Live updates, August 10: Collins calls for ‘hopeless’ Megan Woods to be sacked over power cuts

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 10, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

3.10pm: Collins calls for ‘hopeless’ Woods to be sacked

Judith Collins has called for the energy minister’s head after thousands of households were left cold and in the dark last night during rolling blackouts.

The government has so far blamed generators for the power cuts, but Jacinda Ardern said she was seeking further answers.

As RNZ reports, National’s leader believed “hopeless” Megan Woods should be sacked and once again took aim at the ban on oil and gas exploration. “[Woods] knows the issue, she was their energy and resources spokesperson in 2017, she fully understands the issue and she has stood by while this very important area of natural gas has been allowed to basically be destroyed as an industry,” said Collins.

“Our emissions are going up, our electricity prices are going up and people lost their power last night through no fault of their own, fault of the government.”

Collins called the power cuts “third world conditions” and said the government needed to front up with answers soon.

“You can’t operate like this. The energy system is a very complex one, and that complexity means you need to get all the pieces working together,” she added.

1.35pm: No new Covid-19 cases after delta scare in Tauranga

Updated

Just one port worker in Tauranga has yet to receive a negative Covid-19 test result, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

From 110 tests taken, negative results have now been returned from 109 workers. The outstanding individual was tested, but has been retested as the result was inconclusive. It is still considered low risk.

The two pilots, one of whom brought the Rio De La Plata into port and the other who took it out, have both now been tested and returned negative results. They will remain in isolation for the remainder of the 14 days post possible exposure.

“The local public health unit, Toi Te Ora, has now confirmed that 72 port workers boarded the vessel while it was docked in Tauranga,” said a ministry spokesperson.

“All 72 of these workers have been tested and all results are negative, with only the retest of the port worker currently outstanding. Some individuals may have an additional test to ensure they fall within the 72 hours threshold of when they were last on the ship.”

Initial reports of the numbers of port workers on the vessel also included individuals who were on the wharf but did not go onboard, the ministry said. “Those individuals have also been tested out of an abundance of caution and those results are also negative.”

Meanwhile, the crew of the Rio De La Plata – of which 11 have so far tested positive – remain asymptomatic and the vessel remains offshore, off the coast of Tauranga. “A decision of where it goes next will be made in coming days,” the ministry said.

Port workers, their close contacts and the wider Tauranga community are asked to remain vigilant and follow all health advice.

Today’s numbers

There are no cases of Covid-19 to report in the community today. There are three new cases to report in recent returnees in managed isolation facilities.

One previously reported case has now recovered, with the number of active cases in New Zealand at 37.

Meanwhile, more than 2.24 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to date. Of these, 1.41 million are first doses and 830,000 are second doses.

1.25pm: Ministry yet to provide update on Tauranga Covid cases

We’re still awaiting today’s 1pm Covid-19 update from the Ministry of Health, but will bring it to you as soon as it lands.

We’re anticipating an update on the testing of port workers in Tauranga following yesterday’s delta strain scare linked to a cargo ship. As always, we will also have details of any new case numbers and the latest vaccination stats.

12.30pm: New rules to promote fuel market competition start tomorrow

New rules aimed at seeing petrol prices drop enter into force from tomorrow.

One element of the new scheme will see wholesale fuel suppliers required to publish a “spot price” for their fuel at storage terminals. That will mean independent suppliers like Waitomo will find it easier to shop around for fuel and potentially stimulate competition.

“I think the landscape has changed and it will create more competition,” Waitomo managing director Jimmy Ormsby told Stuff.

Other changes – such as a requirement for retailers to display the prices of all fuels on price boards – won’t come into effect until February.

11.20am: Power outages on cold winter night ‘not good enough’ – PM

Jacinda Ardern was unhappy with rolling power cuts that meant many New Zealanders spent parts of last night without hot water or electricity.

Transpower said the blackouts were prompted after power usage spiked above available levels.

Speaking to media, the prime minister said she wanted to find out if last night’s events could have been prevented. “It was not good enough that we could not warm our homes,” she said.

Energy minister Megan Woods said it was “unacceptable” to leave New Zealanders without power on one of the coldest nights of the year. “If they failed us I need to know why,” she said of reports the Huntly power station may not have been running at full capacity.

10.10am: Gun buyback admin tops cost of paying out owners

Admin fees for this year’s gun buyback topped the money paid out to people handing in their firearms.

According to RNZ, about $2.4 million was spent on reimbursing gun owners while the scheme cost $6.2 million overall. That means the $3.8 million difference went on actually running the buyback itself.

This is the second buyback since the government overhauled our firearms laws in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch terror attack. This time around, police collected 1078 firearms compared with estimates topping 2200.

In a statement, National’s police spokesperson Simeon Brown said it was nothing more than a marketing exercise. “Rather than focusing on law-abiding New Zealanders, the government needs to deliver on its promise of introducing firearm prohibition order legislation to take guns off gangs,” he said.

9.45am: New north Auckland highway won’t be tolled

A new stretch of motorway north of Auckland won’t be tolled when it opens to cars next year, the government has confirmed.

The Puhoi to Warkworth motorway – an 18.5km four-lane highway – is aimed at reducing travel times from Auckland to Northland.

Transport minister Michael Wood said 80% of the affected community opposed a toll. “I’ve listened and this was a factor that led me to decline the [Waka Kotahi] proposal,” he said.

