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blog final oct 27

PoliticsOctober 27, 2021

Live updates, October 27: November 15 ‘absolutely deliverable’ for schools reopening, says Hipkins

blog final oct 27

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 27, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.

The 1pm update, summarised

  • There are 74 new cases of delta. 68 are in Auckland, six are in Waikato.
  • The parts of Waikato currently in alert level three will move to the equivalent of Auckland’s step one at 11.59pm tonight.
  • The “indicative” reopening date for primary schools is November 15.
  • 41 people are now in hospital with Covid-19.
  • There are now 562 cases and close contacts self-isolating at home.

5.40pm: November 15 ‘absolutely a deliverable timeframe’ if case numbers stay stable – Hipkins

The government’s November 15 goal for a staggered return to school for primary students will be a reality as long as case numbers don’t spike, according to Chris Hipkins.

Speaking to RNZ’s Checkpoint this evening, the education and Covid-19 response minister said if case numbers remain stable, “the 15th is absolutely a deliverable timeframe”.

Pressed on what stable means in this context, Hipkins said it “would be very encouraging” if cases stayed at around 100 a day.

Today, there were 74 Covid-19 cases in the community, following days of 79, 109, 80, 104, 129 and 102.

5.15pm: Hīkoi to Waitangi ‘disappointing’, ‘dangerous’, says Ngāpuhi

The country’s biggest iwi has expressed its opposition to the “Sovereign Hīkoi of Truth”, a group of protesters attempting to travel through Ngāpuhi’s rohe to Waitangi in breach of Covid-19 restrictions.

“A hīkoi organised by a group opposed to vaccination makes this event particularly dangerous for whānau residing in Te Tai Tokerau at this time,” says a statement on the iwi’s website. “We have seen a quick rise in our rohe of confirmed cases of the delta Covid-19 virus in recent days, and it’s imperative further threat isn’t introduced.

“We have not fought this virus for 20 months and tolerated the harsh restrictions around tangihanga, gathering at marae and visiting whānau, to abandon this plan now.”

The iwi condemned the group’s use of tomorrow’s anniversary of the signing of He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand) to further its cause. As reported by The Spinoff earlier today, members of the hīkoi are flying United Tribes flags in support of “sovereign citizen” ideas – essentially that people are not naturally subject to the laws of the country they’re living in.

“It is disappointing that organisers are using He Whakaputanga, or the Declaration of Independence, as a means to bring attention to their cause; unfortunately this hikoi diverts attention from a genuine commemoration of a covenant in the history of Ngāpuhi,” said the iwi’s statement.

Meanwhile, police say they have deployed additional staff, including iwi liaison officers, to monitor the hīkoi as it travels north. While many protesters who started in Rotorua were unable to make it through roadblocks at the southern Auckland boundary, others are heading towards Waitangi from Whangārei.

Additional staff have also been deployed at Waitangi, and police say they’re working with leaders of Te Tii Marae, “who have indicated that the protesters are not welcome this year due to the risk posed by the delta strain of Covid-19”.

“While police recognise the public’s right to protest, we must ensure the safety of all people involved as well as ensuring the current Covid-19 restrictions in place are followed.”

Earlier, Te Tai Tokerau leader Hone Harawira labelled the protesters a “slobbering hīkoi of idiots and twats”.

4.40pm: New modelling charts the course of the delta outbreak to early January

Newly released modelling from Te Pūnaha Matatini suggests a “circuit-breaking” level four lockdown may still be needed should case numbers rise rapidly in Auckland. If transmission is kept low enough, however, a combination of level three restrictions and high vaccination rates could reduce the model reproduction number (R number) to under one by next month, meaning cases can be managed with existing health system capacity.

By January, based on vaccination data and bookings for the Auckland metro region, Te Pūnaha Matatini estimates that vaccination will reduce the R number by approximately 67%.

Asked by the Herald where he felt the outbreak was currently sitting in respect to the two scenarios modelled, the study’s co-author, Michael Plank, said growing case numbers in the past week “pushes us more toward that pessimistic one”.

“I’m not sure we’re quite there yet, as we haven’t hit the point where we’re getting 150 to 200 cases a day,” he said. “But if we do within the next week or so, I think we’d be in that scenario.”

Plank said he didn’t “entirely buy” the government’s reasoning for its reluctance to go to level four, which the prime minister has said wouldn’t work due to the nature of the outbreak and compliance issues.

