Minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Digby Webb heading to a press conference (Photo: Radio NZ, Dom Thomas)

Live updates, June 26-28: Four new cases of Covid-19; royal commission interviews mosque shooter

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

8.30pm: The day in review

Four new cases of Covid-19 were reported in New Zealand, all recent returnees from overseas who were in managed isolation. One of them, a man in his 30s, is receiving hospital treatment.

The government’s Review of Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) was released, revealing “a system under extreme stress”.

The royal commission of inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attacks revealed it had interviewed the man responsible for the shootings.

The Green Party announced its first policy of election year: a “poverty action plan” including a guaranteed minimum income of $325 a week.

The Act Party unveiled a revamped party list, revealing a new deputy leader and a gun lobbyist at number three.

6.05pm: Lockdowns considered as Victoria records more than 40 new cases

The trans-Tasman bubble seems to be getting further and further away as the Australian state of Victoria yesterday reported its highest daily tally of new cases since April – 49. Eight cases were reclassified after further testing found these indeterminate results to be negative, so the total number of cases in Victoria increased by 41 to 2,028.

The state is now considering stay-at-home orders and suburban lockdowns to contain several clusters in Melbourne, reports the Guardian. While new cases in other Australian states are similar to those in New Zealand, being small in number and confined to people arriving from overseas, all the Melbourne cases are in the community.

The spike in cases came as Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced compulsory testing for returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

5.50pm: March 15 shooter interviewed by royal commission

The man responsible for the terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques on March 15, 2019, has been interviewed by the royal commission of inquiry investigating the shootings.

In March this year, the man pleaded guilty to and was convicted on 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act. He is due to be sentenced in July.

Via a press release, royal commission chair Justice Sir William Young confirmed the man had been interviewed, saying despite extensive investigations using material provided by police and other agencies, “there were some areas of uncertainty. In addition, the terms of reference and the Inquiries Act 2013 require the royal commission to observe the principles of natural justice in respect of any person who may be the subject of adverse comment in the royal commission’s report. That includes the individual.”

Commissioner Jacqui Caine added, “This was a carefully considered decision driven by the need to observe natural justice and the ultimate goal of providing answers to the New Zealand public through an authoritative final report. We have given a commitment to the public that we would leave no stone unturned and interviewing the individual is another way we have sought to fulfil that commitment.”

The interview took place at Auckland Prison (Paremoremo).

3.05pm: Greens call for guaranteed minimum income, wealth tax on millionaires

The Green Party has unveiled its first policy for election year, a “poverty action plan” including a guaranteed minimum income that would ensure everyone not in full-time paid work would receive at least $325 a week. To fund the policy, the Greens are proposing a 1% levy on wealth over $1 million, and 2% on wealth over $2 million, as well as two new high-income tax brackets for the highest earners.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson announced the policy in Auckland today. In a press release, she said, “Our guaranteed minimum income is about fairness. It’s about ensuring those who have done well under our current system pay it forward and share that success with people who are struggling.

“Covid-19 has revealed the glaring holes in our social safety net. It’s also presented an opportunity to fix them once and for all, and create truly equal communities where everyone can thrive.”

The Greens have billed it as a “transformational poverty action plan” and the choice of adjective is no accident: the party’s campaign pitch will be that the transformational government Jacinda Ardern promised can only be achieved with a strengthened Green component.

2.50pm: Today’s cases, charted

2.00pm: Review of managed isolation reveals ‘system under extreme stress’

The government’s Review of Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) has just been released, and it paints a picture of an under-resourced, uncoordinated and ad hoc system. You can read our full report on the review here.

1.07pm: Four new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, all recent returnees, one in hospital

There are four new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, all of whom had recently returned from overseas and were in managed isolation facilities, which brings the current number of active cases to 20.

One of today’s cases, a man in his 30s, is in Auckland City Hospital in a stable condition – he is the first Covid-19 patient to have been hospitalised in New Zealand in more than a month.

According to a media release from the Ministry of Health, the man arrived from India on repatriation flight AI1316 on June 24, and was isolating at the Haka Hotel in Auckland. Following the onset of symptoms, he was taken by ambulance to Auckland City Hospital last night and was tested for Covid-19 as part of a clinical assessment. He remains in the hospital in a stable condition on a ward and has not required ICU-level care, says the ministry.

