Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 23. The latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
7.10pm: The day in sum
Police confirmed a new investigation has been launched into disgraced former MP Andrew Falloon.
David Seymour labelled Winston Peters ‘nasty’ and ‘delusional’, following a week of verbal jousting between the pair.
NZ First’s Shane Jones was expelled from the house after becoming involved with a spat over Peters’ use of the word “lady” to address a fellow MP.
National unveiled its road-heavy Wairarapa transport plan.
Minimum car parking requirements will be abolished, and councils won’t be able to impose height limits under six storeys in urban centres, the government announced.
There were no new cases of Covid-19.
Mobile data charges will be waived on Covid health resources, the Ministry of Health announced
6.55pm: Low-rise height limits, minimum car parking abolished under new government rules
The government will prevent councils in major metropolitan areas from imposing height limits of less than six storeys or rejecting developments because of a lack of carparks, urban development minister Phil Twyford has announced. The new directive regarding height limits, published in today’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development, will apply to central areas of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch, while the carpark rules will apply to all urban areas with populations above 10,000 people. Both moves will encourage housing density in city centres, and allow apartments to be built more cheaply, given that both height limits and mandatory minimum carpark rules add significantly to a development’s overall cost.
While the policy statement comes into effect on 20 August, councils will be given until February 2022 to enact the carpark rules and until August 2022 for the storey-height changes.
The announcement will be welcome news to proponents of greater urban density, but is likely to cause upset among many residents of central suburbs like Mt Eden in Auckland, where homeowners have waged a long war against even low-rise apartment developments.
Such a reaction is anticipated by the authors of the policy statement, who write that while the planning changes may “detract from amenity values appreciated by some”, they will “improve amenity values appreciated by other people, communities, and future generations.”
5.50pm: All New Zealand AMI stores to close
Insurance company IAG is closing all 53 of its AMI stores and its remaining State store, with the loss of 65 jobs. While the majority of the stores will close on September 18, seven stores – two in Auckland, and one each in Hamilton, Mount Maunganui, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin – will stay open until the end of June 2021.
IAG says 350 jobs will be transferred to customer service and other departments, but 65 branch manager jobs would be eliminated entirely
5.20pm: Shane Jones ordered out of the house in ‘lady’ kerfuffle
There were fireworks in the house again this afternoon, with an MP being expelled by the speaker for the second time in as many days. This time it was NZ First’s Shane Jones, and the circumstances leading up to his banishment were so hilariously weird they deserve to be quoted at length. We pick up with National MP Erica Stanford raising a question about Winston Peters’ involvement in a freebie Antarctica trip (these quotes have been edited for length and clarity).
Erica Stanford: How were they supposed to ask for a donation, then?
Winston Peters: Well you can scream out as long as you like, lady, but let me give you the facts. Murray McCully took 130 people down to the ice, including staff members [interruption]. Keep on making a fool of yourself. Keep on shouting, lady
Gerry Brownlee: Did anyone from the government, Antarctica New Zealand or the Minister of Foreign Affairs–
Speaker: Order! Sorry, before the member goes on. I think referring to a member just as “lady” is not any longer an appropriate thing to say. So it’s just a general–[interruption] Who said that? Who said it? [Shane Jones raises hand] Go and have some time outside.
Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, calling someone a lady, in my view, is not denigrating at all. It’s in fact the height of respect, and that’s why I use it. If I was to use the word “woman” I’d regard that as thoroughly a put-down. If you don’t mind, some of us want to stay with the age of chivalry.
Speaker: I understand that, and I think I might have even tried to express it myself, but I think it was clear that the comment that the member made was one that was not appreciated by the majority of members of the house. Some of us, Mr Peters, when the times move, have to move a little with them.
3.15pm: Police confirm new investigation into Andrew Falloon
Police have confirmed to The Spinoff that a new investigation’s been launched into former National MP Andrew Falloon over allegations made by at least five women. In a one line statement, police said they would not be making any further comment at this time.
Earlier today, National’s leader Judith Collins confirmed a fifth woman had come forward to her with claims about the former MP.
