Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)

SocietyJune 16, 2020

Live updates, June 16: Two new Covid-19 cases were allowed out of isolation, travelled to Wellington in private car

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)

For all The Spinoff’s latest coverage of Covid-19 see here. Read Siouxsie Wiles’s work here. New Zealand is currently in alert level one – read about what that means here. For official government advice, see here.

The Spinoff’s coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak is made possible thanks to donations from Spinoff Members. To support this work, join The Spinoff Members here.

7.00pm: The day in sum

Two new cases of Covid-19 were announced, breaking the country’s 24-day Covid-free streak. The cases are two women who travelled from Britain were allowed to leave managed isolation on compassionate grounds to drive to Wellington.

Health minister David Clark later said that compassionate exemptions to our border arrival rules would be suspended indefinitely.

Two teenagers granted an exemption from isolation to attend a funeral in Hamilton late last week ran away afterwards, it was confirmed. The pair have since been located.

In other exemption news, farmers have won the right to apply for an exemption to the new rifle ban as long as they can prove they need otherwise prohibited firearms to control pest populations.

An end to DHB elections, a reduction in DHB numbers and a greater focus on population health are among the proposals made in the Simpson health system review, which was released today

The March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence, according to the Christchurch Press. Among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom, the paper reported.

6.40pm: Compassionate exemptions to end

Compassionate exemptions at New Zealand’s border have been suspended indefinitely, only hours after two women were confirmed to have tested positive for Covid-19 after being allowed to exit managed-isolation early.

The government won’t restore the exemptions until it regains confidence in the border system, health minister David Clark said in a statement. “Compassionate exemptions should be rare and rigorous and it appears that this case did not include the checks that we expected to be happening. That’s not acceptable,” he said.

The two women were allowed to exit their 14-day managed isolation in Auckland after only six days to see a dying relative. One of the women had mild symptoms on her release and was not tested until days later. Clark said he’s asked director general of health Ashley Bloomfield whether stronger health measures can be added to what is already one of the world’s strictest border regimes.

5.40pm: Air NZ to resume Auckland-Shanghai flights

Air New Zealand will begin flying Auckland-Shanghai again from next week, after a break of four months. From June 22 the airline will operate one return flight a week on a service aimed at repatriating New Zealanders and Chinese citizens to their respective countries. Before Covid-19, Air NZ operated seven return flights a week on the route. The announcement follows news last week that the airline would resume its Auckland-Tokyo service once a week from June 25

4.30pm: The latest numbers, in chart form

It’s not quite a curve, and it’s all but imperceptible, but it’s still an unwelcome change.


4.25pm: Thumbs up for health overhaul from experts

The health and disability sector review released this morning has been welcomed by most healthcare professionals. The review’s main structural proposal was the vertical expansion of the system with the addition of a Crown entity (Health NZ) and the establishment of a Māori health authority, and the consolidation of DHBs from 20 down to between eight and 12.Members of the healthcare industry have largely been supportive of the review, especially the formation of the Māori health authority.

Matt Tukaki, executive director of the New Zealand Māori Council, said this morning the review was “a brutal look at the system but also a pathway of opportunity towards closing the gaps when it comes to the health inequities between Māori and non-Māori”.

The review also suggested scrapping DHB elections, instead having the minister for health appoint members of DHB boards. Even democracy’s strongest advocates, the Green Party, acknowledged the DHB elections system needed an overhaul. “Voter turnout for DHB elections is notoriously low, so we agree that the current system could be improved,” said associate Minister for Health and Green MP Julie Anne Genter. “It is vital that local voices are heard and that health services match the different needs of different communities.”

Read more on what the experts think of the review here.

4.10pm: New cases should prompt mask push, says Baker

Public health expert Michael Baker, of the University of Otago, Wellington, said the new cases (see 3.05pm) are “obviously a reminder about the ongoing risk of imported Covid-19 cases”. In comments reported by the Science Media Centre, he said: “There will be a continuing demand for travel into New Zealand for compassionate and economic reasons. Most inbound travellers are vulnerable to being infected in their home country because of widespread ongoing Covid-19 transmission in most parts of the world.”

