Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)

The BulletinOctober 20, 2020

The Bulletin: System springs into action on Port Covid case

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (Photo: Kevin Stent – Pool/Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: System springs into action on Port Covid case, Labour opens up initial talks with Greens, and New Zealand travellers creating headaches for Aussie states.

A clarification on the new case of Covid-19 announced on Sunday – it was not in fact a case of community transmission. Rather, it was a case in the community related to the border. For more details, read The Spinoff’s live updates from yesterday. The man who tested positive is a shipworker, and according to Dr Ashley Bloomfied, “we believe the most likely source of the man’s infection is a ship that he worked on in Auckland on the 12th and 13th of October, the Sofrana Surville, which had travelled from Brisbane to Tauranga and then on to Auckland, where eight crew joined from the Philippines.” Widespread contact tracing and testing is now underway.

A different ship with those close contacts is now the subject of some controversy. Nobody on board the ship is symptomatic, but Napier Port does not want it to dock as previously scheduled, to manage the risk of any possible cases spreading. Newsroom has a story on what is unfolding, with the option of either sending the boat back to Auckland, or having public health officials fly out via helicopter to conduct the required tests. Because of the close quarters nature of ship life, it’s potentially quite a dangerous situation if anyone does actually have the virus, though to reiterate, nobody on board is as yet displaying symptoms.

It appears there is something of a gap in testing, which the ministry is now looking to fix. Radio NZ reports ship crews in transit aren’t routinely tested, which Auckland University public health expert Collin Tukuitonga said shows there are still holes Covid can get in through. “Even if you contain these people coming in from overseas, but obviously there’s potential interaction with people either on the ship or on the wharf, that’s why I would’ve thought that testing would be mandatory.”

Meanwhile, a suspected positive case has been picked up at the Port of Tauranga, reports Business Desk (paywalled.) Port CEO Mark Cairns said that if it did in fact turn out to be a positive case, that’s a sign that the testing system is working as intended. The situation of Covid coming in via the maritime border has led to renewed calls from the Maritime Workers union that a ‘hub and spoke’ model should be put in place, so that there’s only one port of entry into the country.

Talks between Labour and the Greens about any potential arrangement are underway, but there are few details yet. Stuff reports it was more of a chat than a negotiation, and after all there’s not an awful lot of room for the Greens to make demands. One possibility that has been brought up is that there will be a “consultation agreement” of sorts, in which the Labour government will raise issues when relevant. Andrew Geddis has outlined the technical details of the various options on the table, and what that would involve. The shape of this is one of the many questions around what happens next following the election – I’ve put together a list of this and a few others that will get talked about in the coming days.

Meanwhile, there are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and regular Tova O’Brien stories about instability in National. The Newshub political editor reports an MP told her off the record that “it is “highly, highly unlikely she’ll [Judith Collins] lead us into 2023.” And for more on what’s happening within National, I highly recommend this piece from The Spinoff’s Justin Latif, who has covered speculation that National Party president Peter Goodfellow could also find his position under threat.

And finally, there were some quite poignant comments about the uncertainty of political life from an MP who once again faces the chop. Maureen Pugh told Checkpoint that as the last National MP on the list, she’s once again expecting to lose her seat on the special votes. And yet she might also make it back in if either Nick Smith or Gerry Brownlee resigns. Either way, for Pugh herself, any outcome will be bittersweet – either she has to leave home to represent her community, or she loses her job in parliament but gets to spend much more time with her family on the farm.

New Zealanders taking advantage of Australia’s one-way travel bubble are causing headaches for state governments over there, reports New Zealanders are allowed to travel without quarantine into New South Wales and Northern Territory, but after getting there dozens have slipped into other states, where many are now having to quarantine. An important bit of context here – Australian pandemic management is largely taking place at a state level, so the rules in one place will be very different to the rules in another. The mayor of Adelaide, for example, told Checkpoint last night that the advice for any New Zealanders thinking of going there was very simple right now – “please don’t”.

It hasn’t really been marked properly in the Bulletin yet, but NZ First leader Winston Peters has once again exited parliament. He might be back (never write him off, and all that) but it is very difficult to imagine he’ll be able to pull it off. Radio NZ’s Jo Moir has written about how Peters received the results on the night, and does a great job of capturing the mood in the room in Russell. Meanwhile on The Spinoff, Peters’ former researcher Josh Van Veen has written an insightful piece about the legacy the party leaves, and why it’s highly likely to be back in some form to contest the next election.