“That may have been true a few weeks ago, but the outbreak has become much more geographically spread across the whole of Auckland,” he said. “So, I think a short circuit-breaker would break some of those chains of transmission and help bring case numbers down, or at least stop them from going up too steeply.”

3.35pm: Labour finds no friends after three waters announcement

The Labour Party is alone in its support of the newly mandated three waters reform.

Earlier today, it was confirmed that four new entities would be put in charge of the country’s water, stripping councils of control. National, Act, the Greens and the Māori Party have all spoken out against the plan. New Zealand First, who is not in parliament, has also slammed the announcement.

Eugenie Sage, three waters spokesperson for the Green Party, said local communities have not had enough time to have their say on the plan. “The Green Party is calling on the government to stop and listen to what councils are saying. It needs to allow time to work through concerns and look at alternatives ways of achieving a positive outcome for New Zealanders,” Sage said.

“Access to clean water is a basic human right and a public good. People want to have their say on how drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services are provided for present and future generations.”

Pushing ahead with three waters without addressing councils’ concerns could risk undermining community support for any form of change, added Sage. “This could set back efforts to improve the delivery of three waters by years.”

National and Act were more critical, with the latter accusing the government of stealing council assets.

3.20pm: Minister quizzed after reports of ACC privacy breach

The government has faced questions after reports ACC call centre workers have been exchanging details of people’s injuries in a group on Snapchat.

According to RNZ, the private group named “ACC Whores” saw workers mocking the injury descriptions by claimants.

Jan Tinetti, speaking in place of ACC minister Carmel Sepuloni, faced questions on the alleged privacy breach in parliament. She said she was confident ACC could maintain the privacy of those who made claims.

“I was appalled when I was informed… I have spoken to the acting chief executive and made it clear that this is unacceptable,” said Tinetti. “I am advised the staff involved have been suspended.”

An investigation was under way, said Tinetti, the findings of which would be provided directly to the minister.

In a statement, National’s ACC spokesperson Simon Watts said public confidence in ACC was critical – but that trust was starting to go down the drain.

2.55pm: Today’s key numbers, charted

Here are some of today’s key Covid-19 numbers, from The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page.

As you can see, while daily Covid cases have been on the decline they remain well above the levels seen throughout much of the delta outbreak. Meanwhile, hospitalisations nudged back above 40 today after a large drop earlier in the week.

2.20pm: Vaccine, testing numbers, bounce back after Labour Day slump

After a slow day for vaccines and testing over the long weekend, numbers recovered yesterday.

Nationwide, 17,536 tests were taken yesterday with more than 13,500 of these in Auckland alone. On the vaccine front, 42,136 were administered yesterday which comprised of 10,872 first doses and 31,264 second.

Auckland has ticked over the 90% milestone for first doses and is sitting at 78% fully dosed.

Want to check out how your own region is tracking? Look no further:

1.40pm: Booster shots ‘this side of Christmas’ – Bloomfield

Booster shots could start to be rolled out before the end of the year, said Ashley Bloomfield.

Currently, only people who are immunocompromised are able to access a third dose of the Pfizer jab.

Speaking at today’s 1pm press conference, Bloomfield said Medsafe have received the necessary data from Pfizer. “It was only last week that Pfizer published the randomised control trial of the booster dose showing very good efficacy in bring peoples’ protection right back up again,” he said.

All going well, people who were first in line for their vaccines will be able to access a booster “this side of Christmas”, added Bloomfield.

1.25pm: A reminder of the rules for level three, step one

People in level-three Waikato will have restrictions eased as they move to level three, “step one” from 11.59pm tonight. Here’s our explainer on what that means.

In summary:

– You can catch up with members of another household, but only outdoors.
– Early childhood centres can reopen, with kids in bubbles of up to 10.
– More outdoor recreation will be allowed.

Otherwise, it’s level three as usual. Your friendly introduction to the level three rules can be found here.

1.15pm: Staged reopening of schools planned for November 15

Students in years one to 10 will hopefully be able to return to school from next month, said Covid/education minister Chris Hipkins.

Over the coming week, the Ministry of Education will work with representatives from schools and kura on a staged reopening of schools for years 9-10 and younger. Currently, just senior students are able to be in the classroom.

They’ll be working towards “an indicative start date” of November 15, said Hipkins.

