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PoliticsNovember 11, 2021

Live updates, November 11: Six new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Stratford, Taranaki


Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 11, by Alice Neville. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.

9.20pm: Six new cases of Covid-19 in Stratford, Taranaki

Following several positive wastewater results in the past week, six people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Taranaki town of Stratford, including one who is in hospital. All were tested today and returned positive results this evening, said the Ministry of Health in a statement.

“All six cases are clearly linked and there is also a link to the Auckland outbreak which is being further investigated,” said the ministry.

One person was admitted to Taranaki Base hospital this evening for Covid-19-related reasons.

Interviews are being conducted this evening and contact tracing will be under way tomorrow. Any locations of interest will be published once determined. The affected people are currently isolating at home.

The Ministry of Health is urging anyone in Stratford, or any recent visitors to the town with Covid-19-related symptoms, no matter how mild, to get tested.

Testing details for tomorrow and the weekend:

·        Stratford pop-up clinic at the War Memorial car park Fri-Sun from 10-2pm daily.
·        Taranaki Base Hospital Fri 9am-3pm, Sat 10-3, Sun 10-3 (hours can be extended if needed)
·        Hāwera Hospital, Fri-Sun 10am-1pm

The vaccine hubs are open in New Plymouth and Hāwera on Saturday and Sunday and there are several pop-up clinics in the community. Taranaki DHB will be advising on testing and vaccination centres that will be available in Stratford tomorrow.

4.00pm: Success for The Spinoff’s podcasts 

Two of our most-loved podcasts have picked up awards at the 2021 New Zealand Podcast Awards.

Business is Boring won gold in the best business podcast category, with The Real Pod taking out silver in best entertainment and comedy.

The judges of the inaugural awards said Business is Boring was “anything but”, praising host Simon Pound’s “inspiring stories and angles” in his interviews with a wide range of New Zealand entrepreneurs and business leaders. With 200-plus episodes under its belt since launching in 2017, Business is Boring is currently taking a break before returning with a refreshed format in the new year.

The Real Pod was “fun and easy to listen to”, according to the judges, who also praised hosts Jane Yee, Alex Casey and Duncan Greive for their rapport and relatability. The Real Pod debuted in 2015 and has gained a loyal audience through its astute recaps of reality TV and hilarious reviews of real life in New Zealand. 

The Spinoff Podcast Network is home to a family of titles covering society, te ao Māori, pop culture, food, economics, media, business and more. Other podcasts on The Spinoff Podcast Network include When the Facts Change, Gone By Lunchtime, The Fold, Remember When…, Breast Assured and the newly launched te ao Māori podcast series Nē?

2.50pm: New polls pile pressure on Labour 

A new poll has support for Labour slipping below 40% for the first time since before the Covid-19 pandemic hit New Zealand.

The Taxpayers’ Union-commissioned poll, conducted by Curia Market Research, run by National’s old pollster David Farrar, showed Labour six points down to a shade over 39%, with National rising nearly four points to 26%. However, Act is biting at National’s heels, polling at 16%, and the Green Party was up two points to 9%.

Te Pāti Māori was up one point to 2.3% and New Zealand First, ousted from parliament at the last election, is at 1.7%. Translated into parliamentary seats and Labour would need the Greens to govern while a National-Act ticket would still fall six seats short. The Māori Party would hold three seats.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s popularity has taken a 13% hit, sitting at 34%. But she’s well ahead of anyone else – Act’s David Seymour retains second place at 11%, followed by National’s Judith Collins, Christopher Luxon then Chris Bishop.

On the question of the country’s direction, 45% of the 1,000 eligible voters sampled believed New Zealand was headed in the wrong direction, compared with 44% who thought the country was on the right path. The last time a poll had New Zealand headed in the wrong direction was a Roy Morgan poll in July 2008, Stuff reported – months before National’s John Key beat Labour’s Helen Clark.

The drop in support for the government has been shown elsewhere in a leaked poll by Talbot Mills Research, which had Labour down five points to 41%, according to the New Zealand Herald.

The Talbot Mills poll had National improving a smidge to 24% and Act breaking new ground at 17%. The Greens rose two points to 9%, Te Pāti Māori at 2.4% and New Zealand First slightly up to just over 4%.

