Live updates, July 23: ‘Come back now’ – Ardern message as Australia bubble closed; Covid detected in Taranaki wastewater

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8.15pm: Covid-19 detected in New Plymouth wastewater

The Ministry of Health has just announced that a positive test result showed Covid-19 in a wastewater sample completed by ESR in New Plymouth for the second time today in two days.

“Based on previous incidences, it is most likely that the two positive wastewater results are due to recently recovered cases continuing to shed the virus,” reads the release. “The Ministry of Health is investigating whether any recovered cases who live in the New Plymouth area have recently left a managed isolation facility.”

The statement continues: “Additionally, it is also possible that other recently recovered cases from elsewhere in the country could have travelled to New Plymouth. ESR consider a single recovered person shedding the virus may be detected in wastewater. While the mariners aboard the Playa Zahara and Viking Bay vessels recently docked at Port Taranaki, in New Plymouth, the dates of their brief visits, and the activity of the crew, do not appear to be a factor in these wastewater detections.

“Additional testing is being carried out for a small number of port workers and nurses, who have been in possible contact with the mariners. The nurses have previously been tested for Covid-19 and returned negative test results. As an additional precautionary measure, and to help rule out possible undetected Covid-19 infection, the Ministry is encouraging anyone with symptoms, especially if they are in the New Plymouth area, to get tested. Additional testing capacity is being stood up in New Plymouth to support potential demand. This advice also applies to recent visitors to the New Plymouth area.”

4.10pm: Your weekend Olympic viewing

I’m out of here for the week so I thought I’d leave you with some Olympic picks from this weekend’s viewing schedule. (PS, our rowers have been in top form in this afternoon’s heats).

There are SO many New Zealanders competing this weekend – you can check out the full list here. Below, some highlights to choose from.

Friday, July 23 (tonight!)

  • 11pm: Just the opening ceremony to tune in to tonight.

Saturday, July 24:

  • 1.10/1.30pm: More rowing! Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler in the women’s pair heats followed by Stephen Jones and Brook Robertson in the men’s pair heats.
  • 2pm: Road cycling! Fun to watch? Maybe! George Bennett and Patrick Bevin – men’s race
  • 10pm: Swimming. A big medal chance with Lewis Clareburt. His 400m individual medley heat is followed by Zac Red in the 400m freestyle.

Sunday, July 25:

  • 12pm: A lot of rowing, way too many names to write out. These are the men’s and women’s eight heats.
  • 1.30pm: Swimming – there could be a medal here so this is one to watch.
  • 3.15pm: Hockey! The Black Sticks v Argentina.
  • 10pm: Women’s swimming heats with Ali Galyer (backstroke) and Erika Fairweather (freestyle).

Plus HEAPS more. Have a great weekend!

4.00pm: They Are Us film on hold, says director

A controversial film planned to focus on the political response to the Christchurch mosque attack has been put on hold.

Newshub has obtained a statement from the New Zealand director of They Are Us, Andrew Niccol, sent out this morning. In it, he wrote that production of the movie would be paused until “full consultation with New Zealand’s Muslim community has taken place”.

However, Niccol implied that any pain caused to victims was due to the script being leaked – and not the existence of it in the first place.

“I am deeply saddened by the pain caused to the families of the victims, due to the wrongful distribution of our draft script for They Are Us,” he said. The script had been leaked to Newshub who dissected it over several nights. “The script is far from final, and never intended to be shared with the affected members of the Muslim community at such an early stage,” added Niccol said.

The film was first announced back in June with Australian actress Rose Byrne set to play Jacinda Ardern. This week it was revealed that local producers started early talks about the film just two months after the attack itself.

2.50pm: Three more test positive for Covid-19 onboard Mattina

There are now 15 positive cases of Covid-19 onboard the Mattina container ship docked in Bluff. Genomic testing has confirmed at least nine have the delta variant of the virus.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health reaffirmed that the Covid-positive mariners will quarantine onboard the vessel. They will not have direct contact with any port staff while maintaining these functions.

Three crew members, including the ship’s captain, have tested negative for Covid-19 and have been safely transported to onshore facilities.

