blog sept 1

PoliticsSeptember 1, 2021

Live updates, September 1: Robertson and Collins in war of words, 75 new cases of Covid-19, over 40 locations added

blog sept 1

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 1, with Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send any tips, thoughts or memes to stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. Want to help support our Covid-19 coverage? Click here to learn how you can back The Spinoff today.

What you need to know

5.30pm: Auckland’s first marae drive-through vaccination centre opens

Earlier today, Auckland’s first marae drive-through vaccination centre opened in Papakura. The new centre aims to vaccinate 300 people a day, expanding to 500 once fully operational. Matt Hannant, vaccination programme director of NRHCC (Northern Region Health Coordination Centre) said the initiative is “part of our continuing focus on supporting our Māori and Pacific communities, particularly those living in south Auckland in close proximity to the border.”

He also said the drive-through model was proving “really successful” in terms of increasing vaccination numbers, and that all current sites will continue to operate until at least the end of level four lockdown. The Airport Park and Ride drive-through in Māngere has vaccinated over 33,100 people in eight days, and the Trusts Arena drive-through has vaccinated 8,300 people since last Wednesday. Additional drive-through locations in Auckland are currently being considered.

4.30pm: Over 40 new locations of interest in Auckland added

The Ministry of Health has added 45 locations of interest in Auckland, including a large number of new supermarkets. These include Countdown Mt Roskill, Countdown Papatoetoe, Countdown Ponsonby, Countdown Three Kings, Countdown Warkworth and Farro Fresh Grey Lynn. In the 1pm briefing this afternoon, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the supermarkets were being added out of an abundance of caution and are deemed low risk, but people should still check the website and keep an eye out for symptoms. The times have also been changed for a number of locations, see the full list of updates here.

4.15pm: Aucklanders affected by floods reminded of alert level four conditions

Following yesterday’s severe flooding, affected Aucklanders are being told to stay mindful of level four restrictions wherever possible. “If you have burst your bubble as a result of yesterday’s weather event, please do keep a record of where you have been and who with, wear a face-covering when with people outside of your bubble and try to keep a physical distance where possible,” Auckland Emergency Management deputy controller Rachel Kelleher said in press release earlier this afternoon. 

Day two of the response has been focused around assessing the damage and establishing the level of outstanding need in the community. As reported by the NZ Herald, 50 homes were evacuated after the storm hit Auckland overnight on August 30, bringing with it the biggest downpour in the region since 2017. West Auckland’s Kumeū, Huapai, Rānui, Piha and Henderson Valley experiencing the largest downpours were hit the hardest by the storm, with access issues remaining today in and out of Te Henga and Bethells Beach. 

To concerned residents in these areas, the welfare team remains available to contact on 0800 22 22 00 and the two Civil Defence Centres at 6 Henderson Valley and the Kumeu Community Centre also remain open until 6pm today for those needing shelter.

3.30pm: ‘Tetchiness’ on full display as Robertson and Collins face off

“Tetchiness” – a word I thought was made up – was the word of the day during parliament’s second day under strict pandemic restrictions.

Kicking things off, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson took aim at the opposition for forcing parliament to be held in person, in Wellington. “The staff of the parliamentary service… have had to leave their bubble, including during an alert level four day, to come into this parliament to enable it to operate,” he said. “Sadly… they have to come here because of the selfishness of the opposition of this parliament, because Judith Collins decided to ignore a proposal that was developed in part by her colleague Chris Bishop that would have seen a virtual parliament.”

Collins, in response, labelled Robertson’s speech “smug and contemptuous” and called out Robertson for having ministerial staff working in the Beehive – a claim that Robertson denied. “Somebody’s a bit tetchy today, a little bit touchy,” replied Collins. “He loves to throw the dirt and the accusations and he does not like any of it coming back to him.”

The government should, Collins said, be focusing on things like the vaccine rollout and ICU beds. Instead, she claimed, they were spending their time attacking her. The evidence for this was that Labour’s Pacific Island vice president Jerome Mika had been quoted by Stuff calling out Collins for a lack of engagement with the Pasifika community. “That’s the level that they stoop to when they should be doing their job… they’re after the personal attacks,” Collins said.

Later, Collins labelled this year the “year of the lockdown” and said New Zealand can “barely see the queue” from our position on the world vaccine ranking. The “green school” (remember that!) also got a mention.

