Countdown LynnMall staff comfort each other after a violent extremist stabbed six people before being shot by police (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Live updates, September 3: ‘Violent extremist’ responsible for mall terrorist attack was ‘known threat to New Zealand’ 

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 3, by Stewart Sowman-Lund and Alice Neville. Help us keep you informed on Covid-19 – click here to learn how you can join The Spinoff Members.

Today’s numbers

6.45pm: New legislation in progress to ‘close gap’ in counterterrorism laws

Proposed legislation currently at select committee stage would criminalise the offence of planning a terrorist attack.

In April this year, justice minister Kris Faafoi announced that new legislation would be introduced aimed at criminalising the planning and preparation of terror attacks. “There is a gap in New Zealand law and this bill creates offences to close that gap,” Faafoi said at the April 13 press conference announcing the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill, which would amend the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, the Search and Surveillance Act 2012, and the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019.

The bill passed its first reading in the house on May 5 and was sent to the justice select committee, which invited public submissions on it until June 28. The committee’s report on the bill is due in two months’ time, on November 3. One of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attacks, which released its report in December 2020, was creating a new offence to criminalise the planning or preparation of terrorist attacks.

6.10pm: Supermarket offender had been arrested for allegedly planning ‘lone wolf’ knife attack

The Herald is reporting that the man shot dead by police at a West Auckland supermarket today after a knife attack that injured six people had only recently been released from prison.

The Herald reported last month that the Crown had sought to prosecute the man under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, but a High Court judge ruled that preparing a terrorist attack was not in itself an offence under the legislation. He was instead prosecuted on lesser charges, and in May this year, was found guilty by a jury of possessing propaganda-style material supportive of Islamic State. He was acquitted on other charges of possessing a graphic video depicting a prisoner being decapitated and possession of an offensive weapon.

In a July 2020 ruling before the man stood trial, Justice Matthew Downs described the absence of an offence of planning a terrorist attack as an “Achilles’ heel” hindering the authorities’ ability to stop such would-be attackers. But he dismissed the Crown’s application to charge the man under the anti-terror law, saying it was for parliament, not the courts, to create an offence of planning an attack.

Despite concerns about the threat to public safety, the man was sentenced to one year of supervision, a community-based sentence designed to rehabilitate low-level offenders.

5.20pm: ‘Violent extremist’ responsible for mall terrorist attack was ‘known threat to New Zealand’

Today’s incident at a West Auckland supermarket was a “terrorist attack” carried out by “a violent extremist”, the prime minister has announced. The man was acting alone.

The offender, who followed “ISIS-inspired” violent ideology, had been under “constant monitoring” because of “concerns about his ideology”. Members of the police surveillance team who were monitoring the man were the ones who shot him at LynnMall Countdown today, having followed him there.

Six people were injured by the man in this afternoon’s attack, three critically.

Police commissioner Andrew Coster said this afternoon, the man travelled to the New Lynn Countdown from his home in Glen Eden. “He entered the store as he had done before. He obtained a knife from within the store. Surveillance teams were as close as they possibly could be to monitor his activity. When the commotion started, two police tactical operators from the SPG moved to his location and engaged him. When he approached them with the knife he was shot and killed,” said Coster.

“It was the police surveillance team and special tactics group that were part of that monitoring and surveillance that shot and killed him within, I’m told, the space of roughly 60 seconds of the attack starting,” said Jacinda Ardern.

“I acknowledge that the situation raises questions about whether police could have intervened more quickly,” said Coster, who added that he was satisfied the staff involved did everything they could and with great courage.

“When you are monitoring someone on a 24/7 basis, it is not possible to be immediately next to them at all times,” he said.

The man was a Sri Lankan national who arrived in the country in 2011, said Ardern. He had been under police surveillance since 2016, once his ideology became known. Ardern said the man was known to multiple agencies and she was personally aware of him.

“This was a violent attack. It was senseless. And I am so sorry it happened,” she said.

