Election Live, October 9: Woman caught escaping managed isolation had also escaped the night before

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for October 9, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other NZ news. The essential campaign dates are 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. Stewart is off today so Leonie Hayden is taking the wheel. 

The day in sum

Two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation were announced. It continues New Zealand’s streak of no active cases in the community.

A woman escaped from a managed isolation facility in Auckland during the early hours of the morning. It was later found to be her second escape after admitting to absconding the night before.

The Electoral Commission said it was confident none of its EasyVote packs could have contained unauthorised materials despite multiple reports from members of the public.

The government announced more than 350 marae would receive $96.5 million from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Labour announced a raft of new law and order initiatives designed to promote harm reduction and rehabilitation.

4.50pm: Security intercept a woman escaping managed isolation… for the second time

Air Commodore Darryn Webb has confirmed yet another absconding incident from a managed isolation facility.

The woman was intercepted by security trying to leave the Grand Millenium in Auckland through a fire exit at 1.00am this morning. Upon being questioned by police, it became apparent she had successfully absconded the night before between 1.07am and 3.09am.

The woman arrived from Dubai on October 7 and returned a negative Covid-19 test before boarding her flight and again this morning.

The statement from MBIE says that due to “a local decision” security guards that would usually be stationed at fire exits not covered by CCTV were elsewhere on that evening.

CCTV footage shows the woman walked in and around the inner city. Police are continuing to review footage to account for her movements during the two hours she was gone and charges are likely to be laid.

4.20pm: Complainant resolute she received End of Life Choice Act campaign flyer in EasyVote pack

The subject of a Spinoff story about people who received an authorised flyer (see last post) in their voting pack is just as resolute as the Electoral Commission.

One of the complainants, Stacey Hone, said she remained adamant that she had in fact received the flyer inside the EasyVote pack.

When asked, “Did you definitely, definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, pull the flyer out of the EasyVote pack?” she said, “yes”. She also said she remembered holding it in her hand after taking it out of the pack, and that she was standing at the kitchen bench when doing so.

“I am sure, but I also don’t care that they basically don’t believe me.”

Chief electoral officer, Alicia Wright, said: “We would like to thank the people who have contacted the Commission during our investigation. Past experience tells us that when a lot of election material is being delivered, people sometimes think that items have arrived together.”

VoteSafe, the anti-End of Life Choice Act campaign group, have recently conducted a mail-out as well, aiming to reach every house in the country.

“We would like to stress that we have not seen any evidence of interference or foul play and none of the people we have spoken to said it looked like their envelopes had been opened,” said Wright, addressing the idea that the mail might have been tampered with between delivery and being opened by the recipients.

3.00pm: No referendum flyers in our packs, says Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission has this afternoon released a statement saying they’re confident none of their EasyVote packs could have contained unauthorised materials.

The statement comes in response to reports that people found pamphlets from anti-End of Life Choice Act campaign group VoteSafe in their sealed voting packs.

The story was first reported by The Spinoff’s Alex Braae after four members of a Northland household told him they had received the flyer urging a no-vote in the referendum on the End of Life Choice Act. More than a dozen more people came forward to say they too had received the pamphlet.

In all, the Electoral Commission says they had 24 reports of people receiving the material, but is adamant this can’t have been the case.

“We have conducted a thorough investigation and are satisfied that the packs contained only official material during production and delivery,” said chief electoral officer, Alicia Wright.

“Every scenario for the brochure to be inserted into the pack or swapped out with other material has been looked at and eliminated.”

She says the packs are compiled in a fully automated process at NZ Post sites in Auckland and Christchurch, and tests have determined that no additional material could have entered the process without detection by its machines.

“The machines are finely calibrated and reject any overweight items. These tests, along with our other enquiries, have led us to conclude that only material meant to be in the packs, went into the packs,” says Wright.

At the Electoral Commission’s request, police have been asked to assess the commission’s files.

1.45pm: 351 marae to receive PGF upgrade

Te Puni Kōkiri and the minister of regional economic development, Shane Jones, have earmarked $96.5 million from his Provincial Growth Fund to upgrade 351 marae all over the country.

“It is not only the marae that will benefit. It also means close to $100 million will filter into communities, through wages and into local businesses supplying building materials and fittings,” Jones said. He estimates the creation of 3,100 jobs through local businesses and tradespeople.