Up next, Chris Hipkins said: “It’s certainly clear there’s some tetchiness in the debating chamber today… I’m not sure it’s the minister of finance who’s most exhibiting that.”

I’m exhausted.

You can watch the full exchange here.

Leader of the Opposition of New Zealand Judith Collins speaks at her press conference at Parliament

2.50pm: Some lockdown podcast picks

Another extract from this week’s Rec Room newsletter, providing some aural options to get you through lockdown. Here are a few picks from The Spinoff Podcast Network.

On When the Facts Change [Apple | Spotify], Bernard Hickey looked at the ethics of big businesses taking advantage of the wage subsidy scheme.

On The Fold [Apple | Spotify], Duncan Greive spoke with writer Danyl Mclauchlan about postjournalism, effective altruism and Simon Bridges.

Dietary Requirements [Apple | Spotify] chatted to Kelda Hains (Rita) Dominique McMillan (Floriditas) about the future of hospitality in part two of a live Wellington on a Plate special.

Gone By Lunchtime [Apple | Spotify] hopped back on Zoom for another late night lockdown extravaganza.

Business is Boring [Apple | Spotify] chatted to Maggie Marilyn designer and founder Maggie Hewitt about making environmentally conscious fashion.

And The Real Pod [Apple | Spotify] continued to fill your level four with chat about The Block NZ and other stuff.

Read more and subscribe to Rec Room here

2.15pm: The delta outbreak, by age

The number of young people with Covid-19 continues to grow, with 180 people between the ages of 20 and 29 now part of the current delta outbreak.

There are also 87 Covid-positive children between the ages of 0-9 and 170 between 10 and 19-years-old.

2.05pm: Opposition to grill PM on Covid response, vaccine rollout

Another day, another question time. Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern are going face-to-face on the government's Covid-19 response and the vaccine rollout.

You can watch here.

1.50pm: Politicking over parliament's return 'disappointing' – Hipkins

Chris Hipkins has called the politics around the return of parliament, while the rest of the country is forced to work from home, "disappointing".

Parliament resumed yesterday under strict restrictions and with very few MPs present in the house. The decision to return to the Beehive was made after opposition pushback to a virtual parliament model that would have allowed all MPs to Zoom in from home.

Hipkins, who is leader of the house, said he understood why the opposition wanted parliament to sit – but was unhappy with how it had played out."I passionately believe in parliamentary democracy, I believe that scrutiny is important," he said. "I try and make myself available to [be questioned] for as many of those opportunities as possible because it is important... There are ways to do those things safely without requiring MPs to travel all over the country."

National's Judith Collins has copped flack for travelling from Auckland to Wellington for parliament. Hipkins said: "As to whether or not [the opposition] feel that they should travel around the country I would simply note that no Labour members have felt fit to travel [to Wellington] for question time."

Despite what National may have claimed, Hipkins said at no point was the Epidemic Response Committee proposed as an alternative to parliament sitting. "They wanted both," he said.

1.25pm: Pause on MIQ bookings to be extended 'for a few weeks'

A pause on new MIQ bookings will be extended for a few weeks, Chris Hipkins has revealed.

“I acknowledge that that is not easy for New Zealanders abroad who are looking to come home,” said Hipkins. He called on them to be patient and confirmed that it would not pause emergency allocations for those who urgently needed to return to New Zealand.

Some RSE workers will be deferred to ease pressure on the system, he added.

The new MIQ booking system will operate differently, said Hipkins, after widespread criticism of the current format. The updated website will include a “virtual lobby” feature meaning that it will no longer be a matter of being quickest to push the button, said Hipkins. But: "it will not fix the overall issue of supply and demand”.

The change will make bookings more transparent and easy for people, and create a more level playing field.

1.20pm: Vaccine rollout hits 3.5 million dose milestone

As of last night, 3.5 million doses of vaccine have been administered in New Zealand, said Hipkins. Almost 2.3 million people have now had at least one dose, or around 54% of the eligible population. "This is a significant milestone," said Hipkins.

Yesterday alone saw 84,971 doses administered.

Around 37% of the Māori population and around 47% of the Pasifika population have had at least one dose of the vaccine. These figures show that we still have an “ethnicity challenge”, said Hipkins.

1.9 million future bookings are in the system, meaning 68% of New Zealanders 12+ are now booked in for a jab or have already had one. 83% of those over 40 have now booked in or have had at least one dose, said Hipkins, issuing a challenge to younger New Zealanders. As of this morning, anyone over 12 has become eligible for the vaccine.