Falloon resigned on Tuesday morning, after pressure from Collins to do so. It followed claims he had sent sexually explicit images to a 19-year-old university student. He had initially expressed his intention to stay on as an MP until the election.
Since his resignation, four more women have come forward with similar claims. Collins said at the time she expected more complainants to come forward, telling reporters there was a pattern of behaviour by Falloon.
A complaint was laid with police over Falloon’s behaviour earlier this month, but it did “not meet the evidentiary threshold for prosecution.” Collins said this week she believes he lied to police when questioned.
2.45pm: Sabotage questions after three car smash
There’s speculation of sabotage, after the deaths of two men killed in a crash while driving to Parliament to petition the government about the Chinese Communist Party.
47-year-old Yuezhong Wang and 48-year-old Weiguo Xi died after the fiery three car crash near Tokoroa on Tuesday, while three others were left with serious injuries.
Now, the Herald’s reporting that the two men killed were highly influential in the Chinese community. Canterbury University’s Anne-Marie Brady said the “accident is a terrible tragedy” and the deaths were a “huge loss to civil society in our New Zealand Chinese community”.
She told the Herald there was speculation within the Chinese community that the crash could have been a form of sabotage, but she had been assured by police that they would be checking out all avenues in their investigation.
2.00pm: Breaking – Leighton Smith eats at plant-based cafe
It’s been quite a week of serious, important, scandalous breaking news. So here’s something lighter for you to get your teeth into.
Notably woke broadcaster Leighton Smith has been outed as eating at plant-based eatery, Kind Cafe. The Spinoff’s Managing Editor Duncan Greive was beside himself with this development.
The Morningside dining precinct has been an attractive locale for many of the world’s most influential thinkers: Jacinda Ardern, Lorde, Stephen Colbert, and now Leighton Smith.
We’ll bring you any new developments as they come to hand.
1.50pm: Our Covid data, tracked
1:00pm: No new Covid-19 cases; no data charges for health resources
New Zealand has no new cases of Covid-19, Dr Ashley Bloomfield has announced.
The number of active cases has dropped down to 22, with the recovery of five people who previously had the virus.
The Ministry of Health has partnered with the main New Zealand mobile phone networks to remove the barrier of expensive data charges for accessing health information. 11 websites, which provide key Covid-19 information, can now be accessed from mobile phones free of charge. The cost of data will be charged back to the ministry.
Work being done to increase testing numbers
The Ministry of Health said 2,419 test were completed yesterday, just under 2000 of which were in the community. That brings the total number of tests completed to date to 448,786.
“The ministry continues to work closely with the sector on ways to ensure our testing rates maintain an adequate baseline level nationwide to give us an appropriate level of assurance that we will get an early indication if there are any cases in the community,” said Bloomfield.
Bloomfield said the ministry is working closely with Dr Samantha Murton and the Royal New Zealand College of GPs to hear directly from practices on what measures will bring testing numbers up and more generally about the COVID-19 surveillance approach.
A survey has now gone out to GPs which will help the ministry understand what is happening around the number of swabs being taken. More than 500 responses have been received already, and the ministry said there’s a general theme around the high number of people with Covid symptoms refusing tests.
‘Any questions about the rugby?’ – Hipkins
Chris Hipkins was keen to make sure the few media present at today’s health briefing asked the hard questions: about the parliamentary rugby match on Saturday. Bloomfield will be playing flanker.
Asked by a reporter if he’d trained for the fixture, Bloomfield said not enough.”It’s 35-years since I last played a game of rugby and I’m not sure how long I’ll last on the field.”
But, he said he’s settled on his nickname: “The Eliminator.”
12.30pm: Ministry to update Covid case numbers
The health minister Chris Hipkins and director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield will be providing an update on our Covid-19 case numbers at 1pm today.
We’ll bring the latest to you live – or you can tune in below.
11.20am: National unveils Wairarapa transport plan
You guessed it: roads!
The opposition’s revealed its transport plans for the Wairarapa this morning. National leader Judith Collins is in the region today, along with candidate Mike Butterick.
