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LIVE UPDATES

Ardern meets her Finnish counterpart

It’s November 30 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • Jacinda Ardern has met with Finnish PM Sanna Marin for a bilateral discussion in Auckland.
  • A permanent successor to Ashley Bloomfield for director general of health has been confirmed.
  • New Zealand’s housing market has meant next year’s season of The Block NZ has been bumped to 2024.
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Ardern meets her Finnish counterpart

It’s November 30 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – made possible by our members. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • Jacinda Ardern has met with Finnish PM Sanna Marin for a bilateral discussion in Auckland.
  • A permanent successor to Ashley Bloomfield for director general of health has been confirmed.
  • New Zealand’s housing market has meant next year’s season of The Block NZ has been bumped to 2024.
Nov 30 2022

Nicky Hager wins apology and $40,000 compensation from NZ spy agency

Nicky Hager at the launch of Dirty Politics in 2014. Photo: Ballofstring/Wikimedia

The Security Intelligence Service has agreed to issue a public apology and pay $40,000 compensation and $26,400 in legal costs to investigative journalist Nicky Hager over the unlawful capture of call logs from his phone. It follows a 2019 ruling by the spy agency watchdog, the IGIS, which determined the SIS, at the behest of the NZ Defence Force, had breached the law in seeking to ascertain Hager’s sources for the book Other People’s Wars.

The 2011 book was the first to draw attention to civilian deaths during 2010’s Operation Burnham in  Tirgiran Valley, Afghanistan, a theme pursued in Hit & Run, published in 2017, which in turn led to a government inquiry.

“NZSIS apologises unreservedly for breaching Mr Hager’s rights,” said the agency in a statement shared by Hager’s lawyers. “Its conduct fell short of its own expectations.”

“I am pleased with this result,” said Hager in a statement. “However, much more needs to be done to prevent unlawful actions by bodies such as the NZSIS. Our intelligence services repeatedly claim that they have become more transparent and more careful to obey the law. But when I requested information from the NZSIS director Rebecca Kitteridge about the suspected NZSIS help to find my sources, she refused to confirm or deny the existence or nonexistence of the information. Ms Kitteridge went on to deny any wrongdoing before the Inspector-General. She claimed that the NZSIS was justified in using its powers as it was investigating espionage, and that my actions prejudiced national security.”

“This is an important result for journalism”, said Hager’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer. “Our intelligence services are given substantial powers for use to protect New Zealand from harm. Those powers cannot be used to go after a journalist’s sources just because the government does not like what that journalist is saying.”

In 2018, the Crown apologised to Hager and paid “substantial” damages over a police raid of his home that followed the 2014 publication of Dirty Politics, a book which drew on hacked material provided by an unnamed source.

Nicky Hager at the launch of Dirty Politics in 2014. Photo: Ballofstring/Wikimedia

NZ’s terror threat level drops to lowest since March 15 attack

Rebecca Kitteridge and Jacinda Ardern at the release of the Royal Commission of Inquiry in relation to the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques in December 2020. Photo: Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

New Zealand’s terror threat level has dropped to low – the first time it has been at that level since the March 15 mosque attacks in Christchurch more than three years ago.

As Stuff reported, that means the risk of a terror attack on our shores has dropped down from the medium level of “feasible and could well occur” to “a realistic possibility”.

In a statement, director general of the SIS, Rebecca Kitteridge, said the lowering of the threat level was a positive sign but it did not mean an attack was impossible.

“An attack remains a realistic possibility and individuals of concern are still being investigated by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service,” she said.

“There will be no decrease in the effort made by NZSIS to detect and investigate violent extremism.”

Australia’s terror threat level has also dropped this week – down from “probable” to “possible”.

The Block NZ postponed due to ‘challenging’ housing market

The contestants on The Block NZ: Redemption (Design: Tina Tiller)

Three’s staple reality series The Block NZ won’t air in 2023 as originally planned. Instead, a local version of Australian reno show House Rules has been commissioned.

In a statement, Warner Bros Discovery’s Vicki Keogh said that the “challenging” housing market had made it necessary to push back The Block NZ. “We’ve been monitoring the housing market very closely and due to the ongoing challenges that are occurring, we have made the tough but necessary decision to postpone the show to 2024 to give contestants and the show the best chance of success,” she said.

This year’s Block NZ season ended with just two houses out of four selling – and the winners making just $4,000 profit before prize money.

“We know our audiences love a good home reno show and are delighted to announce that we have commissioned a local version of House Rules, another much loved format that we look forward to adapting for our audiences in 2023,” said Keogh.

House Rules involves five teams of two hand over the keys to their own properties. The teams are then tasked with renovating their fellow competitors’ houses.