“I’ve been pleased to see the rates of vaccination in Māori and Pasifika have doubled in recent weeks, and additional funding is going out,” said Bloomfield.

Existing supply of vaccines will be focused on Auckland and on those who have already booked in, said Hipkins. An update on the plan for this will be given in the next few days.

1.10pm: Charting the delta outbreak

1.05pm: Big jump in delta outbreak with 75 new cases confirmed

Updated

There are 75 new community Covid-19 cases, a significant bump when compared with the past two days. Of those, 74 are in Auckland and one is in Wellington – a household contact of an existing case, who has been in self-isolation.

Today's new cases push the delta outbreak up to 687 cases, including 16 in the capital.

Speaking at parliament, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said while health officials will be "watching carefully" the bump in new cases is not unexpected. Today's new cases include a number of close contacts who had just received their day 12 test and follows a slower testing weekend.

57% of yesterday’s 49 cases were household contacts of cases, Bloomfield said, and 75% didn’t create any exposure events (meaning 25% were infectious in the community).

The R value continues to be promising, and there’s a 90% probability it will remain under one in the coming days, meaning the number of cases should decline. There are 32 people in hospital, with eight in intensive care. Three are on ventilators.

On testing, Bloomfield said there were around 6,500 swabs taken in Auckland yesterday out of a total 22,158 tests processed nationwide. There were no unexpected wastewater results.

On the first day of split alert levels, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said that police at the Auckland border have seen reasonably good compliance, with just a few people turned away. Most people had displayed the correct documentation.

The three Auckland DHBs are under pressure and are being supported with extra staff, said Bloomfield. Out of an abundance of caution, around 40 supermarkets across Auckland will be added to the locations of interest list today. The events are deemed at low risk but people should check the website and keep an eye out for symptoms.

There is still a missing link in the search for the source of this outbreak. The result of an investigation into the Crowne Plaza is expected within 24 hours, said Hipkins.

12.40pm: Will new delta cases drop for the third day in a row? Bloomfield to speak

Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield will hold today's 1pm Covid-19 update after new delta cases have dropped for the past two days.

But, while Bloomfield believes the outbreak has hit its peak, the director general of health has warned case numbers may "jump up and down" over the coming days. In fact, speaking to Mike Hosking this morning, he gave a subtle indication that today's case numbers be higher.

Today we'll see not just the end of any processing lag reflecting the lower test rates over the weekend, but also results from many contacts who were instructed to get tested on day 12.

The Herald, who have proved freakily accurate with their pre-1pm reports since the start of this outbreak, have an unverified report that there are more than 75 new cases today.

As always, we'll be writing up everything live or you can tune in below.

An interesting thread

On the matter of case numbers possibly going back up today...

12.25pm: Stuart Nash wagers case of wine on vaccination rate hitting 90% by Christmas

Government minister Stuart Nash has bet his reputation (and a case of wine) on New Zealanders flooding to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Currently, the rollout has been running well ahead of schedule but due to a slow start just 45.13% of the population have so far received a first jab.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB during his weekly appearance alongside National's Mark Mitchell, Nash said that 90% of New Zealanders will be fully jabbed by Christmas. And he was so confident about his claim he staked a case of Craggy Range wine on it (much to Mitchell's amusement).

11.55am: What to watch this week

Need something to keep you entertained while you're stuck indoors? Look no further! Here are a few top quality recommendations (or "recs") from The Spinoff's weekly Rec Room newsletter. 

FIRST

When Sanjay Patel created his Twitter account in December 2008 the character limit was still 140 and retweets could only be done manually. His first tweet, if he recalls correctly, was something about the weather. “It wasn’t very exciting.” Not only did this make him one of the first New Zealanders on Twitter, he soon developed a reputation as one of the few whose tweets were actually funny. He’s funny IRL too, as this week’s episode of FIRST goes to show.

The Flight Attendant

Stewart (me!) says: “Last week my recommendation (The Great British Sewing Bee) was very much ‘comfort TV’, but this week we’re making an emergency landing in anxiety-ridden, cliffhanger-filled thriller territory. HBO Max original The Flight Attendant (Neon) is an eight episode rollercoaster featuring a deservedly Emmy nominated performance from Kaley Cuoco. After one booze-fuelled layover, she wakes up to find her one-night stand with his throat slashed. It’s part comedy, part thriller, and features a killer supporting cast including Michelle Gomez, who has somehow gone from starring in bizarre British sitcoms like Green Wing to taking on big roles on American cable TV. Simply put, it’s perfect lockdown viewing – entirely bingeable, fast-paced and totally ridiculous.”