ANZ Bank will stop buying and selling foreign currency amid a crash in demand, reports the NZ Herald. For now, they’ll still accept cheques, but the bank says that border restrictions have meant that the volumes have fallen significantly. The bank will still offer New Zealand customers overseas the option of withdrawing foreign cash from ANZ accounts.

Even more election coverage from The Spinoff: Again, we’ve got heaps of perspectives on the site this morning, so I’ll present a whole lot of them here:

Leonie Hayden reports on the various Māori seat races, and why Waiariki wasn’t the only interesting one to watch. Veteran political correspondent Colin James writes about the patchy efforts so far to infuse wellbeing thinking through government, and whether that might now finally change. Emma Riach argues that Ardern should now deliver on the promise of a 50% female cabinet. Toby Manhire wraps the international reaction to Ardern’s win, ranging from ‘beacon of hope’ to ‘incompetent’. Hayden Donnell picks his winners, losers and gigantic losers from a dramatic election. Jose Barbosa has put together a supercut of Paddy Gower’s incredibly strange evening on Newshub. And we’ve republished the utterly bizarre ‘Blue Taniwha’ poem written and performed by Labour’s deputy leader Kelvin Davis at the Auckland Town Hall.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at

Tova O’Brien v Jami-Lee Ross (Image : Tina Tiller)

Right now on The Spinoff: Siouxsie Wiles has an important piece arguing against abandoning lockdowns in the fight against Covid-19. Stewart Sowman-Lund asked some questions of Newshub’s Tova O’Brien about her brutal Jami-Lee Ross interview, which has since gone global. Josie Adams gives Duncan Garner – who through his own actions will now have to go vegan for a year – some tips on what to eat. Tara Ward writes about the new dogs we’ll get to know on TV show Dog Almighty. And Alice Neville continues her excellent series on dogs at polling booths from election day.

Holding myself to account: Before the election, I predicted the party vote rank of every party in parliament. And some of them were wrong! So based on the provisional results, here’s the rankings, and then my prediction in brackets and a small comment if necessary.

1) Labour (Prediction: 1)

2) National (2)

3) Act (3)

4) Greens (4)This one could rise on the special votes though. 

5) NZ First (5)

6) New Conservative (6)

7) The Opportunities Party (8)A slight miss here, I underestimated TOP’s late polling surge. 

8) The Māori Party (9)Another miss, in part because I put too much stock by the switch to focus solely on candidate votes, and in part because I overestimated the next place.

9) Advance NZ (7)In the end, the massive noise they generated was largely illusory, with just under 1 in 100 voters choosing them. 

10) Legalise Cannabis (11)Did well with the referendum also on the ballot.

11) ONE Party (10)I was right about ONE having a better constituency than most minor parties, but slightly overestimated just how much better. 

12) Vision NZ (13) Again, not a long way out, but technically not correct. 

13) NZ Outdoors Party (15) Quite a bit out, I thought more Outdoors Party voters would defect to Advance.

14) Tea Party (16) Definitely underestimated how well Tea would do.

15) Sustainable NZ (14)Overestimated the performance of SNZ, but in the end their campaign was woeful.

16) Social Credit (12) Completely overestimated Social Credit’s ranking, and this is by far my worst miss of the rankings. 

17) Heartland NZ (17)Nice to finish this exercise in trainspotting with a flawless prediction. 

So all in all, I got 7 answers perfectly correct, 6 very close to being correct, and 4 were a long way off. Hopefully these results don’t dent my credibility too much as The Spinoff’s minor party correspondent.

Black Caps quick Lockie Ferguson is having an impact in the Indian Premier League, impressing onlookers with his rapid pace. Playing for Kolkota, he’s just taken five wickets in a Super Over win against Hyderabad, including two while bowling that Super Over. Cricinfo reports that seven of his deliveries sent down on the day were quicker than 150kph. The wickets included that of Kane Williamson, who has had a pretty strong season for Hyderabad so far.

And in rugby, a significant blow for the Hurricanes is coming next season. Newshub reports TJ Perenara has signed a deal with the Red Hurricanes in Japan, meaning he will miss Aotearoa Super Rugby. It’s more a sabbatical than anything else – he’ll still be available for All Blacks selection. Perenara was probably the most consistent player in a Hurricanes side that struggled against the big guns, and seemed to bring out the best in everyone else when he was on the park.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

The Bulletin is made possible by Z Energy, proudly supporting local news that matters.

 Check out how they’re delivering New Zealand an alternative fuel future.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox