Live updates, May 27: Collins records dire approval rating in latest TVNZ poll

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 27, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

6.30pm: Travel from Victoria suspended until next Friday as outbreak grows

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from parliament:

A serious Covid-19 outbreak in Victoria has created the trans-Tasman bubble’s most serious challenge yet with New Zealand banning all travel from the Australian state until next Friday.

As many as 5,000 people in New Zealand who recently returned from Melbourne have also now been ordered by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield to self-isolate at home and stay there until receiving a negative Covid-19 test. Bloomfield issued a notice under the health act at parliament this evening making the order legally mandatory.

All such recent returnees should be contacted by the Ministry of Health and will be given more advice in the coming days.

The 10 day pause is the most significant interruption to travel since the bubble was created earlier this year and comes as case numbers have risen quickly in Victoria, fuelled by a more infectious variant first seen in India. Nearly 100 locations of interest have also been identified in the state, making contact tracing difficult.

Speaking with reporters at parliament, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the government had given New Zealanders an ample “flyers beware” warning when the trans-Tasman bubble opened on April 19. Health officials are monitoring the situation in Victoria and could add further requirements in the coming days, including a possible need for pre-departure testing before leaving Australia.

If the freeze on travel were to be made longer, Hipkins said emergency repatriation flights to bring New Zealanders to managed isolation facilities here would be considered.

6.05pm: Collins’ approval rating drops like a stone in latest Colmar Brunton/TVNZ poll

Judith Collins’ approval rating as National leader has dropped by almost 30 points since December, the latest Colmar Brunton/TVNZ poll has found. Her approval rating is at -19, down from +9 in December 2020.

Approval ratings are calculated by taking the amount of people who approve of a politician’s performance, and subtracting the amount of people who disapprove.

Despite its leader’s poor showing, National has seen a small rise in party support:

Based on these poll results the parliamentary seat entitlement would be as follows:

Labour Party: 59
National Party: 36
ACT Party: 12
Green Party: 11
Māori Party: 2

(The Colmar Brunton/TVNZ seat entitlement method assumes Rawiri Waititi holds the seat of Waiariki)

In the preferred prime minister stakes, the results are as follows, with the change from the last poll on March 15 in brackets.

Preferred PM:

Jacinda Ardern: 48% (up 5%)
Judith Collins: 9% (up 1%)
David Seymour: 6% (up 2%)
Christopher Luxon: 3% (up 1%)
Chlöe Swarbrick: 2% (up 1%)
Simon Bridges: 2% (up 1%)
Winston Peters: 1%
Sir John Key: 1%

Top stories:

5.00pm: Travel bubble with Victoria paused for another week

New Zealand’s pause on quarantine-free travel with Victoria will stay in place until next Friday as the Australian state enters a week-long lockdown (see 1.20pm update). Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield are currently updating media, including our political editor Justin Giovannetti, on the situation from parliament.

More to follow

3.10pm: Recapping a bumpy five weeks of the trans-Tasman bubble

Trans-Tasman travel with the state of Victoria is currently on hold and most likely will be for another week.

It comes amid a growing number of Covid-19 cases in the state, with 11 new cases revealed overnight.

Since the travel bubble opened five weeks ago on April 19 – with a multi-hour performance of Dave Dobbyn’s welcome home – a handful of Australian outbreaks have forced quarantine-free travel to be paused.

  • On April 24, a 72 hour halt was put in place for travel to and from Western Australia;
  • A week later, on May 1, a 24 hour pause to travel was again implemented for Western Australia;
  • On May 6, travel was paused to New South Wales for 72 hours; and
  • On Tuesday this week, May 25, travel to Victoria was stopped for 72 hours. At this stage, it is set to resume tomorrow but in all likelihood will remain paused for a further seven days.

That means that the trans-Tasman bubble has spent an entire week of its five week life “popped” due to Covid-19 outbreaks across the ditch.

As for whether or not travel will continue to be suspended to Victoria, we’re expecting a further update from the Ministry of Health this afternoon.

1.40pm: Anyone who has been in Melbourne urged to monitor health

The Ministry of Health is reminding anyone who has been in Melbourne since May 11 to keep an eye on their health – and get tested for Covid-19 if needed.

The entire state of Victoria is set to enter a seven day lockdown from midnight tonight after a further 11 Covid-19 cases were linked to a growing cluster overnight.

In a statement, the ministry confirmed it would be reviewing its current pause on quarantine-free travel with Melbourne today and releasing an update this afternoon.

“Given the time frames, it is crucial that everyone who has been in the state of Victoria since May 11 keeps checking Victoria Health’s website detailing the locations of interest,” a spokesperson said.

“Anyone who has been at a location of interest at the specified time must immediately self-isolate and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on when to get tested.”

Ashley Bloomfield issued a specific plea for people to up their use of the Covid tracer app as a result of the growing risk of spread. “It can help contact tracers quickly find potential close and casual contacts if there is a positive Covid-19 case here in New Zealand,” the director general of health said.

“And of course, anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should isolate, be tested and remain isolated until the receive their test results,” he said.

