For all The Spinoff’s latest coverage of Covid-19 see here. Read Siouxsie Wiles’s work here. New Zealand is currently in alert level one – read about what that means here. For official government advice, see here.
The Spinoff’s coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak is made possible thanks to donations from Spinoff Members. To support this work, join The Spinoff Members here
6.05pm: New isolation centre for deportees to open
Deportations from Australia to New Zealand will ramp up in the week to come, with 19 people expected to arrive on our shores, according to a report on 1 News. A special new quarantine facility with greater security capability has been set up to accommodate the deported New Zealanders, and they are expected to travel on a charter flight, Katie Bradford reported. The location of the new facility is being kept secret. Deportations were suspended during lockdown, but quietly resumed about a month ago, reported 1 News.
4.20pm: Shane Jones addresses rally
Shane Jones has addressed a crowd of around 300 people at a “Force of the North” event in Whangarei. The rally replaces the planned NZ First AGM, which will now be held next weekend alongside the party campaign launch, following leader Winston Peters’ recovery from urgent keyhole surgery last week.
The New Zealand Herald’s Northland bureau, aka David Fisher, attended this afternoon, and reports on a trademark Jones address here. With NZ First struggling in the polls, the party’s parliamentary survival may hinge on Jones’ effort to win the Northland seat, and he held nothing back in going at National and its incumbent MP in the electorate, Matt King. “In the north the National Party jalopy is actually falling apart, riddled with rust. In fact, in the north we regard our rusted railway as a symbol of the National Party’s attitude to Northland’s ambitions,” he said.
1.15pm: The charts
We’re very much hoping not to have to add a category to these visuals for “hotel isolation fugitives”.
1.00pm: One new case of Covid-19
There is one new case of Covid-19 in New Zealand, a woman in hotel isolation in Christchurch, the Ministry of Health has just announced. The woman, in her 20s, arrived in New Zealand on July 4 from Rome, via Doha and Sydney.
“She had been in managed isolation at the Christchurch Commodore Airport Hotel and is now in quarantine. The woman had previously been identified as a close contact of another case,” said the ministry in a press release. “As a result, and as per protocols for testing of close contacts within the managed facilities, this woman was retested on day six and tested positive.”
It is now 72 days since the last case of Covid-19 was “acquired locally from an unknown source”, said the ministry. New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases is now 1,194, with the total number of active cases 25.
Laboratories yesterday processed 1,824 tests. The total number of tests completed is 428,600.
12.00pm: Act launches campaign with ’employment insurance’ promise
The Act Party has launched its campaign with a policy which at first glance looks counterintuitive for a small-state advocate: a boost to benefits, in the form of an employment insurance scheme. It wouldn’t be a boost to benefits across the board, however, applying only to those who had lost their job, who would receive 55% of their previous wage, up to a maximum of $60,000 a year. Under the scheme, the “insurance” could be claimed for one week for each five weeks worked, capped at 26 weeks.
The second policy announced addresses mental health, with the party pledging to establish a new wraparound organisation overseeing the provision of services, called Mental Health and Addiction New Zealand.
Launching the campaign in an Auckland speech, David Seymour noted the party’s improvements in recent opinion polls, and made a pitch for the younger vote, declaring Act the “voice of a generation”. He said: “A Vote for Act is a vote for a New Zealand where the next generation of eager, resourceful, ambitious millennials can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of those they care about, not be fodder for politicians and their grand government schemes.”
Meanwhile the latest in our “last on the list” series comes from No 24 on the Act list: Dave King. Read it here.
11.30am: Coal boilers to the scrap yard in Greens’ energy policy
Ten short weeks from today we’ll be nursing election night hangovers, and the parties’ campaigns are already filling the weekends. At a policy launch in Wellington, the Green Party has just announced that if they’re part of the next government, industrial coal boilers will be banned in the first 100 days.
The party’s “clean energy plan” also includes an end to coal use by 2030. A $250 million “clean energy fund” would be made available for “local renewable energy projects”and there would be extensive subsidies for solar power.
