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Photos: RNZ, Getty Images
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PoliticsSeptember 12, 2020

Election Live, September 12: Two new cases of Covid-19; Labour to reinstate Training Incentive Allowance

Photos: RNZ, Getty Images
Photos: RNZ, Getty Images

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 12, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other New Zealand news. Find official Covid-19 information 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. Contact us at

The day in sum

Two new cases of Covid-19 in the community were announced. Both are linked to the bereavement events sub-cluster that is epidemiologically linked to the Mt Roskill church group.

Labour announced it would reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance for higher-skilled courses if re-elected, as well as increase the amount of money beneficiaries working part-time could earn.

Labour also pledged to pay the living wage to public service contractors which would include cleaners, caterers and security guards.

The Greens announced its agriculture policy which would see $297 million go towards helping farmers decarbonise and transition to a more sustainable future.

The Māori Party announced its Mokopuna Māori Policy which would see a brand new entity for Māori children established independent of Oranga Tamariki.

6.20pm: Thousands attend anti-lockdown rally in Auckland

Over a thousand protesters gathered in Auckland this afternoon for a “freedom rally” alongside Advance NZ party leaders Billy Te Kahika and Jami-Lee Ross, reports Stuff. Many held signs protesting against the Covid-19 lockdown, 5G, vaccines, the government and the TPPA. The protests have been a regular occurrence since alert level three in Auckland with attendance seemingly growing by the week.

Also in attendance was the woman sentenced to jail for 14 days for breaking out of a managed isolation facility, according to RNZ.

6pm: Today on The Spinoff

Michelle Langstone talked to 17-year-old Aigagalefili Fepulea’i-Tapua’i (aka Fili) about poetry, climate change, deep-seated inequality, and so much more.

Justin Giovannetti took a look at the government’s latest move at the border with more workers and immigrants being given the green light to enter New Zealand.

Alice Webb-Liddall explained why Waikato University is being accused of structural racism, talking to one former and one current staff member who say the issue’s been bubbling away for years.

Sam Brooks wrote about his experience taking a trip to the theatre in level 2.5.

Jean Sergent reviewed Sorrow and Bliss, an exceptional new novel about mental illness, labels, and lovability.

And lastly, Michael Andrew picked out some of the most compelling economic ideas from party leaders who gathered yesterday to pitch their ideas in front of Auckland’s business community.

5pm: How to draw Jacinda Ardern

A brief intermission from policy announcements to bring your attention to the latest Side Eye in which cartoonist Toby Morris teaches us how to draw a different New Zealand politician each week in the run-up to the election, starting with Jacinda Ardern. Below are some attempts from Toby’s colleagues, including one from yours truly on the right who accidentally made the prime minister look very, very sad.


3.30pm: Māori Party wants new independent entity to stop uplifting of children

The Māori Party has announced its Mokopuna Māori Policy which would see a brand new entity established independent of Oranga Tamariki.

The new entity would be responsible for the care of all mokopuna Māori in New Zealand with services “provided by Māori, for Māori, to Māori”. Backed by $600 million in public funding, the entity would also establish a partnership network across Māori organisations, hapū and iwi to ensure mokopuna Māori remain connected to their whakapapa.

“We are at a tipping point and the time has come for us take back our rights as tangata whenua” said Mariameno Kapa-Kingi,  the Māori Party candidate for Te Taitokerau, who announced the policy today at an event in Whangarei.

“Our babies make up 70% of children in state care and are effectively funded to stay with people to whom they have no whakapapa connection – mokopuna Māori do not belong in generic state care, they belong within whānau, hapū and iwi.”

In June, children’s commissioner Andrew Becroft spoke about the discriminatory treatment of Māori mothers highlighted by his organisation’s recent review of Oranga Tamariki. The Waitangi Tribunal has since conducted an urgent inquiry into Oranga Tamariki. Over the next few months, the tribunal will consider whether the actions of Oranga Tamariki constitute a breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

1.15pm: Labour promises living wage to public service contractors

Labour has promised to pay the living wage to public service contractors if re-elected for a second term. The policy is an extension of its 2018 initiative to pay at least the living wage to all core public service employees.

