Live updates, August 2: One-way travel bubbles to open for RSE workers from Pacific

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 2, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

4.10pm: One-way travel bubbles to open for RSE workers from Pacific

People from Sāmoa, Tonga and Vanuatu will be able to travel to New Zealand to work under the RSE (recognised seasonal employer) scheme without having to go into managed isolation, the prime minister has announced. The government is aiming for the plan to take effect from September, but it may not apply to workers from all three countries. The plan should allow “significantly more” workers to be here in time for peak season in February and March.

“We know our agricultural sector is experiencing challenges,” said Ardern at her post-cabinet press conference, “and we heard the call from primary sectors to bring in additional workers in a safe way.”

Currently, 150 RSE workers are entering the country every 16 days and spending 14 days in a managed isolation facility, so this new scheme will free up space, said Ardern. There are around 7,000 RSE workers currently on shore, but during peak season there are usually 10,000. A lack of working holidaymakers will also contribute to a shortfall, which Ardern said this arrangement will help plug. 

Tonga has had no Covid-19 cases, Sāmoa has had one, and Vanuatu has had four, but all were at the border, said Ardern. None of the countries has had community transmission.

While the quarantine-free travel is one way, there have been preliminary discussions with the three countries involved to ensure the workers will be able to return home.

Ardern confirmed a forum would be held in Wellington next Thursday (see 2pm update) where epidemiologist Sir David Skegg’s scientific advice on the levels of vaccination required to allow New Zealand to change its border settings would be discussed. She will set out how the government plans to respond to the advice over the next six months.

4.00pm: Ardern to discuss border settings at post-cabinet press conference

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is about to speak to media about possible changes to New Zealand’s border settings. We’ll bring you updates here.

3.45pm: Olympics wrap – what to watch tonight

New Zealand is sitting static at 12th on the medal table with four golds. We’ve got a few competitors to keep our eyes on in the coming days, especially Lisa Carrington in the canoe sprint along with Burling and Tuke in the sailing.

Here are some of tonight’s highlights:

  • 6.33pm: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke – 49er medal race
  • 6.54pm: Track cycling – men’s and women’s team pursuit qualifiers
  • 8pm: Equestrian – showjumping team final
  • 10.50pm: Weightlifting – Laurel Hubbard (women’s +87kg category.

2.45pm: Release of ‘toxic culture’ report at Mediaworks delayed

A review into the “toxic culture” of Mediaworks has been bumped back until Wednesday.

TVNZ has reported that the review, prompted by allegations of sexual harassment and bullying, was planned to be publicly released today after being handed over to chief executive Cam Wallace last week.

But staff at the media company were today informed that the release had been pushed back by 48 hours for reasons that have not been revealed. “We’ve communicated the reasons with our staff,” said a spokesperson.

2.00pm: Government teases plan for reopening border

Details on when – or if – New Zealand will open up to the world are set to be made public next week.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern is due to release advice from experts on how to open up our borders at a forum next Thursday. The team of experts asked to report back to the government included epidemiologist David Skegg, along with immunisation specialist Nikki Turner and Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy.

Australia has recently revealed its planned “roadmap” for reopening the country which included a vaccination target of more than 80% of the population.

1.15pm: Vaccine rollout almost hits two million dose milestone

New Zealand’s vaccine rollout is inching towards two million doses, with 1.94 million being administered as of midnight.

Of these, 1.2 million are first doses and more than 740,000 are second doses. Almost 109,000 Māori have received their first vaccination , including 70,300 fully vaccinated.

More than 17,700 first doses were given out yesterday alone and more than 4,600 second doses were given.

Queensland returnees asked to monitor symptoms

As a result of parts of Queensland entering a three-day lockdown over the weekend, returnees from the state have been asked to monitor their symptoms and check if they visited any locations of interest.

Anyone who has been at a location of interest since last Monday, at a relevant time, should immediately isolate at home or appropriate accommodation and call Healthline, the Ministry of Health said.

“Anyone else who has returned from Queensland since last Monday should remain vigilant, monitor any possible symptoms and ring Healthline and immediately isolate if any symptoms appear,” a spokesperson said.

Today’s Covid numbers

There are no new cases of Covid-19 to report in the community today. There are four new cases in managed isolation facilities.

Three previously reported cases have now recovered, taking the number of active cases in New Zealand to 37.

12.45pm: Afterpay to be sold for $41 billion

Buy now pay later service Afterpay is set to be bought by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey in a $41 billion deal.

According to Stuff, Afterpay has been purchased by Square – a payment platform co-founded by Dorsey back in 2009.

Afterpay is something of a pioneer in the online world of pay later schemes, but has faced increasing competition in recent years from companies like Apple and Paypal.

12.00pm: Extremely Online – Are robots taking over the world?

The idea that robots will recognise their consciousness and take over the world is what some scientists call “the technological singularity.” In this week’s episode of Extremely Online, made with the support of NZ On Air, we learn it could be closer than we think. So should we be worried?

