Live updates, March 5: Auckland to move to level two, rest of country to level one, at 6am on Sunday

Live coverage of the major earthquakes off the east coast and the Covid-19 lockdown. Civil Defence advice is available here. Auckland is now at alert level three, NZ at level two. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz 

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6.00pm: Alert level change should have been brought forward – Collins

Judith Collins has questioned why the alert level changes could not have been brought forward, saying “National sees no good reason why Auckland can’t shift to level two on Saturday and the rest of the country shift to level one”.

The leader of the opposition said: “I’d like to thank Aucklanders for their sacrifice to keep the whole country safe from Covid-19, particularly all the public health workers who performed thousands of Covid-19 tests and other critical tasks, as well as everyone who came forward to get tested. Business owners and their employees also deserve special mention for putting their operations on pause and their livelihoods on the line once again.

“In the absence of any evidence that it would be dangerous to do so, we think these businesses should be spared the multi-million dollar hit of remaining closed on Saturday.” 

The CEO of the Auckland Business Chamber, Michael Barnett, meanwhile, said the shift was “an acceptable staging post [but] with five straight days of no new community cases the preference is to join the rest of the country at level one at the same time”.

He added: “I am gutted for those businesses in hospitality, retail, accommodation and events who are losing tens of thousands of dollars weekly who will not be able to operate normally for at least another week but have to believe the prime minister when she says that ‘it will get better’.”

5.45pm: Events back on as alert level change confirmed

America’s Cup racing will begin with the first of two races in Auckland from 4pm on Wednesday, and again on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday 15th and daily until one team has seven wins. The cricket T20 double header will now go ahead with a crowd on Sunday. The latest information about events in the Auckland Arts Festival is here.

The Auckland Pride Festival said in a statement it was hopeful that it would be able to hold its last events, a ball and pool party, should Auckland move to alert level one by the end of next week.

4.00pm: Auckland to move to level two, rest of country to level one, at 6am on Sunday

Auckland will move to alert level two at 6am on Sunday, with the rest of the country dropping down to level one, the prime minister has announced. Cabinet will review the decision at the end of the week, with the view to move Auckland to level one by the start of the weekend.

Ardern issued a reminder that level two is “not business as usual”. “Still keep your distance in public, and if you can’t, carry a face mask with you,” she said. A restriction of 100 people at group events will be in place, and this will apply to church services.

“It is completely natural to feel fatigued,” added Ardern. “Covid is hard work, for everyone. Thank you for pushing through, once again.”

Asked why Auckland can’t go to level one immediately, Ardern said, “We still have the remainder of a transmission cycle.” While cases in the latter part were less likely, “we still want some level of restriction and caution in place”.

More contacts may still test positive; Section 70 notice issued

Speaking after Ardern, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said, “It is possible we may still get positive results from some of the contacts, but it’s important to note that these people remain in isolation so a positive result does not pose a risk to the community.”

Bloomfield issued a Section 70 notice under the Health Act to anyone who has been advised they are a close, close plus or casual plus contact of the current cluster, and anyone who attended City Fitness on February 20 between 11.15am and 1.45pm, or February 26 between 3.25pm and 4.30pm.

The following requirements are issued: “To isolate at their usual home. To report for and undergo medical testing for Covid-19 … and to remain isolated until they receive further direction from a medical officer of health.”

The order means those affected can be “visited immediately at their home or place of work by a public health official”, said Bloomfield.

For more on why that Section 70 order is significant, see this post from law professor Andrew Geddis.

Two people who were at the gym at the earlier time have not been found by contact tracers yet, said Bloomfield. This was the visit before the infected person became symptomatic, he added. “They will be found.” There are a further eight test results outstanding from contacts from the gym, but they have been tested or are getting tested.

Ardern on rule breakers; Bloomfield praises community

On those who have not complied with Covid-19 restrictions, Ardern said she didn’t believe anyone had “gone out to deliberately act against advice”.

