Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 5, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
4.10pm: Quarantine-free travel with WA, NT to resume by weekend
The pause on quarantine-free travel with Western Australia and the Northern Territory will be lifted from 11.59pm this Friday, Jacinda Ardern has announced at a post-cabinet press conference. The pre-departure test requirement remains.
The bubbles with Queensland and New South Wales remain paused, but people ordinarily resident in New Zealand will be allowed to return from that same time, provided they make a declaration that they haven’t been in a location of interest, are not symptomatic, and are not a close contact of a case or awaiting a Covid-19 test results.
The pause with Queensland will be reviewed on Wednesday, but New South Wales will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Hipkins wants to see more saliva testing
In response to a question from a reporter, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said he would “like to see saliva testing rolled out more widely”.
He said some border workers had indicated they would prefer a weekly nasal swab rather than a saliva test every few days, as saliva tests came with restrictions such as not smoking or eating beforehand.
“I will continue to lean on the team implementing that to see if they can get it more widely deployed faster,” he said.
Mandatory scanning and mask wearing still being considered
Ardern said cabinet had received initial advice on implementing mandatory scanning of QR codes at high-risk venues and wider mask use at higher alert levels, but was not ready to make a decision yet. Questions remained over whether the obligation would rest on a venue or an individual, she said, and an announcement would likely be coming next week.
3.55pm: PM to update on Australia travel and bringing stuck New Zealanders home
Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins are set to talk to media at a post-cabinet press conference at 4pm. Trans-Tasman travel will be on the agenda, particularly the plan for reopening travel with the states that remain closed. Quarantine free-travel with Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT resumed this morning, but the bubble with Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales remains paused.
3.20pm: Prepare for three years of border closures, warns Rob Fyfe
The government’s business advisor is warning that border closures could be in place for a further two or three years.
Rob Fyfe – an ex-Air New Zealand CEO – had previously suggested the borders would reopen by the end of the year but now, as reported by Stuff, believed that was too optimistic.
“We still have a lot of work to do to navigate through this next phase,” he said.
Fyfe was involved in the business response to the virus from early on. “Everyone was highly agitated, people were anxious, people didn’t know how to engage, where to engage,” he said of the atmosphere back in March last year. “We actually didn’t know how to harness all that energy because we kind of hadn’t really defined the problem.”
To have any hope of the country reopening, Fyfe believed that all eligible New Zealanders need to be vaccinated.
2.10pm: Sydney Covid cluster increases again, 35 new cases recorded
New South Wales’ Covid-19 cluster has ballooned yet again, with 35 new cases of the virus recorded overnight.
Quarantine-free travel between the state and New Zealand is still on hold due to the ever-growing number of new cases. According to Nine News, the state’s premier Gladys Berejiklian said the lockdown has successfully stopped the number of new cases from rising even faster.
“The next couple of days will be absolutely critical in allowing our health experts to collate the data that we’ve had in the last week,” Berejiklian said.
“I can say that the lockdown certainly has been effective in not doubling and tripling the figures that we were worried about.”
1.05pm: One contact of Australian traveller still to be located – ministry
Just one person linked to the Covid-positive Australian visitor has yet to be located by contact tracers, the Ministry of Health said.
So far, 2726 contacts have been identified overall, with 2670 (or 98%) returning an initial negative result – an increase of 21 since yesterday. 33 people have been granted a clinical exemption and 22 require no further action.
“The remaining person is being actively followed up by contact tracing teams,” said a ministry spokesperson.
Meanwhile, there are no new community cases of Covid-19 to report. Seven new cases have been confirmed in managed isolation.
The number of active cases in New Zealand is 39.
12.50pm: ‘Like a thousand Waikato DHBs’ – new ransomware attack crashes school IT systems
A massive, international ransomware attack has left at least 11 New Zealand schools scrambling to get their IT systems back online.
US-based IT firm Kaseya is the target of this latest cyberattack, with some software developed by the company crashing worldwide.
A Ministry of Education spokesperson told RNZ they were working to confirm if any other schools had been impacted. “We advise any school that believes they may have Kaseya VSA software installed to contact their IT provider in the first instance and undertake the recommended mitigation as per the CERT NZ advisory,” they said.
One of the schools implicated, St Peters in Cambridge, was now working to recover data. “As a result, all school systems are inactive and will be for at least the next 48 hours,” the school said.
This particular attack could be devastating for the company at its centre, said IT security consultant Daniel Ayers. “It has the potential possibly to destroy the company in my opinion. This is like a thousand Waikato DHBs all over again.”
11.20am: Green zone flights possible for NZers stuck in Australia
The government is considering how to support New Zealanders stuck in Australia as the delta variant of Covid-19 sweeps the nation.
As off today, anyone in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and ACT can travel to New Zealand without quarantine so long as they provide a negative pre-departure test. But, until tomorrow night at least, quarantine-free travel from New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia is paused.
Jacinda Ardern told RNZ that green zone flights could be possible. “I anticipate we will just take a similar approach to Victoria,” Ardern said. That involved returnees testing negative for Covid-19 test within the last 72 hours, and signing a declaration to say they had not been at a place of interest.
“New South Wales, I anticipate taking a bit of time, of course they’re still in a form of lockdown,” Ardern said.