“What happened today was despicable. It has hateful and it was wrong,” Ardern said. “It was carried out by an individual. Not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person who was gripped by ideology that is not supported here, by anyone or any community. He alone carries the responsibility for these acts. Let that be where the judgment falls.”

Ardern insisted authorities had been “doing everything we could” within the limits of the law. “Had he done something that would have allowed us to put him in prison, he would have been in prison.

“Unfortunately he hadn’t, that’s why he was being monitored and followed constantly.”

Asked about the number of similarly minded people in the country, Ardern said: “There are very few people who I would determine to be in this category in New Zealand.”

5.15pm: Watch: PM, police commissioner speak after LynnMall incident

4.50pm: Six people injured, three critically, in LynnMall incident

St John has now told media that six people were injured in today’s incident at LynnMall – four patients were taken to Auckland City Hospital, three in a critical condition and one in a serious condition. Two people with moderate injuries were taken to Waitākere and Middlemore hospitals.

4.40pm: PM, police commissioner to speak to media on LynnMall events

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and the police commissioner, Andrew Coster, will hold a press conference on the incident at LynnMall Countdown at the Beehive Theatrette at 5.15pm.

We’ll bring you all the details live here.

4.15pm: Four injured, two critically, after Auckland supermarket incident

Two people are in a critical condition in Auckland City Hospital after an incident at Countdown LynnMall in West Auckland this afternoon, St John has confirmed.

The ambulance service told RNZ that in addition to the two critically injured people, two others with moderate injuries were taken to Waitākere and Middlemore hospitals.

Police have confirmed a man was shot and died at the scene after entering the supermarket and injuring multiple people. The injured are believed to be people shopping at the supermarket at the time, rather than staff. A Countdown spokesperson said the company was “devastated” by this afternoon’s events. “We will cooperate with the police in any way we can to understand what’s happened, and at this point we’re unable to provide any further details.”

3.30pm: ‘Multiple’ injuries at Auckland supermarket, man shot dead by police

“Multiple” people have been injured at an Auckland supermarket this afternoon, with the perpetrator shot dead by police at the scene.

Initial reports suggest several people have been stabbed after the man entered the Countdown at LynnMall, in New Lynn. Police have described the situation as “still unfolding”. Both RNZ and Newstalk ZB have reported four people were taken to Auckland City Hospital’s emergency department with “life-threatening” injuries.

Police clearing the carpark at LynnMall following this afternoon’s incident (Photo: Richard Sutherland/RNZ)

Footage shared on social media, and seen by The Spinoff, included multiple gun shots and customers describing an individual with a knife in the supermarket. People could be seen fleeing the supermarket.

It’s understood prime minister Jacinda Ardern is being briefed on the situation.

This is the second violent attack at a Countdown supermarket this year, following a stabbing at a Dunedin store in May.

3.05pm: Kmart promises to improve toy testing after concerns for child safety

Kmart has pledged to improve its toy testing after concerns some of its products may be unsafe for very young children.

It follows a Commerce Commission inquiry into some push-along fire trucks sold by the retailer that were advertised as safe for use by children three years of age or over. However, the Commission believed that the fire engine toys would also appeal to, and be able to be used by, children under that age. “Kmart ought to have taken steps to ensure the toys complied with the requirements of the standard for that younger age range,” the commission said.

“When tested in accordance with the standard for that age range, the fire engine toys did not pass a test which aims to simulate possible damage that may occur to a toy when used by a small child. During the test, small parts may come free that present a choking and/or suffocation risk.”

Kmart stopped selling the fire engine toys in New Zealand in January 2019 and later issued a voluntary product recall notice.

2.40pm: Cyber attack behind widespread internet outage

A cyber attack is believed to be the cause of a widespread internet outage that affected people nationwide.

It appears the issue is with the Vocus network, with the company telling the Herald a “DDoS” attack was responsible.

“This afternoon our network was impacted by a DDoS attack. This will have affected a range of Vocus customers, including Slingshot and Orcon customers, for around 30 minutes,” said a spokesperson.

