Election Live, September 8: Six new cases of Covid-19, four linked to church cluster

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 8, 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

8.00pm: The day in sum

The government announced a $47.6 million travel reimbursement scheme.

India overtook Brazil to become the second-worst country for Covid-19 cases.

The government announced additional support for Auckland high school students impacted by the recent level three lockdown.

The Countdown in New Lynn, West Auckland, closed for deep cleaning after being visited by a Covid case on September 4.

There were six new cases of Covid-19, with four in the community, linked to the Mt Roskill church sub-cluster, and the remaining two in managed isolation.

Labour announced a raft of policies aimed at helping small businesses, including extending the small business loan scheme and capping Paywave fees.

National pledged to upgrade Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

5.30pm: $47.6m travel reimbursement scheme announced

Consumer affairs minister Kris Faafoi has announced a $47.6 million travel reimbursement scheme to help travel agencies recoup the cost of cancelled overseas trips.

Travel agencies will be paid 7.5% of the value of cash refunds and 5% of the value of credits successfully secured on behalf of consumers. “This will mean, for example, that if an agent recoups $10,000 in a cash refund on cancelled travel, the customer gets that money back and the agent will receive $750,” said Faafoi in a statement. “If it’s a credit for the $10,000 cancelled travel, the customer gets the credit and the agent receives $500.”

3.45pm: Surge in Covid cases returning from India

India has overtaken Brazil to become the second-worst country for Covid-19 cases, leading to a surge of cases detected in our managed isolation facilities.

In the last fortnight, 26 New Zealanders have tested positive after returning from India. The influx of imported cases can be linked to just two flights, arriving in Christchurch on August 23 and 27 after transiting through Fiji. The first of those flights has now been linked to 20 cases alone.

India has reported 4.2 million cases of Covid-19 – still almost two million less than the United States – with 71,000 deaths.

3.10pm: Changes to NCEA for Auckland students announced

The government’s revealed additional support for Auckland high school students impacted by the recent level three lockdown.

“This has been an unsettling year for many New Zealanders, but I know it’s been particularly stressful for some senior secondary students,” education minister Chris Hipkins said.

“The wellbeing of students is one of our top priorities, and everyone working towards NCEA this year will have had their learning and assessment programme affected by Covid-19.”

A number of changes have been announced today to help students, including:

  • Expanding and enhancing programmes such as the Big Picture Programme delivered through Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) – the correspondence school for students who are at risk of disengaging or who may already be disengaged from education from Term four.
  • For students who only need a few additional credits (up to 10 credits) to gain an NCEA or university entrance, the cap on the number of students who can enrol in Te Kura Correspondence School over the summer period is temporarily increasing from 1000 up to 4000 students.
  • Students will have the ability to earn up to six additional learning recognition credits at NCEA level one, or four additional learning recognition credits at NCEA levels two or three, raising the cap to a total of 16 at NCEA level one, and 12 at levels two and three.
  • The ratio by which learning recognition credits are earned is changing so one will be received for each four credits students earn through assessment, rather than one for each five credits.
  • The threshold to receive an NCEA certificate endorsement is being lowered from 46 credits to 44. The threshold to receive an NCEA endorsement is usually 50 credits at merit or excellence.

2.45pm: Auckland supermarket closed for Covid deep clean

Another Auckland supermarket has been forced to lower its reinforced doors due to exposure to a confirmed case of Covid-19.

Newshub’s reporting a Covid-positive customer visited the New Lynn Countdown in West Auckland on the evening of September 4, between 8 and 8.30pm.

“As is our policy, we just clean the store as soon as we find out as an extra precaution – it’s not something we’re asked to do, it’s just something that’s reassuring for our team and community,” Countdown’s communications manager Kiri Hannifin told Newshub.

Earlier today, another six cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by the Ministry of Health: four in the community and two in managed isolation.

2.30pm: Dirty politics? Hannah Tamaki unhappy with hoarding swap

A war has broken out between two fringe political parties this afternoon, over allegations of hoarding misappropriation in Auckland.

Photos posted to Facebook by a Vision NZ supporter claim to show the party’s signage covered over by an Advance NZ hoarding, displaying the smiling faces of Jami-Lee Ross and Billy Te Kahika.

Vision NZ is the party led by Hannah Tamaki, co-founder of Destiny Church, who took to Twitter to denounce the alleged hoarding swap as “dirty politics”.

“[Te Kahika and Ross’] team are letting their side down by doing this… shame on them, bringing shame on their leaders,” she wrote.

Comments on Facebook show a battle of words between Vision NZ and Advance NZ supporters. One commenter even speculated it was in fact Vision NZ who had swapped out the Advance banner, labelling it “bad taste” from the Tamaki campaign.

Politics podcast – Gone by Lunchtime is back

It’s what the fans have been craving: Gone by Lunchtime is back! After a week off, and at least six emails from concerned members of the public, The Spinoff’s politics podcast returns for another week.

