Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 14. Reach me at email@example.com
7pm: The day in sum
Quarantine-free travel with Australia is expected to be permitted in the first quarter of 2021. A commencement date for the travel bubble will be announced in the new year.
Jacinda Ardern refused to confirm if a deal had been reached at Ihumātao despite widespread media speculation.
Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard is expected to face questions in select committee over a costly legal dispute that arose after he wrongly claimed an accused rapist was working at parliament.
The University of Otago has decided to postpone all remaining ceremonies meaning there will be no graduations to end the year.
There were no new cases of Covid-19 announced.
6.10pm: Oranga Tamariki deputy resigns
Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Hoani Lambert has resigned, RNZ reports. According to chief executive Grainne Moss, Lambert is going to the Department of Internal Affairs.
Moss reiterated she had no plans of stepping down herself and said she believes she has the full confidence of her team.
Last month, Moss refused to step down following a submission to the Waitangi Tribunal’s urgent inquiry into Oranga Tamariki in which she admitted the Children’s ministry was yet to eliminate structural racism, or fully adopt the recommendations of a 1998 report. Minister for Children Kelvin Davis had refused to express confidence in her leadership.
5.00pm: NZ Blood makes changes to donor criteria
Today, the NZ Blood Service has announced that the blood deferral period for men who have had sex with other men has been reduced from 12 months to three months. This reduction also applies to sex workers and those who have lived in a country with widespread presence of HIV, the NZ Herald reports.
NZ Blood says these changes are in line with countries like the UK, Canada, and the United States. The current scientific research indicates that the three-month deferral allows current testing systems to accommodate the window between contracting the virus and the virus being detectable.
Notably, these changes only apply to cisgendered individuals. There is a separate programme that aims to ensure appropriate criteria for transgender and non-binary individuals.
The new rules also exclude men who are on PrEP or PEP. For blood to be accepted by the service, men cannot have been on either HIV-preventive drug for three months.
4.30pm: All Otago University graduation ceremonies postponed this week
Following a security threat which led to a number of graduation ceremonies postponed last week, the Univeristy of Otago has decided to postpone all remaining ceremonies meaning there will be no graduations to end the year.
RNZ reports the decision to postpone four graduation ceremonies planned for 16 December and 19 December was made this afternoon.
“I know this is a further disappointment at the end of a year that has been more difficult than most,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne.
“In the wake of Covid-19, our students have overcome huge obstacles to stay on track and complete their degrees this year. Moreover, many of our students and their whānau have made significant sacrifices to travel to Dunedin so they could be a part of these very special celebrations.
“I share in the disappointment that everyone is feeling. However, I have every confidence that our graduands will find ways to celebrate.”
2.00pm: First details of Australia travel bubble announced
Quarantine-free travel with Australia is expected to be permitted in the first quarter of 2021, Jacinda Ardern has announced.
The announcement is pending approval by the Australian government and will require a number of outstanding issues to be resolved. Those include the matter of what would happen if an outbreak of Covid-19 happened in New Zealand while New Zealanders were in Australia.
Ardern also said a number of conversations still needed to be had with airlines and airports about making sure travellers from different countries don’t mingle while in transit.
A commencement date for the travel bubble will be announced in the new year, Ardern said. Asked what the earliest date the bubble might be established, Ardern said she did not want to prematurely announce any details in case people book flights or make plans too early.
Ardern said she wanted to thank New Zealanders for their efforts this year, acknowledging Covid-19 has dominated the political agenda. “This is the year of the team.”
Describing 2020 in one word, Ardern said it was “horrendous”, laughing as a reporter brought up her historic election victory.
No update on Ihumātao
Jacinda Ardern would not comment on speculation that a deal had been reached at Ihumātao, despite widespread media speculation.
“Our job is to make sure that when we’re in a position to announce something with some finality, that’s what we’ll do,” Ardern said.
Trevor Mallard safe in speaker’s role
Jacinda Ardern has yet again backed speaker of the house Trevor Mallard, despite calls for his resignation from both National and Act.
“He has made a mistake, no one is debating that,” Ardern said. “But does that change my view that he is the right person for that role? No it doesn’t.”
Mallard would remain answerable to parliament, Ardern said, and he will appear before a select committee on Wednesday. “I think that’s the right thing to do,” the prime minister said.
1.55pm: PM to front post-cabinet press conference, may discuss Ihumātao
Jacinda Ardern is about to speak to media after today’s cabinet meeting where it’s expected that a new deal regarding Ihumātao was discussed.
It’s not known whether the deal will be confirmed by Ardern, who told media this morning it was simply “speculation”.