This will likely involve different groups of students attending on different days and will involve more outdoor learning.

Hipkins said he did not believe it was safe yet to see primary schools return but the mid-November date was “more realistic”. As for years nine and 10, Hipkins said the delay was simply because of the risk of overcrowding if all secondary students were back in classrooms. “I would like to see years nine and 10 back at school this year, if possible,” said Hipkins.

Read more: Auckland needs its schools to reopen. Here’s what must happen first

1.10pm: Waikato restrictions eased slightly

People in the parts of Waikato that are at alert level three will move to the equivalent of Auckland’s step one at 11.59pm tonight.

That means, like in Auckland, two bubbles of up to 10 people can meet in an outdoor setting, more recreation activities will be allowed, and ECE centres will return. On Monday, the alert levels in both Waikato and Auckland will be reviewed.

Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said officials weren’t comfortable loosening restrictions in Waikato too much due to the continuing increase in delta numbers. The rest of Waikato – currently in level two – will remain under existing restrictions.

“The government has followed public health advice,” said Hipkins. “Waikato cases are predominantly confined to one network and there have not been any major exposure events.”

Don’t remember the level three, step one, rules? Neither really. Here’s our very useful explainer.

1.00pm: Another 74 delta cases, including six in Waikato

There are 74 new community cases of Covid-19 to report today. Of these cases, 68 are in Auckland and six are in Waikato.

It’s a slight drop from yesterday’s 79 cases and a further drop from the recent triple figure days.

So far, 31 of today’s cases remain unlinked. All of the new Waikato cases have been connected to the outbreak. There are now 269 mystery cases from across the past fortnight, including 19 from yesterday.

Twenty-five of yesterday’s cases were infectious in the community, said the Ministry of Health. There are now 41 people in hospital with Covid-19, including five in intensive care.

No new cases have been confirmed in Northland or the South Island, despite recent Covid scares. The ministry is urging people living in Northland to “remain vigilant” and get tested if they have any symptoms that could be Covid-19.

There are now 562 cases and close contacts, across 216 households, are safely isolating at home, said Ashley Bloomfield.

In Auckland, residents in the Auckland suburbs of Redvale, Rosedale, New Lynn, Wiri, Drury, Manurewa and Henderson have been asked to get tested as soon as possible if they have even very mild symptoms that might be Covid-19, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Chris Hipkins once again said that vaccination was the best way to stay safe from Covid. It’s not a question of if cases will emerge outside Auckland, it’s a case of when, he said. Of the 2,759 cases from the outbreak, just seven fully vaccinated people have needed to go to hospital.

Finally, on the FDA approving the Pfizer vaccine for 5-11-year-olds, Hipkins said Medsafe is ready to move quickly on an application of its own. We’re expecting all the information through from Pfizer in the first two weeks of November, added Bloomfield.

12.50pm: Hipkins to give Covid update, reveal latest on Waikato lockdown

Covid response minister Chris Hipkins will front today’s Covid-19 press conference alongside the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

We’re expecting the latest case numbers following the slump reported yesterday, along with an update on Waikato’s level three lockdown. We’re also anticipating an update on schools in level three, however the long-awaited changes to MIQ rules will now be announced tomorrow.

Follow along with the livestream or keep this page update for our live coverage.

12.40pm: Shirt number 69 no longer banned by Black Caps

*Update: I’ve since been made aware Ferguson didn’t actually play due to injury so… I guess we’re still waiting for that historic 69 debut*

The Black Caps played Pakistan in the opening game of the T20 World Cup overnight fast bowler Lockie Ferguson making history as the first New Zealander to wear shirt number 69 in a full men’s international. As reported by The Spinoff in 2017, New Zealand Cricket had previously “banned” the number due to its rude connotations, with Ferguson instead wearing number 87 when representing the national team.

At the time the paceman explained the reason he wore number 69 for the Auckland Aces had nothing to do with sex – it was because he is a Gemini.

12.20pm: Tova O’Brien almost got blown away by a gust of wind during her first live cross

Newshub’s political editor tells us about her first live cross, breaking the law and more in this week’s episode of FIRST.

11.50am: Ardern coy on alleged Europe trip

The prime minister has remained coy when questioned about an unannounced European trip set to be timed with an overhauled MIQ system.

According to the Act Party, Jacinda Ardern will be heading abroad later this year and subsequently isolating at home rather than in a facility.

