Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for June 22, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
11.45pm: Wellington-Sydney passengers should isolate, says NSW Health
New South Wales health authorities have listed as a “flights of concern” two services between Sydney and Wellington: the first, Qantas QF163 on June 18 that departed Sydney at 7.05pm; the second an Air NZ Wellington to Sydney service, NZ 247, which departed at 10.13am on Monday June 21. Passengers on the flight “are considered close contacts and must immediately call NSW Health, get tested and isolated for 14 days, regardless of the result”, are the instructions.
It appears to suggest that someone who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 visited Wellington from Friday until Monday.
8.40pm: Pause in quarantine-free travel from NSW announced
Just as the travel bubble with Victoria is set to reopen, quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from Australia’s most populous state is being paused. It comes on a day that New South Wales announced 10 new community cases of Covid-19, bringing the cluster, linked to an unvaccinated limousine driver that transported international air crew, to 21.
The pause will come into force from 11.59pm NZT and initially will be in place for 72 hours.
“As with previous pauses, it will be under constant review,” announced the media release from the minister’s office.
“This decision follows a public health assessment today which determined that while the overall risk to public health in New Zealand currently remains low, there are still several unknowns, including a case that was infectious while in the Sydney community and a primary school age child with no clear link established at present. The government is taking a precautionary approach and will review the decision to pause again on Thursday.”
Advice for anyone already in New Zealand who has recently visited Sydney’s Westfield Bondi Junction mall has also been updated.
“In line with NSW Health’s advice: anyone in New Zealand who was at Westfield Bondi Junction (including the car park) in Sydney’s Bondi Junction at any time between 12 June and 18 June should contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453, get tested and stay at home until they get a negative test result, or remain isolated if instructed. NSW public health officials are continuing to add new locations of interest. Anyone who has been in Sydney since 11 June should check the NSW Health website.”
4.00pm: New Gone By Lunchtime out today
After an eight month absence, the Winston Peters bus burst back out of the barn at the weekend. On the new episode of The Spinoff’s politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime, Toby Manhire, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas ask how did he do, and where is he going? Plus: the electric car rebate row, “legitimate” utes, the vaccine roll-out and heated development battles in Wellington and Waiheke.
3.30pm: Newsroom charged over baby uplift story
Media outlet Newsroom has been charged with breaching the Family Court Act over a story published about child uplifts by Oranga Tamariki.
According to the Herald, Newsroom has been accused of identifying people involved in a Family Court case.
Journalist Melanie Reid fronted today in court alongside her legal counsel, with Newsroom’s co-founders Tim Murphy and Mark Jennings not present.
The maximum penalty is up to three months imprisonment, or fines of $2000 fine for an individual, or $10,000 for an organisation. No plea was entered today.
2.50pm: Ardern and Seymour face off over EV rebate scheme
There’s been a fiery exchange in the house between PM Jacinda Ardern and Act’s David Seymour over the government’s pledge to offer rebates on electric vehicles.
It started when Ardern was asked whether she stood by her recent claim that there was a “legitimate” use for utes. The PM admitted she could have worded her argument better. “I stand by the point I was making although I will absolutely say I could have been clearer in the way I made it,” she said. “We gave full consideration to the option of creating a carve out for those vehicles for which there aren’t equivalent low emission options… drawing such a distinction does raise issues of fairness and implementation.”
The discussion soon turned to the meaning of “tax” with Ardern rejecting that the added cost for new imported vehicles was a tax. Seymour also probed the PM on whether an alternative EV existed for people who needed a Toyota Hilux for work and asked whether people would be able to drive them over the forthcoming Auckland harbour bike bridge.
Seymour attempted to ask whether his questions were getting under the prime minister’s skin, but this was overruled by speaker Trevor Mallard.
1.05pm: Risk to NZ from Sydney Covid-19 outbreak ‘low’, say health officials
The number of active Covid-19 cases has dipped to just 20, with no new cases reported today in the community or managed isolation.
Since the pandemic first took hold, 2363 cases have been recorded in New Zealand.
Risk to NZ from Sydney Covid outbreak ‘low’
Meanwhile, health officials have maintained that the health risk here from a growing Covid outbreak in New South Wales is “low”. That’s despite the cluster ballooning by a further 12 overnight. Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the state will continue unchanged.
There are 16 contacts who have been identified in New Zealand as being at locations of interest in Sydney. The majority of these contacts self-identified through Healthline and have been provided appropriate health advice to stay at home and be tested. Five of them are required to isolate for 14 days and be tested twice in that time, and all have returned a negative first test.
A further 11 are required to self-isolate until they return a negative day-five test. Of those, eight have returned a negative test and three are outstanding.
Similarly, the risk of Covid-19 spreading from Queensland – where a community case was revealed over the weekend – is considered low.
12.45pm: Collins responds to Winston Peters’ ‘sex maniacs’ comment
A headline I never expected to write.
I don’t have a lot to say on the subject but it all amused me a bit so here we are. ICYMI: Winston Peters returned to the media spotlight over the weekend where he criticised the National Party for being “sex maniacs”, presumably a reference to failed National candidate Jake Bezzant and ousted ex-MP Andrew Falloon.
That comment was followed up by an arguably quite funny (but now deleted) tweet by National MP Chris Penk.
National’s leader Judith Collins told media today she objected to Penk’s censored swear word in the tweet, and asked him to delete it. “My office said it’s just simply inappropriate. We don’t use that sort of language,” she told the Herald.
However, she also objected to Peters’ comments about the party. “Yeah. No … he obviously doesn’t know us,” she said.
Just another day in NZ politics.
