blog again sept 14

PoliticsSeptember 14, 2021

Live updates, September 14: Wānaka lockdown breach-accused couple named, issue apology

blog again sept 14

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 14, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Auckland is currently at alert level four, the rest of NZ level two. Send me thoughts and feelings to Help us keep you informed on Covid-19 – click here to learn how you can join The Spinoff Members.

Today’s numbers

  • Tekau mā rima ngā kēhi Kowheori-19 hou, ā, kei Tāmaki Makaurau te katoa // There are 15 new cases, all of them in Auckland.
  • E tūhonotia ana te katoa e ngā mātai tahumaero ki te mate urutā // All are epidemiologically linked to the outbreak.
  • E rua tekau mā rua tāngata e pāngia ana e te mate Kowheori-19 kei rō hōhipera, tokowhā kei te wāhanga whāomoomo // 22 people are in hospital with Covid, including four in ICU.
  • E rima tekau mā whā mano, waru rau, whitu tekau ma whitu (54,877) tāngata i werohia ki ngā kano ārai mate inanahi, ā, e iwa mano, rua rau, whitu tekau mā iwa (9,279) tāngata i whakamātauria // Yesterday, 54,877 vaccinations were administered and 9,279 people were tested.

7.20pm: Wānaka lockdown breach accused apologise, no longer seeking name suppression

The Auckland couple who allegedly breached alert level four restrictions by travelling to their holiday home in Wānaka have apologised and are no longer seeking name suppression, saying they are “committed to taking responsibility for our actions”.

“The decision that we took to travel to Wānaka last week was completely irresponsible and inexcusable,” said William Willis, a 35-year-old equestrian from Karaka, and his partner Hannah Rawnsley, a 26-year-old barrister from Pukekohe, in a statement issued by their lawyer, Rachel Reed QC.

“We are deeply sorry for our actions and would like to unreservedly apologise to the Wānaka community, and to all the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, for what we did.

“We initially sought name suppression after receiving death threats and we had genuine fear for our safety. However, we remain committed to taking responsibility for our actions and will not be seeking further name suppression.”

The pair, who used their essential worker exemptions to get through the Auckland border and drive to Hamilton, from where they flew to Queenstown, said they had tested negative for Covid-19 before their departure, had not visited any locations of interest and were not close contacts of any positive cases.

“We understand that strict compliance is required to stamp out Covid-19 from our country.

“We have let everyone down with our actions, and we wholeheartedly apologise.”

Charges are yet to be laid against the couple.

7.00pm: ‘We need you to fight for us’: High-profile Auckland restaurateur’s open letter to Goff

The owner of several popular Auckland restaurants has issued a plea for help to the city’s mayor, accusing Phil Goff of “not showing the leadership the city needs”.

In an open letter, Tony McGeorge, who with his wife Krishna Botica runs Café Hanoi, Saan, Ghost Street and Xuxu and employs more than 100 staff, called on Goff to advocate more strongly on behalf of the city.

“The Auckland lockdown is creating great expense and incredible uncertainty. We fear that this may continue for months to come and into 2022,” McGeorge wrote. “We’re not arguing against a lockdown. We’re not saying we must open up and learn to live with Covid. We’re saying that more needs to be done to mitigate its impact on good businesses and the people they employ.”

McGeorge outlined several issues that needed “urgent action” – firstly, a guarantee that Auckland businesses will be able to access wage subsidies at alert level two, during this outbreak and in future. “Our region is shouldering a disproportionate burden for keeping New Zealand safe. Continuing the wage subsidy is not only fair but is economically necessary. It ensures staff will continue to be employed and are paid what is required for them to survive.”

He also called for MIQ facilities to be moved out of Auckland CBD by 2022 and a mass vaccination facility to be moved in, and asked Goff to invest in helping the CBD rebound with measures like offering free downtown parking, facilitating streetside dining and running marketing campaigns.The open letter comes in the wake of 25-plus hospitality operators, most from Auckland, holding a Zoom conference to devise a plan to lobby the government for more targeted financial assistance. Read The Spinoff’s report here.

6.00pm: Cook Island borders to stay shut; will open only to fully vaccinated visitors when NZ is at level one

The Cook Islands government has extended its pause on the travel bubble with New Zealand, saying borders won’t reopen until it’s confident there’s no community transmission here – likely when Aotearoa moves down to alert level one. All future visitors aged 12+ will need to be fully vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption.

