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blog final oct 19

PoliticsOctober 19, 2021

Live updates, October 19: Record number of new delta cases with 94 announced, Winston Peters apologises to Harry Tam

blog final oct 19

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 19, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.

The 1pm update, summarised

  • There are 94 new community cases of delta.
  • That’s the highest daily number of Covid-19 cases ever recorded in NZ.
  • Of today’s cases, 53 are unlinked to the outbreak.
  • There remain four mystery cases in Waikato.
  • Northland will move to alert level two at 11.59pm.

5.30pm ACT and Green Party react to multi-party housing boost announcement

Green Party urban development spokesperson Julie Anne Genter has welcomed the multi-party announcement made earlier today to accelerate medium density housing, but warned that changing planning rules alone will not address the “range of issues” that have created the current housing crisis. 

“Government needs to do more make sure we’re building low carbon, quality housing developments in the places we need them. Councils need more funding for public transport services, the ability to provide for parks, and significant tree protection,” she said in a press release sent earlier this afternoon. 

ACT leader David Seymour was less welcoming of the announcement. “Retrospective legislation is the most irresponsible thing a Government can do,” he said in a press release. “New Zealanders deserve reliable laws. We need to know that we won’t be criminalised for something we’ve done down the track despite it being legal at the time.

“The retrospective effect will undermine confidence and investment, just like the interest deductibility changes did,” he concluded. “The lack of regulatory impact analysis is just another example of a Government out of its depth.”

5.10pm Winston Peters apologises to Mongrel Mob’s Harry Tam

Former deputy prime minister Winston Peters has issued an apology and “correction” following a legal letter from lawyers acting for Mongrel Mob life member Harry Tam. It follows claims made on Newshub Nation on October 9 in which the NZ First leader had accused Tam of travelling to Northland with the woman who subsequently tested positive for Covid and refused to cooperate with contact tracers.

“My concern, as expressed in the interview, was this failure of the alert level boundaries, and the failure of the government to be transparent with the Northland community about this having occurred,” says Peter in a statement. “Low vaccination levels in Northland, particularly amongst Māori, was then and still is a major concern.”

He continues: “During the interview, based on information that I had obtained from a reliable and credible source, I expressed the view that Mr Harry Tam, a known affiliate of the Mongrel Mob, was one of these people … Mr Tam has said that he was not the Mongrel Mob member that entered Northland. On the basis of what he has said, one aspect of the information that I received, and which informed my view on the matter in the interview, must be wrong. I therefore apologise to Mr Tam for naming him as the Mongrel Mob affiliate who entered Northland with others causing a two week level three lockdown.”

False claims about Tam’s involvement had been circulating, without any evidence, on Facebook.

Peters’ statement does not end there. “I am releasing this correction, based on what Mr Tam has said, to bring attention back to the issue that prompted me to speak to the media in the first place, which I am sure is also important to Mr Tam,” he writes. “That is, three persons were able to cross from Auckland’s alert level border to Northland under false essential worker status, cause a two week lockdown, place the Northland community at risk, and why the government failed to inform the Northland people about this for days. If Mr Tam knows anything about how this occurred, I do hope he provides that information to the New Zealand police, if he has not already done so.”

4.30pm Census to collect information on gender and sexual identity

Stats NZ have announced today that the 2023 Census will ask everyone in Aotearoa (over the age of 15) for information about their gender and sexual identity. “People’s sense of their gender and sexual identity is really important to them and can impact on their lives and experiences,” said social and population insights general manager Jason Attewell. 

“The census touches everyone and will provide a detailed picture of how people with diverse genders and sexual identities experience life in Aotearoa New Zealand.” 

In 2018, comedian Eli Mathewson wrote for The Spinoff about how collecting this information would help to affirm the LGBTQIA+ community. “To see queer stats that don’t show those numbers attached to suicide or abuse rates, that is special,” he wrote. “Seeing those numbers could mean something to queer people who feel isolated and alone.”

Next year will also see information collected on variations of sex characteristics (intersex status), which marks another historic first for the Census. “This is exciting because for the first time we will have data about the intersex community and just how many people in Aotearoa New Zealand are part of this community,” Mr Attewell said.