The funding is the last to be announced before the election next Saturday. It comes in addition to $12.4 million announced last month for upgrades of town halls, war memorials and other community facilities, and close to $10 million for upgrades and renovations on Pasifika churches announced last month.

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith has criticised the spending this close to the election. He told the NZ Herald: “There is no reason why this funding couldn’t have been announced weeks, or even months ago.”

The full list of marae can be found here.

Marae upgrade funds by area (Image: supplied)

1.15pm: Labour’s new law reforms to focus on rehabilitation

Labour has announced a raft of new law and order initiatives designed to promote harm reduction and rehabilitation.

Te Ara Oranga, a methamphetamine treatment pilot in Northland, will be rolled out to other regions where the drug has hit communities hard, such as the East Coast and Bay of Plenty. The programme is intended to reduce supply through targeted enforcement, and reduce demand by placing users into recovery and treatment programmes.

Minister for Justice Andrew Little says they will establish an “alcohol and other drug treatment court” in Hawke’s Bay, and Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis has also announced Wāhine Māori Pathways, a rehabilitation and reintegration programme that will be trialled at Christchurch Women’s Prison first.

1.05pm: Two new cases of Covid-19 from managed isolation; no community cases

There are two new cases from managed isolation to report, and no new cases in the community today.

Both cases being reported today arrived from India on September 26. The people have been in managed isolation and have returned a positive test result from their routine test around day 12. They have both now been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

The total number of confirmed cases is 1,510, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization.

The total number of active cases is now 41 – all imported cases. There are no active community cases of Covid-19.

One person remains on a ward in Middlemore hospital.

Yesterday laboratories processed 5,597 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 992,141.

12.15: On The Spinoff today

Child Poverty Action Group’s Janet McAllister says she’s yet to see serious commitment and investment in poverty from the party of Jacinda Ardern:

“Many incomes for families on benefits are still below poverty linesdiseases from overcrowding are on the rise, and Work and Income continues to expect people to beg over and over for discretionary support. Treasury predicts there’ll be more children in material hardship, and it’s clear that too many are already there (around 23% of Māori children and 29% of Pacific children). ”

Alex Braae is still on the road taking the pulse of the country in the lead up to the election. This week he visited the hard-hit West Coast to see how they’re surviving without the area’s life-blood: tourism.

“When I pulled in on a Saturday evening the car park was empty and none of the attached motel rooms were occupied. The campground, down the hill and next to the river, was deserted. I asked the proprietor if it was unusually quiet tonight, and she said it had been ever since Auckland went into level three, and the flow of tourists from the city was cut off. The regional borders had reopened by then, but the people hadn’t come back.”

10.30am: Electoral Commission ‘60% of votes could be cast by October 17’

The Electoral Commission expects half a million New Zealanders will have cast their vote by the end of today.

Chief electoral officer Alicia Wright told RNZ’s Katheryn Ryan they’ve had 475,000 people cast their vote already, compared with 309,000 for the same period in the 2017 general election.

Wright said the busiest polling booths are those in or near shopping malls.

The commission has come under fire since early voting opened for some polling booths not having Māori rolls on hand, with TVNZ reporting incidents in Auckland and in Christchurch, forcing people on the Māori roll to cast a special vote. Wright addressed the incident in Auckland only, attributing it to a polling booth supervisor starting their shift and getting flustered, as well as high demand. “It’s not OK and we wholeheartedly apologise.”

Regarding a missing tick box for Vision NZ on the Port Waikato electorate ballot paper, Wright said: “That was a formatting error that occurred through the printing process… It should have been picked up earlier.” She said that once the error was picked up the ballots were reprinted immediately, but that ballots that were ticked without the box would still be valid.

Overseas votes have also come through in record numbers, “about double” compared with previous years.

A release from the Electoral Commission this morning says that a “bumper number” of voting places will open this weekend. Last Saturday there were 450, which will jump to nearly 1,350 voting places this Saturday and about 850 on Sunday.

On election day itself, the commission will have about 2,600 voting places open.