Meanwhile, at this afternoon’s press conference, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said it was important to allow ships to recrew in New Zealand in order to make sure supply chains can still be maintained. However, she has asked for advice on whether fishing vessels with no connection to New Zealand should be allowed to dock at our ports.

2.20pm: ICYMI – How my long weekend away became a long haul in a Melbourne hotel room

Earlier this week, The Spinoff’s Alice Webb-Liddall wrote about her frantic attempt to get home from Melbourne over the weekend as the city went into lockdown. Here’s an extract:

On Thursday morning we were up at eight, filling out pathology forms and running down to the lobby to get them printed before hopping in the car and driving out to the testing station that had been recommended to us. The wait was short, and the test didn’t take long, though it cost us $150 a pop. Here in Australia they swab both nostrils and the throat. The woman at the centre said she would write on the form that we were on a Saturday flight so we could get our results as quickly as possible. No lockdown had been announced, nor any trans-Tasman bubble closure for Victoria, so as far as we were aware we were staying ahead of any potential threat of being stuck.

We knew nothing could be done about flying home until the tests had come back negative, which we were told could take up to 24 hours. We contacted Jetstar to cancel our flights home, which were booked for the next Tuesday, in preparation for booking new ones far sooner.

That afternoon, Victoria officials announced Melbourne would be going into lockdown from midnight. Then Hipkins said the Victoria-New Zealand bubble would be closing at midday the following day.

Read Alice’s full account here

1.50pm: Bubble pause – the new rules, in summary

Quarantine free travel will be suspended as of midnight tonight, for at least eight weeks (read more here).

Managed return green flights, without a requirement to enter MIQ, will be facilitated for travellers in low-medium risk states from 11.59pm on Friday July 23 to 11:59pm on Friday July 30.

Travellers from Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, ACT and Norfolk Island, can come home on a green flight subject to the below public health criteria:

  • A negative pre-departure test, taken within 72-hours of their intended travel to New Zealand.
  • Have not been in a location of interest in the past 14 days.
  • Are not symptomatic.
  • Are not a contact of a Covid-19 case.

Eligible people from Victoria or travellers from other states/territories who have been in Victoria can return provided they also:

  • Adhere to lockdown measures in Victoria
  • Self-isolate upon return to New Zealand and get a test at day three
  • Travel to the airport wearing a face mask and by safe travel, ie, not public transport.

Eligible people from New South Wales will continue to return on existing managed return flights. Returnees on these flights will be required to enter a managed isolation facility for at least 14 days on arrival in New Zealand.

Travel on such flights will be limited to:

  • New Zealand citizens and holders of residence class visas.
  • Holders of temporary visas and Australian citizens, who last departed New Zealand after April 5 2021.
  • Holders of current permanent residence visas (including a resident return visa) issued by the government of Australia who last departed New Zealand after April 5.
  • Relevant family members of people listed in the above categories. (Relevant family member means: a spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner, a dependent child; or a parent of a dependent child. Parent, in relation to a dependent child, means a person on whom the child is dependent)

1.35pm: Australian travel bubble paused for two months

The trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia will be suspended for at least the next two months, Jacinda Ardern has announced. This decision, which begins at 11.59pm tonight, will be reassessed in eight weeks’ time.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly but it is, we believe, the right one,” Ardern said, flanked by Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins.

For the next seven days, there will be managed return flights for New Zealanders in low risk Australian states. These flights will not require a stay in managed isolation, but returnees will require proof of a negative pre-departure test.

Those who have been in New South Wales will still have to go into managed isolation for 14 days. Those who have been in Victoria must self-isolate upon return and have a negative day three test.

‘Come home now’ – Ardern’s message to New Zealanders in Australia

“My strong message to all New Zealanders who are in Australia right now is come home,” said Ardern.

While managed green zone flights will be available for the next week, any New Zealander who wishes to return home after July 30 will have to enter managed isolation no matter what state they have travelled from.

“There are now multiple outbreaks [in Australia], and in differing stages of containment, that have forced three states into lockdown. The health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing,” said Ardern. “We’ve always said that our response would evolve as the virus evolved.”

The delta variant had “materially changed the risk profile,” Ardern said, citing the large rise in delta cases around the world. “We have acted with an abundance of caution.”

