blog last nov 4

PoliticsNovember 4, 2021

Live updates, November 4: Hipkins won’t rule out travel allocation idea; 139 delta cases

blog last nov 4

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 4, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.

Today’s Covid update, summarised

  • There are 139 new community cases of Covid-19.
  • Auckland has 136 new cases, while there are two in Waikato and one in Northland.
  • 72 cases cannot yet be linked to the outbreak with 452 mystery cases from across the past fortnight.
  • A Covid-positive person who died yesterday was a man in their 40s. A link to the vaccine has been ruled out.
  • The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has hit a new record of 64.

5.15pm: State of emergency declared in Tairāwhiti

Heavy rain has caused surface flooding in the Gisborne Tairāwhiti region, with Civil Defence declaring a state of emergency this afternoon.

Some residents have already been evacuated and further evacuations may be needed, reports RNZ.

“The ground is already saturated,” Civil Defence controller Dave Wilson told RNZ. “With high tide due at 6pm our rivers are being closely monitored.

“The road situation on both state highways and local roads are changing by the hour,” he said. “Please drive to the conditions, and only travel if you need to.

“Anyone who is concerned for their safety should stay with friends and whānau. Welfare centres are being established across the district for those with nowhere to go. If people need assistance, please call us.”

MetService reported 174mm of rain at Gisborne Airport in the 36 hours leading up to 4pm – almost three time the average November rainfall of 65mm.

3.10pm: The key Covid numbers, charted

Here’s a look at how the Covid outbreak is tracking today.

After yesterday’s drop in new cases, we’re back up again today with 139 confirmed.

We’ve also hit a grim new hospitalisation record with over 60 people now in hospital with delta and five in intensive care. The number of new mystery cases has also risen, although only just. If you’re interested in why that number might be stalling – and why Covid locations of interest in Auckland have stalled too – you can check out this piece by Toby Manhire.

Check out more charts on our Covid Tracker page here.

2.40pm: Hipkins attempts to clear up confusion over travel allocation comments

The Covid response minister has proactively sent a statement to media in an effort to clear up confusion by his comments on Aucklanders leaving the city over summer. But, Chris Hipkins’ latest update sheds little light on the government’s plans for the Christmas period – and it doesn’t rule out implementing a time slot system for travellers.

“We are committed to ensuring Aucklanders are able to leave Auckland for Christmas and the summer holidays,” said Hipkins. “At the same time, we need to do what we can for the rest of the country to try and ensure it is people, and not the virus, that moves beyond the Auckland boundary.”

Hipkins last night signalled the government was considering implementing an MIQ-style allocation system for when Aucklanders could travel. That was walked back by the deputy PM Grant Robertson this morning and there’s no mention of it in Hipkins’ latest comments.

“No system will be perfect, and it will be challenging, but we are looking at how we can use tools like vaccine certificates and testing to achieve these goals,” he said. “While no decisions have been made, we are talking with different sectors and groups who will be key to making a land boundary work safely and as smoothly as possible, and will keep the public up to speed with developments.”

An update on vaccine certificates is due within the next few weeks, in time for when Auckland shifts to the traffic light framework.

2.00pm: Auckland councillor refuses to apologise after calling law change ‘rape’

An Auckland councillor has refused to back down after being criticised for comparing a piece of legislation with “rape”. 

Auckland Council today debated the recently announced changes to urban density rules, a proposed law change backed by both Labour and National. 

Speaking to the bill, councillor Christine Fletcher – a former National MP and mayor of Auckland City – said she saw it as “tantamount to rape of Auckland.” 

 “I can’t believe that a piece of legislation with the significance of this is going to be rushed in this way,” she added. 

After a pause, Fletcher’s colleague councillor Cathy Casey asked for an apology and a withdrawal. “I find that last remark to be really unacceptable as part of a debate on housing,” she said. “I’d like to be withdrawn and an apology made.”

Fletcher initially refused to withdraw her remarks, instead doubling down. “I’d say it’s gang rape because it’s by both Labour and National and I’m appalled.”