But, so far, the PM has refused to confirm this report. “It is fair to say that for a number of months, of course as we negotiate the EU/FTA we are reaching a critical juncture and the question has been raised as to whether or not I will be able to support the conclusion of those talks,” said Ardern in question time.

“As you can imagine, for me, so much of what I do in the next few weeks is entirely dependent on what’s happening here in New Zealand.”

11.30am: New Gone By Lunchtime out now

Toby Manhire, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas have hopped back on Zoom to record a fresh episode of Gone By Lunchtime. They discuss the newly announced traffic light system, vaccine rates, mandates, MIQ, housing policy and how Annabelle rescued a pigeon.

Listen on Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider – and vote for Gone By Lunchtime in the NZ Podcast Awards!

10.50am: ‘Slobbering hīkoi of idiots’ block Auckland motorway

Hone Harawira has labelled protestors attempting to cross the border into Northland a “slobbering hīkoi of idiots and twats”.

The Tai Tokerau Border Control founder said no invitation was extended to the protestors by Waitangi Marae or local iwi. “This Hīkoi is a scam, organised and run by pākehā anti-vaxxers,” said Harawira.

The convoy of at least 50 vehicles left Rotorua last night and arrived at Auckland’s Mercer checkpoint about midnight where it was met by a roadblock. The plan was to travel through the supercity and up north to Waitangi to protest the ongoing Covid response.

According to police, while most of the protestors complied, two vehicles, including a bus, were parked on state highway one in the northern lanes with the drivers refusing to move them. At around 2.30am, some of the protestors surged forward on foot from Orams Road, blocking the southern lane of the motorway.

The group of protestors remain parked up to the side of the road near the southern checkpoints and police continue to monitor the situation for the safety of everyone involved.

A number of protestors also turned up at the northern checkpoints this morning, said police. More than 50 people arrived on the northern side of the Te Hana checkpoint and around a dozen people on the southern side.

10.30am: Three waters given the green light

The controversial three waters proposal referring to has been given the green light, despite backlash from councils around the country.

The government’s announced plans to create four publicly owned water entities that will amalgamate control over drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. It claims this will “ensure every New Zealander has access to affordable, long-lasting drinking, waste and storm water infrastructure”.

Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta has spearheaded the plan and said $185 billion will need to be injected into our water infrastructure over the next three decades. It’s expected the new entities will be up and running by mid-2024.

“Local councils are trying to deal with the upkeep of aging infrastructure, which is literally crumbling in some of our biggest cities. They face the additional strains of growing population, climate change resilience and extreme weather events, as well as competing for a limited number of skilled workers to do the job,” said Mahuta.

“New Zealanders simply cannot afford to follow the status quo facing costs of between $1900 and $9000 over the next 30 years, depending on location. Under reform proposals with four entities those figures significantly reduce to between $800 and $1640, saving each household thousands of dollars.”

Between 6000 and 9000 jobs will be created over the next 30 years through the implementation of the three waters plan, said Mahuta.

However, the government’s move will likely face staunch opposition from councils. As Justin Giovannetti wrote in a recent edition of The Bulletin, a number of mayors have been upset by the proposal. Matamata-Piako mayor Ash Tanner spoke told Newshub he was angry and called the plan “crap”. And, as Newsroom notes, councils such as the Far North, Whangārei and Grey District have all voted to “opt out” of three waters. Expect the reaction to come swiftly.

The National Party has also been strongly against the proposition. Chris Luxon likened the move to the “state-sanctioned theft of assets” and said the four entity model was “fundamentally broken”.

9.50am: Announcement on MIQ revamp delayed

An announcement on shorter MIQ stays, along with home isolation, has been bumped to tomorrow.

Covid response minister Chris Hipkins was expected to reveal the government’s plans for the MIQ system at today’s 1pm briefing after cabinet considered the matter earlier in the week. However, Hipkins’ office confirmed to The Spinoff that the announcement will now take place on Thursday due to “a couple of loose ends” that need tying up.

8.50am: Collins denies reaching out to anti-vaxxers over mandate comments

National leader Judith Collins has denied pandering to anti-vaxxers with her latest comments on vaccination mandates.

It was yesterday announced that, once we reach the new traffic light framework, 40% of the workforce will require the jab. However, Collins said that as soon as we hit 90% double dosed it should be up to businesses to determine who they will and won’t serve – and the mandates should then cease.