In a press release, Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown said that while the impact of no visitors was “very significant” for the Cook Islands economy, he hoped for the most optimistic scenario of a short border closure with New Zealand. He said $15 million had been earmarked for additional business support. “We know that our tourism market is resilient and so too is our economy. We saw how fast tourism bounced back in May [when the bubble opened] and it will happen again.”

The Cook Islands is one of few countries in the world to have remained Covid-free, and 96% of eligible adults are fully vaccinated. “While we acknowledge that at some point in the future all countries will need to learn to live with Covid-19, that time has not yet come,” said Brown. “We do not want an outbreak here. The impact on our health resources as well as our economy would be devastating.”

The Cook Islands moved to its own version of alert level two when New Zealand’s delta outbreak began, and would remain there until there had been no community transmission in Aotearoa for 14 days, said Brown. Tagging in to venues with the Cook Islands’ contact-tracing CookSafe card, or registering manually, would be mandatory from October 1, the press release said.

Meanwhile, a repatriation flight from Christchurch is being organised for Cook Islands residents stranded in New Zealand, but a date is yet to be set. They will need to provide evidence of a negative Covid test prior to departure and complete seven days in MIQ on return. Those in Auckland will need to wait until the region drops to alert level two before being able to return to the Cook Islands.

5.20pm: Pak’nSave security guard punched, chased after woman refuses to wear mask

A security guard at Takanini Pak’nSave in Auckland was punched by a woman who refused to wear a face covering and chased with weapons by two men she was with, say police.

According to a police statement, the woman became aggressive after a security guard at the supermarket offered her a face covering. The woman left but later returned to the supermarket with two men. The guard was then allegedly punched by the woman and chased by the two men, who had weapons.

Police were called and arrested two people nearby. A 26-year-old woman has been charged with assault and was also issued an infringement for failing to wear a face covering, while a 33-year-old man, a patched Black Power member, has been charged with assault with a weapon. Both are expected to appear in the Manukau District Court at a later date.

“Police will be conducting reassurance patrols at the supermarket today and to ensure there is support available for the victim in this matter,” said the statement. “Police have no tolerance for this behaviour, particularly towards essential workers going about their work who should not have to tolerate this kind of act.”

People ‘openly trying to flout’ Auckland boundary rules

Meanwhile, police have provided details of several people who have tried to get in and out of locked-down Auckland’s northern and southern boundaries.

One man who tried to enter Auckland claimed he was going to collect a prescription from a pharmacy. Police checked with the pharmacy, which had no knowledge of this, and he was turned away. A woman was arrested in Whāngarei, meanwhile, after she managed to leave Auckland via the northern boundary by travelling on private property. She had earlier been turned away at a checkpoint. She has been charged with failing to comply with the health order.

4.00pm: New Lynn terror attack victims issue statements

Two victims of the New Lynn terror attack have now been named by police: Rodney Khan (see 3.05pm update) and Susan Maddren, who is now recovering at home.

Via a police statement, Maddren thanked the people who helped her following the attack at LynnMall Countdown in Auckland on September 3, giving “a special mention to the lady outside Countdown who tried to stop the bleeding from my hip and to the bus driver who kindly allowed me to enter her bus, where I felt safe and supported until the ambulance arrived”.

She also thanked ambulance staff, the doctors and nurses at Auckland Hospital, police, victim support staff and family, friends and her community, including her children’s school.

Several other victims and their families provided statements thanking those who came to their aid. The brother of one of the victims still recovering in hospital said the man had been placed in an induced coma following surgery but in the following days improved with “astounding speed”, walking with help after four days. He had no recollection of the attack, said the brother. After a setback with his breathing, the man is improving again but “has a bit of a journey to go yet before he is back to his old self”, said the brother. “He has his voice back and we will not be able to stop him from talking about the things he is passionate about. We love him so much.”

3.45pm: Are people happy, or unhappy, with their telco?

I received two competing press releases within minutes of each other today. One, from the NZ Telecommunications Forum, claiming “78% of customers are satisfied or very satisfied with the telco service they receive”. And another, from Consumer, reporting that “more than 50% of telco customers report problems”.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said the results of their survey showed that “the industry needs to up its game and get the basics of customer service right”. In particular, he said that 54% of internet customers who contacted their telco about a problem found it very hard to deal with their provider.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the Telecommunications Forum Paul Brislen said the industry was largely meeting or even exceeding customer expectations. “Given the importance placed on the role telecommunications plays in both our economy and society, that is very good to hear,” he said.

3.05pm: Man tackled by New Lynn terrorist identified as eighth victim

An eighth victim involved in the New Lynn terror attack has been identified, say police.