“Clearly this wasn’t great timing with most of the country working from home, and we’d like to apologise for the interruption. Our engineers were able to resolve the problem quickly, and customers should have come back online automatically,” they said.

Initial reports of the crash started around 1.30pm. An unofficial survey of affected Spinoff staffers would suggest at least some have now managed to get back online.

1.20pm: Tracking the delta outbreak, including today’s cases

Updated

The number of new delta Covid-19 cases has continued to trend down, as you can see from the below graph. There are now 764 cases linked to the Auckland outbreak, although not all of these remain active.

Plus, how does the age break down look with the latest cases?

1.15pm: MIQ absconder went straight home, had no contact with anyone

No locations of interest have been identified after a man absconded from managed quarantine in Auckland yesterday.

Speaking at today's 1pm presser, deputy PM Grant Robertson said that after escaping from the Novotel in Ellerslie, CCTV has confirmed the man walked home and had no interactions with anyone.

"It's a regrettable incident and one that is being thoroughly investigated," said Robertson.

The man had already breached public health guidelines after driving to a friend's house after being informed he was positive with Covid-19. However, the person he visited was already in self-isolation, confirmed Robertson.

Public health advice is that there was no risk to public safety through this incident, said Robertson. Results of an investigation into the incident will be released when it’s completed.

1.00pm: 28 new community cases, including one in Wellington

Updated

There are 28 new community cases of Covid-19, with one of these in Wellington and the rest in Auckland. The case in Wellington is a close contact of an existing case and has been in isolation.

This bumps the total number of cases associated with the outbreak to 764. Of those 33 cases have recovered, giving us an active total of 731.

While today’s fall in cases is encouraging, director of public health Caroline McElnay said "we are mindful that these outbreaks have a long tail". There are now 31 unlinked cases, a fall from 65. "We expect that number to continue to fall," said McElnay.

Based on the latest modelling, the reproductive number likely remains below one.

Further analysis of yesterday’s 49 cases shows that 86% were contacts of known cases, and 51% were household contacts already in isolation. In addition, 35% are believed to have been infectious while in the community and visited either a supermarket, a healthcare provider or were an essential worker.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has risen to 43. Of these, nine are in ICU with three on ventilators.

A new subcluster has been revealed as part of the outbreak, the eight overall. The two largest remain the Māngere church group with 347 cases and the Birkdale social network cluster with 74.

As of 9am, 37,620 contacts have been formally identified. 84% of these have been followed up by contact tracers and are self-isolating, while 87% of all contacts have had a test. There are no unexpected wastewater results, McElnay said.

On the vaccine front, 89,073 vaccine doses were administered yesterday. 71% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are now booked in for vaccination, or have had at least one dose.

On tests, 12,796 were conducted nationwide yesterday with just under 6500 of these in Auckland. "We do need to keep testing," said McElnay, although she said the high level of tests would help rule out undetected spread of the virus.

Although today’s case numbers are encouraging, “the job is not yet done,” said deputy PM Grant Robertson.

Resurgence payment eligibility changing 

Eligibility for the resurgence support payment is changing so that businesses that have been open for one month will be able to apply, Robertson announced. Previously they had to be open for at least six months.

Since New Zealand moved to alert level four, the IRD has approved more than 147,000 applications for resurgence support payments, totalling $454 million.

12.45pm: Will the new delta case numbers keep dropping?

We're about to hear the latest from the Ministry of Health on the delta outbreak.

Grant Robertson had been scheduled to appear alongside director of public health Caroline McElnay but, according to the Ministry of Health livestream, it's going to be Ardern instead of her deputy. We'll soon find out which is right.

Yesterday saw new case numbers drop back down to 49, pushing the outbreak total up to 736 (of which 725 remain active).

12.40pm: What's the question...

It's Father's Day on Sunday, which means it's time once again to enjoy possibly the greatest phone call in New Zealand radio history.

Oh, and if you need help with any last minute Father's Day gifts – The Spinoff is here to help! Check out our comprehensive and authoritative list here.

