Live updates, July 30: 2,000 sign open letter response on mātauranga Māori and science

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 30, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

5.00pm: Letter on mātauranga Māori and science attracts more than 2000 signatories

More than 2,000 people, including numerous prominent academics and other public figures, have put their name to an open letter pushing back at a group of academics that claimed Māori knowledge was “not science”. The viewpoint was expressed in a letter published in the Listener magazine, co-signed by seven prominent academics from the University of Auckland. The university, the Royal Society and the NZ Association of Scientists have all distanced themselves from the letter.

The letter in response reads as follows:

A letter signed by seven University of Auckland Professors/Professors Emeritus, published in the New Zealand Listener (July 23), claims to be “in defence of science” against what is described as an effort to “encourage mistrust of science”.

We, the signatories to this response, categorically disagree with their views. Indigenous knowledges – in this case, Mātauranga – are not lesser to other knowledge systems. Indeed, indigenous ways of knowing, including Mātauranga, have always included methodologies that overlap with “Western” understandings of the scientific method.

However, Mātauranga is far more than just equivalent to or equal to “Western” science. It offers ways of viewing the world that are unique and complementary to other knowledge systems.

The seven Professors describe efforts to reevaluate and revise the significance of Mātauranga in NCEA, including the acknowledgement of the role “western” science has played in rationalising colonisation as contributing to “disturbing misunderstandings of science emerging at all levels of education and in science funding.”

The Professors claim that “science itself does not colonise”, ignoring the fact that colonisation, racism, misogyny, and eugenics have each been championed by scientists wielding a self-declared monopoly on universal knowledge.

And while the Professors describe science as “universal”, they fail to acknowledge that science has long excluded indigenous peoples from participation, preferring them as subjects for study and exploitation. Diminishing the role of indigenous knowledge systems is simply another tool for exclusion and exploitation.

The Professors present a series of global crises that we must “battle” with science, again failing to acknowledge the ways in which science has contributed to the creation of these challenges. Putting science on a pedestal gets us no further in the solution of these crises.

Finally, they believe that “mistrust of science” is increased by this kind of critique. In contrast, we believe that mistrust in science stems from science’s ongoing role in perpetuating ‘scientific’ racism, justifying colonisation, and continuing support of systems that create injustice. There can be no trust in science without robust self-reflection by the science community and an active commitment to change.

4.00pm: Olympics wrap – this weekend’s highlights

It has been a massive day for New Zealand in Tokyo with three more medals won, including two gold. We’ve shot way up the medal table to number 11 on the list.

There are a few more events tonight along with a packed weekend – here are some of your highlights*:

Tonight:

  • 8.30pm: Rugby sevens (women) – Quarterfinals
  • 10pm: Athletics time! Camille Buscomb in the women’s 5000m qualifier followed by Valerie Adams and Maddison Wesche in the shot put

Saturday:

  • 10.30am: Triathlon – mixed team relay
  • 2.50pm: Weightlifting – Cameron McTaggart
  • 3.05pm: Sailing – lots of it! All afternoon.

Sunday:

  • 12.10pm: Athletics – Lauren Bruce and Julia Ratcliffe in the women’s hammer throw followed by, hopefully, Valerie Adams and Maddison Weschen in the shot put final.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

*Events I will be watching.

2.00pm: Little criticises nurses rejection of pay offer, but says government still committed to improving conditions

The government remains committed to nurses after the latest pay offer was voted down last night. But, the health minister Andrew Little has criticised the nurses organisation for voting against their own proposal.

“Let me be clear: the proposal was one they put to the government,” said Little. “The Nurses Organisation rejected their own proposal.”

Regardless, Little said the government has “heard what nurses say about their working lives” and acknowledged the “distress and despair” poor working conditions have caused.

The latest pay offer would have seen full-time employees receive an extra $13,000 over the next year alone, Little said, with “more to come” when the pay equity claim is settled.

Strike action is still planned for August and September, a move described by Little as “hugely disruptive”.

“The health system is already under pressure from a global pandemic and the winter flu season,” he said.

1.30pm: Another, another medal!

I can’t keep up! New Zealand has just scored its third gold medal, with the men’s eight rowers outclassing the competition. It’s our second win of the afternoon along with a silver in the women’s eight.

1.20pm: Another medal!

New Zealand is well and truly punching above its weight with our sixth medal being awarded to our women’s eight rowers.

The silver medal moves us up the medal table to 13th, also helped by an earlier gold win from Emma Twigg.