4.00pm: Auckland Theatre Company cancels the rest of 2021 season

Sam Brooks writes:

Auckland Theatre Company has announced that due to uncertainty arising from the current level three restrictions, they have cancelled the three remaining shows in their 2021 season: Blithe Spirit, Things That Matter and The Haka Party Incident.

Artistic director and CEO Jonathan Bielski said: “As the alert level constraints in Auckland continue, the uncertainty that creates makes the logistics of presenting our productions this year impossible. Every show requires huge expenditure in the weeks and months leading up to opening night, and the financial and operational risks are currently too great to proceed in this environment when we have no certainty that we can perform.”

Things That Matter, an adaptation of Dr David Galler’s memoir, was initially set to open on August 19, but was postponed due to the level four lockdown. The company hopes to bring the show back in a future season. The Haka Party Incident, which was set to return after a sell-out run in this year’s Auckland Arts Festival, was cancelled earlier this month. Blithe Spirit was intended to be the company’s annual “Christmas” show and the swan song for outgoing artistic director Colin McColl’s 17 year run at the head of the company.

It’s the latest, though unlikely the last, bleak announcement for Auckland’s live events sector, following Basement Theatre’s notice that it would be closing its doors for the rest of the year.

3.35pm: National would roll back Three Waters reforms

National has pledged to repeal the proposed Three Waters reforms should it be introduced.

The planned model would see water assets centralised into four new entities, and has proved controversial among most councils.

Judith Collins said she would roll back any changes. “The next National government will also return any seized water assets back to councils,” said Collins. “Labour needs to urgently halt their Three Waters plans, and abandon their appetite for amalgamation.

3.15pm: Covid reportedly makes it to Waiheke Island

Local board chair Cath Handley confirmed that a person on Waiheke Island has tested positive for Covid-19 in an email sent to residents this afternoon.

“Please let’s all be mindful of each other and let’s not elevate anxieties for people we love and respect,” she wrote. “In particular please let’s watch out for the needs of children around us, as they need safety and good Covid protocols.”

Waiheke Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, has been off-limits to visitors during alert level three despite the rules allowing for movement around Auckland. Only residents have been able to travel between the mainland and the island.

The Ministry of Health has not yet confirmed the positive case.

2.45pm: MediaWorks to end Newshub deal, launch own newsroom

MediaWorks is set to separate from Newshub and will launch its own newsroom and news breakfast show.

Currently, MediaWorks’ radio stations use news content produced by Newshub journalists. The televised AM Show is also simulcast on Magic Talk.

According to Stuff, the move will see 15 to 20 journalist jobs made available in-house at MediaWorks.

There’s no word yet on who will front the new Magic Talk breakfast show. But last week brought rumours Duncan Garner, who exited The AM Show suddenly in August, would be joining Magic in the near future.

1.55pm: Covid hospitalisations hit five week high

There are currently 38 people in hospital with Covid-19 – the highest number of delta-related hospitalisations since September 8.

Meanwhile, today also saw our highest number of new delta cases recorded with 94 confirmed in the community.

1.30pm: Unlinked case numbers soar

Today’s 94 community Covid cases has brought with it a second, equally shocking figure: 53 mystery cases. As you can see from the graph below, that propels the number of unlinked cases from the past 14 days to new heights – up to 183.

Of these, four are in Waikato with the rest in Auckland.

1.20pm: Covid-19 now found in 124 Auckland suburbs

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has reminded Aucklanders to obey Covid-19 rules, saying the virus is not limited to just one part of the city.

Evidence of Covid-19 has now been found in 124 Auckland suburbs, said Ardern. "We have continued to see cases reported today that have come from non-compliance with level three," she said.

The highest number of new cases today come from the three age groups – i.e those between 12 and 39 – with the lowest vaccination rates, said Ardern.

Joining Ardern at the podium, associate health minister Peeni Henare said vaccination remained the best form of protection.

1.00pm: Record number of new delta cases with 94 reported


There are 94 new community cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, a new record in the delta outbreak. The previous high was 83 on August 29.

