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PoliticsSeptember 19, 2020

Election Live, September 19: Two new Covid-19 cases, one in the community


Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 19, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other NZ news. The essential campaign dates are here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy. I’m on

6.30pm: The day in sum

There were two new Covid-19 cases, one a community case with its source under investigation.

Contact tracing concerns were raised over the buses that replaced some Auckland train services on Thursday.

The Electoral Commission released the final candidate numbers and the latest on enrolments.

Labour pledged to double workers’ sick leave entitlement from five days to 10 and raise the minimum wage to $20.

The first Auckland Central electorate poll showed Labour’s Helen White way out in front.

5.00pm: Contact tracing concerns on Auckland replacement buses

A commuter who took two replacement buses provided after train services were cancelled in Auckland this week has shared her concerns about the lack of Covid-19 contact-tracing methods in place.

The passenger was catching the train from Mt Albert station to Britomart to go to work on Thursday morning, but all trains terminated instead at Newmarket after Britomart was forced to close due to a track fault. The downtown Auckland station remained shut all day, and replacement buses were provided for passengers from Newmarket to Britomart.

“Everyone on every single train that there was coming in on Thursday morning was released in Newmarket and they had buses waiting outside on Remuera Road by the train station,” said the passenger, who declined to be named. “We were directed to jump on the buses.”

The passenger boarded what appeared to be a charter bus via the back door, without having to scan on with her AT Hop card, she said. She couldn’t see an NZ Covid Tracer app QR code, nor any identifying information so she could manually record which bus she took. 

“They [the buses] were just lining up, you’d jump on and then when that one was at capacity the next one would come along,” she said. 

That evening, replacement buses were again provided between Britomart and Newmarket, and this time the passenger boarded an official Auckland Transport double decker, again via the back door and without having to scan her AT Hop card. Not a regular bus user, she wasn’t sure where a QR code would usually be located, but did look for one. “If there was I didn’t see it – I went in the back door and went upstairs. There was certainly no one requiring us or reminding us to do it.”

The buses were busy, said the passenger. “It wasn’t jammed like old-school [pre-Covid] jammed, but more jammed than I would have expected.”

Auckland Transport media relations manager Mark Hannan said he would be “very surprised” if there hadn’t been NZ Covid Tracer app QR codes on the replacement buses. “There are QR codes at the front entrance and on the back seats of many of them,” he said, though added that some of the replacement buses were provided by KiwiRail, which was carrying out the track repairs. 

As passengers would have tagged on with their AT Hop cards and had the opportunity to scan Covid Tracer QR codes for the train portion of their journey, he said he didn’t believe contact tracing would be a problem, even though there may not be official records of who went from a certain train to a certain bus. 

3.20pm: Once was election day – final candidate numbers released

For most of the year it was meant to be election day today, but instead, four weeks out from a postponed polling day, we can offer at least the final candidate numbers. The Electoral Commission has announced, with the nomination gates firmly closed, that there are 677 candidates (electorate and list) standing. That’s up from 534 in 2017. There are 472 people standing both in an electorate and on a party list.

The busiest electorate ballot forms will be in Northland and West Coast-Tasman (12 candidates each), and the most blank space in Hauraki-Waikato, Tāmaki Makaurau and Waikato, each with four candidates. The New Conservatives turn out to be standing in every single seat, including the Māori electorates. The only other party doing so is Labour.

There are 413 male candidates, 263 female and one gender diverse or not specified. In 2017 there were 341 male, 190 female and three gender diverse or not specified.

What do they all want to do with your vote? The one-stop shop for everything you need to know is Policy, which you can find right here.

The Electoral Commission has also provided the latest on enrolments. As of September 13, when they went to the printers, there were 3,364,213 people on the roll, or 89.2% of estimated eligible voters. That’s slightly up from 88.7% in 2017. In the 18 to 29-year-old category, 72% are enrolled, compared with 69% in 2017.

1.05pm: Two new Covid-19 cases, one in the community

There are two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, one of which is a community case whose source is still under investigation, says the Ministry of Health. Auckland Regional Public Health has identified all close contacts, who have been isolated and tested.

The other case is a recent returnee in a managed isolation facility. No other details were provided.

There are 50 people linked to the community cluster who remain in the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 20 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their household contacts.

Four people are in hospital with Covid-19 – one each at Auckland City and North Shore hospitals and two in Middlemore. All four patients are in isolation on a general ward.

Since August 12, the ministry’s contact tracing team has identified 3,918 close contacts of cases, of which 3,912 have been contacted and are self-isolating, and they are in the process of contacting the rest.

There are five recovered cases to report, bringing our total number of active cases to 67. Of those, 34 are imported cases in MIQ facilities, and 33 are community cases. New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases is now 1,460.

Yesterday, laboratories processed 8,359 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 905,436.

