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PoliticsMay 25, 2021

Live updates, May 25: Travel bubble with Victoria to be paused from tonight

blog upd may 25

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 25, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

4.15pm: Travel bubble with Victoria paused

New Zealand’s travel bubble with Victoria is to be paused while the source of the five Covid-19 cases in Melbourne over the last two days is investigated, says Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins.

The pause will come into force from 7.59pm tonight (NZ Time) and will be initially in place for 72 hours. As with previous pauses, it will be under constant review.

“The government understands the disruption this will temporarily cause affected passengers. It was a close call but the correct one given the current unknowns. The decision follows the travel bubble framework.”

Victoria has put in place restrictions which come into force tonight, limiting the size of gatherings and requiring the use of face coverings indoors, following confirmation of a fifth locally-acquired case of Covid-19 today.

Information about locations of interest in Melbourne are provided on the Victoria Health website and are being updated regularly. Anyone in New Zealand who has been at a location of interest in Melbourne at the specified time should contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 as soon as possible for advice on isolating and testing.

Anyone who has visited Melbourne since 11 May should monitor for symptoms and seek advice from Healthline if any symptoms develop.

3.40pm: Ardern and Robertson head south to mark a new era for New Zealand rail

Catherine McGregor writes from Dunedin:

The hulking Hillside Workshops have been a landmark of South Dunedin since before anyone can remember, but for many decades their glory days seemed long gone. The current building dates to the inter-war period, when 800 people were employed to build and repair locomotives and carriages there; at its height during WWII – when the factory made munitions alongside trains – employee numbers ballooned to 1200.

Today Hillside’s workforce is a fraction of that size, though in a better shape than at its 2012 nadir when numbers coming to work inside this enormous building had dwindled to just 10.

Jobs were a key focus of the speeches given inside the chilly workshop this morning in celebration of news that KiwiRail’s ambitious redevelopment plans for Hillside will go ahead. Having earmarked $85m for the project in last week’s budget, finance minister Grant Robertson came to Dunedin to mark the occasion in person, accompanied by prime minister Jacinda Ardern, local MP Ingrid Leary and state owned enterprises minister David Clark, whose Dunedin electorate is just next door.

Low-lying South Dunedin is a historically deprived part of the city, and Robertson, who grew up nearby, said the transformation of the current site into a “high tech, high productivity” facility is set to be a gamechanger for the area.

As well as the around 100 jobs that are expected to be created by the new Hillside Engineering, the government predicts construction will require approximately 250 workers over the two-year build.

Brushing off criticism from the likes of Act leader David Seymour, who called the government’s investment in train building “a 1970s union fantasy” of “hot steel and sledge hammers”, Robertson called the project a “win win win” for the economy and the environment.

Rail freight produces 70% less carbon emissions than road freight, and the revitalisation of the nation’s railways is a key part of the government’s plan to meet its climate change goals.

“We’re standing on a site that’s been part of Dunedin, part of the rail network, for over a hundred years,” said Ardern.

“It’s not often that something that is a strong part of your history is a strong part of your future as well. But that’s the story of rail.” 

3.30pm: Chris Lynch to leave Newstalk ZB over contract dispute

Newstalk ZB’s Cantebury host Chris Lynch is set to leave the network over a contractual dispute, according to Stuff.

Lynch has been off-air for the past two weeks and NZME’s chief executive Michael Boggs has reportedly been in the city this week.

According to reports, the contractual difficulties involve Lynch’s activities outside his radio show. There are concerns about advertising revenue being diverted from ZB to Lynch’s other pursuits. He runs his own news website in addition to working for NZME.

Newstalk ZB was recently embroiled in another high profile staffing matter after sports host Martin Devlin admitted to trying to punch an employee and sending unsolicited emails to female colleagues. He kept his job.

2.50pm: Taonga now able to be worn in court

Taonga will now be able to be worn in court, in place of a necktie. Up until now, court “business attire” required that a tie be worn.

In a statement, chief justice Helen Winkelmann said that taonga can now be worn by “all counsel”, along with “judicial officers, court staff, stakeholders and all others who perform official roles”.

“For the purposes of this guidance, ‘taonga’ is intended to refer to a decorative item of special Māori cultural significance that is worn around a person’s neck,” said Winkelmann.