The transport package includes two projects that will be fast-tracked with funding from the $300 million set aside for ‘digger-ready’ projects in National’s $31 billion infrastructure package announced last week.
Those fast-track projects are:
- The Norfolk Road Roundabout upgrade
- SH2 Waingawa to Clareville Safety Improvements
The package also includes:
- Upgrading the Ngaumutawa intersection in Masterton
- Safety improvements on the SH2/Chester Road intersection
- New passing lanes between Masterton and Woodville on SH2
- Investigating a replacement Waihenga Bridge on SH53 at Martinborough
Collins said the plan would create hundreds of new jobs and boost the local economy.
“High quality, efficient roads are the backbone of commerce in the Wairarapa. By getting wheels moving we are letting the economy grow faster.”
10.25am: Air NZ boss apologises over refund debacle
Air New Zealand’s chief executive has said the airline couldn’t cope with the sheer number of refund requests caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Greg Foran has told MPs today that before the Covid crisis, roughly 5,000 people would call the airline each day. That number has peaked at 75,000 in recent months. Foran said if every customer received a refund the company would have been put in a “very difficult position”. There have been 20,000 refunds made so far, for compassionate reasons.
Foran said the airline is performing better after being in “survival mode”, and hasn’t yet accessed the Government’s $900 million loan.
4000 Air New Zealand staff have so far been made redundant due to economic impacts of the coronavirus, Foran said, but that job cuts were pretty much over – depending on the ongoing situation at our border.
10:00am: Lowest ever public service gender pay gap
The government’s claiming a gender pay gap victory, reporting the lowest ever pay disparity within the public service. The Gender Pay Gap Acton Plan Progress Report was released today by Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter.
“Gender equity matters now more than ever – women, particularly non-European women, are more impacted by the labour market effects of pandemics and economic downturns,” minister for women Julie Anne Genter said.
“As we rebuild after Covid-19, our commitment to gender equity in the public service remains firm – the gender pay gap action plan provides a framework for delivering on this commitment, and has achieved big gains for women in a short time”
Genter said it’s the the biggest drop in the public service gender pay gap in 17 years.
The latest data shows that the public service gender pay gap fell from 12.2% in 2018 to 10.5% in 2019, Genter’s reporting.
Back in July 2018, the government pledged to eliminate any gender pay gaps between the same roles by the end of this year.
9:55am: One year on from the Ihumātao eviction
Today marks one year since police evicted mana whenua and members of the Protect Ihumātao campaign from land at Ihumātao, South Auckland.
Our reporter Justin Latif has been at the site this morning.
Over 100 supporters gathered this morning at Ihumātao, along with media, to mark the one year anniversary since police evicted those occupying the disputed land.
Leaders of the Protect Ihumātao campaign led the crowd, from the road, through the Kaitiaki village and into the field, where Fletchers Residential had intended to build 480 houses.
Pania Newton, one of the campaign spokesperson, spoke to those gathered about how this event was inline with Matariki as they were reflecting on events of the last year.
“Our resolution is being here on the whenua, and continue to live out our aspirations for this whenua. And our whenua are happy with what resolution has been reached [through the discussions facilitated by the Kingitanga] and so we continue to be patient and for us, everyday we are winning, and I’m sure the Government will make their announcement in due time.”
During a press conference following the event, the co-leaders were asked about reports of representatives of the Kingitanga movement meeting with NZ First to progress the negotiations.
Qiane Matata-Sipu said that they were aware of this, and there had been further updates since then, but they were not able to comment further.
9.45am: Claims NZ First blocked plans for Southland recovery package
RNZ’s reporting this morning that coalition partner New Zealand First put the handbrake on Jacinda Ardern’s plans to offer financial support to Southland.
The $100 million boost was devised in the wake of the likely closure of the Tiwai Smelter.
RNZ’s alleging that there will not be any specific amount of money allocated to the southernmost region before the election, because consensus cannot be reached within the coalition.
But Peters denied this, telling RNZ: “there was no discussion of a financial package for Southland last week – full stop.”