“I have never wanted to see a pile-on on anyone,” she said, but didn’t answer the question of whether she would apologise to Case L, who went to work when she was supposed to be isolating, but said she’d never been told she should be.

Ardern said she stood by the decision to bring Auckland back to level one relatively soon after the Valentine’s Day lockdown. “Unfortunately the breach that occurred that set off the chain of events took place at level three,” she said.

Bloomfield heaped praise on the Papatoetoe community for their response to the outbreak, acknowledging he was a glass half full kind of person, but in this case it was “98% full”.

“Remarkable and rapid progress has been made, and we would like to thank in particular the community around Papatoetoe High School,” he said.

Vaccine delivery roadmap coming; Resurgence Support Payments total $63m so far

Ardern said that over the next week she will be laying out a roadmap for the Covid-19 response across the next year and vaccine delivery.

On a shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia being blocked by Italy, Ardern said it was concerning. On a call to French president Emmanuel Macron this morning, Ardern said she raised her deep concerns. “It comes from a position of principle,” she said.

Ardern said that as of 9am this morning, 32,625 applications for the Resurgence Support Payment had been received, comprising a total of $88.4 million. So far, $63.68 million had been dispersed. There had been 10,000 applications for the wage subsidy in the first four hours.

‘A run of bad luck’ – PM; no reports of major damage

“It’s hard not to feel our country is having a run of bad luck,” said prime minister Jacinda Ardern at this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference, adding that she is grateful for the quality of people working on the crises.

Ardern then passed over to civil defence minister Kiri Allan, who thanked the public for doing the right thing, as well as the media for passing on crucial information. Allan confirmed that the tsunami warnings were cancelled at 3.45pm, which allows people to return home. “While there is no longer restriction on being able to go down to the beach, please do exercise prudent judgement,” she said.

Allan said she had not heard of any “concerning or substantive damage to property or otherwise”, but noted the focus has been on getting people evacuated. “Now the risk level has come down, teams on the ground will undertake a more substantive review.”

Asked if she had felt the earthquake, Ardern said yes, with Allan adding that she had received a text message from the prime minister shortly after the first 2.29am quake. Asked what her response was when she realised we were dealing with a pandemic and an earthquake, Ardern said “bugger it”.

HMNZS Canterbury, one of the navy’s large supply ships, with meant to be at the Kermadec Islands this week with government staff, students and iwi members. Alert level three in Auckland delayed Monday’s planned departure, something which helped avoid a “distressing and potentially dangerous situation”, according to the prime minister.

3.35pm: Some light listening with The Real Pod

If you need some entertainment while you return from high ground or while you wait patiently for the 4pm briefing, you’re in luck. The Real Pod have just kicked off their commentary on the new season of Married at First Sight Australia – listen on Spotify and other usual providers. If you’re short on time, there’s also a quick look back at the heyday of CDs on a fresh new episode of Remember When… again, listen now on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

3.20pm: Beach and marine threat over for Auckland, still in place on Great Barrier

On-edge Aucklanders were given another fright when an emergency alert buzzed through their phones just after 3.10pm this afternoon – but it was just to inform them everything was now fine. Civil Defence has declared the threat of damaging tsunami waves has massed for the majority of Auckland, but Great Barrier Island remains under a beach and marine threat.

Other areas that remain under beach and marine threat are the North Cape from Ahipara to the Bay of Islands, the east coast of the North Island from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay, and the Chatham Islands.

2.00pm: Tsunami ‘definitely noticeable’ on Great Barrier

Great Barrier Island’s local board chair said the surge in the ocean was “definitely noticeable” earlier today. The island was the only part of the Auckland region with evacuation notices in place.

Locals are still being advised to avoid coastal areas on most parts of the country, but the tsunami threat has passed.

Speaking to Newshub, Izzy Fordham said it was “all go” this morning.

“I did manage to see some of the [surge] coming through on a beach on the east coast,” she said. “It was small, but it was definitely noticeable. I have heard reports coming from the west coast of the island as well.”