Jamie Oliver’s big lockdown mood

Chris says: “If anyone wants some lockdown lols, I randomly stumbled upon the most amazing thing last night: Jamie Oliver’s Keep Cooking and Carry On (S2E1). He has nothing in his fridge, is cooking on a single gas burner, films himself on an iPhone and his kids keep interrupting him. He looks dishevelled af.”

"He looks dishevelled af.”

Read more and subscribe to Rec Room here

11.25am: Aucklanders able to online shop from level three parts of the country

Updated

Aucklanders will be able to order and receive items from level three, non-essential, businesses outside of the city. From midnight, Auckland and Northland have remained in level four while the rest of the country drops down to the slightly less restrictive level three.

Despite the split alert levels, MBIE has confirmed to The Spinoff that Aucklanders will be able to receive any non-essential goods they order online (although NZ Post has warned of delays). "What it means is that small businesses already strained from multiple lockdowns face the prospect of ceding customers to competitors from outside the region, particularly national chains able to leverage their scale and locations to sell into the city from beyond its boundaries," wrote Duncan Greive.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford told the Herald that the rules need adjustment.

"A business in the level four area can only sell 'essential' goods, while a business in a level three area can sell anything, including for delivery to Auckland and Northland. Retail NZ doesn't think this makes sense and would like to see level four businesses be able to offer a broader range of goods online, so long as they can keep their teams safe."

10.25am: Things running smoothly at the Auckland border

Leonie Hayden is at the southern checkpoint and filed this report:

Police checkpoints are now in place at five locations on the boundary of Auckland and Waikato as of 11.59pm last night, when areas south of Auckland moved into alert level three.

Vehicles are required to produce ID and a business travel exemption issued by MBIE.

While the NZ Herald was reporting long queues just after 7am, by 8.30am there was very little traffic heading north or south between Drury and Mercer. The checkpoint at the SH1 Mercer off ramp only processed 20 passenger vehicles and 10 trucks heading south over a 15 minute period.

(Photo / Leonie Hayden)

Non-freight vehicles are required to make the turn off and trucks are processed on SH1.
Four more checkpoints are at Oram Rd/SH1 for northbound traffic, Mangatawhiri Rd/SH2, East Coast Rd in Waharau Regional Park, and Pukekawa-Churchill Rd and Logan Rd/SH22.

More than 2,000 businesses have been added to the business travel register.

A police officer inspects precious cargo – a pure bred chowchow being delivered back to its home (Photo / Leonie Hayden)

Police commissioner Andrew Coster has discouraged volunteer involvement with checkpoints and reassured iwi that Police will have “little tolerance” for anyone attempting to enter or leave Auckland and Northland without a legitimate reason.

Northland continues to operate three checkpoints at the southern entry into the region at the SH1 intersection with SH12, Mountain Road in Kaiwaka and Cove Road, by Bream Tail Road.

(Photo / Leonie Hayden)

10.05am: Vaccine rollout now... third last in the OECD

Political editor Justin Giovannetti has the details:

National leader Judith Collins held up a chart during a press conference at parliament yesterday that showed New Zealand’s vaccine rollout is in last place among countries in the OECD. A similar chart was in The Bulletin last week and it’s reasonable to make the comparison to the 38 country group.

However, the data was out of date at the time Collins used it, according the the prime minister’s office. In question time yesterday, the prime minister said that Collins’ data was wrong but didn’t offer new figures in the house.

Her office provided The Spinoff with the government’s data. The updated figures show that New Zealand is now likely in third to last place in the group, with 45.13% of the population having received at least one dose as of August 29.

Slovakia is now last at 43.48%, while Mexico a day earlier reported that 44.1% of its citizens had been vaccinated at least once. Portugal is likely still in first place at 85%.

9.45am: The delta outbreak – hospitalisations, graphed

The latest visualisation from The Spinoff's head of data Harkanwal Singh.

9.30am: The Breakfast TV interview that got out of hand

National's Judith Collins has butted heads with TVNZ Breakfast host Indira Stewart in an interview that quickly descended into a shouting match from both participants.