7.55am: Documents reveal concern around 2023 census
We’re two years on from the widely ridiculed 2018 census, which resulted in a significantly lower number of New Zealanders providing their information. Now, documents released to RNZ under the official information act suggest we could be on track for another debacle.
RNZ’s reporting the government has chosen the fourth weakest out of five options to run the next census.
The option boosts funding by two-thirds compared with the 2018 census, but to a level well below what its own experts wanted. The documents show Stats NZ told the government in February this year that a $210 million census was still likely to produce inadequate data: “For variables where no or limited administrative data is available to fill gaps (like iwi affiliation and language) the minimum viable option will likely only be able to produce poor quality data.”
7.45am: Peters ‘nasty’ and ‘delusional’ – David Seymour
As if the week couldn’t get any wilder, yesterday’s general debate in parliament saw allegations and personal attacks thrown around under the guise of parliamentary privilege. Our political editor Justin Giovannetti has written about that here.
This morning, appearing on Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Breakfast, Seymour continued his war of words with the deputy prime minister, labelling him “nasty” and “delusional.”
“I think he should move on and retire with some dignity if that’s possible.”
Seymour said Peters’ behaviour in the house yesterday afternoon was an abuse of privilege. Peters named the people he believed were responsible for leaking his superannuation details in 2017 (including Seymour’s former partner), while protected by parliamentary privilege. He would not restate the allegations outside of the house.
“To attack a number of members of the public including my former partner is an abuse of parliamentary privilege. But it’s the voters who decide who gets parliamentary privilege and it’s pretty obvious what the voters need to do to Winston Peters. And according to the polls they’re already pretty set up to do it,” Seymour told Hosking.
Is it too much to ask for today to be… quiet?
7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin
By now, you’ll probably have heard the news that Labour MP for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway’s political career is over. PM Ardern dismissed him from all ministerial roles yesterday morning, and he decided to not run again at the upcoming election. The reason for this is not necessarily because he had a consensual affair – as many have pointed out, half of parliament would have to resign if ‘don’t cheat on your spouse’ was the standard of conduct that had to be met. Rather, the crucial factor in the PM’s decision to sack him was that the affair was conducted with a subordinate staff member, presenting a clear imbalance of power and the potential for allegations of a ministerial office being misused, at a time that Lees-Galloway was the minister for workplace relations and safety.
He issued a statement after the sacking, saying he accepted the PM’s decision and had apologised for his conduct, along with an apology to his family, and to anyone else who had been hurt by his actions. For privacy reasons, the other party in the relationship has not been named.
To be clear, this was a consensual relationship. Many have speculated that the revelation means that it is now ‘open season’ on anyone at parliament who has been unfaithful. But as this Business Desk (paywalled) story outlines, there are more pertinent questions to be asked here. Parliamentary Services will be asked to look into whether any funds were used to sustain the relationship, and Ardern said “if there is anything that has financial implications then I would have no hesitation asking for that to be dealt with as well.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody is alleging that this did happen. But the fact that these sorts of questions have to be asked – well, he’s gotta go.
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
Judith Collins disclosed she’d revealed a tip-off alleging “inappropriate behaviour” about a Labour minister.
That minister was later revealed to be Iain Lees-Galloway, who was sacked by the PM and won’t stand for re-election.
Lees-Galloway apologised for being engaged in the 12-month affair with a former staffer.
Winston Peters was questioned over revelations the taxpayer covered a trip to Antarctica for two of his mates.
Peters named the people who he claimed had leaked his superannuation details in the leadup to the last election, including David Seymour and a former National press secretary.
The claims, which were strongly denied, were made using the protection of parliamentary privilege, and Peters refused to repeat them outside the house.
David Seymour was thrown out of parliament after saying Peters had told a lie.
There were no new cases of Covid-19, and Dunedin was ruled out for mandatory isolation.
New plans for flight quotas were outlined, with the isolation and quarantine capacity “close to being exhausted”.
Victoria saw a massive spike in new coronavirus cases, with rumours of an impending full lockdown