Those comments were, Casey responded, offensive and should be recorded on the meeting’s minutes if no apology was made. “I think that I would be backed by every woman that I know,” said Casey. 

The comments were ultimately withdrawn, but Fletcher refused to apologise. She said she would have instead labelled the law change a “non-consensual molestation” of the city. 

Since the comments were shared on social media, there have been some calls for Fletcher to resign from council.

Christine Fletcher (Image / Getty Images)

1.45pm: The race to 90%

Another low day for first doses, with just 6,659 administered across the country yesterday. That’s the lowest first dose day since early June. Meanwhile, 20,340 people received their second dose bumping the fully vaccinated population up to 77%.

In Auckland, 1,172,099 – or 82% – of the eligible population has now been double jabbed. However, the city is still more than three weeks away from moving into the new traffic light framework as Counties Manukau remains 2,613 away from hitting the 90% first dose milestone.

Check out how your DHB is tracking with our interactive graph below – and view more snazzy charts on our Covid Tracker page here.

1.30pm: No link between Covid-positive person’s death and vaccine

A Covid-positive person who died yesterday was a man in their 40s, the Ministry of Health has confirmed. And, while a definitive cause of death is yet to be revealed, the ministry has hit back at rumours the vaccine was to blame.

“There has been speculation this death was vaccine related but we can confirm it was not,” said a spokesperson. “The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre and the ministry will undertake an incident review of the public health and clinical oversight of this person with independent input.”

The case has been referred to the coroner.

1.20pm: Delta outbreak jumps by 139, with one new case in Northland


There are 139 new community cases of Covid-19, across three parts of the North Island.

Auckland has 136 new cases, while there are two in Waikato and one in Northland.

Of today’s new cases, 72 cannot yet be linked to the outbreak with 452 mystery cases from across the past fortnight. Twenty-seven of yesterday’s cases were infectious while in the community.

The new case in Northland is a close contact of the two previously reported Taipa cases and has been isolating at home. Today there are 15 community testing centres and 12 vaccination clinics available across the region. No link between the cases in Taipa and the rest of the Northland outbreak has yet been reported.

“Those who live in or around Taipa, Kaingaroa, Awanui and Kaitaia and have had symptoms of Covid-19 in the last couple of weeks, are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible,” said the ministry.

Both Waikato cases are located in Hamilton and were close contacts of existing cases.

Once again, there are no new cases in the South Island.

The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has hit a new record of 64. The average age of those in hospital is 51 and five cases remain in intensive care.

1.15pm: While we wait…

Have you considered joining The Spinoff Members? Our ongoing coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic relies on the support from our members. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be here, hurriedly refreshing my inbox, waiting for today’s numbers to drop.

Click here to find out how you can support The Spinoff for as little as $1.

12.30pm: Support for Labour drops in new political poll

A new political poll has the gap between the government and the opposition closing.

According to the latest Roy Morgan survey, the Labour Party has dropped six points down to 39.5% over the past month. Of course, during that time, Auckland has remained in lockdown while parts of Waikato and Northland have moved between alert levels.

National’s received a three point bump up to 26% while Act sits steady on 16%. The Greens are on 10.5% with the Māori Party on 2%.

That puts the government bloc of Labour and the Greens on 50%, while National and Act sit on 42%.

(Image / Roy Morgan)

12.00pm: Allbirds smashes targets on Nasdaq debut

Footwear brand Allbirds, co-founded by former All White Tim Brown, has made a mega splash on its Nasdaq debut.

As the Herald reported, stock in the company almost doubled from its launch price of US$15 a share through to US$29.90. That means Brown’s 15.3 million shares in his company are now worth more than US$450million.

Allbirds is based in San Francisco after being founded back in 2016. It uses New Zealand merino wool for its now iconic sustainable sneakers.


11.15am: Robertson walks back time slot idea for Auckland travel

The deputy prime minister has been quick to walk back the possibility of making Aucklanders book in for a slot that they could leave the city over summer.