On the show to discuss the resumption of parliament along with the vaccine rollout, Collins quickly took issue with questions about her decision to travel from Auckland to Wellington rather than conduct parliamentary business online. "We have had no Zoom meeting practice for 120 MPs in parliament," said Collins.

"So we think, 'well, if they're so keen on [Zoom meetings] then start putting the work into it rather than just springing it upon us over the last couple of weeks without any practice at all."

Pushed on the fact that large businesses and schools have had to adapt to the Zoom world "at the drop of a hat", Collins called the question a "political attack" and criticised the media for throwing softball questions to the PM.

"I'll ask the questions, I'll stand up for every New Zealander's right to get the facts because we're certainly not going to get when we get the media asking questions like, 'and how are you feeling today, prime minister?'" Collins said.

About this time, in the middle of the interview, I really had no idea what was going on with both Stewart and Collins talking over each other.

Asked if she had received a Covid test before travelling to Wellington, Collins said she was fully vaccinated and did not need to."I have not been in contact with Covid, not going out except for two bouts of exercise and in those cases... I have been a very, very good Covid tracer user," she said.

The interview concluded on another fiery note, with Collins asked what she had done during this lockdown in her capacity as National's Pacific Peoples spokesperson.

Indira: "Have you been in touch with [the Pacific community] since this community outbreak.

Judith: "You know fully well I am deeply involved in the Pacific community. What I'm hearing is they want to get vaccinated just like every New Zealand so every day I'm going to be asking about vaccinations –

Indira: Have you been directly in touch with them was the question –

Judith: My husband's Pasifika, I talk to him everyday. Indira, I have contacts in the Pacific community who I contact and I have been contacting.

Watch the full exchange here.

8.40am: Vaccine bookings now open to all

Everyone over the age of 12 can now book in for a Covid-19 vaccination after the final group of the rollout became eligible this morning.

The 12-30 age band means another 1.5 million people can now access the two-dose Pfizer jab.

But it comes amid concerns that vaccine stocks could force the rollout to slow, with more than 90,000 doses given out on some days last week. Both Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield have denied claims the country will run out of vaccines entirely but admitted we may have to slow the pace while we wait for deliveries from Pfizer throughout September.

8.05am: Bloomfield says delta outbreak has 'hit peak' as south of Auckland shifts to level three

Everywhere south of Auckland moved to alert level three overnight, with the top of the North Island remaining in total lockdown.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said that based on the decrease in cases, it appeared the outbreak had plateaued. "We did hit that peak a couple of days ago... Over the last three days the proportion of the cases that have been infectious in the community have gone down to 23%," he said.

However, Bloomfield warned that the case numbers may not continue to drop every single day. "[Last outbreak] the numbers bounced around on the way down," he said. "So it could be up a bit higher again today."

The numbers would be confirmed at 1pm and Bloomfield said cases had been confirmed throughout yesterday and overnight.

On the vaccination front, Bloomfield told RNZ that the preferred option was, of course, not to slow down our current pace at all. But due to stock issues it was possible that the rollout could drop back outside of Auckland. "We're looking at every opportunity there is to get some additional vaccines in to help keep that rate at the high level it is through September.

Announcements on vaccine stocks would be announced in the coming days, he said.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

The Covid numbers: There were 49 new community cases reported yesterday, all in Auckland. That's the lowest number in six days and a good sign that the lockdown is working. Over 75,000 vaccines were administered, not a record, but very high. Vaccinations are also now open to everyone in the country over the age of 12. If you’ve woken up in level three, here’s a reminder of the rules.


Auckland’s wild weather explained. Up to 260mm of rain was recorded on west Auckland yesterday in the second wettest day since NIWA began keeping records. According to the NZ Herald, the agency said a rare "low level jet" stalled over the city, dropping rain on Auckland in a ferocious downpour that lifted dam levels by 7% in a few hours. Which is impressive. These kinds of unusual weather patterns are expected to become more common as the climate warms.


A quick update on yesterday’s vaccine story. While New Zealand has yet to unveil its plan to acquire more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, Australia has. Prime minister Scott Morrison announced that he has closed a deal to get 500,000 doses from Singapore that are going to expire soon. The vaccines will be in Australian arms next week, ABC reports. Singapore will get half a million doses from Australia in December. While it means those doses are off the market for New Zealand's aspirations, it’s a sign of the swaps that are possible and underway between countries.

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

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