11.45am: Experts back plan to restrict fishing in Hauraki Gulf
Environmental experts are largely pleased with the government’s plan to restrict fishing and introduce new marine protection zones in the Hauraki Gulf.
The new plan, announced this morning, will see trawl fishing restricted to selected “corridors” of the gulf along with 18 new marine protection areas introduced.
In comments published by the Science Media Centre, Otago University’s Liz Slooten said the decision to limit fishing in the gulf was great news. “Scientific evidence of serious environmental impacts in the gulf has been mounting over the last few decades,” she said. “Fishing is impacting fish populations and kelp beds, as well as marine mammal and seabird populations.”
‘A positive step forward’
Marine biologist Rochelle Constantine agreed, saying today’s announcement is a positive step forward to ensure the mauri of the gulf is restored. “Mana whenua are well placed to be at the forefront of this discussion already evidenced by an increasing number of rāhui in response to degraded ecosystems,” she said.
10.40am: Mallard backs call for select committee changes
Opposition MPs calling for an overhaul of the select committee process may have found an unlikely ally. Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard has expressed his view that the most efficiently run committees are opposition-led and subject to less governmental control.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Herald’s Audrey Young, Mallard said that select committees can be subject to ministerial influence. “They are parliamentarians and legislators and they need to take that responsibility seriously,” he said.
“These select committees are almost more like first-past-the-post than they were under first-past-the-post. They are more like Muldoon-type select committees than they were Palmer-type select committees. It means they are government-directed and less independent and I think that is a pity because it means people are not encouraged into putting time into making careful submissions.”
The select committee process has come under recent scrutiny from MPs like Chris Bishop, upset that health officials aren’t being properly questioned on the Covid-19 response.
10.00am: Meet Australia’s new/old deputy PM
Barnaby Joyce is once again Australia’s deputy prime minister after a leadership spill saw a change at the top of the National Party.
Joyce was deputy PM from 2016 to 2018 but quit, as Newshub explained, following an extramarital affair. There were also allegations of sexual misconduct within his office.
What’s the big deal?
According to Australian media, there are two fairly major implications from Joyce returning to a senior role in government. Firstly, there is his problematic history with women. Alan Johnson, a founding member of Australian Women in Agriculture, told the ABC that Joyce’s appointment showed the National Party is not listening to women.
“I really think that male politicians like Barnaby Joyce aren’t able to deliver what women are looking for … they’re constantly combative, they’re adversarial about everything, they’re reluctant to be be bipartisan on the critical issues that women want them to be,” she said.
There is also his track record on environmental issues, with Reuters labelling Joyce a “climate change sceptic” and suggesting he could stop Australia reaching its net zero emissions goal.
8.40am: Fishing restrictions, protection zones, to be introduced in Hauraki Gulf
Fishing restrictions will be introduced in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf as part of a new revitalisation strategy.
18 new marine protection areas will be created and trawl fishing will largely be outlawed in the gulf.
Fisheries minister David Parker said the move delivered on an election promise. “We are also taking the long view, recognising that sustained action is necessary to ensure that the gulf and its economic, environmental, cultural and social benefits can continue to be enjoyed,” he said.
The new strategy comes four years after a report on the gulf was commissioned by the government. The plan will also see better monitoring to improve understanding of the marine environment and an expanded programme of protected species management.
7.50am: Melbourne travel restrictions lift, but warning for travellers still in place
Quarantine-free travel with the Australian state of Victoria will resume from 11.59pm tonight, almost a month after travel restrictions were first put in place.
The pause on green zone travel was implemented at the start of Victoria’s week-long Covid-19 lockdown. That later spiralled into a much longer lockdown with some restrictions still in place.
From tonight, pre-departure testing will no longer be required for returnees from Melbourne.
However, with a number of locations of interest around Australia, health officials are warning New Zealanders coming home to stay wary. “Those in New Zealand who have recently been in Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland are advised to get tested if they develop symptoms,” a Ministry of Health spokesperson said.
“Anyone in New Zealand who has been at any of the current locations of interest or newly identified locations of interest in Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland in the last 14 days at the specified times should continue to self-isolate and contact Healthline for advice on testing.”
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Often when discussing mental health services, a very broad brush can be taken. So to start discussing the crisis in mental health facilities at the moment, it’s worth looking closely at the work of a journalist who has brought up very specific examples of things not being up to scratch. Writing on Newsroom, freelancer Oliver Lewis has published a series of stories that both outline and detail how this crisis is playing out. For example:
- An overcrowded unit was found by the chief ombudsman to have breached torture conventions, amid a wider crunch in bed space.
- Four Auckland mental health units were found to have black mould and weather-tightness issues, creating further health risks.
- In-patient units have a culture of “meds and beds“, rather than providing a more holistic and stimulating environment.
The story that broke last night about mental health facilities underlined how big spending announcements may not be filtering through to actual service delivery. Newshub’s Jenna Lynch reports that since $1.9bn was announced in 2019, only five new acute mental health beds have been added around the country. Much of the story focused around one patient in Taranaki, who was put on a mattress on the floor of a lounge, because all the beds were taken. She told Newshub that she hadn’t seen any evidence of the money making its way into services – note that is just one person’s opinion, but it is a person who has seen this end of the system up close.
Meanwhile heavy criticism of the government’s performance in this area continues from former comedian and mental health advocate Mike King. The NZ Herald reports he recently returned his New Zealand Order of Merit medal – awarded because of his mental health work – on the grounds that work on fixing the system wasn’t apparent. He said the 2019 announcement made him feel genuinely hopeful at the time, but not any more: “There was such a euphoric feeling in the air, full of optimism and hope and I believed with all my heart things were about to change, finally we had a Government who cared. Three years on I feel like we have let everybody down.”