Flowers and tributes hung on the fence of the Botanic Gardens (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Muslim community to privately mark attack anniversary

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: It’s two years on from the Christchurch mosque attack, the spotlight is on commercial radio after sexual harassment claims, and Aucklanders have enjoyed their first weekend back at alert level one.

Today marks the two year anniversary of “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”On March 15 in 2019, 51 people were killed while they worshipped in two Christchurch mosques. The terrorist, a white supremacist, injured 40 others. The perpetrator was last year sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Today, Christchurch’s Muslim community will hold private prayers. As RNZ reports, The imam of Masjid An-Nur Gamal Fouda said today’s prayers will be held at both the Linwood and Al-Noor mosques to remember those who lost their lives. “Families will remember their loved ones in different ways, many will pay their respects today by visiting the graves of those who died,” he said.

A public commemoration was held on Saturday, attended by about 1000 people. Jacinda Ardern was among the long list of speakers. She told the crowd: “Much has been said, but words, despite their healing power, will never change what happened that day. Words will not bring back those men, women and children who gathered at their place of worship, quietly and peacefully when they were taken in an act of terror.”

To mark today’s anniversary, Newshub has spoken to a number of survivors from the attack. Temel Atacocugu – who was shot nine times by the terrorist – is back playing football; one of the things he loves the most. “Because this is the most thing I loved to do in my life and I don’t think, myself, I can be without football,” he told reporter Juliet Speedy. Siham Alsalfiti, whose husband Abdul Qasem was killed on March 15 while protecting his injured friends, found this weekend’s anniversary service healing. “I found it very helpful, it made me feel that we are not alone and I’m really proud [that] the government keeps acknowledging the loss of 51 innocent Shahids [martyrs],” she says. Read more extraordinary stories here.

Finally, Newsroom has followed a story from last week on the continuing calls for the government to amend ACC to allow it to provide support to uninjured witnesses of the March 15 attack. It comes after a fiery interview between Andrew Little and RNZ’s Susie Ferguson, that you can listen to here. Wellington lawyer Warren Forster told Newsroom that minister Little was right to say witnesses not physically injured but suffering mental injury aren’t covered by ACC. But: “there’s a separate question of, should they?” Read more on that, here.

MediaWorks has launched an internal review following a Stuff investigation into alleged sexual harassment at The Rock. Responding to questions from Alison Mau – who helms Stuff’s #MeTooNZ project – a MediaWorks spokesperson said the company would hire an independent investigator to conduct “a thorough review of historic events and our current workplace culture and practices”.

One worker told Stuff the employee at the centre of the allegations had made sexualised comments to her on numerous occasions. She said she remained “terrified” of potential repercussions from speaking out, calling The Rock station “a tornado of toxic masculinity”. Another employee claimed the worker’s alleged behaviour was well known.

The allegations stem from anonymous comments posted on an Instagram account dedicated to exposing alleged incidents of this nature. The post included “four different accounts of the same radio station and its [employee]”. One of those alleged employee “XXXX” had been “forever creeping people out”. Another accuses the man of saying “some really sexually aggressive things to me” and that she “would not be comfortable being alone with him”.

And, if you’re interested to learn more about Alison Mau’s history reporting on sexual harassment in New Zealand – I recommend listening to The Fold. Last month, The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive chatted to Mau following her investigation into harassment claims within the local music industry.

Auckland spent its first weekend back at alert level one with no new community cases of Covid-19. As the Herald reported, yesterday saw one new case in managed isolation. That person flew to New Zealand from the United Arab Emirates and tested positive on day three of their stay. There are currently 87 active cases – but none are in the community.

Yesterday also marked one month since the emergence of what would become the February community cluster. The cluster saw 15 people contract Covid-19 and forced Auckland into a third and fourth lockdown.

The super city shifted out of level two restrictions once again at midday on Friday. As explained in our live updates, Jacinda Ardern was forced to defend the choice to announce the alert level change on Friday, having made the decision the night before. “Every day when we stand up and say we have no new cases, someone will make an assumption about whether or not we’re going to be in a position to move. There has to be a point where we make the official announcement,” she said.