The topic of travel bubbles is expected to be on the agenda, with work still to be done on securing quarantine-free travel with Australia.
1.45pm: James Shaw responds to Greta Thunberg’s climate emergency dig
James Shaw has responded to a tweet by climate change activist Greta Thunberg, in which she criticised our climate emergency declaration.
In the tweet, Thunberg called our “so-called” climate emergency declaration “nothing unique”.
Shaw said Thunberg is pointing out what we already know. “We have a long way to go to narrow the gap between what our emissions are right now, and what they need to be in the future,” he said, according to the Herald.
“We are working on this as quickly as we can and the declaration of a climate emergency is actually helping – because now every part of government is clear that action to cut emissions is a priority.”
Shaw added: “This is what climate emergency declaration should do. It is not an end in itself, rather it signals our intent to do everything we can to tackle the climate crisis and build a better, safer future for our kids and grandkids.”
1.00pm: No new Covid-19 cases; Air NZ worker likely infected in US
There are no new cases of Covid-19 today in managed isolation or the community.
The total number of active cases in New Zealand remains 56, with 1,740 total cases since the pandemic began.
Laboratories completed 2,203 tests yesterday, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,344,192.
A source investigation continues into the origins of the positive Covid-19 case of an Air New Zealand aircrew member who flew from the United States, as reported on Saturday.
Preliminary genome sequencing results suggest the source of their infection was in the United States, the ministry said. The Air New Zealand aircrew member remains in the Auckland quarantine facility. Three other aircrew members who are close contacts are in isolation.
All three close contacts will have a day five Covid test today.
Meanwhile, the new Covid-19 summer campaign – Make Summer Unstoppable, E te whanau, tautokohia te kaupapa – is a reminder to all New Zealanders about doing the right things to keep each other safe over the festive season and summer holidays.
“This summer will be our first under Covid-19 conditions so its important we look after ourselves and our whanau: use the Covid Tracer app to scan QR codes and turn on bluetooth functionality; stay home if you’re sick; and wash your hands regularly,” a ministry spokesperson said.
11.35am: Ihumātao a ‘pandora’s box’ that should not be opened – Judith Collins
The opposition has responded to news that a Ihumātao deal will reportedly be discussed during today’s cabinet meeting, labelling the issue a “pandora’s box”.
In a statement, National leader Judith Collins said the Ihumātao issue is “a problem of Jacinda Ardern’s own making” and the taxpayer shouldn’t be footing the bill.
“It’s difficult to fathom that with more than 20,000 Kiwi families currently waiting for a home the government is prepared to spend millions stopping 480 much-needed houses from being built,” Collins said.
“The prime minister needs to explain why she thinks it’s appropriate to meddle in private property rights with taxpayers’ money, because she will be setting an appalling precedent.”
Collins added: “The Ihumātao deal will place a question mark over all full and final treaty settlements, and the protestors at Shelly Bay will know they’ve only got to sit tight and wait for the Government to step in.”
Earlier today, Jacinda Ardern refused to comment on the possibility of an Ihumātao deal having been reached.
Cabinet is meeting today and the PM will front a media conference at 2pm, the first time she will possibly confirm the existence of the deal.
Ihumātao deal would be ‘Jacinda Ardern’s worst decision as PM’ – Act leader
David Seymour has rubbished reports that a deal at Ihumātao is imminent, saying it would be a terrible step toward “formalising Jacinda Ardern’s worst decision as prime minister”.
Seymour said: “If you own land and someone squats on it, the prime minister won’t defend your property rights, she’ll use taxpayers’ money to buy the land off you.”
Ardern has legitimised an illegal protest, said Seymour, and sent a message that the government is vulnerable to further illegal actions.
“What a terrible signal this sends agitators who decide to disregard the legally binding treaty settlement process,” he said. “The prime minister’s job is to uphold the law, and none more so than private property rights.
11.15am: More departures than arrivals in NZ since first lockdown
The number of people leaving New Zealand has exceeded the number of arrivals every month since the introduction of complete border restrictions in March, according to new Stats NZ figures.
From April (the first full month under border restrictions) to October this year, there were 119,400 departures and 65,900 arrivals. In the same period in 2019 there were slightly more departures – 3.86 million to 3.82 million arrivals.
9.50am: Greta Thunberg criticises NZ’s climate emergency
Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg has called New Zealand’s declaration of a climate emergency “nothing unique” in a tweet posted overnight.
Thunberg, who has previously shared photos from New Zealand climate change marches, shared a Newsroom article on Twitter that said the country “has just committed to reducing less than 1% of the country’s emissions by 2025”.