Baker has for some time been arguing mask use needs to become normalised; this should especially be so among new arrivals, he said.

“New Zealand needs to be confident that all steps in these quarantine processes are robust and scrutinised to ensure that protocols are carefully followed. One important safeguard that does not appear to be routinely used is facemasks. In most countries it would be mandatory to wear facemasks on aircraft, in border and quarantine facilities, and where people are allowed to leave such facilities before their quarantine period has been completed. Mask use provides an important additional line of defence that New Zealand should be using.”

3.45pm: Teenagers ran away after being allowed to leave isolation for funeral

Also at this afternoon’s press conference, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield confirmed that two teenagers granted an exemption from isolation to attend a funeral in Hamilton late last week ran away afterwards. They have since been located, but he didn’t know how long they were missing for. One is now in managed isolation, while the other is in an “agreed community arrangement”.

3.05pm: Two new Covid-19 cases were allowed out of isolation, travelled to Wellington in private car

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is currently providing details about the two new cases of Covid-19 confirmed today. They are two women from the same family, one in her 30s and one in her 40s, who recently arrived from the UK. They were tested yesterday and the results came in this morning. Both arrived in New Zealand on June 7 and stayed in a managed isolation hotel in Auckland. They were permitted on compassionate grounds to travel to Wellington via private vehicle on June 13 to be with a dying parent and plan the funeral, which was to be deferred to when the pair were out of isolation.

Bloomfield said the pair were granted an exemption because they had a plan in place – a private vehicle was dropped to the hotel, the pair drove to Wellington together and had no contact with anyone, and didn’t use any public facilities. They were tested at a drive-through centre in Wellington by staff in full PPE. In Wellington they had contact with only one other person, a family member. At the time of testing, “one woman, in retrospect, was experiencing mild symptoms”, said Bloomfield, while the other was symptom free. Other potential contacts include people who were on a flight from Brisbane with the women and those who were in the same managed isolation facility, and the contact follow-up is being managed by the national close contact centre with support from local DHBs.

Swabbing is under way at the hotel where the women were staying – Novotel Ellerslie – currently, and any staff who were in contact with them are being stood down and tested. Bloomfield said the other people they were in managed isolation with were being held there and will be tested, and anyone who departed since June 7 will be followed up.

Footage from the period during which the women transited through the border at Auckland airport is being reviewed to see if any border staff had close contact with the women. Public health staff have also been in touch with their counterparts in Australia. They flew from the UK to Brisbane via Doha. Both women are now self-isolating in the Wellington region. Bloomfield said the family had asked for their privacy to be respected.

Compassionate exemptions to managed isolation are only granted if there is a detailed plan for self-isolation and testing, said Bloomfield. “Today’s news underscores the recent decision to not grant exemptions to attend funerals or tangihanga where there may be large groups of people present under alert level one,” he said.

In normal circumstances anyone granted an exemption would be required to return a negative test before leaving quarantine, said Bloomfield, but in this case it was “expedited” owing to the condition of the unwell family member.

The two new cases will be reported to the WHO and bring the confirmed numbers to 1,156, and the confirmed and probable combined total to 1,506. Yesterday, 1,527 tests were completed, bringing the total number to 312,648.

The women had adhered to the rules, said Bloomfield. He said criteria for exemptions were strict and “detailed and clear” and would not be revised.

He said that while one of the women had previously experienced symptoms, she had “attributed them to a pre-existing condition”.

Asked by The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti, who has first-hand experience of mandatory managed isolation and the detailed questions asked of those undertaking it, whether the woman had reported the symptoms when questioned by a nurse, Bloomfield said: “This is one of things we want to check. My understanding is the person who had the symptoms was asked, ‘Are you OK?’, and the protocol as you’ve just described is to go through each individual symptom and ask, and it may well have been that would have elicited specific symptoms that may have led to suspicion, but, again, I think this individual attributed her symptoms to a pre-existing condition.”