Of the 1,023 voters sampled, 46% rated the government’s handling of Covid-19 over the last month as good – down from 60% in October. Those who rated it as poor had increased 10 points to 26% and three-quarters of respondents thought the worst was still to come.

Ardern remained New Zealanders’ most preferred prime minister at 47%, down from 51% in last month’s poll. Talbot Mills had Seymour on 15%, ahead of Collins at 10%.

The government has been struggling to contain the outbreak in Tāmaki Makarau while trying to increase vaccination rates to the 90% target needed to ease restrictions. But criticism over the lack of certainty on when and how the country will r-open has been levelled at Labour, as well as from opponents of vaccination mandates and lockdown restrictions.

– Reweti Kohere

1.45pm: The delta outbreak, visualised

Today’s 185 cases is the third highest daily total of the pandemic to date.

Eighty-one of today’s cases are yet to be epidemiologically linked. There are now 713 unlinked cases from the past 14 days.

Eighty-four Covid-19 cases are now hospital inpatients, with 24 in North Shore, one in Waitakere, 28 in Middlemore, 30 in Auckland and one in Whangārei. Ten people are in ICU. Fifty-six percent of current inpatients were unvaccinated or ineligible, 31% were partially vaccinated, 12% were fully vaccinated, and the vaccination status of 4% is unknown.

Yesterday, 22,007 vaccines were administered, 6,045 first doses and 15,962 second. Eighty percent of the eligible population are now fully vaccinated, and using rounded percentages, 90% are fully vaccinated. The number is expected to officially pass the 90% mark in the coming days, with 15,083 additional doses required.

1.15pm: 185 new cases in the community, 80% of eligible New Zealanders now fully vaccinated

There are 185 new Covid-19 cases in the community today, including 25 in Waikato and seven in Northland, according to the Ministry of Health. The remainder are in Auckland.

The seven new cases in Northland are all linked to existing cases. Three are in Dargaville, two are in the Far North, one is in Whangārei and one is in Kaitaia. All are in isolation. Another person, who initially returned a positive result, remains under investigation.

Parts of Northland that are currently in alert level three will move to level two at midnight tonight.

There are 25 new cases in Waikato being reported today, with 20 from Hamilton, four from Ōtorohanga, and one from Cambridge. Fifteen of these new cases are known close contacts from a single household in Hamilton where an earlier case had been confirmed and is already in isolation.

Of the total cases, 18 are known contacts who are already isolating, and public health staff are investigating any links for the remaining seven cases.

Eighty-four inpatients are now receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 (up from 81 yesterday). Ten of those are in ICU.

Auckland update

Public health staff are renewing their calls to anyone in Auckland who is displaying any symptoms, no matter how mild, to get tested. People in the suburbs of Rānui, Sunnyvale, Kelston, Birkdale, Manurewa and Māngere, especially, are asked to be vigilant and get tested if they are symptomatic.

Public health staff are now supporting 2,835 people to isolate at home around Auckland – this includes 1,255 cases, across 885 households.

Data reconciliation is currently underway to explain the discrepancy in the DHB and Ministry numbers which are expected to largely be due to timing of reporting.

Additional death formally reported

An additional death in Auckland has today been added to the national Covid-19 figures. This person’s death is subject to a police investigation and the ministry will not be commenting further on it at this stage.

Another positive wastewater result in Stratford

A sample collected from Stratford in Taranaki on November 9 detected the Covid-19 virus. A further sample was collected yesterday and is currently being analysed.

A positive wastewater test can also sometimes result from an historical case who may continue to shed fragments of the virus for some weeks after their illness – even if they are not infectious.

Anyone in the area, who may have symptoms, is encouraged to seek a test. For all testing locations in the area, please visit the Healthpoint website.

80% of eligible New Zealanders now fully vaccinated

There were 22,007 Covid-19 vaccine doses administered yesterday, made up of 6,045 first doses and 15,962 second doses.

Today’s vaccination figures show 90% of New Zealanders aged over 12 years have now had their first dose and 80% are fully vaccinated. These are rounded percentages, and we expect to officially pass the 90% mark in the coming days – with just 15,083 additional doses required to reach this milestone.

12.55pm: Covid-19 update expected at 1pm

The daily Covid-19 update, including the number of new cases in the community, is due to arrive at some time after 1pm via emailed statement. We’ll have all the details here as soon as they land.