“Text explaining New Zealand’s so-called climate emergency declaration,” Thunberg wrote, with the hashtag #FightFor1Point5.
"In other words, the Government has just committed to reducing less than 1 percent of the country's emissions by 2025".
Text explaining New Zealand's so-called climate emergency declaration. This is of course nothing unique to any nation. #FightFor1Point5https://t.co/Yp8nuek9Pn
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 13, 2020
Responding to the tweet this morning, Green MP Chloe Swarbrick urged people to “keep fighting”
“Getting the government to commit to a #ClimateEmergency means they’ve weighed the scale of the problem and the support for doing something,” Swarbrick wrote. “It amplifies valid criticism if they don’t commit to the doing something.”
Getting the Government to commit to a #ClimateEmergency means they’ve weighed the scale of the problem and the support for doing something. It amplifies valid criticism if they don’t commit to the doing something.
Please help us keep fighting. https://t.co/lKbDeKx7Pd
— Chlöe Swarbrick (@_chloeswarbrick) December 13, 2020
8.30am: Trevor Mallard to appear before select committee, says Ardern
Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard has “proactively” arranged to face questions in select committee over a costly legal dispute that arose after he wrongly claimed an accused rapist was working at parliament.
Earlier today, it was reported by RNZ that Labour would block any attempts by the opposition to see Mallard face a select committee. The PM seemingly rejected that possibility: “I expect that he will be appearing before a select committee this week,” she told Morning Report.
Jacinda Ardern said that it was clear Mallard had made a mistake by calling the parliamentary staffer a “rapist” but that she still backed him to do his job.
Both National and Act have declared they have lost confidence in the speaker and have called for his resignation as they believe he is no longer fit for the role.
7.45am: Ihumātao deal expected to go to cabinet today – report
A major development in the ongoing standoff over Ihumātao is expected today, with an initial deal reportedly making its way to the cabinet table.
RNZ reports the deal is for Fletcher Building to sell the land to the government with agreement from Fletchers and Kīingitanga, on behalf of mana whenua.
Last year, any attempts to make progress on the Ihumātao dispute were blocked by New Zealand First. With Labour now governing alone, the road to a resolution is far easier.
However, speaking on RNZ, Jacinda Ardern wouldn’t confirm whether a deal was to be discussed today, calling RNZ’s reporting “speculation”.
7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Speaker Trevor Mallard is under pressure over the costs of paying out to end a defamation dispute. In the wake of the Francis report into the parliamentary bullying culture, Mallard falsely accused a staffer of rape. He apologised for that last week. But several days later, National revealed that the incident had cost taxpayers $330,000 to settle, and as Radio NZ reports, they also called for Mallard to resign as a result. Party leader Judith Collins said “it is the Speaker’s job to set the standard of behaviour for everyone at Parliament but he has been reckless with his words, resulting in taxpayers footing a bill of more than $330,000 to clean up this mess.”
Of course, National’s confidence in Mallard isn’t really relevant for him enjoying the continued confidence of parliament. And it’s not like the speaker and the opposition were on particularly friendly terms over the last term anyway, as a series of run-ins showed. And it looks like Labour are ready and willing to use their majority to protect their man – Radio NZ reports the party is likely to block any attempts by National to get Mallard in front of a select committee to answer questions.
However, it was noticeable reading the Herald website over the weekend the lineup of commentators calling him out for it – Barry Soper, Heather du-Plessis Allen, Kerre McIvor. They’ve got their own views of course, but they’re not partisan operatives. McIvor in particular pointed to a story by the Herald’s Amelia Wade about Mallard being involved in a rule change, so that MPs could have legal costs covered by taxpayers without that necessarily being disclosed to the public.
There is a bigger picture here, and it doesn’t necessarily just concern Mallard. Stuff’s Alison Mau, who edits their #MeToo project, has written about how the whole story has been diverted to being around one man’s comments about another’s alleged actions, when really the Francis report was about so much more. She suggested Mallard has the responsibility of steering through changes to parliamentary culture, and if he goes, it isn’t clear that work will continue. All in all, it’s unlikely to be the last we hear about the issue, even if parliament has finished up for the year.
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
An Air New Zealand crew member has tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in New Zealand on a flight from the United States on December 9. Early results from genome sequencing suggest they were infected in the US, not New Zealand.
New Zealand and the Cook Islands announced a travel bubble which is currently on track for the first quarter of 2021.
Three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation were announced.
The US has authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use with the first vaccinations to begin in the next 24 hours.
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