Hamilton’s Distinction Hotel
Hamilton’s Distinction Hotel

PoliticsJuly 24, 2020

Live updates, July 24: Five abscond from isolation in Hamilton, one still on the run

Hamilton’s Distinction Hotel
Hamilton’s Distinction Hotel

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 24. The latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

10.50pm: ‘Incredibly irresponsible’ – Woods on latest absconders

Megan Woods, the minister in charge of the border facilities, condemned the escapees in a statement tonight. “This is incredibly irresponsible behaviour by this group. Our only chance of stopping community transmission of Covid-19 is by containing all potential cases at the border, and we are doing this successfully through our managed isolation system,” she said.

One person from the group of five who absconded from the Hamilton hotel is still at large. Woods said all five will be retested once the remaining person is apprehended.

Woods and Webb will hold a media conference tomorrow morning.

9.45pm: Five abscond from Hamilton managed isolation facility


Police say the five people who absconded from the managed isolation facility at the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton this evening are an adult and four children.

A person was seen leaving over the fence at 7pm by the onsite police officer, who “immediately took action to locate and apprehend them”, according to a statement from Air Commodore Digby Webb.

Four were found and detained by 7.50pm and have been returned to the facility. One 17-year-old male is still on the run and police are looking for him.

All five people returned negative day three tests.

The Distinction Hotel is the same facility from where a man absconded by cutting through a fence on July 9. On the same day, the government announced there would be a permanent police presence at all managed isolation facilities, after it was revealed a man who later tested positive for Covid-19 had the day before absconded from an Auckland city hotel and gone to a supermarket.

7.00pm: The day in sum

The Greens and National were first to announce their support of the new parliamentary code of conduct.

Winston Peters hosted a “save Tiwai” rally, nobody chanted, and Marcus Lush was there.

There was one new Covid-19 case, in managed isolation.

The royal commission into the mosque attacks was delayed, yet again.

The government launched its progressive home ownership scheme.

Behrouz Boochani was granted refugee status.

Trump demonstrated his intelligence, remembering the words person, woman, man, camera, TV.

Taylor Swift announced a surprise lockdown album.

5.00pm: After a string of parliamentary scandals, speaker expedites code of conduct

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from parliament:

New Zealand’s parliamentarians have been slowly debating a code of conduct for a year, with little movement on a document that says there shouldn’t be bullying or harassment within the walls of parliament. The speaker called their bluff today.

Speaker Trevor Mallard, fresh from adjudicating the day’s proceedings, came down to the press gallery this afternoon with a stack of freshly printed codes of conduct. His message was simple: they’ll adopt it or I’ll force this on them after the next election.

Labour, National and the Greens have so far said they’ll move to sign onto it. “Robust parliamentary debate will occasionally be needed in the interest of good democracy, but bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviours should not be accepted in the parliamentary environment or elsewhere,” National leader Judith Collins said in a statement.

The move comes after three MPs have left parliament in disgrace over the past month.

3.20pm: Greens, National first to support parliamentary code of conduct

A parliamentary code of conduct has been launched today, following a scandalous few weeks/months/years(?) in parliament.

Most recently, Iain Lees-Galloway resigned as a minister following a 12-month long affair with a staffer, and National’s Andrew Falloon quit over allegations he was sending explicit images to women.

The Greens were the first party to publicly say they will sign up to the code. The party’s workplace relations spokesperson Jan Logie said the release of the code was timely: “The code of conduct sets clear expectations on acceptable behaviours in parliament. For too long this has not been clear, resulting in behaviours that have made people in parliament feel unsafe, with an increased exposure to bullying and harassment.”

National’s leader Judith Collins said she will suggest to her colleagues that the party sign up as well.

“The Francis Report and more recent situations have pointed to a lack of respect for the power imbalances that occur within the parliamentary environment and in the behaviours of some members of parliament,” she said.

We have yet to hear from other parties on their stance on the code.

The Spinoff’s political editor will have more shortly.

3.00pm: Exclusive audio – Marcus Lush re-enacts Winston Peters’ chant

If Winston Peters chants in the Invercargill Workingman’s Club and nobody chants back, does the party go up in the polls?

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has today been in Invercargill, pledging to save the Tiwai aluminium smelter if returned to government.

He also, according to local figure Marcus Lush, attempted (unsuccessfully) to instigate a chant with the words: “We have had a gutsful and we are not taking anymore!” There’s a lot more detail below.

Listen below as Marcus Lush performs his rendition

2.20pm: Peters hosts ‘save Tiwai’ rally


New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been in Invercargill today, hosting a pre-election rally in support of the Tiwai aluminium smelter.

Peters declared his intention to fight the closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter shortly after Rio Tinto announced it would close.

But, his party scuppered a $100 million package for Southland at the last moment, instead pushing for a government buyout of the smelter to be explored as an option.