Despite being 100km east from Auckland, Fordham said the island does the best it can to be ready for events like today.

“We try to have as much preparedness as possible,” she said.

1.20pm: ‘Largest waves passed’, evacuation ended

The evacuations have been ended, Civil Defence has announced. “GNS Science has advised that the largest waves have now passed, and therefore the threat level is now downgraded to a Beach and Marine threat for all areas which were previously under Land and Marine threat,” is the advice.

“All people who evacuated can now return. The advice remains, for all areas under Beach and Marine threat, to stay off beach and shore areas.”

1.10pm: No new Covid-19 cases ahead of PM’s alert level decision

As cabinet meets to decide whether to lower Auckland’s alert level three restrictions, there are no new Covid-19 cases in either the community or managed isolation.

Two students at Papatoetoe High School have continued to refuse Covid-19 tests, said the ministry. “A public health plan is in place around the two students who have declined to be tested. These students are being closely managed by Auckland public health officials.”

All other Papatoetoe students have been contacted and retested and have all returned negative results.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 68, with the total number of confirmed cases remaining 2,033.

The Ministry of Health said there remained a “strong demand” for testing, particularly in Auckland. On Thursday, 11,402 tests were processed. More than 69,000 tests have been processed in the last week, with a seven-day rolling average up to yesterday of 9,903 tests processed.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,763,008.

Earthquake and tsunami warning advice

The ministry urges people in affected areas to follow advice from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and local Civil Defence authorities regarding the earthquake overnight and tsunami warnings today.

As reported earlier, evacuation orders by civil defence override the current Covid-19 restrictions. “If you are told to evacuate, do not stay at home. Stay two metres away from others if you can and if it is safe to do so. Only messages issued by NEMA represent the official warning status for New Zealand,” said the ministry.

“Affected District Health Boards have plans in place for such circumstances, and we thank people for their patience. The Ministry of Health’s Emergency Management function is working with DHB emergency management teams and we continue to monitor this situation closely.”

“We understand this situation may be difficult for some people. People can call 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor, and there is a range of other support listed on the Ministry of Health website.”

Waste water testing

Further results from ESR’s wastewater testing have come in, the ministry said. Samples taken on Wednesday from three Auckland sites, including Papatoetoe, have all come back negative for the virus. An additional sample was taken from a site closer to Papatoetoe on the same day, also testing negative.

A sample from the South Western Interceptor came back positive for the same day, but this is a regular occurrence as it is near the Auckland quarantine facility.

12.45pm: Covid-19 update still expected at 1pm

In amidst today’s chaos, we’re still expecting a 1pm-ish press release from the Ministry of Health.

The release will likely reveal the results of overnight testing from casual plus contacts at the Papatoetoe City Fitness as well as any other locations of interest.

Meanwhile, the prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield will hold a 4pm press conference to announce whether or not Auckland will remain in alert level three.

12.40pm: Auckland ferries and trains ‘suspended’, Spark offers free wifi

Updated

Auckland ferry sailings have been suspended until at least 2pm due to the ongoing tsunami warnings. Auckland Transport has advised travellers that it will continue to assess the situation. Britomart train station has also been closed, as a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, Spark is offering free wifi to “everyone in affected areas”.

12.35pm: First waves picked up by tsunami gauges

The first waves of the tsunami are reflected on the gauges at Great Barrier Island, East Cape and North Cape: see to the right of this chart, adjusted for tide, from Geonet.

(Image : GeoNet)

Raoul Island, where the gauge is no longer returning information, is the largest of the Kermadec Islands.

Meanwhile, more footage is coming in from social media of unusual wave activity on the coast.

