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blog dec 16

SocietyDecember 16, 2020

Live updates, December 16: Four new imported Covid cases; report into abuse in state care finds systemic failures

blog dec 16

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 16. Reach me at

7.00pm: The day in sum

An interim report by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care was released, detailing systemic failures in the state’s handling of abuse claims.

The Treasury’s half year economic and fiscal update (HYEFU) said economic recovery will be much more robust than initially forecast.

There were four new cases of Covid-19 detected in managed isolation.

Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard appeared before a select committee to explain his role in a $300,000 legal dispute.

Retirement village operator Summerset announced it would pay back the $8.6 million it received through Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme.

4.00pm: ‘Be kind, be patient’ – summer message to hospitality patrons

Hospitality NZ is asking the public to be kind and patient when visiting venues across the summer, and to recognise the impacts of the critical skills shortage caused by Covid-19.

A lack of overseas workers, unable to enter the country, is making the upcoming holiday break harder for businesses that would usually reap the rewards of tourists.

“All venues are geared up to provide the best service possible, but please bear with us, understand the pressure we’re under this year, and be kind to our fabulous staff so that they also have a happy workplace,” said Ian Williams fromHospitality New Zealand Nelson.

“We celebrate the fact that we are open and running, which is a rarity around the planet right now, so it’s a season of goodwill we’re looking for locally.”

3.45pm: Systemic failures in handling of abuse claims, interim report into abuse in state care finds

An interim report by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care has been released, detailing systemic failures in the state’s handling of abuse claims.

The report, Tāwharautia: Pūrongo o te Wā, details the findings from private and public hearings held so far in the five-year inquiry, which began in 2018 under the coalition government and covers the period between 1950 and 1999.

The report’s findings include:

  • Up to 655,000 children, young people and vulnerable adults were in state and faith-based care during 1950-2019 and up to 250,000 children, young people and vulnerable adults were abused.
  • A wide range of abuse and physical, emotional, psychological, medical, educational, spiritual and cultural neglect has occurred.
  • Common factors in abuse cases include a lack of training and vetting and poor complaints and response processes and at the worst further abuse, harassment or punishment for reporting abuse.
  • Discrimination and racism played a role from authorities and the public in both being taken into care and the treatment received in care.
  • Abuse in care is estimated to cost an individual $857,000 over the course of their lifetime; the cost to society for abuse in care between 1950-2019 is up to $217 billion.
  • Redress processes have not worked for many survivors; instead tending to focus on the financial implications to the state rather than providing wellbeing and compensation to survivors. This has understandably created angst and trauma for some survivors.

In a statement, public service minister Chris Hipkins described the report as “a moving record of the state’s past failings in looking after citizens in its care”.

“The report is a difficult read, and shows the enormity of abuse and trauma that has occurred. The hurt and anguish that has been caused in New Zealand’s history is inexcusable.”

Hipkins said while there had been changes to state care since 2000, the Royal Commission’s work would inform further improvements to today’s care-and-redress systems.

He said the government would continue work “already under way on other problem areas raised by survivors, such as possible options for a centralised claims process and considering reforms to how the Limitation Act is used”.

“Survivors have told us they find it difficult to navigate the different redress processes operated by state agencies, and we are exploring whether a single entry-point is possible for historic claims,” he said.

“The Limitation Act, which sets time limits on recognising civil claims against the state, has been used to deny claims in court, and we are already looking into how the act might be applied in future for historic abuse claims.”

In a statement, inquiry chair Coral Shaw said, “We will continue to uncover much more about the nature and extent of abuse in care over the course of this inquiry, which will inform our final recommendations to the governor-general.”

Royal Commission report shows need for closure of large residences

“Large residential institutions risk causing more harm to children than good,” said assistant Māori commissioner for Children Glenis Philip-Barbara in a statement. “The four care and protection residences need to be closed as quickly as possible and the large youth justice centres eventually abolished.”

2.45pm: Port Hills fire caused by fireworks

It’s been confirmed last week’s devastating Port Hills fire was caused by fireworks.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has since banned fireworks in Christchurch from 6pm this evening, including the Akaroa, Bottle Lake and the Port Hills area.

“These are all high risk areas and what we saw on Friday night was completely unnecessary and avoidable,” Christchurch area commander Dave Stackhouse told Stuff.

2.00pm: New Zealand economic outlook better than expected, house prices to continue to rise

Business editor Michael Andrew reports:

New Zealand’s economic recovery will be much more robust than initially forecast, according to the Treasury.

The Treasury’s half year economic and fiscal update (HYEFU) today showed unemployment is forecast to peak at 6.9% by the end of 2021, rather than the 7.8% forecasted in September’s pre-election fiscal and economic update (Prefu).