The extension will start with cleaners, caterers and security guards. The party has also pledged to progressively expand this commitment to cover contracted workers to the wider state service, including through DHBs, as the Covid recovery allows.

Labour says the move could mean almost an extra $100 a week for a contracted worker who is currently on minimum wage. Currently, the living wage is $22.10 an hour

“Covid-19 has shone a light on the many workers who do important work in our community but who are not well paid for it. We can do a lot better at lifting wages and easing financial stress for hard-working New Zealanders,” said Andrew Little, Labour’s spokesperson for workplace relations and safety.

The policy is expected to $18 million per year for core government-contracted cleaners, caterers and security guards once fully rolled out.

1pm: Two new cases of Covid-19 in the community

There are two new community cases of Covid-19 to report in New Zealand today. Both new cases have an epidemiological link to an existing case and they are both associated with the bereavement events sub-cluster that is epidemiologically linked to the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship group.

One of the cases is a student at Sunnyvale School in Henderson. They were not infectious when they last attended school and Auckland Regional Public Health Service has not identified any close contacts among the school community. The school remains open and safe for students and staff to attend.

There remain 33 cases in the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship group and there are now 15 cases in the bereavement events group, which includes the cases whose source of infection was the bereavement events.

Leaders of the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship have actively encouraged all members of the congregation to get retested for Covid-19 and comply with other public health advice such as self-isolation. As a result, the Ministry of Health says that laboratories had registered new tests for 98% of the congregation as of 8am today.

There are now 63 people linked to the community cluster who remain in the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 47 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their household contacts.

Today there are three people in hospital with Covid-19 – one is in isolation on a ward in Auckland City Hospital. Two are in ICU, at North Shore and Waikato hospitals.

With today’s two new cases and eight additional recovered cases, New Zealand’s total number of active cases is 108. Of those, 38 are imported cases in MIQ facilities, and 70 are community cases.

12pm: NZ First to ‘fully fund’ St John Ambulance

New Zealand First has pledged to “fully fund” St John Ambulance if elected to government. Currently, the Ministry of Health and ACC fund around 72% of St John’s operating costs with the remainder is part-funded through part-charges and donations.

“It’s a crying shame that one of our emergency services continues to rely on charity to provide a service that all Kiwis need in times of crisis,” said leader Winston Peters who’s currently in Levin. “This is in contrast to how ambulance services are funded overseas, and with other emergency services such as the NZ Police and FENZ (Fire and Emergency New Zealand).”

“St John services are stretched thin and early this term we were able to secure the short-term funding they desperately needed. But St John needs a commitment to meet the 90% funding level they require.”

11.20am: Greens to help farms transition to low emissions farming

The Green Party announced its “Farming for the Future” policy this morning which would see $297 million go towards helping farmers decarbonise and transition to a more sustainable future.

Stuff reports the fund would allow farmers, catchment groups and farming organisations to roll out $145m worth of “regenerative and organic farming methods”. These would include things like “pasture diversification and cover-cropping, multiple crop rotations, and reduced tillage”, according to Green Party leader James Shaw.

Research on regenerative farming would get $5m, Māori agriculture organisations would get $40m, and $50m would go towards projects that push our livestock-heavy agricultural sector, towards vegan plant-based practices.

The party also wants to strengthen animal welfare rules by phasing out factory farming and farrowing crates, and banning live export of livestock for breeding. It would be supported by the creation by a Minister or Associate Minister of Animal Welfare.

The party also announced it would extend country of origin food labelling to a wider range of products and overhaul the Organic Products Bill currently before parliament. 

10.30am: Labour to reinstate Training Incentive Allowance for higher-skilled courses

Labour has announced it will reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) – a payment to help cover the additional costs of studying while on benefit – for higher-skilled courses if elected to government. 