What you need to know

Civil defence minister Kiri Allan has just wrapped a press conference at parliament detailing the latest on this morning’s major earthquakes and the subsequent tsunami warnings.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Evacuation orders remain in place for people on the west coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara, people on the East Coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Whangārei and from Matata to Tolaga Bay (including Whakatane and Opotiki), and people on Great Barrier Island.
  • The tsunami warning has been extended beyond Northland, but not all areas need to evacuate. Latest information is here.
  • Civil defence orders override Covid-19 restrictions. Follow civil defence advice at all times.
  • Aucklanders do not need to evacuate, despite some reporting. There is no need for Aucklanders to evacuate unless directly advised by local civil defence authorities.
  • Further earthquakes are “unlikely”, but “possible.
  • A surge from one to three metres is expected for the areas that have been evacuated.
  • Official civil defence information is available here.

12.05pm: Evacuations under way on Pacific Islands

A nervous wait is under way on Pacific Islands in the radius of the potential tsunami. The Samoa Observer reports schools are being evacuated around Upolu Island, with a tsunami watch in place.

According to RNZ Pacific, Vanuatu is looking at waves of 1-3 metres, which could cause on-shore damage, and New Caledonia is expecting waves of up to 1m. All coastal areas in Tonga are being evacuated, along with the southern coast of Fiji.

11.40am: ‘When it is long or strong, get gone’ – government update on earthquakes, tsunamis

Updated

Civil defence minister Kiri Allan is giving an update on the tsunami warning and evacuations following the three major earthquakes earlier this morning.

“This is an evolving situation,” said the minister, who has spent this morning in briefings. The advice, Allan said, has always been: “When it is long or strong, get gone”. Information has been provided on the basis of having sometimes to strike a balance, wanting to provide certainty to communities but having to balance that with accuracy.

Essentially the entire town of Ōpōtiki has been evacuated, she said.

Allan thanked those who have had their lives “jolted” for following Civil Defence advice. Those who have moved inland or up high have been advised to stay there until official advice is given.

She acknowledged people may get tired or bored, but “we are asking please do not leave those areas until you have the all clear”.

It had been an “extraordinary morning for many New Zealanders up and down the country and acknowledged in particularly the people of Te Tairāwhiti (the East Coast) and Pēwhairangi (the Bay of Islands), who have had to pack up their homes and evacuate, and have done very well.

Civil defence national controller Roger Ball said that “the first wave may not be the largest”. People should not go sight-seeing, he said, and while the civil defence advice overrides Covid-19 restrictions, people are asked to adhere to social distancing when possible.

People in Auckland will have received an alert on their phones (see: 11.35am update). To be clear, contrary to some reporting, this is not an evacuation notice. Civil Defence’s advice to Auckland: “Strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore are expected in the following areas. This means a threat to beach, harbour, estuary and small boat activities.” But, importantly: “There is no need to evacuate unless directly advised by local civil defence authorities.”

Ball repeated this advice at the press conference, saying Aucklanders are not required to evacuate.

Despite this, The Spinoff has received reports of families swimming and kayaking at Torpedo Bay in Devonport in spite of the warning to stay away from beaches.

A surge from one to three metres is expected for the areas that have been evacuated, said Allan. Earlier, on RNZ, John Ristau of GNS said waves of more than one metre were being anticipated.

Bill Fry of GNS said no further earthquakes were expected but “it’s certainly possible”.

“But it’s an unlikely scenario to have one bigger than the 8.1 [that was experienced this morning],” he added. The coastal threat levels may change over the next few hours, said Fry, meaning the risk may ease in some areas but not others.

Asked about whether supplies would be provided to those who have evacuated, Allan said this would be checked on throughout the day. A number of resources were available already, she understood.

Allan acknowledged today’s alerts may have caused anxiety and asked people to remain calm and check in with loved ones.

Asked about the rules for Great Barrier Island, which is both in the evacuation zone and in Covid-19 alert level three lockdown, Allan said: “The civil defence messages overrides the Covid ones for now.” Pushed on whether people should still try and social distance, Allan said people just need to listen to civil defence.

11.35am: Aucklanders warned to avoid beaches

A Civil Defence alert has just been sent out to Auckland mobile devices, warning locals to avoid coastal areas. To be clear: this is not an evacuation order.