9.30am: Robertson at ease and admired in front of a once prickly constituency

The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive attended a talk by finance minister Grant Robertson to Auckland business leaders this morning. He reports:

In front of a packed room at the Cordis – capacity was raised from 100 to 180 when Auckland snuck down to level one earlier this week – Labour’s finance minister Grant Robertson spoke to a group of Auckland business leaders. Three years ago there was a large degree of skepticism about Robertson and Labour, courtesy of its unfamiliarity, the alleged fiscal hole and nine years of National assiduously painting the party as certainly naive and likely radical.

Now, as Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett noted in his intro, Robertson was recently the highest rated member of cabinet in the Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom survey. Three years as a reliably doctrinaire finance minister has entirely de-risked him, and the wage subsidy, of which he spoke at length, arrived in the accounts of many of those in this room during a period of immense uncertainty and stress. Tellingly, there was no mention of what Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has called a “moral responsibility” to return it, should their businesses not have been as impacted as they expected. This seems inevitable to have been the case, given that, as Robertson noted, much post-lockdown data has surprised on the upside.

Next to Ardern, Robertson is easily Labour’s biggest asset, and in some ways it’s his portfolio command and magnetism in front of audiences like this which has helped solidify the party’s gaudy polling. The Covid-19 response has been admired around the world, but if the business community was hostile, Labour would probably be closer to 40% than 50%.

After lengthy remarks focussed on cementing that reputation for stability, he entered a more informal conversation with Barnett, characterised by good-natured ribbing and a level of comfort with one another’s different perspectives. Barnett spoke of minimum wage rises, the planned Matariki public holiday, ACC levies, and a planned extra five sick days as more weight put onto business, but did so without any great indignation.

He also indulged in some post-election coalition building, saying that it “seems almost inevitable we will have a green with a red” in tabling his community’s fears of the Greens’ tax plans. “We will not be implementing a wealth tax in this term if we’re in government”, replied Robertson. Unequivocal – but the phrase “in this term” left the door ajar for frustrated progressives.

Robertson allowed that the tech sector had not received the attention they flagged prior to the last election, and recommitted to it. The closest he got to self-criticism was noting that the government could be “quite passive” in procurement of IT. “We need to be much better at the way we proactively organise ourselves”, he said, adding that it had “got to be much better and more nimble than that”. A former squash opponent got up and offered a gentle critique of Labour tech stack, before ultimately landing on a patsy question about the future of work, perhaps the easiest a Labour finance spokesperson could ever hope for. It summed up the event, really – a nominally opposing audience which has been adroitly turned into an asset by a politician who has quietly and diligently brought the business sector into Labour’s big tent.

8.00am: On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

Judith Collins is in wine country, visiting Wineworks Marlborough with National’s viticulture spokesperson (!) Stuart Smith this morning, and hosting a public meeting in Kaikoura later in the day.

Winston Peters is in South Auckland today visiting the Tongan Health Centre in Onehunga.

Jacinda Ardern is heading north, visiting community groups in Kawakawa, Kerikeri and Moerewa.

The Greens’ James Shaw and Chlöe Swarbrick are talking about urban farming at For The Love of Bees in Auckland. Shaw will also appear on The Project later tonight with co-leader Marama Davidson.

7.30am: The minor party debate winners and losers

Analysis of last night’s minor party leaders debate has variously characterised the five leaders’ performances as “rushed”, “jabs”, “pot shots” and full of interruption.

Act’s David Seymour took a lot of criticism from all sides for his “austerity budget” – RNZ’s Russell Palmer has the full break down here. On Morning Report political editor Jane Patterson gave the win to John Tamihere, while Stuff’s Thomas Manch said Tamihere was almost excluded from the debate. The NZ Herald says four of the five leaders were “fighting for their lives”.

Advance NZ’s Jami-Lee Ross announced during the debate that his co-leader Billy Te Kahika was on track to win the Te Tai Tokerau seat at almost the same time as Māori Television were broadcasting a Curia Research poll that showed Kelvin Davis streaking ahead with 36% and only 1% support for Te Kahika in the electorate.

7.00am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Last night’s TVNZ minor party debate was preceded by a poll which shows most are under serious pressure. First of all, the poll: The One News Colmar Brunton survey showed Labour continue to enjoy a vast lead over National, which showed little sign of closing in this particular poll. A full half the country prefer Jacinda Ardern as PM, compared to just under a quarter for National’s Judith Collins. For the purposes of the minor parties, that matters, but an almost more important number is 79% – that’s the share of the vote the two major parties enjoy right now, leaving very little left to play for.

