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blog final may 14

PoliticsMay 14, 2021

Live updates, May 14: Ardern named ‘world’s greatest leader’, beating vaccine pioneer

blog final may 14

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 14, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

Top stories:

2.35pm: Public feedback wanted on how to reduce transport emissions

The government has asked for public consultation on how to reduce emissions in the transport sector.

Ideas floated in the “Hīkina te Kohupara – Kia mauri ora ai te iwi” report include banning fuel-burning cars and vans by 2050, higher parking fees, congestion charging and scrapping some existing roading projects.

“The transport sector currently produces 47% of New Zealand’s CO2 emissions and between 1990 and 2018, domestic transport emissions increased by 90%,” said transport minister Michael Wood. “We’ve already taken steps to reduce emissions but Hīkina te Kohupara shows we have to go much further.”

After the outcry regarding the He Puapua report, the government has explicitly stipulated that the recommendations in the report are not government policy. Instead, a “national conversation” about the issues within the report is being called for.

1.45pm: Pay freeze pushes nurses to strike

The government’s controversial public sector pay freeze has pushed tens of thousands of nurses to strike.

All 30,000 nurses working for district health boards will walk off the job for eight hours on June 9.

Nurses Association industrial advisor David Wait said that their members were “furious” by the move to freeze pay for three years, coupled with the most recent pay offer from DHBs.

“That anger has been clearly expressed in the strike ballot result, but this is about much more than just money,” he said.

“Nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora have been working under horrific and unsafe staffing conditions for a long time, made much worse by the pandemic, and they are genuinely worried about the future of the nursing profession.”

Wait said nurses do not strike “on a whim” but that they hope the action will make their message heard. “If nurses are not valued and appreciated, they will leave nursing or move overseas, and few young people will be joining the profession to replace them,” he said.

1.10pm: Symptomatic person tested after returning from Melbourne

It’s another zero case day, with no new Covid-19 cases in the community or managed isolation. There is one historical case reported in a recent returnee.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand today remains at 18, with the total number of confirmed cases sitting at 2,289.

There is no change to the Ministry of Health’s assessment of the recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Melbourne. The public health warning to New Zealanders is still low.

“At this stage the ministry is recommending that quarantine free travel, between New Zealand the state of Victoria can continue with certain additional precautions in place,” said a spokesperson.

“Two people in New Zealand have contacted Healthline and identified themselves as casual contacts. One person, who was symptomatic, has been tested and has returned a negative result. Upon assessment by public health staff, the second person didn’t need a test.”

The Section 70 public health order has been updated to include the new locations of interest in Melbourne, said the ministry.

“It requires anyone at one of the locations of interest as the specified times to self-isolate and get tested as required.”

12.45pm: Ardern tops list of ‘world’s greatest leaders’, beating vaccine pioneers

Jacinda Ardern has come out on top of Fortune’s list of the world’s greatest leaders.

Fortune Magazine is the publication behind the Fortune 500 – the revered list of the largest United States corporations – and is possibly more devoted to rankings than even us at The Spinoff.

Ardern’s placement puts her ahead of the scientists behind the technology that gave us the Covid-19 vaccine along with celebrities like Dolly Parton. It’s the first time a woman has topped the Fortune list.

Last year, the PM was number two behind Bill and Melinda Gates. The recently separated couple do not figure in this year’s ranking.

“What Ardern has accomplished in the past year-plus is astounding: she has all but eliminated Covid-19 in her country of nearly 5 million, with fewer than 3,000 cases and only 26 deaths,” the write-up said.

“Jacinda Ardern had already sealed her position as a great leader early in her premiership of New Zealand, by empathetically steering her country through the aftermath of a terror attack and the deadly eruption of a volcano.

“She has also adopted world-leading climate and gender-equity policies. And last year, Ardern’s administration made it easier for women to negotiate with their employers for more equitable pay.”

The piece also cited Ardern’s landslide reelection in October which they say were fuelled by “star power, her straight talk, and the fact that her government’s heavy restrictions on international travel made it possible for life to continue with relative normality within New Zealand’s borders”.

The “mRNA pioneers” are in second place. Fortune said, before 2020, that no vaccine using mRNA “had ever been approved by regulators for widespread use”.