“Over decades, governments have failed to respond to the climate change challenge by supporting the use of dirty fossil fuels. Our window to act is shrinking and we must make meaningful changes now to secure our children’s future,” said co-leader James Shaw in a statement. “Our Clean Energy Plan empowers communities, businesses and families to create a truly sustainable Aotearoa which runs on the energy nature provides.”
In other election activity today, Act is launching it campaign at an event in Auckland, while Shane Jones is hosting a “Force for the North” rally in Whangarei – an event replacing New Zealand First’s AGM, which was pushed back a week when leader Winston Peters was forced to undergo urgent keyhole surgery last week.
9.15am: Kaye defends National handling of leaked information
Nikki Kaye was “gutted and disappointed” by revelations in the last week that the leaks of private medical details relating to New Zealanders in quarantine was the work of National Party players. Speaking to Jack Tame on Q+A. the National deputy leader denied that there was dishonesty on the part of her leader, Todd Muller, or the party spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse. Both have been accused of misleading the media ahead of the admission that Woodhouse had, like Hamish Walker, MP for Clutha-Southland, been fed personal medical information by veteran National insider and former party president Michelle Boag.
Nikki Kaye, speaking on Q+A on TVNZ, acknowledged “the perception was that Todd hadn’t received the information” and that it “should have been [made] clearer to the media”. The party “could have done better”, she said. She insisted, however, that Boag had not provided her with any of the information, and dismissed the suggestion that it was a case of “dirty politics”.
The party had taken swift action in response, Kaye said, with Walker announcing his departure from politics and Michelle Boag quitting a bunch of roles, including her position with the helicopter trust, place on Kaye’s own Auckland Central campaign committee and even her party membership. “You can’t control some of the events that come at you,” said Kaye. “You can control how you deal with them.”
4.25pm: Another spike in Covid-19 cases in Victoria
The Australian state of Victoria has seen another spike in Covid-19 cases, with 216 new infections recorded overnight, all from community transmission. A man in his 90s died in hospital with Covid-19 as Melbourne adjusts to the first weekend of its second period of lockdown.
State premier Daniel Andrews today told reporters, “This is not an ordinary weekend. It is anything but that. You’ve got to be in your home if you are in the metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire areas.” Those residents are allowed to leave their homes only for healthcare and other essential services like groceries, exercise, work and study (if they can’t be done from home), or childcare.
4.10pm: We’re less worried about the economy than we were in May – survey
A new study tracking what New Zealanders care about shows that as of early July, concerns around certain key issues had softened since a couple of months ago. The Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor, which surveyed 1,000 New Zealanders between July 3 and 6, found there had been a drop in concern about the economy and unemployment, which emerged as major worries in May when the last survey was conducted. They were still considered the biggest issues facing New Zealand, however, alongside housing, which had been the number one worry in surveys conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Other findings included that 80% of those surveyed believed the borders should remain closed until the virus is contained, and perceptions of the current government remained high, but had dropped slightly since May – from an average rating of 7.6/10 in May to 7.3/10 in July. This had risen from 5.8/10 in March. The latest survey was conducted just after David Clark resigned as health minister.
2.10pm: Today’s case data, charted
We’ve currently got 24 active cases.
1.00pm: Fourth person in a week absconds from managed isolation; one new case
A person in their 60s broke a window and absconded from an Auckland isolation hotel last night, the fourth escape from a facility in week.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb, head of managed isolation and quarantine, said police are investigating after the person left the Waipuna Hotel in Mt Wellington late last night. They were last seen within the facility at 11pm on Friday, and were picked up by police at around 12.15am on Saturday morning. They were returned to facility immediately and placed under guard.
After absconding, the person allegedly knocked on the doors of three nearby residents. The first property didn’t answer, the second phoned 111 and the third, a couple, apparently spoke to the person.
In a statement, Webb said the person arrived in New Zealand on July 4 and tested negative for Covid-19 on their day-three test. “Public health will be talking to local residents to reassure them of the low risk and provide any advice,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is one new case of Covid-19 in New Zealand, a woman in her 20s who arrived in New Zealand on July 2 from London, via Doha and Sydney.