So far this week, the daily tally has been 190, 125 and 147, with the vast majority of cases in Auckland, but several in Waikato and Northland too.

A message from The Spinoff’s new editor Madeleine Chapman:

Like any good door-to-door salesperson, I’m about to cheerily introduce myself and then, in the very next breath, ask you for money. Hi! I’m Madeleine (or Mad) Chapman, previously an intern at The Spinoff, then a staff writer, senior writer and now editor. It certainly wasn’t the plan to step into this role in the middle of a delta outbreak, nor did I think my first weeks on the job would unfold alongside New Zealand’s largest city slowly coming out of stagnation. But despite the strange and unfortunate circumstances, The Spinoff team has stepped up once again, working tirelessly (and mostly from our bedrooms) to bring you the most important news when you need it, and the lighter moments when things are looking a little bleak. We’ve been able to continue this work because of the ongoing contributions from our members, and I can’t thank you enough.

But I can boldly ask that you consider becoming a member if you aren’t one already. If you’ve read something on our site recently that you enjoyed or appreciated, consider it a koha for that alone, because every dollar donated through The Spinoff Members is used to create more of the work you see every day. And with Christmas around the corner (which I’m finding genuinely hard to believe), there’s no such thing as shipping delays on a membership of The Spinoff bought for whānau and friends.

12.40pm: Troy Kingi leads the pack as Aotearoa Music Awards finalists announced

Troy Kingi leads the pack with six nominations for the 2021 Aotearoa Music Awards, the finalists for which were announced today. 

Kingi is nominated for Te Pukaemi o te Tau/Album of the Year for his fourth album The Ghost of Freddie Cesar, and Te Waiata Tōtahi o te Tau/Single of the Year for ‘Sleep (Slumber)’. He’s also a finalist for for Te Kaipuoro Takitahi Toa/Best Solo Artist, Te Māngai Pāho Te Kaipuoro Māori Toa/Best Māori Artist, Te Kaipuoro Awe Toa/Best Soul/RnB Artist, and also has a nomination for Te Māngai Pāho Mana Reo award with blues and roots trio The Nudge.

Other frontrunners include Teeks, who’s a finalist for five awards, and LAB, who nabbed four nominations. 

The 2021 Aotearoa Music Awards is scheduled to take place at Auckland’s Aotea Centre in December, screening live on TVNZ. It will be rescheduled for early 2022 if Covid-19 restrictions prevent the event from going ahead.

11.00am: Three strikes law to be repealed

The three strikes law will be repealed, justice minister Kris Faafoi has announced. 

The law, introduced by the National government in 2010 as part of its agreement with the Act Party, directs a judge to sentence a third-time serious offender to the maximum sentence, unless doing so would be “manifestly unjust”.

Labour tried to repeal the law during its last term in parliament but was blocked by NZ First. During the 2020 election campaign, the party again vowed to repeal it if elected. 

Introducing the Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill today, justice minister Kris Faafoi said in a statement that the law was an anomaly in New Zealand’s justice system that has led to some “absurd outcomes”.

“We have even seen the situation, recently, where the Supreme Court had to intervene in the case of an individual with long-standing and serious mental illness to correct what the Court said was so disproportionately severe that it breached the Bill of Rights,” said Faafoi.

He said judges can use other sentencing options and orders to impose the same restrictions as provided by the three strikes law in appropriate cases.

“Those who backed the law argued it would improve public safety – it has not. The evidence remains overwhelming that there has been no effect on violent crime rates since its implementation in 2010.”

As introduced, the Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill will see people who are already sentenced under the three strikes regime serve their sentence as originally imposed. 

But cabinet has agreed to invite a select committee to consider whether (and, if so, how) the bill should include provisions for those who have already been sentenced under three strikes, said the statement. 

“This will give the public, opposition politicians and other interested parties the opportunity to make submissions on this and other issues, and I strongly encourage people to have their say on this important piece of legislation,” Faafoi said.

10.15am: Ardern calls for ‘strong, equitable and sustainable’ recovery at Apec CEO summit

Political and business leaders throughout Asia and the Pacific must build a “strong, equitable and sustainable” recovery as the region faces a post-pandemic world, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has said in her opening speech the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum’s CEO summit.

