts of previously reported cases and were already isolating at home when they tested positive,” said the ministry.

More active than recovered Covid cases for the first time in 19 months

The total number of active Covid-19 cases in New Zealand has overtaken the number of recovered cases for the first time since April 15 2020.

It comes two days before the alert level system is formally dumped and restrictions ease around the country as we move into the new traffic light framework.

New Covid-19 cases have routinely been around the 180-220 mark each day for the past few weeks despite the ongoing loosening of restrictions ahead of the summer break.

We’re still awaiting today’s Covid-19 cases.

The best way to read The Spinoff

As you will have noticed, The Spinoff has had a glow up – a full redesign and incredibly fast new platform across mobile and desktop (read Toby Morris explaining it here). What’s even better is our two amazing new apps, one for iPhone, the other Android. They’re probably the best way to stay across everything we’re doing – and if you turn on push notifications you’ll get the Covid-19 numbers as soon as they come out, plus our best story of the day, every day. Plus they’re totally free.

Today’s Covid-19 numbers expected via written statement

As always for a Tuesday, we’re expecting today’s Covid-19 numbers from the Ministry of Health some time around the time of 1pm. I say “some time” because anyone else who attentively follows the daily updates will know that 1pm is a very loose deadline.

Today’s numbers are due in a written statement and I’ll have all the details roughly between the hours of 1pm and 2pm (or at least, hopefully before we have a new National leader).

Keep the live updates refreshed for all the latest.

Grace period for some expired driver licences

Driver licences that expired on or after July 21 will now be valid through until the end of May next year.

Transport minister Michael Wood said the extension was a small way to take something off people’s to do list while Covid uncertainty remained.

“The extension doesn’t change the responsibility of drivers to be medically fit to drive, comply with relevant restrictions and conditions on their licence and obey all road rules. Any licence suspensions and disqualifications will also continue to apply,” Wood said.

The move follows an earlier decision by the government to extend warrants of fitness, certificates of fitness and vehicle registration until November 30. This date has not been extended, said Wood, as people have been able to get their WoFs, CoFs and regos under the alert level system.

National MPs stay mum ahead of close leadership vote

National MPs are keeping their cards to themselves as they land in Wellington for a day of tense closed doors decision-making.

From 3pm, a meeting of the 33-strong National caucus will elect the new party leader. It’s understood to be a near gridlock currently between former leader Simon Bridges and ex-Air NZ head Christopher Luxon.

Judith Collins, who was voted out of the job by the same caucus last week, had no comment for reporters as she landed in Wellington today. “I am really looking forward to a good day today for the National Party,” she told a Newshub reporter.

Meanwhile, Nicola Willis – believed to be a possible running mate for Luxon – said she wouldn’t be making a comment “out of respect for her colleagues”. She followed that no comment with a brief comment: “Today is going to be a good day for National.”

Todd McClay had a similar view, surprisingly, telling RNZ that today was a “great day to select a new leader for the National Party”.

The closest to a genuine insight ahead of today’s vote came from Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger. She said she was “worried” about what went down last week. “That wasn’t where we needed to be and I’m sure this afternoon that we’ll come out with a decision that works us into a good place whoever wins,” she said. “We’ve got an election to win in 2023 and I’m confident that we can do that … with anyone that we choose today it will be achievable. We will be on track for 2023.”

All I know is: it’s going to be a great day for National.

Freedom camping rules tightened

The government’s moving to tighten rules for freedom campers.

Following public consultation, new legislation will soon be tabled that will set “minimum expectations” for campers. That will include requiring fixed toilets for vehicles staying on council land and fines for breaking the rules will be increased.

Tourism minister Stuart Nash said at the heart of the new law will be greater respect for the environment and communities.  “Higher standards must be met before vehicles can be certified as truly self-contained with fixed toilets. Abuses in the past included campers slapping bogus blue stickers on vehicles to falsely claim compliance,” he said.

“Abuse of freedom camping by domestic and international travellers not only damages our ‘100% pure’ brand, it erodes public support for tourism and undermines its social licence to operate.”

Under the new rules:

  • Freedom campers will need to be in a certified self-contained vehicle to stay overnight on land managed by local councils, unless the council has designated the area for non-certified vehicles.
  • Freedom campers can continue to stay overnight in tents, where permitted.
  • Fines and penalties will be hiked up to a maximum of $1000, replacing the current $200 fine.
  • A new regulatory system will be introduced to enable vehicles to be certified as self-contained. To be certified as self-contained, a vehicle will need a fixed toilet.
  • Certification will be overseen by agents authorised by the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board.

Toby Manhire on the countdown to caucus

“It’s close.” That’s what one National MP told me this morning ahead of the critical 3pm caucus meeting that will elect – or confirm – the next leader of the party. It’s become clear that there are two in the running, the reinvented Simon Bridges versus the cleanskin Chris Luxon (quick, somebody add a couple of letters to a Lux soap bar). 

I argued earlier today that the welter of “only a coronation will do otherwise they’ll look disunified” punditry is overegged. As long as both contenders are committed to supporting the other should they come second, there’s no reason a vote augurs bloodletting. In lieu of speeches, they could just play these two videos on the caucus big screen and let the MPs choose. 