She had been in managed isolation at the Sudima Christchurch Airport and is now in quarantine. She had previously been identified as a close contact of another case. As a result, regular testing was carried out and the woman tested positive on day six, according to a press release from the Ministry of Health.
This case brings New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases to 1,193. There are no new recovered cases today, which means the total number of active cases is 24.
12.00pm: NZ First’s sights set on immigration, despite border closure
NZ First MP Shane Jones has hinted that immigration will still be a focus for the party this election, despite the fact New Zealand’s borders are closed due to Covid-19.
“I’ve every confidence our leader, our caucus and our party will have very profound things to say about immigration,” Jones told The Nation this morning. “Just watch this space – we will have sensible things to say about immigration and it may come to pass that not everyone will enjoy what we have to say.”
NZ First has long been known for its anti-immigration stance, and in February Jones courted controversy in an interview on the same show when he said students from India had ruined many educational institutions.
Asked this morning by host Simon Shepard why he singled out students from India, when many more come from China, Jones didn’t answer the question but said, “You’re right to remind me of that.” He said “the language schools that target the Asian market, their days are over”, but added that NZ First did not want to make life easy “for language schools with low skills, low values, and that have had a negative impact on the labour market”.
Jones said he believes employers have “a duty” to train New Zealand workers before immigrants.
11.45am: Act announces new policy targeting gangs
Act has released a new policy that would amend the Criminal Proceeds Act to allow the police to apply to the courts for an order to seize assets if a search finds an illegal operation, unlawful possession of a firearm, or a person who is a gang member or close affiliate.
Act leader David Seymour announced the policy this morning, telling Newshub’s The Nation that under the current Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, police had to prove at least $30,000 worth of assets were involved before a seizure, and that gangs were getting around it by having a large number of small operations.
“We’re saying that if you have a firearm and you are dealing drugs and you are a gang, then the Crown can take your assets because, ultimately, these guys don’t care about going to jail,” said Seymour. “What they do care about is the bling, the gold-rimmed motorcycles they use to recruit people.”
The party is set to make other policy announcements this weekend, with a campaign launch tomorrow.
July 11, 8.15am: WHO reports record increase in Covid-19 cases
The World Health Organisation has reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours to 11.8 million. Cases have more than doubled in the last six weeks, said WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing overnight, and the pandemic is accelerating across most of the world. Cases show no signs of slowing in the hardest-hit countries, the US, Brazil and India, he said. Between them, the three countries recorded 129,000 new daily virus cases on Thursday, with the US the highest at 59,000.
7.00pm: The day in review
There are two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation.
A man in Hamilton escaped from managed isolation by cutting ties on a 1.8m fence. He was gone for half an hour and visited a liquor store. He appeared in Hamilton District Court this afternoon charged with intentionally failing to comply with an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and was remanded in custody.
National health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse confirmed he also received emails containing private health information from former National Party president Michelle Boag.
Boag announced she will be stepping down from the National Party and politics in general.
Two emergency helicopter trusts confirmed that the emails containing private patient information at the centre of the controversy are shared daily by the Ministry of Health with a number of health agencies and organisations around the country.
Controversial National list MP Dr Jian Yang announced that he will be retiring from New Zealand politics at the 2020 election.
Helen Clark has been named the head of the World Health Organisation’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, alongside former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced special border exemptions for victims and support people of the Christchurch mosque attacks to attend sentencing of the gunman next month.
3.15pm: Special border exemptions for visitors to mosque terrorist sentencing
Victims and support people of the Christchurch mosque attacks based overseas will be able to attend the sentencing of the perpetrator next month, the government has announced. There will be an exemption to the existing requirements for applying for entry for those who meet these two criteria:
- Up to two family members of those killed or one family member and one support person
- Those who were subject to an attempted murder in the attack and one family member or support person to accompany them.
“We want to support our valued Muslim brothers and sisters who were directly affected by this tragic event and understand that some who are now offshore do want to attend the sentencing,” said the immigration minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, in a statement.