(Supplied)

11.30am: Civil Defence update after major earthquakes

We’ll have live coverage of this morning’s news conference on the major earthquakes and the possible tsunamis.

Watch below:

11.25am: When can we expect the first waves?

Reports are coming in from coastal areas of unusual sea activity. However, we have not heard anything about damage.

Here are some estimated arrival times of the first tsunami waves from NEMA:

Auckland East: 11.35am
Auckland West: 11.48am
New Plymouth: 12.29pm
Whanganui: 12.29pm
Wellington: 11.06am

11.20am: Incredible interview with Far North mayor

While you wait for that 11.30 press conference…

In an extraordinary few minutes of radio just after 9am this morning, Far North Mayor John Carter spoke to Kathryn Ryan of RNZ’s Nine to Noon while he drove around his local village, Waipapakauri Beach, urging residents to evacuate following the tsunami warning.

11.15am: Civil defence minister speaking to media soon; much of country warned to stay away from beaches

Civil defence minister Kiri Allan is holding a press conference from the Beehive at 11.30am, as reports of unusual wave activity are coming in from Northland and the East Coast.

National Party deputy leader Shane Reti, speaking from high ground in Whangārei, has told RNZ he can see the sea going out.

Civil Defence has updated its tsunami warning to cover much of the country. While flooding of land areas is still expected only on the west coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara, the east coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Whangārei, and Great Barrier Island, “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges, which could pose a threat to beach, harbour, estuary and small boat activities”, are expected in the following places:

The West Coast of the North Island from AHIPARA to MAKARA including the West Coast of Auckland, Manukau Harbour, New Plymouth, Whanganui and the Kapiti Coast.

The East Coast of the North Island from WHANGAREI to MATATA including Whangarei, the East Coast of Auckland, Waiheke Island, Waitemata Harbour and Tauranga, from TOLAGA BAY to LAKE FERRY including Gisborne and Napier.

The West and South Coasts of the South Island from FAREWELL SPIT to PUYSEGUR POINT including Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika.

The top of the South Island from FAREWELL SPIT to PORT UNDERWOOD including Nelson, Picton and the Marlborough Sounds.

The East and South Coasts of the South Island from the WAIPARA RIVER to the RAKAIA RIVER including Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, from the TAIERI RIVER to PUYSEGUR POINT including Invercargill.

STEWART ISLAND.

And the CHATHAM ISLANDS.

The Coastguard has told boaties who are already at sea should head to deeper water and stay there until further notice. Anyone on a boat in a marina should get on shore and head to higher ground.

10.20am: East coast marae sheltering residents evacuating from tsunami

Michael Andrew reports:

Around 200 east coast residents are sheltering at the Hinemaurea ki Mangatuna marae, 20km north of Tolaga Bay and 15km inland from the coast, as the tsunami descends on the region.

Tolaga Bay resident Lily Stender said many residents had gone up surrounding hills, but others had come to the marae. “A lot of the community members have come here. We should be far enough from the sea here I reckon.”

Marae chairman Zak Horomia had been there since the early hours of the morning, and said many people driving along State Highway 25 from further up the coast toward Gisborne were turned into the marae. He said the marae had plenty of food, provisions and sleeping quarters, and that people were relaxed and enjoying the fine weather.

“We got a freezer full of food, and there’s heaps of hills in the way. People are most welcome to come in here for a cup of tea and breakfast, the porridge is on for the kids.”

Horomia said before he came to the marae, it was high tide on the coast yet the sea was far out.

As we were speaking, Horomia got another government alert on his phone advising residents north of Tolaga Bay to evacuate and that a 1-3 metre Tsunami was expected to arrive on the coast before 10am. “The first wave will not be the strongest or biggest, our communities will be facing several hours of uncertainty,” the alert said.

10.05am: Latest advice from NEMA

The latest advice from NEMA shows the extended tsunami warning map and evacuation zone.