Currently, the TIA doesn’t cover those doing courses that are level four or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQA) after it was slashed by the National government back in 2009 to exclude many university and polytechnic courses. 

“The TIA is an investment in a family’s future,” said Labour’s social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni who made the announcement at her West Auckland home. “I was supported by the TIA for a period of time when I was a sole parent and studying. It made a big difference having that little bit of extra financial support when I was trying to get ahead and build a future for my family.”

“Access to support for higher-level courses under the TIA was taken away by National, despite the responsible, minister Paula Bennett herself having benefited from this support. Labour is putting the ladder of support back in place after National pulled it up behind them.”

Labour says the TIA would provide up to $4,515 per year to assist those eligible with extra costs which include fees, course costs, caring costs for children and older people, and course equipment and materials. The expansion is expected to cost around $431 million over four years, and around $187 million in capital over 10 years which will be funded from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

“Research shows those who gain higher level qualifications are more likely to get a job, build a career and earn more. It is exactly the sort of investment we need to be making to support people back into sustainable work,” said Sepuloni.

“TIA is targeted at sole parents, disabled people and their carers, and provides extra support towards the cost of study. This support is critical to ensuring that our people continue to develop the skills needed for New Zealand’s economic recovery and rebuild.”

Labour also announced it would increase the amount of money beneficiaries working part-time could earn. Currently, the abatement threshold (the amount beneficiaries can before their benefit is reduced) is $90 per week. Under Labour, this could increase to $160 per week, or approximately 8 hours of minimum wage.

The increase is estimated cost is up to $320 million over four years and is likely to immediately benefit up to 30,000 people.

8.30am: Rugby Championship loss another blow for Queenstown

Yesterday it was announced that Australia would host this year’s Rugby Championships, nabbing the four-nation competition from New Zealand, which governing body Sanzaar said in July was the preferred host. The sides would’ve stayed in Queenstown if the tournament was held here, and many in the town’s tourism industry are lamenting the loss.

Nik Kiddle from the Lakes District accommodation sector told RNZ his members were desperate for business, such as the 200 rooms teams would have stayed in for two months.

“Let’s face it, New Zealanders have contributed their bit, they’ve been here, they’ve done that and we would welcome more.

“But there’s only so much that the domestic travel industry can fulfil and we really do need to have access again to international travel, even if it’s managed and it’s available to us in a limited way.”

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult also expressed his disappointment at the loss of much-needed business. He said money offered by the Australian government to Sanzaar and a degree of procrastination were to blame for New Zealand losing the tournament.

Since the announcement, the head of New Zealand Rugby has cited the country’s quarantine protocols as a “critical” factor in losing out to Australia. National’s sports spokesperson Mark Mitchell yesterday blamed “Labour’s clumsy and incompetent handling” and Australia’s “superior quarantine conditions”.

8am: On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

  • National’s Judith Collins and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will both be in Auckland on Saturday and Sunday.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is back in the North Island. He’ll travel up to Levin, before turning around and heading back towards the capital. He’ll also pop into Waikanae and finish his day in Porirua.
  • Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw are in Canterbury for an agriculture policy announcement this morning.

Yesterday’s headlines

There was one new case of Covid-19 in the community – linked to the” bereavement sub-cluster”.

The Ministry of Health confirmed a West Auckland primary school student, one of Thursday’s cases, has tested positive for Covid-19.

Australia nabbed the Rugby Championships from New Zealand, with the blame placed on our quarantine rules.

The government announced it would cover the cost of repatriation flights for stranded immigrants who can’t afford to return to their home countries.

National leader Judith Collins announced an electric vehicles policy, with the aim of 80,000 EVs on the road by 2023.

Labour promised to start opening up the borders more to allow critical workers in.

NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to continue being “a handbrake” to Labour in government.

Read yesterday’s updates in full here.

Keep going!