Election Live, September 7: Labour promises new Matariki public holiday – from 2022

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 7, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other New Zealand news. Find official Covid-19 information here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy. I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7pm: The day in sum

Four new cases of Covid-19 were announced, with two linked to the Auckland community cluster.

TV channel Three has officially been sold to US media giant Discovery, Mediaworks confirmed.

Labour says it will make Matariki a public holiday from 2022 if it can form a government again after next month’s election.

National announced its “comprehensive” drug policy to tackle issues caused by methamphetamine.

Jacinda Ardern confirmed that Winston Peters advocated for wider public use of masks back in March, while the country was in nationwide lockdown

3.50pm: Last chance to enrol for ‘EasyVote’ card

Over 400,000 voters have less than a week left to enrol in time to receive an “EasyVote” card for next month’s election.

The card makes it quicker and easier to vote on election day, by showing your name, address and where you are on the electoral roll.

Mandy Bohté from the Electoral Commission said 11% of eligible voters have yet to enrol. The cut-off for enrolling in time for an EasyVote card is this Sunday – which is writ day, when the Governor-General issues formal direction to the Electoral Commission to hold the election.

People are able to enrol to vote after this weekend, including on election day itself, Bohté said. You can enrol or update your details online at vote.nz using a New Zealand driver licence, New Zealand passport or RealMe verified identity.

You can find key dates for this year’s election here.

2.50pm: Who is James Tame?

Yesterday, Winston Peters gave an extraordinary interview on TVNZ’s Q&A with an unknown host called “James Tame”.

Here, our video whizz José Barbosa wraps all the times Peters name-dropped the mystery host.

1.50pm: Labour would make Matariki a public holiday

Matariki will become a public holiday from 2022, if Labour can form a government again after next month’s election.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said she’s heard calls to make Matariki – the Māori New Year – a public holiday from around the country, and believed it would be a confidence boost that many sectors need.

“Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday and a time for reflection, celebration and to look to the future as we take increasing pride in our unique national identity,” Ardern said.

“We don’t have many statutory holidays compared to other OECD countries and it would be good to break up the long run through winter,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The decision to begin the new public holiday in two years, rather than from 2021, reflects the impact Covid-19 has had on businesses, Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis said.

“Public holidays can create additional costs, which is why it wouldn’t come into force until 2022,” he said.

“We will work with Matariki experts to design and determine the appropriate dates for the public holiday, but we expect it will always fall on a Monday or a Friday.”

New Zealand only has 11 public holidays, with 18 OECD countries having more than us. The last public holiday introduced was Waitangi Day nearly 50 years ago.

Earlier today, National’s leader Judith Collins was questioned on whether or not she supported a new public holiday during Matariki. She said that many of her MPs do back the move, and anything that increased tourism was positive. However, she questioned the impact a new public holiday would have on small businesses.

Act Party leader David Seymour criticised the announcement, saying Jacinda Ardern is in “la la land proposing a new public holiday during a recession”.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson welcomed the policy reveal, saying: “The Māori new year is a chance each year to reflect, celebrate, claim our past, and look forward. It gives us time to look up at the night sky and teach our kids about how our tupuna used the stars to give guidance in how we live our lives.”

1.45pm: Where the parties sit on tearing up healthy homes regulations

There’s been a political storm brewing today after National’s leader Judith Collins suggested a government led by her would tear up the government’s new “healthy homes standards”. The standards require – from July 1 next year – that all rentals be fitted with insulation, heating and ventilation within 90 days of an existing tenant renewing their lease or a new tenant moving in.

Collins’ comments led to the Property Investors Federation calling on landlords to hold off making their houses meet the standards (i.e. be warm and dry) until after the election, to see whether or not National wins, prompting outrage from tenants currently paying for cold, damp housing.

What followed was a flurry of press releases from political parties expressing their views on the regulations. Here’s where the parties stand:

Labour: Associate housing minister Kris Faafoi said Judith Collins needed to “come clean” and spell out exactly what the National Party’s plans were with the healthy homes regulations.

“A warm, dry home should be a basic right. The fact that National wants to rip up minimum healthy homes standards that are about protecting children from contracting respiratory illnesses shows where their values lie,” Faafoi said.

National: According to the Herald, Judith Collins would tear up the healthy homes standards if elected as prime minister.

Act: David Seymour said, in a press release, that landlords are a “punching bag” for the Labour Party.

“ACT would ensure a full reversal of this year’s Residential Tenancies Act changes and put a moratorium on new regulations,” said Seymour. “When you pile on costs and regulations to landlords and increase the risk of being a landlord, those costs will be passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents.”

Green Party: Co-leader Marama Davidson said today’s comments by the Property Investors Federation were “appalling, negligent and dangerous”.

“Landlords should instead seek to do right by their tenants and abide by the law and make sure their homes are fit to live in,” Davidson said. “Housing is a human right and the sooner landlords get on with ensuring their homes are warm and dry, the better.”