“We believe that 90% double vaccinated is going to be something where people should be able to have some of their freedoms back,” Collins told RNZ.

Asked whether a mandate could help stop the spread of Covid at an event like Rhythm and Vines, Collins admitted that it could. “But there is no certificate at the moment and the traffic light system only comes into effect once we get 90% double vaccination across the whole country. It is extremely confusing for people and there is no detail released,” she said.

Collins said a timeline should be provided so people know when mandates may no longer be required. “There needs to be a time when people won’t need to do that.”

One commentator yesterday suggested that Collins was reaching out to anti-vaxxers, a claim she rejected.”I saw that commentator making that assertion, which I thought was a very long bow to draw,” she said. “It was actually about saying that if you believe in private property rights, you believe in personal responsibility, the best way to get more people to be vaccinated is not to be seen to bully them.”

8.00am: 50-vehicle hīkoi of ‘anti-vaxxers’ stopped at Auckland border

At least 50 vehicles were stopped at Auckland’s southern border overnight, part of a planned hīkoi from Rotorua to Waitangi in Northland.

Footage viewed by The Spinoff showed the convoy, including cars, utes and buses, departing Rotorua at about 6pm yesterday evening. In a statement, police said they were aware of the hīkoi and asked members not to try cross into Auckland.

“We are strongly advising those who intend to take part in this that any travel across the Auckland boundary that is not specifically permitted by the Health order requires an exemption,” said police. “Those who are found to be deliberately breaching alert level restrictions can expect to face enforcement action.”

Police said they had been liaising closely with iwi partners in Auckland and Northland on this matter.

According to the Bay of Plenty Times, the hīkoi arrived at the Mercer border at midnight where it was met by a police roadblock. The vehicles then parked up on the side of the road where people reportedly sung waiata and gave motivational speeches.

The hīkoi arrives at the Mercer checkpoint (Image / Supplied)

In a Facebook post, Tai Tokerau Border Control founder Hone Harawira labelled the hīkoi members “idiots” and said it was a “scam” organised by Pākehā anti-vaxxers. “There is no invitation from Waitangi Marae, no invitation from the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, no invitation from Ngāti Kawa or Ngāti Rahiri, and no invitation from Ngāpuhi,” Harawira said.

The planned itinerary for the hīkoi showed new members joining in Auckland. It’s not known whether these people will try and make their own way to Northland.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

The government is introducing a sweeping vaccine mandate. Up to 40% of the country’s workforce could soon be covered by a vaccine order as the government has said it will extend the mandate to include any worker of a business requiring a vaccine passport at entry. Restaurants, gyms, cafes, hairdressers and other businesses that require the passports under the upcoming traffic light system will need to comply, Stuff reports. Businesses choosing not to require vaccine passports will remain contactless, have caps on the number of patrons or will be completely closed depending on the colour level. The government is working on a simplified system to guide all business owners on when they can require workers to be vaccinated.

The Covid numbers: There are 37 cases in hospital and 4 in ICU/HDU. The average age of someone hospitalised with the virus is 45. There are now 1,211 active cases in New Zealand. 75 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday, 4 in Waikato. 10,660 people were vaccinated on Monday.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

The end of MIQ is coming, eventually. The government is set to unveil today that stays at managed-isolation for some returnees will now be shorter, Newsroom reports. The move will open up more spots at the border. More changes will be coming over the next few months, eventually leading to a system where New Zealanders will be isolating at home after returning from overseas. It’s unclear when tourists, business travellers and students will be allowed to enter the country.

A near-record payout from Fonterra is coming. The co-operative is planning to pay about $8.40-per kilogram of milk solids, it’s one of the highest prices ever. It’s great news for rural New Zealand and farmers facing a mountain of debt. According to RNZ, Fonterra had forecast it would be paying almost $2 less only a few weeks ago. One of the big changes is that while demand from China has been weak, other markets have come forward in search of New Zealand milk.

Australia commits to 2050 net zero emissions. The Guardian reports that the country’s prime minister made the announcement before heading to the climate summit in Glasgow. Scott Morrison said his plan is a practical way for the country to cut its emissions, but some experts aren’t so sure. Despite Australia having some of the highest per capita emissions in the world, nearly half of the cuts are from unspecified technological breakthroughs, unexplained global trends and offsets.

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