1.05pm: Covid-infected Fiji patient arrives at Middlemore Hospital

A Covid-positive patient from Fiji has arrived in Auckland and been transferred to Middlemore Hospital, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

The individual is a staffer working for the World Health Organisation who had been based in Fiji.

According to the ministry, the patient was safely transferred by ambulance to the hospital last night under struct infection prevention and control procedures. “Flight crew and ambulance staff used full PPE,” said the ministry. “The patient remains in a dedicated, secure ICU unit.”

Today’s Covid-19 numbers

There are no new cases of Covid-19 to report in the community today, with two reported in managed isolastion.

Four previously reported cases have now recovered. The number of active cases in New Zealand is 45.

Updates to the Covid Tracer app

The latest update of the NZ Covid Tracer app features reminders, diary icons and the ability to save and use previous scans.

The enhancements, available from today, include:

  • The ability to use a previous scan and save locations you go to frequently to manually backfill your diary;
  • Reminder notifications where individuals have not scanned or added a location to their diary recently;
  • An indicator on the scan screen making it easier to see when Bluetooth tracing is inactive; and
  • Illustrated guides that make it easier to understand how the app and features work.

12.45pm: Emma Twigg rows to gold in single sculls final

New Zealand has won its second Olympic gold medal of 2021, with Emma Twigg rowing to victory in the women’s single sculls final. She crossed the finish line roughly four seconds ahead of the silver medal winner from the ROC.

Her performance secured her an Olympic record time.

11.15am: Conversion therapy to be outlawed as details of draft law revealed

The government has revealed further details about its plan to ban conversion therapy.

The “Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill” has been introduced to parliament and, if voted through, will make it an offence to perform conversion practices.

Justice minister Kris Faafoi said the bill aimed to end conversion practices altogether. “Those who have experienced conversion practices talk about ongoing mental health distress, depression, shame and stigma, and even suicidal thoughts,” Faafoi said.

The bill would introduce a potential three year prison sentence for anyone who performed conversion practices on a person aged under 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity. It would also be an offence to perform conversion practices on anyone – irrespective of age – where the practices have caused serious harm. This would hold a maximum five year prison sentence.

“The bill’s definition of conversion practice has been carefully designed to ensure health practitioners providing health services will not be captured; nor will people providing legitimate counselling, support and advice,” Faafoi said.

“General expressions of religious beliefs or principles about sexuality and gender will also not be captured.”

The bill will now have its first reading in parliament before moving to the justice select committee for public submissions.

The full bill can be found here.

What qualifies as a ‘conversion practice’?

To be considered a conversion practice under the Bill, a practice must meet all of the following elements, which state that a practice is:

  • directed towards someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, AND
  • performed with the intention of changing or suppressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Green Party, Māori Party, welcome introduction of draft bill

The first wave of political reaction to the conversion therapy bill has just arrived in my inbox, with both the Greens and the Māori Party strongly in support.

“Our Rainbow whānau told the government that conversion therapy is a crime, and needs to be treated as such, and the government has listened,” said Greens’ spokesperson for rainbow communities Elizabeth Kerekere.

“I look forward to working with the minister of justice to ensure this legislation is robust and protects all members of the rainbow community who have suffered from these practices, including anyone who is trans, intersex or non-binary.”

Meanwhile, Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said she “wholeheartedly” supports the bill. “Banning conversion therapy is a necessary step in addressing the larger issue of the dire state of our mental health system in Aotearoa,” she said.

10.50am: ICYMI – Trans-Tasman travel window to shut at midnight

The government has confirmed that all returnees arriving back from Australia after 11.59pm tonight will need to spend a full two weeks in managed isolation.

For the past week, just travellers arriving from New South Wales were required to enter MIQ, with Victorian arrivals expected to self-isolate at home. All other Australian arrivals simply had to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test.

The trans-Tasman travel bubble will now be fully suspended for at least the next seven weeks as a result of the growing number of delta variant cases in Australia.

“When announcing a temporary suspension of the travel bubble with Australia last week, the government provided a seven-day grace period for eligible travellers in states and territories other than New South Wales to return,” acting Covid-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall said.

“Agencies have been working closely with airlines and have advised that demand has dropped off in the last couple of days, with cancellations now outweighing new bookings and around 3000 seats still available.”

Most travellers who wished to return before the cut-off will now have done so, Verrall said.

A further 500 MIQ rooms have been released for returnees from New South Wales, with managed return flights to continue out of the Australian state.    