1.00pm: Four new Covid-19 cases, two linked to cluster

Updated

There are four new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, with two linked to the Auckland community cluster.

The first is a close contact of an existing confirmed case that has been epidemiologically linked to the cluster, the Ministry of Health said in a statement, and the second is a household contact of a confirmed case linked to the Mt Roskill Evangelical Church sub-cluster. Both cases were already in isolation.

The two remaining new cases are both imported cases detected in managed isolation facilities. The first is a male child and the second is a woman in her 20s – both arrived from India on August 23 and they are each a close contact of separate previously reported confirmed cases.

However, less than 4000 Covid-19 tests were processed yesterday – 3,991 specifically – bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 818,629. Testing numbers over the weekend are, typically, lower.

Since August 11, 3,224 close contacts of cases have been identified through contact tracing, of which 3,199 have been contacted and are self-isolating. The ministry is in the process of contacting the rest.

There are 70 people linked to the community cluster who remain in the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 52 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their household contacts.

Today there are four people in hospital with Covid-19: one in Middlemore two in North Shore hospital, and the fourth person is in Waikato Hospital in intensive care.

There are two previously reported cases who are considered to have recovered today – both community cases, taking our total number of active cases to 118. Of those, 41 are imported cases and 77 are community cases.

Our total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is now 1,425.

There are now 2,139,000 registered users of the Covid tracer app, with 359,393 posters created. The app has recorded 43,433,462 poster scans, and 2,477,964 manual diary entries.

New rules for border testing

New rules for testing certain higher-risk workers at the border and in managed isolation and quarantine facilities are now in force, the Ministry of Health confirmed, shifting surveillance testing at the border to “a more routine pattern”.

  • Workers at quarantine facilities and workers who transport people required to be in quarantine to and from the facility will be tested once every seven days
  • Workers at managed isolation facilities and workers who transport people required to be in isolation to and from the facility will be tested once every 14 days
  • Workers in certain higher-risk occupations at the Ports of Auckland and the Port of Tauranga will be tested once every 14 days
  • Workers in certain higher-risk occupations at Auckland International Airport will be tested once every 14 days.

Testing is complementary to strict infection prevention and control measures including physical distancing and the use of PPE, and daily health checks.

12.45pm: Ministry to reveal new Covid-19 cases

There’s no 1pm media briefing today, but the Ministry of Health will be revealing any new Covid-19 cases in a handy press release. Based on custom, it will be sent anytime between now and about 1.30pm. We’ll have it published here as soon as it arrives in my inbox.

Yesterday, there were a further five new cases of Covid-19: four connected to the Auckland cluster and one in managed isolation.

Today also marks a week until the decision about whether or not to drop us down to alert level one. Cabinet will be reviewing our current alert settings on September 14.

11.40am: National launches ‘comprehensive’ drug policy

National has launched what it’s calling an “integrated and comprehensive plan” to tackle issues caused by methamphetamine.

“National’s plan tackles the harm of methamphetamine use, restoring hope to people trapped in cycles of drug dependence and challenging those who peddle misery in our communities,” leader Judith Collins said in a release.

If National’s elected next month, Collins said the party would tackle the meth problem “from all angles, addressing both demand and supply”. The policy, Collins said, incorporates both a health and a justice component.

To address demand, National will improve the health response and provide treatment options that are not available today, health spokesperson Shane Reti said.

Justice spokesperson Simon Bridges said there must also be a strong response from our law and order agencies to disrupt those trying to bring meth into the country.

To target supply issues, funding would be increased for “drug intelligence” and the police, and there would be more drug dogs at the border.

Collins said New Zealand needs a co-ordinated and effective response to the methamphetamine problem. “With this Plan, National will deliver one.”

Speaking to media, Collins said the National Party led by her is “absolutely” tough on crime. But, the party is also determined to help people break the cycle of crime. “Almost every crime has a victim, and we stand up for victims,” Collins said.

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are in the country today:

  • Labour leader Jacinda Ardern is in Rotorua, participating in a roundtable discussion and later making a policy announcement.
  • National leader Judith Collins is in Napier, making a drug policy announcement, before later visiting the Napier Port.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has driven his giant campaign bus into Dunedin for a series of walkabouts. He’ll be visiting Otago University, perusing the Octagon, walking-about in South Dunedin and then heading to Mosgiel
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is preparing to head back out on the road in his campaign minivan. There are no planned events today.
  • Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson are no where to be seen today, although Davidson was certainly present on Twitter over the weekend.

9.15am: MediaWorks confirms sale to Discovery

Following widespread industry speculation, MediaWorks has confirmed it has reached a binding agreement regarding the sale of its free-to-air TV business.

The acquisition will be Discovery’s most significant free-to-air investment in the New Zealand market to date, Newshub reports, and includes TV channels Three and Bravo along with streaming service ThreeNow, and current affairs arm Newshub, as well as Three+1, Bravo+1, The Edge TV and The Breeze TV.

