Live updates, February 11: One historical Covid-19 case; Green MP explains overseas trip

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 11. Get me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. You can help keep us ticking by donating here.

7.30pm: The day in sum

Parliament entered a new era, with ties no longer mandatory for male MPs

There were no new cases of Covid-19 in the community or MIQ, but one new historical case was recorded.

The government announced a “significant expansion” of its flexi-wage, promising to help up to 40,000 New Zealanders into work.

New rental rules aimed at giving tenants better protection officially came into effect.

Civil Defence issued and then later cancelled a tsunami warning following a severe earthquake off the coast of New Caledonia.

On day two of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the US Senate watched graphic and unsettling security footage showing how close to calamity the Capitol came on January 6.

3.30pm: Major rate rise proposed to fix Wellington’s water woes

A 14% rate hike is being proposed in Wellington to help fix the capital’s ongoing water woes.

As the Herald’s Georgina Campbell reported, $2.7 billion has been set aside in the council’s budget over the next decade just for water infrastructure.

“This is by far the most challenging budget that I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a few of them,” Wellington mayor Andy Foster said.

“There has been underinvestment in our pipe network since the pipes were put in the ground.”

On The Spinoff: Why the parliament necktie fight is so much more than some petty squabble

Following on from the earlier update about ties in parliament (see: 2.15pm), former Green Party leader Metiria Turei has called for the concept of “business attire” to be dropped entirely from the halls of power.

Here’s an extract:

So while this seemingly meaningless squabble over whether to wear ties or not in the parliamentary chamber seemed facile in fact it is a discussion about who exercises power and how that power is presented to the benefit of the individual MP and their constituency. Men’s suits are the ubiquitous visual representation of a man wielding authority and his tie is an essential element of that uniform. A suit rarely if ever performs this function if the person is not also wearing a tie. And so there have been constant arguments in backroom committees over many years about the definition of business attire and the wearing of men’s suits and ties. That most of the men in parliament have persistently voted to keep that archaic tie rule shows how desperate they are to retain these superficial presentations of power in the face of a changing parliament where power is arguably shifting away from people like them.

Read the full piece here.

2.15pm: Ties, ties, ties across the board (in parliament)

Updated

It’s day one of the new dress code in the House of Representatives, meaning ties are no longer a requirement for male MPs.

And yet, it appears ties remain in vogue amongst our elected representatives. A parliamentary source has told The Spinoff just three male MPs have chosen to go tie-less: James Shaw, Shanan Halbert and James McDowall.

Moments later, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick told us (via public tweet) that FIVE MPs have decided to show off their bare necks. The Herald’s Jason Walls controversially claimed there are SIX – adding in Phil Twyford, Teanau Tuiono and Rawiri Waititi. Considering Waititi is wearing his hei tiki again, I think Chloe’s call of five is the most accurate. Official ruling, done!

Spot any other tie-less MPs? Email me.

A seemingly tie-filled parliament

A seemingly tie-filled parliament (Screenshot)

1.25pm: One historical Covid-19 case

There are no new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation or the community, the Ministry of Health has announced. There is just one historical case to report today – an arrival from the US who tested positive in Christchurch MIQ.

Five previously reported cases have now recovered. One previously reported case has been reclassified as under investigation. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is now 54. Our total number of confirmed cases is 1,968.

The ministry also provided an update on vaccine suitability ahead of the arrival of the Pfizer jab. Patients receiving the following therapies should get advice from their specialist before receiving the vaccine: those receiving pembrolizumab (Keytruda), nivolumab (Opdivo), ipilimumab (Yervoy) or atezolizumab (Tecentriq).

The Pfizer vaccine is suitable for use in immunocompromised people, said the ministry.

1.00pm: Expansion to flexi-wage scheme announced

The government has revealed a “significant expansion” of its flexi-wage, promising to help up to 40,000 New Zealanders into work.

The scheme helps support people who are at risk of long-term unemployment and who are receiving a benefit get into work.

“We made a commitment to expanding flexi-wage during the election and today’s announcement delivers on that promise,” said Jacinda Ardern in a statement.

Businesses can now receive an average of $7,500 per employee.

12.20pm: Trump impeachment – security footage shows rioters targeting Mike Pence

Terrifying new footage shows the moment former vice president Mike Pence was evacuated during the January riot at the Capitol building.

Today marks day two of the senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

Democratic Stacey Plaskett – one of the nine impeachment managers – has walked senators through the newly release security footage, showing where the rioters breached the Capitol and how close they were to Pence.

“They were coming at the urging of Donald Trump to keep Congress, a separate branch of government, from certifying the results of a presidential election,” Plaskett said, according to CNN.

“As the rioters reached the top of the stairs, they were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family,” she added, showing footage of Pence being evacuated from the Senate chamber. “Vice president Pence was threatened with death by the President’s supporters because he rejected president Trump’s demand that he overturn the election.”

Read more and watch the footage here.

11.00am: New rental rules take effect today – what you need to know

The second phase of the government’s update to our tenancy laws take effect from today, bringing in greater protections for renters.

The rules see the end of no cause terminations and bring in new regulations to allow tenants to make their rentals feel more homely, through the ability to make minor physical changes such as hang shelves.

But, the new regulations aren’t good enough for Act. The party has sent out a release calling them “terrible” for renters.