There are now 2,235,600 users registered on NZ Covid Tracer, the app has recorded a total of 64,626,993 poster scans, and users have created 3,035,580 manual diary entries in the app.

12.55pm: Will our streak of zero community cases continue?

The Ministry of Health is due to update the Covid-19 case numbers via emailed statement around 1pm today. Yesterday, there were no cases either in the community or managed isolation for the first time in more than a month.

10.20am: Labour pledges to double sick leave and raise minimum wage

Labour has promised to double workers’ sick leave entitlement from five days to 10 and raise the minimum wage to $20 if it wins the election.

“Managing Covid-19 has shown, more than ever, how important it is for workers to be able to stay home if they are sick,” said workplace relations spokesperson Andrew Little in a statement. “That’s why we are expanding sick leave entitlements from five days to 10 days a year. This will mean people can stay at home if they are unwell and will also provide support and flexibility for working parents.”

10.05am: Labour’s Helen White dominates in first Auckland Central poll


A Newshub Reid Research poll of Auckland Central voters has Labour’s Helen White way out in front with 42.3% of the votes. National’s Emma Mellow and the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick lag behind on 26.6% and 24.2% respectively. Just over 20% of voters were undecided.

The poll put National well down in the party vote among Auckland Central voters too – just 23.1% said they were giving National their party vote, down 16.1% on last election, while 56.2% said they’d be ticking Labour, which marks an increase of 18.4% since 2017. The Greens polled 12.1%, Act 3.9%, NZ First 1.6% and TOP 1.4%.

Of those party voting Labour, 15.7% planned to tick Swarbrick in the electorate. Only 60% of Labour voters said they were definitely voting for White. Mellow had much stronger loyalty from National supporters, with 77.9% planning to vote for her.

Mellow told Newshub she thought the poll was wrong. “When this poll was conducted I’d been the candidate for less than a month. Most of that time we were in lockdown so that really hampered our efforts to be campaigning.”

Among Green voters, 77.1% were planning to give their electorate vote to Swarbrick, with 16.5% planning to vote for White. Swarbrick told Newshub she thought the race was “very tight”, despite White’s polling. With the Greens currently polling under 5%, Swarbrick taking Auckland Central is one of their great hopes for getting back into parliament.

Swarbrick says she’s still in it to win it

Chlöe Swarbrick has released a statement in response to the poll, saying it shows “there’s a huge progressive majority”.

“It’s clear that voters now have utmost permission to back the candidate they believe in. Our electorate’s history proves our people believe in hard work, boots on the ground and independent thinking. My track record over the past three years serving in our government shows I am that candidate. I will say and do the same things on the ground as I do in the halls of power.

“With a month still to go until the election, I will be using every minute to continue talking to people about the importance of voting Green twice so we can create good, green change in our community.”

In June, when Nikki Kaye had yet to announce she wouldn’t be contesting the seat, Swarbrick spoke to The Spinoff’s Alex Braae about her aspirations in the electorate.

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

  • National leader Judith Collins is in Auckland, with no events planned.
  • Labour leader Jacinda Ardern is thought to be in Wellington, with no events planned.
  • NZ First leader Winston Peters is in the Coromandel, and this afternoon will attend an event at the Kōpū Marine Precinct.
  • Greens co-leader James Shaw is in Nelson, where he’ll visit a community garden, talk to business and community leaders and attend the Nelson Tasman Climate Forum.
  • Greens co-leader Marama Davidson is in Tāmaki Makaurau on the phones with volunteers, calling voters.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is rolling his campaign “bus” (spoiler alert: it’s a van) southwards, with public events today in Timaru, Ōamaru and Dunedin.

8.30am: First Auckland Central poll results due this morning

Results of a Newshub Reid Research poll of Auckland Central voters will be released on Newshub Nation this morning, which should provide an intriguing insight as to which way the marginal seat will go come October 17. In the past it’s been a tight race between National’s Nikki Kaye and the Labour candidate – which in 2017 was Helen White and the two elections prior Jacinda Ardern – with Kaye narrowly taking the seat each time. But with Kaye stepping down this election and first-timer Emma Mellow taking her spot, as well as high-profile Greens candidate Chlöe Swarbrick throwing her hat into the ring, the plot has thickened.

It’s a “battlegrounds” special on The Nation this morning, also featuring a debate between Northland candidates Matt King (National), Willow-Jean Prime (Labour) and Shane Jones (NZ First).

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

Labour unveiled its regional development policy, which would see an end to New Zealand First’s provincial growth fund (PGF). Winston Peters said it was “a straight cop-out”.

For the first time in over a month, there were no new Covid-19 cases in the community or at the border.

National promised 16-month tax cuts that would give average earners an extra $3,000 and cost the country $4.7 billion. Labour said it was “reckless”.

Finance minister Grant Robertson boldly declared the recession was over, a day after it was confirmed we’d entered one.

Read yesterday’s updates in full here.

Keep going!