Bloomfield stressed that henceforth no one would be considered eligible for an exemption until they had returned a negative test. He said he was unaware if the pair were wearing face masks when interacting with the family member, but they had packed “a bunch” when they travelled to Wellington.

3.00pm: Bloomfield to speak about two new Covid-19 cases – watch here

2.00pm: Facebook makes ad transparency tool mandatory ahead of NZ election

The long-running question around whether National will sign up to Facebook’s ad library is now moot, with the social media company announcing that it will be mandatory.

From next month, any political party posting an ad on Facebook in New Zealand, along with anyone posting an ad making reference to political figures, social issues or the election, will be required to confirm their identity with a New Zealand government-issued ID, and disclose who is responsible for the ad in a public “paid for by” disclaimer.

“If we receive a report on any ad related to politics or social issues that have the potential to influence the election or referenda, for example cannabis or end of life choice, that isn’t labelled or violates our political advertising policy, we’ll take it down,” said Mia Garlick, policy director for Australia and New Zealand, in a statement. The ads and the information used to confirm their disclaimer will be made available in the Ad Library for seven years.

Facebook also announced that fact-checking was under way in New Zealand, undertaken by locally based representatives of the Australian Associated Press, which would “independently review content and rate its accuracy so we can continue to reduce the spread of misinformation on our platforms”.

Politicians are exempt from third-party fact-checking “because we don’t believe it’s appropriate for a private company like Facebook to referee political debates and prevent the speech of a New Zealand politician from reaching Kiwis”, said Garlick.

The Spinoff will post a more detailed report on the announcement, drawing on a media teleconference just completed, shortly.

1.45pm: National responds to health report

The National Party has issued a response to this morning’s Simpson review of the health system (see 10.30am) – though it doesn’t make any reference to the content of the report.

“I’m glad the public finally has access to this wide-ranging review, but this should have been released months ago,” said health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse in a statement. “There is no excuse for the minister to delay its release, he had time to go for bike rides during lockdown but apparently didn’t have time to read a major report on the health system he’s meant to be running,” he added, in a stab at David Clark’s breach of lockdown guidelines.

“With the election only three months away, it’s now unlikely the government will formally respond to the report in this term,” said Woodhouse. “This is a blatant attempt to kick the can down the road and avoid doing their job.” 

1.10pm: Two new cases of Covid-19, both border related

The Ministry of Health has announced there are two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, bringing to an end the country’s 24-day streak without any cases. Both cases are connected and “related to the border as a result of recent travel from the UK”.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will be holding a briefing about the new cases at 3pm.

TVNZ is reporting that the two cases were given a special exemption to attend a funeral.

1.00pm: Farmers win exemption under new firearms law

Significant changes are being made to the government’s landmark firearms legislation, including a new exemption that will allow farmers to continue to own prohibited semi-automatic rifles. The substantial amendments, tabled by police minister Stuart Nash today, mean that farmers and agricultural businesses will now be able to apply for an exemption to the ban on certain rifles as long as they can prove they need otherwise prohibited firearms to control pest populations.

As a sign of who was responsible for the changes in the governing coalition, Federated Farmers thanked “NZ First for their common sense approach to this matter”.Among other changes, the government will now have more time to create a firearms registry and some powers given to commissioner of police will be transferred to the police minister. Cabinet has also agreed to establish a new government agency to take over the licensing of firearms from the police.

12.25pm: David Seymour standing for the Act Party, and so is David Seymour

The bar has been set high for clickbait election press releases. Just in, one from the Act Party, headlined “David Seymour to stand in Whangarei”.

