Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 28, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
3.50pm: Promised roading projects up in the air, documents show
A number of key roading projects promised before the 2020 election may now never happen, prompting an irate response from National.
According to Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan, transport minister Michael Wood would not commit to saying whether all the 22 projects promised in the government’s multi-billion dollar transport policy in 2020 will actually be built in the way they were announced.
That includes major roading developments such as Ōtaki to Levin and the Melling interchange.
“Given the programme was announced pre-Covid, a baselining exercise has been done to provide more certainty around the scope, cost and schedule of the programme,” Wood told Stuff.
In a statement, National’s transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse slammed the government and said Labour will promise anything to get elected.
“For those living in Horowhenua this is déjà vu. Ōtaki to north of Levin was included as a Road of National Significance under the previous National government. It was then cancelled by Labour in 2018, revived by Labour in 2020 and now its future is uncertain, again,” he said.
“In our current economic environment flip flops and uncertainty like this is the last thing we need. The Labour government must come clean and confirm which projects are on the chopping block.”
FIRST: Angella Dravid explains the difference between MSN and Yahoo chat
Comedian Angella Dravid talks us through her first forays into chat rooms and an unusual first flatting experience in the latest episode of FIRST.
2.00pm: Live in Northland? Here’s where you can get an early vaccination
At today’s 1pm health briefing, Ayesha Verrall said the overall vaccine roll-out was 3% ahead of the schedule. However, the story is the opposite in the Northland region where the DHB has opened a number of walk-in clinics to get rid of excess vaccines.
The clinics can be found in Whangārei, Kerikeri, Kaihohe, Dargaville and Kaitai, allowing people in vaccine “group two” along with anyone over the age of 50 to get an early jab.
All the locations and times are available here.
The rest of us will have to wait until the public roll-out kicks off in June.
1.00pm: ‘Number of questions’ remain about how Perth traveller made it to NZ
Ayesha Verrall has defended the speed of the government’s vaccine roll-out, saying it’s 3% ahead of schedule. All New Zealanders over 16 are still on track to be offered their vaccination by the end of the year, she said.
“At present, our focus is on vaccinating the estimated 480,000 people in group two,” Verrall said. This group includes people aged 65 and above in the Counties-Manukau area along with people at high risk and on the frontline.
Overall, the vaccine roll-out was about 3% ahead of schedule – except in the Northland DHB area. A number of walk-in clinics have been opened up around the region allowing anyone over 50 to get the Covid-19 jab due to a last minute push to use up existing vaccine.
An extra 2000 to 3000 full-time vaccinators will be needed for the roll-out when it ramps up from July, Verrall said, and these people will help existing health workers.
Verrall said she had now received her second dose of the vaccine and, other than feeling a bit tired and displaying a small rash, she felt absolutely fine. She warned people not to hit the gym straight after receiving the jab, as she had done.
Ashley Bloomfield said that, as of last night, 232,588 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been given out in total. Of these, 172, 564 people had received the first dose with 60,024 having received both doses. In the last week, 47,981 received a dose of the vaccine.
Bloomfield said that 488 applications had been received from Sport NZ for early vaccinations, including from the Black Caps and olympians, as well as seven applications from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The latest data, Bloomfield said, showed that 95% of managed isolation workers had been vaccinated with a proportion of those unvaccinated currently booked in for the jab.
Perth traveller update
An investigation is ongoing into how a traveller from Perth made it out of the city’s lockdown and into New Zealand, said Bloomfield.
In this case, he said, there are a “number of questions” still to be asked about what has happened and it was too early to determine whether penalties would be given. The risk to the public remained low, Bloomfield added.
“It does provide a reminder that our overall Covid-19 response relies on accurate and complete information from people,” he said.
Pushed for further details, Bloomfield emphasised that he did not wish to jeopardise the ongoing investigation. He said he remained confident in the existing rules regarding travel.
“Any person who enters New Zealand who is ineligible for quarantine free travel is required to isolate for 14 days,” he said. A fine up to $4000 or six months’ jail is the penalty for breaching the Air Border order, he said.
The individual was tested in Perth – returning a negative result – and had now been transferred to managed isolation.
Meanwhile, there are no new community cases of Covid-19, Bloomfield said. There are two new cases in managed isolation, both recent returnees.
12.55pm: Watch – Verrall and Bloomfield to give update on how Perth traveller made it to NZ
Associate health minister Ayesha Verrall and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield are set to front today’s weekly 1pm Covid-19 briefing.