The three other cases today are now in quarantine at the Jet Park facility in Auckland. One is a woman in her 30s who arrived in New Zealand from India on June 14. She is the wife of a previous case who tested positive on June 21 and had been isolating separately from her husband since his positive test. She was considered a close contact and tested positive on day 11 of her stay.

Another is a man in his 30s who arrived into New Zealand from Nepal via Sydney on June 18 (flight NZ102). He tested positive on day three of his time at the Novotel Ellerslie. Three close family contacts of the man travelling with him have also been tested, with two negative results and a third pending. All are being treated as close contacts so will be checked daily and retested if they develop symptoms or at day 12 of their stay, says the ministry.

The final case is a man in his 30s who was in isolation at the Grand Millennium hotel. His result also came as a result of day three testing, and “further details are currently being established by Auckland Regional Public Health”.

Regarding the man in hospital, the release from the ministry says he was cared for in a separate room in the clinical assessment unit at Auckland City Hospital before being transferred to a separate room on one of the hospital wards. “Members of [hospital] staff treating the man were made aware that he had returned from overseas to a managed quarantine facility and appropriate protocols were followed, including the use of PPE. No members of staff are considered close contacts.

“Auckland City Hospital has considerable recent experience of treating patients with Covid-19.  Members of the public can be assured that the hospital is safe for patients, visitors and staff.”

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is quoted in the release as saying, “What these cases once again reinforce is the critical importance of these 14 days spent in managed isolation or quarantine together with daily symptom checks.

“Even with all arrivals being tested twice during their stay in managed isolation, we also continue to do a daily check for symptoms consistent with Covid-19 as part of our broader programme, which includes strict protocols in our managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

“While today’s news that one of our recent cases is in hospital may be concerning to some, it is something the health system in New Zealand has remained prepared for.

“I want to reassure the wider community that this person is receiving good treatment from the team at Auckland City Hospital who have previous experience of managing positive cases.”

Today’s four new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases to 1,176. Yesterday, laboratories completed 5,321 tests, bringing the total number completed to date to 392,756.

Of the 2,159 people who left managed isolation facilities between June 9 and June 16, after mandatory day three and day 12 testing was brought in and before compassionate leave was withdrawn, test results are still pending for 342 people, said the ministry. There are still 427 people the ministry hasn’t been able to get hold of, despite repeated attempts, 137 people who will not be tested because of reasons such as being a child, being part of repositioning crew, currently being overseas or refusing a test – 79 people have refused testing.

1.00pm: Case numbers to be updated

We’re expecting an emailed update from the Ministry of Health any minute now and will bring you all the details of today’s case numbers.

12.50pm: Act reveals new deputy leader, puts gun lobbyist at no 3

The Act Party has unveiled a revamped party list, with new deputy leader Brooke van Velden at number two behind David Seymour. Van Velden is a 27-year-old Act Party staffer who was a driving force behind the End of Life Choice Bill, and is standing in the Wellington Central seat. She replaces Beth Houlbrooke, who has been demoted to number 13.

“I switched from being a Green Party voter to an Act supporter while studying economics and international trade at Auckland University,” says van Velden in a press release from Act. “The ability for free markets to lift countries from hardship was a revelation for me.” The release says van Velden is “a committed social liberal, championing the right to autonomy over our own bodies”.

At number three on the list is first-time candidate Nicole McKee, a “firearms safety specialist” who acts as spokesperson for the Council of Licensed Firearm Owners, which campaigned against the government’s gun reform laws passed in the wake of the March 15 terror attack last year. McKee is standing in the Labour safe seat of Rongotai. The Act press release says, “Nicole is a small business owner having delivered firearms safety education in rural and isolated communities for New Zealand Police. She also has a background in law, firearms component imports.”

Act has had only one MP in parliament for nearly a decade, but current polling suggests Seymour could be joined by one or two more Act MPs.