It reads: “David Seymour has been selected as ACT’s candidate for Whangarei for the 2020 General Election. ‘I’m not the ACT Leader, but I am a strong advocate for End of Life Choice. After a successful career in real estate, I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2017. I’ve lived a full and active life, but I believe that when my time comes, I should have a choice about how I go. It’s my life and my choice.

“’The reason I’m standing for ACT in Whangarei is to highlight the importance of providing compassion and choice for terminally ill New Zealanders.’

David Seymour is an experienced businessman, a devoted family man, and a vocal advocate for End of Life Choice. David Seymour will stand in Epsom. If your name is David Seymour, please consider standing for Act.

12.10pm: PM ‘frustrated’ she and others in parliament still on full pay

Two months after Jacinda Ardern said MPs would take a pay cut in response to the Covid-19 crisis, they all continue to receive full salaries, reports the Herald – and the prime minister says she’s frustrated. In mid-April, Ardern announced she, government ministers and top civil servants would take a 20% pay cut for six months, and MPs who are not ministers, party leaders or chairs of select committees would take a 10% cut. A law to allow the cuts to take place was passed a month later, but they still haven’t kicked in and won’t until July 9, reports the Herald.

“One of the frustrations for us is I did test whether I could just not accept my full pay but I was told ‘No’,” said Ardern. “By law I couldn’t do that. So we changed the law, now we’re waiting for it to be implemented by the Remuneration Authority.”

The Remuneration Authority said the process around pay cuts is complicated and lengthy, reports the Herald. “They will still be happening and they will still apply for six months,” Ardern said. “What I am frustrated by is how long it’s taken.”

11am: No DHB elections ‘risk to local democracy’, say Greens

The Green Party is concerned about the review’s recommendation to end DHB elections, calling it a risk to local democracy, but the party conceded the current system could be improved to increase perennially low voter turnout. “The proposed replacement of DHB elections with appointed boards must ensure communities can still have a say in health decisions that affect them,” Julie Anne Genter, the party’s health spokesperson, said in a statement. 

10.30am: End to DHB elections, new agencies proposed in major health system review

The Simpson Report into the health and disability sector has been released, making a range of major proposals for changes. Among the top lines, the report has proposed an end to DHB elections, a reduction in the number of DHBs, a new crown entity called Health NZ to oversee those DHBs, and a greater focus across the system on population health. While the government hasn’t formally accepted the recommendations, health minister David Clark says it agrees with the direction of travel of the report, and cabinet will consider specific proposals over the coming months. You can read The Spinoff’s full report on the review here. The final report can be read in full here.

Announcing the release of the report, health minister David Clark said “the review is clear: we can do better. The review found that our health and disability workforces are under considerable stress and our system is complex and fragmented. It sets out a path towards a better more sustainable health system with clear lines of accountability, one that is more responsive to the needs of local communities. This is particularly important when it comes to improving the health outcomes of those most in indeed, including Māori, Pacific and disabled communities.

“The report recommends the most significant changes to our health system in a decade – structural change and stronger leadership. My focus from the outset has been on equity of access and outcomes for all people, and the recommendations build on that.”

Asked about the removal of voting for DHB members, Clark said: “The feedback I have had from across the sector is those people who vote in DHB elections often don’t know the candidates and don’t really know what the people on those boards are doing. I think the case for professional governance has been made, alongside the case for greater engagement with the community in planning the services that will be delivered. I think there’s a balance that has been struck in the report, and it feels to me the right balance.”

Clark was noncommittal on the timing of implementation of the measures. If re-elected, a Labour-led government would be “moving as quickly as possible”, he said, but he could not pledge to do so in the first 100 days.

10.00am: Emergency use authority revoked for hydroxychloroquine

The US Food and Drug Administration has revoked its emergency use authorisation for hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, the drug championed by US President Donald Trump to stave off the coronavirus, reports RNZ.

Based on new evidence, the FDA said it was no longer reasonable to believe that oral formulations of hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine may be effective in treating the illness. The move comes after several studies of the decades-old malaria drug suggested it was not effective.