Among the minors, Act has emerged as the clear leader. With 8% in the poll, and the safety of leader David Seymour’s Epsom seat, they look assured of getting back into parliament. Their best shot at being in government basically depends on it only being a 3-party parliament, and Labour falling back a bit. The Greens are on 6%, and if they stay above the 5% threshold a Labour government is basically assured. But there are no guarantees for the Greens, who have hovered around that level all year. Incidentally, the poll also showed that most of those asked feel the MMP threshold is in the right place – and of those who wanted a change, more wanted it to be made higher rather than lower.

For the others, NZ First rose up to 2.4%, which could be a bit of noise, or it could be a sign that the classic Winston surge is finally happening. The Opportunities Party is also up to 2%, with much less media oxygen to work with, and no place on the debate stage. The New Conservatives and Advance NZ are both stuck at 1% each, while the Māori Party’s party vote share fell to just 0.2%. For them, the only path in is to win an electorate – the only places there might be an upset appear to be Waiariki and Te Tai Hauāuru. And for Advance NZ, their hopes of co-leader Billy Te Kahika winning Te Tai Tokerau appear to be totally unrealistic – a Te Ao News poll last night showed him at just 1% in the seat.

As for the debate itself, there was a palpable sense of striving among pretty much all five of the men on stage. TVNZ’s political editor Jessica Mutch-McKay had a tough job trying to keep them all behaving and not all talking over each other, while also keeping the debate moving and preventing long waffling answers and repetition. This analysis by Radio NZ’s Russell Palmer I think about summed it up. The whole thing was also recapped by One News. As for a verdict on who won, my guess is the answer is probably Labour, as there’s a good chance the whole spectacle turned off more potential voters than it convinced.

Beneficiary advocates on the East Coast are raising the alarm about the supply of emergency housing running out, reports the Gisborne Herald. It hasn’t happened overnight, but it has now got to the point where all providers are full up, and the waiting list continues to grow. Long term, more homes will need to be built, but it’s also an immediate problem.

Name suppression will continue for the two people charged in relation to the NZ First Foundation, reports Stuff. Those accused are not current MPs, office holders or members of the party. We also got more detail about what exactly the allegations are – effectively, the pair are accused of trying to deceive either or both of the NZ First party secretary, and the Electoral Commission. Donations intended for the party ended up being funneled into NZFF accounts, “to use as the defendants saw fit, and were used to pay expenses of the party and to develop a fundraising database for the benefit of the party and [suppressed].”

There’s been a lot of discussion in education this week about a new NZ Initiative report, which heavily criticises the trend in NZ schools towards ‘child-centric’ learning. Newsroom’s Laura Walters has reported on the think-tank’s suggestions, particularly the idea that schools should return to teaching specific knowledge, rather than skills and competencies. On The Spinoff, we’ve published a scathing counter-argument from Auckland principal Claire Amos, who says (to simplify) schools are preparing kids for uncertain futures, and as such the skills are more valuable than specific pieces of knowledge.

Mana whenua voting rights around the Wellington City Council table have got closer, reports the NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell. The council has voted to investigate the concept, particularly the legal and logistical steps around it. The vote was unanimous, and mayor Andy Foster was paraphrased as saying “the council has a legal obligation to provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to decision making processes”, it was just a matter of figuring out how best to do that.

An excellent interactive feature on the experience of Recognised Seasonal Employer workers from the start of Covid-19 onwards: Stuff’s Tony Wall has started with the previously canvassed story of Anthony Rarere, who is alleged to have used intimidating tactics and pay withholding against workers from the Solomon Islands. It then takes a wider look at how the scheme is a huge benefit for employers, but the gains don’t necessarily filter down to those actually picking the fruit, who often have little protection.

6.55am: Yesterday’s headlines

The new TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll has Labour on 47% and National on 32%.

The CovidCard trial will begin in Rotorua this month, after being delayed due to privacy and security concerns.

There were three new cases of Covid-19 at the border.

The Serious Fraud Office alleged the two people charged in the NZ First Foundation case made fraudulent bank account deposits totaling more than $746,000.

A New Conservative candidate was revealed to have a fraud conviction for faking a pregnancy and childbirth.



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