The comments were made last night by Covid response minister Chris Hipkins, who said Aucklanders may be allocated a time when they could travel out of Auckland around Christmas. That prompted widespread ridicule from the public and opposition MPs, with National’s Chris Bishop labelling it the “stupidest idea” he’d ever heard.

This morning, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson quickly signalled that idea is no longer on the cards. “I don’t think it’s particularly likely that there would be the kind of scheme where you were allocated a day,” he told RNZ. “I can’t see that – it wouldn’t be very practical. But we do have to find a way through in the event that we still have a boundary there.”

Robertson’s comments suggest that the government still plans to check everyone’s vaccination status on the way out of Auckland, even if timeslots are off the table.

National leader Judith Collins has called on the prime minister to explicitly rule out the idea. “Jacinda Ardern needs to rule out this ridiculous idea immediately. Then she needs to give New Zealanders a clear, unambiguous timetable for when they will be allowed to travel,” said Collins. “It seems everyone except the government can see that this idea is unworkable and ridiculous.”

There’s no 1pm press conference today meaning a definitive answer from the government may not come until tomorrow.

10.40am: Duncan Garner returning to the airwaves on Magic Talk replacement

Broadcasters Duncan Garner and Rachel Smalley will join MediaWorks’ new talk radio brand – set to replace the embattled Magic Talk – in 2022.

The pair will join Tova O’Brien, Newshub’s outgoing political editor, who was announced as host of a new breakfast show earlier this week.

Garner made a sudden departure from the airwaves earlier this year when he left TV3’s The AM Show with next to no warning. In a statement, he said he’s excited for his new move. “I love radio and can’t wait to join the team at MediaWorks and get back into it in 2022,” he said. “We’re looking how we can reinvent the format which is an exciting challenge, but personally I can’t wait to hear from Kiwis once again.”

Smalley has had an extensive media career, most recently as host of Newstalk ZB’s Early Edition and previously as a foreign correspondent for TV3. “Nothing beats the challenge of live radio, plus this is a really great opportunity to do talk radio a little bit differently,” she said.

The talk radio station’s name and further announcements are set to be made in due course.

Duncan Garner and Rachel Smalley
Duncan Garner and Rachel Smalley (Photo / MediaWorks)

10.20am: National MP spotted at anti-vax protest

National MP Harete Hipango made a fleeting appearance at yesterday’s large anti-vaccination protest in Whanganui, leaving when spotted by media.

The gathering of around 250 people led to the cancellation of scheduled visits by Jacinda Ardern to vaccination clinics.

Hipango, who is a list MP based in Whanganui, was initially spotted by local journalist Ethan Griffiths.

She was later clocked by Newshub reporter Amelia Wade, who asked Hipango why she was at the rally. “I’m here to support my community,” she said, before adding that she thought the protest was about something else.

The Spinoff has approached Hipango for comment but, so far, has been left on seen.

9.25am: Bullet dodged as officials confirm no Covid linked to Redvale ‘influencer party’

Health officials don’t believe any Covid-19 cases were linked to the infamous “influencer” party in the Auckland suburb of Redvale.

Footage from the party shared on social media showed at least 50 people indoors with a lot of, err, close contact. During alert level three, step one, gatherings have been limited to 10 and must take place outdoors.

Since the party occurred, Redvale has often appeared on the Ministry of Health’s suburbs of interest list and locals have been encouraged to get a test.

However, a Ministry of Health spokesperson told The Spinoff they were “not aware” of any cases of delta linked to the party.

8.55am: Cause of death unknown after Covid-positive person found dead

It’s yet to be confirmed whether a person with Covid-19 found dead yesterday afternoon was actually killed by the virus.

The Ministry of Health revealed last night that the person tested positive for Covid-19 on October 24 and had been isolating at home “with public health oversight”. However, it’s not known whether they died due to Covid-19 or something else.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield told TVNZ’s Breakfast said health officials will now work to find out what happened. “We’ll be working closely with police just to look at the circumstances and because it’s an unexplained death, it’ll be referred to the coroner to determine the cause of death,” he said.

