Live updates, July 16: Nurses strike scrapped after progress on pay talks

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 16, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

3.30pm: Nurses strike scrapped as new pay offer accepted

Planned strikes by thousands of New Zealand nurses will be scrapped after a new pay offer was accepted by the union.

A statement from health minister Andrew Little confirmed the NZ Nurses Organisation will take the government’s improved pay offer to its members. A strike notice for July 29 and 30 will be lifted, but strikes in August and September are not off the table while pay-equity negotiations continue.

“Now that DHBs no longer have to spend time preparing to deal with the major disruption a strike would cause we can focus instead on resolving the main issue, which is the nurses’ pay-equity claim,” Andrew Little said.

“Separate to pay negotiations, I have been driving officials hard to put together a comprehensive and principled offer on pay equity and we are a month away from tabling something that means we can address the long-standing historical unfairness that nurses have faced.”

The offer that is going out to nurses is within the government’s employment relations expectations for the public sector, added Little. 

3.25pm: Lorde returns to US talk show circuit for new performance

Lorde will be the first live performer back on US talk show the Late Show since Covid-19 first took hold.

The performance, which is set to air in about 10 minutes time, was filmed on the rooftop of the Ed Sullivan theatre where the Stephen Colbert-fronted show is taped.

Lorde’s third album Solar Power is set for release next month.

2.55pm: ‘Just bloody over it’: Rural New Zealand makes itself heard

More than 50 protests are taking place around the country today, with rural people in particular getting out to oppose the government’s environmental policy. The Spinoff’s resident rurality Alex Braae went north to Dargaville.

Here’s an extract from his piece:

The destination was Dargaville, to report on a protest – one of more than 50 taking place around the country, organised by a group called Groundswell. They were bringing together as much as they could of the rural world – “farmers, growers and tradies” – as they put it, to protest government regulation and highlight a sense that too many costs are being imposed on rural businesses too quickly.

Fittingly, given the “Howl of a Protest” name given to the nationwide event, farmers promised to bring their dogs along. They also promised to snarl up the highways and byways with convoys of tractors and utes – the latter having become a petrol-powered symbol of wider rural grievance.

Read the full piece here

2.05pm: Independent review into harassment at music management firm released

Music management firm CRS has accepted the findings of an independent investigation ordered after a Stuff report into sexual harassment.

Earlier this year, journalist Ali Mau reported that Paul McKessar – the manager of pop star Benee – had been accused of inappropriate relationships with artists that he managed. He was subsequently stood down from his role as director and artist manager at CRS.

Scott Maclauchlan, who helped boost Lorde to stardom, was also named in the investigation and fired from his role at Warner Music.

In a statement, CRS Music Management director Campbell Smith said the company would implement the changes recommended by lawyer Gillian Warren.

“From the outset it was important to me that CRS took all steps to ensure the inappropriate conduct was identified and addressed. Part of that response was bringing in an independent expert to test whether those incidents highlighted in the media were part of a much bigger issue at CRS. Ms Warren found they were not,” he said. 

The review found “considerable strengths” at the company, noted Smith, while being critical of McKessar’s behaviour. It found that CRS Music did not have any policies or processes in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its staff and artists, but was committed to addressing this gap.

No other inappropriate behaviour was uncovered by the review.

1.40pm: Ardern and Biden speak ahead of APEC meeting

Jacinda Ardern has spoken to US president Joe Biden ahead of a virtual leaders’ retreat as part of the APEC summit.

New Zealand is hosting this year’s event but, due to Covid-19, it will entirely be held online.

In a statement, Ardern said she spoke with Biden about the “critical importance” of working together to navigate out of the pandemic.

“We also discussed the stability of the Indo-Pacific region. The United States and New Zealand share many common values and interests, including a commitment to an open and rules-based Indo-Pacific,” Ardern said.

“I raised the importance of strengthening the economic architecture in the region post-Covid in order to facilitate greater trade and investment.”