Marin’s ‘special request’ to visit NZ, meet with Ardern

Finland PM Sanna Marin meets Jacinda Ardern in Auckland (Photo by DIEGO OPATOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern has wrapped her meeting with Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin.

The two met for the first time this morning at Auckland’s government house for what, by all accounts, was a cordial and productive engagement. After a pōwhiri welcome, the two smiled and shook hands on the lawns of government house before heading inside for a bilateral meeting.

Ardern said it was “wonderful to welcome [Marin and her] delegation to Aotearoa” and was pleased the rain stopped for the official welcome. “This is the first visit of a prime minister from Finland and so it is a deep honour for us,” added Ardern.

According to Marin, it was her own “special request” to visit New Zealand and meet Ardern, adding that the two had “a lot in common”.

Finland PM Sanna Marin meets Jacinda Ardern in Auckland (Photo by DIEGO OPATOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

In an official statement following the bilateral meeting, Ardern said the two leaders discussed the shared values of New Zealand and Finland, especially regarding human rights, gender equality and climate change.

“Boosting our trade relationships with partners has been a major part of our reconnecting work and economic recovery plan this year,” said Ardern. “Having concluded the new Europe Union FTA earlier this year, we welcomed the commitment from Finland to ensure the agreement is ratified and signed as soon as possible.”

She added: “Lifting our exports lifts the livelihoods and economic security of all New Zealanders. Prime minister Marin and I also discussed that trade should build prosperity for all, support efforts to address the challenge of climate change, encourage sustainable development, and help businesses of all sizes to grow.”

New director general of health confirmed

Diana Sarfati with Jacinda Ardern and David Clark (Image / Wikipedia Jujansen)

Diana Sarfati has been appointed director general of health, a role she has held in an acting capacity since the departure of Ashley Bloomfield earlier this year.

It comes at a crucial time for the ministry as it adjusts to the new health system and prepares for a potential new summer wave of Covid infections.

The deputy public service commissioner Helene Quilter said that Sarfati had a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the health system. “She is a respected and skilled senior leader with a public sector, clinical and academic background,” said Quilter.

“She is very knowledgeable about the health reforms and is dedicated to improving equity of outcomes in the health system.”

During her time as acting director general, Sarfati has focused on implementing and embedding the health system reforms. Previously, Sarfati was chief executive of the Cancer Control Agency.

Diana Sarfati (centre) with Jacinda Ardern and David Clark (Image / Wikipedia Jujansen)

Netflix shares trailer for White Island eruption documentary

whakaari

This morning Netflix shared the trailer to its White Island eruption documentary, The Volcano: Rescue from Whakaari, which chronicles the minute-by-minute accounts of the eruption in 2019.

The film comes from Academy Award-nominated director Rory Kennedy (The Last Days of Vietnam, The Ghosts of Ahu Grahib), is executive produced by Ron Howard and Leonardo DiCaprio, and was made in collaboration with the local community. Through first-hand video and audio by those on the island and surrounding area, the film depicts the tragic moments of those caught in the eruption and the survivors and the everyday people who came to their rescue.

Twenty-two people died as a result of the eruption, and the event resulted in WorkSafe filing numerous charges against both individuals and organisations. The documentary follows an hour-long film by Three in 2020 and a significant amount of media coverage.

The Volcano: Rescue from Whakaari will be released on Netflix on December 16.

The Bulletin: Te Whatu Ora headed to court over baby requiring heart surgery

The Herald is reporting that Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand is heading to court to seek guardianship of a baby in need of heart surgery. The child’s parents are refusing to allow blood from people vaccinated against Covid to be used in the operation.

Court records show documents were filed with the Auckland High Court on Monday and Te Whatu Ora is listed as the applicant for proceedings set down for today.

Professor Nikki Turner of Auckland University’s Immunisation Advisory Centre said Covid was widespread in New Zealand and that would be reflected in the nation’s blood. “Almost all blood in New Zealand will have Covid antibodies in them so unless you’re going to refuse all blood, I can’t imagine how you’ll get round this,” she said.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 37,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.

Jacinda Ardern meets with Finnish PM

Finnish PM Sanna Marin speaks at COP27 Photo by Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern is meeting face-to-face for the first time with her Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin.

It’s the first official visit by a Finnish prime minister to New Zealand, and comes in the wake of ongoing negotiations over a free trade deal with the European Union.

Marin arrived in the country yesterday and is here until December 1.

According to the official schedule, Marin and Ardern will hold a bilateral meeting this morning at Government House, followed by a press conference together. There will then be an organised photo opportunity for gathered media.

I’ll be with the two prime ministers throughout the morning and you can expect to read a bit more about what went on at Government House later on The Spinoff.

Finnish PM Sanna Marin speaks at COP27 Photo by Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance via Getty Images)