12.20pm: South Island should drop to level two immediately, says Judith Collins

Judith Collins has called for the South Island to "immediately" drop to alert level two.

The entire country – bar Auckland – is in alert level three, despite no cases of the delta variating appearing in the community outside of Auckland or Wellington.

In a press release, attributed solely to her and not the party's Covid spokesperson Chris Bishop, Collins called keeping the south at level three a "major overreaction".

“There hasn’t been a positive case of Covid in the South Island for almost a year. None have been reported from the latest delta outbreak and, as of yesterday afternoon, just 22 contacts were awaiting or overdue their day 12 test, out of more than 37,000 total contacts in this outbreak," said Collins.

“It doesn’t make sense, then, that the South Island, despite being Covid-free, should be subject to level three restrictions."

(Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The prime minister has defended the blanket alert level ruling, saying that it was a safety measure in case any unknown close contacts returned to the South Island when lockdown was announced.

"Our goal is to keep Covid out of the South Island. Stepping down cautiously is the best way that we can ensure that when we do lift restrictions it stays that way, and those businesses can remain free of some of the challenges we're facing elsewhere," she said yesterday.

Act's David Seymour has also called for an alert level drop for the south.

Today's agenda

1pm: It's really just the 1pm briefing on the agenda today. Grant Robertson and director of public health Caroline McElnay will speak today after new case numbers dropped to 49 yesterday. There are currently 736 confirmed cases within the delta outbreak, including 16 in Wellington.

11.45am: Police minister unsure if officers who arrested MIQ absconder had been vaxxed

It's not known whether the police officers who arrested a Covid-positive MIQ absconder yesterday afternoon had been vaccinated.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, police minister Poto Williams said she did not have specific information on vaccinations for individual officers. However, she confirmed that just 44% of police staff are fully vaccinated. About 68% have had at least one jab.

In a tweet, National's police spokesperson Simeon Brown said it wasn't good enough. "The police minister should simply do her job supporting police, rather than hiding from accountability," he wrote.

The escapee was arrested in Auckland after spending more than 12 hours in the community.

11.35am: Auckland Countdowns to open early for MIQ workers, medical staff

Auckland Countdown supermarkets will open early from tomorrow morning exclusively for medical personnel, MIQ and emergency workers.

It's the same protocol as during last year's level four lockdown, allowing essential workers to skip the queues.

“These workers, particularly those caring for hospitalised Covid-19 patients or the large number of Kiwis currently in managed isolation, are working under huge amounts of pressure," said Countdown's Kiri Hannifin. Opening our doors to them an hour ahead of the public will give them the ability to shop in peace and access to freshly stocked shelves.”

11.15am: Tyler, the Creator’s Auckland show proves popular after post-Covid concert drought

Features editor (and diehard fan) Chris Schulz writes:

A performance by Grammy-winning rapper Tyler, the Creator planned in Auckland has proved popular, despite being nearly a year away.

Tickets for the Los Angeles rapper and singer’s concert at Spark Arena on July 22 went on sale yesterday, with thousands of general admission tickets – ranging in price betwen $149 and $385 – being snapped up by eager fans in minutes.

At the time of writing, select tickets were still available for seats in the venue’s further corners, as well as some of the more expensive seated areas closer to the stage.

Promoters told The Spinoff there were no plans yet to put on a second show.

It will be just the third New Zealand appearance for Tyler, the Creator – his birth name is Tyler Gregory Okonma – and his second since a five-year ban on him entering and performing in the country was lifted in 2019.

The 30-year-old had previously performed at The Powerstation with his rap collective Odd Future after they were named on the Big Day Out 2012 line-up but were barred from playing at the festival over concerns about the group's lyrical content.

He found out he was banned from performing here after arriving at Los Angeles Airport to travel to Auckland for the Western Springs Rapture festival in 2014, headlined by Eminem. Immigration New Zealand deemed him and Odd Future a “a potential threat to public order”.