Here is Act’s top 20 (nb David Seymour at both 1 and 19 is not a mistake):

1 – David Seymour

2 – Brooke Van Velden

3 – Nicole McKee

4 – Chris Baillie

5 – Simon Court

6 – James McDowall

7 – Karen Chhour

8 – Mark Cameron

9 – Stephen Berry

10 – Toni Severin

11 – Damien Smith

12 – Miles McConway

13 – Beth Houlbrooke

14 – Carmel Claridge

15 – Bruce Carley

16 – Cameron Luxton

17 – Grae O’Sullivan

18 – Myah Deedman

19 – David Seymour

20 – David King

12.00pm: Judith Collins throws shade at ‘ruthless’ Key, defends friendship with Cameron Slater

National MP Judith Collins appeared on Q&A this morning to promote her new memoir, Pull No Punches, which is out this week – and there’s clearly no love lost between Crusher (a nickname she does not like, BTW) and the former PM. Collins was forced to resign from her ministerial role after being implicated in the Dirty Politics scandal of the 2014 election campaign, when private third-party emails surfaced from blogger Cameron Slater suggesting she may have been trying to undermine Serious Fraud Office chief executive Adam Feeley. After her resignation, then prime minister John Key prevented Collins from using the honorific “honourable” that all cabinet ministers and former ministers are entitled to.

Collins, who was later reinstated as a minister, had earlier been accused of using her ministerial position to undertake activities that would benefit Oravida milk company, of which her husband was a director. She told Q&A’s Jack Tame this morning that at the time she felt like John Key threw her under the bus. While it was Tame who used the phrase, Collins agreed “absolutely” it was accurate, saying, “I felt very disappointed in him. I don’t mince my words, I speak directly. I knew he was making a decision because… obviously he was looking to himself, and he had a party to bring across the line.

“I did feel absolutely hurt when he took the honorific off me, that was a terrible thing to do,” she said, adding that Key is “a far more ruthless person than me”. 

Asked if she thought John Key liked her, Collins said, “I don’t know if he did. I used to think he did because we would have breakfast in the Koru Lounge in Auckland together,” adding that “he’s not my friend, he never was my friend”.

Someone who remains her friend, on the other hand, is Cameron Slater, the man behind Whaleoil. “Cameron was working with the National Party – he’s a personal friend of my husband and me,” she said. “He’s had serious strokes and I’ve forgiven him for what he said, it was completely false.”

Asked if she thought Slater was a good person, Collins replied, “I don’t try and judge everybody. I think Cameron has some very good qualities but he doesn’t always have the judgement. I’ve moved on, I’ve forgiven him.”

Collins also revealed that people she counts as friends within the National Party include Harete Hipango, Simeon Brown, David Bennett, Matt King and Maureen Pugh, the latter of whom she described as “a really decent human being”. (Pugh, remember, is the one who then National leader Simon Bridges called “fucking useless” in 2018.)

June 28, 10.20am: Review of isolation and quarantine systems out today 

Housing minister Megan Woods, who was recently given oversight of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, will as of this week be receiving daily updates on how many people should be getting tested in those facilities compared with how many actually are. 

On TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, interviewer Jack Tame suggested to Woods it was extraordinary that this data wasn’t already being monitored by the government, to which Woods responded that the complexity of the operation had grown and it came down to “getting all the different strands of data”.

Woods said the end-to-end review of the managed isolation and quarantine process, which was originally tipped for a Thursday release, would come out today, and would pinpoint “system vulnerabilities.” The government has previously said the review would cover the “end-to-end induction process, general security and safety of travellers, provision of health services, and the standardisation of procedures including Covid testing and screening”.

Following the emergence of failures in the managed isolation process that saw two Covid-positive women being released on compassionate leave without being tested, 

Woods was last week given ministerial oversight of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, with Air Commodore Darryn “Digby” Webb appointed to oversee operations.

Woods also told Q&A she and Webb had met with airlines this week to discuss the growing numbers of New Zealand citizens and residents returning. Modelling has forecast a 4% growth in returnee numbers per fortnight until the end of the year, said Woods, and the government was working with airlines on how to “smooth demand”, which would include phasing flights and minimising the need for domestic transfers.

4.40pm: Victoria outbreak worsens

The Australian state of Victoria is struggling to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 in the community, with 41 new cases just reported, and only one of those is hotel quarantine. The local health officer said eight cases are linked to known outbreaks, with 13 found in routine testing (possibly linked to outbreaks) and 19 are under investigation.

For a reminder of just how much more concerning community testing is to border cases, read Siouxsie Wiles’ post here. But any hopes of a trans-Tasman bubble in the short-term are very much on hold.

