Live updates, July 19: Two onboard container ship in Bluff test positive for Covid-19

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 19, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

Top stories:

3.45pm: Two onboard container ship in Bluff test positive for Covid-19

Two crew members onboard a container ship in Bluff have tested positive for Covid-19. It’s the third ship in our waters to record Covid-19 cases over the past fortnight, after crew on fishing boats the Viking Bay and Playa Zahara became sick.

The Mattina, registered to the Marshall Islands, arrived into Bluff’s port last night with 21 crew members onboard. The two who today tested positive were given “rapid tests” after displaying symptoms upon arrival.

“Health officials report their condition is regarded as improving,” said a Ministry of Health spokesperson. “The test results for the remainder of the crew are due back later tonight.”

Both crew members who tested positive joined the ship in Singapore on July 2 after providing negative pre-departure tests.

Health officials in the Southern DHB are working with other agencies to determine the next steps for the ship, said the ministry.

“The Mattina is currently in quarantine in a secure area of the port which is inaccessible to any members of the public and fencing will be put up to further restrict access to the ship,” a spokesperson said.

3.25pm: How one author scored an ‘exclusive’ interview with PM Ardern

Last month, a new book released about Jacinda Ardern raised eyebrows due to… factual errors. Quite a few of them, in fact.

The Spinoff’s editor Toby Manhire reviewed the book and labelled it “utterly uncritical, fawning, cloying.” He wasn’t alone with that criticism.

But beyond the work itself, questions were raised about how exactly the co-author Supriya Vani managed to snag an interview with Jacinda Ardern. The PM has long stated that she does not do interviews for biographies about herself, despite this book apparently being based on “exclusive” conversations.

It was later revealed Ardern was told she was giving an interview for a book that would feature several famous female leaders, such as Theresa May. That later became a biography of just Ardern.

Over the weekend, the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan reported on a series of email exchanges between Vani and Ardern’s team that reveal further details about the interviews. One message from Vani, ahead of the interview, read:

“I personally feel the world needs more empathetic leaders like Jacinda Ardern so that this planet can be made a place of peaceful co-existence where innocence prevails and bliss becomes all-pervasive and disease, poverty, fear, discrimination, exploitation get vanished; where intra and inter state conflicts disappear, where remnants of wars are kept in museums for the posterity [sic].”

Another, after the interview, said she was “indebted” to Ardern.

“I instantly realized that she effortlessly allows everyone to have deep insight of her whole persona. I realise that whereas Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King were heroes of the twentieth century, Jacinda Ardern would go in annals of twenty-first century [sic].”

Ultimately, one Skype interview and a series of written questions resulted in the final product that was published.

Read Thomas Coughlan’s full piece here

Jacinda Ardern says she believes she was ‘misled’ on the nature of the book.

2.50pm: Diary of Melbourne lockdown

The Spinoff’s Alice Webb-Liddall, who is stuck in Melbourne, writes:

Dear diary,

Melbourne lockdown day three: the tram bell outside the hotel window is testing me, it dings every few minutes like a little reminder that I’m stuck inside.

I’m all caught up on Love Island, and the NZ domestic netty league is free to stream here so biding my time watching people lounge around in Majorca and catch nail-biting intercepts.

I read a terrible book yesterday, about a person stuck in a psych ward, it was too close to reality I think, being in this hotel apartment with a music theatre major who won’t stop singing In The Heights.

I bought a lychee flavoured vape.

That’s all from me, will update again tomorrow.

Sad AWL (Image / The Spinoff)

2.15pm: Largest shipment of vaccine doses arrives in the country early

More than 370,000 doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine arrived in the country yesterday – two days ahead of schedule.

The arrival marked the largest shipment of the jab into New Zealand with the government claiming it will help “boost” the sluggish vaccine roll-out.

“The arrival came after some dedicated work got the vaccines onto an earlier than expected connecting freight flight from Singapore,” said Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins. “The Ministry [of Health]’s logistics team then worked through the weekend to coordinate with the flight schedule and be ready for the vaccine’s arrival into Auckland International Airport.”

15 sites received shipments of the the new vaccine stock yesterday, while 104 will receive doses today.

2.00pm: ‘Dire reality’ dawning for Westport, says local business owner

As coasters wake up to drowned streets and sodden houses, The Spinoff’s Michael Andrew asked Tash Barnes Dellaca, the general manager of Epic Westport, what the mood is like in the flood-prone town.