10.00am: Updated tsunami warning, some west coast areas now advised to evacuate

The tsunami warning following this morning’s magnitude 8.0 earthquake has been updated to include more of Northland, including parts of the west coast.

The Civil Defence website said flooding is possible on: the west coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara and on the east from Cape Reinga to Whangārei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Whakatane and Opotiki. Great Barrier Island could also be impacted.

Speaking on RNZ, John Ristau of GNS said: “If there’s going to be a tsunami it should be arriving very soon”. He warned of waves of more than one metre in some places.

9.50am: ‘It wasn’t a jolt’ – business owner describes feeling of massive quake

A local business owner on the east coast has described what it felt like to near the epicentre of the first of three major earthquakes to strike near New Zealand.

The first, a magnitude 7.3 eartquake, hit in the early hours of this morning – 105km east of Te Araroa.

Ruatoria Pies owner Pakanui told The Spinoff the quake kept rolling on. “It wasn’t a jolt,” he said. “The one we had ages ago was jolts, this one was continuous.” He said he lives in a two storey house so felt a strong rolling feeling.

He’s currently at his shop evaluating the situation. “The delivery driver who delivers the pies, he’s making me a cup of tea and we’re ringing stores to see where they’re at,” he said.

Living up the river, he said it would have to be “the biggest tsunami ever” to reach his property. “We’re pretty safe, we’re surrounded by the hills.”

He’s also ringing schools to see which ones are operating, he said, as school lunches need to be delivered.

9.30am: Evacuations ‘running smoothly’ at Northland camp sites

A Department of Conservation spokesperson in Northland told The Spinoff evacuations were “under way” at camp sites and schools near the coast.

“We are right in the thick of it,” they said. “All our phones have gone off, the sirens have gone off. We’re working to evacuate the schools”.

Asked how the evacuation order had been received by locals, they said “everything was running smoothly” at this stage.

They were expecting more information in the next hour.

9.20am: Quake upgraded to magnitude 8.1

Just a note from me to say we’ll be sticking with this story throughout the morning, keeping you up to date with all the latest info. 

The major quake near the Kermadecs has been upgraded to magnitude 8.1, according to the US Geological Survey.

Meanwhile, a tsunami warning has now been issued for Norfolk Island but there is no threat to the Australian mainland.

9.00am: Second severe quake hits Kermadecs, third tsunami warning issued for NZ

Widespread evacuations have been ordered on the North Island’s east coast after a magnitude 8.0 quake struck near the Kermadec Islands. It’s the third severe quake to strike since 2am this morning, prompting the third tsunami warning for the region.

People near the coast in the following areas must move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible,” the Civil Defence website said.

Areas effected include: The cast coast of the North Island from the Bay of Islands to Whangārei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, including Whakatane and Opotiki.

Great Barrier Island is also impacted.

civil defence warning

Official information from Civil Defence

The Civil Defence order to evacuate overrides the current Covid-19 restrictions in place for the areas.

“Do not return until an official all-clear message is given by Civil Defence… Walk, run or cycle if at all possible to reduce the chances of getting stuck in traffic congestion.”

Official information is available here

Civil defence updated advice

The latest advice (Civil Defence)

8.50am: Man charged after threatening Christchurch mosques

A man has been charged after making threats online against the two Christchurch mosques targeted in the 2019 terror attack.

According to the Herald, two people were arrested yesterday following threats made on internet site 4chan. One man was released, while the other was charged with threatening to kill.

“I just want to reinforce we take these matters extremely seriously and we are also working very closely with our Muslim community,” Canterbury district commander superintendent John Price said. “Any threat made on our community and our people is a threat on our society and will not be tolerated.”

The threats came ahead of the two-year anniversary of the deadly attack, in which 51 people were murdered.

In a statement, the Islamic Women’s Council described the threats as “incredibly cruel”.

“It shows the need for a strong national security system, with clear leadership and direction working with communities,” the council said.