4.15pm: Two new community testing centres in Auckland

A surge in demand for Covid-19 tests in recent days, with some reporting queues of three hours, has seen two new Community Testing Centres (CBACs) come on board in Auckland. One opened in New Lynn today another will open in Manurewa tomorrow, while hours at existing CBACs have been extended.

The Auckland region DHBs advise members of the public who have any possible symptoms of Covid-19 to first call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or their local GP. The criteria for testing were tightened this week. There is no current evidence of community transmission.

More details on the new testing services are here.

2.45pm: Isolation co-payments on the table

Megan Woods, the minister drafted in to oversee Covid-19 border measures after a string of shortcoming were identified, has said that a “co-payment” system is an option for people in managed self-isolation after arriving in New Zealand. She was “very interested” in the system in Queensland, for example, which requires that a contribution come from those being accommodated, she told Newshub Nation.

“But what we have to make sure is that we’re getting that fine balance of fairness between the inalienable right of New Zealanders to come home – and I think we all want to know we will always have that right – against the fairness to the taxpayer,” she said.

“But we all need to remember that this money we’re spending – and it is a lot of money – is our very strong line of defence protecting the position that we got to through our sacrifice. We do not have community transmission of Covid in our country.”

While David Clark, the health minister, admitted last week that he had not visited any of the hotels being used for managed isolation, Woods said Woods said she has now been to half a dozen of the facilities.

Also appearing on Newshub Nation, New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin brushed off the result for the party in this week’s Colmar Brunton Poll for TVNZ – a dismal 2%. Such numbers were “fascinating and pointless”, she said. It was business as usual for people to write NZ First, only for the party to prove them wrong, she said. “We haven’t even started electioneering yet. And once we start putting out our policies, then let’s have a look at what the polls say.”

Martin responded to the suggestion by James Shaw, Green co-leader, that NZ First had been in breach of its coalition agreement. “Sometimes James actually goes and talks to the papers before when I haven’t finished talking to James,” she said.

1.50pm: The latest charts


1.05pm: Two new cases, both recent arrivals in isolation

There are two new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total active cases to 16, all of whom are in self-isolation or quarantine.

The first new case is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand from India on June 22. He has been staying at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Auckland and tested positive as part of the now routine day-three testing.

The second case is a woman in her 20s who arrived in New Zealand from India on June 18, who has also been staying at the Grand Millennium. She tested negative on June 23, but three days later, the Ministry of Health reports, “was taken by ambulance to Auckland Hospital emergency department for a different medical issue for a short period before returning to managed isolation. She was tested for Covid-19 as part of her assessment while at the hospital and that test has today returned as positive.”

The ministry statement continues: “Members of staff were aware that she had returned from overseas to a managed quarantine facility and appropriate protocols were followed, including the use of PPE.

“No members of staff are considered to be close contacts. The patient was cared for in a separate room while in the emergency department. She wore a surgical mask for the duration of her time at Auckland City Hospital. She did not require hospitalisation and the emergency department is the only part of the hospital she visited.

“Members of the public can be assured that Auckland City Hospital is safe for patients, visitors and staff. Both new cases are being managed and followed up as per usual protocols.”

In the release, the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, stresses that the 14-day isolation is the cornerstone of the border control measures, amid a pandemic that continues to accelerate overseas. He said the second woman’s initial negative test result could have been because the woman was in the early stages of incubating the disease at the time.

“What this case highlights is the importance of 14 days spent in managed isolation or quarantine together with daily symptom checks,” said Bloomfield.

“Even with all returnees being tested twice during their stay in managed isolation, we continue to do a daily check for symptoms consistent with Covid-19 as part of our broader programme, which includes strict protocols in our managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

“The addition of testing is providing us with an extra level of assurance that we can identify people in managed isolation who have Covid-19 and, if they do, they can then be managed appropriately.  So saying, the protocols in place at managed isolation facilities are based on the assumption that people may have Covid-19 until they complete their isolation period.”

New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases is now 1,172. Yesterday 9,178 tests were processed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 387,435. This includes testing at managed isolation facilities and community-based testing across the country. There is no evidence of any Covid-19 in the community.