That also tops the highest daily case count recorded in New Zealand across the course of the pandemic, with the previous high being 89 in April 2020.

Of today's new cases, 87 are in Auckland and seven in Waikato. As of 10am, 53 remain unlinked, with investigations continuing to help determine their connection to the outbreak. All of the new Waikato cases have been linked, however there remain four mystery cases in the region from last week.

The number of hospitalisations has also risen with 38 people now being treated for Covid-19. Five people remain in intensive care.

Ashley Bloomfield confirmed 84 Auckland cases across 55 households are now isolating at home, rather than in quarantine facilities.

Thirty-four of yesterday’s 60 cases were infectious in the community.

With no new cases reported in Northland, the region will shift to alert level two at 11.59pm tonight as announced at yesterday's press conference.

Nationwide, 16,921 tests were taken nationwide with more than 12,500 in Auckland. And on the vaccine front: 42,793 were administered yesterday comprising 10,025 first doses and 32,768 second. Auckland has still not hit the 90% vaccine milestone for first doses, sitting tantalisingly close at 89% for the third day in a row.

Third vaccine dose recommended for immunocompromised people

Those aged 12 and older who are immunocompromised may soon be able to have a third dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vacine.

Ashley Bloomfield said it had been recommended by the Covid-19 technical advisory group owing to the "higher risk of severe outcomes" posed by the coronavirus to those who are immunocompromised.

This would be a third "primary dose" and is different to a booster shot, said Bloomfield.

12.55pm: PM, Bloomfield to give today's Covid-19 update

Jacinda Ardern is back at the podium today. We'll hear the latest Covid-19 numbers from Ashley Bloomfield before the PM likely faces further questions about this Friday's announced announcement.

Watch live or keep this page refreshed for live coverage.

12.50pm: A special note from The Spinoff publisher Duncan Greive

Before we hear from the prime minister, a note from The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive:

It’s a little overwhelming to be sitting here, a week on from when I wrote my Bernie-esque plea for new members, to write to you about the response. It was instant and humbling. It has been the biggest surge in new sign-ups since the freaky days of April 2020. We also saw many existing members raise their ongoing contributions, which was also hugely impactful.

To be blunt, we needed it. And still do, so if you can join up, or have been meaning to, please do so today. We are still a long way from knowing when this period will end, which means our commercial funds remain highly constrained. We remain highly dependent on our members for everything from live updates, to data visualisation to cultural coverage. But we’ve had a really heartening week, and the whole organisation is very grateful for it. So if you are a member, or have donated – please take a moment to feel the immense gratitude radiating out from all of us here.

12.35pm: Will we now see house prices drop?

Will today's new housing policy bring house prices down for first home buyers? Here's what the housing minister and opposition leader said at their joint press conference.

Megan Woods: "I think we will see the capacity for more supply. We know that we do have a housing shortage and that is one of the things that is driving the crisis that we're seeing in New Zealand. We don't see this as simply a supply and demand problem. What we want to see is the enabling of more affordable houses being built and what this will do is allow it. We have planning rules in some parts of our cities that actively stop a typology that is affordable for people to purchase."

Judith Collins: "No. I don't see this as a supply shock. I believe it is a shot in the arm to make sure that the country doesn't continue down a path whereby housing is something that other people own and our kids get to own."

12.00pm: Labour and National announce plan to boost housing supply, cut red tape

Labour and National have joined forces for an "historic", bipartisan announcement aimed at cutting red tape and boosting housing supply.

Under the new policy, the parties claim at least 48,200 and as many as 105,500 new homes will be built in the next five to eight years. In Auckland alone, at least 27,900 new dwellings are expected to be constructed over that time and it's hoped work could be under way by August next year.

The parties have agreed to bring forward implementation of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD), which obliges councils to allow intensification. Homes of up to three storeys will be able to be built on most sites without the need for a resource consent – up from the current rule allowing for one, two storey house.

Housing minister Megan Woods said while there is no silver bullet for the housing crisis, today's announcement will make a difference. “New Zealand’s housing shortage is being made worse in our biggest cities by limits on the number and types of houses that can be built. These changes will enable more homes that are attractive to first home buyers to be built in areas closer to their work, public transport and community facilities," said Woods.