The man was tackled by the terrorist when he attempted to stop a woman from being attacked. He was uninjured. “He applied first aid to that victim before leaving to find his partner and get to safety,” said detective superintendent Tim Anderson.

Police have now spoken with the man and recorded his statement.

Meanwhile, five victims of the terrorist are now recovering at home while three remain in Auckland Hospital in a stable condition.

Anderson said police would like to acknowledge the actions of one victim – Rodney Khan – who ran straight toward danger when he heard members of the public in distress. “He distracted the terrorist who then turned on him,” said Anderson. “We have no doubt that Rodney’s actions on that day prevented further injury to others and while he is very humble about what he did, his actions were nothing short of heroic.”

Khan is at home recovering from a dislocated shoulder and being well supported by family and friends, said Anderson.

2.55pm: National MP survives being struck by lightning three times

National MP Maureen Pugh has been struck by lightning three times.

Speaking to the Herald, the MP said on one occasion she was flung backwards across a room and spent six weeks almost unable to speak in full sentences. Another time – just six months after the first – she was left with the smell of her own flesh burning after her hand was struck.

“The smell is something I will never forget. An intense cooking flesh smell coming out of this pinhead-sized brown dot on the end of my thumb,” she said.

A third strike hit a phone straight out of her hands.

The unlucky incidents were caused largely by the location of Pugh’s home at Turiwhate near Kumara, at an altitude of around 300m. Coupled with the copper spouting and pipes, the house became electrified during lightning storms.

Read the full story here

1.55pm: How the outbreak is looking

It’s certainly nice to see that dip back down with just 15 new community cases revealed at the 1pm briefing after a rocky few days.

1.20pm: 'Mr Whippy-style' vax buses launch; PM reiterates plea

The prime minister has reiterated her call for people to get a vaccine as soon as possible, as new mobile clinics launch.

There are 220,000 vaccines available to be administered this week, said Jacinda Ardern, and if around 130,000 of those are first doses, Aucklanders will hit 80% coverage of first vaccinations. Yesterday, 54,877 doses of the vaccine were administered nationwide. In a tweet, National's Chris Bishop called that figure "worryingly low". It's the lowest day for vaccinations in the past month, excluding weekends and the 48 hours when clinics were closed.

“Aucklanders are now paying the consequences of the Government’s decision to roll out our vaccine slowly, in the form of a long Level 4 lockdown, because it is more difficult to stamp out Delta with a largely unvaccinated population," he said in a follow-up statement.

Overall, just under 1.5 million people are now fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, “Mr Whippy-style” vaccination buses will launch in Northland on Thursday, said Ardern, aiming to hit areas with low vaccination uptake. Ardern said the Australian equivalent had been nicknamed "Jabber the Bus" – but believed we could "do better".

However: "Let's rule out Bussy McBusFace right from the beginning," said Ardern when asked if she had a name in mind. At the end of the press conference, Ardern said one of the front runners was "Double Jab Ute" – a name courtesy of The Spinoff's editor Toby Manhire.

What should the vaccination vans be called? Email me

1.00pm: 15 new community cases of Covid-19


There are 15 new community cases of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has revealed. After yesterday's 33 new cases, that number will come as relief to Aucklanders now set to spend another week in lockdown.

In more good news, all of today's cases have been epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. Of Auckland's 953 total cases, just 10 remain unlinked – these are all cases from within the past fortnight as earlier cases are deemed recovered.

"The fall in the number of cases is encouraging and even more encouraging is that there are no unlinked cases today," said Ashley Bloomfield.

There are now 22 people in hospital with Covid, including 10 in Middlemore Hospital. Four remain in the ICU on ventilators.

All today’s cases are household contacts from five known households, with the majority from three households. "While some of these cases have not yet been epi-linked to the wider outbreak, they have not popped up unexpectedly," said Bloomfield. Yesterday’s unlinked case has now been linked.

On testing, a positive wastewater result has been detected in Pukekohe. Further tests are underway, said Bloomfield, although this result is not deemed suspicious at this stage. Health officials are aware of two recently recovered cases, who were released from quarantine on August 30 and September 4, who live in the same area as the latest detection.

15,685 essential workers crossing the border have been tested, with no positive results. Yesterday saw 9279 tests taken nationwide with almost 8000 of these in Auckland alone. Bloomfield once again encouraged anyone in the seven suburbs of interest to get a test, even if they have no symptoms.

The number of active contacts of cases being managed has dropped significantly down to 1242. Of these, 89% have been contacted by contact tracers and 85% have received at least one test.

78% of cases in the current outbreak are unvaccinated, with just 4% fully vaccinated.