Testing catch-up

The ministry statement also includes an update on the 2,159 people who left managed isolation facilities between June 9 and June 16, many of whom departed without being tested. As of today 1,228 people have been contacted and tested negative – 800 were tested before leaving managed isolation and the remaining 428 were tested after departure from the facility.

There remain 367 people who have been referred for a test but there is not yet a result, and 427 people at large, “who we have repeatedly tried to make contact with, including via text and via phone calls”. The ministry is asking anyone who was in a managed isolation facility between June 9 and 16 who has not yet spoken with Healthline to call 09 302 0408.

“As needed we will refer people we do not make contact with to finding services. Ninety-two of these had invalid phone numbers, so have been referred to finding services. We have had 137 people who will not be tested because of reasons such as being a child, being part off repositioning crew, currently being overseas or they are refusing a test. 79 people have refused testing.”

12.50pm: Covid-19 update imminent

There is no media conference today, with the latest information on case numbers to come via a press release from the Ministry of Health. As always, we’ll update here as soon as it arrives.

11.50am: Anne Tolley quits parliament

In the last furlong before the election, East Coast Bay MP Anne Tolley has announced she will retire. Tolley, first elected for National in 1999, had previously announced she wouldn’t stand for the electorate, but had been expected to land a place on the list that would put her in a good position to become speaker (she’s previously deputised) should National be able to form a government.

“I have had tremendous support from my family throughout my political career which has spanned 34 years. My husband has lived a political widower’s life, too often taking second place to the needs of my job,” said Tolley in a statement. “So the time has come for me to put life with him and our family first and to do the things we’ve talked about but struggled to fit into a busy political schedule.”

9.30am: Election campaigns gearing up

Yesterday saw the National Party unveil its campaign hoardings, complete with obligatory leader-with-tool picture, and this weekend we’re expecting the first few policy launches. Door knockers are likely to be out in force, too, though in much of the north island they might need a snorkel and to beware any airborne trampolines.

A couple of political stories on The Spinoff this morning: Justin Giovannetti casts a sceptical eye at Paul Goldsmith’s claim New Zealand’s respsonse to Covid is the costliest in the world, and Stephen Mills reveals some new UMR research on how New Zealanders see the world changing post-pandemic.

Meanwhile, a very happy birthday to Stuff.

June 27, 9.15am: Ardern and Peters on the Covid whirlwind

The morning’s big read is the latest instalment in Matt Nippert’s series of stories chronicling the whiplash weeks of the Covid-19 crisis in New Zealand. This time he’s landed sit down interviews with both Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters. “I pitched both of them an opportunity to record their experiences for history, and they both gave me half-hour interview slots. There’s plenty of water to go under this bridge, but we’re probably half-way across and it’s a staggering view from here,” said Nippert.

On the decision to ramp up testing despite the fact that only six days’ testing stocks were at that moment in New Zealand, Ardern said: “It was a risky call but it was a calculated risk … It was the least risky option in terms of lives lost.”

As with the earlier pieces, it’s a compelling read. In the Weekend Herald in print or online here.


June 26

4.45pm: Watson case heads back to Court of Appeal

Scott Watson’s 1999 conviction for the murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope has been referred back to the Court of Appeal, Andrew Little, the minister of justice has announced. The “royal prerogative of mercy” follows a series of rejected attempts over the intervening years. A 2017 application for the royal prerogative of mercy centred on the reliability of DNA evidence linking two hairs removed from a blanket seized from Watson’s boat. The decision to reject that application was reviewed, leading to the decision announced today.

The essential journalism about the long-running and controversial case is from Mike White, formerly of North & South magazine. Start with this compelling longread.

3.30pm: $85 million funding for Queenstown

Speaking from a chilly Queenstown waterfront, the prime minister this afternoon announced an $85 million boost in funds to save jobs in the resort town, where unemployment has gone from 1.1% to 18.5% in only a year.

“That includes $35 million alongside the funding being put up at a local level for the town centre redevelopment, and $50 million that will go into phase one of a project to focus on the arterial routes around the town centre,” Ardern said, calling them shovel ready projects, which will be ready to get underway within three months.

Minister for tourism Kelvin Davis, who has been criticised as recently as this morning by Queenstown businesses for perceived inaction, also acknowledged Queenstown had been “doing it tough”. He then made the announcement that the tourism recovery ministers would be using $25 million from the Tourism Recovery Fund to waive DOC concession fees in the region.

