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dec 9 blog upd

SocietyDecember 9, 2020

Live updates, December 9: Whakaari victims remembered; Commerce Commission investigating fake money drop

dec 9 blog upd

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 9. Get in touch at

7.00pm: The day in sum

A ceremony was held in Whakatāne to mark one year since the Whakaari eruption that claimed 22 lives.

Parliament adjourned for the year.

There were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation facilities.

A police review into how the agency handled the March 15 mosque shootings has found the response was “exemplary”.

University of Otago postponed the day’s graduation ceremonies in response to a security threat

Chris Hipkins, the Covid-19 response minister, rejected privacy concerns around the bluetooth update to the government’s Covid Tracer app.

6.00pm: Commerce Commission investigating fake money drop

The Commerce Commission has opened an investigation into the controversial “$100k cash drop” staged by The Safety Warehouse in Auckland’s Aotea Square on Saturday, reports RNZ.

On Monday the consumer watchdog confirmed it had received four complaints in relation to the event, advertised by the online store, which sells protective wear, as a “live cash giveaway” in which $100,000 in cash would be dropped from the sky. It turned out to be fake money that could be used as discount vouchers.

Some people travelled long distances at personal expense to attend the event, and a man was taken to hospital after an angry crowd smashed a car window. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, criticised the event at her post-cabinet press conference on Monday, calling for the organisers to apologise.

In a statement this evening, the Commerce Commission said the number of complaints had risen to nine, including two referred to it by police, and confirmed it had opened an investigation into whether any representations about the event breached the Fair Trading Act 1986.

4.30pm: School’s out for summer (by school we mean parliament)

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from parliament’s final sitting day of the year:

Parliament has concluded its work for 2020 and won’t be back until February of next year. Here are a few numbers to reflect its work since it returned post-election.

6: Parliament sat for six days. It was a short session, coming at the end of an exhausting 2020.

5: A bill is in the works to add five more days of sick leave. A select committee will take it up next year.

4: A bit of work got done, including passing four pieces of legislation. Those new laws include a higher tax rate for the richest New Zealanders and legislation that allows for testing drugs at festivals.

3: After three leaders over the past year, the National Party now fronts for one of the smallest opposition benches in decades.

2: The Māori Party’s two MPs had an emotional and moving entry into parliament that brought the public gallery into song. Co-leader Rawiri Waititi promised to be a “pebble in the shoe” of government.

1: The house stood for one minute of silence today to mark the first anniversary of the Whakaari eruption.

3.15pm: Police response to mosque shooting ‘exemplary’, report finds

A police review into how the agency handled the March 15 mosque shootings has found the response was “exemplary”, but that improvements could still be made.

Police commissioner Andrew Coster said the review was undertaken in light of the magnitude and sensitivity of the operation, but wasn’t made public until today due to the lengthy Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attack. The 800 page findings of that were released yesterday.

The review, undertaken by an independent panel including retired deputy police commissioner Nick Kaldas, considered the police response in the 48 hours following the 2019 attack.

The authors concluded that the police’s response on the day was “exemplary”, however there were improvements that could be made to processes and systems for future operational responses. The deployment of staff and logistical support was rapid and effective, police staff acted as quickly as humanly possible given the rapidly unfolding nature of the event, the report said.

Family liaison officers and ethnic liaison officers were mobilised early in the crisis to support the community.

It was, however, noted that while the overall response to families was “of a good standard”, police did not have enough staff to deal with the number of inquiries from the family members of those killed and injured.

2.11pm: Minute’s silence observed for Whakaari victims

A moment of silence is being observed around the country for those who lost their lives a year ago, during the Whakaari/White Island eruption.

An official ceremony is being held at the Mataatua Wharenui in Whakatāne, with Jacinda Ardern and the governor-general in attendance. Speeches have been given by survivors and victim’s family members.

Meanwhile, at parliament, all MPs have stood and observed a moment of silence for the victims – a brief interlude to what is the final sitting parliamentary day of the year.

1.50pm: Whakaari victims remembered, one year on

Today marks 12 months since the devastating Whakaari/White Island eruption that killed 22 people from New Zealand and around the world.

An official ceremony, hosted by Ngāti Awa, is being held this afternoon to mark day, with a minute’s silence to take place at 2.11pm – the time of the eruption.

According to RNZ, the governor-general Patsy Reddy, prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner are all present. Avey Woods, the mother of Hayden Marshall-Inman who died in the eruption has spoken, and video messages from survivors living overseas are being played.

You can watch the proceedings via RNZ here

1.10pm: Three new imported Covid-19 cases; historical case detected on ship from Japan

There are three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation today, the Ministry of Health has announced. Today marked the last daily media briefing from the ministry, who will move to four updates each week from Friday.