12.50pm: Are delta cases on the rise again? Ardern and Bloomfield to speak

We've got our fingers very tightly crossed that new delta cases don't surpass yesterday's 33.

Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield are about to front today's Covid-19 briefing where they will also reveal if any more mystery cases have been identified or solved.

You can watch below or keep this page refreshed for our live coverage:

12.25pm: Power of the Dog confirmed to open NZ Film Festival

Next month's New Zealand International Film Festival will open with a bang – assuming alert levels have dropped down enough to allow crowds.

The Power of the Dog, the new film by acclaimed New Zealand director Jane Campion, has been confirmed to open the festival in Auckland on October 28. That's around six weeks ahead of the planned premiere on Netflix.

The film scored the silver lion award for best director at the Venice Film Festival after pulling in rave reviews from critics.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, the film was shot in Otago before and after last year's nationwide lockdown.

“It’s an honour to share Jane’s film with its complex characters so profoundly embedded and framed in the stark beauty of Aotearoa," said film festival director Marten Rabarts. "The reflection of our own history in the rugged brutality of American frontier life depicted in the film will be inescapable to our Kiwi audiences.”

Tickets are due to go on sale in early October.

12.00pm: No, Newshub and Tova O’Brien have not been silenced by the government

A little bit of self-promotion: a report I whipped up this morning. There's a clip of Newshub's Tova O'Brien doing the rounds on social media at the moment. It's even turned up in The Spinoff's inbox a few times. Allegedly, the clip is from last week and there are false claims that it was scrubbed from the Newshub website at the request of the government. That's not true.

Here's an extract from my report:

In one email sent to The Spinoff, which included a screen-recorded version of the clip, the misinformation is used to argue “the power of this insidious government to shut down democratic discussion from a devious prime minister”.

In the video, O’Brien holds up “screeds of documents” relating to the government’s Covid response. She says that there has been “an acknowledgement from the prime minister that we could be in level three or two for up to two years”. And she says that Jacinda Ardern has stopped her ministers from speaking to the press. “One thing that’s not in this pile of documents is an email that was leaked to Newshub from the prime minister’s office to all of her ministers gagging them from speaking to the media,” says O’Brien.

Those sharing the clip allege, erroneously, that it was planned for broadcast on Three’s 6pm news bulletin last Friday, but was pulled after direction by Jacinda Ardern.

Read the full report here

Tova O'Brien in parliament
Tova O'Brien in the report circulating online (Image: Newshub)

11.00am: Dancing with the Stars NZ cancels its 2021 season

Sam Brooks writes:

Today, Three has announced that this year’s season of Dancing with the Stars would be postponed for the second consecutive year, barely a month after announcing that the show would be returning in October. This season was announced, undated, in April this year.

A statement on the official DWTSNZ Instagram page reads: “We have made the heartbreaking but necessary decision to postpone Three’s Dancing with the Stars NZ for the second consecutive year, due to current Covid-19 Alert Level restrictions. The health and wellbeing of our cast and crew is our absolute priority, and in light of the current Covid-19 situation, it is not possible, or responsible to proceed with filming a live show.We’ll see you in 2022.”

It’s been a rough two year run for the competitive celebrity perambulation competition. Last year, it weathered controversy after casting (and swiftly uncasting) failed politician and Destiny’s Church member Hannah Tamaki, before postponing its scheduled April season due to first Covid-19 lockdown.

10.45am: New locations of interest

Several new locations of interest have been added to the Ministry of Health’s list today, all grocery stores and pharmacies in the South Auckland region visited on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday last week. 

These are in addition to a number of locations added last night, including several train trips between Grafton and Fruitvale Road in New Lynn from Thursday to Sunday last week, a central Auckland bus trip and a Pak‘nSave in Botany. 

See the full list of locations here, and check out our interactive map of all locations here. 

9.00am: Bloomfield 'cautiously optimistic' that Auckland will move to level three next week

The director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said he is "confident and cautiously optimistic" that Auckland will be able to move down to level three come next Tuesday night.

A number of delta cases remain unlinked to the wider outbreak and the number of new cases bounced up to 33 yesterday.

Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking that for Auckland to leave lockdown, there are two important numbers. "The first is to see the total number of new cases coming down [but] the key number is how many of those new cases are ones that we haven't immediately got a link with the outbreak," he said.

"Just to distinguish between the so-called mystery cases, the ones that we really don't know where they've come from, and the unlinked ones. The unlinked ones, often we know where they've come from, we just don't know exactly which person has infected another."

Bloomfield confirmed that the "in principle" decision to shift Auckland down to level three was based on Ministry of Health advice.

