Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 4. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
3.10pm: Pakistan cricket team’s MIQ training hopes dashed
Ashley Bloomfield has chosen not to grant an exemption to the Pakistan cricket team that would allow them to leave their hotel to train in groups, while in managed isolation.
“I have very carefully considered this situation. At this time, I continue to have ongoing concerns about the risk of cross-infection within the squad,” said Bloomfield in a statement.
The director general of health said he appreciates the challenges that this decision will have for the team.
“There have been a number of active cases identified among the team. Public health considerations will continue to be foremost in our response to Covid-19, whether this involves individuals or teams,” Bloomfield added.
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1.35pm: Commission set to be appointed to Tauranga City Council
Local government minister Nanaia Mahuta has advised the Tauranga City Council of her intention to appoint a Commission, following “significant governance problems”.
It follows the sudden resignation of mayor Tenby Powell last month.
In a statement, Mahuta said she’s been watching the Council’s conduct for a number of months. “I have grown increasingly concerned at the governance issues, and the impact this has on Tauranga ratepayers and significant investment in the region,” she said.
“The Council was given the opportunity to address the concerns, but has demonstrated that more direct action is needed.”
Tauranga City Council has ten working days to respond to the minister’s letter of intention and its response will be considered before a final decision is made.
1.00pm: No new cases of Covid-19
There are no new cases of Covid-19 to report, the Ministry of Health has announced. Nine previously reported cases have now recovered, bringing the total number of active cases down to 61. The total number of confirmed cases remains at 1,713.
Yesterday laboratories processed 6,846 tests for Covid-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,298,455.
Laboratories are processing the Pakistan cricket team’s day nine swabs, which were taken yesterday. Full results are pending, said the ministry.
Meanwhile, the government’s Covid Tracer app now has 2,392,500 registered users. Poster scans have reached 132,574,936 and users have created 5,347,988 manual diary entries.
12.30pm: NZ First Foundation pair lose name suppression bid
Two people charged in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation have lost a bid for further name suppression – but we can’t find out their names just yet.
Today, Judge Orchard released her decision. She said the first defendant, who made the application for continued secrecy, “failed to demonstrate that publication will lead to extreme hardship, and, of course, that is the test”.
“While I accept that this prosecution has attracted considerable media interest, both from the mainstream media and others, including bloggers, I do not accept that if the suppression order is lifted [the defendant] is likely not to receive a fair trial.”
According to the Herald, the second defendant has not applied for suppression but can also not be identified until a potential appeal is determined.
The pair have until December 14 to file an appeal to the High Court.
12.00pm: Government widens criteria for emergency travel
A new tiered system has been introduced for our managed isolation and quarantine system, allowing more New Zealanders to return to the country under emergency provisions.
Previously only those whose health or life was at serious risk could apply for an emergency room, but now, critical workers, New Zealanders in travel limbo and those with a dying relative in New Zealand can apply.
The number of available rooms in our MIQ facilities is growing tighter as we head into the summer months, with about 10% of rooms available. About 150 rooms per fortnight are going to be available for those who need to return home urgently.
The new tiered system is as follows:
- New Zealand citizens or residents where a serious risk to health exists for the applicant or their dependant, which requires urgent travel to New Zealand; or
- Where urgent travel is required to ensure a child is provided with appropriate care and protection.
- New Zealand citizens or residents who are required to provide critical care for a dependant person in New Zealand and need to travel urgently to do so; or
- A person whose entry to New Zealand is time-critical for the purpose of delivering a critical public or health service, such as the provision of specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential infrastructure whose failure would result in significant harm or disruption to a large number of New Zealanders; or
- New Zealand citizens or residents, who are unable to legally remain in their current location and have no other option but to return to New Zealand; or
- New Zealand and non-New Zealand citizens, where urgent travel to New Zealand is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons; or
- New Zealand citizens or residents entering New Zealand to visit a close relative who is dying, where timely travel is unlikely to be possible if the person books through the Managed Isolation Allocation System.
10.25am: Fonterra reports strong start to 2021, narrows farm gate milk price range
Business editor Michael Andrew writes:
Despite massive disruption in the global market, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today reported a strong start to the 2021 financial year, and a narrowing of its forecast farmgate milk price range from $6.30 – $7.30 per kg of milk solids to $6.70 – $7.30 per kg of milk solids.
CEO Miles Hurrell said this meant the midpoint of the range, which farmers are paid off, would increase to $7.00 per kg of milk solids. He said China’s strong recovery from Covid-19 gave the cooperative confidence to narrow and lift the bottom end of the milk price range.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic continues to present challenges, he said he expects strong demand overseas to lead to better performance throughout the year.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and, as the year progresses and we have more certainty, we would expect the forecast earnings range to narrow,” he said. “Our forecasts would see the Co-op contribute around $10.5 billion to the New Zealand economy this year.”