The vaccine roll-out was also discussed, said Ardern, as was the United States’ involvement with the Christchurch Call. “I thanked the president for the United States joining the Christchurch Call and how their membership has provided momentum to the work to eradicate violent extremist content online,” Ardern said.

1.10pm: Playa Zahara mariners to move to Christchurch MIQ facility

13 mariners from onboard the Playa Zahara will be moved to a quarantine facility in Christchurch after the vessel arrives in Lyttelton today.

The crew has been battling an outbreak of Covid-19 that started after “flu-like symptoms” were reported while the ship was off the coast of Taranaki.

Five crew members will quarantine onboard the ship while it is in Lyttelton.

“The most recent crew aboard the Playa Zahara arrived in New Zealand on June 18 and spent two days at a managed isolation facility in Auckland,” said a Ministry of Health spokesperson. “They provided negative pre-departure tests before arriving in New Zealand and again tested negative before boarding the ship.”

The 13 crew who will be moved to the quarantine facility also includes two individuals who returned negative tests. Whole genome sequencing is still under way to determine what strain of the virus the mariners have.

Meanwhile, 16 crew from the Viking Bay remain in the Wellington quarantine facility. That includes one mariner who, after falling sick, was tested twice for Covid-19 with both results negative.

Today’s numbers

There are no cases of Covid-19 to report in the community today, with five new cases in managed isolation. Six previously reported cases have now recovered.

The number of active cases in New Zealand is now 48.

11.55am: An unusual sight on Queen Street

Tractors are lined up down Auckland’s Queen Street as part of nationwide protests by farmers against the government.

Generally speaking, the protests were driven by discontent about the government’s “ute tax” scheme along with heavy-handed new regulations.

This photo from RNZ’s Samuel Rillstone should give you a pretty clear idea of today’s scenes.

Tractors on Queen St

Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

11.00am: Inflation hits 10 year high as petrol prices and construction boom

Annual inflation has risen to 3.3% – the largest increase in nearly a decade.

According to Stats NZ, price increases were widespread with 10 of the 11 main groups having higher prices on average than a year ago. Back in June 2011, inflation peaked at 5.3%.

However, it’s not instantly bad news: part of the reason for the price spike is because last year saw prices fall due to Covid-19.

“A year ago, in the June 2020 quarter, we saw lower petrol prices, as well as measures put in place during the Covid-19 lockdown such as cheaper public transport, which resulted in lower consumer prices that quarter,” said Stats NZ’s Aaron Beck.

“This magnified the overall increase somewhat.”

The cost of construction is also partially to blame for today’s figures. According to Stats NZ, the cost of building a new house was the biggest contributor to both annual and quarterly inflation this quarter, up 7.4% for the year and 4.6% for the quarter alone.

“Higher prices for building houses reflect both supply-chain problems and high demand,” Beck added.

A 2.9% rise in rent over the past year is also likely a contributor, along with annual transport prices spiking by 9.4%.

10.40am: Farmers protest ‘ute tax’, new regulations, at events across the country

Farmers are gathering at locations around the country – from the far north to south – in protest over the government’s supposed interference with their work.

So far this morning, tractors have caused traffic chaos south of Auckland while a parade of protestors is about to make its way through Christchurch city centre. Events have been planned for 55 town centres.

Organisers of the “Howl of a Protest” event said seven key reasons were behind the decision to take to the streets. That included the government’s so-called “ute tax” along with added regulations that farmers claim have made it harder to do their jobs.

You can follow along with more regular live updates of the events on both the Herald and Stuff, while The Spinoff’s Alex Braae will have a full story later this afternoon.

Meanwhile, National has today released an ad pushing back against the “ute tax”. For some unknown reason, it features dangerous flying ute taxes going into peoples’ butts.

Ouch (Image : National)

When the ute tax hits:

(Image / National)

10.00am: Jami-Lee Ross party Advance NZ deregisters

Conspiracy theory party Advance NZ has officially deregistered.

The party, founded by ex-National MP Jami-Lee Ross, joined forces with Billy TK’s Public Party ahead of last year’s general election. Needless to say, they were unsuccessful in making it to parliament.