“In addition to the billions invested through the wage subsidy and other business support, this latest funding will help to keep these operators afloat.”

3.15pm: Today’s cases, charted

2.00pm: National’s simple message for hoardings

National Party leader Todd Muller says the party’s new hoardings “spell out what National will deliver when it wins the election and forms government: a strong team, more jobs and a better economy.”

The message is simple in terms of succinctly articulating the party’s focus on the economy in the lead up to the general election. The spacious design, however, means that once you notice the text isn’t quite aligned with the party logo, it’s very hard to unsee it.

Perhaps taking a leaf from former leader John Key and his past difficulties with a hammer and nail, Muller chose the more manageable electric drill for his photo opportunities, and appears so comfortable with the power tool he can use it without looking.

(Photo: supplied)

1.15pm: One new case in managed isolation

There is one new case of Covid-19 today, reported to be in managed isolation, according to a media release from the Ministry of Health.

The case is a man is his 30s who arrived in New Zealand on June 21 from Kenya, via Doha and Brisbane. He has been staying at the Novotel Ellerslie and is moving to the Jet Park Hotel today. The man tested positive for Covid-19 as part of routine testing around day three of his stay.

That brings New Zealand’s total number of active cases to 14, all are in managed isolation or quarantine facilities. There are no cases in the community.

The Ministry of Health says it has concluded testing and the follow-up process with the 55 people who were granted an exemption from managed isolation on compassionate grounds between June 9 ‐ 16.

Of those 55, 40 have returned negative results, one had their approval withdrawn and remained in managed isolation for the full 14 days, and 14 will not be tested “on the basis of health, because they are a child, they have declined, they can no longer be contacted, or they have left the country”.

Between June 9 and 16, 2,159 people left managed isolation facilities having completed their 14 days of isolation, but only 800 of those were tested before leaving. The ministry is still in the process of connecting with the remainder for follow-up testing.

1,186 people have been contacted and have tested negative for Covid-19, 386 were tested after departure from the facility, 199 people are still waiting on test results, and 632 people are still being sought by ministry staff and finding services.

11.55am: Taika Waititi’s Piki Films announces an avalanche of indigenous releases

Film news website Screen Daily has revealed Taika Waititi and Carthew Neal’s New Zealand production company has a slate of new productions in the works for film and television.

The first is a film adaptation of Tina Makereti’s novel The Imaginary Lives Of James Pōneke, about a
Māori teenager who travels to London to appear as a live exhibit amongst Māori artefacts, set in the 1840s.

Second is a feature adaptation of comedian Angella Dravid’s true story of running away to marry a man she met online who was three times her age, and ending up prison in the UK. Briar Grace-Smith is attached to write the script with Dravid. And lastly, Better The Blood, which Screen Daily describes as a crime series  about “an obsessive Māori detective as she hunts down an indigenous serial killer revenging the wrongs of New Zealand’s colonisers”.

Piki Films producer Morgan Waru told Screen Daily: “We aim to have indigenous voices at the centre of the creative team.”

10:30am: Second cache of Covid-19 documents released

A whole bunch of new documents relating to Covid-19 (254 by our count) have been proactively released by the government, covering areas like the quarantine system, the border, economic support packages, law enforcement at level two and more.

It comes after the last proactive release ended up more like a document dump – the papers were thrown out on a Friday afternoon with no warning, right at a time when most journalists are dreaming of the pub. This time around warnings were given to media that they were being released this morning.

The Spinoff’s Alex Braae has been trawling through them to bring you the highlights.

9.20am: Waikato report to shed light on region’s real history

A report by historian Vincent O’Malley, commissioned by Waikato-Tainui and former Hamilton mayor Andrew King, will finally be released today. The detailed historical account will include a history of key figures of the Waikato region, and shed more light on Hamilton’s controversial namesake. Iwi and council had hoped it would give residents a better understanding of tensions around place names in the area.

Current mayor Paula Southgate told The Spinoff this morning that it can’t come too soon. “The more people who read it and understand, the better the conversation’s going to be.”

“What Vincent O’Malley’s done is made a really readable report. I want to take people on a journey to understand why things are offensive. Bryce, Von Tempsky. They were really nasty people. Then after that, come to the healing side of things I think.”