Ardern said she had spoken to Australian PM Scott Morrison this morning ahead of the announcement and told him that New Zealand remained committed to reopening the bubble. “We do want the bubble to resume. We remain committed to it… But it must be safe,” Ardern added.

The experience in New South Wales makes it clear that even jurisdictions with very strong public health capacity for testing and contact tracing have found it hard to keep delta in control, said Bloomfield.

More than 100 people have tried to enter New Zealand having been in states they weren’t supposed to have travelled from.

1.25pm: PM to make travel bubble announcement

A media conference regarding the trans-Tasman bubble is about to start at parliament, fronted by the prime minister. She is expected to announce a pause on travel, and multiple media outlets are reporting it could last for two months.

12.25pm: Gloriavale residents ‘cannot be considered employees’, says labour inspectorate

The labour inspectorate has concluded that residents of Gloriavale cannot be considered employees under New Zealand law. As a result, the inspectorate has no jurisdiction to investigate allegations of long working hours made by those living in the Christian community.

Two inquiries were completed in both 2017 and 2020 – both found that no employment relationships existed within Gloriavale as defined by the law.

Under our legislation, employment law defined an employee as someone who has agreed to do work for “some form of payment or reward” under a contract. That, according to the inspectorate, does not exist at Gloriavale.

“The evidence we evaluated showed that people who have lived or are living at Gloriavale gave service to the community without the expectations of being paid as individuals,” said national manager labour inspectorate Stu Lumsden.

12.15pm: Covid-19 modeller says popping the travel bubble isn’t necessary

Ahead of press conference by the PM and Ashley Bloomfield this afternoon, one Covid-19 modeller has said closing the trans-Tasman bubble would be unnecessary. No official announcement has been made so far but cabinet met yesterday to discuss the situation across the ditch.

Shaun Hendy told RNZ that restricting travellers from the entire country was overkill.

“Although the situation in New South Wales is serious and we have seen spread to south Australia and Victoria, at the moment there are quite strong travel restrictions in Australia itself,” he said.

“So providing the government feels confident that it can screen returning travellers who might have been in transit through Victoria for example, or in New South Wales during their time in Australia then I don’t think it’s necessary to restrict travel from other states at this stage.”

The press conference is planned for 1.30pm and we’ll have all the details for you as they come to hand.

11.50am: Frozen and The Lion King to get Māori language re-releases


Disney films The Lion King and Frozen will soon be dubbed in te reo Māori.

Film producer Chelsea Winstanley has revealed the news on Twitter, citing the success of Moana’s te reo re-release on Disney+.

“It was always our dream to dub more Disney films that our tāmariki love into te reo Māori,” Winstanley added in a statement. “We are extremely thrilled to continue this journey with The Walt Disney Company, it clearly demonstrates their commitment as a company to diversity and inclusion.”

The Lion King reo Māori is set to premiere in June 2022 to align with Matariki, while Frozen reo Māori will premiere three months later to align with Te Wiki o te reo Māori in September.

No casting announcements have so far been made.

11.10am: Stuff and the Herald (unintentionally) share hardcore porn

Stuff and the Herald are among a bunch of international websites caught out after a porn company bought the domain of a defunct video site.

According to Newshub, the domain of “VidMe” has expired and been bought by 5 Star Porn HD. It meant that all VidMe embeds on any website – including Stuff and the Herald – were now directed to the porn site’s homepage.

Globally, news providers like the Washington Post have also been caught up and Twitter is littered with examples of x-rated content being shown on innocent websites.

It seems like both New Zealand outlets have been quick to act, with the news stories displaying the NSFW vids pulled down or edited.

10.30am: FYI, your sick leave is about to double

From tomorrow, the minimum sick leave entitlement will double from five up to 10 days annually. The move fulfils a key promise from Labour ahead of last year’s election.

As this handy explainer on Stuff makes clear, you won’t instantly get your new entitlement from tomorrow. Instead, you will be able to take advantage of the extra days on your sick leave anniversary (i.e. the anniversary of six months after you started work).

Unfortunately, for people already lavished with 10 sick days a year, your entitlement won’t change.

10.20am: Breaking up the Covid content…

…with some more Lorde content. Enjoy.