The books also show lower budget deficits over the next four years, with revenue from GST and corporate taxes to 2025 forecast to be $16.8b higher than the Prefu figure. GDP is forecast to grow by 1.5% in June 2021, compared with the Prefu forecasted contraction of 0.5%.

“While New Zealand’s economy contracted in 2020 it is forecast to rebound strongly in 2021, outperforming regions we compare ourselves to like the Euro Zone, the United Kingdom and Japan,” finance minister Grant Robertson said. “The fiscal position is still challenging.”

The Treasury’s books also forecast house prices to rise by 8.5% in the current year to June 2021, 4.5% in the following year, then by 5.2% for two years and then 5.5%.

Net debt is now forecast to peak at 52.6% of GDP in 2023, a year earlier and lower than the 55% Prefu forecast, while the budget deficit is seen to have peaked already at $23b this year and will gradually drop to $4.2b in 2024.

1.30pm: Four new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation

There are four new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation since the last media statement on Monday, the Ministry of Health has announced. Once again, there are no new cases in the community.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is now 43, with 17 people having recovered since Monday. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,744.

Of today’s new cases:

  • Two cases who are part of the same family arrived on December 9 from the Czech Republic via Germany and Singapore. Both people tested positive on day three and are now in quarantine in a facility in Christchurch.
  • Two cases who travelled together arrived on December 10 from the United States. Both people tested positive around day three and are being transferred to quarantine in a facility in Christchurch.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,352,462, said the ministry.

Final whole genome sequencing results for the positive Covid-19 case of an Air New Zealand aircrew member who flew from the United States show the lineage doesn’t match any genomes previously sequenced in New Zealand.

The same genome lineage has been reported in the United States, backing up the ministry’s previous claim that the individual was likely infected while overseas.

The three aircrew members who are close contacts of the aircrew member who tested positive have returned negative day five test results.

A fourth person who is a casual contact was transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility as a precaution after developing symptoms. This person has returned a negative test result and remains in the quarantine facility.

1.05pm: Trevor Mallard appears before select committee

Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard has repeated his apology for mistakenly calling a parliamentary worker a rapist, leading to a more than $300,000 legal dispute.

Mallard is appearing before the Governance and Administration Select Committee this afternoon.

“I made a mistake and for that I unreservedly apologise to the House and to New Zealanders,” Mallard said.

In apologising for his comments, Mallard said he was sorry that his legal dispute has taken the spotlight away from stories of abuse of power and harassment that were seen in the Francis review.

“My error has diverted attention away from their stories and the good work that is being done to improve the culture of parliament. That is something I regret,” Mallard said.

Both National and Act have called for Mallard to resign, something the speaker and prime minister Jacinda Ardern have said won’t be happening.

Trevor Mallard and his Taxpayers Union pal (Image : Select Committee)

The committee room is packed with journalists along with a large mascot pig that appears to be affiliated with the Taxpayers’ Union. The mascot was asked to leave the committee by the chair.

You can watch the Select Committee live here

12.50pm: Emaciated brown kiwi makes ‘remarkable’ recovery

It’s nearly the end of the year, so let’s take an opportunity to celebrate some good news in amongst the chaos.

The Department of Conservation has confirmed a North Island brown kiwi rescued from a Taranaki road culvert in September has made a “remarkable recovery”.

The male kiwi was thought to have been in the culvert for several weeks before he was discovered and had lost skin and bones from repeated attempts to climb out of the culvert.

After several weeks of treatment at Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North, the kiwi was transferred to the nearby Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre – a specialist facility with large aviaries for rehabilitating native birds.

The tissue covering the bones forming his claws has grown back, as have his nails.

“Everything we hoped would happen has happened,” said Pauline Nijman, from Wildbase Hospital.

Gone by Lunchtime: The Golden Handbrake Awards 2020

It’s the final Gone by Lunchtime for 2020 and it’s a special one. Join Toby, Annabelle and Ben one last time as they recap all the biggest winners and losers and movers and shakers from the year in New Zealand politics.

Download now, subscribe through Apple Podcasts, or visit Gone By Lunchtime on Acast or Spotify.

10.20am: Truckies reminded to make sure their vehicles are roadworthy

Police have issued a reminder to truck drivers following an operation in Northland that found almost one in five heavy vehicles failed its inspection report.

The reminder comes amid an onslaught of trucks making their way down from Northland over the pre-Christmas period, carrying cargo to Auckland as a result of congestion at Ports of Auckland.

Over the first three days of the operation, inspection reports were carried out on 534 vehicles – 96 of these vehicles failed their inspections, police said.

“Of the biggest concern, 11 trucks were found to have serious faults and were deemed non-operational and had to be taken off the road. These vehicles posed a considerable risk to other motorists and should never have been allowed on the road,” said senior sergeant Mike Flatt.

