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PoliticsJune 18, 2021

Live updates, June 18: No new community cases, Ardern gets vaccinated

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Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for June 18, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

3.00pm: Today on The Spinoff:

Bernard Hickey: Our empires of cold and mould

As winter sets in, it’s worth facing facts: Our houses are heat-leaking mould machines – and we won’t meet our child poverty and carbon zero targets unless something drastic is done to fix them, writes Bernard Hickey.

Follow When the Facts Change on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

How New Zealand plugged the leak on insider trading

Insider trading and the sharing of sensitive financial information is a big no-no in New Zealand. However, there was a time when it was all part of the game, writes Michael Andrew.

Match fit: A sleep expert on surviving the overnight World Test Championship final

The World Test Championship final poses severe challenges for any NZ-based fan hoping to watch it overnight. We asked a sleep expert for some survival tips, and whether it is totally foolish to stay up all night and then podcast.

Follow The Offspin on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite provider.

And the latest episode of video series First, where celebrities reveal the best gossip they’ve heard about themselves.

2.45pm: PM Ardern gets first dose of Covid-19 vaccine

After a rousing haka and moving waiata from Te Wharekura O Manurewa students, prime minister Jacinda Ardern completed her first dose of the Pfizer vaccination inside the Manurewa marae.

“It felt fine. It’s really is as everyone says, it’s pretty pain-free.”

In response to questions why she waited till now, she said:

“I never wanted to be amongst the first but I also need a to be a role model to show its safe and effective.”

She was the vaccinated by the site’s clinical lead Nicole Andrews along with Juliet Gerrard, her chief science adviser.

1.05pm: No new community cases

There are no new community cases to report today, and one new case of Covid-19 in managed isolation.

That person came from Spain, via the UAE, and is at a facility in Auckland.

An update was given on the “indeterminate test” returned by a person on Stewart Island, which is still being assessed. A child in the family however has tested positive for rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, and “could explain the cold and flu type symptoms reported in the community.”

And after breaches of managed isolation rules by a dozen people in Auckland, all twelve have returned negative tests.

The number of active cases sits at 23.

12.20pm: New UNICEF report ranks New Zealand poorly on childcare

A new UNICEF report, called Where do Rich Countries Stand on Childcare?, has ranked New Zealand 33rd out of 41 wealthy countries on childcare.

The report’s findings were not simple. New Zealand ranks highly on quality and teacher to child ratios, but much worse on the cost of childcare, and comparatively low levels of parental leave.

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said there is less to be gained from having one of the world’s highest quality ECE if it is unaffordable for many.

“Evidence shows that children from lower income families have the most to gain from high quality ECE which has life-long positive impacts.”

“Parents should be enabled to make the best choices for their children by having the right mix of support in their child’s early years: High enough incomes to stay home when they need to, paid time off work, and affordable high quality ECE.”

Becroft and Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children Glenis Philip Barbara said “extending paid parental leave and increasing the Family Tax Credit would help ensure parents were able to spend time with their children in the early years and develop crucial bonds essential for the best lives.”

10.55am: Major review of adoption laws underway

Justice minister Kris Faafoi is seeking view on whether New Zealand’s adoption laws should change, after announcing a review of the 1950s laws.

In the time since, societal ideas about what can constitute a family have changed significantly, but the laws around adoption haven’t necessarily kept pace.

In particular, the government is seeking views on six key issues, including what is adoption and who is involved, cultural aspects of adoption (including whāngai), how the adoption process works in New Zealand and offshore, the impacts of adoption, and the adoption process works where a child is born by surrogacy.

The full discussion document can be read here.

“The government will embark on a second round of engagement after working through submissions and developing a set of policy proposals for reform based on what we hear from people,” said Faafoi.

10.30am: Great headline alert from the Taranaki Daily News

An important update:

10.00am: More problems with Auckland port automation 

The long-running automation saga at Auckland’s port has taken another hit.

Business Desk (paywalled) reports the automated terminal has been powered down, and replaced with manual control, after a suspected software problem caused a straddler to whack a stacked container.

The port has confirmed that it has been unable to resolve the problem, but did say it was not connected with cyber attacks. There is also not believed to be any safety risk.

The rollout of automation at the port has been a torturous process, and was initially meant to be firmly in place last year, before work was halted due to Covid.

Since then, the port has been notorious for backlogs, though these have improved since Christmas.

8.50am: Official music charts being updated with Te Reo bangers 

From tomorrow, there will be a new list on the Official New Zealand Music Charts – the Official Top 10 Te Reo Māori Singles of the week.

To be eligible, songs will need to be primarily in Te Reo Māori, with a figure of approximately 70% of the lyrics given as a guide.