The prime minister also faced questions about a tweet by her fiancé Clarke Gayford in which he appeared to have advance knowledge of the alert decision. Asked if she could categorically rule out that Gayford had accessed any privileged information, Ardern said: “Of course. I have not seen my partner since [Thursday]. He absolutely has not. I really reject the implication. I think what he has taken off his own bat to rebut is the suggestion that we’ve had a decision that we’ve sat on. That is information we were sharing since yesterday, the process we were following.”

The Dental Association is continuing its push for a sugar tax, saying they work overseas. As reported by RNZ, a new report published in the British Medical Journal found the UK’s tax on sugary drinks resulted in a 10% decrease in peoples’ sugar consumption. “Sugary drinks are the number one source of sugar in New Zealand, and this is the reason why New Zealand Dental Association is calling on the government taking measures to reduce sugary drink consumption,” association spokesperson Rob Beaglehole said.

The problem, however, is that the current government has ruled out introducing any new taxes – including one on sugary drinks. Beaglehole said they should reconsider: “We know that at least 8000 children have a general anaesthetic to have their teeth taken out,” he said. If a tax remained out of the question, the government should focus on marketing and sponsorship advertising restrictions on junk food. “What we’re really calling on is the government to show leadership, and instigate a water-only policy in all schools,” he added.

An uncredited lab is providing Covid-19 saliva testing to Ryman Healthcare. According to BusinessDesk’s Patrick Smellie, the Hamilton-based Hill Laboratories has been accredited to provide “overflow nasal swab testing” for the Manukau DHB since last year – but has recently begun providing voluntary saliva tests to rest home staff in Auckland. BusinessDesk reports that Hill Laboratories will need to get accreditation to conduct saliva testing if it hopes to win government contracts that are set to be offered imminently.

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Ants paintings by AI artist Dribnet (Tom White) (Photo: supplied)

Right now on The Spinoff: Mirjam Guesgen looks at a Wellington art exhibition created entirely from artificial intelligence. Kathy Errington of the Helen Clark Foundation explains what a system of cannabis decriminalisation could look like in New Zealand. Louise Fisher explains the history of “Disappointment Island”. Tara Ward spent an afternoon in the virtual company of Rod Stewart as he “rocked the dock”. And, a lovely comic by Liliana Manetto Quick looks at Wellington’s iconic Midnight Espresso café.

For a feature today, an opinion piece by Gareth Vaughan of He looks at how the National Party and the traditionally Labour-aligned E tū union have recently been in agreement against the government.

Here’s an excerpt:

This unusual event occurred when National called on the government to cover 100% of a worker’s wages or salary when they’re forced to self-isolate.

“The ‘stay home, save lives’ mantra sounds simple enough, but it’s not always that easy for people who can’t afford to not be working,” National leader Judith Collins said.

“The current Leave Support Scheme pays full-time workers $1176.60 and part-time workers $700 as a lump sum for a two-week period, with the money going to their employers. This is well below the minimum wage and below what a full-time worker would earn from sick leave,” added Collins. “We must make it easier for people to stay home when required.”

The E tū union, formed in 2015 through the merger of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, the Service and Food Workers Union and the Flight Attendants and Related Services Union, agreed.

“E tū assistant national secretary Annie Newman says workers need to feel confident that they will not be penalised financially should they need to stay home to keep themselves and others safe from the virus,” E tū said in a statement.

“Other organisations are joining the call for 100%, even including the National Party, who are now calling for the government to directly pay workers 100% of their wages when they have to self-isolate,” the union added.

In the midst of a global pandemic and with normal enemies National and a trade union agreeing, you could certainly argue they had a reasonable point.

But Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins was having none of it.

In sport: It’s been a big weekend for Emirates Team New Zealand – but no racing could take place yesterday evening on the Waitematā Harbour. According to the Herald, cup officials made the decision to postpone racing to tonight as a result of low winds. For racing to take place, the wind must reach an average threshold of 6.5 knots. Low winds in Auckland? Astonishing.

On Saturday, the racing continued to be evenly fought. Both teams won a race, keeping the overall competition levelled at 3-3 in the best of 13 tournament. It’s possible that Team New Zealand was bolstered to that single Saturday evening victory due to the, err, rousing performance of Rod Stewart. It’s also possible that’s why we lost race five – who’s to know. Read more about Sir Rod’s performance from The Spinoff’s Tara Ward.

That’s it for The Bulletin. You’ll be back in the warm and comforting embrace of Alex tomorrow – thanks for letting me fill in. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please consider becoming a Member.

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