Ardern said the 21 member economies needed to strengthen their partnerships with business as they responded to the economic challenges before them. Covid-19 has presented the region with an opportunity to reset economies on a scale not seen since the second world war, and “real courage” was required, she said.

“Apec leaders stand with the business community to ensure everyone has the opportunity to pull through the pandemic stronger than they were before.”

A range of speakers will address the virtual two-day CEO summit including international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Robyn Denholm, the chair of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, and former prime minister and ex-United Nations development programme administrator Helen Clark.

9.00am: Southern DHB board member sent anti-mandate email to Countdown

An email address set up to seek feedback from staff on Countdown’s proposed vaccine mandate has been leaked to those who oppose such moves, many who have sent angry and abusive emails, reports RNZ.

One of those is Southern DHB board member Ilka Beekhuis. In her email, seen by RNZ, Beekhuis wrote: “I’m writing, as a publicly-elected official of the Southern DHB, to say that it’s abhorrent that you would enforce a vaccine mandate on your staff. It’s completely amoral, unethical, and medically unnecessary,” she wrote.

Despite using her job title in the email, Beekhuis told RNZ she thought she “made it clear” she was speaking in a personal capacity. “It was my mistake,” she said. “I should have written down that that was my opinion alone and not that of the DHB.”

She confirmed she did not agree with vaccine mandates, calling them coercive, before hanging up.

DHB board chair Pete Hodgson said Beekhuis apologised on Monday and assured him she would not link her personal views to the DHB again.

In a statement, Countdown said it was looking at a staff-wide vaccine mandate as an additional Covid-19 health and safety measure. There had been a “large” number of unsupportive “and often abusive” emails from members of the public after the feedback email address was shared outside of staff.

8.50am: Thousands of DHB staff yet to be vaccinated

Just days before the mandate kicks in, about 4,000 district health board staff are yet to be vaccinated, reports RNZ.

By Tuesday, all DHB staff must have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or they will be stood down unless they have a medical exemption.

Of the roughly 80,000 people who work for DHBs across the country, 95% have had at least one shot, which means there are still thousands unvaccinated in an already stretched workforce, reports RNZ. This includes both clinical and non-clinical staff.

The lowest vaccination rates are in the Bay of Plenty and the West Coast at 93%, while the highest are in South Canterbury and the three Auckland DHBs at 98% (at least one dose). Waitematā DHB has the highest proportion of double-vaccinated workers at 96%, with Auckland, Counties Manukau and Lakes just behind on 95%.

DHB spokesperson Rosemary Clements told RNZ talks were happening with those not yet vaccinated and she expected many of those not yet vaccinated would do so this week. Because there was such a high rate of vaccination, patient care would not suffer and DHBs would manage any gaps caused by people being stood down, she said.

8.30am: Racism to blame for over-representation of Māori in state care – report

An independent research report commissioned by the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry shows that structural and systemic racism across several government organisations was responsible for the over-representation of Māori in state care.

The report, Hāha-uri, Hāha-tea – Māori Involvement in State Care 1950-1999, was carried out by Māori research specialists Ihi Research and finds that government policies, over successive governments, focused on intentionally dismantling Māori communities and undermining whānau, hapū and iwi structures.

“The report findings provide evidence that Māori in care received worse treatment than others in state care and experienced racism and restrictions in accessing their whānau,” says commissioner Julia Steenson (Ngāti Whātua, Tainui). “Many Māori survivors have become disconnected from their culture, language and whakapapa as a result.”

The Royal Commission is continuing to hear from hundreds of Māori survivors through public hearings, wānanga, hui and private interactions.

8.15am: Black Caps into Twenty20 World Cup final

Some good news for once: New Zealand has beaten England to reach the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final. Daryl Mitchell smashed 72 off 47 balls to guide the Black Caps to a five-wicket semifinal victory in Abu Dhabi.

Chasing 167, it started badly for the Black Caps, with Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson’s early dismissals leaving the side 13/2. But Mitchell and Devon Conway’s 83-run partnership gave fans hope. With 57 runs needed from the last four overs, Jimmy Neesham came in to smash 27 off 11 balls, then Mitchell took over to take the side home.