This week: The campaign trail is alive once again, with Labour promising a Matariki holiday and National a health-driven response to meth addiction. The Greens are trying to put the train back on the rails with the aid of several million apologies from James Shaw following the Green School debacle, and Winston Peters has found a path back to power: chugging ciggies, playing ping pong, and calling Jack Tame “James” a lot.

Download now, subscribe through Apple Podcasts, or visit Gone By Lunchtime on Acast or Spotify.

1.10pm: Six new cases of Covid-19, four in the community

Updated

There are six new cases of Covid-19 today, with four in the community and the remaining two in managed isolation. The four new community cases are all linked to the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church “sub-cluster”, which in turn is linked to the wider Auckland cluster. Auckland Regional Public Health is actively tracing and testing their contacts, the ministry said.

The cases come less than a week out from the announcement about whether or not we will be dropping back into alert level one and likely represent part of the “tail” of cases from Auckland’s time in alert level three.

The two new imported cases are a man in his 20s who arrived from the Philippines on September 3 and a female in her late teens who arrived on the same flight from the Philippines. Both tested positive on day three of their stay in managed isolation.

There are 69 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.

Since August 11, contact tracing has identified 3,274 close contacts of cases, of which 3,228 have been contacted and are self-isolating.

Today there are four people in hospital with Covid-19 – two are on wards in Middlemore and North Shore hospitals. The remaining two are in intensive care at North Shore and Waikato hospitals.

With today’s six new cases and one additional recovered case, the total number of active cases is 123. Of those, 43 are imported cases in MIQ facilities, and 80 are community cases.

Yesterday, 4,525 tests for Covid-19 were processed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 823,154. That daily number of tests is well below the ministry’s previous target of 7000 tests per day.

The total number of confirmed cases is now 1,431, the ministry said.

Covid tracer app

There are now 2,150,000 registered users of the government’s Covid tracer app, with 362,256 QR posters created.

The app has recorded 45,494,859 poster scans, and 2,529,729 manual diary entries.

For those that do not have a smart phone and cannot use the app, the ministry is advising that the Covid tracer booklet is now available to help people keep a written record of their movements if they can’t download the app.

1.05pm: We still don’t know if there are more Covid-19 cases

We’re still waiting on the all-important Covid-19 press release from the Ministry of Health, which should be arriving any minute now. We will have it for you right here when it comes in.

12.30pm: Do we have more Covid-19 cases?

There’s no 1pm press briefing from Ashley Bloomfield today and, despite demand from the people of New Zealand, I will not be delivering one either.

The latest Covid-19 figures will be revealed in a press release from the Ministry of Health in around 30 minutes.

We’ll have all the latest for you here as soon as it wings its way into my inbox.

12.05pm: Small businesses at the centre of new Labour policy

A raft of measures to support small businesses have been unveiled by Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern this afternoon, to help in the aftermath of Covid-19.

If re-elected, Labour would extend the small business cash flow scheme for another three years, and make the second year of the loan interest free. Regulations around “merchant service fees” charged by banks to retailers will be regulated.

Ardern is in Tauranga today, alongside Labour’s small business spokesperson Stuart Nash, to make the announcement.

“Our track record of support for SMEs demonstrates we are prepared to respond quickly to keep the engine room of our economy humming. We are now moving to the next phase to help small and medium enterprises adapt and innovate to the new business landscape,” Nash said.

“Improved cash flow support, new ways to drive digital transformation, and lowering costs and regulatory impacts are at the heart of our plans to help business bounce back faster.”

The plan includes:

  • Interest-free loans more widely available, zero-interest period extended
  • Tighter regulation of merchant service fees charged to retailers
  • More support for digital transformation of SMEs
  • Promotion of digital commerce like e-invoicing and other innovative processes
  • Government funding for tailored business advice
  • Mitigate compliance costs to keep our number one spot for ease of doing business
  • Overhaul the Accounting Income Method (AIM) tax regime to make it easier for SMEs to move to a ‘pay as you earn’ model throughout the year

11.35: Peter Dunne: TOP co-leader?

Opportunities Party leader Geoff Simmons is fuming after his party was excluded from TVNZ’s minor party debate. This morning, as noted in the 10.40am update, the Māori Party was finally invited to participate in the debate following a change of criteria. It was also confirmed that Advance NZ will be participating.

Under TVNZ’s new rules, “leaders of registered parties where the leader has been an MP, or party has been represented, in either/both of the past two parliaments” will be allowed to participate in the debate.

In a tweet, Simmons alleged the Opportunities Party was being “deliberately excluded” from the debate, and claimed the criteria was in tatters.

He also extended a hand across to the former leader of United Future, Peter Dunne, inviting him to become TOP’s co-leader.

Despite United Future not contesting this election, Dunne was an MP in the last parliament – meaning if he joined forces with Simmons, the party would be invited to the stage.

Will Dunne take him up on this offer? Will TVNZ change the rules yet again? Only time will tell.

