Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Nurse overwork concerns at managed isolation hotels, Air NZ halts work on behalf of Saudi military, and Green MP in managed isolation after going overseas for personal matter.
MIQ nurses are warning that mistakes will happen if understaffing and unsustainable workloads continue, reports Radio NZ’s Kate Gregan. Nurses even reported working 24 hour shifts, because there was nobody in place to cover them when their shift was meant to end. Some have also seen their wages get cut, and aren’t getting hazard pay – despite the obvious danger of the job.
The PM said she wants to look into the concerns being raised. But in a follow up Radio NZ story, her Covid minister Chris Hipkins said there was no evidence of these sorts of 24 hour shifts happening. One nurse provided RNZ with a timesheet showing a 21.5 hour shift (at that stage, surely the last two and a half hours become pretty academic) and others either insisted that they had, or pointed to a culture of long shifts generally. Nor are such complaints exactly new – Newshub’s Michael Morrah had a piece on a similar subject last year, as did Radio NZ’s Katie Todd.
The fundamental problem appears to be workforce shortages, with not enough troops to fill the breach. It also gives some context to why managed isolation capacity isn’t being increased – there wouldn’t necessarily be anyone to staff it. The government announced late last year that well over a billion dollars would be put towards keeping the managed isolation system in place until 2022 and be fully resourced. But it may well be that they need to put in even more down the line.
Air New Zealand has been forced to back down on doing work related to the Saudi military, reports One News. An investigation will now take place into whether the work was legal under international law. CEO Greg Foran repeated that he had not been aware of the work until very recently, with the contract being signed in 2019. The CEO then was now-National MP Chris Luxon, who said he had no knowledge or recollection of it crossing his desk. The Saudi Arabian embassy has also commented on the story, describing the Kingdom as the “largest humanitarian supporter to Yemen”.
Speaking of brutal dictatorships, political and military ties have been cut with Myanmar following their coup. Stuff reports a directive has also been made that aid should not be delivered in conjunction with the Myanmar military. Protesters from the Myanmarese community in New Zealand protested at parliament yesterday, calling on the government to take their concerns up at the United Nations.
Green MP Ricardo Menéndez-March is currently in managed isolation, having gone to Mexico over summer to attend to a “serious personal family matter,” reports Stuff’s Henry Cooke. It is not clear from the article what that matter was, and his decision to travel contravenes MFAT advice. It only came to light when he wasn’t in parliament yesterday, having previously been kept under wraps. A party spokesperson said he had followed all appropriate processes.
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Hints have been made by finance minister Grant Robertson that property speculators will be targeted by the government, reports Interest. An announcement on demand-side policy is likely to be unveiled by the end of the month. Robertson released his 2021 Budget Policy Statement yesterday, outlining the priorities for the next one. The speech also included an announcement that debt to GDP has been falling faster than modelling suggested, reflecting stronger economic conditions.
Ports of Auckland will have to front up to shareholders Auckland Council over an automation programme that has stalled, reports Brent Melville for (paywalled) Business Desk. The programme has been pointed to as a key reason for why the port has suffered such severe congestion over the last year, with Covid also impacting the rollout of the new systems. It hasn’t been a complete disaster – some of the new cranes are working. But importers are still seeing lengthy delays in getting their goods through the port, creating frustrations down the line.
An urgent review to the health system’s response to lead contamination in water in two Otago towns will take place. In a release this morning, associate health minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said “New Zealanders have every right to expect that their drinking water is safe. What’s happened in Otago is unacceptable.” The towns of Karitane and Waikouaiti are currently being supplied by tankers, and recent tests have shown lead levels below the dangerous threshold. Tests are also being offered to residents to determine whether there was long term exposure. It’s still not clear how the lead got in there, but in response to a correspondent who emailed me about it, a local mining operation has insisted that it is not from them.
Parliament returned yesterday, unfortunately. Among the headlines to come out of it: Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi was kicked out of the house because he wasn’t wearing a tie, and speaker Trevor Mallard faced down a largely symbolic vote of no confidence, with a threat from National to keep doing something like that repeatedly. Here’s hoping everyone there can switch their focus to people who aren’t MPs at some stage this year.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Laura Walters reports on the wrong and idiotic stuff British schoolkids get taught about Māori. Denise Carter-Bennett writes about the Abercrombie family and what the media and public misunderstand about autism. Shaneel Lal writes about delays to a ban on conversion therapy, and how it will allow torture of young people to continue. Gaven Martin and Jodie Hunter write about declining maths skills, and how that bodes ill for the future. The Spinoff Review of Books reports on NZ author Meg Mason having the film rights to her book Sorrow and Bliss picked up. Duncan Greive on The Fold talks to Ali Mau, the journalist leading Stuff’s ongoing coverage of the MeToo movement.
And in extremely exciting news, webseries Scratched is back again with the stories of our lost sporting legends. The first episode can be watched here. It’s about Meda McKenzie, the first woman to swim there and back again in the Cook Strait, and she did it partly because a man said it would be impossible for a woman to achieve.
For a feature today, a cool podcast about taking time out of work to learn. Journalist Shilo Kino and broadcaster Astley Nathan have just launched Back To Kura, which will chronicle their journeys learning Te Reo this year. I listened to the first episode yesterday and it was a really interesting take on embracing culture, and what it means to be Māori. Well worth a listen, and I look forward to new episodes coming out.
In sport, a blow for tennis in New Zealand with a highly respected tournament organiser stepping down. Newshub reports ASB Classic boss Karl Budge has resigned, after this year’s event was cancelled. Budge has overseen a remarkable transformation of the event, which went from a minor blip on the sport’s calendar to a tournament that routinely attracted huge stars. It was particularly focused on women’s tennis, having been contested in recent years by the likes of Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, both the Williams sisters, and Sloane Stephens when she was on her way to the top of the world.
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