Star musician Stan Walker welcomed the move, saying “I ētahi wā inā kōrero Pākeha ahau, me whai kupu Māori ahau i te mea kāore e taea e te reo Pākeha te whakaatu i tāku e hiahia ana kia kōrero.

“Ki te ngaro Te Reo Māori, ka ngaro hoki te Māoritanga. Me toiora, me whai hā tōku reo – kei noho noa ki ngā whata pukapuka kohikohi puehu mai ai.”

“Often when I talk in English, I need to switch to a te reo word as there is no English word to capture exactly what I want to say.

“If te reo is lost, to be Māori is lost. My language must be a living, breathing organ – not a dusty, unread book in a library.”

Chart Compiler Paul Kennedy said the new chart would help shine a light on the resurgence of Te Reo. “We need to continue championing musicians who create music in te reo Māori and recognise their achievements.”

Recorded Music CEO Damian Vaughan added that there was now enough Te Reo music being recorded and released to make such a chart viable, and that was a sign of how the industry is changing.

Because it’s Friday and you might need a bit of help getting through the morning, here’s my favourite cheery bilingual banger:

8.30am: Proposed new Auckland bridge has bad benefit to cost ratio

The proposed new walking and cycling bridge in Auckland has an initial BCR (benefit to cost ratio) of just 0.4-0.6, which means the $785 million project would effectively deliver less than that in economic benefits, reports the NZ Herald.

A BCR is one of the standard tests major infrastructure projects get run through, and they generally come out a bit better than this.

The current BCR isn’t necessarily the final version. Transport minister Michael Wood said a more detailed reassessment of the project needed to be done, and that transport agency Waka Kotahi had indicated to him that a BCR might not give the best assessment of the full benefits of a project like this.

Wood also took a shot at the previous government pushing ahead with low-BCR projects that were politically important, “like the Mackays to Peka Peka section of the Kapiti expressway with a BCR of 0.2 and the Puhoi-Wellsford highway which one analysis had at 0.4.”

But Act leader David Seymour said it was “the equivalent of putting your money on the share market knowing you were going to lose 60c for every dollar invested,” and that it should not go ahead.

“We’d lose less if Michael Wood sent taxpayers’ money to a Nigerian prince to keep safe until he can pay us back.”

Another potential option – a $360m proposal for a pathway on the side of the existing Harbour Bridge – has a BCR of 1.3.

7.45am: Worksafe concerned over paramedic fatigue

Worksafe is concerned about worker fatigue among Wellington Free Ambulance paramedics, and has issued instructions to fix it, reports Eva Corlett for Radio NZ.

Part of those instructions is to sort out how shifts are rostered, with most paramedics currently on stretches of eight days of work, followed by three and a half days rest.

But the paramedics say roster structure isn’t necessarily a concern so much as being short-staffed generally, amid growing demand for services.

As one paramedic put it, “everyone’s amount of work has gone up and up and up, there is less time between cases to restock vehicles, or get paperwork done.

“It’s just draining when there’s no time to mentally process the awful stuff people have to go to.

“People aren’t getting their regulatory mandated breaks, people are worn out and it’s to the point of being dangerous.”

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin:

They’re probably not the sort of numbers you’d pop champagne over, but the NZ economy has avoided falling into a recession. The NZ Herald reports it was up 1.6% for the quarter, after a 1.0% fall in the previous quarter – technically the definition of a recession is when GDP falls two quarters in a row. Those are somewhat dry figures, and as always GDP is just one number to measure economic health, but in general terms it suggests economic activity is ticking along. This is particularly because the March quarter (which was just announced) is traditionally the time when international tourism has the most impact, though that hasn’t been possible this year. Annual GDP was still down 2.3%, dragged by the impact Covid had in 2020.

When that happened, the Reserve Bank slashed the Official Cash Rate to stimulate the economy. And now, economists are increasingly of the view that it’s time for the OCR to start coming up again. Interest reports the economists at ANZ, Kiwibank and ASB are now convinced that there will be a lift in the OCR early next year, which is ahead of what was previously forecast. This could have knock-on effects, particularly for the housing market, which is arguably being fuelled at the moment by very cheap credit.

And what about the border? This is something of a two-parter, including the vaccine rollout (more on that below.) Politik (paywalled) has reported on fears that within the good headline number, the actual picture might be “structurally ugly”, particularly because of the labour shortage. The government is currently tasking experts with figuring out how and when the border can be reopened safely, and what the vaccine rollout will mean for that.

Commercial fishing operators will no longer be able to discard fish overboard, in a major rule change for the industry, reports Newshub’s Michael Morrah. Discarding meant that skippers could return undersize fish to the sea, though most of those fish end up dying regardless. Cameras will monitor whether the new rules are followed. It is one of several major changes in the pipeline for the industry, with work currently underway over increasing the size of protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf, and a proposed inquiry into migrant worker conditions on vessels.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

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