8.10am: Covid-19 d-day – alert level decision set for 4pm

There are no new Covid-19 cases in the Auckland community this morning, extending the four day stretch since the last case was detected outside of managed isolation.

So far, the cluster has not grown since the decision to move Auckland into alert level three, prompting some to think we could be in for good news today.

Public health experts Michael Baker and Shaun Hendy both told RNZ a move out of lockdown was looking likely.

“I guess we just have to wait and hope that none of those indoor events have resulted in lots of ongoing transmission. It doesn’t look like that is the case so far so that is good news,” Baker said.

However, Hendy believed a lengthier period in alert level two would be prudent – even for places outside of Auckland.

“[Level 2] just puts that cap on event sizes which means that should we have an outbreak we’re not chasing hundreds or thousands of casual contacts,” he said.

Jacinda Ardern will front a press conference at 4pm to announce cabinet’s decision and we’re anticipating a 1pm press release this afternoon with the details of any new coronavirus cases. We’ll have it all for you here.

7.50am: Two major earthquakes strike; tsunami warning in place

Two major earthquakes have struck off the coast of New Zealand overnight, prompting a pair of tsunami warnings.

The first shake – a 7.3 magnitude quake – hit at 2.27am about 95km east of the North Island’s east coast – at Te Araroa – causing “severe” shaking felt throughout much of the country.

The tsunami warning for that shake has now been cancelled and residents are able to return home.

However, in the last hour, a second quake – a 7.4 magnitude quake off the coast of the Kermadec Islands – has prompted another tsunami warning that is currently in place for much of Northland.

“Strong currents and surges can injure and drown people,” say Civil Defence. “There is a danger to swimmers, surfers, people fishing, small boats and anyone in or near the water close to shore.” The areas under threat are the east coast from The Bay of Islands to Whangārei.

Speaking on RNZ, civil defence minister Kiri Allan said the damage on the east coast appeared to be minimal. “The teams are out there right now taking a stock take,” she said. There had been reports of personal damage, she said, such as broken plates but no structural damage. Some schools may be closed, she added.

Civil defence forecast

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A decision will be made today on whether or not Auckland will come out of level three, and the rest of the country out of level two on Sunday morning. That decision isn’t a foregone conclusion, but at the moment a lightening of alert levels seems more likely. Our live updates reports we had another day with no new community cases yesterday, out of more than 14,000 processed tests. That includes most of the attendees of a Papatoetoe gym, which was a particularly feared site for transmission.

Speaking briefly last night about the cabinet meeting, associate health minister Peeni Henare said the signs of lockdown lifting were positive. But he told Checkpoint that “all the information” still had to be considered before the decision was made. The NZ Herald reported comments from Henare made earlier in the day, saying there was no chance of an early lift, even if it was another day of zero cases.

On Newstalk ZB this morning, the other associate health minister Ayesha Verrall ran a similar line. She said no new cases had come in overnight. She also defended the decision to go into lockdown in the first place, saying there was a “series of high risk exposures”. She also noted that the spread of cases within households showed that the virus was dangerous, even if it doesn’t appear to have spread further in the community.

There has been some suggestion that it was a mistake to put Auckland back into level three – for example, Newstalk ZB host Heather du Plessis-Allan editorialised on it last night. Because no new cases were announced in the days afterwards, the thinking goes the government might have waited and seen what happened. The counterpoint of course is that a few more days of movement may have resulted in a higher chance of spread, making the need to lock down self-fulfilling. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see what lessons the government takes from the last few weeks of rapid alert level shifts.


Questions are being raised about the stability of the housing market, as a bedrock for the nation’s financial assets. Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr has told a Waikato University forum that he’s concerned that risks are not being adequately priced into the soaring housing market, reports Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Strecker. He says that worry should particularly be taken on board by people leveraging property to buy more of it. Over on Newsroom, Jono Milne has reported on fears around deferred and interest-only mortgages, which swelled massively in volume around the start of the pandemic last year. Note – that piece was written in advance of the Waikato Uni forum.

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