“I am mindful that the time it may take individuals to submit an application, together with the limited commercial airline flights and the managed quarantine requirements, do make the logistics of getting to New Zealand in this timeframe a challenge. I understand the Ministry of Justice has been working with the Court to put in place technology options to enable victims who are overseas and unable to travel to view the sentencing hearing and read a Victim Impact Statement remotely.”
2.30pm: Today’s numbers charted
1:05pm: Two cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation
There are two new cases of Covid-19, health minister Chris Hipkins has just announced in a live update. It has now been 70 days since the last case of Covid-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source.
The first case is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand on June 28. He has been at the Sudima Auckland Airport facility since arrival. He tested negative on day three of his stay and has subsequently tested positive on a day 12 test.
The second case is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand on June 27. He has been in managed isolation at the Sudima Lake Rotorua. He tested positive on July 9 on day 12 of his stay.
These cases bring our total number of confirmed cases to 1,192, which is the number we report to the World Health Organisation.
There are three cases considered to have recovered from Covid-19, which brings the total number of active cases to 23.
There is no one in New Zealand receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19.
Yesterday, laboratories completed 2,575 tests. That brings the total number of tests completed to date to 424,719.
Managed isolation breaches
Referencing the recent absconders from managed isolation, Hipkins said that police had used CCTV footage, cell phone movements and bank transactions “in order to get as clear a picture as possible of the events”. However, he had asked officials to tighten up procedures around providing details to businesses that may have been involved, such as the Countdown that was visited by the man who left managed isolation in central Auckland earlier in the week.
This includes advice given to staff.
The Countdown in question, on Victoria Street West, mistakenly opened the day after the man visited, but closed again after three minutes when the error was realised.
Hipkins thanked Countdown, as well as the owner of the liquor store the Hamilton absconder visited, for their “responsiveness and their responsible response” in helping to trace the men’s movements. CCTV had confirmed that no other customers were in the liquor store at the time.
A second Covid-19 test had been carried out on the man, and it had also returned a negative result.
Housing minister Megan Woods announced yesterday a “permanent police presence” is being introduced at managed isolation hotels as a result of the Auckland breach.
“The Auckland experience highlighted we needed to tighten our responses to these situations,” said Hipkins, “and I think the response in Hamilton shows that we’ve done that.”
In response to a question from a journalist, Hipkins acknowledged officials should have been more prompt in getting in touch with the Countdown visited by the man who absconded from the Stamford Plaza.
“What happened with Countdown wasn’t the level of response we needed to see. Processes have been tightened up as a result of that.”
Private information leaks
On Monday an inquiry was launched by Michael Heron QC into the source of emails containing private medical information about Covid-19 patients received by former National Party president Michelle Boag (in her role as CEO of the Auckland rescue helicopter trust), who later leaked them to National MP Hamish Walker. Both have since stepped down in some way from their respective roles.
Since then it has been revealed that the emails are shared daily with a number of health agencies and organisations around the country.
In response to a question about whether it was appropriate for the Ministry of Health to be sending such emails to a political PR consultant, Hipkins said that it was clear they weren’t being sent “to that person in that capacity but that is one of the things the inquiry is looking at”.
As an immediate measure Hipkins said he has asked the Ministry of Health and “all of the relevant agencies to look very closely at their distribution lists to consider if they need to make any changes immediately”.
“I think it’s important that the inquiry led by Michael Heron looks at who received the information, why they received the information, and whether that was appropriate.”
Addressing today’s revelation that National health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse had also received emails from Boag, Hipkins said he thought any MP receiving sensitive or confidential information had “a responsibility to see that it was appropriately handled”.
He added: “If you look at some of the public statements he has made during this episode, they don’t sound like the statements of someone who knew where the information was coming from.”
Watch the update live here:
12.20pm: Health minister to give today’s update
Minister of health Chris Hipkins will front a live health update from the Beehive theatrette at 1pm. More details to come.
12.05pm: Man escapes managed isolation in Hamilton
New Zealand’s team of five million seems to be dwindling, as yet another report of someone absconding from self-isolation emerges.