In addition to the regular vaccine and case number update, it’s expected the pair will be questioned on how a traveller from Perth made it out of the city’s lockdown and into the New Zealand community.
There may also be an update on the news from yesterday that wastewater testing in Auckland had revealed a “very weak” positive Covid-19 result.
12.45pm: $1m given to Red Cross to support India’s Covid response
The government has followed through on a pledge to offer financial support to India as the country battles a renewed wave of Covid-19.
New Zealand has given $1 million to the Red Cross to help fight the surge in case numbers.
In a statement, foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta said the government stands in solidarity with India.
“We believe a contribution to an international organisation that has a reputation for delivery is the most practical assistance we can make to India at this time,” said Mahuta.
“This is a distressing and challenging time for the people of India and we will work alongside the international community as we work to combat the debilitating impact of Covid-19 on the health of our people.”
12.05pm: National Party ‘warned’ over undeclared donations
The National Party has been given an official warning over its failure to declare $35,000 in donations from business Garth Barfoot on time.
As Newshub reports, political donations above the $30,000 threshold are required to be declared within 10 working days. In this case, National filed it on March 31 – several months after the donation was provided.
The Electoral Commission has written to National “reinforcing the importance of adhering to the statutory timeframes”.
Meanwhile, the police are continuing to investigate more than $300,000 worth of undeclared donations provided to the Māori Party.
11.45am: As NZ lifts India flight ban, Australia announces new restrictions
From today, New Zealand citizens will be allowed to return to the country from India as the temporary travel ban lifts. At 11.59pm tonight, a new category of “very high risk country” will be created and a new approach to locating arrivals will be introduced.
It will see arrivals placed into different managed isolation “cohorts” in an attempt to limit transmission within facilities.
But, as New Zealand moves to allow Indian travellers to return, Australia has announced a temporary ban on flights from the Covid-stricken nation.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said that, until May 15, all flights from India to Australia will be as the country continues to battle around 350,000 new cases of Covid-19 each day.
Morrison said, according to RNZ, that repatriation flights would resume as soon as possible as shutting out citizens was not a viable option for Australia. The most vulnerable would be prioritised on the first planes back, he added.
“We don’t think the answer is to just forsake those in India and just shut them off,” he said.
“I don’t see this as a problem we have to solve, I see this as a group of people we need to help … these are Australians and Australian residents who need our help.”
A flurry of podcasts
There’s a new episode of The Spinoff’s cricket podcast The Offspin out today, with guest diplomat / cricket statistician Michael Appleton joining Alex Braae and Simon Day for a chat. Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.
Also out today, a new episode of The Real Pod sees Alex Casey and Jane Yee mourning the recently announced death of Pods and recapping the latest from MAFS AU and Popstars. You can subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider too.
Stay tuned for a new episode of Gone By Lunchtime later today!
10.00am: Collins’ comments about Māori Health Authority show ‘misunderstanding of the Treaty’ – Little
Justin Latif reports from Ōtara:
Health minister Andrew Little has rubbished suggestions by National Party leader Judith Collins that a new Māori Health Authority is racist.
Little said the comments from Collins showed a “fundamental misunderstanding of the Treaty”.
“It’s really tragic when discussions around how we ensure good healthcare come down to ridiculous arguments like that,” he said. “Young Māori are three times more likely to die within a month if they suffer a major trauma compared to non-Māori. That tells you the current system is not looking after Māori. What we need is health leadership from te ao Māori and a Māori Heath Authority gives us that.”
Little made the comments following his announcement for a new $110 million South Auckland-based spinal rehabilitation unit. The state-of-the-art facility will be built at the Manukau health park, which is also undergoing a massive $220 million redevelopment, and will provide rehabilitation services for much of the North Island.
9.20am: Trans-Tasman bubble ‘loophole’ exposed by Perth arrival, says Whangārei mayor
Questions are being asked about how a traveller from Perth could make it to New Zealand despite the Australian city being in lockdown.
The trans-Tasman bubble was temporarily halted while the lockdown was in place, with quarantine-free travel set to resume today.
The traveller, however, arrived on Monday and made it all the way to Northland before health officials were made aware. The person is now in self-isolation.
Speaking to RNZ, Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said it was “unbelievable”. She told First Up: “There’s a sense of disbelief and many questions: How did this happen, where is this person? Northland is a large region, are they next door, are they miles away? Did they shop on their way up from Auckland, have they been exposed?”