Meanwhile, there is one new case in managed isolation and none in the community. The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 21. Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,314.

1.20pm: Victoria enters week-long lockdown

The entire state of Victoria is heading into a seven day lockdown after another 11 Covid-19 cases were linked overnight to a growing community cluster.

Acting Victoria premier James Merlino said the state would go into lockdown from midnight tonight until 11.59pm on June 3. People will only be allowed out of their homes for a limited number of reasons including exercise and shopping for essential items.

Merlino said there were more than 10,000 primary or secondary contacts of the cluster cases.

One person in the cluster is now in intensive care, Merlino said. More than 150 exposure sites across Victoria have been confirmed.

“Our primary concern is just how fast this variant is moving,” Merlino said. Everyone in the cluster has tested positive for the Indian variant of the virus.

“Only way to get through this is for everyone getting vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”

It has not yet been confirmed what this lockdown will mean for trans-Tasman travel, although quarantine-free flights to Victoria have already been on hold for two days.

1.00pm: New poll on the way – what will it mean for Judith Collins?

TVNZ is set to release its next political poll tonight, it’s third since last year’s election.

It comes a week after a budget and around two weeks after a Newshub poll that showed crumbling support for National’s Judith Collins.

Tonight’s result could make or break it for Collins, who has spent the last few weeks facing criticism over her party’s alleged race baiting tactics.

TVNZ is teasing that tonight’s poll features a “new name” in the preferred prime minister stakes. Start taking your picks, now!

12.30pm: 50 hours to evacuate in Auckland volcanic eruption – study

A new study reveals it would take around 50 hours for Aucklanders to evacuate following a volcanic eruption.

The entire city sits on top of a volcanic field – although no eruptions are thought to be imminent (thankfully).

Canterbury University’s Ben Kennedy said the paper provides four elements that could lessen the evacuation time needed. “If 1) the population is prepared, 2) the eruption occurs in less populated areas, 3) roads are less congested, and 4) we know exactly where the eruption will be ahead of time,” he said, in comments to the Science Media Centre.

“This last point is an important reminder to volcanologists that we need to refine techniques to work out how fast magma has risen in the past. At the moment estimated magma rise rates indicate timescales of less than a week, but with large uncertainties.”

Adrian Pittari from Waikato University said planning for a possible eruption could stop chaos ensuing. “The suggested evacuation times are a good estimate, and evacuations would be successful in situations where rising magmas are detected early and there is enough time before they reach shallow levels in the crust to erupt,” Pittari said.

11.10am: Melbourne lockdown possible after further rise in Covid numbers

Melbourne’s Covid-19 cluster has now grown to 26 active cases, with the possibility of a sudden lockdown looming. Overnight, 12 new community cases were confirmed in the state.

According to local media, government officials met late last night to debate next steps in Victoria’s Covid response. Reportedly, a five or even 10 day lockdown have been contemplated.

One of the supposed leaks came from Millionaire Hot Seat host Eddie McGuire who claimed to have been told about the lockdown from “government sources”.

10.55am: Prominent businessman sentenced to more than two years in prison

The Spinoff’s Josie Adams reports from the High Court in Auckland:

The prominent businessman found guilty of three charges of indecent assault and two charges of attempting to dissuade a witness was sentenced today.

He will spend two years and four months in prison, a period of time considered too long for home detention. It was clear he’s expected to serve his term in prison.

Today, three victim impact statements were read to the court. They described the financial and psychological affects of the businessman’s actions, along with his continued presence at events before and after his guilty verdict, and the trial itself.

“I do not forgive you… I only hope one day time will allow me to forget you,” said one victim. “[The] complete lack of understanding or apology infuriates me”, said another.

The court found the two attempts to dissuade a witness were more the responsibility of the businessman than entertainer Mika X or PR consultant Jevan Goulter. Mika X was sentenced earlier this year to 11 months home detention after attempting to help the businessman to derail his court case.

The businessman’s defence plans to appeal the sentence as soon as possible.

Name suppression for the businessman was ordered to continue meaning that, for now, The Spinoff is unable to reveal his identity.

10.25am: Social media backlash after 60 Minutes trailer

An extraordinary trailer for an upcoming 60 Minutes investigation has prompted wide criticism from New Zealanders.

The trailer –which features an ominous voiceover, shots of Chinese president Xi Jinping… and Mike Hosking – teases an investigation into New Zealand’s links to the Chinese communist regime.

Enjoy.

9.30am: $200m PGF replacement unveiled

The short-lived $3 billion provincial growth fund – the passion project of Shane Jones – is officially no more, replaced with a much cheaper alternative.

$200 million will be invested into the new “regional strategic partnership fund”, an election promise of Labour able to implemented without the coalition shackles of New Zealand First.

Economic development minister Stuart Nash said the new fund formed a vital part of post-Covid recovery efforts.

“Over this parliamentary term the RSPF has three goals. It will work in local partnerships to enable economic and business development, accelerate Māori economic aspirations, and support sector transformation. Each region will help decide its own priorities,” said Nash.