Air commodore Digby Webb confirmed the breach, saying the health risk has been assessed as low due to the man testing negative on his day three Covid-19 test.
It’s believed the man in his fifties was gone from the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton for half an hour and that he cut through ties on a 1.8 metre tall fence to allow him to escape. He is currently in police custody.
11.40am: Spokesperson says National leader knew about Boag leaks
Amid a day of turmoil for the National Party, a party spokesperson has revealed that Todd Muller knew earlier than previously revealed about Michelle Boag sending confidential data to health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse.
The spokesperson told the NZ Herald that Woodhouse had informed Muller of this on Tuesday evening.
However, the next day at a press conference, Muller was asked directly about whether he had checked with Woodhouse about whether he had also received such information – Muller said that he had not checked.
“It’s very clear from our perspective there’s a conversation that’s occurred between Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker. We are confident from what we can see that the issue here relates to Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker,” Muller said at the time.
He did not mention at any point that he was aware of Boag also sending information to Woodhouse
10:55am: Jian Yang retiring after 2020 election
Controversial National list MP Dr Jian Yang has announced that he will be retiring from New Zealand politics at the 2020 election.
In a rare public statement, Dr Yang said he has “been proud to be a part of what I think is a caucus that is truly representative of the ethnic diversity that is modern New Zealand, and to have played my part as a Chinese New Zealander in the governance of our amazing country”.
Yang has been the subject of heavy scrutiny since a Newsroom investigation revealed that he had studied and trained others at an elite Chinese spy school, before later living and working in Australia and New Zealand. He also became notorious for refusing to answer questions on the matter, with the issue coming to light again recently in a story run by 1 News show Q+A, in which reporter Whena Owen detailed a two-year campaign to try and interview him.
Questions were also raised last year when it emerged that he had arranged a diplomatic trip to China for then-leader Simon Bridges, as opposed to the standard practice of such visits being arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The statement did not directly refer to any of this controversy. However, he did make frequent references to being proud to be a Chinese New Zealander, and to fostering closer relationships between the two countries.
“It has been a great honour to represent the Chinese community as a National MP in Parliament. I am proud that I have been able to assist numerous Chinese constituents and enabled the Chinese community to better understand and participate in New Zealand’s open and democratic politics. And I will continue to support New Zealand’s hard-working Chinese community outside of caucus.
“As a Member of Parliament with Chinese heritage, I made my contribution to NZ-China relations. My trips to China with Prime Minister John Key, Ministers and colleagues are some highlights of my political career. I have witnessed the rapid growth of New Zealand’s trade with China and I am pleased to have played a role in it.”
Update: National leader Todd Muller has publicly thanked Yang for his “commitment to the party and to New Zealand over the past nine years”.
In a statement Muller described Yang as an MP that has travelled the country, supporting many different communities helping them with different issues. His dedication has helped the Chinese community in New Zealand better understand and participate in politics.
“Jian has served as chairperson of Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee and is currently chairperson of the Governance and Administration Select Committee. He has served both committees with distinction.
He ended by wishing him well with future endeavours.
9.15am: Woodhouse received private emails; Boag stepping away from politics
National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse has issued a statement saying that between June 21 and June 25 former party president Michelle Boag sent him “four unsolicited emails” containing patient details.
However, he said he “recognised that the information in those emails was private so I did not share it with anyone else and I subsequently deleted them.”
Woodhouse also confirmed that Boag was “not the source of any previous information released by me in relation to the Government’s Covid-19 response.”
That appears to be a reference to his previous assertion that a homeless man had got a fortnight of accommodation in a managed isolation facility, which subsequent enquiries from the ministry of health found no evidence for. He also told parliament in June that two women who were granted compassionate leave to drive from Auckland to Wellington, who later tested positive for Covid-19, gave a person who assisted them “a kiss and a cuddle”. His source, he said, was a friend of the women’s family.
But it also raises questions about statements made by Woodhouse when the Boag/Walker leak was first revealed, and before the source of the leak was public knowledge. At the time, Woodhouse said the leak was “yet another serious failing from an incompetent government”, even though at that stage he appears to have been aware that Boag was sending the information out to politicians.