The drug’s anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties suggested it might help treat Covid-19, and the FDA authorised its emergency use in March at the height of a pandemic for which there were no approved treatments. While it did appear to neutralise the virus in laboratory experiments, hydroxychloroquine, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has failed to prove its worth in human Covid-19 trials thus far.

9.30am: Spinoff poll shows support for Covid measures remains solid

A new and exclusive poll by Stickybeak for The Spinoff, published this morning, shows backing for government measures in response to the Covid crisis is undimmed.

It’s the fifth in a series of surveys of New Zealanders’ views on the Covid response. The first, conducted immediately following Jacinda Ardern’s announcement of a move into lockdown on March 23, showed 80% support for the response. The four times we’ve asked the question since, that number has been higher, respectively: 83%, 86%, 84% and again, as we report today, 84%.

For more from the poll, including the level of support for the timing of the move to alert level one and the appetite for travelling to Australia, see our report here.

9.15am: Labour president defends Verrall list placement

Speaking to Morning Report earlier today, the Labour Party president, Claire Szabo, dismissed the suggestion that infectious diseases physician Ayesha Verrall – the headline signing at No 18 on the Labour list announced yesterday – had been conflicted in speaking publicly on the government health response to the Covid-19 threat. Her nomination had arrived very late in the piece, and her commentary and advice had been independent of the government and “neutral”, said Szabo.

“We looked at 103 nominations for the Labour Party over the weekend including one from Dr Ayesha Verrall. We were very pleased to have a nomination from somebody who is a very highly acclaimed infectious diseases specialist when we’re going into a period in our government where we need to deeply understand that and have that expertise,” she said.

Read the full list, with analysis from Alex Braae, here.

9.05am: NZ embassy in Baghdad to close

The New Zealand Embassy in Baghdad will permanently close, Winston Peters, the foreign minister, has announced

In a statement, Peters said: “This decision to permanently close the Embassy was not taken lightly and is in no way an indication of any change in the value that New Zealand places on its relationship with Iraq. The Embassy was opened in 2015 to support the New Zealand Defence Force military deployment to Iraq and, with the withdrawal of the majority NZDF troops from Taji earlier this year, the primary rationale for the Embassy in Baghdad has been removed.”

Four New Zealand Defence personnel are currently stationed at Coalition Headquarters in Iraq and Kuwait, with five operational support roles based in Qatar. The mandate for these roles has been extended until June 2022. The embassy will close at the end of June and New Zealand’s formal accreditation to Iraq will transfer to the New Zealand Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

8.20am: March 15 terrorist ‘wrongly granted a firearms licence’ – report

An alarming report on the front page of this morning’s Press newspaper.

The story, which you can read here on Stuff, begins like this: “The March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures, sources have told Stuff. The terrorist, who pleaded guilty to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in March, was not properly inspected by police vetting staff when he applied for a firearms licence in 2017.

“Stuff has been told that, among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom.”

8.00am: Health system review to be published

Later this morning the long-awaited Health and Disability System Review, chaired by Heather Simpson, will be released. There was already a great deal of fascination around the report and what it might recommend; that has compounded considerably given the extraordinary health crisis of 2020. In one opinion piece this morning comes a call for public health to be prioritised as a result.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB in the last hour, Robin Gauld, a senior lecturer in health policy at the University of Otago, said: “I suspect they’re going to go for some sort of arrangement where they’re looking for better coordination and collaboration and maybe some more regional arrangements that build on what we already have. Really what they should be doing is going a step further and taking the DHBs out completely and replacing them with a chain of managers who work collaboratively across the system and are accountable to one another for working as a team.”

It is highly unlikely that anything stemming from the report will be legislated before the election.