11.30am: Call for urgent action on tech and innovation at Auckland summit

Business editor Michael Andrew reports from the Future Now summit:

The keynote speakers at the Auckland’s Future Now summit put out an urgent call to action on tech and innovation, while illuminating the country’s short-sightedness and conservatism, which was causing it to miss out on valuable opportunities.

Former government chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman said New Zealand’s political and economic culture was “dominated by reactionary approaches and short-termism.” On Auckland, Gluckman said that despite its size, the city was not reaching its potential as New Zealand’s biggest centre, and at the moment it was perceived by the rest of the country “as a pile of problems rather than a national asset to be nurtured.”

“The city is held together more by complaint than by ambition and civic pride,” he said.

Rather than simply being a spread of suburbs with little cohesion, Gluckman said there was an opportunity for each area to specialise in a sector, such as West Auckland being a designated centre for screen production and education and South Auckland being a centre for social innovation.

Founder of Soul Machines, Greg Cross, was unequivocal in his view that New Zealand and Auckland needed to take advantage of a new age of global innovation now, by implementing new methods such as providing digital education to international students. “The world is coming back to life. It is a digital-now world. It will effect every single industry.”

“We are not going to have the opportunity to stop and think and wait and take our time. We are actually going to have to make some decisions about what we want to be good at.”

Other major themes discussed at the event was the need for universities to be the engines of Auckland’s innovation and technology development, and the urgent need for international travel to resume in order to attract talent with digital skills to Auckland.

10.50am: Ardern denies possible return to level 2.5 after Bloomfield comments

The PM has rejected a possible shift to alert level 2.5 after Ashley Bloomfield teased it might be a necessary move when the borders reopen.

As explained in the 7.50am update, Bloomfield yesterday floated a possible move up the alert levels to cope with the influx of tourists when international travel resumes.

Speaking today, Jacinda Ardern clarified the remarks and shut down the possibility.

“I spoke to [Bloomfield] and he said he was referencing more a [level] 1.5 environment, with things like QR code scanning, those kind of things we need to be aware of on a day to day in that transition period,” Ardern told Newstalk ZB.

“A lot of it is going to come down to how many people we have vaccinated, the more people we have vaccinated the more freedom we can have.”

10.30am: Canterbury brewery defends calling Māori ‘scourge’

An independent Canterbury brewery has defended racist comments posted on Facebook by the company’s owner.

David Gaughan, also the director and executive brewer at Eagle Brewing, labelled Māori the “scurge of New Zealand [sic]” in a comment on a Facebook news story.

“The quicker we put them in prison the better,” he continued.

A since-deleted post on Eagle Brewing’s Facebook defended the racist comments and claimed they had been “misconstrued”.

“Eagle Brewing totally denounces any form of racism,” the post said. “Unfortunately the comment was poorly worded and was actually trying to highlight the unacceptable issue of violence against women.”

While the post itself has been deleted, the racist comments are continuing to be denounced by customers on other posts by the brewery. “Will you still stock this beer when the owners are clearly racist?” said one person, tagging in Pak N’ Save.

Eagle Brewing is a sponsor of Canterbury Cricket, signing up as a “major partner” last year.

10.00am: PM vague on NZ gaming concerns at Auckland’s Future Now

Business editor Michael Andrew reports:

Jacinda Ardern didn’t have any clear answers for New Zealand’s gaming industry at Auckland’s Future Now this morning, after she was asked to respond to Australia’s introduction of a 30 to 40% tax incentive for the video game sector.

New Zealand’s industry said that despite being the fastest growing creative industry, it was already at a disadvantage as it couldn’t access the screen sector’s incentives, and the Australian scheme would only make it harder to compete, causing a brain drain.

The prime minister responded by saying it was important we stop seeing Australia as the more successful of the two countries, and New Zealand as the “poor cousin”. On gaming, she agreed the industry was at a disadvantage and that the lines between gaming and screen would continue to blur, potentially indicating that the former would eventually be able to access the enormous benefits offered to screen production.

“Let’s keep up those discussions,” she said.

9.40am: Changes to KiwiSaver will benefit thousands of NZers, says government

Changes to the default KiwiSaver scheme will leave thousands of New Zealanders better off in retirement, the government has claimed.

The changes, which will take effect from the end of November, mean those joining the scheme at 18 could have an extra $143,000 at retirement through lower fees and higher investment returns.