According to a statement reported by Newshub, the party has chosen to focus on its “news” output.

“Since the election we have given much thought to the future and how best to keep alive the debates that were raised last year,” said the statement. “As a result Advance NZ supported the establishment of The Real News and has put considerable financial support into the magazine.”

The Real News is unrelated to the informative segment on The Spinoff’s Real Pod, and is in fact a magazine that has lobbied for groups such as Voices for Freedom.

Remember this from last year?

9.45am: Just a good thread…

Look, there’s not a lot going on right now so I thought this Twitter thread about the National Party’s internal politics was quite interesting.

8.00am: Covid closes in on NZ as case numbers surge in Fiji and Australia

Covid-19 cases in Fiji have surged once again, with 1220 cases being recorded in the 24 hours ending Thursday morning.

It is, according to RNZ, the largest daily surge of new cases since this current outbreak started in April. An additional 10 deaths have also been recorded, bringing the death toll up to 74.

With more than 11,000 active cases, this renewed wave of Covid-19 is putting major strain on the country. It has a population of less than 900,000.

But Fiji is just one of our neighbours battling new waves of the virus, with Australia also facing outbreaks in three states: New South Wales, Victoria and now Queensland.

Victoria moved into a snap lockdown last night after recording 18 cases of the virus, linked to two clusters. According to 7 News, a number of major locations of interest have now been identified – including a shopping centre and supermarket. Quarantine-free travel has once again been put on hold with Melbourne until at least next week.

In New South Wales, 65 new community cases were recorded yesterday including more than 30 who were infectious while in the community. Anyone able to get on a flight back to New Zealand from Sydney will need to spend two weeks in managed isolation.

Of course, it’s not just arrivals from Australia and Fiji that could spread the coronavirus. Two fishing vessels carrying Covid-positive individuals have literally been travelling around our waters this week. The crew of the Viking Bay – who have the delta variant of the virus – been transferred into a Wellington MIQ facility while those onboard the Playa Zahara are set to arrive in Lyttelton today.

Stay vigilant, scan in!

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Central government has tried to reassure local government politicians of the impending water reforms with a few major announcements. One News It was announced $2.5bn will be spread across the country, to help councils manage the change to their asset base that would result. As well as that, the government gave additional assurances against any privatisation of water assets, once the new structure gets put in place. The announcement came at the LGNZ conference in Blenheim. Stuff reports National leader Judith Collins has described it as a “bribe”, and criticising the promised economic benefits of the reforms as “unconvincing”.

$2.5bn is a lot of money, but doesn’t go quite so far when you start breaking it down. For example, Steven Walton of the Press looked at how much each individual council would get around Canterbury – Christchurch was up at $122 million, but at the other end Kaikoura and Mackenzie were getting just over $6 million. Christchurch councillors described that as “pocket change”, and said they’d be handing over far more valuable assets. The NZ Herald reports Auckland mayor called for a “bespoke” SuperCity deal, in response to just over half a billion dollars. Kaipara mayor Jason Smith – an early and enduring critic of the reforms, tweeted the overall response from the mayors in Blenheim was somewhere between “lukewarm and tepid”.

That wasn’t a universal response though. Hutt mayor Campbell Barry tweeted in support of the reforms, saying they were unfortunately necessary. “What is clear, the status quo in how our three water infrastructure is currently funded and implemented is unsustainable. Change is needed to ensure our water is healthy for our people and our environment, for the long term.” And it shouldn’t be forgotten that this whole project didn’t just start on a whim – it started because there is a looming avalanche of costs to address an infrastructure deficit.

The travel bubble continues to expand and pop again, with the news that Victoria is now also going to be closed off. Our live updates reported yesterday that it comes amid a lockdown for the state, with cases starting to spread. Queensland has also reported a very small number of cases. In New South Wales, dozens of new cases are still coming each day, but state officials are somewhat heartened by a drop in the daily rate. Meanwhile in the UK, the country is about to embark on a very dubious and dangerous form of freedom, writes Dr Siouxsie Wiles, with all restrictions set to be lifted despite a surge in cases.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

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