7.35am: Updates from today’s edition of The Bulletin

Get your shovels out – 11 projects have been announced to start imminently after being included in an infrastructure fast-tracking bill. As Stuff reports, the inclusion is aimed at rapid job creation, and under the legislation other projects could later be included – though there is only a two year window for that, before the legislation automatically repeals itself. The way that it’ll work is that the projects that have been included will be sent through ‘expert consenting panels’, rather than a full slog through the Resource Management Act.

What’s being funded? There’s a list in the Stuff story, but in short they’re heavily focused on rail, cycleways and housing. Included in the list is the start of the massive Unitec housing development – which has been years in the making – and a development programme for a network of papakāinga – a form of cohousing pioneered by Māori. The rail projects are about upgrades to networks in Auckland and Wellington, with the aim of increasing capacity. The geographical spread of the projects is interesting – Marlborough mayor John Leggett welcomed the news of upgrades to the Picton Ferry dock and terminal, and there’s a water storage facility planned for drought-hit Kaikohe. The Skypath cycleway in Auckland has been given the go-ahead, which means it might finally actually go ahead. There’s also an upgrade to State Highway 1 between Drury and Papakura, which doesn’t quite fit with the theme of the rest of the projects – as Newsroom reports, they’re mostly more ‘green’ than ‘grey’.  But is likely to provide 350 of the total 1250 or so direct jobs created by the projects.

The key thing that the government has done to make this happen is bypassing existing legislation, and there are some concerns about that. Greenpeace in particular are alarmed, saying “it seems the proposed legislation has bypassed a mandatory climate impacts assessment set up by the Government at the end of last year.” They welcome the focus on rail and cycling, but questioned whether upgrades to SH1 would fit that bill. The NZ Herald reports that National are questioning why the new Infrastructure Commission doesn’t appear to have been involved in these decisions, despite being set up only last year – minister David Parker responded to that criticism by saying the Commission is currently involved in assessing around 1800 potential projects. In contrast, Business NZ has welcomed the use of the new regulatory tools, saying they hope it lays the groundwork for more and bigger projects.

The 11 initial fast-tracked projects named in the Bill are:

1) Kaikohe water storage facility.

2) Unitec – Phase 1 – high density housing on the Unitec site in Auckland.

3) Te Pa Tahuna – Phase 1 –  up to 180 residential units and retail space on an old school site in Queenstown – part of a wider development that aims to provide up to 300 high density dwellings.

4) Papakāinga Network Development – the delivery of Papakainga across six sites; in Kaitaia, Pt Chevalier, Raglan, Waitara, Chatham Islands and Christchurch.

5) Britomart East Upgrade – upgrades to Britomart station to ensure the City Rail Link project can operate at full capacity once services commence.

6) Papakura to Pukekohe electrification – electrification of rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and the construction of three rail platforms.

7) Wellington Metro Upgrade programme – suite of smaller projects aimed at increasing the passenger and freight capacity of trains between Masterton, Levin and Wellington.

8) Picton Ferry Dock and Terminal upgrade – the project will improve rail services by expanding the docks and upgrading the passenger terminal.

9) Northern Pathway – a cycleway and walkway between Westhaven and Akoranga in Auckland.

10) Papakura to Drury SH1 roading upgrade.

11) Te Ara Tūpuna – a cycleway and walkway between Petone and Ngauranga in Wellington.

Just quickly, a message from The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive: 

“The arrival of Covid-19 and lockdown changed The Spinoff, transforming our editorial to focus on the biggest story of our lives, taking a small team and making it a seven day a week news operation. But it also fundamentally changed us as a business, too. Prior to the crisis, around 20% of our editorial costs were funded by our Members. Now, that figure is north of 50%. The loss of some key commercial clients meant that change has to be permanent. If you’re already a member, please know that all at The Spinoff are incredibly grateful for your help. If you’re not, and can afford to contribute, please consider doing so – it really is critically important to our ability to cover the next phase of the crisis, in all its complexity.”