“The median weekly rental has already increased $70 under Labour, almost 20%, and today’s changes won’t do anything to assuage that rise,” the party’s housing spokesperson Brooke van Velden said.

“Rather than improve the lot of renters the act’s changes set up a real us-and-them scenario, with landlords painted as the bad guys.

“There will be greater stringency on who meets a landlord’s sniff test of risk, given the restrictions on ending tenancies the new rules bring in.”

You can read all about the new rules right here.

10.15am: Tsunami warning cancelled

This morning’s tsunami warning for parts of the North Island has been cancelled, Civil Defence confirmed. 

The initial warning followed a severe earthquake near New Caledonia, with those on the East Coast asked to stay clear of the water.

“Based on the most recent modelling and decreasing tsunami amplitudes at North Cape, Great Barrier Island and the East Cape, the tsunami threat has passed for New Zealand,” a statement on the Civil Defence website reads. “There could still be large unexpected currents and the public are advised to continue to take precautions in coastal zones for the rest of today.

More info in this morning’s 8am update.

9.30am: Ricardo Menéndez March explains trip overseas

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March said he was glad he did not receive special treatment when applying for a place in managed isolation after a sudden trip back to Mexico in December.

March, a first term MP, posted a long message on his Facebook page last night explaining his decision to leave New Zealand over summer and return to Mexico. He is currently nearing the end of his two week stay in managed isolation. He had previously applied for an emergency spot but this was declined by MBIE.

Speaking on RNZ this morning, March said he went to Mexico in order to “put family first” and spend time with his sick step mother and father.

The trip was booked, March said, in December when he was already an MP. He paid for it himself.

“Members of the Green Party had been aware that my step mother was sick and I did check in with co-leader Marama Davidson and our musterer Jan Logie around overseas travel.”

Asked about the decision to try and book an emergency spot in MIQ, March said he was “exploring the avenues that were possible”.

“I ended up using the MIQ website like everybody else does but just kept refreshing for many many hours on end in order to get a voucher,” he said. People have a right to apply for an emergency spot, he said, but he was glad not to have been given special treatment.

March, asked what would have happened had he not secured a place in MIQ for his return, said family comes first. He said if he had been required to stay in Mexico to look after family he would have been prepared to resign as MP.

“The sensitive nature of these circumstances would have meant that I would have explored all options to ensure that my colleagues were able to continue with the work.”

8.00am: Tsunami warning issued after New Caledonian quake

Civil Defence is warning New Zealanders on the coast of the North Island to stay clear ahead of expected “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges” following a 7.7 magnitude quake near New Caledonia.

The “areas under threat” are Ahipara to the Bay of Islands, Great Barrier Island, and from Matata to Tolaga Bay.

People in or near the sea in those areas should “move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries,” Civil Defence said.

Acting director of the National Emergency Management Agency, Roger Ball, told RNZ there was no threat to land in New Zealand, but people were being asked to stay out of the water because of the risk of possible surges.

According to Geoscience Australia, the initial quake struck at 2.20am at a depth of 54km, with the epicentre 401km east of Tadine, New Caledonia.

7.45am: Top stories from The Bulletin

It’s not exactly breaking news, but the repealing and replacing of the Resource Management Act is going to be among the biggest things done this term of government. Yesterday environment minister David Parker outlined the shape of what the replacement legislation would be, and the timeline for how it would be put in place. I’ve got a cheat sheet on all of that you can read. In short, it’s a huge legislative overhaul, with the government trying to change the settings to get more houses built, better protect the environment, and start responding and adapting to the effects of climate change.

The fact that it will take so long isn’t down to slowness or laziness – it really is that big of a project. Analysing it, Politik described it as “probably the most fundamental and complex legislative reform put before Parliament in decades.” We’re unlikely to see the effects of it until at least 2024, but that article suggested there will be applause for the government trying to take it all on at once, rather than constant smaller moves to tinker with bits here and there.

Another important feature of the law change will be an increased role and recognition for Māori, under Te Tiriti. Te Ao News reports “this includes recognising the concept of Te Mana o te Taiao; giving effect to the principles of Te Titiri o Waitangi, providing for specified Tikanga Māori outcomes and promoting effective participation by mana whenua.”

In response to the package, National called for more urgency. In a release, spokesperson Nicola Willis said the government is not moving fast enough to make house building easier, and pointed to an offer made by the party to work with the government on emergency legislation to bridge the gap. “Now Labour plans to spend another three years moving RMA legislation through Parliament. Given the time it will also take local councils to amend their plans, it could easily be the late 2020s before any of these changes take effect.”

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was officially signed off by cabinet, after receiving provisional approval last week.

There were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation.

The government announced three pieces of legislation that will replace the to-be-repealed Resource Management Act.

Māori Party MP Rawiri Waititi was allowed to speak in parliament despite his lack of tie, after yesterday being ejected by the speaker.

MediaWorks confirmed controversial talkback host Sean Plunket won’t be returning to his afternoon slot on Magic Talk.

It was revealed that Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March is in MIQ after travelling back to Mexico for a “serious personal family matter”.

The second impeachment trial of former US president Donald Trump got under way.

National’s Simon Bridges slammed the government’s decision to rush through legislation on the public veto of Māori wards.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates




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