Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Fears of mid-year vaccine shortage, new report shows child poverty indicators not improving, and SFO charges laid over donation to Labour.
Understandably, there’s pretty high demand for the Covid vaccine right now. But will the demand be too high for supply to meet? There are increasing hints being given that there could be a shortage before the major population-wide surge in the second half of the year. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder has covered that – at the moment there are just under 400k unused Pfizer doses in the country. But that could be whittled away by June, leaving the country waiting on much bigger orders scheduled for delivery in July.
The government is also discouraging people from trying to get walk-in jabs at vaccination facilities, reports the NZ Herald’s Derek Cheng. Some sites are currently trialling it, but there are fears that this could mean those in priority queues with bookings end up being turned away. This has happened on a few occasions, and it erodes trust in the rollout when it does.
Meanwhile, PM Ardern has been discussing whether vaccinated travellers might be able to come into the country before the nationwide rollout is finished. One News’ Anna Whyte reports the comments were made to a business audience in Auckland yesterday, with a key point needing more study being the degree to which vaccination reduces the chance of virus transmission. The effectiveness of vaccines against different variants of Covid-19 is also a serious consideration.
A new report shows many key child poverty indicators aren’t improving at all, reports Stuff. These include issues like “housing conditions, preventable hospitalisations, or food security.” Increasing costs of living at the lower end of the income scale are hitting hard, and some of the data is complete enough to draw firm conclusions. All in all, things were bad for many before, and they’re still bad now.
Charges have been laid by the Serious Fraud Office against six people in relation to donations made to the Labour Party. The NZ Herald reports it follows an investigation into donations from 2017, and that while name suppression is in place, the SFO has declared “none of the defendants are sitting MPs or are current or former officials of the Labour Party.” Without making any speculation on who may be involved, the wording of these sorts of declarations is always very carefully and tightly chosen by the SFO. Labour’s general secretary Rob Salmond said Labour has not sought any suppression from the courts, and has complied with the law. However, PM and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said that the case suggests now might be the time to look at changing the law, reports Newshub. Meanwhile, Stuff reports the Electoral Commission had to chase Labour to declare a donation relating to the Hutt South electorate office rental arrangement.
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A protest took place at parliament yesterday calling on the government to allow migrant families to reunite. This piece from Branko Marcetic gives a comprehensive outline why there is so much hurt and anger in those communities about being stuck apart. The situations they’re involved in are described as “tortute”, and mentally and emotionally that seems like a pretty accurate choice of words. Meanwhile, Politik (paywalled) reports the immigration minister will be making a major speech on Monday, with signals currently being sent around policy changes that would end the era of large-scale immigration.
Foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta has issued a statement of concern about escalating violence in Israel and Gaza. Radio NZ reports she described the situation as unacceptable, noting the rising death toll, and urged Israel to de-escalate. She also condemned rocket fire against Israel from Hamas, who govern the Gaza Strip. “Aotearoa New Zealand stands ready to assist in any constructive way we can to support urgent de-escalation of the situation,” Mahuta said. In terms of that situation, the Times of Israel reports that severe ethnic violence has erupted, with several high-profile and shocking instances of mobs storming Arab neighbourhoods, looting shops and beating the inhabitants. This will raise fears that even the leaders who have previously been more than happy to stoke animosity will lose the ability to stop it.
It appears aspects of the free school lunch system aren’t being well targeted. One News reports a lot of uneaten lunches are ending up being sent to community centres in Hamilton, while other schools who weren’t offered the opportunity to be part of the scheme say their kids are missing out. Here’s a thought – forget about the inconsistent and difficult targeting and just make them universally available.
An unfortunate piece of media news: Newshub has confirmed that their Dunedin newsroom will be closing, reports Stuff. It was a small team of just two people, but both are highly experienced and talented. The station will continue to cover the lower South Island with a combination of freelancers, and their Canterbury bureau – an enormous patch for any journalist to try and cover.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Bernard Hickey ponders whether the fears of a trade backlash from criticising China are justified. Meanwhile Catherine Woulfe reports on Chinese censors blocking the printing of a new book about unionist Helen Kelly. Roxie Mohebbi, a former Auckland ICU nurse, writes about some of her toughest shifts, amid stalled pay negotiations. Justin Latif reports on frustrations developers have about the Auckland Council consenting process. A new doco showcases the talented youngsters at the Girls Rock camp. And Leonie Hayden has an essential guide to being good at karaoke, whether you can sing or not.
For a feature today, an exploration of some of the hidden environmental damage caused by cruise ships. The piece in Barbados Today covers the period since Covid-19 hit, and the dozens of cruise ships that have been left anchored off the island’s coast. And those anchors have done tremendous harm to coral reefs, which will have serious long term ecological and economic impacts. Here’s an excerpt:
So what mistakes were made? It appears that there was inadequate understanding of the potential damage caused by anchoring such enormous ships, as well as inadequate surveillance of exactly where anchoring was taking place. When a large cruise ship anchors it not only drops an enormous anchor weighing in excess to five tonnes, but must also lay down up to 300m of heavy anchor chain.
As the ship swings at anchor the chain is dragged back and forth through an arc of up to 180 degrees, creating a semicircle of destruction on the sea floor the
size of a playing field. In this way, huge areas of reef were destroyed last year on the south and west coasts of Barbados, as far north as off the cement plant. The time for recovery of these reef areas is in excess of 100 years.
In sport, some news about the Australian Federal Government budget. No, really, this is a sports story. Stuff reports players from both the Phoenix and the Warriors have been spared a massive tax bill, that they otherwise would have had to pay due to being based in the country for so long. The issue was even taken by the NRL to PM Scott Morrison. In the end, it appears a carve-out was agreed to avoid further hassle.
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