He later wrote a song about it. Called Smuckers, it features Kanye West and Lil Wayne, and the lyrics: "I got banned from New Zealand / Whitey called me demon / And a terrorist / God dammit I couldn't believe it."

After years of fan outcry and anguish, Tyler, the Creator finally made it here in 2019 to headline the Bay Dreams music festival in Tauranga and Nelson, putting on a spectacular show on the back of his twisted masterpiece Igor.

The popularity of his concert here next year proves Kiwi music fans are looking forward to life after lockdown, even if some groups, including tours by Fat Freddy’s Drop and Salmonella Dub, have already been forced to postpone upcoming tour dates.

He’ll be touring on the back of his well-received new album Call Me If You Get Lost, and this incendiary performance at Lollapallooza.

Lollapalooza - Day 2 (Photo by Erika Goldring/WireImage, Getty Images)

10.45am: TVNZ chief Kevin Kenrick steps down

TVNZ's chief executive Kevin Kenrick has announced he'll quit the company after nine years in the top job.

It's in the same week the broadcaster recorded a mega boost in profit thanks in part to the success of TVNZ OnDemand.

“From his appointment in 2012, Kevin has led the organisation through a period of significant growth and transformational change," said chair Andy Coupe. "Whilst we will be sad to see him leave, the board is confident that Kevin has positioned TVNZ strongly for future success."

Kenrick called his tenure at TVNZ a privilege. "I still pinch myself that we engage more than two million viewers every day across our content platforms," he said. "I’ve loved the opportunity to work with the incredibly talented team at TVNZ and feel confident that the business is in great shape and is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities ahead."

Kenrick will formally leave TVNZ at the end of February 2020.

Earlier this year The Spinoff's Duncan Greive talked to Kenrick about TVNZ's plans for the future

 

Follow The Fold on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or your favourite podcast provider.

10.30am: Second round of Covid-19 wage subsidy now available

The next tranche of financial support for the delta outbreak is now available, with businesses able to apply for round two of the wage subsidy.

“Unlike the scheme that operated in March last year, this wage subsidy scheme requires businesses to reapply for each fortnightly payment,” finance minister Grant Robertson said.

"The criteria will be the same as for the initial application. Businesses and self-employed people must fill out the application form on the MSD website, agree to a new declaration and meet all eligibility criteria."

Applications for the first fortnight of the subsidy closed last night at 11.59pm, but National's Louise Upston has raised concerns after they closed early and then later mysteriously reopened. "Last night National MPs were inundated with messages from businesses, some as early as 8.30pm, frustrated to learn applications for the first round had closed early," she said. “Later in the evening, at about 10.30pm, applications appeared to reopen.

Upston said the government must ensure no business missed out.

9.15am: Where is the north Auckland border?

As of midnight, Auckland remains the only part of the country in alert level four lockdown. Northland has now joined the remainder of the country under the slightly less restrictive level three.

For essential workers travelling between alert levels, police have set up checkpoints on the Auckland border.

Here are the north Auckland checkpoints:

  • SH1/Mangawhai Road (Twin Coast Discovery Highway)
  • Mangawhai Road / north of Coal Hill Road
  • Black Swamp, west of Rako Road
  • Mangawhai Road and Cames Road
  • Mangawhai Road and Ryan Road

Note: Mangawhai Road also known as Twin Coast Discovery Highway

The Auckland border (Unite against Covid-19)

9.00am: Abba are back!

It's Friday and this is the perfect treat. A new album, new songs, and some sort of weird hologram experience for those in the UK.

8.45am: Third Vic Uni student travels from Auckland to Wellington

A third student travelled from Auckland to Wellington despite restrictions on travel under alert level four.

According to Stuff, the Victoria University student took a flight on Wednesday, hours before security changes at Auckland Airport were introduced to clamp down on unnecessary travel.

''A resident of one of our halls of residence arrived back in the hall yesterday, Wednesday, after breaching the New Zealand Government travel orders,'' a spokeswoman for the university said.

