Auckland, New Zealand - February 28, 2012: People walk across the road in Queen Street Auckland New Zealand.

The Bulletin: Normality beckons at level one

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Decision coming soon on move to level one, housing market in a weird place, and manslaughter charges laid against officers after custody death. 

As has been the way with these moves, we got an announcement of what the new alert level will be like, before confirmation that we’re moving into it. But the signs are fairly clear that a shift to level one is highly likely to be announced next Monday, and will take effect on Wednesday at midnight. When that happens, the country will be very close to being back to normal rules on gatherings, business and internal travel.

There will still be a few minor conditions for people to follow. Catherine McGregor has given an outline of the whole package, and in particular picked out what will still be necessary. Among those things – contact tracing might still be necessary, so make sure you keep a record of where you’ve been. Health authorities will still be able to tell people to self-isolate if necessary. Those with symptoms will still be strongly encouraged to get tested. And the hand-washing discipline built up over the last few months will still be important – nobody wants to see a massive spike in influenza cases, after all.

But in general terms, the country will be back in business. Stuff reports that it is a huge moment for the hospitality industry, which has suffered badly since March – even with some businesses being able to open again after the moves down in levels. Event venues in particular will be hoping for strong turnouts, after having to limit themselves to 100 person shows at level two. Sport will be allowed to have crowds in the stadiums. Religious gatherings, tangihanga and weddings will be able to take place without restrictions. Looking back to mid-March, it was the cancellation of events like Polyfest and the March 15 commemorations that indicated really severe changes were coming – now both would be able to go ahead.

If the move to level one takes place, it will be quite a big deal in a world still largely living with Covid-19 restrictions. For an indication of this, it is fascinating to see the story has been picked up by both CNN and Fox News in the US, and in both stories, there is a clear sense that the news organisation finds the prospect of elimination pretty remarkable. As for letting that outside world in, strict border controls will remain in place, reports Newshub. This will mean quarantines will continue, and also that from next week, all those coming into the country will be tested.

Meanwhile, the move to level one has been debated in parliament. National leader Todd Muller used his question to the PM to ask why the country hadn’t moved immediately to level one, after so many days and transmission cycles since the last cases and instances of community transmission respectively. The NZ Herald’s Derek Cheng reported on the substance of the argument – a leaked cabinet paper that suggested an appropriate amount of time had passed since the last case of community transmission. Ardern responded by noting the range of factors that went into making that call, so that the government could be confident there wouldn’t be another move back up.


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 latest figures show the housing market is in a very strange place right now. Interest reports listings have started to spike again, and asking prices haven’t necessarily gone down to the degree that many were expecting. There’s obviously still a lot of uncertainty about what will happen to the market over the rest of the year. But a clue to the prices remaining a bit buoyant is given by this story from Radio NZ, who report that already squeezed rental markets are being hit with a large influx of New Zealanders returning home from overseas.


Manslaughter charges have been laid against three officers over the death of a man in custody last year in Hāwera. The allegation is one of gross negligence being a causal factor in the death of the 55 year old, who had been arrested after a family harm incident. Family members have spoken to the NZ Herald, saying that the last year has been “hell”, and that they welcome the charges being filed. It follows what has been described as a thorough investigation into the death. All involved have been granted interim name suppression.


Another $154 million of funding has been put into research and development, on top of a larger boost in the recent budget. Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Strecker reports that Agresearch appears to have been a major winner out of it all, getting the money to go ahead with a previously delayed campus redevelopment with Lincoln University. The money for it is coming out of the government’s big Covid recovery fund.


In another funding announcement, free sanitary products will be rolled out across schools on an opt-in basis from next year, reports Radio NZ. The move is aimed at addressing the phenomenon of ‘period poverty’ – by which some girls and their families cannot afford to buy period products, and thus end up missing a lot of school – it is believed that tens of thousands of people are affected by this. Organisations who have been pushing for this move say they are delighted, and campaigner Jacinta Gulasekharam urged schools to opt-in, saying “this is an issue in New Zealand; there should not be shame involved in periods, no matter what decile of school that you’re at.”


There has been a slight rise in dairy prices at the latest global auction. But as The Country reports, it was a great auction for Fonterra, because whole milk powder prices went up a full 2.1%. That’s the cooperative’s most important reference number, though skim milk powder prices were down slightly. Chief executive Miles Hurrell welcomed the results, but said it was still too early to predict what the payout to farmers would be.


Some good stories are coming out on the AUT journalism platform Te Waha Nui this year. Julia Gabel reports on a community push in Ōtara against a new KFC opening up, when healthier food options are much less widely available. Toby Allen has looked at how Hauraki Gulf islands are faring with the regional drought, particularly with conservation regeneration projects underway. And Bernadette Basagre has reported on night market stalls that pivoted to online delivery at the earliest possible opportunity after lockdown, and are now considering whether it is worth going back to physical stalls.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

(Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: ICU specialist David Galler writes about an incident in his own career where he tried to save someone who had been put in the same police restraint that killed George Floyd. Michael Andrew looks at the weird and phenomenally successful New Zealand Made Products Facebook group. Melissa Vasta from Kiwiwealth gives responses to questions from the public about their Kiwisaver funds. Josie Adams updates the week in pertinent Covid-19 data from around the world. And Dan Taipua writes about “the best work of Māori science-fiction this decade” – a game set in a dystopian future version of Tauranga.


For a feature today, an excoriation of brands who have met the eruption of protests will cynically hollow statements of support. Vulture has looked at this burgeoning trend of companies looking to align themselves with a movement they did nothing to build – and in many cases, the statements cut against their actual actions. Here’s a typically angry excerpt from the piece:

The dissonance is mind-melting — the language of coalition-building contorted into a very immodest fig leaf brought to you by communications strategists. After all, it was just a couple of months ago when Amazon readied a smear campaign and fired one of its workers, Chris Smalls, for organizing for safer conditions in their Staten Island warehouse.

Same with L’Oreal, which dropped model Munroe Bergdorf after she spoke out against the white supremacist march in Charlottesville in 2017. ViacomCBS sent an internal memo siding with the Black Lives Matter movement while simultaneously allegedly allowing the LAPD to use its studio lot to stop those very protesters. Obscured around the outrage of the looting of the Target store in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd is the fact that the company gave $300,000 to the police department’s surveillance operations.


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