Earlier this year, Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was kicked out of parliament for not wearing a tie. The rules around business attire in parliament were later loosened after a backlash.

2.10pm: DHB cyber attack – group claims to have hacked financial details

The group claiming responsibility for a ransomware attack on the Waikato DHB has said it has access to patient details and staff financial records.

It’s been a week since the IT systems for the DHB crashed in what is now being described as New Zealand’s largest ever cyber attack.

According to the Herald, the group allegedly responsible now claim to have hacked personal information, such as financial information, of both staff and patients.

The group reportedly sent an email to several media organisations explaining the information it had acquired.

“We have a lot of personal info of employees and patients, financial information etc,” the email, sent to the Herald, read. “We give them 1 more chance to contact us. 1 more day.”

DHB chief executive Kevin Snee would not comment as he said it was now a matter for police.

Snee would not say whether there had been any communication between the DHB and hackers or whether patient information had actually been stolen.

1.00pm: Ministry continues to monitor Melbourne situation

The trans-Tasman bubble is still intact – but a further update from the Ministry of Health is now expected this afternoon.

A statement from the ministry has arrived, saying health officials are continuing to stay in close contact with their Melbourne counterparts.

“Anyone who has visited Melbourne since May 11 should monitor for symptoms and seek advice from Healthline if any symptoms develop,” a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, there are no new community cases in New Zealand and two in managed isolation.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 22.

We’ll bring you any further developments on the Melbourne front as soon as possible.

12.45pm: Government ‘in contact’ with Melbourne officials over new Covid cluster

Following the revelation about a fifth Melbourne Covid-19 case, Jacinda Ardern has confirmed the government is in “close contact” with Australian health officials.

Our Ministry of Health is due to put out its Covid-19 update at 1pm and Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins is expected to speak later this afternoon.

“We’re just at the moment having a discussion as a team as to whether or not that will mean if there any flow-on impacts for the two-way travel,” Ardern told TVNZ.

11.45am: New restrictions in place for Melbourne as fifth Covid case confirmed

A fifth Covid-19 case has been identified in Melbourne, after four linked cases were confirmed yesterday. The person is a household contact who was already in isolation, Victoria’s acting premier James Merlino has announced at a press conference.

The person was symptomatic before who was initially thought to be the first case developed symptoms, said Merlino, so they it’s possible they are the source. A full investigation is under way.

Importantly, genomic testing has now linked the new cases to a case detected in Melbourne earlier this month, which originated in a South Australian isolation hotel. It’s not clear how these new cases contacted the virus, however, as there is no known link to any of the exposure sites from earlier in the month.

As a result of this morning’s new case, Merlino has announced the following restrictions will be in place for Greater Melbourne from 6pm local time tonight: private gatherings in homes will be restricted to five people a day, public gatherings will be restricted to 30 people, and face masks must be worn inside. People can travel within Victoria but must take the restrictions with them. 

Last night, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health put out a statement saying there was no change to quarantine-travel with Melbourne, but recommended anyone in New Zealand who has visited Melbourne since May 11 monitor for symptoms and if any develop, seek advice on testing from Healthline.

10.20am: Invercargill mayor’s license suspended – NZTA

The driver’s license of Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt has been suspended amid concerns around his fitness for the role.

Shadbolt recently refused to confirm the status of his license to Stuff, but the transport agency confirmed it had been suspended.

The mayor was seen being driven by his partner last week, prompting his deputy Nobby Clark to ask for transparency.

A spokeswoman for Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley told Stuff they would respond to media questions today.

9.35am: Outdoor swearing in ceremony for Fast Party ‘unlawful’

Sāmoa’s attorney general has deemed a swearing in ceremony by the incoming Fast Party “unlawful”.

The party conducted the ceremony outside the parliament precinct after literally being locked outside by the outgoing government.

Attorney general Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Savalenoa has warned that those involved in the ceremony could be subjected to civil or criminal proceedings.

“The public is advised that the Fast held ceremony, swearing-in elected members on 24th May 2021, in and around 5pm at the footsteps of parliament building at Mulinu’u is unconstitutional,” they said in a statement.

The newly elected Fast prime minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa has continued to maintain the swearing-in was lawful and based on the principle of necessity requiring the nation’s constitution be upheld.