The mayor has been on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse since removing the statue of Captain John Fane Hamilton from Hamilton’s Civic Square, after Waikato kaumatua Taitimu Maipi threatened to remove the statue himself.

Hamilton led the 43rd regiment in the attack on Pukehinahina in Tauranga. As punishment for defending their lands, Waikato and Tauranga iwi had huge tracts of land confiscated by the Crown and suffered greatly, for many generations, as a consequence.

Southgate’s position has been undermined somewhat by her deputy mayor, Geoff Taylor, who is calling for the prosecution of Maipi. At a council meeting on Wednesday, Taylor admitted there was “an awful lot we shouldn’t be proud of in our colonial past” but that he was from European stock and was proud of his forebears: “I’m not wiping all of that away because of some crazy US cop and because someone has joined the dots and deemed our country as a total failure as well.”

“Personally I think the volatile race relations around the world has cast a light on everything and that’s not a bad thing, because we start to think about what’s right and wrong,” Southgate said, adding that she doesn’t expect her deputy to agree with everything she says.

“I feel prosecuting Mr. Maipi at this stage would only be provocative. It won’t serve any purpose. I’m not going to look backward too much about why the statue had to come out, let’s understand what the history is and look at what we do going forward.”

8.20am: Auckland to host FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

The news arrived overnight that Australia and New Zealand will co-host the women’s FIFA tournament, bringing the event to the southern hemisphere for the first time.

Auckland’s Eden Park will host matches, and a media release says they expect an estimated 130,000 visitors.

Mayor Phil Goff said: “Today’s announcement supports our vision to be the events capital of New Zealand.”

The tournament is the latest international sporting event to be announced, following the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup next year, Rugby World Cup 2021, and the 8th World Conference of the International Working Group on Women in Sport set for 2022.

A joint statement from minister for sports, Grant Robertson, and economic development minister, Phil Twyford, said the government has set aside up to $25 million to host the event. Of that, $14.2 million goes to New Zealand Football for direct support of the tournament. Some of the remainder will be used to leverage the event at home – in particular, supporting and growing the involvement of women and girls in all aspects of sport.

8.00am: National sticks to their guns, won’t work with NZ First

National Party leader Todd Muller is feeling hopeful after last night’s Colmar Brunton poll, the first since Simon Bridges was rolled from the National Party, which saw the party up nine percentage points. Muller had an answer for RNZ’s business editor Gyles Beckford this morning when asked about the party’s policies, and outlined a plan that covered border control, an overhaul of the RMA and significant investment in small business. He said that the party will continue pushing their
hiring bonus scheme, where $10,000 cash payments will be given to businesses who hire additional employees.

“We have many, many more coming Gyles, over the next few weeks. It will give New Zealanders confidence that there’s an alternative plan to what appears to be just ‘borrow $140 billion and wait for a vaccine’,” he told Beckford.

Muller wouldn’t say yet if he would work with ACT, but reiterated that the party still had no plans to work with NZ First.

“Our caucus in February said that we can’t see a way that we would work with them, that remains our position.”

7.35am: Updates from this morning’s edition of The Bulletin

We’re now three months out from the election, and the latest poll has returned to something approaching a balanced state of play. The One News Colmar Brunton survey still had Labour way ahead of National – with 50% and 38% in the party vote stakes respectively. Perhaps tellingly, that was exactly nine percentage points down and up from where each had been in the last one. If those numbers are repeated on election day, Labour will easily be able to govern alone, even excluding the Greens who crossed the threshold with 6%.

Jacinda Ardern is still miles ahead as preferred PM, and notably debuted a lot higher on this metric when she took over the Labour leadership. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Jason Walls writes that it’s neither a disaster nor a triumph for National – “but Muller cannot take all the credit for National’s nine-percentage-point jump – Labour is coming down from crisis levels of support.”

For the Greens, the poll will be another sign that they’re on track to survive the election. They would of course be foolish to take anything for granted, but if they can maintain their base, they’ll be within sight of their dream scenario – being the one party that can keep Labour in government after the election. Such an outcome might allow them to put a pretty ugly term behind them, in which they repeatedly got stymied by the much more powerful NZ First.