Here’s an extract:

First of all, are you and your family and your property OK?

Yeah we’re sitting high and dry. Our property is significantly higher than the Buller River, so we could look out over it and watch it ominously creep up. But yeah we’re totally fine.

What about your business (Epic Westport innovation hub, in the middle of town)?

The water came up to the back door of Epic, but it didn’t come in. So I think we dodged a bullet there. Epic became a bit of a pop-up home to about five households. But there’s a few folks that got affected in the Epic community. Four of the folks out of about a dozen have lost their homes.

One of the guys had a foot of water through the whole house. They’re looking for accommodation at the moment, which was already in pretty short supply.

Read the full Q&A here

The view of the swollen Buller River from Tash’s house (Photo: Supplied)

1.10pm: More delta cases confirmed onboard Playa Zahara, crew moved to MIQ

Whole genome sequencing has confirmed a further three onboard the Playa Zahara vessel have the delta variant of Covid-19.

The boat has been secured at a “quarantine berth” at Lyttelton Port, with an exclusion zone not accessible to the public. 13 of the 18 crew have now been moved to a managed isolation facility in Christchurch with the remaining five quarantining onboard the ship.

Customs will maintain a presence at the port while the Playa Zahara is berthed there.

There is no link between the cases on the Playa Zahara and those onboard the Viking Bay or any other previously confirmed cases in New Zealand.

The two crew members who previously tested negative, tested negative again on arrival in Christchurch.

21 New Zealanders linked to Australian locations of interest

Contact tracers have identified 21 people in New Zealand who have been at locations of interest in both Victoria and Queelsnad. Of those, 13 were in Brisbane, two were in the wider Queensland area and six were in Melbourne.

17 have had initial tests and returned negative results and the remaining four contacts are awaiting test results. Of the 21 contacts, three are isolating for 14 days and the remainder are isolating until they return a negative day five test.

Today’s numbers

There are no cases of Covid-19 to report in the community in New Zealand today. There are three positive cases in managed isolation.

One previously reported case has now recovered taking the number of active cases in New Zealand to 47.

12.40pm: Shock poll – New Zealanders care about the housing crisis

In news that will probably shock nobody, a new poll has confirmed a lot of New Zealanders care about housing – and many of them are personally affected by the crisis.

According to new Ipsos research, 53% of New Zealanders rated “housing” as a top issue. That was roughly twice more than any other issue, with both healthcare/hospitals and inflation/the cost of living noted by 27% of those surveyed. 

About a third of New Zealanders also claimed to have been personally impacted by New Zealand’s housing crisis. But that figure rose dramatically when isolated to some groups. For example, 58% of tenants, 54% of Māori, 51% of 18-49 year olds (31% higher than people over the age of 50) and 49% of Aucklanders all claimed to be personally affected by the housing situation. 

Interestingly, concerns for housing were felt most strongly in Wellington – at 68%. 

From a political perspective, the Labour Party was backed by 38% of people as the party most capable of managing housing issues compared with 23% having confidence in National. That’s interesting when you consider just how many people said they were struggling with the housing crisis and, of course, the fact we currently have a Labour government in office. 

As an aside, Labour was deemed the party most able to manage 19 of the top 20 issues (on issues facing Māori, the Māori party was top). The gap was the closest on the economy, with Labour ahead of National by just nine points – 42 to 33.

You can read more of the Ipsos findings here.

12.00pm: Extremely Online – WTF is a deepfake?

What would you do if a video of you saying or doing something you never actually said or did went viral? This week’s episode of Extremely Online from Shit You Should Care About looks at deepfakes – what are they, how are they made and how do we spot one?

Made with the support of NZ On Air.

11.00am: Boris Johnson in self-isolation as UK prepares to lift restrictions

As the UK prepares for “freedom day” – the day Covid-19 restrictions are largely dropped despite escalating case numbers – prime minister Boris Johnson has entered self-isolation.

The British PM has been in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. He will isolate for a week until July 26.

According to The Guardian, Johnson was forced to u-turn on a decision after initially trying to avoid isolation. He had claimed to be part of a “pilot testing scheme”, prompting a backlash from the public and some of his own MPs.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister has been contacted by NHS test and trace to say he is a contact of someone with Covid. He was at Chequers when contacted by test and trace and will remain there to isolate. He will not be taking part in the testing pilot.