Of the three new cases, two are active cases and one is historical.

  • One person arrived on December 7, but the country of origin is not yet available. They tested positive on arrival and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived on December 3 from the United Kingdom via the United Arab Emirates. They tested positive at routine testing at around day three and have also been transferred to quarantine in Auckland.
  • The historical case arrived in New Zealand on December 2 from the United Kingdom via Singapore and tested positive at routine testing at around day three. Further investigation indicated this is a historical case, now recovered. This person is in a Christchurch quarantine facility.

Two previously reported cases have now also recovered, said the ministry, bringing our total number of active cases to 55. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,732.

Yesterday laboratories processed 6,397 tests for Covid-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,321,598.

Suspected historical case onboard ship from Japan

Additionally to the case outlined above, a suspected historical case of Covid-19 has been detected in a crew member on the CTG Cobalt which had docked in the Port of Tauranga from Japan and is now en-route to Timaru.

No crew members have come ashore, so there is a very low risk of transmission to the New Zealand community, the ministry assured.

The crew member returned a weak positive Covid-19 test with a high CT value, indicating an old infection. “It appears most likely that this crew member had Covid-19 some time ago,” a spokesperson said. “They have no symptoms, are recovered and are no longer infectious.”

The CTG Cobalt arrived in New Zealand waters on December 6 after departing Japan on November 19. All other crew members have tested negative and have been on board the vessel, effectively in isolation for 17 days for the duration of their voyage.

Until the current investigation by public health staff is concluded, no crew members will be allowed to leave the vessel. “This case is not yet reported in our official figures while it remains under investigation,” said the ministry. “Health and port staff who have had minimal contact with the crew, have all been informed and no further action is deemed necessary at this stage.”

12.45pm: Time for a ‘Kiwi’ response to declining education ranking

The Education Institute’s called for a “Kiwi” response to our declining ranking in international maths and science tests. It said that rather than measuring the difference between us and Kazakhstan, we should be focusing on the gap in achievement between Pasifika and Māori and Pakeha students.

“Genuine research and evaluation of what works here in Aotearoa needs investment from the Ministry of Education, not short term panic responses to international league tables,” the institute’s president Liam Rutherford said.

National’s education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith, however, said the latest ranking is cause for concern. “We rightly focus on the wellbeing of our children, but we can’t forget that equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a competitive world is critical to their wellbeing and that of their families,” he said in a statement.

Goldsmith added: “we aspire to high living standards, but we won’t continue to achieve those high living standards if our educational achievement is falling off the pace internationally.”

11.20am: Otago University postpones graduation after security threat


In breaking news, the University of Otago has delayed today’s graduation ceremonies after a security threat – with the decision to cancel the proceedings reportedly made just an hour ago.

In a post on its Facebook page, the university said it made the decision to push back the ceremonies after advice from police.

“The university received a threat to its upcoming graduation ceremonies. As such, the police have strongly recommended that the graduation ceremonies scheduled for today do not go ahead,” the post said.

“The safety of everyone who is planning to attend the ceremonies and the wider Dunedin community is at the heart of this difficult decision.”

For some students this is the third event that has been cancelled following May and August ceremonies being impossible due to Covid-19. “The university shares your disappointment. All graduands will receive information from the university as quickly as possible about future plans.”

The Spinoff understands the threat was received by email on Monday, but police and the university were unable to rule it out by today.

The source adds: “The decision to cancel was obviously made very late, it was only publicly announced to graduands and families at pre-graduation functions about 11am (with the parade through town due to begin at 11:30).”

There are currently groups of disappointed and confused looking people dressed in their formal regalia wandering around checking their phones, they told The Spinoff.

“The advice from police is that the campus is safe, but they do not want large groups congregating, so there is no alternative celebratory arrangements in place.”

10.45am: Seymour questions hold up over Australian travel bubble

New Zealand could become the “East Berlin of Australasia,” warns Act’s David Seymour, saying the prime minister should be working quickly to get a travel bubble with Australia open ASAP.

“News that Western Australia’s border is finally opening to Victoria and New South Wales must surely provide impetus to getting a trans-Tasman bubble up and going,” Seymour said. “All Australian states and territories other than Victoria and New South Wales have been able to travel to Western Australia with decreasing levels of restriction since November 14.”

Seymour pointed out that while there are 54 active Covid-19 cases in New Zealand (all in managed isolation), there are estimated to be just 44 in Australia.

“Maybe the hold-up opening the bubble is we now pose a greater threat to the Aussies than they do to us?”

