Live updates, April 13: New counter-terrorism law unveiled; no new community Covid-19 cases

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 13, bringing you the latest news throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

Top story: New counter-terrorism law will criminalise planning a terrorist act

3.35pm: One dose Janssen vaccine rejected in Australia

The Janssen vaccine – produced by Johnson and Johnson – has not been approved for use in Australia.

Medsafe is meeting to decide whether the vaccine, which requires only one dose, will be made available here in New Zealand. Our primary vaccine, made by Pfizer, requires two injections a couple of weeks apart to become effective.

A decision on whether the Janssen vaccine will be part of our vaccine strategy is expected later in the week.

A spokesperson for Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt said the government decided against using the vaccine as it is based on similar technology to the AstraZeneca jab.

2.45pm: What will the new counter-terrorism law achieve?

Earlier today, the government unveiled a new counter-terrorism law that it claimed would clarify the definition of a terrorist act and criminalise planning a terrorist act.

Below, lawyer Graeme Edgeler explains why the current law might already achieve that:

The Terrorism Suppression Act has a crime of committing a terrorist act. Because of the way New Zealand’s criminal law operates, this means that attempting to commit a terrorist act is also a criminal offence. If a person intends to commit an offence, and they do an act for the purpose of accomplishing that object, they are guilty of an attempt to commit the offence, even if they don’t actually commit the offence. There can be a question about whether something is too remote to count as an attempt, but things like getting a cache of weapons ready would be enough, even if a person is caught before they actually try to engage in a terrorist act.

While the definition of what counts as a terrorist act is narrow, it is very clear. There might be things the government wished counted as terrorist acts, which don’t currently, but this isn’t a concern about the clarity of the law, but its breadth. We adopted a deliberately narrow definition of terrorism for a reason, and the government should not try to undermine that by describing any change as being needed for clarity. The law is clear.

2.00pm: Parliament pays tribute to Prince Philip

Regular parliamentary business is off the table this afternoon as MPs pay tribute to Prince Philip, who died on Friday night aged 99.

Rather than sitting until 10pm, parliament will adjourn at the conclusion of tribute speeches.

Beginning proceedings, prime minister Jacinda Ardern expressed her sympathies to the Queen and extended Royal Family.

“I know all New Zealanders join in heartfelt condolences for the Queen who has lost her partner of more than 70 years,” Ardern said. The PM acknowledged that the Duke was well known for his sense of humour, that occasionally got him into trouble.

Following Ardern’s address, Judith Collins will speak on behalf of National followed by the leaders of the Greens and Act. Despite having a speaking slot, neither co-leader of the Māori Party are present in the House.

Watch live here

New episode of Gone By Lunchtime

A fresh new episode of The Spinoff’s politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime is out now!

Toby Manhire, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas discuss the latest big stories in New Zealand politics, including the temporary ban on arrivals from India, the Māori Party’s donations strife, drug policy, leadership ructions in the National Party and more. There’s also an epic Dr Seuss based metaphor from Ben.

Subscribe and listen on Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider.

1.05pm: No new community Covid-19 cases after further locations of interest revealed

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in the community today, the Ministry of Health has announced. There are four new positive cases in managed isolation, all linked to the border.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 102. Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,231. Since 1 January 2021, there have been 44 historical cases, out of a total of 415 cases.

Meanwhile, testing continues for the contacts of Cases B and C – the two latest community cases of Covid-19. Case C is a contact of Case B, as the two people work together as security guards at the Grand Millennium managed isolation facility.

Jointly, the cases have 23 contacts. Of these, 21 have returned negative test results with two results outstanding.

More information on the new cases and the most recent locations of interest is available in the 7.50am update.


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1.00pm: New law will criminalise planning a terrorist attack

Planning or preparing for a terrorist act will be criminalised under a planned update to our counter-terrorism legislation.

The government has announced plans to boost our counter-terrorism laws in the aftermath of the Royal Commission of Enquiry into the March 15 terror attack. The new Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill will amend our existing Terrorism Suppression Act and Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act, patching gaps in the existing framework.

The proposed changes include:

  • Making amendments to clarify the definition of a “terrorist act”;
  • creating a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act, more clearly criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training, and for international travel to carry out terrorist activities; and
  • extend the eligibility for a control order to include individuals who have completed a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offence if they continue to present a real risk of engaging in terrorism-related activities.