Appearing on Newstalk ZB this morning, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson said he was unaware of this particular case but knew about two other students who made similar trips. He reiterated that airport staff and security should not be allowing anyone to travel without a valid exemption.

Police are investigating this third incident.

8.00am: Robertson defends decision not to disclose MIQ absconder at 1pm briefing

Questions remain over how a Covid-positive man in managed isolation was able to escape from the Ellerslie facility and spend hours on the run.

The man left the facility in the early hours of yesterday before making it to a property in Ōtāhuhu where he live streamed his arrest, before being returned to MIQ. But, despite police being made aware of the incident at 10.30am yesterday, no mention was made by the prime minister at the 1pm press briefing.

National's Chris Bishop said the public needed answers. "The first [question] is why it took ten hours for police to be informed of the escape. Police have confirmed the person escaped at 12.34am, but they were only told at 10.30am the next morning. Why the delay? The second question is at what time management at the MIQ facility knew or suspected this person had escaped. The third question is why the prime minister did not see fit to inform the public of the escape at [yesterday's] press conference."

A screengrab from the man's video of his arrest

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson confirmed the chain of events. "His family identified that he had left at about 10.30 or 11 in the morning, they then contacted the staff, the staff then contacted the police," he said.

Robertson said as the person escaped into a level four environment, where most people should be distanced and masked, the transgression was "fairly low".

"But it is a transgression all the same," he added.

Mike Hosking labelled the PM's decision not to discuss the escape at the 1pm briefing a "breach of public trust", but Robertson rejected that characterisation. He said it would have been a bad idea to disclose any information before the man had been located. "The prime minister on her way down to do the 1pm press conference was made aware that there was an 'incident'... there was not a lot of detail," he said. "But critically, it was a live police operation – it would have been irresponsible for the prime minister to give out details before that was complete."

Since the MIQ system launched last year there have been 16 absconders, or one in 10,000. The last person to escape from MIQ did so over a year ago, in July 2020.

7.30am: From The Bulletin – the situation in South Auckland

The situation in South Auckland. There was no freedom day this week, instead the end of level four lockdown was greeted as “coffee day” in Wellington. Flat whites and bags of Macca’s popped up in selfies across the city. The situation is quite different in South Auckland, as reported by my colleague Justin Latif. The area has done incredibly hard lifting for this country through Covid-19. With an extended lockdown, food banks are preparing for a surge in demand.

I asked Justin, who has reported on the area for a decade, what he’s seeing around him.

The weight has fallen on his neighbours.

When the lockdown began, there was a palpable sense of relief from those I spoke to that the outbreak was on the North Shore rather than back in South Auckland. But that has obviously changed dramatically, to the point where every supermarket near my home in Māngere is a location of interest. Now there’s a sense that the virus is closing in on us, which adds an edge of anxiety to how you move around the shops.

My sense is that people are generally resigned to their lockdown routines, rather than feeling gripped with panic as some were in previous outbreaks. There are definitely those who have been impacted by loss of income, but people also know where they can get help. Those providing support have their online and contactless systems already in place and ready to go.

What are you hearing about vaccine interest?

It seems to me, anecdotally, that there is a lessening of the conspiratorial and anti-lockdown sentiment. I’ve heard South Auckland has had a drop in lockdown breaches compared to previous lockdowns. Poor vaccine uptake was as much to do with people not taking Covid seriously as it was finding the booking process too much of a hassle. Now I’m hearing people are much more positive about getting the vaccine, and having a lockdown seems to have given people the time, coupled with the extra motivation that comes knowing the virus is very much present in the local community. 

What's the need for support at this point?

The obvious answer would be to suggest food bank donations, but we already have a fairly well-organised food network in this country which keeps our food banks pretty well-stocked. Instead, I would suggest people speaking up against any antagonism towards this region. South Auckland and its residents come face to face with the virus more than any other community by virtue of its location and the types of jobs many of our people hold, so people are sick of the racism and general snobbery directed towards this area. 

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

Yesterday's numbers



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