Woodhouse says he has provided details of all of this to Michael Heron QC, who is leading the investigation into the handling of confidential patient data.
Meanwhile, Boag herself has issued a press statement saying that she is resigning from the National Party, and stepping away from politics altogether.
“For 47 years, I have devoted much of my professional and personal life to supporting the party that for me has always represented the ultimate kiwi values of hard work, reward for effort, self-reliance and compassion. Unfortunately this passion has put me on a self-destructive path.”
In that release, she said she had also provided details to Heron about her sharing of confidential information, and outlined why she had done so.
“My decisions to share this information were wrong, driven by my distorted view that providing that information would help the National Party to hold the government to account. In fact it was harmful, not helpful, and it is time that the National Party and I parted ways.”
8.20am: Clark to head Covid-19 global assessment team
Former prime minister Helen Clark is co-leading the panel tasked with assessing the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The WHO announced the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response this morning.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said of Clark and her counterpart, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: “I cannot imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process to help us understand what happened – an honest assessment – and to help us understand also what we should do to prevent such a tragedy in the future.”
Clark was responsible for leading the United Nations Development Programme, and Sirleaf was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The pair will appoint the other members of the panel.
The panel’s work will be discussed by the WHO executive board in January 2021.
8.00am: Helicopter trusts says information came from Ministry of Health
The Ministry of Health is keeping schtum on whether its the source of private medical data that found its ways to former chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust Michelle Boag and Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, but two rescue helicopter trusts have confirmed they receive information regularly about Covid-19 patients from the ministry.
Boag said she was receiving the updates to a private email address, which she later forwarded to Walker.
Clinical Director of Air Ambulance Services, Dr Shay McGuinness told RNZ this morning he found it “impossible to fathom” that the Auckland rescue helicopter would need the details for people whose hotel was stationed seven minutes from Middlemore hospital.
“There’s been a failure from the Ministry of Health in releasing too much information to too many people. That means the risk of somebody doing the wrong thing, either deliberately or accidentally… just gets bigger and bigger.”
Another helicopter trust who didn’t want to be named, who confirmed they also receive the Ministry of Health lists of patients, said they thought the information was helpful.
7.35am: Updates from today’s Bulletin
The story of Rio Tinto pulling out of the Tiwai Point smelter is one that shows the deep connections between regional stories and the rest of New Zealand. Michael Andrew looked at the complex strands of the issue yesterday, and it’s a great starting point if you’re new to the story. For today’s Bulletin, we’ll pick up on some of the developments and what they could mean.
First of all, it’s an economic tragedy for the people of Southland. That much is undeniable, because the smelter provided good, high-paying jobs, which are really not easy to come by in a lot of the country. The ODT reports this morning that local business leaders are terrified of what comes next, and Great South chief executive Graham Budd put it bluntly but accurately when he said “there won’t be anybody across Invercargill and the region that hasn’t been touched in some way directly or indirectly by this.” That group has vowed to fight on to try and save the smelter.
It seems likely this time to be a lost cause. Rio Tinto, widely regarded as a terrible corporate citizen around the world, have spent years cynically using the prospect of the region’s economy being shattered to force concessions out of government. When the Key government bailed the smelter out last time, they made it clear that it would be the last time. And the current government have stuck to that. Finance minister Grant Robertson and economic development minister Megan Woods issued a statement that made it clear the rest of the country will no longer subsidise the smelter.
So what should those people in Southland do instead? They’d be forgiven for not feeling super confident about the future when the statement addressed that as follows: “We know the strengths of Southland and we want to build on them in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing. There is also an opportunity to support other energy intensive projects like green hydrogen and data centres.” Woods stressed that there was more than a year to go before the smelter fully closed, so there would be time to put some actual detail on the table – but a year can go by very quickly, and it seems certain that many won’t have jobs to step into when their existing one goes.