This is the government’s first step toward implementing recommendation 18 of the Royal Commission, which called for a full review of our terrorism legislation, said justice minister Kris Faafoi said. “The crimes perpetrated against members of our Muslim community on March 15 two years ago brought terrorism to this country in a way we had never seen before,” he said.

“I encourage everyone to have their say [in select committee] on this important piece of legislation,” Faafoi said.

12.45pm: The Single Object – new series out now

Late one October night in 1994, nearby residents heard the unmistakable sound of a chainsaw coming from Auckland’s Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill. Moments earlier, activist Mike Smith had approached a car full of teenagers parked on the summit. “You’re in a dangerous place here,” he warned them. “I’m just about to drop this tree, and it’s gonna fall on your car.”

The story of Mike Smith’s memorable chainsaw attack on the lone pine atop Maungakiekie features in the first episode of The Single Object, a new video series based on the popular written series about everyday objects which have had a significant impact on the history and people of Aotearoa.

Watch it now:

On The Spinoff: Little’s inaction is absurd – New Zealand needs drug law reform now

The health minister’s stonewalling of any attempt to fix our woeful drug laws doesn’t only fly in the face of overseas trends, but what’s currently happening in and around our own parliament, writes Russell Brown. Here’s an extract:

Yesterday, more than two dozen health and social service organisations, including the NZMA, the Public Health Association and the Mental Health Foundation, published an open letter calling on the government to “adopt a compassionate and evidence-based approach to drug law by repealing and replacing the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 to ensure drug use is treated as a health and social issue”.

It was a timely and well-crafted letter, citing the conclusions of multiple official reviews and the intent of New Zealand’s own National Drug Policy. The government’s response was absurd.

Or perhaps that should be the response of health minister Andrew Little. Little has behaved strangely since the narrow defeat of a referendum on an ambitious proposal to legalise and regulate cannabis last year. Within an hour of the provisional referendum results being announced – no waiting for the special votes here – Little, who was then minister of justice, declared the result meant that the government was ruling out all drug reform for “the foreseeable future”.

Read the full piece here

Health minister Andrew Little (Getty Images)

11.30am: Police offer $100k reward over historic disappearance

A $100,000 reward and the promise of immunity from prosecution is being offered by police for help in finding Amber-Lee Rose Cruickshank.

Cruickshank was last seen on October 17 in 1992 – then aged two-years old – at a Cornwall Street property in Kingston, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

Police will pay out a reward of up to $100,000 for “material information or evidence which leads to the identity and conviction of any person or people responsible for her disappearance,” a statement said. The offer of a reward will remain in place for six months.

“Immunity from prosecution may be considered for any accomplice, not being the main offender, who provides information or evidence to police.”

Detective Inspector Stu Harvey said, despite it being almost 29 years since Cruickshank’s disappearance, police want to find out what happened to the toddler.

“We have gone to great lengths to explore different scenarios and investigation leads without success,” he said.

11.15am: Auckland testing centre quiet after Covid scare

I’m just back from getting a Covid-19 test at a pop-up drive-in centre in central Auckland. It was basically an in-an-out experience with only one car ahead of me.

I had a brief chat to the duo administering the tests and they said, while it was clearly a quiet day, there had been a lot of first timers getting their Covid tests today. As detailed in the 7.50am update, today has seen new testing centres in Auckland pop-up after the recent Covid-19 cases linked to the Grand Millennium hotel.

We’re expecting the next Covid-19 update at 1pm.

9.35am: Financial sector targeted in new climate change disclosure bill

The government is aiming to make it mandatory for around 200 businesses to disclose the impacts of climate change.

New Zealand is the first country in the world to introduce the law that would also require businesses to explain how they will manage climate-related risks and opportunities.

“Becoming the first country in the world to introduce a law like this means we have an opportunity to show real leadership and pave the way for other countries to make climate-related disclosures mandatory,” said commerce minister David Clark.

“It is important that every part of New Zealand’s economy is helping us cut emissions and transition to a low carbon future.”

Climate change minister James Shaw said the bill – which will have its first reading this week – would be a step toward a climate-friendly New Zealand.

“We simply cannot get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 unless the financial sector knows what impact their investments are having on the climate. This law will bring climate risks and resilience into the heart of financial and business decision making,” Shaw said.

If the law passes, disclosures will be required for financial years commencing in 2022, meaning that the first disclosures will be made in 2023.