“The single-biggest issue related to lighting faults, however there were a high number of failures relating to tyres and brakes which is of concern.”

9.50am: Summerset Group to repay $8.6m wage subsidy

Business editor Michael Andrew reports:

Retirement village operator Summerset will pay back the $8.6 million it received through Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme, it told the NZX this morning.

Although Summerset met the criteria for the wage subsidy in April by showing a 30% drop in revenue, it later reported an underlying profit of $45.1 million for the first half of 2020, allowing it to pay a dividend.

Outgoing chairman Rob Campbell said the “time was right to return the wage subsidy. Summerset was in a stable financial position and the business outlook was positive.”

Summerset was one of several companies that came under fire from academics, who said the company’s sound finances indicated it didn’t actually need the subsidy and should pay it back.

Kindergarten teacher and wage subsidy protestor Ian Swney, who in October attempted to persuade Briscoe Group to pay back its wage subsidy by tagging on side of the Hasting’s Briscoes store, said Summerset and Hallensteins were the other companies on his list.

Both Briscoes and Summerset have since announced they will repay the subsidy. Hallensteins, however, has made no such plans.

A note from me

Good morning live updates readers! Just a wee note from me to say that this is the final week of live updates for 2020. Tomorrow will be a slightly more stripped back version as The Spinoff team get together to celebrate the end of year, but we will still keep you up to date on all the big news stories. I’ll be around on Friday, too, looking at some of the top stories from the year.

Anything you think I’ve missed or want to let me know what you think I should reflect on this Friday? Get in touch.

Thanks, Stewart.

7.50am: Trevor Mallard to face select committee; Judith Collins calls for him to stand down

Judith Collins has defended her party’s plan to call a no confidence vote in speaker of the house Trevor Mallard, despite the fact Labour holds a majority and will knock the vote down.

National and Act have both called for Mallard’s resignation following the revelation more than $300,000 of tax payer funds were used for a legal battle sparked by the speaker wrongly accusing a parliamentary worker of being a rapist.

Mallard’s due to front before a select committee today. Collins told RNZ she wants him to apologise and offer his resignation.

“The fact that it has taken so much money to settle this and most of it appears to have gone on legal fees is actually a testament to Trevor Mallard not apologising earlier and lancing the boil at the time,” said Collins. “The actions are deplorable from someone who is the speaker of parliament, who sets the standard of behaviour for MPs”

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A whole lot of papers around the end of one term of government and the start of the next have been released. The briefings to incoming ministers are effectively an outline of where ministries are at, what their priorities are and the biggest challenges. A few of the big and interesting ones:

Health is in real trouble, according to this piece by Stuff’s Bridie Witton. Funding has not kept pace with increasing demand for more than a decade, and the infrastructure is under severe strain, with a lot of upgrades looming. Those with an NZ Doctor subscription should also have a look at their piece on responsibility for the health system reforms. Quite a job ahead for the five ministers with various degrees of oversight over the system.

The briefings can also give a clear steer on where a ministry is looking to move next. Politik has a fascinating piece this morning about the BIM to new revenue minister David Parker – many were puzzled when it emerged Parker had requested the relatively obscure portfolio. However, with work currently taking place in the department on environmental taxes, it gives Parker the opportunity to more fully use the tax system to bring closer his goals around his environment portfolio – notably cleaning up rivers.

Ministries can also use the briefings to ask for what they want from their new paymasters. And as Stuff’s Henry Cooke reports, they want money. Partly that’s because revenue for ministries has been hit by Covid-19, and demand costs increased. But the call for more came from across the sector.

In other areas, Newshub’s Zane Small has reported on plans for a second gun buyback next year, with additional weapons added to the list. Stuff’s Luke Malpass has focused on the briefing on child poverty to minister Jacinda Ardern, and the warning in it that child poverty will rise due to Covid-19. And biosecurity minister Damien O’Connor was warned about the risks of not controlling the spread of wilding pines, reports Radio NZ’s Eric Frykberg. Other pieces will be scattered through today and tomorrow as needed.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

The government unveiled its Covid-19 summer resurgence plan, including an instruction for New Zealanders to isolate in their holiday bubble and not return home, should Covid suddenly return.

A Covid-19 vaccine would be ‘unlikely to replace all public health controls’, the new minister of health was told, according to a newly released collection of post-election briefings to incoming ministers.

The same document release revealed plans for a second gun buyback in 2021.

ANZ, the country’s largest bank, will require a 40% deposit from residential property investors in a bid to curb skyrocketing house prices.

The prime minister revealed she had a “lovely” chat with the Queen this week over the phone.

Joe Biden officially secured the US presidency, with the electoral college delivering him the victory against Donald Trump projected in the days after the November election. Meanwhile attorney general Bill Barr announced he was stepping down before Christmas.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates

Keep going!