As for Winston Peters’ party, the omens are grim. I know, I know, there’s only one poll that counts and all that, and NZ First always swings up during campaigns. But they’re now down to just 2% support, which is extremely low for them, and a long way away from the threshold. As One News reports, it’s their lowest result since 2012. What’s more – and this is a really fascinating detail – the Act party is polling above them at 3%. It might not seem like the most natural crossover, but there is a constituency out there that could swing between NZ First and Act, and right now, David Seymour’s hold on Epsom is much stronger than the chances of Shane Jones winning Northland, meaning any rational tactical voter would have a much clearer incentive to go for Act. As the story notes, between now and the election NZ First may also have to deal with Serious Fraud Office charges against the NZ First Foundation.

When it comes to the other parties, both the Māori Party (which has a reasonable chance of winning at least one electorate) and the New Conservatives can be rounded up to 1%. They’ll probably both be disappointed with that number, as will the Opportunities Party who ended up on 0.5%. For all three, a surge isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. But with the election between the bigger parties tightening up, it becomes harder to see voters taking a punt on parties that have never made it into parliament, particularly NC and TOP.

Testing criteria has changed somewhat, so that mandatory testing is no longer required for everyone with symptoms. Radio NZ has a report on the reaction from doctors – some are concerned that it might allow cases of Covid-19 to slip through disguised as a cold, while others say it’s a necessary move to ease the pressure on GPs. An enormous amount of testing has taken place this week, with no evidence coming back of community transmission. Dr Siouxsie Wiles has written about why she doesn’t believe it is currently taking place, based on a range of factors including the test result data.

A bill that restores the human right of voting to some prisoners has passed through parliament, but there are problems with it. Derek Cheng at the NZ Herald has a rundown of how the law ended up passing in an unworkable form, after amendments in the committee stage. Now a new bill will be introduced next week to fix those inconsistencies. As for how it ended up with those inconsistencies, professor Andrew Geddis had a run at that, saying it was the result of “procedural games and unhelpful amendments”.

About one in four New Zealanders back a move to change Hamilton’s name back to the original name of Kirikiriroa, according to a new survey conducted by The Spinoff and Stickybeak. The majority position was that the name should stay the same, with a reasonably large cohort of undecideds. The survey also asked New Zealanders for their views on the degree to which this is a racist country, with about one in five saying it is “not racist at all”, and the rest of the answers being split along the spectrum. Incidentally, Hamilton’s mayor Paula Southgate says she has received a “torrent of abuse” over the removal of a statue of Captain Hamilton, including threats.

The Peter Ellis appeal case has continued after his death, on the basis of his lawyers trying to restore his mana. The NZ Herald has reported on the case, which will take in aspects of tikanga and how that relates to the law. Ellis went to his death as a convicted child sex offender, in a verdict that his supporters have long argued should have been overturned.

Watercare has been criticised by Auckland Council for not being ready for the current drought, reports Radio NZ. It’s not so much that the drought should have been predicted (though climate change modelling shows that such events are becoming more likely) rather than a lack of planning and preparation that councillors were angry about. Watercare’s chair says the CCO will reassess how it goes about planning in light of the drought. In related news, the storage dams are still less than half full.

A world news story that you simply have to know about: temperatures in the Arctic are hitting record highs and showing little sign of any cooling. National Geographic has covered the climate change implications of this, including the potential for accelerated warming through feedback loops, of less ice on the ground and higher chances of Siberia’s vast forests burning. “The warm winter and hot spring meant that the snow usually blanketing the ground across much of the region melted about a month earlier than normal. Bright white snow plays a crucial role in keeping parts of the Arctic cool, by reflecting the sun’s incoming heat.”

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

Three new cases of Covid-19 were detected in managed isolation facilities, one in Rotorua and two in Christchurch.

A record high 10,436 tests were processed by laboratories as the Ministry of Health altered its testing requirements to focus on those at higher risk.

National Party leader Todd Muller labelled health minister David Clark a “disgrace” for refusing to take any responsibility for testing failures at managed isolation facilities.

The popularity of both Labour and its leader Jacinda Ardern dropped nine points in a new 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll. National is up nine points to 38%, while its leader Todd Muller rose 13 points to 13% in the preferred prime minister stakes.

Australian airline Qantas announced it will be cutting 6,000 jobs across both Qantas and Jetstar as it deals with the effects of Covid-19.

Read yesterday’s updates here.



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.