“Central government will partner with local government, iwi, businesses, community organisations and other agencies to identify priorities and co-funding opportunities.”

When the policy was announced last year, prime minister Jacinda Ardern defended the decision to scrap the provincial growth fund.

“The PGF was only ever designed to be a $3 billion project over three years,” Ardern said. “Now that it’s coming to its completion our view is that going forward we need to keep investing in our regional economies. We need to do it in partnership with the regional economic development agencies.”

The Provincial Development Unit – renamed Kānoa – will have management and oversight of the new fund. “It has a track record of regional investment in loans, equity and grants, and manages $4.5 billion in eight separate funds which are contributing significantly to building our regional economies,” Nash said.

8.40am: Ministry to blame for ‘end of July’ vaccine date change – Hipkins

The Covid-19 response minister is blaming the Ministry of Health for a change in messaging regarding when people can expect their Pfizer jab.

The ministry’s vaccine website used to say that the general public – or group four – would be getting their vaccinations from July. It was quietly changed to “end of July” over the weekend.

After facing criticism from the opposition for the unannounced date change, Chris Hipkins today said the change in messaging was a little premature.

“Nothing actually has changed at this point, I think someone at the Ministry of Health has got a little bit carried away,” he told RNZ this morning.

“The reality here is that we don’t know yet what our delivery plans for July will be until we know how many vaccines we’re going to have.”

Hipkins said that Pfizer is contractually obliged to deliver enough vaccine doses for all New Zealanders between July and September. Pfizer usually notifies the government of deliveries around four weeks in advance.

Earlier this month the auditor-general told the ministry of health that it should improve its communications with the public around the vaccine rollout, specifically around the timing of groups getting a jab. A week after that recommendation, the ministry updated the timeline without any public notice. The change only became public after being spotted by reporters.

Hipkins said the plan for the group four roll-out is still from July – even if it ends up being the end of the month.

8.00am: Newstalk ZB’s Martin Devlin off-air again

Newstalk ZB’s sports host Martin Devlin is facing another investigation, following recent reports of workplace bullying.

Devlin returned to work over the weekend, less than two weeks after trying to punch a young journalist colleague.

He later confirmed the incident in a statement late last week where he also admitted sending unsolicited emails to female staff members.

Now, NZME – who owns Newstalk ZB and the NZ Herald – has confirmed new matters have come to light.

“In recent days NZME has been made aware of matters allegedly involving on-air host Martin Devlin that require further investigation,” read a statement published via the Herald.

“Martin will remain off-air while these matters are independently investigated and until they are appropriately resolved. Martin has said he will cooperate fully with the investigation.”

NZME faced social media criticism for allowing Devlin back on air following the May 10 incident. In a follow-up report for Stuff, the intended victim of Devlin’s punch raised concerns with NZME’s internal investigation into the incident.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

We’ve all fallen off the wagon here, but it might be time to start taking preventative measures against Covid more seriously. A couple of pieces have highlighted how real the risk still is for New Zealand, with experts warning that winter could bring fresh outbreaks. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder has wrapped up a few recent international examples of elimination strategies collapsing, which have some similarities with New Zealand’s situation – except in some cases for the island borders. And as Stuff’s Bridie Witton reports, experts are warning that it could happen here too.

The trans-Tasman bubble presents an obvious risk, even if that risk is relatively low. There is deep concern over there about the Melbourne outbreak – writing in The Age, epidemiologist Hassan Vally said the next 24 hours will be critically important to understanding whether the spread is merely concerning, or potentially catastrophic. While a lockdown hasn’t happened yet, “we must prepare for the possible reintroduction of the type of restrictions we thought were long behind us,” writes Vally. Radio NZ reports that 10,000 people have flown in from Melbourne since May 11.

And if there was to be an outbreak, it might be a long while before contact tracers could complete their work. Scanning rates on the official government app have fallen off a cliff, and anecdotally speaking from being out and about, nobody is bothering to write their details on the paper forms that are also offered. Stuff’s Hannah Martin reports just over one in ten people were scanning daily two weeks ago, and it’s difficult to see any reason why that would have improved since. Speaking of the Covid app, there were some excellent pieces to mark a year of use: Dr Andrew Chen wrote about what had been learned and whether it represented some missed opportunities on Newsroom, and Henry Burrell of Business Desk analysed a year’s worth of scanning data.

Meanwhile, the vaccine rollout timeline has been clarified – or delayed, depending on whose word you take. Justin Giovannetti filed a report to our live updates which sorts out exactly what is now expected. It’ll be the end of July before the majority of New Zealanders can roll their sleeves up for the jab.


The hack attack on the Waikato DHB is now considered to be the largest cyberattack in the country’s history, reports the NZ Herald. In fact, it’s so serious that it has been escalated up to the Officials’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (I hadn’t heard of them before now either) who held an urgent response meeting yesterday afternoon. Medical records have apparently been leaked to media organisations, who say they will not publish details from them, but it shows the access the hackers have managed to gain. Meanwhile, the Volunteer Service Abroad organisation say they too have just been hit by a ransom attack, reports Radio NZ.

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