9.55am: Delta variant confirmed onboard Bluff-docked container ship

Apologies for throwing a bunch of Covid stories at you on this fine Friday morn, but this broke last night…

Genome sequencing has confirmed that nine crew members onboard the Bluff-docked Mattina container ship have the delta variant of Covid-19.

None of the confirmed cases have been linked to existing cases in New Zealand. Three of the crew have tested negative.

“Plans have now been finalised to ensure the three negative crew members, including the ship’s captain, are able to safely leave the ship and isolate away from the crew members who are positive,” said a Ministry of Health spokesperson.

“In some cases, it is safer to manage the smaller group of negative cases, by taking them off the ship.”

All of the confirmed cases will quarantine on the vessel.

9.15am: Ardern and Bloomfield to speak amid bubble speculation

The prime minister will front an unplanned afternoon press conference alongside Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins.

Jacinda Ardern yesterday chaired a cabinet meeting which was followed by widespread media speculation there could be a possible suspension of the trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Currently, three Australian states are in lockdown with a fourth, Queensland, also battling an outbreak of Covid-19. Since the travel bubble opened there have been just 20 days where it has been fully operational.

Ardern has been on holiday this week as parliament is not sitting, which makes her fronting the press conference slightly more intriguing.

We’ll bring you the press conference and all the details from 1.30pm.

8.00am: New 0800 number launched to speed up group three vaccine bookings

A new 0800 number has just launched, allowing people in “group three” who have not received the Covid-19 jab to make an appointment and have any questions answered.

The Covid Vaccination Healthline is 0800 28 29 26 and will operate from 8am to 8pm every day, with hundreds of advisors rostered to answer calls.

Jo Gibbs, the national director of the Covid-19 vaccine programme, said some people in group three won’t have been invited to get the jab yet. “If you’re not enrolled with a health provider or have not updated your contact details, or have outdated patient records, then we may not have been able to contact you,” Gibbs said.

“We want everyone in group three to have an opportunity to book their vaccine appointment before we open bookings to the 60-plus age band on July 28.”

The Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said that bookings for people in the upper band of “group four” will open as planned next week despite thousands in the more vulnerable group three still waiting to make an appointment.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A new design will be needed for the proposed stadium in Christchurch, after cost-overruns caused the original design to be shelved. Steven Walton from The Press has been covering this story closely, with an extraordinary council meeting taking place yesterday, to vote on whether to commission a new design. Originally the stadium was going to be a 30,000-seater, but that was going to go tens of millions over budget, so now it has been cut back to 25,000 – with designers told to look for “efficiencies” to try and bump that up a bit more. There will also be discussions around the regional council and neighbouring district councils putting more money in.

The stadium is billed as multi-use, and maybe it will be, but rugby has loomed large over this whole process. Walton again for Stuff reported yesterday morning that Christchurch will face increased payments to secure major All Blacks tests in the city with a smaller stadium. Christchurch has traditionally been a rugby city, and the reporting included discussion about whether it was sensible to build in capacity that’d realistically only be filled once a year. The NZ Herald reports approval for a smaller design has come from the Crusaders. They simply want to escape their current stadium, which fans largely hate, especially on cold nights. There are also concerns in Christchurch that without a covered stadium, the city will continue to lose out on major event bids to Dunedin, and the Ed Sheeran murals that come with that.

It’s not really a rugby story though – it’s really a story about infrastructure capacity and commodities. The stadium has become more expensive in large part because the price of steel has boomed – for example, in the US it is currently at record prices which is slowing down other construction projects, and in New Zealand price increases are being seen all throughout construction supply chains. In light of that, the council’s decision has been forced somewhat by circumstances outside of their control. But questions should also be asked about the opportunity costs: Resources going towards a stadium at a time of intense housing shortage and a packed infrastructure spending pipeline, the real estate in the city and if it could be used for other purposes, the carbon emissions created by pouring massive volumes of concrete, and whether the stadium still represents value for public money.

For a counter-view to those questions, here’s an argument from a member of the Christchurch rugby public. Newstalk ZB’s Mike Yardley has laid the blame for the cost overruns on the council, which he said dithered too long amid growing costs. He also accused the council of putting too much focus on transport infrastructure like cycleways, as opposed to the stadium.

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