In his speech, Peters said he was in the heart of Southland “to join the fight to save thousands of jobs in your region and the finest quality aluminium production plant in the world.”

Peters pledged that with New Zealand First in government, the smelter will stay open.

“My Party is here today to oppose any idea of closure and to promise that if we go on having a say in government, then we commit to a 20-year agreement with a 10 year review, with a fair electricity cost based on the cost of supply and a respectable margin.”

Newstalk ZB’s Marcus Lush is at the rally, posting the words (lyrics?) of a chant that Peters tried to instigate.

Say it after me – “we have had a gutsful and we are not taking anymore!”

One more time! “We have had a gutsful and we are not taking anymore!”

To what rhythm was this lengthy chant performed, I hear you ask. Lush told The Spinoff it wasn’t really performed to any tune, but was “more like a refrain.”

“[Peters] got us to say ‘we have had a gutsful and we are not going to take it anymore’ and no one responded. He tried two more attempts – no one responded. Maybe two people did, then he gave up. It was brave/heartbreaking.”

I’m unsure of the crossover between those who read The Spinoff and those who attend New Zealand First rallies, but anyone who can provide insight as to the tune of the chant, please contact

2.00pm: Our Covid data, tracked

1.00pm: One new Covid-19 case, in managed isolation

New Zealand has another case of Covid-19, it has been announced. They are in managed isolation.

The total number of active cases has dropped to 21, with two more people recovering overnight.

Today’s case is a man in his 40s who arrived in the country on Sunday July 12 from Africa. He was staying at the Sebel Manukau and tested negative on around day three of his stay. He then tested positive on around day 12 and is being transferred to a quarantine facility in Auckland.

The Ministry of Health said this reinforces why people are tested twice during their time in managed isolation.

There is no one in New Zealand receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19. The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now 1206, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

It has now been 84 days since the last case of COVID-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source.

12.30pm: Royal commission into mosque attacks delayed

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attacks last March has been delayed, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It will now report back on November 26, internal affairs minister Tracey Martin has confirmed. “The Royal Commission assures me that the extension is needed to deliver a complete and authoritative report,” she said.

This is the third time the report date has been pushed out. Martin said it will be the last. This new date will ensure that parliament will be sitting when the report’s delivered to the Governor-General. It can then be tabled in parliament and made public without undue delay.

11.30am: Government launches progressive home ownership scheme

The government is hoping we’ve all forgotten about KiwiBuild.

It’s launched its progressive home ownership scheme today, claiming it will help get New Zealanders into their first homes.

The first phase of the $400 million fund has signed up providers in Auckland and Queenstown to support the first 100 low to median income families who are struggling to pull together a deposit, or pay a mortgage, into home ownership.

Housing minister Megan Woods named the Housing Foundation in Auckland and Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust as the first providers who will sign up households for access to the scheme.

She said “under-investment in housing and infrastructure in the past has made the aspiration of home ownership impossible for too many families.”

Still confused about what progressive home ownership actually means? The Spinoff’s Alex Braae has prepared a handy cheat sheet.

11.05am: Behrouz Boochani granted refugee status


Behrouz Boochani has had his refugee status formally recognised by New Zealand, and been granted a visa, The Guardian has reported. The Kurdish Iranian exile and journalist became the voice of those incarcerated on Manus Island.

He told the news outlet he finally feels secure “knowing that I have a future”.

“I am very happy some certainty about my future, I feel relieved and secure finally,” he said.

Boochani’s claim for asylum was officially recognised yesterday – his 37th birthday. It was also seven years to the day after his arrival in Australia in 2013.

Read more: Why Behrouz Boochani should indeed seek asylum in New Zealand

The news of Boochani’s visa being granted has been welcomed by Amnesty International and the Green Party. Amnesty NZ’s executive director Meg de Ronde said “it’s wonderful to hear that New Zealand is offering him freedom and the chance to rebuild his life here.”

Golriz Ghahraman, immigration spokesperson for the Greens, said she welcomes the news wholeheartedly. “He has faced persecution and torture at the hands of Iran’s Islamic regime and whilst imprisoned on Manus Island, it is well overdue that he had a place where he is safe to put down roots”.

10.30am: NZ shot Avatar sequels delayed AGAIN

The New Zealand-filmed sequels to James Cameron’s 2010 blockbuster Avatar have been delayed yet again. The films have all been pushed back 12-months, as a result of Covid-19. That’s despite film crews being allowed entry into the country for filming.

Avatar 2 (previously December 17, 2021) will now release December 16, 2022, Avatar 3 (previously December 22, 2023) is now December 20, 2024, Avatar 4 (formerly December 19, 2025) goes to December 18, 2026, and Avatar 5 (previously December 27, 2027) moves to December 22, 2028.

Yes, there are going to be five (5) Avatar movies. Yes, we will be watching them until 2028.

