Live updates, July 6: Nurses vote to strike; Minister refuses to express confidence in human rights commissioner

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 6, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

6.45pm: Covid-19 detected in two mariners off Taranaki coast, three NZ contacts in isolation

Two mariners are isolating on a fishing vessel in international waters off the coast of Taranaki after testing positive for Covid-19, the health ministry has confirmed.

The two arrived in Auckland yesterday as part of a group of nine mariners destined for a deep sea fishing vessel. The group all provided negative Covid-19 tests before flying to New Zealand and were tested again on arrival.

All nine are now isolating on the fishing vessel.

Health officials say there’s a low risk to the public, but are undertaking contact tracing around the group’s movements from arrival at Auckland airport.

Three people have already been identified and are isolating, including two people who work at the Taranaki port and the driver who transported them from Auckland to New Plymouth

3.55pm: Nurses vote for further strikes

Nurses will stage three further strikes, the first at the end of the month, following a ballot of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation members.

“This is a history-making set of actions that could take place over the next few months, but we will be continuing discussions with the DHBs this week and we remain committed to securing a deal that is acceptable to our members,” said the NZNO’s David Wait in a statement. “We are facing a national health crisis in terms of safe staffing, recruitment and retention; and the working conditions our members face can no longer be endured … Nursing is a caring profession and it’s heart-breaking nurses feel so undervalued that they would choose ongoing strike action.”

Despite the announcement, Wait expressed some optimism the action could be averted, with discussions with DHBs scheduled for this week and mediation on July 14-15. “Progress has been made in our discussions and that has given us some hope a resolution can be found around pay and safe staffing.”

The strikes are scheduled for July 29/30 (24 hours), August 19 (8 hours), and September 9/10 (24 hours).

3.30pm: Minister won’t express confidence in commissioner after $200 gang donation

The government has refused to express confidence in the human rights commissioner following controversy over a $200 koha to the Mongrel Mob.

In question time today, Chris Hipkins – speaking on behalf of the justice minister Kris Faafoi – said commissioner Paul Hunt was independent from government and would not signal support for him either way. National’s police spokesperson Simeon Brown said that was telling.

“Given the minister could not bring himself to even express confidence in the head of New Zealand’s taxpayer funded Human Rights Commission, Paul Hunt himself should do the right thing and hand in his resignation,” said Brown.

“Yes we must respect the independence of agencies like the HRC, but the government must still take responsibility for the agency in regards to inappropriate use of taxpayer funding. I refuse to think the minister thinks donating to organised crime is appropriate use of taxpayer funds.”

Both National and Act have called for Hunt’s resignation over the donation, gifted to the mob as a koha after a speaking engagement.

2.40pm: Radio producer loses new job after ‘disrespectful’ column about women’s sport

Two weeks ahead of its launch and new sports radio station SENZ has already lost two key hires. 

It had pledged to deliver “New Zealand’s most devoted and dedicated 24/7 sports coverage ever” and enlisted an A-list sporting line-up to do just that. An off-shoot of the hugely successful Australian station SEN – or Sports Entertainment Network – our local version is set to launch later this month with a flagship breakfast show fronted by Brendon McCullum and Israel Dagg.

But, despite a high profile broadcasting line-up, and ahead of its July 19 launch, Senz looks to be struggling behind closed doors. 

The station’s first major hire was content manager Jason Pine, an ex-Newstalk ZB sports broadcaster, earlier this year. A few weeks ago he was bumped out of that role. A statement said he would take up an evening slot on the network instead. Now, he’s quietly parted ways with the company entirely. Producer Sam Casey was dropped this week after penning a controversial column targeting women athletes. 

Pine confirmed to The Spinoff that he had chosen to quit SENZ ahead of the official launch, but would not comment on the specifics of his departure. “I’ve resigned from the company full stop. I’m not now with SENZ,” he said. “We’ve just decided to part ways.” Asked if there was a catalyst for him leaving, Pine said there was but would not disclose anything further. “Sometimes things fit but sometimes they don’t,” he added. 

“I think they’re a very successful company, they’ve put together a really strong on-air line-up and I expect them to be really successful.” 

Sam Casey, a 25-year-old rugby writer, has meanwhile been dropped by the network following a controversial column about women’s sports published in Rugby News last week. He was set to produce the afternoon show on SENZ but told Stuff he received a letter of termination after the backlash to his column. 