11.20am: National commits to upgrading Hawke’s Bay Hospital

National’s leader Judith Collins is continuing her campaign tour of Hawke’s Bay today, announcing her party would fund upgrades to the region’s hospital if elected next month.

Under Collins, National would rebuild the hospital’s main block, with diggers on site by 2025. The emergency department would be extended, and air conditioning would be installed as soon as possible.

The $400-500 million rebuild follows on from National’s pledge to invest $31 billion in transport infrastructure, and a 30-year plan for school developments. “National is the party of infrastructure,” Collins said in a press release.

“We’re committed to ensuring our public health system is delivering for you, your children and your family. These improvements will improve the lives of many New Zealanders.”

National is yet to release its overall health policy, but according to the media release this can be expected “shortly”.

10.40am: Māori Party, Advance NZ joining TVNZ debate

TVNZ has changed its criteria for the minor party debate, opening up the field, reports minor party enthusiast/editor of The Bulletin Alex Braae

After previously having only three parties on the stage for the minor party leaders debate, TVNZ has further opened up the criteria to allow the Māori Party to have a place.

The technical change is that there will now be the inclusion of “leaders of registered parties where the leader has been an MP, or party has been represented, in either/both of the past two parliaments.”

United Future, who also had an MP in the last parliament, is not included because it’s no longer recognised.

The decision was partly made because of the lack of Māori representation for what is one of the most important set-piece events of the campaign.

A spokesperson said that “TVNZ accepts the Māori Party’s concern that the current criteria does not adequately consider parties who are only contending Māori electorate seats.

“We also accept success in Māori electorate seats impacts the make-up of parliament, and viewers need to be aware of parties and politicians who may have a viable path to parliament by winning these seats.”

There was also confirmation that Advance NZ would be invited to send one of its leaders to participate in the debate, as the party is represented in parliament by former National MP Jami-Lee Ross. It is unclear at this stage whether Ross will take the stage, or his co-leader Billy Te Kahika Jr.

For the other parties hoping to get there, TVNZ said that there will still be an opportunity to qualify based on polling, as there will be another One News/Colmar Brunton poll published before the debate. That will give an opportunity to the likes of the New Conservatives, The Opportunities Party, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis, and the One Party, who in the last poll all turned up with 0.1% or more.

The debate will be held on the 8th of October.

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today

  • Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is in Tauranga today, to discuss the Pāpākainga housing development, visit a small business and then make a policy announcement. It’s understood the policy will relate to small businesses, as explained in the 7.45am update.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins is still in Hawke’s Bay today, visiting Hastings Hospital this morning for an announcement. Later, she’ll be Waipukurau and Dannevirke.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is driving his giant bus deep into the south today. He’s zooming through Balclutha, Gore, Bluff and Tiwai.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is gearing up to get back behind the wheel of his election minivan. There are no scheduled events today.
  • Greens’ co-leader Marama Davidson is nowhere to be seen on the campaign trail today. However, her counterpart James Shaw will be taking part in two debates: a Wellington Central debate at Victoria University and later a “meet the candidates” event in Te Aro.

7.45am: Labour takes aim at Paywave costs in new policy – report

Labour’s set to unveil a new policy targeted at small businesses today, according to a report in the Herald. Party leader Jacinda Ardern is in Tauranga as election campaign 2.0 gets well under way during Covid-19 alert level two.

As the Herald reports, part of Labour’s new policy will be aimed at reducing the hundreds of millions of dollars small businesses pay for contactless payment services, such as Paywave. The issue of Paywave costs was raised at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic: some businesses could not afford to pay for contactless services, causing health concerns for people having to touch the pinpad when purchasing items

Currently, businesses are charged fees for the use of contactless debit and credit card transactions, including mobile wallets and Paywave, but there is no such fee for using an Eftpos card by inserting or swiping.

We’ll have all the official policy details here once they’ve been confirmed.

7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The discombobulating 2020 campaign lurched back into action yesterday, with leaders scattered about the country. Judith Collins is in Hawkes Bay, where she announced the National Party policy to tackle meth addictions. Jacinda Ardern is basing herself for most of the week in an unlikely campaign hub: Morrinsville. Yesterday she shuttled to Rotorua to offer some stardust – almost literally – in the form of a pledge to introduce a new public holiday for Matariki. It wouldn’t, however, be introduced until 2022.

You know you’re in a campaign proper when the press releases fly like an asteroid field. As Stewart Sowman-Lund surveyed in yesterday’s Election Live, the Greens said thanks for coming around to our way of thinking and the rest said an economic crisis is no time to add a holiday. A quick tour of the subject headers. “Greens pleased with Labour’s support for Matariki Day.” National: “Labour’s economic plan – another public holiday.” NZ First: “Additional public holiday unneeded” (no mention of the word “Matariki” in theirs). And Act: “Jacinda Ardern is in la la land.”

Ardern would be delighted at the dissentersreckoned NZ Herald political editor Audrey Young. “The more that Labour can typecast its campaign as positive, and the rest as the knockers the better.”

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here 

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

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

Read yesterday’s updates in full here.



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