Read more: For Sāmoa, it was a day of pride, a day of shame. And it does not end here

8.30am: Is it time for NZ to become a republic?

The prime minister has indicated there’s no rush for New Zealand to ditch its links to the British monarchy.

Yesterday, it was revealed that the next governor general will be Cindy Kiro, who is set to take over from Patsy Reddy in September.

Jacinda Ardern said that while she believed New Zealand would become a republic during her lifetime, it won’t be any time soon.

“I’ve been very clear that despite being a republican, I’m not of the view that in the here-and-now in my term of office, that this is something New Zealanders feel particularly strongly about,” Ardern said.

“I don’t know that I’ve had one person actually raise with me generally day-to-day the issue of becoming a republic. This government has prioritised those issues that we do see as a priority. But I do still think there will be a time and a place; I just don’t see it as now.”

Meanwhile, the NZ Republic group has suggested that the pick for new governor general should be ratified by the whole of parliament.

“It’s clear the New Zealand public don’t want a politician as head of state or governor general, and so putting a motion before parliament, supported by all parties, would confirm this,” said the group’s spokesperson Lewis Holden. “The current constitutional crisis on Samoa emphasises why it’s important that all parties support the nominee for our de facto head of state.”

8.00am: Travel bubble safe despite four mystery Covid-19 cases in Melbourne

Four people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Melbourne – but the trans-Tasman bubble is intact for now.

The new cases are all linked, however how they caught the virus remains a mystery. There is no known links to another Melbourne case of Covid-19 that was recorded on May 11.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Health last night confirmed there would be no pause to quarantine-free travel with Melbourne.

However, there will be testing and isolation requirements on people who have been in locations of interest in Melbourne, including those who have travelled back to New Zealand in recent days.

“In Australia, the 14-day travel restrictions for those who have visited locations of interest means they are ineligible to travel to New Zealand within 14 days from exposure – even with a negative Covid-19 test,” said a spokesperson.

“As an additional precaution, the Ministry recommends anyone in New Zealand who has visited Melbourne since May 11 should monitor for symptoms and if any develop seek advice on testing from Healthline.”

Several locations of interest have been identified, including a shopping mall and a Nando’s restaurant.

“Anyone planning to travel to Victoria should take into account that advice from health authorities could change at any time and be prepared for their travel plans to be disrupted.”

A further update is expected later today.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

New Zealand will soon have a new governor general. After her five year term finishes in September, Dame Patsy Reddy will step down and make way for Dame Cindy Kiro – our live updates (3pm) has the details. Dame Cindy spoke of service at the announcement. “This idea about service is a really old fashioned idea, but I think it’s still an important one,” she said. “This notion of service has really gone to the heart of all that I have done… it’s been a career of service mainly for children and young people, and those who cannot speak for themselves.”

If the name isn’t familiar, Kiro has had a long career in academia and public life. She spent five years as the Children’s Commissioner, and has held significant university roles, particularly in public health. Kiro is of Māori (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Hine) and British descent. Even though it is a non-political role, Kiro’s career has been very much in line with the stated priorities of the Ardern government, and her life story is one of remarkable achievement and success.

And while Kiro hasn’t been a politician as such, some of her work has been political in nature – though as more of an activist and advocate. That’s reasonably unavoidable in public life, because there’s very few people who only have reason to say things that everyone agrees with. But it could cause some tension. The NZ Herald reports Act leader David Seymour used the appointment to both congratulate Kiro, and also took a swipe at Dame Patsy for “lecturing the public with politicised speeches”. Family First’s Bob McCoskrie also pointedly rehashed some of the disputes he and others in that space of politics have had with Kiro in the past.

There’s no suggestion that Kiro can or would use her powers for political ends. But without wanting to draw unwarranted analogies to Sāmoa (more on that below) the recent troubles they’ve been having there shows that sometimes constitutional powers get used in controversial ways. In more simple times, they also hold the power to invite potential PMs to form governments, based on whether they can command the majority of the house. On this point, I’d like to throw back to this fascinating excerpt from a speech made by former governor general Sir Jerry Mateparae about this process, and what he took into account when deciding if a grouping had the numbers to govern.

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