”One strike and you’re out is certainly an interesting way to go about things though,” he said.

Casey’s column was labelled a “rambling, shambolic manifesto” by sports writer Scotty Stevenson on The Spinoff over the weekend. Casey’s piece – titled “hands out, not up” – essentially argued that women’s rugby did not bring in enough revenue to justify the players getting paid as much as they do. Stevenson said the article was “an insult to wāhine players, to the sport in general, and to everyone’s intelligence”.

Rugby News has no affiliation with Senz and the column was written before Casey joined the network. Rugby News later admitted the opinion piece should not have been published. “Rugby News ran the column in the interests of free speech, but the tone and language would have benefited from further changes to reduce the harm it has caused,” the magazine said in a tweet. 

A statement from SENZ to The Spinoff confirmed that Casey’s contract was terminated over the weekend. “The views expressed by Casey in a column prior to him joining SENZ are inconsistent with our values of equality, respect and inclusiveness among all sports, athletes, and officialdom,” a spokesperson said.

“While everyone is entitled to an opinion – and SENZ will be a platform where many no doubt disagree on key issues over time – the tone and language used in this instance were highly disrespectful to New Zealand’s female sports athletes, and our desire to stand with all New Zealand sports and its performers as an inclusive platform of respect.

“We wish Sam well and encourage him to learn more about the evolution of women’s sport around the world.”

2.20pm: New Gone By Lunchtime out now

In another triumph of love speech over hate speech, Annabelle Lee-Mather, Ben Thomas and Toby Manhire discuss Covid, vaccines and roadmaps, the three waters reform, Willy Jackson’s UNDrip response, the National Party purge and the malice that lives in Ben’s soul in the new episode of politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime.

Follow and listen on Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider.

1.05pm: No new community Covid-19 cases, one in MIQ

The risk of Covid-19 spreading in Wellington from a positive case recorded in a Sydney traveller is no more. It’s now been two weeks since the tourist visited the capital, with no cases of the virus recorded since they left.

“As it is now over 14 days since the Australian traveller left New Zealand, no further contact tracing or testing is required. No further updates on this situation are planned,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.

“We would like to thank everyone who came forward to be tested and co-operated with contact tracers, and the many staff across the system who worked to respond effectively to this situation.”

Meanwhile, there are no new community cases in the country and just one in managed isolation. Three previously reported cases have now recovered. The number of active cases in New Zealand is 36.

12.35pm: Green co-leader facing challenge

Green co-leader James Shaw is facing a challenge from a Dunedin member and climate activist, in a long-shot bid for one of the party’s top jobs.

James Cockle has put his name forward, running on a platform of being much more direct in communicating the scale of the climate crisis to the public, and trying to transform the Greens into a major party. Green co-leaders are reelected at each AGM, but the process is normally a formality, with challenges relatively unusual.

Read Alex Braae’s full report here.

Greens Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw greet supporters during the Greens Party’s election night function (Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)

11.45am: Long term MIQ facilities being considered

The government has conceded it may need to buy or lease existing facilities used for managed isolation as it looks to the future of our Covid-19 response.

Chris Hipkins told RNZ a “range of options” were being looked at and admitted new facilities could even be established. “It may be that we look to continue with some of our facilities in the longer term, whether that’s buying them, whether it’s leasing them, whether it’s doing something different,” he said.

“We may look at standing up some different looking facilities. Again, those are longer-term options, bearing in mind that to build a facility takes quite some time, but I think we are likely to need this capability and capacity for some time. Although it might look a bit different, we might not do as much of it I think we’re still likely to need some of it.”

10.20am: Amazon quietly enters NZ market

Amazon has made its Australian website available for New Zealand shoppers.

According to Stuff, it will mean quicker delivery times and cheaper prices on some products.

“Customers can access expedited delivery in as fast as three business days to certain areas in Auckland and Christchurch for as little as A$6.99 (NZ$7.52) and standard delivery starting at AU$2.99,” Amazon said in a statement.

At this stage, the company’s “prime” service – which includes free delivery – will not be available for New Zealanders. But, Amazon’s streaming service Prime Video has been accessible here for a few years.