Cases self-isolating at home were checked in on daily by via email, said Bloomfield. “There’s a process in place and they’ll quite happily send a daily email to describe their symptoms but that’s only after an initial, quite thorough assessment,” Bloomfield said. “[That includes] what health needs and what support needs, what the needs might be of other household members, and in fact even whether someone needs to isolate to be safe in a managed isolation quarantine facility.”

Officials will now take a look at what support services were offered to the deceased before their death.

8.00am: Opposition ridicule idea to allocate Aucklanders summer travel slots

The opposition has ridiculed an idea to allocate Aucklanders time slots for when they can leave the city over summer.

In an interview last night with RNZ’s Checkpoint, the Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the plan was being considered in order to curb traffic delays. “My message is, for those that are wanting to travel out of Auckland, they should expect it will be a reasonably time-consuming process if they’re travelling via land,” said Hipkins.

The backlash, however, came quick. National’s Chris Bishop labelled it the “stupidest idea” and compared it with the existing MIQ lottery. “The idea that Aucklanders will be allocated by the government a week away or something, when I first saw it on Twitter… I actually had to reread it about three times. I couldn’t believe it.”

Act leader David Seymour said the government appeared to be making things up as it went along. “It is impractical to check every car leaving Auckland for vaccine status, even if it was desirable to have internal borders all summer. The queues and pressure on Police time are unworkable, and the suggestion the government might allocate times for people to move simply brings the absurdity into sharp relief.”

The suggestion to allocate time slots came following an earlier interview in which the prime minister appeared to confirm Auckland’s hard border would stay in place over summer – but with the ability for vaccinated people to come and go.

Read more on this subject in today’s edition of The Bulletin.

7.30am: In today’s Bulletin

Medical exemptions for the vaccine will be centralised. If you paid for a health professional to write you a medical exemption for the jab, “ask for a refund”, that’s the message from director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield. As RNZ reports, any exemptions will now be centrally approved by the government. The Covid-19 minister said most of the exemptions were “a ripoff scheme” and the number that will be accepted will be very small. School principals had been looking for help from government after some teachers had handed in exemptions they told RNZ seemed dodgy and were signed by homeopaths.

Death in isolation. The ministry of health reported last night that someone infected with Covid-19 and isolating at a Manukau address has died. The cause of death is unknown.

The Covid numbers: There are 58 cases in hospital and 3 in ICU/HDU. There are now 2,019 active cases in New Zealand. 97 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday, 3 in Waikato. 28,921 people were vaccinated on Tuesday.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

While Cop26 is underway, Southland looks to coal. The daily headlines are dominated by global pledges to sharply reduce emissions and pivot to renewable energy by 2030. However, two stories in The Southland Times illustrate the scale of the challenge. Exploration is underway for a new coal mine near Invercargill that could open in 2022 and yield 600,000 tonnes of the black stuff. While Southland councillors are calling for limits on carbon farming, planting trees to absorb emissions, because of fears of losing quality pastoral land.

Unemployment is at a record low in New Zealand. Only 3.4% of New Zealanders are unemployed, matching the record low in December 2007. As Stuff reports, the figure reflects worker shortages reported across the economy from the closed border and the possibility that some of the unemployed can’t search for work due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, the rate of people who want more work or aren’t actively searching also fell to 9.2%. Extremely low unemployment coupled with high inflation means workers have a pretty persuasive case for a pay hike.

The Bay of Plenty is preparing for the return of cruise ships. Nearly two years after the last cruise ship was seen in Tauranga harbour, bookings for trans-Tasman voyages are being made for early 2022, SunLive reports. Norwegian, Carnival and P&O are selling packages that encompass stops in New Zealand and Australia from February. The country’s maritime border is closed to foreigners and the government has signalled no intention to change that. With the early days of the pandemic marked by outbreaks on cruise ships (Remember breathless coverage of the Diamond Princess?), they might not be the first to get through.

Keep going!