10.00am: How protecting Wellington’s character homes is leaving tenants out in the cold
Despite being mostly damp and unstable, Wellington’s character homes have long been fiercely protected. But as tenants advocate Ashok Jacob argues in a piece on The Spinoff, their loudest proponents aren’t the ones that need protecting the most. Here’s an extract:
I’ve lived among poor renters for long enough to know that living in a heritage rental is a generally unpleasant and often hazardous experience. But when it comes to some of the city’s loudest voices in favour of character protection, they often tend to be homeowners who lack the experience of what it’s actually like to live poor in Wellington in the 21st century. Some of those voices, like the veteran Greens in the city, come from working-class backgrounds but have since benefited from the last vestiges of the post-war consensus. Many are now homeowners, a status few from my generation will ever attain.
Last year, I spoke at the Newtown Residents Association in favour of removing character protections from the suburb. The response was vitriolic. I was 21, the youngest speaker by several decades, and the only speaker of the night supporting the proposed spatial plan. During my presentation, I was heckled several times, and one person threatened to “declare war” on those who promoted the plan. A show-of-hands survey of the mostly grey-haired audience revealed that the vast majority were homeowners and many were landlords. That’s especially significant in a suburb where renters make up almost half of the population.
9.25am: Commission’s donation to Mongrel Mob sparks resignation call
Judith Collins is calling for the human rights commissioner to quit after it was revealed his agency used taxpayer money to donate to the Mongrel Mob.
The $200 koha was given to the mob back in May after commissioner Paul Hunt spoke at a hui hosted by the Waikato branch of the gang.
Collins said the donation was an “incredible lapse of judgement” amongst a “series of poor decision-making”.
“[It’s] a clear indication that under his leadership the Human Rights Commission has gone completely off track,” she said in a statement.
“That Hunt and HRC staff thought it was appropriate to donate to one of New Zealand’s largest gangs – who were recently involved in an international gang drug bust resulting in arrests – calls into question their judgement and raises questions as to the priorities of the commission.”
Collins isn’t the only opposition MP speaking out against the donation. Act Party leader David Seymour told Newstalk ZB it was unacceptable – and called for the commission to be abolished. “This is a criminal organisation which peddles misery and the Human Rights Commission is using taxpayer money to legitimise them,” Seymour said. “The commission is no longer interested in helping real people with actual human rights issues, but simply advancing a left-wing agenda.”
While Hunt himself would not respond to questions from ZB, the commission confirmed it had also provided money to activist group ActionStation Aotearoa along with a number of schools and Marae.
8.00am: ‘My recovery has gone well’ – Kiritapu Allan returns to parliament
Cabinet minister Kiritapu Allan has announced her return to parliament today amid an ongoing battle with stage three cervical cancer.
The East Coast Labour MP – who held the emergency management portfolio – has been on leave since April 6, just weeks after the biggest day of her political career: the earthquake and tsunami warnings in March.
In a post on Instagram, Allan said she was grateful for all the support she had received in her time away from parliament. “I’m certain if it wasn’t for the prayers, messages of support, and the most incredible care I received from the health care practitioners during my time of treatment, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today,” she wrote.
“My recovery has gone well and my medical team were very pleased with how the treatment went – with some follow up appointments to be had (as is with this journey) – meaning I’m ready now to get back into work.”
Speaking to the Herald’s Audrey Young (paywalled), Allan said she was – at stages – incredibly scared during her treatment.
“I’ve got a four-year-old daughter. Often my thoughts were thinking about her and what life might be like without her mum-mum in it, or what I wanted to fight for in terms of seeing her 21st birthday or her get married or who knows what she wants to do or see her performing kapa haka on the stage,” she said.
“So I found myself feel incredibly fearful that I might not see those key milestones.” She used her nine week stay in hospital to reflect on her life. “I feel incredibly blessed to live where I do, to have the people I’ve got in my life. If you’re not happy, change it, but I feel like I have a really full life and I feel bloody privileged.”
Allan will return to work gradually with Kris Faafoi to temporarily retain the emergency management portfolio due to its on-call nature.
A huge thanks to Toby, Alex, Alice and everyone else who filled in for me while I was off sick at the end of last week. The live updates were in superbly safe hands.
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Quarantine free-travel with three Australian states (and the ACT) is back on as of this morning, reports Stuff. The bubble was paused completely amid a Covid scare which so far doesn’t appear to have resulted in any community transmission in New Zealand. Some states continue to have a pause on them, and people who have been in them recently may not necessarily be able to return to NZ straight away.
Meanwhile, people in NZ largely aren’t getting tested even if they have symptoms consistent with Covid-19, reports Radio NZ. The findings come from a survey by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, and were described as “concerning” by the body, particularly given the more contagious Delta variant is spreading overseas, and that testing only really ramps up when there’s a scare. “In order to continue managing this pandemic successfully in New Zealand and enjoying the travel bubble we have with Australia, we strongly advise anyone to be tested if they have cold and flu like symptoms,” said RCPA president Michael Dray.
And this was shaping as a crucial week for the vaccine rollout, but it appears the crisis has been averted. The NZ Herald reports this morning 150,000 Pfizer doses have been delivered, which avoids the drama that would have otherwise happened if they were delayed. A final piece to read which ties all of these themes together is by Justin Giovannetti, who has written about the key question underpinning all of the Covid response – when will the pandemic end sufficiently for the world to return to normal?
The former head of music at Epsom Girls has been named as resigning after accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct with a student. The story by Stuff’s Alison Mau reveals that police confirmed a complaint had been made, but had not proceeded as the student was over the age of consent. However Peter Thomas, 51, still faces an investigation by the Teaching Council.