There will also be big implications for electricity generation. Business Desk’s (paywalled) Dan Brunskill has looked at the sharemarket impact on the gentailers (big power companies that generate as well as retail) and they’ve seen billions in value wiped away. Tiwai Point used between 10%-15% of the country’s total electricity supply in any given year, so now some will be expecting lower prices. But it won’t necessarily flow simply like that, because of the transmission costs to get that power from the hydro dams in the deep South up to population centres in the North Island. There was a really interesting piece on Politik this morning about transmission pricing itself, and how decisions made several years ago to keep costs down for Aucklanders effectively sealed the fate of Tiwai Point yesterday.
There will now be a glut of clean renewable energy on the market, so what should be done with it? Nikki Mandow at Newsroom has looked into how this is likely to have a positive impact on the country’s carbon emissions – both directly from the smelter itself, and less directly because it dramatically reduces the need for fossil fuel plants to stay open to provide overflow power supply. But it won’t happen overnight, because of various infrastructure challenges. If the power supply isn’t needed any more, it could also have positive implications for the Waiau River, which campaigners say has been degraded by the presence of the Manapouri Dam.
The diplomatic rift between China and the Five Eyes alliance over Hong Kong has deepened, and New Zealand is very much a part of it. Radio NZ reports MFAT will be “reviewing the settings of its relationship” with Hong Kong, after a draconian new security law was put in place, which heavily cracks down on a lot of freedoms previously enjoyed by people of the city. People aren’t really travelling at the moment anyway, but the advisory warning for New Zealanders has been updated to say that there is now an increased risk of arrest and prosecution on a wide range of grounds. It follows similar moves from Australia, which has also decided to suspend its extradition agreement with China.
Police will now guard managed isolation hotels to prevent guests from going walkabout, along with other beefed up security protocols in place. Our live blog has the details, including a grim new realness in the way the government will approach the facilities – “the facilities are a snapshot of society and there will inevitably be the odd problem. We must ensure our security arrangements anticipate the type of behaviour we’re seeing from the worst of our returnees,” said minister Megan Woods. Also included in our live blog is an update with Countdown, who have issued a clarification of details around the trip the escapee made to their supermarket.
Speaking of that guy, the NZ Herald’s Anna Leask managed to get hold of him for an interview. He has questioned the police’s version of events, but refused to say why he left the hotel, or whether he felt he had put the public in danger by his trip.
On a semi-related note, a judge has issued a warning to the government on the legality of banning compassionate exemptions, reports Newshub. It follows the case of a man who tried to see his dying father, but wasn’t able to make it in time because of legal holdups. A few weeks ago professor Andrew Geddis predicted a similar outcome to this, were it to be tested in court – and now Justice Muir of the Auckland High Court says there is an urgent need for the director-general of health to address the terms of the order.
Like pretty much every major party going into an election these days, National released an economic framework yesterday which read like five nice bullet points scrawled on a napkin. So we won’t bother focusing on that – instead, I’d encourage you to read this from Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan that went deep into a wonkish but highly consequential aspect of how the party would govern under Todd Muller. It concerns two pieces of legislation – the Public Finance Act and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and where National is looking to position itself in relation to previous National governments. Of particular note is the discussion around net debt to GDP, alongside promises to spend up large on infrastructure. There’s much more to it than the bullet points would suggest.
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
Three new cases of Covid-19 were detected in managed isolation, the Ministry of Health reported.
Rio Tinto announced it is closing its Tiwai Point aluminium smelter next year, with over 1,000 associated job losses forecast.
A “permanent police presence” is being introduced at managed isolation hotels, housing minister Megan Woods announced, after a Covid-positive man escaped and went to the supermarket on Tuesday night.
The Police Association, the union for police officers, criticised the new rules as a waste of police time and resources.
New Zealand’s relationship with Hong Kong, including travel advice, extradition agreements and export controls, is under review following the imposition of a harsh national security law by Beijing.
Hundreds of police attended the funeral for their colleague, Constable Matthew Hunt, who was killed in the line of duty last month.
Todd Muller outlined National’s five-point economic framework with a warning that the magnitude of the coming economic challenge has not yet sunk in for the country.