8.50am: Paula Bennett headed to TVNZ for revived game show

Ex-MP Paula Bennett is set to front a revival of classic charades game show Give Us a Clue, alongside broadcaster Hilary Barry and comic Tom Sainsbury.

According to TVNZ, the programme will see “women vs men” in a battle of charades between New Zealand celebs. Barry and Sainsbury will be the team captains.

“This show is going to be fast-paced chaotic fun that I am somehow going to try and control,” said Bennett in a statement. “I envisage the biggest challenge for Tom and Hilary will be not being allowed to talk.”

Give Us a Clue 2021 team

(Image / Supplied)

8.00am: New poll shows support for Labour slumping

Labour’s support has dropped by 6.5% according to a new poll – but the party could still safely govern with the support of the Greens.

The Roy Morgan survey has put Labour on 38.5%, a slump from last month’s 45%. National is still significantly behind on 29.5%, just a one point bump from the last poll. It’s really the minor parties that reaped the rewards of Labour’s loss: the Greens and Act are both up, sitting on 12.5% and 11.5% respectively. Compared to their election results it’s a pretty major rise. Similarly, the “others” bloc and the Māori Party saw a small bump.

Of course, this being a Roy Morgan poll – not necessarily the most historically accurate – it should be taken with a grain of salt. But we’re in a bit of a political polling drought so I’m going to take what we can get. More importantly, it’s interesting to see how people may be reacting to things like the government’s vaccine roll-out and ongoing internal issues within National.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB last night, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson said he was unconcerned by the drop in support for Labour. “Polls are polls, different ones say different things,” he said. “The public’s still very supportive of the direction of travel.”

He denied it was a reflection of recent government’s policies and ideas such as hate speech reform and the Auckland cycle bridge. “I tend to think these things are never down to individual issues… I tend to think that people see these things in the whole. I’ve just done a big, long tour around New Zealand post-Budget, and I see an economy that is going much, much better than people expected,” he added.

(Image / Roy Morgan)

According to Roy Morgan, the poll was conducted by both landline and mobile, with a New Zealand-wide cross-section of 951 electors during June.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The meat industry is the latest in the primary sector to be short of critical workers without ready access to bringing in migrants. The story is particularly concerning for halal butchers, who slaughter animals in line with Muslim customary practice. As Stuff’s Catherine Harris reports, this is a major part of the meat export industry, currently to the tune of about $3bn. The industry is short on dozens of halal butchers, and close to a hundred more are on visas that could expire. On that point, MBIE weighed in on an aspect of it last year, regarding median pay rates. There are also barriers to training people in New Zealand’s Muslim community, including the simplest of all – the Muslim community is largely concentrated in the upper North Island, and people don’t necessarily want to move for the jobs.

This is not a new issue for those sectors that traditionally relied on migrant labour. For example, last month there was criticism from Southland dairy farmers, reported by the ODT, that even 200 more spaces for skilled workers wouldn’t be sufficient, with potential human and animal welfare costs as a result.

Despite some moves by the government to open up space for critical workers, we’re living through a grand experiment into what happens to the economy when the flow of migrant workers gets halted. The MIQ system is seen as unfriendly and unwieldy by travel agents, reports Newsroom’s Matthew Scott, so even though there might technically be room to accommodate more people, it hasn’t necessarily worked in practice. Migrant families remaining split is also meaning some leave, and others don’t try to come – here’s a Stuff story about National’s criticism of the government’s current policy.

All of that information leads to inevitable and understandable predictions of economic disaster. That isn’t necessarily how it has played out. The BOP Times reports Kiwifruit cooperative Zespri has seen staggeringly good returns for the year, despite earlier fears fruit would rot on the vine. And there is always an element in any labour market discussion to which a larger pool of potential workers means owners can pay less. But the low unemployment rate suggests there isn’t a lot of room to move for employers right now, and as this useful NZ Herald (paywalled) column by Kate Macnamara noted, skills aren’t necessarily being matched with jobs, and long term that could create significant structural problems.

Under strict conditions, New Zealanders currently stuck in Australia will be able to start coming back. Our live updates reports that will include a declaration they haven’t been at a location of interest or be a contact of a case, not be waiting on a test, and being symptom free. Over the week the bubble with more states will be reopened, except not New South Wales any time soon.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

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