For Q1 2021, Fonterra delivered normalised Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) of $250 million, up $72 million on last year.
9.55am: Festival pill testing will encourage drug use – Bridges
Former National Party leader Simon Bridges has explained why he voted against new government legislation to legalise the testing of drugs at music festivals.
It means services like Know Your Stuff will be able to legally determine any impurities in drugs, but does not make the taking of those drugs legal.
But Bridges, National’s justice spokesperson, told Newshub it will lead to a spike in drug use and more deaths – citing evidence from the UK.
“The Labour Party view that we heard in the parliament, I sat through the whole debate, was that ‘look, it’s happening, it’s on us, we should go with it and it would be safer’,” Bridges said. “But I’ve looked at the evidence. It seems to me what’s quite clear is if you test you give a false confidence; that results in more use and more harm.”
Bridges said that in the UK, deaths went up after similar legislation was passed. He said “it’s the ecstasy that’s doing the killing”, not just any impurities in the drug itself.
8.30am: Kiwis join UK comedy icon in new Lord of the Rings series
UK comedy legend Lenny Henry has been confirmed as a new addition to the cast of the New Zealand-shot series of the Lord of the Rings, set to premiere on Amazon Prime next year.
He’s joined a swathe of local talent, including Leon Wadham, Alex Tarrant and Maxine Cunliffe in the ever-growing cast of the upcoming show.
In a statement, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay praised the new list of cast members. “These extraordinarily talented performers, hailing from across the globe, represent the culmination of a multi-year search to find brilliant and unique artists to bring that world to life anew,” they said.
The full list of new cast members:
Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Maxim Baldry, Ian Blackburn, Kip Chapman, Anthony Crum, Maxine Cunliffe, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Thusitha Jayasundera, Fabian McCallum, Simon Merrells, Geoff Morrell, Peter Mullan, Lloyd Owen, Augustus Prew, Peter Tait, Alex Tarrant, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker and Sara Zwangobani.
7.50am: US Covid-19 deaths top 3100 in a single day
The US has recorded a shocking 3100 deaths from Covid-19 in one day, the highest number of daily fatalities since the virus took hold.
Meanwhile, for the first time, the number of Americans hospitalised with the coronavirus has passed 100,000 for the first time and new cases have begun topping 200,000 a day
Robert Redfield from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the coming Winter months are going to be tough for the US. “I actually believe they are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
President Trump has long said that a vaccination is on the way for the US, although there is no evidence of this yet. However, the UK has recently approved a coronavirus treatment that will be rolled out from next week.
7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin
The select committees are in the process of being selected. One of the processes of making a law is that it goes through a small group of MPs for debate and tweaking, and places on these committees are allocated according to parliamentary seats. This is also the part of the process that invites submissions from the public, which means select committees have a fair bit of direct contact with activists and advocates. Because Labour has a majority, they in turn have a majority on eight of those 15 committees, and at least half on 13 overall.
Of the committees generally, it seems pretty clear health will be one of the most important of the term. Early moves were made by National’s three members on health to get an inquiry into medicines that aren’t funded by Pharmac, but as Newshub reports, Labour’s members blocked it. Health minister Andrew Little said the government is still planning to have such an inquiry, it just doesn’t want it to be led by the select committee. That as an ongoing issue, plus the inevitable Covid-19 issues, will keep health incredibly busy. It will be chaired by Labour MP and former public health doctor Liz Craig.
In terms of the other committees, the back end of this story from the NZ Herald’s Jason Walls has some details about who has what. One aspect of select committees that makes them quite interesting is that they offer a chance for backbenchers to shine, albeit in a way that doesn’t always reach the public. For example, the powerful finance and expenditure committee will be chaired by Duncan Webb, the Christchurch Central MP who was overlooked for ministerial positions in the reshuffle. National also has MPs in leadership positions on several committees, namely Barbara Kuriger, Jacqui Dean and Chris Penk.
7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines
There were nine new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, four active and five historical.
The UK became the first Western nation to authorise a Covid-19 vaccine, with the rollout set to begin next week.
The IRD warned the government could miss out on on $1.5 billion of tax revenue by leaving the trust tax rate at 33 cents in the dollar, while raising the personal income tax rate to 39 cents.
A new government financial update showed, once again, that the economy is doing better than expected.
New Zealander Robert Martin was re-elected to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The highest number of new homes since 1974 was consented to in the year to October, Stats NZ revealed. Almost 38,000 new homes were given consents.
New police data revealed almost half of reported hate crimes are being downgraded from a criminal offence, to either “incidents” in which no crime was committed, or to lower level crimes.