10.05am: ‘There’s no point in dying when I’ve lived this long’ – 91yo vaccine recipient

A touching interview on CNN has gone viral overnight, as one of the first recipients of the new Covid-19 Pfizer vaccination spoke out about his experience. I recognise the irony of someone going viral directly after being vaccinated, but these are the times we live in.

Martin Kenyon candidly discussed how he simply called up the hospital in the morning to ask if they were giving the vaccination, drove down for his appointment that afternoon, and now hoped not to get “the bloody bug now”. Heartwarming stuff.

9.00am: Oxford Covid vaccine needs further trials, new data shows

New research shows the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine still needs further trials, while its competitor Pfizer rolls out across the UK.

According to a study published in the Lancet, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has efficacy of 90% in a small group who got a half-dose first, but only 62% in the majority.

As The Guardian reports, Oxford University is seeking regulatory approval for the vaccine on the basis that it has 70% efficacy after pooling the results from trials in the UK and Brazil, despite the discrepancies between trials.

“Our job as scientists is to generate the data and make that publicly available for people to scrutinise and scientists to scrutinise and also now for the regulators and policymakers to scrutinise. These decisions are not for us to make,” said Oxford University’s Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator on the trials.

Meanwhile, the first doses of the Pfizer vaccination have been given out in the UK, marking what is now colloquially being called “V-Day”.

7.45am: Hipkins rejects privacy concerns over Tracer app update

The Covid-19 response minister has rejected privacy concerns around a new update to the government’s Tracer app that allows for bluetooth functionality.

The upgraded app allows for a “digital handshake”, using notification software developed by Apple and Google that allows for smartphones to have an automatic check-in when they are close to each other.

But, Chris Hipkins said QR codes remain an important part of the contact tracing process. “People still need to use QR codes because the bluetooth data is anonymised and it doesn’t record locations,” he told RNZ.

The QR code acts as a “memory jogger” for people, Hipkins said, especially considering not everyone will have the bluetooth functionality switched on.

Hipkins said the new feature will not breach anyone’s privacy and has been given “the big tick” from the privacy commissioner. “That’s really helpful,” he said.

The app will also help determine close and casual contacts, Hipkins said. “One of the things that the phone will do is it will decide how long someone needs to have been in contact with them to be at risk… that information will be recorded.”

Asked if he had a number in mind for how many people he hoped turned on the bluetooth feature, Hipkins said the more the better. “I don’t have a particular number in mind.”

Read more on the new update to the Tracer app here.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The security services have come in for criticism in a Royal Commission report into the March 15 terrorist attacks, which left 51 people dead and many more injured. As Justin Giovannetti reports, spy agencies were basically unaware of the terrorist, having failed to put enough of a focus on the dangers of far-right and white supremacist extremism. Nor did they necessarily have the capability to detect and stop his plans, with the caveat that the terrorist took steps to conceal them in advance. As a result, one aspect of the recommendations from the report is to expand the security state, with a new agency focusing on counter terrorism. A full list of recommendations can be read on the NZ Herald.

In response, the PM apologised on behalf of the government. Her full speech has been published here. “Ultimately, this roughly 800-page report can be distilled into one simple premise. Muslim New Zealanders should be safe. Anyone who calls New Zealand home, regardless of race, religion, sex or sexual orientation should be safe. New Zealanders deserve a system that does its best to keep you safe, and that is what we are committed to building. But an apology would be hollow without action,” she said. In Australia, the shadow minister for multicultural affairs has made a statement to parliament calling for reflection and action, in light of where the terrorist grew up, reports Toby Manhire.

One problem in the system of information sharing came to light yesterday morning, from Stuff’s Jody O’Callaghan. She reported that the gunman was treated in a Dunedin hospital for a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2018, sustained while cleaning it, but that information was never passed on to police. It’s easier to say with the benefit of hindsight, but had mandatory reporting of gunshot wounds been in place at the time, police may have visited his home and discovered the arsenal of weapons being assembled. It is also well documented that police bungled the checks around him gaining a gun licence.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

The Royal Commission report into the Christchurch terrorist attacks was released, including recommendations to bolster support for ethnic minorities and expand the security state.

Jacinda Ardern apologised on behalf of the government for failings prior to the attacks, including security services’ lack of focus on potential white supremacist violence.

Christchurch Muslim leaders also spoke following the report’s release, and called for the recommendations outlined in the report to be put into action.

There were six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and it was announced that 52 members of the Pakistan cricket squad would be released from MIQ after testing negative on their 12-day swabs.

Home ownership has plunged to a 70-year low, a Stats NZ report revealed.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates

Keep going!