“Another was commuters could be forced to pay two tolls given the northern gateway is already tolled between Silverdale and Orewa, and especially since there is also no southbound exit from the road before the northern gateway.”

The decision comes the day after a landmark report revealed the world is more than one degree warmer than it was 150 years ago as a result of climate change.

9.20am: ICYMI – Landmark climate crisis report tells the story of our futures

An international panel of climate scientists last night released its findings on the future of the world’s climate system, and the changes we will experience in our own lifetimes, and over future generations. Writing for The Spinoff, Veronika Meduna reports on the latest from the IPCC. Here’s an extract:

The world is now officially 1.09°C warmer than it was some 150 years ago and climate change is becoming more and more evident across all continents and oceans. Even at this level of warming, some changes – including rising seas and melting glaciers – are now irreversible and set to roll on for hundreds, even thousands of years.

In the most comprehensive and frank update of our understanding of the climate system, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s much-anticipated Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) leaves no room for doubt that our continually rising emissions of greenhouse gases drive climate change – not only forcing temperature ever higher but causing a multitude of other clearly measurable and interconnected changes.

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land” is the opening line of a summary for policymakers, released today after two weeks of virtual negotiations in which representatives from 195 countries agreed on the final wording.

Read the full write-up here

8.50am: Further power blackouts possible, but not planned – Transpower

An intentional, rolling blackout plunged parts of the country into darkness last night – and left many without heating on one of the coldest nights of the year.

According to the Herald, about 20,000 households were left without power after wild weather saw power use rise above generation capacity. Transpower NZ – the manager of the power system – said it had asked distribution companies to reduce the load across the country.

Despite the blackout being pre-planned, some customers have expressed upset at being given little to no warning they might have to brave parts of the night with no heating.

Transpower’s general manager Stephen Jay told RNZ he could not rule out a similar event happening again, but noted that it was rare. “At the moment we have a very tight generation to demand mix… we will manage that extremely carefully. At this point in time we haven’t made any requests in terms of reducing demand,” he said.

A grid warning has been sent out this morning, Jay added, to make sure that generators were aware that sufficient generation was needed to meet demand.

8.00am: No Covid-19 cases at Tauranga port after 65 workers test negative

The first wave of test results from port of Tauranga workers has raised hopes New Zealand may have once again dodged a delta-shaped bullet.

So far, 65 of the 98 port workers who came into contact with Covid-positive crew from a Napier-bound container ship have tested negative for the coronavirus. Of course, that means 33 are yet to receive their test results.

The Covid fears were sparked after 11 of the 21 crew onboard the Rio De La Plata tested positive for the delta variant.

Speaking to TVNZ this morning, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the remaining test results from the port were expected today and the news so far was “encouraging”.

Last night it was revealed that just nine of the 98 port workers had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A new climate report has delivered confirmation that we are heading for a much warmer world, with the consequences of that ever-clearer all the time. The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report shows that some level of warming and climate disruption is now totally unavoidable, and humans will be living with the effects of that for centuries. For The Spinoff, science journalist Veronika Meduna reports that the cause of that climate change is now certain and unequivocal – human activity. An example of the sort of work that went into it has been outlined in this piece on The Conversation by Victoria University’s professor Nick Golledge, who studies oceans and ice, which is melting.

The effects include the recent spate of extreme weather, which is projected to get worse. To quote from Meduna’s piece:

 A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture and can dump it in extreme rainfalls in one place, while elsewhere the warmer air sucks more water from the land, leaving already dry areas even more parched. At the outer end of both these processes are extreme floods, heatwaves and droughts.

But look, you know all this stuff already. If you’ve read any reputable news publication for any length of time, the certainty of climate change will not be in any doubt. Nor will the feeling of anxiety and fear that comes with that be unfamiliar. The science on this has been clear for decades, despite the protestations of denial from well-paid liars and those they’ve deceived.

The report was described as “comprehensive and frank”– though it was tempered with optimism, in outlining scenarios in which the most catastrophic warming might be avoided. In comments collected by the Science Media Centre, Waikato professor Iain White said “we need to change how we live, how we move, and the structure of our economy.” This obviously needs to happen everywhere, but because this is a New Zealand publication we’ll keep the focus local. Professor White pointed to the upcoming Emissions Reduction Plan from the government, and warned against “the trap of techno-optimism”, by which some amazing new discovery might magically save us from ourselves. White added this point, which should drive it home:

“Science has done its job. It did it decades ago, frankly. Now it’s time for politics and related professions to do their job. Only now they have less time than previous generations of politicians and the implications are ever more certain.”

In response to the report, climate change minister James Shaw said the government would be “equal to the latest climate science”. “We must use this chance to review progress and make sure the actions we are committing to will cut emissions in line with what the latest science requires. Anything less will not be enough,” said Shaw. If he and other politicians around the world cannot find a way for those cuts to happen, and curb the power of the industries and systems that cause them, countless people will die.


It was extremely cold last night, and demand for power appears to have overwhelmed supply. Stuff reports tens of thousands of houses were affected by cuts as a result. Nothing like this has happened in a decade. Because this all happened 12 hours ago, there’s no rush to have a scorching hot take about what it means for the electricity generation system, but rest assured analysis on this will be coming.



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