Currently, Discovery currently operates six pay-TV channels in the New Zealand market, including Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Food Network, Living and Discovery Turbo and free-to-air channels HGTV and Choice TV.

8.30am: Landlords urged to delay making their properties warm and dry

Landlords are being urged to hold off refitting their rentals up to new heating standards, until after next month’s election.

The standards require that all rentals be fitted with insulation, heating and ventilation within 90 days of an existing tenant renewing their lease or a new tenant moving in, from the start of July next year.

But National’s Judith Collins has said that, if National is elected, the regulations would be no more.

Andrew King, from the NZ Property Investors Federation, told the Herald that National’s election promise could give landlords reason to wait until after the election before choosing to make their homes meet the regulations.

“It probably is a good idea to hold off,” he said. Landlords didn’t like to be told they had to do it because in some cases the tenant might not want new heat pumps, he claimed.

King’s comments have drawn criticism from Labour’s Associate Housing Minister Kris Faafoi, and likely any tenant in a cold house.

“I would find it deeply disappointing if landlords were being given advice to hold off work that ensures they are providing safe, dry, healthy accommodation for fellow New Zealanders on the basis that a more malleable government might get into power and scrap basic standards that would see New Zealand’s poor track record on healthy housing vastly improved,” Faafoi said.

Bindi Norwell, chief executive of REINZ said: “Ultimately property investors will make their own decisions about how quickly they begin preparing for the healthy homes compliance statement deadline of December 1 and ensuring new or renewed tenancies comply within 90 days of the healthy homes compliance date of 1 July next year.

“As we saw with the July 1 2019 deadline, many landlords left it until the last minute to try and purchase their ceiling and underfloor insulation, and many found that major retailers had run out of stock and tradespeople had no availability to help with installation, thereby running the risk of being fined by MBIE,” Norwell said.

“Our advice would be to start preparing now rather than leaving it until the last minute or relying on the outcome of an election,” concludes Norwell.

8.00am: PM confirms Peters pushed for masks and military in March

Updated

The prime minister has confirmed her deputy Winston Peters advocated for wider public use of masks back in March, while the country was in nationwide lockdown. Peters has been speaking out over the weekend, including in an extraordinary interview on Q&A with host “James” Tame, saying he pushed for mask use and the military to be brought in earlier this year.

Jacinda Ardern told Newstalk ZB this morning Peters had been pushing for stricter restrictions. However, Ardern highlighted that it’s currently election season, so it’s not surprising to see comments like this from Peters.

“Even though we have parties who are members of the Government who are members of Cabinet, this is a period where we are going to see those parties drawing distinctions,” she said.

With wage subsidies ending and reports of another wave of job losses, Ardern defended the support her government offered. She told RNZ: “What we’re very focused on is how do we stop the economic scarring of significant one in 100 year economic events like this?

“We do have the availability of the Covid income payment, that exists for those who might not otherwise be eligible for jobseeker support.”

Parliament has now dissolved, so Ardern said any further extensions would require the mandate of a new government.

Ardern said there will be five Labour Party policies released this week, hinting that it might include the long-awaited tax policy.

7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin

After no Covid-related deaths in months, two have taken place in quick succession in Auckland. They were both people who spent significant stretches of time in intensive care, showing how long the tail of the virus can be after the initial infection.

The first death was a man in his 50s who worked at Mt Wellington coolstore Americold, reports Newshub. Alan Te Hiko was a father of four, and had been to Tokoroa before he knew he had the virus. Reportedly, he was able to have video calls with his family from a hospital bed in his final days. Other members of his family are understood to have contracted the virus. He is being remembered with much love by his friends and colleagues, reports the NZ Herald.

The second person who died was former Cook Islands PM Dr Joseph Williams, a man who lived a remarkable life of public service as a medical doctor, researcher and leader. There was an excellent obituary to Dr Williams in the Cook Islands News, which covered his many achievements and contributions to both the Cook Islands and New Zealand. A wide range of tributes have been made following his death, including this from Dr Collin Tukuitonga, the associate dean Pacific at the University of Auckland’s medical faculty, who was mentored by Dr Williams.

Both cases have acted as a sad reminder about the potential damage the virus can do. In a statement after the death of Ti Hiko, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said “we have always recognised that further deaths linked to Covid-19 were possible. Although the health system has done and will continue to do everything we can to prevent them, this can be a very challenging virus to treat and for some people to recover from.” As of yesterday, there were four people currently in hospital with the virus.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

There were five new cases of Covid-19 reported, four of them in the community and linked to the known cluster. Reports of a possible case in Christchurch were ruled out.

In a fiery Q+A interview, Winston Peters unleashed his full suite of insults at Jack (James?) Tame and TVNZ, claiming they’d attempted to “hijack” him.

Noel Edmonds dismissed claims by ostentatious Brexit bankroller Arron Banks he was hiding in New Zealand as “nonsense”.

After a few false finishes, parliament was finally dissolved.

Read yesterday’s updates in full here.



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