10.00am: Olympics morning wrap – NZ up for seven medals

New Zealand is up for seven medals today, kicking off with our rowers early this afternoon.

Here are some of today’s highlights:

  • 12.30pm: Emma Twigg rows for gold in the final of the women’s single sculls.
  • 1.05pm: More rowing – the women’s eight and the men’s eight have both made it to the final.
  • 1.15pm: BMX cycling – Rebecca Petch in the women’s racing semifinals.
  • 2.16pm: Lewis Clareburt is up for gold in the men’s 200m swimming medley final.

Currently, New Zealand is sitting at 21st on the medal table with one gold, two silvers and a bronze.

9.10am: First busload arrives at mass vaccination event

The Spinoff’s Justin Latif reports from Manukau: 

The first busloads have arrived at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau for MIT staff, students and their families to receive their first dose of the Covid vaccine.

This is the start of a mass vaccination event aiming to get 16,000 people vaccinated.

First arrivals (Photo / Justin Latif)

Associate minister of heath Dr Ayesha Verrall described the event as the “Olympics of vaccinations”.

“We now have the supply and this allows us to really ramp up and vaccinate at scale and reach out into the community so it has that protection,” she said.

This is the country’s first mass vaccination event and the minister said it was modelled on similar events run in Canada.

8.35am: First mass vaccination event kicks off

New Zealand’s first “mass vaccination” event will begin at 9am this morning, with more than 15,000 people expected to get their first Pfizer dose over the next three years.

Held in Manukau, the event will see roughly one person vaccinated every minute across 242 vaccination booths.

Our reporter Justin Latif is at the event and will have some further coverage for us later this morning.

The event set-up (Image / Supplied)

8.00am: Pay talks resume as nurses reject latest offer

The government’s latest pay offer to nurses has been rejected, with planned strikes in August and September once again on the table.

The offer was presented to the Nurses Organisation earlier this month but, in a ballot that closed last night, ultimately rejected. A strike planned to begin yesterday was scrapped while the offer was considered.

As RNZ reported, nurses were concerned by “ambiguities” in the offer but admitted the DHBs had made moves on improving pay.

“Members have been clear from the beginning that their safety at work and the safety of their patients is a priority, and that is where they most deserve certainty,” said lead advocate for the Nurses Organisation David Wait.

“Better pay will make nursing more attractive, but it is not clear how the DHBs will be held accountable if they do not provide safe staffing. Nurses don’t want more vague promises that the problem will be fixed in the future – which is what we have received once again.”

A DHB spokesperson said the offer was worth more than $400 million and confirmed pay talks would resume today.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A couple of years ago former Spinoff staffer Henry Oliver made a very astute observation about the NBR Rich List, and I want to quote it at length to set up today’s main story:

“Other than property investment, an inheritance, or buying severely undervalued public assets, the best way to get rich in New Zealand is working your way up from stocking shelves to owning a supermarket. Five of the new entrants own supermarkets. And most of them only own one. No wonder food is so expensive here.”

In their latest market study, the Commerce Commission has warned that much more competition needs to be introduced into the supermarket duopoly, one way or another.Justin Giovannetti reports the commission found a broken market, with the two major supermarket companies wielding immense power over both consumers and suppliers. It also found supermarkets were making what were described as excessive profits. It was a draft report, and a final set of recommendations will be made in November.

But already the supermarkets are being put on notice about potential changes they could make to stave off more drastic steps, like a government-created new wholesale operation, or a third company being introduced into the market. In response, consumer affairs minister David Clark said the government was willing to act, but would wait for the final report.

Suppliers in particular will be cheered by the report. Speaking to Newsroom before the announcement, Yum granola founder Sarah Hedger spoke out about the pressure that gets put on by the supermarkets, going into detail about the tough negotiating strategy she’s faced with. Hanging over it is an “implied threat” of being taken off the shelves, which given the dominance of supermarkets would cripple any business. Farmers Weekly reported the horticulture sector backed calls for a Code of Conduct to govern the relationship.


The industrial stand-off for Wellington bus drivers appears to be over, with union members voting to accept a deal from NZ Bus. Stuff’s Joel Macmanus reports the drivers ended up with a pay rise, and their current conditions being preserved. The previous three offers put to union members were all voted down heavily, with those conditions being a particular sticking point. Meanwhile in industrial action, the DHB nurses have voted to strike over two eight hour periods in August and September.



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