The Labour party has put out the list it will take into the 2020 election, and there are some intriguing new names in the mix. Here’s a report on the list as a whole, and the most interesting bit is that Labour has secured the services of Dr Ayesha Verrall, the physician, researcher and DHB member who was instrumental in strengthening New Zealand’s contact tracing system against Covid-19. To analyse that a bit, it’s a real sign of confidence from Labour going into the election – highly intelligent people with important things to do very rarely choose to switch careers and go into politics unless it’s clear they’ll have an impact.

A concerning story about how police vetting for firearms licenses has worked in recent years: Stuff’s Thomas Manch has reported on allegations that a string of police failures allowed the Christchurch mosque shooter to obtain a license, and in doing so allowing him to purchase the guns to carry out the murders. That is in contrast to what the police said immediately after the attack, which was that all procedures were correctly followed. The key failing that is alleged is that the shooter’s referees consisted of just two people who met him through an internet chatroom, rather than family or next of kin. The story also details the immense pressure vetting staff were under with a heavy workload, requiring them to rush the vetting process.

Associate transport minister Julie Anne Genter has offered a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain about the coalition government’s failure to get movement on Auckland’s light rail. Radio NZ’s Katie Scotcher has reported on a comment posted by Genter in a private Green facebook group, in which she said that NZTA delays then led to NZ First having political cover to hold up their support, thus stopping the project in its tracks. Unfortunately after RNZ started asking questions, everyone involved clammed up, but suffice to say it’s a particularly unhappy area in the relationship between the various parties of government.

An index based on the services sector of the economy holds grim tidings for the labour market. Business Desk’s (paywalled) Paul McBeth has covered the numbers for May, which are the worst the index has ever seen since starting in 2007. That’s not necessarily a massive surprise, as there were still pretty serious Covid-19 restrictions in place over May. But the concern is that unemployment is a ‘lagging indicator’ – that means it shows up in the stats after the economic damage has been done. A quote from BNZ economist Doug Steel summed it up – “we’d caution that just being allowed to open doesn’t guarantee more activity.”

Protests have broken out among workers of a ventilation manufacturing company in South Auckland, over claims the company deceived them over the wage subsidy, reports Michael Andrew for The Spinoff. Some of the workers say they were made to use annual leave “under duress” at the start of lockdown, and were then made redundant. The company denies this, and says they complied with the Holidays Act.

Watercare in Auckland has been criticised by the chair of the Waikato Regional Council over the city’s water shortages, reports Radio NZ. The relevance of the criticism is that right now, Watercare is trying to tap the Waikato River for more. The criticism came with a warning that Auckland would have to rely on other solutions as well, particularly long term. Even with a little bit more rain recently, the drought is still pretty bad, and water use still hasn’t consistently dropped to the necessary levels.

Right now on The Spinoff: David Galler has a nuanced piece about unions, and the line between self-interested advocacy and that which will make society better. Alice Webb-Liddall writes about research examining equity in the response to Covid-19, and whether everyone shared in it. A group of writers have put together a reading list for those wanting to know more about anti-racism from a Māori perspective. Jeremy Couchman looks at the green shoots of economic activity after Covid. Matthew McAuley looks at students learning the skills to be the tech workforce of the future. An exclusive set of polls conducted by Stickybeak shows there’s still very strong support for the government’s Covid approach, a majority want the borders to remain closed, and more.

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

The government announced 11 infrastructure projects to be fast-tracked under the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track) Bill.

Labour announced its party list for the 2020 election, with contact tracing expert Dr Ayesha Verrall at number 18.

New Zealand marked a week without any active cases of Covid-19, and 24 days since the last recorded case.

E tū union called on the government to “stop dragging [its] feet” on a 2017 promise to pay contracted workers a living wage.

TVNZ announced it was expecting to make up to 90 job cuts in restructures brought about by a 30 percent downturn in revenue as a result of by Covid-19.

The Commerce Commission said it had received over 60 complaints about products falsely claiming to cure or prevent Covid-19 since New Zealand entered lockdown in March.

Read yesterday’s live updates here

Keep going!