Meanwhile, Disney has indefinitely delayed the release of Mulan – also shot on our shores. It was originally scheduled to be released back in March, before being pushed to August.

Taika Waititi’s upcoming Star Wars films have also been shafted back a year.

10.05am: Person, woman, man, camera, TV

I somehow missed this quite extraordinary piece of footage out of the US from yesterday, so I share it here in case others of you also missed seeing it.

Watch below: President Trump is very smart

Meanwhile, the US has surpassed four million official cases of Covid-19. A quarter of those came in just the last 15 days. New forecasts show the country will likely report more deaths from the coronavirus in the next four weeks than the previous.

Trump today cancelled the Republican national convention, scheduled for next month in Florida. “It’s not the right time for that,” he said, but pledged that he would still give a convention speech in a different form. Trump told reporters safety was the primary reason behind calling off the event.

According to Reuters, the US is recording an average of 2,600 new cases of Covid-19 per hour – the highest rate globally.

9.50am: Equal pay amendment bill passes unanimously

New legislation passed last night with unanimous support in parliament, meaning New Zealanders working in female-dominated professions will have a clearer pathway for pay equity.

Minister for women Julie Anne Genter said: “No one should be paid less just because they work in a female-dominated occupation – this is one of the biggest gains for gender equity in the workplace since the Equal Pay Act 1972.”

The justice minister, Andrew Little, agreed: “Most people do not want to take their employer to court if they can avoid it. This bill makes it easier to raise a pay equity claim, and encourages collaboration and evidence-based decision making to address pay inequity, rather than relying on an adversarial court process.”

The bill helps parties to come to an agreement about what equitable remuneration would be, and makes court action a last resort rather than a first step.

8.05am: Government works to clear Covid court backlog

$50 million from the Covid-19 response and recovery fund is being used to help clear the backlog of court cases delayed due to the lockdown.

The funding will provide for five district court judges, four acting high court judges, one acting associate judge and around 40 full time support staff.

Justice minister Andrew Little said there will also be extra police prosecution staff to support more criminal events in court; two extra corrections prison officers to support those held on remand and for transport to-and-from court or AVL appearances; further resource for Oranga Tamariki for the increase in care and protection of children applications; and a small investment in crown law for increased crown prosecution work.

7.55am: Taylor Swift drops surprise lockdown album

In possibly the biggest news of the week, pop star Taylor Swift has announced she’ll be dropping a surprise new album, recorded during her time in isolation.

Folklore is the eight album from the American singer.

Folklore will be released later today in New Zealand.

7.45am: Kiwis in the UK in limbo

A number of New Zealanders living in the UK are concerned they won’t be able to make it back home before their visas expire.

As RNZ reports this morning, the UK’s home office granted all overseas nationals an extension to their visas until the end of the month. But that’s now just a week away, and many Kiwis still have no idea whether they’ll be given another extension.

The extension was initially granted so that those in the country when flights started getting cancelled due to Covid-19 could remain there. But, instructions were that those who benefited from the visa extension were “expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK before this date where it is possible to do so”.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told RNZ they were unsure how many people were affected, but they understood many had either moved onto another visa or left the country.

7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin

At long last, there has been a quiet enough day to introduce a more slow-burn topic as a lead story. So today, The Bulletin will focus on a couple of aspects of the relationship between New Zealand and China. It’s a very complicated relationship, and in recent weeks there have been some interesting and potentially troubling ripples – whether they signal a new direction for the relationship altogether remains to be seen.

It is clearly a relationship that both parties are hoping to keep as courteous as possible. At the recent China Business Summit in Auckland, both Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva, and Politik’s Richard Harman, noted that the diplomatic dancing has been carefully choreographed, with expressions of friendship between the two countries along with clear references to the fact that New Zealand is caught between growing US-China tensions. There were also warnings given by the Chinese ambassador Wu Xi that the New Zealand government should refrain from taking action around the ongoing situation in Hong Kong – where a new security law imposed by Beijing has allowed for a dramatic crackdown on political freedom. At this stage, the NZ government’s position on the matter is softer than that of Australia and the US – and that is potentially very useful to the much larger nation at a time when much of the rest of the world is uniting against it.

Much of New Zealand’s business community is certainly willing to keep a measured tone on these issues and others of human rights. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Fran O’Sullivan wrote a flattering piece on China’s “commitment to globalisation and multilateralism” on trade, including potentially joining up with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc. And the cold hard economic reality right now is that trade with China is keeping the wider economy afloat. As this piece by Michael Andrew notes, an NZEIR report has found our reliance on primary sector exports has served us incredibly well in this particular crisis, because that’s largely what China is interested in. The difficult balance between diplomacy and trade was covered in a recent episode of The Detail, by Jessie Chiang.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

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

Read yesterday’s live updates here

Keep going!