On the vaccination rate, Bloomfield remained confident that the number of bookings would continue to increase. He said mobile vaccination clinics will be operating in Auckland this week to help bolster numbers.

However, asked whether a higher vaccination rate could have prevented this lockdown, Bloomfield said: "If you look at countries overseas that have got high rates of vaccines, they're still having to see restrictions periodically." Earlier today (see 8.00am update), Jacinda Ardern said vaccinations would ultimately replace the need for lockdowns.

Bloomfield could not answer whether or not this lockdown would have happened if the country had been 80% vaccinated before the first case was detected.

8.15am: Aotearoa by 2026? Petition launched to rename country, restore original place names

The Māori Party has launched a petition calling for the country's official name to be changed to Aotearoa.

Marking the start of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer say now is the time to restore the language to its rightful place. "We are a Polynesian country, we are Aotearoa,” said Waititi.

“Our petition calls on parliament to change New Zealand to Aotearoa and begin a process, alongside whānau, hapū and iwi, to identify and officially restore the original te reo Māori names for all towns, cities and places right across the country by 2026."

Waititi said that tangata whenua were "sick to death" of ancestral names being "mangled, bastardised, and ignored", citing the pledge in article three of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. "[It] promises tangata whenua the same rights as British citizens, that te reo Māori me ōna tikanga katoa be treated and valued exactly the same as the English language – ko te mana ōrite tērā,”said Waititi.

Ngarewa-Packer said it's the duty of the Crown to restore the status of te reo Māori to where it was the moment they arrived and interrupted its natural development. "That means it needs to be accessible in the most obvious of places; on our televisions, on our radio stations, on road signs and maps and in our education system," she said.

Earlier this year, the National Party faced allegations of dog whistling after it proposed a referendum on the name change – and accused government agencies of renaming by stealth. “Agencies are clearly changing the way in which they talk about New Zealand, and I just think a lot of people might say that’s a good thing ... the prime minister changes that way she is talking about, you barely hear her saying New Zealand,” Judith Collins said at the time.

8.00am: 'Vaccines replace lockdowns' – Ardern promises restrictions won't be forever

Jacinda Ardern has reaffirmed her pledge not to continue using lockdowns to curb Covid spread.

Auckland is entering its fifth week in total lockdown, making it the longest stint in level four for any part of the country.

Speaking to Newshub, the prime minister said that ultimately "vaccines replace lockdowns".

"We are in lockdown because we don't have enough New Zealanders vaccinated," said Ardern. "While we need to vaccinate, elimination remains our goal."

The PM did not add admit that our sluggish vaccine rollout may be responsible for the fact we are currently not vaccinated enough to avoid lockdown. However, she did confirm that the reconnecting New Zealand strategy remained the plan for next year. "My commitment is: I do not intend to use lockdowns in the long term," she said. "Going forward the way we can stop using lockdown is to make sure that everyone is vaccinated."

On that note, the PM once again urged all Aucklanders to get vaccinated as soon as possible. She told RNZ that 220,000 spots were available this week alone: "Let's use this week to get vaccinated."

On comments by epidemiologist Rod Jackson that another week of lockdown would not be enough, Ardern said her advice said otherwise. Alert level three had previously been used to curb Covid outbreaks, she said.

The government has made an in principle decision to see Auckland move out of lockdown next week. Ardern said that this could still happen even with some mystery community cases.

A summary of the alert level decision

  • Auckland will remain in alert level four until at least 11.59pm on September 21.
  • The rest of New Zealand will remain in alert level two for the same amount of time.
  • These decisions will be reviewed on Monday September 20.

The latest numbers

  • There are 33 new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland / E toru tekau mā toru ngā kēhi Kowheori-19 hou, ā, kei Tāmaki Makaurau te katoa.
  • Of those, just one – a Middlemore patient – has not yet been linked epidemiologically to the outbreak / Kotahi anake te kēhi hou, he tūroro i te hōhipera o Middlemore, kāore anō kia tūhonotia e ngā mātai tahumaero ki te mate urutā /
  • 21 people are in hospital with Covid, including four still in intensive care / E rua tekau mā tahi tāngata e pāngia ana e te mate Kowheori-19 kei rō hōhipera, tokowhā kei te wāhanga whāomoomo.
  • Sunday saw: 33,866 vaccine doses given out and over 8,600 tests administered / E toru tekau mā toru mano, waru rau, ono tekau mā ono (33,866) tāngata i werohia ki ngā kano ārai mate i te Rātapu, ā, e waru mano, ono rau (8,600) tāngata i whakamātauria.
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