Mai said she believed the traveller’s movements exposed a “loophole” in the system, a term that was rejected by Immigration New Zealand manager Peter Elms. “Quarantine-free travel does rely on people … to do the right thing and comply with the rules,” he later told RNZ.
“In this case what happened was that the individual had a ticket booked from Perth to Sydney and then onwards to Auckland. At some stage, that ticket from Sydney to Auckland was cancelled and subsequently, he booked a separate ticket with a different airline on another flight from Sydney to Auckland.
“By the time border agencies had matched the two itineraries with the individual, he’d arrived in Auckland and we had to respond after his arrival.”
Prosecution was still a possibility, said Elms, but authorities were yet to question the individual.
We’re anticipating the usual 1pm Wednesday stand-up today – fronted by Ashley Bloomfield and Ayesha Verrall – will answer any outstanding questions.
7.50am: National Party election review reveals stronger focus on diversity
An 18-page, abridged, version of the National Party’s election review has been leaked to Newshub’s Tova O’Brien, revealing a plan to return to power in 2023.
The review was ordered after the Opposition’s dismal 2020 election campaign saw National gutted, with all other parties in parliament picking up an electoral boost.
According to the report, the party intends to focus on boosting diversity across the board – including Māori representation.
That’s why National recently announced plans to stand in the Māori seats in 2023. Te Tiriti is not currently included or referenced in the party constitution, but the report recommends changing that.
More broadly speaking, the party list needs to be used “to bring in diverse, high-quality talent regardless of the election result,” reads the report.
Unsurprisingly, concerns around leadership are also noted in the review. “The (Election Review) Panel reported that strengthening leadership is a key task for the Party. Leadership at all levels of the party needs to be considered to ensure adequate support and upskilling is available, and existing leaders set the right example.”
Speaking on RNZ this morning, Collins said the document obtained by Newshub was “publicly released to all members” and denied it had been leaked. She said that whether any of the recommendations are implemented will depend on the membership. “We’ve got thousands of members and the last thing I want to do is to try and prejudge,” she said.
Asked to defend the current lack of Te Tiriti in the party constitution, Collins once again diverted to the “democratic process of the party” and said it would be up to members if they wanted to bring it in.
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Significant criticism of emergency housing conditions has been made by the minister with the responsibility for ending homelessness. Radio NZ’s political editor Jane Patterson reports Green co-leader Marama Davidson has described some living situations as “inhumane”, and that the current system that involves huge and constant payments to motels is unacceptable. There have been plenty of reports recently that suggest motels treat emergency housing guests like crap – a recent One News piece by John Campbell noted some pretty poor conditions, even if some of the tenants quoted were simply happy to be off the street. But this isn’t a new issue at all either – a Stuff investigation from 2019 found basically the same story.
The issue in simple terms is this: The government currently spends astonishingly large sums of money, to house vulnerable people in conditions that make their lives worse, particularly if there are children living in those situations. Being in such conditions makes it much harder for those vulnerable people to get their lives back on track. And the most heartbreaking aspect is that this wheel will just keep turning, with no real solution in sight. A story from Stuff this morning notes that the financial costs (and the associated human cost) are set to continue long into the foreseeable future. All the progress on homelessness generally to date has been far too slow to keep up with demand.
On the politics of this, nobody comes out looking good. National has been making a big song and dance about how dire things are, but it was their party that introduced the policy in the first place. While National housing spokesperson Nicola Willis talks about the public nuisance that some motel guests are causing, her party colleague Todd McClay wants them booted out of Rotorua hotels so that the town can take advantage of the travel bubble. A term and a bit of Labour being in charge hasn’t substantively improved anything, and if you look at the ballooning social housing waitlist, things are arguably getting worse. Meanwhile because this is an MSD issue, rather than a Housing ministry issue, the comments from Davidson demonstrate how little power her party has to influence the government. I’m not suggesting that our political class doesn’t care about the plight of people living in these conditions, I’m just saying their efforts to address it have so far been totally inadequate.
A broad review has been launched by the government into local government, particularly looking at questions of what they do and how they’re funded. As is often the way when it comes to something needing meaty analysis, this by Bernard Hickey gets right to the heart of the issues. In particular, paying for growth is something that hasn’t kept pace with demand and must be addressed, particularly because of the strain a lack of growth funding puts on other areas of society, like housing and transport.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.