Today's plan has been worked on alongside the National Party, which Woods said ensured "stable, enduring policy on urban density".

Read more: Rare show of cross-party accord paves way for rezoning breakthrough

National's leader Judith Collins said the party acted constructively with the government to deliver this policy. “While parliament is an adversarial place by nature, it is important that politics can be put aside in emergency situations – be it responding to terror attacks, getting the message out on vaccinations, or addressing our housing emergency," said Collins.

“Today is truly a historic moment for New Zealand: a time when our two major political parties stepped up together to give kiwis the right to build. It is a positive reflection on our democracy and our system of government that, when the time requires, National and Labour can work together to tackle the big issues facing New Zealand.”

But – there is more work to do, said the party's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis. "National will keep pushing for the changes needed to address New Zealand’s housing challenges," she said. "The select committee process will create an opportunity to hear feedback from builders, developers, local authorities, home owners and renters on how we can make this bill better."

Watch the announcement live below.

11.30am: National and Labour join forces to tackle housing crisis

Labour and National are poised to announce a joint housing policy at a lunchtime press conference.

The announcement is targeted at New Zealand's housing crisis and follows a long period of negotiation between the two parties. Parliamentary sources have told the Spinoff that the work to achieve cross-party consensus has been closely guarded, with many MPs on both sides only learning of the plans in recent days.

Environment minister David Parker and housing minister Megan Woods will front the announcement alongside National's Judith Collins and Nicola Willis.

We'll have a livestream for you – and a full write-up – at midday.

10.50am: Māori health providers worried 'catastrophe' on the way

Māori health providers are disappointed that Auckland won't be moving into a "circuit breaker" level four lockdown – and have warned the city may be heading for catastrophe.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday said a return to level four would be unlikely to help the situation in Auckland, instead choosing to retain current restrictions for another two weeks.

National Hauora Coalition clinical director Dr Rawiri Jansen told The Hui the country was now at a critical moment. "I'm deeply concerned we may have a catastrophe coming soon," he said. We could be heading for a Victoria situation, warned Jansen. "They had ambulances stacked that they couldn't unload in their hospitals and we are in grave danger of being in the situation. I'm really keen for people to hold the line, to do the work so we can avoid those kinds of catastrophic outcomes."

If New Zealand reaches a similar point, Jansen said Māori will likely suffer the worst. "We are in harm's way. Our whānau, our communities, the least vaccinated communities in Aotearoa, we are at high risk from the impact of Covid and we don't have many weeks left," he said.

9.40am: Robertson denies 'drip feeding' reopening plan

The government has been forced to defend "drip feeding" information about Auckland's pathway out of lockdown.

At yesterday's 4pm press conference, Jacinda Ardern revealed more details about schools reopening would be announced on Wednesday while the traffic light system/vaccine targets won't come out until Friday.

Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking accused the government of treating New Zealand like children by teasing announcements so far ahead of time. But the deputy PM Grant Robertson disagreed: "We thought it was only fair to indicate that at the end of the week we'd be making announcements about the framework," he said. "If we'd left that out, I think we would have been the subject of heavy criticism as well," said Robertson.

Further details still needed to be finalised, he added. "We want to be answer all the questions in one place, at one time, and that's what's going to happen on Friday." Work was still ongoing for tomorrow's schools announcement, said Robertson, including engagement with the relevant sector.

8.35am: Auckland will be out of lockdown by Christmas – Ardern

The prime minister has given the clearest indication yet that Auckland will be out of lockdown in time for Christmas.

Appearing on TVNZ's Breakfast, Jacinda Ardern faced a simple question from host Matty McLean: "Are we going to be out of this by Christmas?"

Ardern responded: "I believe so, yes".

The prime minister acknowledged that Aucklanders have been doing it tough but said that things would be different with vaccines.

Over on The AM Show, Ardern gave a similar message – although was less definitive regarding a Christmas opening up date.