It’s been an incredible run for the Black Caps, who won the ICC Test World Championship in July and were famously robbed of the (ODI) Cricket World Cup in 2019. They’ll face either Pakistan or Australia in the final, which will start at 3am Monday NZ time.

This morning’s game is being replayed right now on Sky Sport 3.

8.00am: ‘Obsolete’ Waihopai spy domes to be retired

The Waihopai spy domes, the two giant-golf-ball-like structures that have become a fixture of the landscape south of Blenheim, are to be decommissioned and removed.

The first of the two satellite communications interception dishes and radome coverings was built in 1989, and the second added in 1998. The domes have been a target for protest action against New Zealand’s participation in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement and United States-led conflicts for decades.

GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) director general Andrew Hampton announced the decision to retire and deconstruct the domes this morning. Minister responsible for the GCSB Andrew Little welcomed the move, saying ditching the “obsolete” domes “showed a contemporary intelligence agency being open about today’s national security challenges”.

“The nature of telecommunications has changed, and other needs and capabilities have overtaken the sort of satellite communication interception that has been done at Waihopai,” Little said in a statement.

“Everyone knows technology is rapidly changing. Yesterday’s tools aren’t always useful when confronting the national security challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Little said the retirement of the domes had been discussed with New Zealand’s Five-Eyes partners and “does not diminish New Zealand’s unique and highly valued contributions to the partnership”.

Some ideas for repurposing the domes from Spinoff staff: “glamping for geeks”, “maintaining a habitable biosphere when things go really bad”, “glamour shots studios”, and “shadow puppets extravaganza”.

Yesterday’s headlines

  • There were 147 new delta cases across Auckland, Northland and Waikato.
  • A man died in Glen Eden while isolating at home with Covid-19. Investigations are under way to determine if his death was Covid-related.
  • All schools in Auckland and Waikato will be able to return to on-site learning from November 17 (see here for FAQ)
  • Auckland has now joined parts of the Waikato in alert level three, step two (see here for FAQ)
  • The prime minister visited Auckland for the first time since the delta outbreak began.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

Public health wasn’t ready to handle more than 120 daily community cases. Health minister Andrew Little admitted to Newshub that people are waiting up to two days to hear from health workers after testing positive for Covid-19 because the system can’t cope. Cases are supposed to be contacted within hours. Little said the system was ready for “100 to 120 cases a day”, not the 200 we’re now seeing. The minister hosted an event on October 14, with health staff, to assure New Zealanders that the health system was ready for up to 760 cases a day. The prime minister and Covid-19 minister have also insisted in the weeks since that the system was ready. GPs told RNZ they are stepping in to help manage patients self-isolating at home, but this is temporary and a role they weren’t asked to do.

The AstraZeneca vaccine will be available for some New Zealanders later this month. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which remains the default option, access will be tightly controlled and only a few hundred people will qualify for the AstraZeneca dose, Stuff reports.

The Covid numbers: There are 81 cases in hospital and 11 in ICU/HDU (the first time during the delta outbreak this number has crossed into double digits). There are now 2,938 active cases in New Zealand. 131 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday, 14 in Waikato and 2 in Northland. 22,178 people were vaccinated on Tuesday.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

Cop26 draft agreement calls for warming limit of 2C. Recognising a large gap between what countries have promised and where emissions need to go, the draft asks the world’s economies for new short-term targets to cut emissions by 2030, according to The Guardian. There’s also a call to end coal and fuel subsidies. The final wording still needs to be negotiated, but climate activists call it too weak, as the draft only asks for pledges and doesn’t aim countries at the more ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5C.

NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions rise quickly with surge in coal use. The country’s emissions of climate warming gases increased by 4.8% during the June quarter, the Dominion Post reports. After a dip during the first Covid-19 lockdown, New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions have bounced back to near record levels. The burning of coal is the main culprit, with emissions from utilities up 16% in only three months.

Weta Digital’s tech unit sold for NZ $2.28 billion. Unity Technologies, an American video game software developer, has purchased the tools and engineering talent of the Wellington studio. According to Businessdesk, Weta Digital and its visual effects business will remain in the capital under Sir Peter Jackson. The engineers behind the tools that helped create Hollywood effects will also remain here, but will now report to San Francisco.

This is part of The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s must-read daily news wrap. To sign up for free, simply enter your email address below

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