 

A deal is still preferable for the party, and there’s a reasonable chance that both are waiting till this afternoon to take stock and have a chat. It is, remember, a small caucus: there are only 33 MPs, and once you remove those who are clearly in one camp or the other there are relatively few to count. Another incentive for both Luxon and Bridges to square it off before the bell rings at 3pm: who’s to say, if it were to go to a vote, a third hat might not fly into the ring? They’ll presumably vote in rounds, making a split vote less of a danger, but it’s not totally out of the question that a third candidate could come through the middle. 

Northland iwi considering border checkpoint for summer

Holidaymakers heading to top tourist destinations in Northland could face opposition from local iwi.

1News has reported that Te Tii Waitangi ki Te Pēwhairangi are considering reestablishing their Covid-19 border in time for when Aucklanders can freely leave the city on December 15. It would likely not stop all travel into the region; the border would run from south of Opua down to the Russell Ferry, and Puketona in the north-east. But that would stop people visiting areas like Waitangi and Paihia.

In an email, sent to government officials, the iwi said they would like to work collaboratively with officials. “At this point in time we cannot emphasise the need for as much support as you are able to provide to enable the protection of our communities in these trying times,” the email said.

Northland will be moving into the “red” setting of the traffic light framework from this Friday, meaning vaccine passes will be widely required but gatherings can still go ahead.

NZME buys BusinessDesk for $3.5m

NZME – the owners of the Herald and Newstalk ZB – has acquired online publication BusinessDesk. 

Announced today, the purchase was for an initial $3.5m payable on completion of the initial sale followed by a further $1.5m if targets are met by the end of 2023.

BusinessDesk first launched in 2008 as a newswire service before launching its paid subscription offering in 2020. It has more than 10,000 subscribers.

The purchase will see BusinessDesk and the Herald’s business section combine to around 35 journalists across the two platforms. However, BusinessDesk’s online subscription offering will remain.

 

The Bulletin: A red and orange summer

New Zealand’s plan for summer. The country will wake up on Friday morning to a new traffic light system designed to manage Covid-19 for the foreseeable future. Most Aucklanders will emerge to a new measure of personal freedom under a red level and the end of a lockdown that has lasted 15 weeks. However for hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated New Zealanders, both in Auckland and across the motu, Friday will mark the start of significant restrictions going forward. Alice Neville has written for The Spinoff about yesterday’s announcement by the prime minister of which regions will be headed into the orange and red levels. In short, the South Island and lower North Island will be orange, while the upper half of the North Island is largely red. Jacinda Ardern confirmed that no part of the country will go to the green level this summer.

Cabinet will review the settings in two weeks, on December 13, and then they are likely to remain frozen until January 17.

This summer you need to “mask, scan and pass”. As a quick reminder, red is similar to level two when vaccine passes are used, which means capacity limits and social distancing. At orange, there are no limits when vaccine passes are used. Once the Auckland border opens on December 15 for those who are fully vaccinated or recently tested, most New Zealanders will be free to travel around the country regardless of what level a region is in. According to Newshub, some rules of the system were modified in recent days for unvaccinated people, but the overall traffic lights haven’t changed much.

This is part of The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s must-read daily news wrap. To sign up for free, simply enter your email address below.

 

Simon Bridges: ‘It’s going to be a really good day for the National Party’

Hopeful National leader Simon Bridges has spoken to media after arriving in Wellington ahead of this afternoon’s vote.

He told Newshub that today was going to be “a good day, a really good day for the National Party”. Bridges chose not to answer the question of what made him better than his leadership rival Christopher Luxon.

“We are going to be able to draw a line on what has gone on in the past, get united, and really take it to the government, focus on what matters to New Zealanders and win the next election,” he said.

Reports today suggest Bridges may lose out to Luxon due to the support from former leader Judith Collins and her group of close supporters. Political commentator and Gone by Lunchtime co-host Ben Thomas told Newshub that was not a good endorsement for Luxon.

“I think it would be a significant strategic mistake for either contender to be elected by a vote and it would be disastrous if they were only elected because of the support of Judith Collins and her faction,” he said.

Leader of the opposition Simon Bridges delivers his speech in the house, Budget 2020. (
Photo: Getty Images)

Luxon v Bridges? Decision day for National MPs

National MPs will meet this afternoon to vote on their new leader, less than a week after the explosive departure of Judith Collins.

Media reports indicate that it’s currently a two horse race behind former party leader Simon Bridges and newbie MP Christopher Luxon. According to the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan, numbers appear to be firming around the latter (thanks in part to Collins and her close supporters backing him).

Then there’s the question of deputy: earlier reports claimed Luxon was looking to Nicola Willis, from the party’s liberal wing. Since then, some have proposed that Luxon team up with Bridges, a bit like how John Key and Bill English unified before going on to form a successful pair. Willis played a fairly major role in the coup against Bridges last year.

Either way, National will want to get in behind its new leader as quickly as it can. Toby Manhire, writing for The Spinoff today, said: “For Camp Luxon, the argument goes: we can’t risk more of the same, another round of Simon Bridges. Those in Camp Bridges can counter: quite right, we can’t risk more of the same, we can’t risk another round of Todd Muller. What they most of all can’t risk, of course, is another round of bloodletting, and to be sure to avoid that they need each other.”

If the party makes up its mind before the 3pm caucus meeting, it’s possible we could have a result within the hour. A more likely scenario is that this thing drags into the evening and goes to a vote.

We’ll have a livestream, and coverage, this afternoon.