“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The chancellor has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”

8.35am: Katie Hopkins deported from Australia, fired from Big Brother

Updated 9.55am

Far right commentator and former media personality Katie Hopkins has had her Australia visa cancelled and will be deported back to the UK.

Australia’s home affairs minister Karen Andrews said she hoped Hopkins would be leaving the country “imminently”.

The controversial commentator – who at one point was treated as a serious Newstalk ZB commentator – was set to appear on a “VIP” edition of Big Brother alongside personalities like Caitlyn Jenner and Neil Patrick Harris. But, she was yesterday dumped from the programme after smugly flouting Covid-19 restrictions while in a Sydney quarantine hotel.

As the ABC reported, she described Covid-19 lockdowns as a “hoax” and bragged about breaking health restrictions while in quarantine. In one now deleted Instagram video, Hopkins claimed she would wait by her hotel door for food deliveries so she could “spring it open and frighten the shit out of them and do it naked with no face mask”.

Is anyone surprised?

8.00am: $600k unlocked after ‘rough weekend’ for flood-affected South Island

Devastating flooding in the South Island – called the worst disaster to hit the area since the 1960s – has led to a $600,000 cash injection from the government.

An initial contribution of $300,000 will go towards a Buller mayoral relief fund while another $100,000 has been put towards a similar fund for Marlborough. Alongside that the event has been classified a medium-scale adverse event, unlocking $200,000 for flood-affected farmers and growers across the West Coast and Marlborough regions.

“I know it’s been a really rough weekend for the people of Buller, Marlborough and Tasman and I’d like to acknowledge how disruptive and distressing this flooding has been for all affected communities,” said the acting emergency management minister Kris Faafoi.

“This has been a massive effort with multiple agencies working across a range of areas. I’ve had the privilege of speaking to some of those working on the front line and they’re doing a great job.”

On Newstalk ZB, Faafoi said the next couple of days will determine the full extent of the clean-up. “I think there are some homes that will need some serious repair over time,” he said. “The challenge there is what do we do in terms of options for them as houses are being repaired. That’s what we’re working on.”

Support would be available specifically for farmers who are short of livestock feed, or who have had baleage and fodder crops damaged by floodwater. Damien O’Connor, the agriculture minister, said the impact of the disaster is above what the community could cope with.

“MPI will be working with industry groups, such as DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Federated Farmers and NZ Winegrowers, to determine how this financial support can have the greatest impact,” he said. The minister told RNZ he believed flooding in Westport was the worst natural disaster to hit the town since the 1968 earthquake. 

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Bad flooding has swept the country this weekend, and the damage is expected to linger for weeks. Westport was particularly hard hit – as of yesterday afternoon about 1000 people were still unable to go home. A team of Stuff reporters covered the story, and noted Kāinga Ora housing had been hammered, which will compound the town’s accommodation problems. Aerial footage from One News showed the scale. Hundreds of people also had to leave their homes in Marlborough, reports Radio NZ. Support funding has been unlocked after the storm was declared a “medium-scale adverse event”.

The Wellington region also suffered, with the infrastructure struggling under the deluge. The Dominion Post had pictures of cars underwater in Ngaio, and huge slips in Newlands. For a while, the motorway was effectively cut. The city’s hilly geography can make this kind of rainfall particularly dangerous.

You might have noticed that terrifying flooding is also taking place in Europe at the moment, alongside a brutal heat wave and drought in the US. This is almost certainly related to climate change. New Zealand’s spate of flooding this year (both the East Coast of the North Island and the Canterbury region were monstered in different events) is part of the same global picture, and we will increasingly see the sorts of weather pattern disruption that leads to these disasters in the coming years.


Farmer protests took place in more than fifty spots around the country on Friday, with a range of issues on the table. As I discovered in Dargaville, the so-called “ute tax” has been a major spark for them, with rural protesters saying the policy aimed at decarbonising the transport fleet will impose unfair costs on them. People also brought up to me the Significant Natural Area rules, freshwater quality rules, and the local Western Sharks rugby team, who were about to play their first premier rugby final in a decade – the Sharks won 10-7.

In the main, the protests were peaceful and respectful, but there were some ugly incidents to note. Plenty of anti-Māori culture signs were seen circulating on social media, along with others that made sexist comments about the PM. In Dunedin, Critic Te Arohi reported on a counter-protester who was accosted and had a sign ripped off her, an action that was condemned by the protest’s organiser.




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