8.45am: School principal blames ministry as classrooms closed over mould

A Hutt Valley high school is blaming the Ministry of Education after it’s been forced to close classrooms due to toxic mould, forcing hundreds of senior students to study at home.

From next term, year 12 and 13 students at Hutt Valley High – one of Wellington’s biggest schools – will have to do their work from home for half of each week because there’s not enough room for them at school.

Acting principal Denise Johnson told RNZ that the school had been fighting the ministry for more funding to help improve its classrooms – but they never got what they needed.

“The ministry have a company that they engage to do an assessment of a school, and that company determines what are the critical infrastructure needs of the school going forward, which would include things like roofing and aged piping and electrics I suspect, all that sort of really important stuff,” she said. “That company assessed the school as needing $10 million… We weren’t given $10 million.”

Johnson said she was “beyond angry” about what had happened. “You know, we’re just tenants of this property. Ross Sinclair [former principal], especially, did the very, very best he could by his community.”

Scott Evans from the Ministry of Education said that the immediate focus was working with the school, but Johnson said officials knew about these problems years ago.

Pushed to give a “report card” rating of the ministry’s handling of issues at the school, Evans said: “We’ve responded very proactively to the issues.”

While refusing to say whether the ministry had done a good job, Evans said the issues identified were responded to promptly.

7.50am: Covid-positive security guard travelled on three buses

Further locations of interest have been revealed in connection with a Covid-positive security guard, now known as Case B.

The individual worked at the Grand Millennium MIQ facility and tested positive last week, more than a fortnight after Case A tested positive at the same hotel. A third case tested positive over the weekend.

The Ministry of Health has now revealed three bus trips that were taken by the security guard from Auckland’s CBD to Mount Roskill – a suburb now closely linked to the new cases.

Those trips are:

  • Monday March 29: Bus 25 L, taken between 6.19 and 6.44, from St James, Queen Street to 1530 Dominion Rd
  • Saturday April 3 (Easter Saturday): Bus 25 L, taken between 17.19 and 17.47, from 1279 Dominion Rd to St James, Queen St
  • Sunday April 4 (Easter Sunday): Bus 25 L, taken between 17.13 and 17.38, from 1215 Dominion Rd to St James Queen St.

Passengers who were on the buses are considered to be casual contacts as the security guard sat away from others and wore a mask. Those who travelled at the same time are asked to monitor any possible Covid-19 symptoms and get tested if they become unwell.

In response to the latest Covid-19 scare, a pop-up testing centre is open at the Mount Roskill War Memorial Hall at 15 May Road.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Both the Māori Party and National are in trouble over donations that weren’t declared in time, but one of them involves a much bigger tally. Stuff reports that donations of more than $30,000 over twelve months or less have to be declared within ten days, but in the case of the Māori Party almost $330k in donations weren’t declared until months later. The largest of these came from candidate John Tamihere. The Electoral Commission has referred this to the police to investigate further.

Speaking to Radio NZ, party president Che Wilson said it was an error from party volunteers who didn’t know the rules. Wilson took responsibility himself for making sure party donations were filed correctly, and put his hand up on that point. He also said that when the mistake was discovered, “four or five weeks ago”, the party contacted the Commission to get it cleared up.

On the other side of the opposition benches, the NZ Herald reports National is being looked at over $35k in donations from real estate tycoon Garth Barfoot. That came in a series of five-figure sums, donated over a 12-month period. A decision on whether to refer this to the police is still being assessed by the EC. The party declined to comment on why the disclosure was made late.

Meanwhile, the Act Party are backing their president despite an investigation into alleged financial mismanagement at a charity he runs. The NBR’s (soft paywall) Julie Iles has filed the report on Tim Jago, acting CEO and chair of The Lifesavers Foundation, which is understood to be under police investigation over not filing financials for almost three years. Act leader David Seymour has given Jago his “full confidence,” and said he continues to be an excellent party president.


National is refusing to back the Climate Change Commission’s draft plan on emissions reductions. Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan reports their objections are around how the commission came to their modelling on emissions reductions, and the level of detail around policy proposals. The party might get back on board if those concerns are met, but the way things are going it looks like the bipartisan consensus on climate change formed last term is gone (and even then, it frequently looked incredibly shaky then too.) That in turn leaves the government with the choice of whether to accede to National’s demands, or simply push on without them. According to Politik (paywalled) this morning, the government looks set to do the latter, and “call National’s bluff”.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here




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