11.15am: National housing stock collapses, prices soar

The national housing stock has plummeted to a 14-year low, with less than 13,000 houses available to purchase across the country.

That’s a drop of 34.8% on this time last year, with eight regions falling to an all time low.

At the same time, the national asking price reached an all-time high of $893,794. Vanessa Williams from realstate.co.nz said it’s fascinating. “When records began in 2007 through to 2013, national average asking prices rose by about $50,000 over that eight-year period. In the following five years they rose by about $200,000. But since the end of 2019, they’ve gone up by $200,000 again in the last two years,” she said.

Central Otago has overtaken Auckland as the most expensive region to buy a house, the data showed, despite the crash in tourism caused by Covid-19.

9.40am: Olympics morning wrap

New Zealand is sitting in an incredible 12th place on the medals table with four gold medals, following a superb win in the women’s rugby sevens over the weekend.

Here are some of today’s highlights:

  • 12.58pm: Canoe sprint – Lisa Carrington is up first in the K1 200m heats.
  • 6.33pm: Peter Burling & Blair Tuke (49er medal race)
  • 6.54pm: Cycling – track (team pursuit qualifiers)
  • 10.50pm: Weightlifting – Laurel Hubbard

8.05am: Collins happy with growth for the right in latest Newshub poll

Following on from this morning’s top story in The Bulletin (see more below): Both Judith Collins and David Seymour have celebrated the results of last night’s Newshub Reid Research poll.

The poll still has Labour well ahead on 43%, but National has crept up to 28.7% and Act on 11%.

Of course, on this result, Jacinda Ardern would remain the prime minister with a Labour-Green coalition in government. But the right bloc – consisting of National and Act – have claimed the result is good news.

Judith Collins told RNZ that Act’s rise in the poll wasn’t going to split the right vote.

“Act coming up is ultimately good for National because we’re also going up so it’s not as though it’s taking votes off us,” she said. “So that’s good and what I see that means is certainly if we can both keep going in that direction then that will be very good and give us a very good chance at the next election.”

David Seymour is similarly positive. Minutes after last night’s poll went to air, a press release was sent out celebrating the poll. “We can win in 2023, but we need your help,” it said. He told RNZ: “I think it’s very clear that with both ACT and National increasing in this poll, it’s not an ‘either or’ it’s an ‘and and’ and the net result is a serious proposition for the voters not only to have a change of government but with ACT, a change of direction.”

Preferred PM result ‘silly stuff’ from Newshub – Collins

The other story of the poll was the result for preferred prime minister, with Seymour inching up in front of Collins. The National Leader was typically unperturbed, saying it made “no difference” at all. “The fact is is that the National Party’s around three times the size of Act, that’s the way it normally works,” she said.

“That’s just silly stuff coming out of Newshub. I also well remember the days when Winston Peters was significantly more popular as prime minister than Jim Bolger. It just doesn’t work like that.”

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A major new poll has seen the gap closing between the parties of government and opposition – but not really because of National. The Newshub Reid Research poll shows Labour falling from above 50% down to 43%, and would require them to lean on the Greens to form a government. National still hasn’t cracked 30%, while Act has bounced up to 11%, which this poll hasn’t ever had them at.

For David Seymour and Act, this is another double digit score in a year that has seen the party solidify itself. The two previous Roy Morgan polls (which are seen as less reliable than Colmar-Brunton and Reid Research) both had Act above ten. And in last night’s poll, Seymour repeated a win over National leader Judith Collins in the preferred PM stakes – incredibly, even among National voters Seymour is seen as a “better leader” than Collins. It has even got to the point now where Seymour is being asked if he has aspirations to be PM – he gave a politician’s answer, which is that he’d be happy to serve in whatever role the voters choose for him. To put all this in context, it’s worth remembering that at this time of the last election cycle Act was lucky if it made it to 1% in a poll, and in the 2017 election just 0.5% of voters went their way.

For the governing Labour party, this poll is more of a warning that the good times won’t last forever. On these numbers, plenty of backbenchers would end up out of parliament. Jacinda Ardern remains the country’s overwhelmingly preferred PM, but her personal rating was ahead of her party’s in this poll. A report on Politik (paywalled) this morning indicated government ministers would be returning from a long parliamentary recess today with a heavy agenda, and an aim to broaden their political programme out beyond the Covid recovery.


At long last, the formal apology for the Dawn Raids has taken place. It was delayed by weeks as a result of Covid, and took place decades after the policy ended, even if the legacy of that era is still being felt. Justin Latif was there, and reports the apology was accepted by community leaders, but accompanied by a challenge to stamp out the racism that enabled it in the first place. Meanwhile in an echo of history, Newshub reported several days ago that there are calls to give several thousand Tongan overstayers a legal pathway to residency, or at least an amnesty.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

 



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