"[The] current list of travel exemption reasons, there is some movement... what we want to recognise is there's a whole bunch of other reasons that are totally valid, particularly as we come up to Christmas. Families wanting to be reunited. So it's how do we balance that need, with the desire of the rest of the country to be safe from Covid during an outbreak."

Less than an hour earlier, on RNZ, Ardern said she had been warned against setting reopening dates.

8.20am: Unvaccinated will miss out on 'everyday things', says Ardern

Aucklanders will soon have a vaccination number to strive for when the government reveals its new traffic light system. Due to be announced Friday, the new framework will replace our existing alert levels and will be tied to specific vaccination targets.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern, appearing on RNZ this morning, had a simple warning for the unvaccinated. "If you are not vaccinated there will be everyday things that you miss out on," she said. Introducing vaccine mandates was about "rewarding those who have gone out and done the right thing" and keeping away people who are less safe, said Ardern.

"We do need to set some goals but also demonstrate to Aucklanders what the pathway is rather than have them waiting week to week," she said.

The government has been reluctant to introduce a vaccine target until now. Last month, Ardern defended the lack of a specific number and told Newshub she wouldn't be tying the end of lockdowns to a vaccination threshold. Despite that, Ardern said this week's announcement was not a change in tactic. The government had been warned against announcing specific dates for opening up, said Ardern, such as a freedom day.

"What we are signalling is the framework [and] what it will take to move into that framework," she said.

8.00am: North Shore partygoer dobs himself into police

A man who attended a party on Auckland's North Shore in breach of Covid-19 restrictions has apologised for his actions and dobbed himself into police.

Jaydn McCarthy was one of about 50 people who attended the party in the suburb of Redvale. In posts on his social media, seen by The Spinoff, McCarthy said he wished to apologise to "all of New Zealand" for his "selfish" behaviour. "My actions were irresponsible and placed many at risk in various ways," he wrote.

"I have voluntarily owned up to the appropriate authorities... and will accept the disciplinary outcome." McCarthy said he took a Covid test the day after the party and tested negative. He will remain isolated for 14 days.

McCarthy told the Herald he had travelled from Hamilton to Auckland last week to help with his family's business. He denied rumours he had used that travel exemption specifically to attend the party.

Yesterday, police arrested a 28-year-old man alleged to have been the party's organiser.

Yesterday's announcements in summary

  • Auckland remains in current level three settings for at least two weeks.
  • Parts of Waikato to stay in level three, to be reviewed on Friday.
  • Northland moves to level two at 11.59pm tonight.
  • New system with vaccination targets to be outlined on Friday.
  • There were 60 new community cases of Covid-19 announced yesterday.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

It’ll be another big week for the country’s fight against Covid-19. After a cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon, the prime minister announced that Auckland’s alert level won’t change for at least two weeks, according to The Spinoff’s live updates. The education minister will unveil a plan on Wednesday for reopening Auckland’s schools after nine weeks of lockdown. On Friday, a “traffic light” system will be unveiled to eventually replace the alert levels.

The Covid numbers: The delta outbreak has now surpassed 2,000 total cases. There are 30 cases in hospital and 5 in ICU/HDU. There are now 635 active cases in New Zealand. 57 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday and 3 in Waikato. 29,661 people were vaccinated on Sunday.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

Opposition is already growing to the government’s traffic light plan. Stuff reports that public health experts and Māori organisations who have been consulted about the plan have voiced their concerns. It’s a significant change from the alert levels and seems to do away with regional lockdowns completely. Vaccine certificates will feature prominently. A red light, the strictest level under the proposed setup, appears to be about a 2.5 according to the current alert levels. The key will be the level of vaccination required before the plan is implemented. The prime minister has said it will be high and some experts are calling for 95% fully vaccinated across the country.

Hamilton is studying the creation of an ‘anti-covid’ border with Raglan. The neighbouring town is a Covid hotspot and Hamilton leaders think border controls could help with the ongoing outbreak. However as the Waikato Times reports, there’s also concern in Hamilton about creating “drama” and being seen to force Raglan locals to be tested and vaccinated. The town has nearly half the cases in the region and below average vaccination levels.

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