“The government wants all New Zealanders to reap the benefits of their KiwiSaver, whether they’re actively engaged in their fund or not,” said finance minister Grant Robertson. “As the 2014–2021 default term comes to an end, we’ve taken the opportunity to enhance the overall benefits of being in a default fund.”

Under the new scheme, the number of default providers will drop from nine to six: Bank of New Zealand, Booster, BT Funds Management (Westpac), Kiwi Wealth, Simplicity and Smartshares (NZX).

The six were chosen because they offer the best value for money for their members in terms of lower fees and higher levels of service, consumer affairs minister David Clark said.

“We’ve also changed the default provider settings to enhance Kiwis’ financial wellbeing in retirement,” added Clark. “This includes moving the default investment fund type from a conservative to a balanced setting to increase the likelihood of higher returns over the long-term.”

7.50am: Bloomfield floats return to level 2.5 when borders open

The director general of health is facing political criticism after suggesting the country might have to return to alert level 2.5 – even if there are no known Covid-19 cases.

Ashley Bloomfield made the comments during a vaccine briefing yesterday, where he said a return to heightened restrictions could be necessary to get the borders open.

“I strongly believe that – even alongside vaccination – we may well need to lift our baseline level of public health protective behaviours as part of our move to open up to a wider group of low-risk countries – let alone beyond that,” he said, as reported by the Herald.

“It may well be that we need to be more of a 2.5 level as our baseline, alongside vaccination, as part of the protections we need in place to be able to open the border.”

The comments have drawn ire from Act Party leader David Seymour, who said the public deserved more of a plan.“We’re aware there are unknowns when it comes to Covid, we just want to be treated like adults, taken into the Government’s confidence about how they’ll be dealt with. What is the plan?” he said in a statement.

“The director general must reveal the planning and documentation his remarks were based on.”

Bloomfield wasn’t alone in suggesting public health measures might need to be increased once again. Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre Nikki Turner said we need to go “harder” when it comes to things like masks.

“We are relatively slack, really, on the use of masks and other public health measures. I think we’ve got a bit complacent,” she said.

As of midnight Tuesday, over 388,000 doses of the vaccine have been given out nationwide. More than 120,000 people are fully vaccinated.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Understandably, there’s pretty high demand for the Covid vaccine right now. But will the demand be too high for supply to meet? There are increasing hints being given that there could be a shortage before the major population-wide surge in the second half of the year. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder has covered that – at the moment there are just under 400k unused Pfizer doses in the country. But that could be whittled away by June, leaving the country waiting on much bigger orders scheduled for delivery in July.

The government is also discouraging people from trying to get walk-in jabs at vaccination facilities, reports the NZ Herald’s Derek Cheng. Some sites are currently trialling it, but there are fears that this could mean those in priority queues with bookings end up being turned away. This has happened on a few occasions, and it erodes trust in the rollout when it does.

Meanwhile, PM Ardern has been discussing whether vaccinated travellers might be able to come into the country before the nationwide rollout is finished. One News’ Anna Whyte reports the comments were made to a business audience in Auckland yesterday, with a key point needing more study being the degree to which vaccination reduces the chance of virus transmission. The effectiveness of vaccines against different variants of Covid-19 is also a serious consideration.

A new report shows many key child poverty indicators aren’t improving at all, reports Stuff. These include issues like “housing conditions, preventable hospitalisations, or food security.” Increasing costs of living at the lower end of the income scale are hitting hard, and some of the data is complete enough to draw firm conclusions. All in all, things were bad for many before, and they’re still bad now.

Charges have been laid by the Serious Fraud Office against six people in relation to donations made to the Labour Party. The NZ Herald reports it follows an investigation into donations from 2017, and that while name suppression is in place, the SFO has declared “none of the defendants are sitting MPs or are current or former officials of the Labour Party.” Without making any speculation on who may be involved, the wording of these sorts of declarations is always very carefully and tightly chosen by the SFO. Labour’s general secretary Rob Salmond said Labour has not sought any suppression from the courts, and has complied with the law. However, PM and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said that the case suggests now might be the time to look at changing the law, reports Newshub. Meanwhile, Stuff reports the Electoral Commission had to chase Labour to declare a donation relating to the Hutt South electorate office rental arrangement.

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